New Focus On Women In (Fintech) Start-ups

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

It is not just the stunning reversal of fortune for Hillary Clinton at the beginning of November which has stimulated a renewed interest in more diversity in the world of start-ups, and FinTech in particular. The conversation has been underway for quite some time.

Part of the drive for diversity, to be honest, is caused by a failure of women to rise to the top in most large businesses – including the financial services, banking or tech industries, despite a generation (at least) of trying. However, the focus on gender diversity remains, just about everywhere there is a budding FinTech start-up community. And a lot of the calls for diversity are coming from not “just” women, but men.

In Frankfurt Germany, this conversation is absolutely at the front and centre of just about every FinTech gathering right now. The Frankfurt “scene” is absolutely poised to break out on to the global stage, just because of the presence of so many highly educated, financially savvy people –from all over the world. But, as is painfully obvious, at gathering after gathering, except those ostensibly “for women”, the faces are mostly white, and with very few exceptions, all male.

As a result, there is an increasingly dedicated push to change that and for reasons that extend far beyond “political correctness”. This being Germany, there is a push to fill at least 30% of management boards with women as required by new German law that came into effect earlier in the year.

FinTech and Insuretech, in particular benefit hugely from the presence of women in senior positions for many reasons. The first is that the most successful companies in the sector succeed because they are able to define niche markets and reach them in new and often more efficient ways. While men are not incapable of figuring out how to do this, of course, having a different perspective, including unique experience and gender diversity along for the ride, is one way to succeed at this even better (no matter the community being targeted or service on offer). However, beyond service provision itself, the promise of encouraging more women to enter the FinTech industry is the new range of products their insights and experience have the potential to create. Even in the ostensibly “established” world of financial services and banking, the idea of a company (or companies) that provide services tailored to what women want is absolutely exciting. Beyond this, of course, is a wide range of products that interact with the consumer in different ways. Women play a huge role in helping to define the consumer experience – from the services themselves to how users interact with the interfaces.

As a result, there is actually no better time to be a woman in the world of start-ups. And the women who are, despite speaking and pitching to audiences still mostly made up of men , are also finding that for the first time there is a new acceptance and eager willingness to welcome them into the ranks of one of the most exciting industries on the planet right now.

You go girl!

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Bridging the Gender Gap)

Why Getting Your MBA Gives You Confidence

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

One of the most enduring reasons to get your MBA (or even EMBA) goes far beyond the “so-called” traditional reasons for going back to grad school (starting with increasing your pay check). It also extends much further than your expanded business network and the knowledge that you pick up along the way, including bettering how you work in teams.

The MBA experience, where-ever you get one, is also structured very differently from other graduate degrees. That is why getting your MBA, whenever you obtain it, will almost undoubtedly enhance just about any other skill set that you have.

Beyond this, however, getting your MBA is one of the best ways of building confidence – and I would add, particularly for women. I know I am not the only woman who I have talked to recently that has specifically mentioned that getting the degree, no matter one’s professional background and track record, helps you understand that business is as much a “conversation” if not “communication” with the rest of the world as it is anything else.

Part of this, I think, is that the MBA experience creates a solid framework for knowing how to “think outside the box” and to express that in terms that other business people will understand. It is not just about creating pretty PowerPoints (although you will probably find yourself doing a lot of those). It is very much about learning how to express yourself in structured terms in order to summarize complicated concepts much more simply and effectively. The ability to “speak fluently” in any language and be much better understood is, in and of itself, a confidence builder.

Presentations and team work are a big part of what you learn (or learn how to do better) – and there is no better way to learn than to try and fail. While this may not sound ideal, it is in fact a vital part of any entrepreneurial story. The skills gained from experiencing both successful and unsuccessful attempts to deal with leadership, management challenges, product launches and marketing if not defining a market itself are invaluable. The only way to understand business is to live it, and I am starting to see a difference in my classmates, and already in myself.

Part of it, I think, is that the MBA experience gives you a framework to look at your own life in a different way – in all its aspects even beyond business. It allows you to separate the idea of “failure” and “success” from personal traits and better define a life path – no matter where you find yourself on it. It certainly allows you to use different benchmarks.

As a relatively “late bloomer”, I can definitely say that the program I attended, at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, has allowed me to define myself differently. In one way, getting an MBA is almost like learning to tell the story better – whether it is a story about yourself or a story about a business idea, concept or initiative.

One thing I do know after a very hard year and as I head into delivering my final presentation. The process of getting my MBA has changed me, for the better. I am a more confident and capable woman, and this is an asset I can lean on no matter where, in the future, my personal and professional journey may end up taking me.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Frankfurt School of Finance and Management)

Why International Business Degrees Are So Important

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

International business degrees, in particular the MBA, are of increasing importance in a world where globalization (no matter how you define it) is here to stay. If anything, despite the recent backlash against globalisation, international business people who have an understanding of different business cultures are far better prepared for the world that lies ahead.

Call it Globalization 2.0.

Getting an international business degree is important because it exposes you to different people and ideas in your classes that open your mind to how diverse individuals and teams organise themselves and get work done, which is inevitably influenced by different national cultures. Beyond that, an international business degree also opens ones eyes to new and creative approaches available for structuring companies, launching new products, and reaching consumers in new and more effective ways.

On another level, international business degrees are important because of their focus on real sustainability and how it can be achieved. This is not limited to so-called “green” sustainability (although this is an increasingly important aspect). It is understanding, quite literally, how your business translates into different languages, needs, markets, market structures and regulations.

This is even more true if you work for a global technology company.

Two recent examples: AirBNB and Uber.

Both businesses are American and, while expanding rapidly at first, they have both quickly found that the disruption they caused has eventually created huge roadblocks. In Germany, for example, both have been banned outright. As much as their business models were good at “disrupting” two very traditional industries in almost every country they entered, it was precisely this feature of both companies that caused their eventual banning in more than one market.

The export of American innovation absolutely is hitting its limits right now as national governments realize that, despite all the conveniences, there are significant negatives that come with the same that their economies just cannot absorb. And as a result, the US tech firms end up destroying the very innovation that they created in the first place. That is nowhere more obvious than in America itself right now.

Part of this conversation has been underway for decades. American companies (in particular) have found a home in almost every country. But with technology, market entry has never been easier.

In the U.S., the focus on deregulation since the 1980’s, and the ability of firms to create new technology faster than the ability of regulators to understand and regulate it is widely accepted (or at least has been up until now). How this will continue in the future, however, particularly combined with the rise of automation, is yet to be seen. To date, the ability of firms with hugely disruptive business models to change the game has been accepted domestically as a mark of American entrepreneurialism if not exceptionalism.

As the backlash against technology firms has reared its head, it is highly likely that this will be felt elsewhere, and in many places far beyond the boardroom. While misinformation is the focus of the current debate – starting with the algorithm-controlled world of editor-free curation of blogs and Facebook’s role in the distribution of “fake news” prior to the U.S. election – the broader issue is a backlash against the role of tech firms in society overall . Uber, AirBnB and the many digital work platforms for freelancers are all tech enabled business models spawned beyond the clutches of regulation – and which are now facing a global backlash.

For precisely the reason that “American innovation” has been resisted around the world and now even domestically, it is important to understand the current playing field and how things are rapidly changing. This is one of the most invaluable lessons an international business student can learn.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Global Business Technology)

5 Strategies To Create Workplace Happiness

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This is a guest post from Riya Sander.

Creating a happy workplace can make it easier to retain your workers, allowing you to avoid the costs related to employee turnover. It can also increase the morale of those who stay, which may lead to higher productivity and a greater likelihood that your people take ownership of their work.

If happy workers are more loyal and productive workers, then worker happiness will have a direct impact on the profitability of your business.

What are some steps that you can take to ensure that your people are happy at work?

