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Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

jason-kulpa-podcastsBusiness owners, both new and established, should be constantly learning and innovating; this is an obvious fact within entrepreneurship, one that must be embraced and applied quickly to ensure success in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Today, podcasts stand as an increasingly popular and efficient way to absorb new information about countless topics, and this is especially true of entrepreneurship and its spectrum of subtopics — from the dissection of managerial ideologies to the latest tools and tactics employed by rising names and entities.

If you are interested in adding podcasts to your arsenal of knowledge, here are several great programs to get you started.

“Unconventional Life”

As mentioned before, entrepreneurship is changing; it always has been. In a modern context, this change is now synonymous with the unconventional — that is, new and non-traditional ways to approach business and potentially carve new experimental niches. Jules Schroder’s “Unconventional Life” uses this notion as its thematic foundation, highlighting budding new entrepreneurs — most of them under 30 — to extract the unique and exciting ways they are shaking up their respective markets. If your ambitions lie in changing the world on your own terms, this show is a great starting point for inspiration.

“Entrepreneurs on Fire”

Hosted by John Lee Dumas, “Entrepreneurs on Fire” has for several years focused on the transparent, honest approach in entrepreneurship, all the way down to the financial details of its host (Dumas regularly reveals his own earnings, including how much he has made since the show’s 2012 inception). The intent here, according Dumas, is to “emulate success” and subsequently help listeners avoid failure. This show is a dual benefit, as it is both an insightful reference point and a strong example of entrepreneurial decency.

“Legends and Losers”

Though many would rather avoid the topic all together, failure is unfortunately a common part of entrepreneurship. For every entrepreneurial legend, there are many more “losers” who come up short of their goals, hence the name of the “Legends and Losers” podcast. Though the title’s latter group may come off as a bit harsh, the concept of “losing” is handled as a learning opportunity rather than an irreparable defeat. Host Christopher Lochhead aims to “spark your spirit, stoke your perseverance, make you love your failures, and for your inner legend all while keeping you laughing –” a healthy, constructive approach that keeps a sensitive topic accessible.

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Maintaining productivity in the age of quick and easy distraction

jason-kulpa-productivityDistraction is essentially the bane of productivity. You can’t get anything done if you can’t concentrate, and you can’t concentrate if you are constantly being distracted. This is the key reason so many people complain about the constant noise being made by their phone, the constant drip-drip of e-mail notifications and the endless rabbit holes of the internet, which is only a click away.

But there is more to this problem. If you examine the dynamics of it long enough it is not hard to notice that loss of productivity is a symptom of a bigger problem, and that is overreach. It’s not necessarily the fact that a person can’t accumulate enough productivity at the end of the day, it’s more a function of the fact that no amount of productivity will overcome the burden they have placed on themselves. They simply have too much on their plate. At that point, distractions aren’t necessarily preventing productivity, they are an escape from the impossible.

Simplify

Work that can be done — and done well — is both more engaging and capable of mitigating distractions. The human mind is more than capable of engaging fully with a task and tuning out distractions if a person really wants to do what they are doing. On the contrary, when the work itself is distracting because it is disorganized, unclear or obviously pointless, then practical distractions have a much easier time derailing the productivity train because the person attempting the task is looking for a reason to quit. Some tasks must be completed regardless of their desirability, but those less desired can usually be made more approachable via simplification or consolidation of efforts.

Planning

Authors have a trick for reaching their writing goals each day, and that is to plan out what they are going to write in advance. It does few authors any good to sit down to a blank screen and try to compose on the fly unless they are very good at weaving a compelling narrative out of nothing but imagination. In this vein, it is far easier in most cases to make some plan and then try to adhere to the plan along the way.

Planning is the natural enemy of distraction because it is likely to produce a list of actions that will engage the person performing the work. Since workers are authoring the plan in the first place, they can avoid the kinds of distracting tasks that will derail their own efforts.

