Author Archives: russell_j_white

3 Digital Asset Investment Strategies

As the masses are just now learning about digital assets and the exciting world of cryptocurrencies, I see many cases of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) causing people to jump onto a fast moving ship in volatile waters with no idea where it is going.

Breathe. Cryptocurrency is not a fad. It is a change in monetary and investment paradigms that will truly shift how we think about our investments as the Internet shifted how we think about shopping. (Get any Amazon deliveries over the holidays? Of course you did!)

So, treat your foray into this crypto-verse like any other investments you have – with a strategy. Unlike the well-established stock markets, this is highly speculative, and I recommend getting involved only with money you can afford to lose.

Strategy #1: Invest in the long-term. This is a buy and hold strategy you probably already use in your retirement savings. You (or a broker you trust) makes mutual fund or stock purchases for you, and hopefully you watch it grow over time. Same philosophy for your digital assets.

Make an informed, smart purchase and hold on to that investment and hopefully watch it grow. This is what I am doing with my Bitcoin. I made a purchase and I have it stored for the long term in order to watch my investment grow over time.

Strategy #2: Short-term investing. This is a more aggressive play in the market place. This strategy is to identify under-valued coins and ride them up to a point where you decide you want to sell and take your profits. There are thousands of coins in the digital asset arena and more coming out every day through initial coin offerings (ICOs). This is the opportunity for speculators to research these new coins and find one they believe they can ride up in price. Obviously, this is highly speculative and requires hours of research and a gambling mentality. I have a much smaller position in this strategy.

It is also a way to make some fast money if you are lucky enough to time it correctly. For example, Ripple has been meteoric in the last 30 days. I imagine there will be some profit-taking very soon and the price will drop; however, investors will make a nice return on their short-term investment.

Strategy #3: Revenue-generation investing. A revenue investor, or sometimes called a day-trader, makes a job out of watching the variability of the market place looking for pure revenue generation opportunities through timely buys and sells. Revenue-generation traders have a dollar amount in mind they want to make monthly that they can remove from their investments to cover their home expenses. This can be time-consuming. More so, during downturns in the market or when speculative plays go bad, this strategy can be kind of scary, not making enough revenue to cover your income needs. These investors like to play the pump and dump game (watch the coin spike (the pump), then sell it off for a quick profit (the dump).) This is truly a eat-what-you-kill type of investment strategy and not for the faint of heart.

By all means, now is a great time to get involved in this new marketplace. Stay within your comfort zone, start slowly, and find a strategy that works for you.

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3 Components of Work Culture

Employees are moving on from companies because the employer’s work culture no longer fits their needs. I’m surprised when I ask small business owners about their work culture by how different their perspective is from that of their employees.

As we see daily in the news, the evolution of culture of a workplace is changing rapidly with executives being called to defend habits and behaviors from years ago. In other words, work cultures will be a hot topic in the coming year and business owners can suffer greatly if they are not in tune with what real work culture exists in their organization.

I advise all business executives to take the time to truly understand how their culture functions in the workplace. Truly explore each of the following three segments:

The stated components

Most companies have a stated list of core values, mission and documented beliefs that they say rules the functions within the organization. Frequently, these are left over ideas from a previous era of work and should be regularly revisited to see if they are still in line with the needs of the workplace and the customers. As workplace issues evolve, customer expectations shift, and employee beliefs change, companies are responsible for adjusting their work culture expectations and policies accordingly.

The unstated components

The stated components are supposed to guide the workplace culture, but the unstated components are the actual, day-to-day functioning of a work culture. Underlying assumptions, rituals, acceptable office humor, and leadership behaviors are truly shaping the work culture of your business, regardless of stated guidelines. Ask yourself, do the actions of leadership match the intent of the stated expectations of your work culture? The disconnect here will become a much bigger deal as employee lawsuits and big stories such as NBC and the Weinstein Company bring this issue to a greater light. Get to know the unstated norms within your work culture.