1. Emphasize Employee Wellness in the Workplace

If you want to keep your people happy, you will need to keep them healthy. Emphasizing health and wellness in the workplace ensures that employees don’t come to work sluggish, sick or injured.

Ways that you can improve worker health include providing an on-site gym, an on-site urgent care center or allowing workers to take time out of their day for a short walk. As a general rule, a brisk walk to reduce stress is a much more healthy and effective way to keep energy levels up compared with common alternatives like a cup of coffee or energy drink to perk up in the middle of the afternoon.

2. Ask Employees for Their Input

Conducting an employee happiness survey will allow you to learn more about what your people like and what they wish they could change about their jobs. For instance, you may discover that they don’t mind working 12 hours a day so long as they have the flexibility to choose when and where they work. By asking your people for this type of input, you can craft a schedule or create other working conditions that best meet the needs of the company and those who work for it.

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3. Provide Office Cleaning Services

Employees may have a hard time keeping their mind free from clutter if the office is a mess. Therefore, it may be in your company’s best interests to hire an office cleaning service that can vacuum the floors, take out the trash and get rid of dust and other irritants in the air. In addition to helping your employees get more done, they may be healthier for it in the long run.

Hiring an office cleaning service may be a good idea even if employees share a communal working space. In fact, it may be even more important if employees share one work space since you don’t want insects or rodents running around or germs being spread between people who are working in close proximity to each other.

4. Provide Financial Incentives for a Job Well Done

You should give your workers as much incentive to do a good job as possible. For those who go above and beyond what is expected of them, you might want to compensate them for their efforts. Providing workers with a bonus for doing a good job with a client or for adding a new account will show your people that their efforts are recognized and valued. You may also want to give employees stock options or an equity stake in the company if it makes sense to do so.

5. Give Your Employees a Chance to Step Up

Employees generally don’t want to feel stuck in the same position for their entire careers. If an employee doesn’t think that they have a chance to make the most of their talents with your organization, they may look elsewhere. This is generally true even if the person enjoys working for your business. Therefore, it may be worth implementing a training program to help workers develop their skills and communicate their desire to expand their role. This will allow you to identify your potential future leaders, which will make it easier to promote from within and to replace your top managers when they eventually leave.

Your employees deserve to have a rewarding and fulfilling work experience. If you can provide them with the right incentives and encouragement, then your business will find it easier to attract and retain a large pool of talented, loyal and productive employees. This is just what you need to keep your business thriving for years to come.

Riya Sander is a reader and Australia-based writer. As a freelancer, Riya understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stops finding new ways to increase her productivity. Follow her on Twitter.

(Image Source: Pexels 1 and Pexels 2)

Frankurt: Europe’s New Fintech Hub?

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

Frankfurt is one of the oldest business centres in the world. From at least Roman times, the low-lying city, bifurcated by the welcoming River Main, has been a hotspot for global endeavours that changed the nature of many industries – including but not limited to banking. Mayer Rothschild, a courtier to the German king of Hessen at the time, used the famous freedoms of the city to launch a global banking empire in the 1760’s.

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These days, Frankfurt is not just Europe’s banking centre and home to the European Central Bank. It is also on the verge of leading another revolution – in Fintech.

Why?

The first is just geography. In no other city where Fintech has taken hold are the presence of financial types and large banks so concentrated in such a small place. Frankfurt is roughly the size of Charlotte, North Carolina (the second largest banking centre in the U.S.) However, its residents, few in number compared to other large and influential cities and banking hubs, are both highly international (40% of the city is from somewhere else) and highly financially literate.

Further, with Fintech taking hold as a revolutionary force in banking and insurance, the large banks here are considering how to transition in a digital world which will change their business operations and market footprint – and that is not limited just to corporate banks, but global powerhouses like the ECB itself.

Frankfurt is an increasingly dynamic hub of Fintech start-ups, with unparalleled access to large banks. Even in London and New York, both financial superpowers in their own right, Fintechs do not have the same ability to reach power brokers and decision makers so easily and directly.

Frankfurt is also home to a well-heeled group of investors – whether they be individual “angels” or family offices – who are looking, at this point, for the next digital growth story. That makes the city one of the best places to both live and pitch on a regular basis. The start-up scene itself here is relatively tightly knit but, critically, also open to newcomers. Most advertise meetings on the Meetup Platform. It is possible to go to (at least) one event every day of the week.

Cross promotion of different kinds of events is also beginning to happen as the scene begins to mature. While the opening of Accelerator Frankfurt marks the first of such entities, it won’t be the last. Free office space for promising start-ups is relatively easy to find.

Unlike Berlin, Frankfurt also promises to be a city that promotes the growth of more B2B financial endeavours. While there are digital entrepreneurs here with start-ups of every kind, the mix in Frankfurt promises to see an increasing slate of innovative business models challenging every part of the banking and insurance business (which in Germany are more tightly linked than almost anywhere else in the world).

The impact of Brexit is also likely to give the Fintech start up scene here a boost, although it is uncertain at this juncture how much of one and in what form. What it is likely to do, however, besides sending a flood of British expats, is create a banking industry itself that is ripe for change and innovation.

Frankfurt is also (relatively speaking) far cheaper to live and work in (certainly comparable to Berlin). There are regional trains, subways that line up with station platforms and even street trains (plus busses) that make this little gem on the Main a potential start up paradise.

Four hundred years after Rothschild revolutionized banking, therefore, on the banks of the Main, another age dawns that promises innovations that are just as earthshattering, albeit this time, digital.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Leadership Lessons: How to Reinvent Yourself as a Leader

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This is a guest post from Caryn Walsh.

Being a good leader has never been easy. Not everybody can learn how to carry the expectations, demands, and ambitions of a company on a single pair of shoulders. You need to know when to be tough and have a willingness to make the difficult decisions, but it isn’t all about grit and determination. It isn’t all about power and wielding your authority.

This is one of the most important lessons for modern leaders, because the business world has changed. Employees have a lot more power now than they ever did. They want to feel personally invested in the companies that they work for and they want their contribution to be recognised. But, most of all, they want to feel happy at work. If you can give them this, you’ll have their trust and respect.

At Pure Magic Business, we work with people who are finding it hard to be good leaders. The first thing that we teach them is that there’s always time to turn it around. No matter how many mistakes you might have made in the past, you can flip the script and start again.

It’s Okay to Be Humble

The idea that managers and executives have to be untouchable is outdated and it fosters an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude within the workplace. If you wouldn’t feel happy taking orders from somebody who looks down on you, don’t expect your employees to be. A good leader knows that power isn’t always visible. It is about taking care of the people that you’re responsible for, even when the job doesn’t directly benefit your own image.

Your Ideas Might Not Be the Best

For a business to thrive, it will need to adopt the most promising ideas in order to make smart goals and effective plans. Leaders who fear ideas better than their own only serve to stifle the organisation’s potential. Leaders need to cast the creative net wide and listen to their employees. Some will have great feedback and wonderful ideas that can improve, develop, and enhance the company. Many minds working in harmony are always more constructive than a single, lone voice. Plus, inviting workers to contribute encourages them to get emotionally invested in the future of the company.

Gossip and Drama Are Not For You

Being a leader isn’t always a positive experience. The very act of having more power than others and being in a position to tell them what to do can foster resentment. This is common in people who find it hard to deal with figures of authority. The most positive and constructive response is to treat them with as much kindness and fairness as possible so that they understand that you’re not a threat. What you must not do is engage in any kind of gossip, drama, or sniping. Rise above and lead by example. There are leadership courses that can help you learn how to combat negative behaviour within the workplace.