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Five Management Styles and Why They Work (Pt. 2)

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Effective business management is subjective in that every managed employee is different, therefore requiring a unique approach in terms of their productivity, adherence to office structure and policy, and overall learning pace. For example, some employees may hate to be micromanaged while others may hinge on it to maintain weekly organization, and these two approaches alone can be subdivided and personalized depending on the expectations and demands of the company at large.

To get the most out of your direct reports, you will need to identify and leverage an appropriate management style that will foster their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. Bad management costs businesses billions of dollars each year, so it is imperative that you put your best foot forward as a leader and maintain a healthy management culture.

That said, there are several effective management styles commonly observed in offices spanning countless industries. I already covered a few of these styles in a previous blog, but here now are two more that may work for you.

Affiliative management

Affiliative managers are focused primarily on harmony within their respective teams, which they typically lean on to mitigate problems before the fact — and if they do, the team will be ready to meet it head-on in unison. This strong sense of foresight is applicable to any management scenario, as managers are, at times, responsible for seeing the big picture before others. Pair this with a knack for communal problem solving, and you are left with a management style that should all but guarantee order and organization, even if you only apply certain aspects of it.

Authoritative management

Many of today’s managers tend to forgo the authoritative management approach — at least at first — as it tends to come with a negative connotation in most professional circles. However, there are constructive and healthy ways to assume the authoritative role without damaging working relationships or souring yourself in the eyes of your peers. Put simply, some workplace situations simply require a firm leader to take charge and lay down the plan in its entirety — especially those that involve a chaotic or unorganized structure. This approach can be temporary to address a problem or it can become the norm to ensure such a culture never resurfaces, but either way, the best rule of thumb is to remain composed and polite in your authoritarian role; no one is saying you have to be rude, scary, or otherwise unpleasant. A manager/employee should always be as humanized as possible.

 

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Fostering Employee Productivity: What Not to Do

jason-kulpa-productivitySuccessful business managers know that there are many ways to accurately and efficiently foster employee productivity, but the best ones also recognize that there are just as many ways to botch this process. Productivity can be a delicate trait to hone at first, and your approach will almost exclusively depend on the unique strengths and weaknesses of the employee in question. Avoiding common pitfalls will make this process much easier — especially if you have just stepped into a managerial position.

That said, here are several mistakes to avoid en route to creating stronger employee productivity.

Being too formal all the time

As a manager, there is a time and place for formality; it is the backbone of your company, the foundation that all workers must adhere, in some capacity, to keep the workplace exactly that: a workplace. That said, too much formality can be detrimental to employee productivity if unhealthily implemented. Make sure you take time to humanize interactions with your direct reports; ask them about their lives, schedule bonding activities when appropriate, and maintain a demeanor that will keep them feeling comfortable and supported. If you can achieve this type of relationship, everything will likely go much smoother for everyone involved. Work is work, but that is not to say work has to be cold and emotionless.

Not being transparent

Perhaps a subsection of the previous point, transparency is a huge variable in any healthy manager/report relationship. By not being forthcoming about important feedback, you jeopardize the growth of your employees while creating an unnecessary divide that may create additional issues in the future. Specifically, be as direct as possible about mistakes, conflicts with office policies, and general areas of improvement; these are the talking points that will make your workers stronger and more cognizant of what it takes to succeed in their role. You will create another layer of approachability along the way, too.

Forgoing individualization

Individualization is one of the most important factors to consider in employee development, so forgoing it essentially chalks up to lazy management. As previously mentioned, the pursuit of employee productivity encircles the process of constantly pushing the envelope and testing employee thresholds. In this same sense, push yourself as a manager to learn as much as you can about your workers, and tailor your development plans based on this information. During new employees’ first weeks of work, schedule one-on-one meetings to tease out immediate strengths, weaknesses, concerns, fears, points of confidence, and any other relevant factors that will help you individualize their work experience. Not only will this approach help with productivity, it will generally help your employees feel supported at a personal level from day one.

 

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Five Management Styles and Why They Work (Pt. 1)

jason-kulpa-stylesEffective business management is subjective in that every managed employee is different, therefore requiring a unique approach in terms of their productivity, adherence to office structure and policy, and overall learning pace. 