The atmosphere

The Old Boys Club attitude hasn’t fit the workplace for decades, yet it still thrives in many organizations. What is the attitude and feel within your business?  Do people feel comfortable working together and with their managers, or is there a palpable toxicity in those relationships? If people struggle to work together or feel intimidated by management, these are indications your culture is broken. An exodus of quality employees, low morale, and high stress are not going to improve any business. Take the time to truly explore your real work culture before you are facing leaked reports, employee lawsuits or a damaged reputation where no one wants to work within your organization.

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Retaining Millennials

For most managers, this is proving to be a complicated generation of workers to understand and retain in the workplace. In fact, 68% of Millennials surveyed say the longest they will stay at the same employer is 3 years. Surprisingly, today the average U.S. worker spends just 15 months in one role in today’s working environment. Retaining millennials is a significant issue facing businesses today.

The generation that desired employment with the same employer for the entirety of their working careers is left dumbfounded by this constant need for change and mobility. To better understand how to retain workers (for as long as they are willing to stay), wrap your mind around these three ideas that speak to Millennial retention.

A good fit

Every company has their work culture. Forget quoting the core values, I’m talking about the reality of how work is conducted within your business. Certain personality traits fit that culture and some personality traits will not. Identify the traits that keep your long-term employees on your team and hire to match those traits.

This is the time to be honest. I had a client tell me the reason his long-term people stayed was because they loved working as a team there, when in fact, the reason they stayed was because none of them were interested in moving up (since there was nowhere to go) and were comfortable with the routines they had developed.

If you are looking for go-getters and driven employees to be working in this environment, think again. This isn’t a good fit for that personality. Know your culture and know who fits that culture. Want to change your culture? That begins with leadership, and that is another article entirely!

A job that matters

74% of Millennial job seekers want a job that feels meaningful and makes a difference. Does your company make a difference in the community? Do your new employees get the opportunity to meaningfully interact with customers? These are job characteristics that rank high in job satisfaction. Millennials are three times more likely to stay with the same company if they feel fulfilled as a person while working.

Develop me

87% of Millennials expect managers to develop them personally. Without a clear path of professional development for the individual, the retention of Millennials will stay low for employers not willing to make this a priority.

This is not the “start at the bottom, pay your dues and work your way up the ladder” development old-school managers experienced in their youth. This is a clearly defined program to grow and develop skills for not-too-distant future opportunities.

To build your workforce with the newest and largest generation of workers, make sure they fit your culture, give them a job that makes a difference, and develop them and encourage them to build their careers.

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3 R’s of Entrepreneurial Success

Success as a business owner can be a constant chase. As soon as you believe you’ve figured out the puzzle, the rules change and you are chasing success in a new way all over again. How can a person continue to be successful in a constantly changing environment? Here are three habits that will bring entrepreneurial success to a business owner regardless of changing conditions and circumstances.

Resiliency
Resiliency is the capacity to absorb energy from disruption and use it positively. To be a great golfer on the highly competitive PGA Tour, a golfer must have a short memory of mistakes. Once a poor shot has happened, golfers talk about blocking it from their memories and stepping up to the next shot confidently. The same goes for the business owner.

We all have bad days, weeks, and sometimes even months. Being resilient means simply focusing on moving ahead and not letting mistakes attack your thoughts of success. That doesn’t mean forget the lesson learned from the mistake, but don’t let it haunt your next choices and impact your confidence. As a business owner, you should be ready for a long haul in business. That means mistakes, problems and unforeseen circumstances should be expected. Be resilient through those testing times, which can also be some of the best growth experiences.

Risk
It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur without continually taking risks. There is no such thing as a safe path to reach ultimate success. Yes, it is important to make safe choices and sound decisions, but there is always a component of risk involved in making significant decisions that will frequently face your business. I’m not talking about financial investment-type risks.

How do you react to a new competitor in town? When do you need to remodel to stay fresh for your customers? When do you change your hours of operation to better serve customers? These are all risk-taking decisions. Be prepared to make the right choice for your business, even though it may not be the most comfortable decision.

Responsibility
Success has many parents, but mistakes are orphans. When you own the business, you own all of it. If one of your employees makes a mistake, it is still on you. Playing the blame game will never help a business owner win. That means your social media presence (even if you are delegating that task to your resident youngster, which is a mistake I will address in another article.) That means your quality control, how your employees interact with customers and clients, and how you reach your target market.