You Know That Success Is a Journey

And finally, a great leader is a person who’s never truly content with where they are and what they’ve achieved. They know that there’s always another ceiling to push through and a bigger challenge to tackle. Crucially, some of these challenges will be to do with their own leadership style. As businesses and corporate cultures change, so too must leaders if they want to adapt and survive. So, don’t be afraid of self-appraisal, because it will ensure that you stay relevant, valuable, and perfect for the job.

For the past 25 years, Caryn Walsh has consulted to countless organisations in Australia and overseas in areas of leadership and team development. At the helm of Pure Magic Business, Caryn leads an impressive team who focus on ‘Growing People and Transforming Organisations’ in the corporate, community and education sectors.

(Image Source: Entrepreneur.com)

Bitcoin, Digital Currency and The Future of Banking

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

When news broke in late October that some of London’s largest banks were investing in Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies in general got another boost. According to reports, however, this latest move to embrace Bitcoin was not a positive embrace of the digital currency per se, but rather a move to stockpile Bitcoin to fend off denial of service attacks from hackers.

Beyond hoarding digital currency as a defensive move in the age of DDOS bank robbers, banks are beginning to think about ways that bitcoin could be used within the banking industry globally. This is not limited to thinking about how Bitcoin could function as a new kind of currency – although that is an ever-present idea on the horizon. Bitcoin itself was created by technologists and programmers with a deep-seated mistrust of central banks themselves. These days, central banks in places including the US, UK and China, are also considering how the underlying technology – blockchain – might be used to record transactions in the real economy more efficiently and with greater transparency.

Blockchain – a system of distributed databases that exist on either private or relatively “public” decentralized computer nodes all over the world – may in fact be the most powerful and influential legacy of Bitcoin. The technology allows multiple users, including competitors, to keep an accurate tracking of events or financial transactions in a way that can be accessed and tracked by multiple users at any given time. The technology is frequently referred to as a “digital ledger”.

The time is ripe for innovation both on the digital currency front and in the use of “digital ledgers” for everything from basic currency tracking and F/X transactions to more sophisticated clearing and reconciliation processes. According to a recent report in the New York Times, the Bank of England has recently produced a report that the economic benefits of issuing a digital currency tracked by a blockchain could add as much as 3% to a country’s economic output. During a time of unprecedented globalization as well as new business models that look set to disrupt entire industries, including banking, the idea of having a digital currency that offers both greater accuracy as well as independence from central banks and government interference is also gaining greater and greater appeal.

There is also the issue of reducing costs as well as the larger question of how to transform banking service provision in the age of “digital” personal services. Everything from sourcing loans to personal banking services, particularly in an age of negative interest rates, is potentially up for grabs – enabled by digital services and the technological backbone they rely on.

According to most industry analysts, the impact of all of these forces is likely to create a tipping point within the next 10 years, leading to wide ranging transformation of all banking services and the companies that provide them. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are likely to be major pieces of the puzzle, however they are ultimately configured, integrated and used. What is still uncertain at this juncture is exactly how this future world will look – from consumer interactions to the most sophisticated back office clearing procedures and reconciliation measures at the world’s largest banking institutions.

What is certain however, is that digitalization has hit the banking sector – and there is no turning back.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Flickr)

Brexit & The Future of Startups In Europe

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

Since 1972, Britain has been part of the European continent. I remember the opening very well. I was a kid, living in London. The new openness meant we could afford oranges from Spain. Every week, an old French farmer would also peddle through London with strings of onions hanging from his bicycle. I thought the arrangement was unbelievably cool and more than romantic.

Fast forward forty years, and the situation is now reversing, and that is not only a shame, but I predict it will have dire and unforeseen consequences for the British.

The England I knew as a child was a fascinating place. It was a country struggling to keep together the concept of a social state, still wounded by the war, and losing the last pieces of its Empire. You could still travel to central parts of London and see unreconstructed bomb sites left over from the war. I will never forget seeing one, incongruent with the bustling scenes around it, and asking my father what it was from. He answered “The Blitz.”

Today, of course, London is a different city, and England is a different country – transformed, much like the U.S. into an economy which may be again calling itself “shared” – but in fact is premised on something very different.

After WWII, most European countries, as well as significant parts of the U.S., believed the future was only attainable by creating a strong social platform upon which the other parts of life would work. “Regular” jobs. A middle class life. A steady pay check. A system to take care of the sick. Retirement funds to take care of the old.

That system is gone now – or at least fading, and we are on the cusp of something else. Thus the explosion of start-ups, start-up culture and the new entrepreneurialism. This is part of the reason that start-ups have thrived in the U.K. – particularly high tech start-ups. The country has been, for a generation, trying to define itself. There is no way the island can survive independently. No country can. The British train system uses German trains. The auto industry is hurting. Oil is an uncertain energy source. Overpriced British real estate in London fueled by foreign investment does not an economy make. Britain, right now, is much like the U.S. Casting off the old very quickly in an attempt to create something that works better (although for whom and how many is still an open question).

However start-up culture is not the same everywhere.

Across the Channel, things are different. There is more social integration and infrastructure. Every country east of France still has a streetcar system that works. There are still national healthcare systems which strive to provide health care for the oldest and sickest. And the approach to start-ups is a lot more cautious – in part because things still work the way they were designed to. People here just do not understand how, for example, a presidential candidate who did not pay his taxes for 20 years can even be credible.

This reliance on a broader superstructure, which the Europeans are loath to destroy in search of something “new”, does not mean there is no innovation. As a professor of mine said to me recently, mobile payments (a particularly hot area of Fintech innovation elsewhere) are just not a priority in Germany because of the continual upgrades and improvements to the customer banking experience (also known as SEPA), that has already created a workable middle way.

However, Europeans in general and Germans in particular, are not deaf to innovation. They too are looking for ways to innovate as the older systems become increasingly outdated. It is just moving a bit more slowly here – and frankly a bit more humanely. Chaos might provide a lot of exciting booms, but that is not a place where most people want to live their lives. And as Britain shuts its doors to the rest of the continent, there are many now who are looking increasingly to both Berlin and increasingly Frankfurt, to be a new platform for innovation.

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In Frankfurt, there is a steadier (and much cheaper) platform for innovation in the form of cheap rent, transportation and an overall standard of living. And it is provided by the security and infrastructure that comes when countries do not throw the baby out with the bathwater in search for “something” if not “anything” new.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: BBC and Tripadvisor)

Corporate Career or Entrepreneurial Path?

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

I am a bit of a late bloomer in some ways – certainly academically. At the age of 48, I decided, after a life spent in business of all kinds, to go back to school, obtain my EMBA, and focus on an entrepreneurial career.

It’s not really that delaying my master’s was a choice. When I was younger, I couldn’t get a school loan. I had no cosignors. And the jobs I got never paid enough to get the loan either.

But here I am.

If I were to compare myself to any generation right now, it would not be my own but to the generation of young people currently leaving university for the first time. I have no home loan and, despite a good stint on Wall Street earning a six figure salary, all of my net worth was wiped out in the “Great Recession” along with anything like steady employment.

As a person of a certain age, not to mention a foreigner in a country where I still struggle with the native language, I have embraced the digital “gig economy” – I had to. That said, I have always been exposed to it. My parents were self-employed. My uncle was Peter Drucker – a man who wrote about corporate management – yes – but who also foresaw the situation we face now. Going to business school these days, more than ever, is about learning to manage the dichotomy between the way things were and the way things are changing.

Don’t kid yourself. The entrepreneur’s path takes a lot of practice and perseverance. It is never easy. But thinking out of the box right now is the only sure path to longer term survival. The attraction of a steady full-time job, certainly in the U.S. and the U.K., is the comfort provided by getting a pay check each week, or at the end of the month. The concept of job security though has gone out the window. The concept of a “corporate manager” is also changing fast.

