Know When to Hold ’em and When to Fold ’em

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” This iconic hook from the song “The Gambler” is about more than just playing cards. It’s also a metaphor for many circumstances that we encounter in life and business. Knowing when to end a dead-end job or a toxic relationship is critical to maintaining a happy life.

Likewise, understanding when it’s time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.

In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote “The Gambler.” After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn’t give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).

Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It’s a difficult decision to give up on your “business baby” that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are “ok.” Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to give up an “ok” thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em’ and when to fold em’.

Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it’s a no-brainer – “if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno.”

For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar – “if the return on time or money invested isn’t worth it and you can’t find a clear solution, it’s time to kill the product.”

Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product’s success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn’t add more value than a competing product, it’s time to move on to something else.

Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder’s mindset in determining when to kill a product: “Everyone I know with a truly successful product…[is] not creating a product to create a product, they’re moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world.”

Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, “You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate…that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on.”

Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.

Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he’s no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.

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Inspiring Company Cultures: A Great Place to Work

How often do you dread coming to work in the morning? Even for business owners who love what they do, sometimes getting out of bed and coming to work can be a chore. Putting a priority on developing a company culture that inspires your employees to have fun at work can help take the dreariness out of the everyday mundane. While not all businesses have a budget to implement all of these ideas, you can find some creative juice from what these companies have put in place to make their workers enjoy the workplace.

What Makes a Great Place to Work?

Sparks, a marketing company, creates activities that make work fun for their employees. Some of the activities they have implemented include:

*Mix & Mingle – A program that coordinates employees from different departments having lunch together.
*Food4Thought – Focuses on lunchtime presentations from various departments and what they are doing.
*Events – Creating parties for holidays and other occasions.

Encourage Staff to Get Up Out of Their Chairs

Limeade, an employee engagement platform, tries to get their workers out of their chairs by using standing desks, walking meetings, puzzle stations, coloring stations, fitness challenges, and even Nerf wars.

Let Employees Play Games

TinyPULSE, a performance review company, has office games that the staff play together to relax and de-stress throughout the day. Two of their favorite games are Werewolf and Eat Poop, You Cat. These games can be played by the entire staff at short intervals one at a time. Team members can take a few moments away from their job to have a bit of fun. You can find instructions for the two games at the links below:

*Werewolf – Who is the werewolf that has been killing off the sheep? https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-3-team-building-games-organizational-culture
*Eat Poop, You Cat – Similar to Pictionary, people make drawings and try to figure out what they are. https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-work-icebreaker-games

Create Activities that Employees Can Enjoy After Work

SnackNation, a healthy snack company, designs activities for employees that they can do after work or on weekends. Most of those activities involve fitness at some level. Activities include going offsite to nearby parks such as Big Bear, scooter races in the parking lot, yoga in the office, boot camps, and Friday Happy Hours.

How Can You Develop Your Company Culture?

Even small companies can develop their business culture to bring employees together and make work more enjoyable. It doesn’t take a large budget to implement some of these ideas. While you may not be able to sponsor a weekend trip, you can certainly add some games into your day that only take a few moments away from the stress of work. You can find a lot of unique team-building games on the internet with a quick Google search, many of which take minimal money to run. Some take only a piece of paper and a pen. These types of games help your staff solidify by laughing together, and they will feel more comfortable working together later on. Additionally, work can be stressful. Taking the stress away will help staff become happier at work which will give them the incentive to stay with your company longer.

You can implement team lunches to share employee recognition or talk about what is going on in the company. You can also help employees build camaraderie with lunch-time sports. Think about how you can make small changes to create a positive, fun atmosphere in your workplace. If your staff is having fun, that attitude will translate to your customers who will enjoy coming into your office.

Ways to Recharge for Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are a different lot. It takes a certain type of person to hang out there on the edge and take calculated (and sometimes not so calculated) risks. The rush of adrenaline that keeps tycoons in the sweet spot of success can wear a person out, though. The hard-charging, always-ready attitude is a unique quality that has its own set of rules when it comes to taking a little downtime without losing precious time and opportunities. The following are excellent strategies for how to recharge for moguls of business.

Contemplation
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to sit quietly for a few minutes a day. Taking the time to think and contemplate things is a real game changer. It teaches you to quiet your mind and gives that big brain of yours time to rest. That’s all it is. Give it a try. Take 20 minutes and sit quietly. Let your thoughts come in and gently focus on them one at a time, allowing yourself to sit in silence. Over time, the effects build and offer a calmer mind and body, heightened focus, more patience, and greater productivity.

Movement
Your doctor and Jillian Michaels are right. Exercise is especially critical for entrepreneurs. You may feel like you are going 100 MPH on any given day and do not need “additional” activity, but get outside and take a brisk walk. You can even take the time to think at the same time. It’s a twofer for the multi-tasking magnate in you.

