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Starting a Business During a Recession: Five Questions with UE.co CEO Jason Kulpa

UE.co was established in 2008’s recession. Forbes once suggested that economic downturns can actually be great opportunities for startups — would you say this was the case for UE?

Charlie Munger said, “My idea of shooting a fish in a barrel is draining the barrel first.” My interpretation of that is that when others leave a market, there is opportunity.  In 2008 there was a panic in the market, and capital left the ad-tech space. This created an opening to step-in and pick-up all the fish out of the barrel.

 

With the previous question in mind, what kind of setbacks did the recession present for UE (if any)? How did it impact UE’s progress as an up-and-coming entity, and how were these challenges addressed at the time?  

It was challenging raising startup capital, and the debt markets were bone dry.  This meant that the only way to get the company started was to fund it with my savings. Having to write the check yourself as an entrepreneur makes you reflect on if the business idea is really thought out and ready for market.  That doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs discount the value of outside investment, but it hits close to home when the founder’s signature is on the check. This pressure drove me to long hours, and work-filled weekends when I might have pushed it a bit less knowing there was a safety net if things didn’t go as planned.

 

Innovation is a huge part of starting a new business, regardless of economic stability. What would you say allowed UE to innovate in a time as turbulent as the recession, and how has it continued to innovate today?

When economic stability is disrupted there is a consolidation in most markets.  This created sizeable competition and economies of scale we were not prepared as a start-up.  The only way to compete was by building a more efficient mousetrap than fighting a war of attrition.  Tough times bring out the most creative and innovative parts of the human brain, and we were fortunate to face this adversity early in our business cycle.

 

UE started as a small business, but has clearly grown into a full-fledged staple of the San Diego business community. As the company’s CEO, what are the biggest lessons you have gleaned during this growth process — especially during UE’s early phases?

The biggest lesson we learned was that the company culture has to mature along with the business cycle.  This is difficult when you launch a start-up from your garage with friends. That same casual attitude can create cultural challenges when you take the next step in growing the business.  The best way to manage this is to self reflect along the way and take in consideration the larger picture.

 

In turn, what advice would you give new entrepreneurs — especially those facing unforeseen obstacles right out of the gate?

The best advice is to learn to really enjoy working — and then spend lots of time doing what you like to do. Believing in your idea and business, with enough time and pressure, just about anything can be solved.  The difference is that you have the ability to stick it out until that happens. Good luck!

 

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Tips for Balancing Business Ownership and Philanthropy (Pt. 2)

 

jason-kulpa-balance

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. I recently explored this notion in a previous blog post, but here now are several more considerations to keep in mind as you work to effectively your entrepreneurial and philanthropic lifestyles.

 

Utilize smart marketing

Marketing, in most cases, is a crucial component of any successful business strategy. However, many business leaders fail to leverage marketing for their philanthropic programs. This fact is not surprising, as the promotion of any charitable activity can feel uncomfortable and awkward. After all, you don’t want to come off as self-serving in attempt to serve others.

The key is to exercise your marketing with a steady hand, and this means keeping two important points in mind:

  • A successful philanthropic initiative will serve a charitable purpose, but should not be pursued for selfish financial gain and advertisement alone.

  • In many cases, a corporate philanthropy program must garner a considerable audience in order to endure for years to come.

In other words, your marketing campaign should reflect a balance of modesty and promotion. Look at it this way: your best philanthropic intentions will probably be fully realized if your initiative is given healthy exposure. Tip too far in one direction, however, and you run the risk of dooming your cause in terms of longevity and/or public perception.

 

Never stop networking

Given the growing emphasis on social media and widespread interconnectivity at large, it is no shock that networking has become a clear asset to business professionals worldwide. Still, despite this notion, some businesses find themselves lagging on networking in order to focus on other seemingly more important parts of their daily workload.

Instead, networking should sit at the front of every leader’s mind, and this is especially true of those leaders hoping to expand their presence in the philanthropic community. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in meeting new people, establishing new relationships and partnerships, and ultimately laying the roots necessary to bring new and exciting initiatives to fruition. This approach allows for increased efficiency and less redundancy for both organizations and donors alike.