As business school students contemplate the future, one thing is very clear. The old ways of doing things, along with old business paradigms, are shifting faster than the textbooks can adapt. Faster, in fact, than society can. That is always the way it has been, but this time, the shift is more profound. Companies cannot survive without acting like lean and agile start-ups, and figuring out a way to make that happen is a core priority for managers.

In some ways, deciding whether to pursue a corporate track job or jump into a start up is not a choice – just a delayed reality. Newly minted business graduates, in particular, could do far worse than reset their expectations and set their vision on leading an entrepreneurial life, right from the start.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Copypress)

The Lessons I Learned From Peter Drucker

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

It is not like I knew Peter well – as a real live person. In fact, I only met him once – in Claremont – as a very old man. That said, I always found it rather funny and more than touching that for a man who helped chart the academic progression of American management studies, he never lost a heavy German/Austrian accent. “Zis ist Peter Drucker” – the message he recorded on his home answering machine – was a cause of much delight at one point in my life, particularly because my father spoke with an upper class English accent, and my aunt with a highly Californianized German one.

Peter was the husband of my father’s eldest sister, Doris. My father was not a fan. Apparently in my family’s frantic transition from central Europe via England and then to the U.S. during the 1930’s, the relationship between the two men became fraught with tension and personal squabbles whose original genesis was odd, to say the least. The cause of a decades long civil war apparently started over Peter’s heavy handed English language instruction to my father (then in British boarding school while Peter was a business journalist in the UK). It continued over the course of a lifetime, fuel added to the fire by envy, competition and academic success. My father thought it was fundamentally “unfair” that the End of Economic Man was published to take advantage of the announcement of the Stalin-Hitler Pact. While Peter taught at NYU, my father was at the New School. Peter followed an entrepreneurial academic path. My father a journalistic and creative one. My father also had a fundamental disgust that Drucker covered up the fact that he was Jewish. In fact, he frequently referred to my uncle as “that ugly man” and (more than once) as an “unapologetic fascist.”

Perhaps because of that, I read all of Drucker’s major works as an act of rebellion by the time I entered college (in the mid 80’s). And at that point Drucker was already being redefined, as well as slightly shelved, by the newer generation of management consultants who took his place. I also experienced his work about the “third way” by being exposed to it directly in managing a non-profit as one of my first jobs out of school. Even at the time, I thought it represented a way to redefine his voice in a way that I believe will continue to be redefined in the century “after Drucker”. He was shifting from writing about focussing on management for the manufacture of profit to management to profit society. At that point in his life he also began to believe that his work was being misinterpreted. By the turn of the century, this was much more evident, at least in private. According to my aunt, who accepted the Medal of Freedom on his behalf (because at that point he was too sick to travel), Drucker was also unbelievably embarrassed that “management by objective” had been used to justify the Iraq War.

Interpreting Drucker’s intended meaning has been, as a result, a journey that I have undertaken as part of understanding my family and myself as much as it is about management.

My perspective on Drucker started with my curiosity about why he felt that nepotism was a fundamental evil. As a child I often thought this was because of the ancient family feud between my father and my uncle.

But as an adult, my understanding became more nuanced.

Drucker was, at least in my mind, a business anthropologist. He sought to understand and explain company culture in a way that is akin to an expat trying to understand the culture of a new country. He was no less hurt than most European Jews were about being betrayed by their home countries on the basis of an intangible idea (religion). His writing about nepotism, for example, was I believe a fundamental criticism of the German “Mittelstand” and how easily companies designed for one purpose (efficient production and profit) can be perverted by politics, as happened in Europe with the rise of Hitler. Later Drucker writing on the importance of managers getting out of the way and letting employees do the work they were there to do, as well as his early interest in an IT enabled and remote working environment, was also heavily influenced by the background of a man who relied on his entrepreneurial skills and distrust of office politics to survive in a world hostile to immigrants.

By the time Drucker shifted in focus at the end of his career, he had clearly also become concerned with the way that American corporate life was rapidly undermining the stability of American society achieved after WWII. “The third way”, and his argument for the professionalization of non-profit work, was in some ways a bit of an apology for Drucker’s early celebration of corporate culture in the U.S. His writing on executive pay, for example, was clearly a reaction to the beginnings of private sector greed that has become a major political topic of our new century.

Ultimately, Drucker was a man who sought to make sense of a world caught between politics, society and culture operating within the framework of something else – the corporate structure. While the specific issues that our society is called upon to face are of course different at the beginning of this new century, I also feel that the things he wrote about have never been more pertinent and relevant.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Benandju)

Lessons Learned from a German EMBA

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

In the fall of 2015, after spending two years in a small town in the Ruhr Valley starting to learn German (I will appreciate Mark Twain’s perspective on the sprache so much better going forward), I moved to Frankfurt to begin my Executive MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

There are many reasons why I chose to obtain my graduate business degree in Germany (and even more specifically in Frankfurt). I am an American expat, with my future plans in Europe if not the rest of the world. I have felt, for quite some time, that American business schools are myopic when it comes to understanding international business issues and globalization outside of maximizing profit. I also feel that there is something very right going on in Germany specifically, that has been fundamentally lost in the U.S. There is a strong manufacturing culture here that is shifting to the future with a face that is far more humane and sustainable (and certainly more green, the disaster at Volkswagen notwithstanding), and the so-called “Mittlestand” – small to medium sized enterprises – create a business culture in which innovation and change can thrive.

While Germans frequently ask me “why come here when you have the U.S.?” the answer is super simple. Yes, things are regulated in Germany on a level that drives even rules-obsessed Germans to distraction. And yes, change comes more slowly here. But the so-called “creative destruction” that drives American entrepreneurialism is now happening in a way that is destroying companies and lives if not innovation in general (including in Silicon Valley).

Germany is more interesting.

German regulation and the thinking about the regulatory process in general, particularly in industries like banking and Fintech, is a standard which could certainly help redefine not only the German market, but create a global benchmark for those who understand that regulations are necessary. The changes that Germany has managed to transcend (including those of the post war period, reunification and even its acceptance of refugees) were only possible because of a strong national culture that is by definition globally focussed. Germany has no natural borders and, perhaps because of that, the country has created a national identity and operating DNA that is designed to be like an ocean liner on a global ocean, rather than a country which walls itself off from the rest of the world.

Frankfurt itself is also a fascinating city. It is not only where my family is historically from, but has long been defined by international trade, commerce and global thinking. Now it is set to become a thriving cluster for FinTech entrepreneurs in a way that other cities cannot match due to the winning combination of its size, infrastructure and proximity to global banking players.

The Frankfurt School itself is also a very interesting place. Started as a school for more traditional bankers and executive education, it is rapidly moving up the global rankings and redefining itself in a rapidly changing world; the school is perfectly positioned to address the transformations happening in the banking industry with the impact of digitalization, cryptocurrency and mobile payments. My class has also achieved a number of “firsts” for the school: we are a highly diverse international group, classes are taught in English, and we are 40% women.

In terms of coursework, it has by far lived up to my expectations (and I have high ones, partly because of my 25 year professional career in the U.S. but also because I am Peter Drucker’s niece). Our professors are drawn from the ranks of both the school’s faculty and drawn from all over the world (including Ghana and the U.S.) However, the perspective offered here is exactly what I was hoping for. And the lessons learned from the teamwork exercises and my classmates are ones I will take with me for the rest of my life. We are drawn from every industry, and every kind of background. And more than a few of us are using the EMBA experience to either begin or more seriously launch our entrepreneurial careers and aspirations. Drucker once wrote that once a subject becomes obsolete, it is taught in the classroom, but that is not the feeling I have here. In fact, the Frankfurt School has made it a priority to present classical business education in the context of a world that is changing fast (from every perspective). And while there is a healthy appreciation of American innovation, it is taught in a way that is separate and distinct from a mind-set that is focused mostly on the American market.