Experience the Outdoors
Great Scott! Throw nature in the mix and it’s a “three-fer” (it’s a real word – scout’s honor). The outdoors can spark relaxation, creativity, and help stave off burnout. Daily exposure to natural surroundings will give you the fuel to get back in the office and power through your day.

Schedule Your Time
Keep a single calendar that gives you mandated time each day to walk away from your desk, your phone, and your email. Maybe a couple of 10-15 minute breaks that give you time to stretch your legs, interact on a social level, grab a (healthy) snack or call a loved one. This single calendar will house business related obligations and personal outings and priorities. Seeing all of your obligations in one place helps eliminate the over-scheduled executive trap and gives you the opportunity to see, in black and white, how you are spending your time. In addition to your breaks, dedicate some time to your meal periods. Maybe you do not want to allocate an hour per day for lunch. At the very least, turn off your electronic world for 15-20 minutes and give your food your full attention. Think of it as “eating meditation.”

Unplug
Unplugging from all electronics, while a little frightening at first, can help alleviate a ton of stress. Think about it; all of those dings and beeps and buzzes that are always pulling at every last ounce of concentration you have. There’s only so much a person can take. Every tweet, poke, Instagram, Snapchat, email and reminder activates responses in you that eventually lead to mental and emotional breakdowns. It’s a daunting prospect, but consider taking an hour away from all electronics and build from there. Who knows, maybe you could allocate an entire electronics-free day or evening. Your creativity and your soul will thank you.

These few tips can help avoid burnout and create the optimal environment for the successful entrepreneur in you.

There Are No Pointless Meetings, Only Wasted Opportunities

If you ask any business professional what they dread on their calendar the most, many of them would tell you the same thing: all of those pointless meetings. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been pulled away from their desk at the most inopportune time, only to sit in a room and hear people convey information that they either already knew or that they didn’t need to know in the first place.

The dirty little secret here is that there are NO pointless meetings in the world of business – only wasted opportunities to get things done. If you want to make sure your meetings are justifying their existence, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.

Know When to Schedule a Meeting and When Not To

The first step on your road to a more productive meeting schedule involves coming to an understanding of what type of information should be conveyed in a meeting and what would be better left for some other delivery mechanism. One of the reasons why meetings tend to fall into the “pointless” category for many people is that they don’t require input or collaboration. If a team leader wants to draw everyone together to talk about updates to a project, but they don’t want the advice of anyone else, what they’re scheduling is not a meeting at all. It is an email at best.

Collaboration and the input of everyone involved should be a requirement for any meeting to justify its existence. If a particular problem has cropped up with a project and everyone needs to come together to solve it, that’s one thing. However, if the purpose of the meeting can be accomplished by just sending a memo or some other form of communication, don’t waste everyone’s time by gathering the entire team together to talk about the work they are already doing. Instead, let the team just get on with doing their jobs.

It’s All About Solutions and Focus

Another one of the reasons why more meetings tend to be less than productive is because people come with ideas, not solutions. One sure-fire way to make sure that nothing gets done is to allow people to come to a meeting and say off the top of their heads whatever is on their minds, firing off ideas that may or may not work.

In a perfect world, everyone at the meeting would know that you have a problem and would come prepared with X, Y, and Z suggestions for how to feasibly solve it. You wouldn’t waste the meeting time searching for an answer to your problem. Instead, you would be able to pick the best solution available to you from what the team members came prepared with and brought to the meeting. Far too many meetings lack this type of targeted focus, which is why so many of us can walk out of a meeting and feel like it accomplished nothing.

At the end of the day, there are no pointless meetings in the world of business or, at least, there shouldn’t be. Getting everyone together for a meeting can be a great thing. Everyone is in a room together, feeding off of everyone else’s energy and building a solid foundation of creativity that will carry your business forward. Meetings that are little more than lectures (or worse, freestyle sessions) have no place in a productive organization. If you want to have a meeting, by all means, do so – just make sure it has a clear focus before you schedule it.

Taking Over: Tips for Becoming a Team Leader for an Already Established Group

Building a team is an inherently personal proposition, regardless of the industry in which you’re operating. These are people that you’ve hand-selected based on their unique strengths to come together to form a complete whole. When everyone is firing on all cylinders, a well-designed team is more than just a tool – it’s a reflection of yourself, of the type of work you do, and of the quality of the product you’re about to deliver.

So what happens when you didn’t form the team, but you’re still being asked to lead them?