To get the most out of your direct reports, you will need to identify and leverage an appropriate management style that will foster their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. Bad management costs businesses billions of dollars each year, so it is imperative that you put your best foot forward as a leader and maintain a healthy management culture.

That said, here are several effective management styles commonly observed in offices spanning countless industries.

Result-Based Management

All management styles are, in a way, result-based, but some managers embrace the long term as a complete basis for success and failure. In this sense, it is not so much about how things are done, so long as they are done quickly and efficiently. This approach may seem cut-and-dry on the surface, but it actually welcomes quite a bit of experimentation; results-based managers are usually open to new ways for employees to accomplish a task, and this openness keeps both the manager and employee focused on what will streamline the work in front of them. When committed to habit, this subconscious problem solving should prove to be a huge asset to the company as a whole.

Inspirational/Extroverted Management

Though not a required characteristic for good leadership, many successful managers are both extroverted and charismatic. These traits can be infectious to subordinate workers; they help to maintain a warm working relationship while humanizing interactions that may otherwise feel mechanical and by-the-numbers in terms of corporate functionality. You want to foster productivity, but you also want to keep the process accessible and comfortable. This boils down to a healthy injection of compassion and consideration, paired with any opportunity to inspire and rally your workers around a goal. In many cases, these workers will perform better throughout the year.

Example-setting Management

Just like results-based management, example-setting management entails characteristics that should technically be observed in all management scenarios; after all, you cannot hope to lead your peers if you are setting a poor example within the context of company demands. However, example setting can be formed into a full-fledged management style depending on how much of an example you are willing to set. Employees will most likely respond more to examples that are both unconventional and healthily over-the-top — those leaders who continuously push the bar and go above and beyond baseline expectations. As a manager, you should already have a knack for ambition and forward thinking, so fully embrace this trait to set the strongest example possible.

 

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Five Ways to Celebrate Your Employees this Holiday Season

Celebrating employees during the holidays is a fantastic way to not only show respect for hard work, but also to foster teamwork and inclusion. For employers who are having trouble finding ways to make the season bright, below are five proven strategies to make employees feel valued during the holidays:

Everyone Likes a Party

Whether held at the office or at a fancy venue, company holiday parties are a hit with just about everyone. Parties can be themed, formal, casual or anything in between. The important part is that employees have a chance to relax and celebrate the holidays with one another in a comfortable atmosphere.

Personalized Gifts Make a Splash

Many employers also celebrate employees during the holidays by giving personalized gifts. These gifts don’t have to be extravagant, but they can be customized to match something unique about each employee. When giving gifts, employers should consider that all employees receive something equal to avoid anyone feeling left out.

Give Some (Paid) Time Off

Giving additional paid time off is also a great way to show an employee that he or she is valued. Some employers choose to keep this additional time off a surprise until the last minute, but this can cause problems for employees who have set schedules, so it’s usually best to provide advance notice.

Make It Competitive

Contests and competitions are also great choices to celebrate employees during the holidays. One way to do this and improve team building at the same time is to divide employees into groups and assign each group a task. Whichever team completes the task first wins a prize like free lunch or better parking spots. When doing this, employers should try to make it so that each team wins something at least once in order for everyone to have a good time.

Get Each Employee Involved

Finally, employers need to consider everyone’s tastes, cultures, backgrounds and strengths when planning a holiday celebration. It would be a good idea to have input from all employees and maybe even create different teams that are responsible for different aspects of a celebration. Once again, the goal of celebrating employees during the holidays is to show respect and appreciation for hard work, so everyone should be recognized in their own way.

While the holidays are often hectic, going the extra mile to create a workplace celebration can brighten even the most stressful of days. No matter how an employer chooses to celebrate employees during the holidays, it’s certain that his or her efforts will be met with gratitude and produce a happier workforce.