Students who want to understand a world outside the U.S. on topics ranging from globalization to sustainability would do well to consider a German business education.

Global business is about understanding the needs of stakeholders who come from a diverse range of cultures; being able to create a remarkable “journey” for employees and customers; and responding to and managing change in a way that does not upset the core mission of the enterprise. It requires innovative responses to both the mundane and the exception.

At heart, those are some of the real lessons I have learned here at the Frankfurt School. It has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: WallpaperUp)

Essential Features That Your Serviced Office Should Have

Essential Features That Your Serviced Office Should Have

It is very common these days for businesses of all shapes and sizes to use serviced offices. For smaller companies and startups, however, they are particularly valuable. If a young business wants to get off the ground fast, they can do so by paying a fixed rate fee to rent a fully equipped workspace. It gives them access to state of the art resources, without the associated expenses.

If you are currently on the hunt for a suitable serviced office, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. It is not always easy to find an adequately supplied workspace that is also maintained efficiently, but it is possible to find both of these things. A great resource to see where you can locate your business can be found here.

This post provides some of the most essential features of a serviced office and will help you find one that is perfect for your business.

Prestigious Address

If you are willing to pay for a managed office space, you have a right to expect its address to enhance your own reputation. This is why location is key when it comes to choosing a serviced office. For young businesses, it can make a huge difference, because it replaces an unprofessional domestic address with a highly regarded corporate one. It takes a lot of investment to set up that first independent site, but serviced workspaces are a great way to feel the benefit even if a company doesn’t have the necessary resources quite yet.

Flexible Contracts

The rise of nomadic entrepreneurs has bolstered the need for a much more flexible corporate culture. Innovative new businesses no longer want to be tied to one city or even a traditional work schedule. They want the freedom to work on the move and respond proactively to developing market trends. Being unrestricted by administrative ties is a big part of this and serviced offices are an easy way to invest in the amount of security that works for you. If you don’t have to commit to a two year lease, you will have more flexibility to plan for a wider range of future eventualities.

Back Office Support

The best serviced offices are more than just blank spaces for businesses to fill. They also provide access to the finest IT, secretarial, administrative, and tech support. With a back office of this calibre, entrepreneurs and startups never have to worry about going it alone. They are just one phone call away from a highly trained and experienced team of advisors. Whether you need help greeting guests, operating IT systems, or organising files, all you have to do is ask. The clue is in the name – with a ‘serviced’ office, you should expect that all of your corporate needs will be met.

Leisure Spaces

Not all serviced offices provide access to a leisure or relaxation space, but it is an essential part of the work routine. Studies have shown, time and time again, that productivity suffers when people don’t take regular breaks. In order to work efficiently, you also need to give your brain a chance to rest and recharge. The best serviced offices come with outdoor leisure spaces, so that occupants are exposed to plenty of daylight. This keeps them alert, happy, and healthy for longer. Keep this mind when searching for your ideal workspace.

Alexandra Richards is an Australian business consultant, located in Perth. She takes a keen interest in the business structures and work culture of Perth based businesses. She has recently been working with Servcorp to help deliver tailored solutions to local businesses.

Learn How To Avoid The Five Most Common Mistakes Made By Leaders And Managers

Learn How To Avoid The Five Most Common Mistakes Made By Leaders And Managers

If you have recently been placed in a leadership or managerial position in your company, then you may need to change the way you approach work each day.

The five most common mistakes discussed below are made by those in management in virtually every sector of the business world.

Learning how to avoid them can help your team to thrive!

1. Goals – A team without goals is a huge problem. Some managers, especially those that are new to the role, make the assumption that everyone knows what to do rather than providing guidance regarding assignments and priorities.

2. Poor focus – Even those who have set goals do not always focus on what’s important. Rather than acknowledging progress and creating positive results, these managers get caught up in the details and busyness of urgent everyday tasks.

Rather than micromanaging your team, monitor their progress on a schedule, ensuring that they are moving forward as needed. Running around the office looking busy all of the time is not the same as accomplishing the desired results.

3. Hiring and firing – It is important to have a strong team capable of handling the tasks assigned to them.

In a rush to have sufficient manpower, some managers make the mistake of hiring people too quickly and are slow to let them go, even when it is apparent that they are not capable of fulfilling their role.

These poor practices can harm the morale of the team and make it even more difficult to get the job done.

Make sure that you consider candidates carefully before hiring. Not only do applicants need to have the necessary skills and abilities, but they also need to have the right combination of personality, flexibility and dedication.

It is better to have an open position than to expect your team to carry someone who is not a good fit for the job.

Likewise, delaying firing an employee can lead to frustration and your team may believe that you are too soft. Although it can be difficult to let someone go, you should not keep someone on the payroll just because you are uncomfortable with confrontation. You will be doing the employee and your company a favor by ending things quickly. Firmly but politely explain to the person why she is being let go, and give some positive feedback concerning the areas where she excelled.

4. Morale – No matter the size and type of organization that you are leading, good morale is essential.

Some managers believe that they need to rule with an iron fist, forcing employees to mold into some preconceived idea of what a “perfect employee” looks like.

Instead, you need to keep an eye on morale and take steps to boost it when necessary. This may be through encouraging stories or giving praise to team members for their contributions. In fact, some leaders make it a point during conferences to find something positive and honest to say about each person and the value they contribute to the team.

5. Poor boundaries – Whether standoffish or being a buddy, both strategies are doomed to fail for leaders. If those under you are not comfortable approaching you with questions, your company can lose valuable resources down the line because of mistakes. And, while you should be approachable, you should not perceive yourself as an equal, nor should they. While you can socialize and joke with the team, you should maintain a degree of separation. Otherwise, you may have a difficult time reprimanding someone and some employees may take advantage of your friendly nature.

You can embrace the challenges that come with your new role as manager or leader and have a strong team as a result. Avoid the five most common mistakes and continue to learn from mentors and others about the methods, tools and tricks for becoming a respected and successful leader.

Jeremy Johnson is a real estate enthusiast and has written content for dozens of real estate and related sites around the world. RealEstateCompanies.info is a side project he maintains because of his interest in real estate.

Attitude vs. Aptitude: What’s More Important?

Attitude vs Aptitude What is More Important

This is a guest post from Sarah Smith.

In many areas of today’s economy, numerous jobs go unfilled due to a lack of people with the proper qualifications. However, as this dilemma continues, more and more employers are starting to re-examine the typical business thinking that aptitude must always take the lead over attitude when it comes to new hires.

As Human Resource managers everywhere start to take a second look at typical hiring practices and begin to implement policies that put a greater emphasis on attitude, some supervisors and other management personnel still hesitate to adopt the belief that attitude carries more weight than aptitude.

Despite the growing debate, it appears attitude is slowly but surely moving its way to the front of the hiring line.

Employment Aptitude Tests

While tests such as these have been around for generations, fewer employers today rely on them when making hiring decisions. Instead, employers are much more interested in getting to know their employees and having them be excellent communicators with a wide variety of people.

While technical skills can be taught to new employees, having the right attitude cannot. Therefore, when employers find employees who may have great attitudes but not as much aptitude, they instead rely on such measures as online training and assessment courses to determine just how much they will need to teach the employee in order for the person to be considered competent within that field.

Training, especially in technical fields, will always be an expensive and time-consuming experience for employers, and so it’s vital that only those people who exhibit the right attitude be hired.

Communications and Business Acumen

In addition to hiring employees who have the ability to learn technical skills in a timely fashion, employers also look for people who have excellent communications skills as well as a certain amount of business acumen.

Looking for traits that would make one coachable is a vital key to the success of hiring attitude over aptitude, with most employers believing that the majority of people exhibiting these traits would be ones who would become good employees once taught the necessary skills.