Things change in business all the time and at some point, you may be invited to take the reigns of a project that had already existed long before you got there – inheriting the project’s team at the same time. Jumping into a team as the newly deemed leader can be a difficult situation to find yourself in, but it doesn’t have to be provided you keep a few key things in mind.

Trust – The Most Important Element of All

When you take over as the team leader for an already established group, one thing will become clear: you probably wouldn’t have made the same decisions had you been there from the beginning. It’s a bit like a Hollywood feature film when one director takes over for another – a movie is still going to get made, but can that new director still put his or her own stamp on what is about to happen?

The answer is “yes,” provided you take advantage of your most valuable asset of all: the team itself. Remember, the people in that group were selected for a reason, and the most important thing you can do right now is to trust them to guide you just as they’re trusting you to guide them. Remember that they WERE there from the beginning. They have experience in this context that you do not, and their experience is incredibly valuable. Don’t come in barking orders, changing this or that just so that the project is more “yours” than anybody else’s. Listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Instead of changing them to fit your needs, do what you can to make yourself malleable to address theirs.

You’ve Been Tasked With Filling a Void, So Fill It

If you’re coming in to lead an already established group, the chances are high that what you’re being asked to do is fill a void. Why the previous team leader was replaced no longer matters – the people in front of you were prepared to follow that person, and now that person is gone. What you need to do is throw any pre-conceived strategies you may have had out the window and learn the score, so to speak. Find out what challenges were present under the previous leadership and learn what you can do to correct them. Find out how you can provide your personal value in a situation that already existed before you got there. Take the time to learn precisely what type of leader these people need and do whatever you have to do to become it. In this situation, you need to be willing to become a collaborator almost more than you would if you had built the team in the first place.

These are just a few of the ways that you can successfully become a team leader for an already established group. Make no mistake – it’s an awkward position to be in, but above all else, the quality of the work can’t suffer due to an unfortunate identity crisis. By trusting these people who have already come together and by being willing to become a real collaborator in every sense of the word, you’ll be able to make this team your own over time – all without tearing down what was old to build something new in the process.

Know Your Limits: Why Boundaries Are So Important When Becoming a Team Leader

One of the key things that all successful team leaders find a way to overcome is the simple human need to be liked. When you’ve finally risen in the ranks and find yourself in a position of authority, it’s natural to want everyone to see you as “the cool boss” or “the friendly boss.” While this is absolutely recommended to a certain extent and it’s a whole lot better for productivity than barking orders and becoming the boss that everyone hates, you still need to know your limits. You need to draw a line in the sand and establish yourself as a team leader by setting boundaries for both yourself and those beneath you. This is something you can do in a few different ways.

The Dangers of Not Setting Boundaries

The potential pitfalls associated with not setting boundaries for your employees extend quite a bit deeper than just having people who look at you more as a friend and less as a leader. A lack of boundaries can also easily translate into a lack of clarity and direction. You might suddenly find that, while you have hugely talented people working beneath you, they’re not focused. They’re not engaged. They’re more confused than anything and nothing is getting done.

Another significant issue that a lack of boundaries can create has to do with your overall company culture. If you don’t set boundaries up front, your company culture could become damaged. People will become demotivated, which will ultimately cause their performance to suffer. This, in turn, not only affects the quality of the work that you’re able to deliver to clients, but also your entire company identity from the top down.

Setting Boundaries as a Team Leader

If you want to continue to blossom into the team leader you always know you were meant to be, you’ll want to focus on creating boundaries in a few key areas. You’ll want to create boundaries that help your employees focus, first and foremost. You need to do what you can to minimize distractions from EVERYTHING that isn’t critical to the task at hand.

You’ll also want to create boundaries that help build a positive working environment for everyone involved. Whether this means rewarding a job well done or just recognizing when someone turns in a particularly thoughtful piece of work, this will go a long way towards creating a positive emotional environment – which also helps stimulate brain performance and keeps your employees operating at peak efficiency.

More than anything, however, you’ll want to establish boundaries that keep your team functioning as exactly that – a team. Any activity or behavior that fragments your team instead of pulls them together simply won’t do. You need to always remind your employees that you’re all in this together and that every move you make, along with every move they make, needs to be focused towards the same short-term and long-term goals.

These are just a few of the many reasons why boundaries are such an important part of becoming a team leader. Everyone wants to be liked, but remember that you’re not in this to make friends – you’re in this to get the job done. The types of boundaries that you set need to minimize distractions and bring your team together, not pull them apart. Only then will you be able to grow into the true team leader you always knew you had hidden inside you.

Is Your Office a Gossip Shop?