As soon as the owner recognizes everything that happens in the business is ultimately her responsibility, she will then know what to do to drive her business to success.

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Working With Someone Who Drives You Nuts

Working with someone who drives you nuts can range from the co-worker who is simply too loud to the one who has no control over their “personal habits” (Did he just hack up a hairball?) to the person who is an outright ogre to be around. Every one of these employees obviously make some contribution or they still wouldn’t be there (we hope.)

So how do you work along someone like this?

Listen more and talk less.

We spend so much time trying to convince the other person we are right, we fall to actually listen to try to truly understand where they are coming from. The division of political discourse is falling into our work communication. Compromise is becoming a sign of weakness, instead of a sign of strength, and this is making finding common ground much more difficult.

Anticipate the discomfort and prepare.

Instead of fretting over the impending confrontation, why not strategize how to find something you can both agree upon and build from there? Through relationship building, words become clearer and intentions become known, therefore, constructive criticism tends to be received better from friendly acquaintances than from combatants.

Focus on what you enjoy, instead of what you find frustrating.

Thinking “If only he would…” is an exercise in fantasy and a waste of time and energy, not to mention creates a mindset rife with disappointment. Focus on what the other person does well (there is always something) and give that greater weight in your thoughts of this person than in the habits that frustrate you.

Ask for their help on something they are very good at.

When you invite people to help you out on something that is in their wheelhouse, you get to have a common victory. Winning together builds bridges.

I’ve had to remind myself over the years, “No one can make me have a bad day, unless I let them.” If I allow them to drive me nuts – they win. If I can find a way to get beyond that – I win. If you work with someone who drives you nuts, it’s an opportunity for you to find a victory.

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Decision Scrutiny is Upon Us

In the age of over-reaction and ever-present cameras, every decision is tested under the bright lights of scrutiny. While watching a football coach get grilled by the press immediately following a crushing loss by his team, I wondered how most business leaders would be able to handle that type of close inspection for their day to day decisions.

Like high profile football coaches facing decision scrutiny from the press and social media, business leaders must employ the following three ideas when making solid decisions.

Don’t let vague emotions dictate decisions.

A coach is under a ticking clock when making tough, in-the-moment decisions. There is no room for second-guessing. All eyes are on him to demonstrate his leadership. Being firm in your decisions for your team says you are in charge, good or bad. Surveyed employees indicate one of the worst traits of bad managers is being wishy-washy. When you are firm in your decision it tells your team that you believe in what you are doing. Vagueness breeds apprehension throughout the business. Make sure your team isn’t guessing what is going on — be decisive.

When a decision goes wrong, take the blame.

The quickest way for a leader to lose his team is to throw someone under the bus when a mistake has been made. Active leaders are always going to make mistakes. When decision mistakes happen, be solution-focused and not blame-focused, then evaluate the event for what can be learned to prevent it from being repeated. Anyone can lead in the best of times. True leaders demonstrate their character in tough times. Be the leader the team wants you to be.

Have a plan.

Decision are never made in a vacuum. Every decision has multiple facets of impact and consequence. Be sure to be informed and aware of the impact of your decisions and how they fit with your overall plan for the business.  Decisions should never appear to be random or reactionary. Frequently I ask my client how a particular action supports the overall direction of the business. So often it’s easy to get lost in fighting the battle and lose sight of the war. Follow your plan so your leadership shows where you are taking your team.

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3 Family Business Owner Pitfalls to Avoid

Most family-owned businesses are small businesses, and inherent in most family businesses are a unique set of challenges. Be careful to avoid these common pitfalls that can plague a family business owner.

You can’t escape the stress of your job.

The line between the family business and the family get blurred easily. Unplugging from the business can be very difficult. Dinner discussions become work-related. Late night phone calls from family members frequently are work-related. Even your dreams can become work-related, and it will feel as if you are never away from the business — even when you are away from the business!

Solution: Develop the next level of management and set boundaries. Owners in family businesses have a tendency to want to do it all and resist delegation. It’s important to develop the next line of leadership with incremental delegation of duties, allowing them to grow into their next positions.

Also, set boundaries. You have to establish “workfree” zones. The dinner table. After 9 pm. While on vacation. If these solutions are not brought into the business/family, the family business owner will suffer from burnout.