However, because the line between attitude and aptitude is so very thin, some employers worry that these potential employees would not be good long-term prospects due to a lack of interest in the job. They argue that even though the person may exhibit desirable traits, if they don’t already possess the specific skills required for the job then that could indicate a lack of interest in that field of work.

So Which Is More Important?

Naturally, the question of attitude versus aptitude is not an easy one to answer. Different employers will have varying outlooks on the issue, so it ultimately rests with each individual hiring manager as to what is more important to them. However, as today’s economy demands having a workforce that exhibits a combination of technical skills and the ability to communicate well with others both verbally and in writing, it is becoming more accepted to hire those who are deemed to be coachable in both areas.

While always nice to have an employee who already possesses the skills needed to step into a job and pass a personnel performance evaluation, more employers are realizing those possessing a degree from the school of hard knocks have plenty to offer their companies as well.

Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about marketing, using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books.

Restoring Derelict Spaces to Lease-Ready Condition

Restoring Derelict Spaces to Lease-Ready Condition

This is a guest post from Sarah Smith.

Savvy investors know that there is a lot of potential in converting abandoned or derelict spaces into lease-ready properties. Below are five (5) tips on converting a vacant spot into a high-revenue lease property.

1. Pop-Ups

This refers to taking a small vacant space and converting it into a restaurant or shop. These are great for:

  • Trial marketing a new brand, product, or testing out a new region
  • Selling seasonable items (e.g. Christmas, Halloween, etc)
  • Adding a bricks-and-mortar location to an existing online business
  • Showroom space
  • Establishing a permanent location for items previously sold at crafts fairs or festivals

2. Advertising and Marketing

It only takes a little imagination to realize that an empty shop window makes for a great spot to place advertising and marketing.

Likewise, blank walls on the side of a building can be a tremendously good location to place large ads or marketing messages. Blank walls and large open spaces are also wonderful locations for projection advertising and mixed media marketing messages.

3. Build a Pod

Vacant and underused office space is now becoming extremely popular as part of the “pod” or collaborative working space concept. Many small businesses refer to the acronym POD, Phone, Office, & Desk, being the minimal space necessary in order to work. Short-term leases and flexible arrangements can take a vacant office space and turn it into a cash cow.

4. Virtual Shop-Fronts

One of the most exciting new technologies to re-use spaces creatively is the idea of a 3-D virtual shop front. When applied to a vacant lot or empty space, a detailed 3-D image can be rendered, perfect for prospective clients who may be imagining how their business can make use of the location.

Besides just being appealing to prospective clients, virtual shop fronts are also useful in making abandoned or derelict properties look occupied, adding aesthetic appeal to the neighborhood and helping to minimize visual deterrents to leasing the property.

5. Re-Purposing Venues

Many of today’s largest companies are looking for ways to stealthily guerilla market to certain demographics. You can take advantage of this by working with these companies to re-purpose abandoned properties as pop-up venues for their latest marketing idea or branded activity.

Another way to create revenue from blighted areas is to work in conjunction with local authorities to host festivals, fairs, and other celebrations. By adding pop-up attractions to your property, you can increase foot traffic to the area, benefiting local businesses and attracting potential long-term clients.

Successful event planners are always looking for new and exciting venues to stage their activities. Whether repurposed for a fashion show, art exhibition, festival, or music concert, your previously low-value property may be able to command a high price.

Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about marketing, using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books.

How You Can Use Signage To Brand Your Business

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This is a guest post from Sarah Smith.

Business owners know that they can’t attract customers if those customers don’t know that they exist. That is why they rent buildings in high traffic areas and pay large sums to place ads where people are likely to see them.

There are many ways that companies can get the word out, and with all the hype around online and social media marketing it would be easy for companies to overlook how important proper signage can be to the success of a company’s marketing strategy.

Let’s look at the link between branding and signage and list some reasons why clever signage can be an effective way to advertise your business.

Signage Can Be Simple, Affordable and Memorable

Even if someone doesn’t know what your company sells or what service it provides, he or she will recognize your brand if your signage is memorable enough. In many cases, people who see an attractive sign will want to learn more about the business behind it and what it does. Social media users may be willing to share your sign just because it looks cool and they want as many people to see it as possible. Ultimately, you are going to increase awareness for your brand, which will help to increase sales and revenue for your company.

Signage Can Be Simple, Affordable and Memorable

Signs Can Be Placed Anywhere

The best part about a sign is that you can put it almost anywhere. You could put a sign in your car window, on local bulletin boards or on a fence outside your property. If you want to reach a wider audience, you could even consider putting a sign on a public building or another area that is open to the public and which receives a large volume of foot traffic. For instance, you could put a sign on a light pole at a busy intersection.

Signs Can Be Placed Anywhere

Attract Customers From Miles Around

A brightly colored sign that is placed several hundred feet in the air can attract customers from miles around. To make it even more attractive, you could use neon lights or have it light up at night or at times that it may be harder to see. Depending on where the sign is located, you could include on it the closest highway exit to your location and the company’s web address and phone number. Doing this can allow potential customers to find your store, connect with you online or contact you by phone.

Attract Customers From Miles Around

Fence Signage Could Be Part of Your Marketing Plan

Large farms or public parks may have advertising space available on fences that surround the property or gated fences that people have to walk through to gain entry. The sign doesn’t need to be anything fancy, and a handmade sign can often be just as effective as a fence sign crafted by SiteSmart or something created using design software. If you are a startup founder looking to connect with your target audience, a handmade sign might also be seen as more authentic and fun.

Taking the time to create an effective sign can increase brand awareness, which can ultimately boost sales volume and revenues. The best part about signage is that you can be as creative as you want to be, and anyone in your company can help with the project. Signage can be an effective way to promote your business, and it is worth keeping this in mind when developing your branding and marketing strategy.

Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about marketing, using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books. Follow Sarah on Twitter.

The Psychology Behind Marketing Online Education

Psychology Behind Marketing Online Education

This is a guest post from Sarah Smith.

How do people decide which online university will meet their needs?

What drives a student to choose one option over another — especially when both schools have little name recognition?

No one decides on an online education based on a single advertisement or one aspect of a website. Instead, a multitude of psychological factors work together.

Every student is different, bringing personal priorities to the selection process. That said, it is possible to use psychology to decode the common factors. By understanding the thought process that goes into a student’s choices, an online program can grow its enrollment faster.

Let’s look at some of the key factors:

1. The Feeling a School Will “Work With You”

One of history’s most famous psychoanalysts, Sigmund Freud, posited that people are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Prospective students want the “pleasure” of a great education and the opportunities it affords, but also wish to avoid the “pain” of failing!

Schools aimed at working adults should evince a compassionate, caring manner to make the threat of failure seem distant.

2. Social Proof as Evidence of a School’s Intentions

“Social proof” is a key concept in neuro-marketing, the fusion of neurology, psychology and marketing. To overcome their doubts about a course of action, most people prefer to see that others like them have succeeded before.

Testimonials associated with clear, smiling photos of a variety of students can be motivational.

3. The Right Visual Cues

Online schools can offer a variety of programs, from the humanities and social sciences to vocational programs. When visuals are congruent with a college’s offerings, students will be more inspired to commit.

Blue, gold, and gray are associated with “prestigious” subjects in the humanities, while red, white and green evoke the practical.

4. A Sense of Urgency or Scarcity

Deciding to go to college can be a leap of faith, especially for those who have not been in school for a long time. A sense of urgency can shake them up and compel them to take action.

Establishing and communicating clear deadlines for enrollment, along with a path to speak directly to an admissions counselor is likely to improve conversion.

5. Anticipatory Activity

Anticipatory activity” is a perspective-taking process people adopt when they want to modify their social role. For example, a student who wishes to graduate from college with good grades will usually try to adopt habits they think are associated with that success.