Let’s face it – we all have our quirks. Part of working with others is the opportunity to develop collaborative working relationships. Other people’s habits and behaviors affect us when we are in a shared environment. In many instances, these are the people that we interact with for the majority of our days. As a natural result, friendships form as trust and respect are gained from our day-in and day-out interactions. You may have experienced this in your own company. And then, one day… BOOM! Like a bolt of lightening, an employee begins to engage in storytelling that looks and smells an awful lot like gossip.

“Did you hear about Kathy? She is dating one of her supervisors…” or “I think Corey is on something. He has been late a lot lately and his eyes are watery…”

And with that bolt of lightening you have an out-of-control wildfire on your hands. It only takes one person to spark this type of destruction. Once one person speculates to another and then another, that speculation soon becomes a “fact,” and the object(s) of the gossip are in a position to defend the truth. This type of defensive space can shut down trust and, as a result, the creativity and collaboration that take so long to cultivate are lost. Gossip wars can emerge with retaliation, and the cycle of destruction keeps on going.

So how can you protect your workplace from gossip? Here are a few tips to help you guide your employees in stamping out the gossip wildfire.

Change the Subject.
If a conversation isn’t heading in a positive direction, encourage staff to change its course by politely changing the subject. It can be easy to say something that’s interesting – and upbeat – while also sending them a clear signal that you don’t want to talk about whatever you perceive to be gossip.

Say something positive about the person who’s the target of gossip.
No matter how negative a story about a person may seem, we rarely have all of the facts and there are likely positive qualities to that person. Remind people who are engaging in gossip that the person they’re talking about has done or said something praiseworthy by mentioning something specific that’s positive.

Confront gossip politely yet firmly.
Stand up to people who are gossiping by saying that you don’t want to know about the story they’re trying to tell you. Don’t hesitate to call out gossip when you hear it, but do so with grace. For example, you could say something like: “That sounds like it is none of my business, so I don’t really want to hear any more. Let’s just drop it.” Encourage your employees to hold others accountable for their choice of words.

Point out missing information.
If all else fails, ask questions that point out gaps in a story, such as specific times and places of events that supposedly happened. Challenge gossiping people to tell you how they personally verified the information they’re spreading about others. Help them see that just because they heard a story doesn’t mean it’s true – and even if it is, they can’t possibly have an accurate perspective on the situation.

Managing Employees Who Are Working Remotely: Bringing Your Team Together, Even When They’re a World Apart

Modern technology has ushered in a bold, new era in terms of employee productivity. Case in point: thanks to not only cloud computing but mobile technology, almost ANY employee can become a remote worker if they truly desire. Employees can be just as productive at a coffee shop as they could from their desk in the office, which has meant big things for businesses in all industries. For the people tasked with actually managing these remote employees, however, it can quickly become a challenge, to say the least.

If you want to get better at managing employees who are working remotely and your goal is to bring your team together even when they’re a world apart, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.

Lay Down the Ground Rules

Some employees who are working remotely tend to have this romantic idea that they are their own boss or that they “work for themselves.” After all, they don’t have to go into the office to be productive – they can work with the TV on if they want to or decide to stay in their pajamas all day if they feel like it, right?

Wrong. In reality, even remote employees still have a very real boss – the work itself. This is the master they’re trying to serve, and while they do have an extra level of comfort that on-site employees might not, any decision that takes away from the quality of the work is one that has to go.

Establishing a firm set of ground rules for all employees who are working remotely is essential to getting everyone on the same page. Whether it’s the fact that they have to work at least X number of hours per day. or that they have to be available between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., or even a rule saying that you’ll have at least one video conference per day, rules are important to not only keep everyone focused but also to make sure you’re all working towards the same long-term goal.

It’s All About Perspective

Above all else, it’s important for you and your employees to start looking at working remotely as a privilege, not a right. Just because the technology exists and is more affordable than ever does NOT mean it is something that they are entitled to. If a top-quality employee who previously worked on-site switches to remote access and the quality of the work suffers, you have to see the situation for what it is: someone who is abusing that privilege. If that situation arises, it’s time to not only bring them back into the office (if possible) but make sure that all other employees know that the same thing can happen to them in the future.

Encourage Communication

The type of work that you’re doing cannot exist in a vacuum, yet this is exactly what you’re creating if you don’t encourage or even insist that remote workers still communicate and collaborate with one another. Even if it’s something as simple as a quick daily phone call, it’s hugely important for remote workers to understand that what they’re doing affects everyone else at the same time. It’s far too easy for someone who doesn’t go into the office to start thinking “out of sight, out of mind” in terms of their fellow employees. Encouraging regular communication can help prevent this from happening.

Working remotely for a business is a truly great thing, but the opposite can certainly be true if you’re not careful. Only by establishing ground rules, holding people accountable, and by having the right perspective will you be able to unlock all of the benefits of remote workers with as few of the downsides as possible.