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

jason-kulpa-philanthropy

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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Three tips for building rapport with a new employee

The addition of a new employee can be an exciting time for your workplace. Current employees are given a chance to make a new acquaintance while you, as a leader, are able to watch a recent hiring decision pay off for both the hiree and your company. During this period, it is crucial to make new employees feel welcome and comfortable, as the first week at a new job can be stressful and, in some cases, nerve wracking.

Here are some tips for building strong rapport with new employees.

 

Make an effort

As a company leader, it is not great practice to simply throw a new employee to the wolves in terms of workplace integration. Make an effort to learn about these employees; ask them about their personal lives, their interests and hobbies, and their goals in joining your company. The quicker you develop this bond, the quicker you will lay a foundation for this employee’s comfort as a contributor.

 

Give them time

Getting to know a new employee is important, but so is the idea that every worker has a different transition process. Some individuals have trouble adapting to change at the drop of a hat, and therefore, it is important to be cognizant of this notion when dealing with an introverted new employee. In many cases, this employee is probably just adapting to a gauntlet of social interactions with their eager new co-workers. In time, your empathy and patience will pay off once this employee begins to speak up in meetings and actively engage his or her peers.

 

Be available

A new employee is likely going to have a lot of questions in the first days, weeks, and even months of their new role. Though it may seem tedious and exhausting to answer potentially elementary questions, you must be open-minded and remember that these basic matters are, in fact, probably foreign to a new worker. Keep yourself as available as possible to all inquiries; this should be a regular part of your leadership role anyway, regardless of the employee in question. Furthermore, follow up on questions and confusions to make sure they have been fully resolved and that the employee is back on track. Again, this approach will facilitate both employee comfort and productivity.

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Underground Elephant’s Favorite Sales Quotes to Live By

Underground Elephant Sales Quotes

Underground Elephant Sales Quotes to Live By

We love quotes here at Underground Elephant. From the funny and absurd to sweet and inspiring, insightful quotes help us stay motivated and keep our eye on the prize. Enjoy some our favorite quotes below!

“Make a customer, not a sale.” – Katherine Barchetti

This quote is a great reminder that relationships don’t end with the sale. Continue to value your customer and stay as helpful as possible even after the sale has been made, and you may see dividends from your behavior. You can’t buy a good reputation!

“The most unprofitable item ever manufactured is an excuse.” – John Mason

Yikes. This quote can feel a little harsh, but it’s true. As tempting as it is to make excuses, owning up to problems or mistakes will be the better choice every time. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be afraid to go to a trusted manager or advisor for help when you need it.

“There’s no lotion or potion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

There is no magic pill in sales. Every sale needs to be earned through hard work, dedication and persistence. Sometimes it’s tempting to look for the sales shortcut, but there’s no way around hard work.

“Treat objections as requests for further information.” – Brian Tracy

This quote is a great reminder to stay tenacious. Sure, this quote could be taken too far, and it’s important to listen to your customer and really understand where their objection is coming from. As hard as rejections can be to hear, however, some initial “no’s” are knee jerk reactions and the client can be persuaded to turn that no in to a yes.

“Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting” – Christopher Morely

It’s tempting to think that some people are just naturally winners; everything comes easy to them, and they’ve never encountered a setback in their life. But that’s not true. Everyone faces challenges. Everyone has failed at one time or another. The difference between winners and losers are that winners learn from their mistakes and keep going.

Do you use quotes to motivate your sales efforts? We’d love to hear your favorites.

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Hiring The Right People and Keeping Them Motivated

People

Question: How do you make sure you hire the right people? 

Jason Kulpa: Understand your own company’s culture and looking for those traits in a potential hire. During the interview process, ask questions that will highlight the aspects you are looking for within a candidate. Although a candidate might appear great on paper, it’s important to take a holistic approach to the hiring process and look for other qualifications such as their values or interpersonal skills. I like to look for people with “an entrepreneurial spirt”, it show innovation and a desire to work.  

Question: If a team member has done great work, how do you showcase that in a way that the whole team can rally behind without resentment or favoritism? Please discuss how you achieve this in your business.

Jason Kulpa: On the last Thursday of each month, our entire company gathers for an all-teams meeting to discuss company happenings, events, and highlight team achievements. At this time, two employees are selected and presented with handmade “Certificates of Achievement” based on an outstanding performance that month. This moment at our company meeting is a lighthearted way to recognize employee achievement in front of the company, while also encouraging others to work hard to receive the certificates the next month

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