When a college website is written from a future-oriented perspective, with rich details relating to a student’s future success, it can help activate this process, and so would-be students may become more confident that enrolling is the right course of action.

All these tools rely on one central factor: understanding your audience.

Someone who wishes to achieve a degree in philosophy may be very different from someone who wants real estate training online. Although, if you visit NREL’s website (a company that provides online real estate courses for NSW) you’ll see many of the above techniques.

Although each student is different, they all fall into demographic categories that can be used to develop a detailed understanding of the “average” visitor. The better you understand that group, the more effectively you can tailor your site experience to their needs.

Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about marketing using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books.

How to Attend Conferences as a Businessperson

How to Attend Conferences as a Businessperson

(Source: Cydcor)

This is a guest post from Archie Ward.

Take responsibility for getting the most value out of the next conference you attend.

By planning ahead and thinking strategically, a conference can generate sales, increase business, improve vendor relationships and initiate strategic partnerships. Going to a conference can renew excitement about the business, open up new avenues for the future and create lasting connections.

Five Reasons to Go to a Conference

  1. There is the possibility of face time with people you might not normally get to meet
  2. You can meet clients you may not have seen face to face
  3. You could learn something
  4. Catch up on the latest trends and get great new ideas
  5. Evaluate potential vendors

Before the Conference

Most conferences have cocktail hours and dinners as well as exhibits, classes and keynote speakers.

Start by setting some goals for the conference. Plan to increase business, to initiate partnerships, work with vendors, or meet the competition. Try to be someone who’s meeting a lot of people, and doing it well.

Study the conference brochure, ask the conference sponsors for a guest list and mark the events and classes it makes sense to attend by thinking about whether or not your vendors, stakeholders or customers might be present. Make a list of the clients, vendors, stakeholders or potential partners you want to see and call ahead to schedule a meal with them.

Use your planner to lay out your meetings, events and classes so you attend to all of your conference goals. Sometimes conversations are more valuable than classes. A one on one dinner may be better than the banquet. Choose wisely and plan for some down time to address opportunities that present themselves at the conference.

Prior to the conference, create any materials or electronic presentations that may be needed for the discussions you plan to have. Take business cards and prepare your elevator pitch. Make sure to dress the part. It is quite difficult to get new business from a potential client in a sweat suit unless you’re dealing with Nike.

At the Conference

Upon arrival, hang out in the registration area. It is a great place to run into the people you want to see but couldn’t book and those you didn’t expect to meet. It’s a great opportunity to start conversations and set up longer ones. Be armed with some information about your company’s latest innovations or new services.

Watch name tags and look for opportunities. Get to sessions a few minutes early and leave a few minutes early to maximise the time you spend connecting to clients, potential clients, vendors or stake holders. Select high quality contacts who may offer value. Hang out in the host hotel and observe where others are gathering. Be available during the cocktail hour and seat yourself strategically at meals. There is plenty of time to hang out with your cronies, so seek out time to be with business people you haven’t met.

If you make it to all the meals you set up, have good conversations with connections, and attend some of the higher quality classes, you have done well. You probably will have accomplished your goals.

After the Conference

While at the conference you should have been taking notes on all of the business people you met, and collecting their contact information. Hopefully you have set up some future calls and meetings with at least of few of them. Send notes to everyone you had contact with. In the note bring up a topic of interest that you discussed. Then send reminder notes to everyone you set up meetings with or plan to call to confirm the meetings and calls. Send notes to anyone you missed and set up a plan to get in touch in the near future.

If you are well-planned and armed with goals attending a professional conference can help you improve business, create relationships, check out the competition and evaluate vendors. They provide a great opportunity for new information and new relationships.

Archie Ward is a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Rewarding Your Most Valuable Clients

Rewarding Your Most Valuable Clients

(Source: reynermedia)

This is a guest post from Archie Ward.

Many business people do not know how to bond with their clients. This is because the majority of such individuals struggle to find time to enjoy themselves. If you are such an individual, then there are things you can do to help you bond with your clients and strengthen your relationship with them. You could, for example, reward them with an end of year event.

Organising such an event can be valuable for three (3) reasons:

  1. Word of mouth – If your event is fun, memorable and worth talking about, then your top clients can become your greatest ambassadors as they spread the word about the experiences they had at your remarkable event.
  2. Networking – Not only can your clients benefit from the event itself, but also from the valuable contacts that they might meet there. By creating an opportunity for your contacts to meet each other, you offer them additional value by helping them to build their network. This can help to enhance your business authority and to solidify your position at the center of their professional network. This increases the chances that they will refer business to you and reach out to you for assistance in future.
  3. Trust based relationships – While your clients may pay you for the products and services that you provide, they are likely to take other factors into account when making their purchase decision. Think of your end of year event as an extension of your customer service and relationship building efforts. By demonstrating to your clients that you value them this can help to establish trust and enhance the relationship that you have with them. Your clients are likely to give you more business if they know you, trust you and like you.

Here are nine (9) suggestions for your next end of year event.

1. Host a wine dinner

Whether it is at your home or another location, hosting a wine dinner is a great idea to bond with your clients. Pairing the wine selections with food from the same locality can help to make the event special, and inviting a wine expert as the keynote speaker for the event can help to make the event even more memorable and remarkable. It is a great way to leverage your customer’s passion for wine to inspire conversation and build common bonds.

2. Captain the ship

Several hours on a yacht in a big city like Chicago will set you back around $1,200. However, the benefit of renting a large vessel is that it will allow you to bring many clients together. The clients will be talking about the event in the future and they will be more inclined to renew their contracts with you.

3. Get physical

If you excel at a sport in which amateurs can participate, then make use of it. Bonds made during physical activity are quite powerful. You can take your customers hiking or road biking. Having a coffee shop on the route (or a drinks stop at the finish line) can help to soften the physical toll.

4. Give back

Another great option for an end of year event is to invite your clients to an event for a charity that you support. Charity galas offer high-quality bonding time over cocktails, and the tickets are usually tax deductible. This can allow you to show your clients that you are passionate about things apart from business.

5. Make a short movie

Creating videos for your customers is not as hard as you might imagine. There is an application on YouTube known as ‘Search Stories’. The clips are a combination of entertainment and sales pitch. The videos normally take about ten minutes to make. It is a good starting point for further discussion or conversation with a client.

6. Organise ‘meetups’

This particular activity is best for younger executives and clients. One great idea is to invite people to spend a weeknight at a bar. Let your guests spread the word over social media and offer anyone who tweets about the occasion a free drink of their choice. There is a high possibility of getting a large crowd of current and new younger clients for your business.

7. Know the owner

You can spice up a dinner, lunch or drinks event by introducing your client(s) to the owner. Having the owner of a popular yet stylish establishment come over to serve you or provide food recommendations will impress your clients and show them that you are well connected.

8. Deliver treats

By sending tasty treats to the staff of your clients you can make them happy and keep your business front of mind. Examples of things to send might include pizzas on a Friday afternoon or an ice cream truck during the summer months. When your clients remember such occasions and talk about them, they help to build your brand.

9. Award Badges of Honor

People like to show off and prove that they are part of an exclusive club or that they managed to complete a particular challenging event. By providing your most valuable clients with recognition (for example, by providing t-shirts, concert tickets, awards or certificates) you remind them of the valuable business relationship that exists between you.

Archie Ward is a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Navigating Business Partnerships

Navigating Business Partnerships

(Source: 드림포유)

This is a guest post from Archie Ward.

Business partnerships can be an integral part of start-up success and growth of a new venture. If properly implemented and executed, partnerships can be an effective way to grow your enterprise without having to implement time consuming and difficult changes or having to make costly investments.