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The Final Push: Three Ways Your Business Can Close 2018 on a High Note

Every company has had 12 months to make some progress toward their goals. Even if there have been more failures than achievements, it’s important to acknowledge the good parts and plan for the next year. There are three ways for businesses to end the 2018 year on a positive note.

Increase Work Productivity

Increasing productivity means working less, working faster and getting more results. Work less for greater results or work faster and get more work done in a shorter period of time. Everyone has one or two habits that result in hours of wasted time and effort each day. For most office workers, it’s checking their emails for too long or conversing with fellow workers around the office. For managers, it’s doing tasks by hand instead of using faster, automated computers and software. Overall, owners should focus on improving the levels of work productivity in every department from accounting to management.

Be Open to New Things

Being innovative is a hidden advantage in business. Every entrepreneur wants to be trendy, but the idea may be impossible because of social and financial risks. A small business owner doesn’t want to lose an investment for an idea that only works for other businesses. There is also the risk of being ridiculed for trying a new idea. An example is placing self service kiosks around a store. It may work flawlessly for some stores, but it could increase the risk of shoplifting in others.

Reduce Miscommunication

Miscommunication is reduced when communication lines are opened. This means finding more ways to communicate by phone, email or text. Some offices send out memos every morning as reminders of what happened in the past and what needs to be done in the future. One company could encourage coworkers to text each other regularly.

It’s possible to reduce miscommunication but not get rid of it completely. There will still be times when coworkers misunderstand each other every now and then. However, when some improvement efforts are made, the staff is more unified and works more efficiently.

At the close of the year, every business owner should reflect on what was accomplished and what was missed. Every new year should start with a list of new goals and the steps to complete them. The only way for a business to remain successful is to move ahead and to reflect back.

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Tips for Balancing Business Ownership and Philanthropy (Pt. 1)

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There is no question that philanthropic involvement can be both enriching and beneficial to recipients and benefactors alike. By reaching out to a charitable cause, a business leader can expand his or her presence in the community by forging vital new relationships — all while raising awareness for an issue or bringing attention to an individual or entity in need. Now, perhaps more than ever, businesses have shifted paradigms to include a blend of profit and societal impact.

Still, however, it takes a fair amount of organization and tact to successfully balance business ownership with philanthropy. Speaking from experience in my own philanthropic involvement with UE.co, both endeavors must be handled with care so that they may co-exist in a constructive, successful manner.

 

Exercise foresight

It is crucial to have a plan when venturing into business philanthropy; this is common knowledge. Still, though, fallout from ill preparation is an unfortunate commonality, and depending on its severity, it can lead to misconceptions and poor representations that can subsequently create backlash from the public. An aged, yet enduringly relevant observation is that there are two types of philanthropic failure: constructive ones and unconstructive ones. The former refers to failures providing clear evidence as to what went wrong, while the latter results from an inability to “inform future practice.”

By studying high-profile instances of constructive philanthropic failure, we can extract a number of important lessons:

 

  • One must have a strong, or at least working, knowledge his or her chosen cause — not to mention passion. If you truly care about housing the homeless, for example, do not focus on another cause simply because it is convenient or trendy.

 

  • The aforementioned point in mind, a philanthropic initiative should not be driven by marketing performance and public image alone; this is immoral and stands as the antithesis of genuine philanthropy.

 

  • At the same time, a lack of proper knowledge can lead to a breakdown in your philanthropy’s effectiveness, and it can quickly lead to additional problems that knock the wheels of the entire process despite your best intentions.

 

Build lasting relationships

Most successful charitable partnerships yield the potential for a continued working relationship. This longevity can be instrumental in ensuring the success of future initiatives, which in turn can also make the ownership/philanthropy balancing act easier to approach. A philanthropic relationship allows both participating parties to learn about each other in a different way, which can lead to longer standing interaction as a result of mutual loyalty.

Building this trust and intimacy not only aids in the preservation of the cause in question, it can also strengthen employee engagement, build up the brand of both the business and the philanthropic recipient, and ultimately foster a stronger sense of community and cohesion.

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