Each partner brings expertise and assets which can help to increase your market share and competitive advantage. However, just like marriage, business partnerships can be difficult and getting out of one can be messy.

The winning strategy is to ensure that you conduct due diligence prior to getting into a partnership. If you are starting a partnership and wondering how to navigate through these murky waters, consider the five (5) pointers below.

1. Don’t rush into it

The adage “fools rush in” was never truer than when it comes to business partnerships.

Cash-strapped entrepreneurs will often stop exploring their options as soon as they find a person who can write them a big check, but it is important that you don’t overlook potential opportunities.

Remain uncommitted and stay flexible until you have explored your options. Cultivate your alternatives actively and do not be too quick to ignore potential business partners. Take time to compare the relative benefits and disadvantages of every alternative. And at the end of the day, ask yourself, “is this the best option for my business”?

Take time to calculate the opportunity costs of entering into a business partnership, and remember that you will also assume any liabilities of the partnership.

2. Don’t overlook the importance of shared values and integrity

Your values and those of your business partners need to be aligned.

A potential business partner may be extremely smart or have a proven track record, but they may also have engaged in shady business deals to get where they are.

If you enter into a partnership with someone who has no regard for ethics and integrity then you can expect strife. Many big businesses (think Arthur Andersen) have come undone as a result of engaging in unethical practices.

3. Have an exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is not jinxing your business, it’s just good common sense.

The reality is that conflict is inevitable, and you can never predict how severe a conflict might get. By putting measures in place ahead of time you can help to ensure that you are not the loser if things head south.

While the partnership may not disintegrate, better opportunities may emerge, and so you need to have an exit strategy that will allow you to change with the times.

How will the partnership assets be shared in the event that the partnership is dissolved? What happens if a business partner dies?

When considering your exit strategies you need to consider all of the possible eventualities.

4. Map Out Mutual Expectations

What expectations do you have for the business partnership? Are these the same as the expectations of your prospective business partners?

It is best to have your expectations written down before you meet with potential partners. This will serve as a road map for the partnership, and will provide several advantages:

  • It will act as a partnership draft which will also be presented to the lawyers once the partnership kicks off.
  • Your expectations will give you a guideline within which you can experiment with the different potential partners before you make up your mind.
  • It will give you a clear vision of what you want from the partnership, which will help you to avoid getting sidelined even if you meet a potential partner with huge financial muscle.
  • A list of expectations should distinguish legal matters from partnership issues, and you can discuss the legal ones with a business lawyer.

5. Seek legal advice early

When starting a partnership, it is a good idea to seek legal advice right from the outset, and certainly prior to any negotiations between you and potential investors.

You need to let your lawyer know your expectations for the venture so that they can assess how realistic they are. They will also assist you in strategising the negotiations, and ensuring that you ask all the right questions. Your partner will also have a lawyer and it is best to be prepared because each of the attorneys will pursue the best interests of their client.

6. Don’t Overlook The Details

As an entrepreneur, you are likely to have an eye for the bigger picture; however, overlooking the details can have dire consequences.

There are several bases that you need to cover before you begin:

  • Establish your objectives and match them against those of your partners.
  • Determine the contribution to be made by each partner.
  • Assign the roles and duties of each partner; for instance, who will hire and train the employees and who will manage the enterprise?
  • Agree on a dispute resolution mechanism for the partnership such as arbitration or mediation.

By paying attention to the above key pointers, you can give your partnership the best chance of success.

Do you have an opinion? Are there other factors that you think are important when entering into a partnership? Respond in the forums, by email, on Facebook or via Twitter.

Archie Ward is a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Overseas Business Expansion: The Promise and the Pitfalls

Overseas Business Expansion

This is a guest post from Archie Ward.

For most business owners, the dream is to one day expand beyond the original market. Whether a large corporation or an SME, many look for ways to scale and develop additional revenue streams. One of the most popular options is to expand overseas, where they can tap into additional groups of consumers that want their product or service. However, while expanding overseas may not sound any more complicated than adding additional cities to your network, there are many cultural, political and economic factors to consider when expanding internationally.

Before attempting to begin an overseas expansion, it might be wise to outline clear and realistic expectations about the new markets in question. Sometimes even the best-laid plans can go awry because of some oversight or cultural ignorance.

Timelines have proved to get drawn out, which can lead to delays like those experienced by Xiamoi Corp in starting operations in a foreign nation.

Another area that should not be overlooked is the money needed for the expansion. Because overseas expansion involves dealing in foreign currencies, it’s always smart to collect as much payment as possible in advance to avoid any potential pitfalls regarding currency values or other misunderstandings. A mismatching between currencies can turn transactions unprofitable overnight, or even land you in the red.

Language barriers often present problems with an overseas business. Many companies in the past, those entering Brazil and China in particular, have had issues regarding how a popular product’s name translated in the native language, resulting in marketing plans having to be drastically altered or scrapped altogether. Before doing a business expansion overseas, make sure the country’s humor and use of slang language meets your own, and be prepared to adjust accordingly if necessary. A top priority should involve hiring someone who works as a translator, who is also versed in common sense of both countries involved, as well as a good ear for marketing.

Perhaps more so than any other aspect of how to expand business overseas, legal barriers must be taken care of well in advance. Obtaining a business visa as early as possible will get things off to a good start, and researching tax laws, import restrictions, liability laws and customs law will help to avoid any embarrassing or costly issues from arising. If the expansion will involve hiring employees within the new nation, a thorough knowledge of the country’s labor laws will be needed to make sure all policies are followed.

While expansion may seem like a natural fit with some countries, others may present a challenge when it comes to gaining access to raw materials or skilled labor. If these areas present any problems, expansion may need to take place elsewhere. In some cases, too many changes to a product will be needed in order to overcome these challenges, resulting in too great a sacrifice of the business format.

Whenever a move is made into a new country, questions may arise surrounding intellectual property laws and quality control issues. When operating abroad, being able to protect a trademark or trade name is vital to a company’s success. This can greatly affect the ability of a company to grow, so strategies should be in place to not only protect intellectual property rights, but also to go after those who violate those rights.

When deciding on market penetration, one area that is at the forefront of those discussions is government regulations. A process that is difficult enough at the best of times, and in many overseas situations it can become a nightmare if not properly researched in advance. While many foreign governments are quite receptive to expansion from western companies, others may object to the idea based on past experiences or disagreements regarding political philosophy. This is where having the services of a local liaison can make all the difference. A liaison, in addition to understanding cultural differences and local laws, can also explain differences in protocol, etiquette, and customs to a company seeking expansion, allowing it to have a better understanding of the proper approach to take with government officials.

Finally, the success or failure of most products or services in foreign nations will usually be determined by the marketing strategy. A great example of this is fast food chains, which while serving food that has proven to be popular with foreign customers, have found themselves needing to de-emphasise their focus on speed in some countries due to a cultural emphasis on leisure and being able to relax during a meal rather than eating on the go. In fact, consuming fast food may be seen as a status symbol of wealth in certain developing markets, and so the whole idea of getting in quickly and leaving with a bundle of cheap calories may need to go out the window. McDonald’s, in particular, has shown to be an innovator in the fast food stakes abroad, with food offerings which respect local dietary laws, varying tastes and seasonal changes. Another example is coupon advertising, which while widely accepted in the West, is viewed as offensive in some nations that have fixed pricing. For success to occur, a marketing strategy needs to be put to the test to ensure plans contain elements of flexibility so that any changes which need to be made, can be made, and at short notice to boot.

While expanding a business overseas might entail extremely precise planning and will almost certainly involve many unexpected surprises along the way, those companies that take the time to plan the smallest of details will often find that the process results in growth which would have been unimaginable by simply trying to penetrate further into current markets.

Archie Ward is a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.