You aren’t adapting fast enough.

Time flies, the world changes and business owners can quickly fall behind. I find many family-business owners can get lost in the weeds (minutiae) of the business. They spend so much time focusing on the micro that the macro side of the business can pass them by.

Solution: The culture of your business must include trying new things. New products, marketing methods, scheduling of employees, customer contacts, etc. The same ol’, same ol’ is a failed approach to business today. As I’ve heard it said:  Winners don’t wait for their chances, they take them.

You are no longer fully committed.

As the years go along and the leader of the business approaches multiple decades in the same position, he or she starts to play safe instead of playing to win. The desire for risk taking to grow gets replaced with the desire for stability and routine. This is not an effective approach to growing a business.

Solution: Take a hard, objective look at your approach to the business. It’s time to make a choice. Either jump all the way in or all the way out. To thrive in today’s business climate, the business owner has to be focused on creating a future, not milking it.

Running a successful family business can be very challenging, but done properly it can be life-defining and extremely rewarding.

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4 Habits for Managers to Break

Experience can be very helpful in many ways when leading a workforce, but not changing with the times can make that experience obsolete quickly. Following are four ingrained managerial habits I see being used in my client organizations that need to be broken immediately.

Bad Habit #1: Going with what you know

Tried and true ideas don’t always re-create previous success in current climates. Look to the NBA; Phil Jackson’s triangle offense no longer is a success in the current climate of the NBA. Not long ago a great center was the key to success in pro basketball. Today the center position is the least valued of all positions on the court as the game has embraced speed and shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

The savviest managers know to adjust with the times and be agile enough to recognize when new talent and processes are needed.

Bad Habit #2: Always picking experience over youth, or vice versa

It is well known: Most managers select employees most like themselves. By predictably going in one direction most of the time, your team will end up with the same strengths and weaknesses and miss out on the best balance of talent that creates success.

Youth and experience both have benefits and concerns. Balance your team, balance your abilities, and ride your developing success.

Bad Habit #3: Turning your workhorse into the do-everything person

Have you ever wished the rest of your team was like the person you go to for everything? This person never fights back, always steps up when asked, and probably is being worked into the ground. Say what? It’s great to have a reliable person who gets things done exactly how you want, but it’s easy to rely on them too much.

We tend to overload those we rely on the most and the rest of the team may step back and let her take on the load. Make sure you aren’t the one causing them to wait on the “superstar” to do everything.

Bad Habit #4: Having predictable routines

The difference between a groove, a rut and a grave is only the depth. I have had a client who tells me how he was told to manage his business by his mentor back in 1975. Times have changed, and so have what it takes to be successful. In today’s business climate, agility is required for all businesses to stay fresh, current and able to maximize opportunities.

Step back and look at your managerial style. Are you relying on the tried and true (and maybe stale and less effective) methods you’ve been using for quite some time? It is probably time to upgrade your managerial skills for a new time, a new employee and a new business climate.

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Dealing with Entitlement

Dealing with entitlements of customers and employees is a growing concern for business leaders. For example, in an online discussion, a person was upset about a restaurant wanting to charge for extra lettuce on his sandwich. How dare they! I watched the thread as people grew angry because a restaurant dared to charge for requested extra ingredients. As restaurant customers, we now feel entitled to request a drink to take out after the meal is over at no additional charge, we want adjustments or modifications to most meals we order, and we expect additional food to be added to our order at no charge with the exclamations:

“It’s only a couple of lemon wedges.”
“Of course I get a refill, that is why it is self-serve.”
“How much could lettuce cost?”

What about as employees?

He has been fired for poor performance after being employed with this company for less than a year. He expects the employer to give him a three-month severance package.

She shows up for work high, but tells her boss not to worry because it won’t affect her abilities on the job.

He steals company property and says it’s acceptable behavior because he’s decided he doesn’t get paid enough and the company owes him..

As head-scratching as these examples are, these are actual examples of entitlements I see in my client businesses. Business leaders are encountering a new wave of expanding entitlements from customers and employees.

Managing entitlements

Whether you are working with customers’ entitlements or employees’ entitlements, communication is important. Will we ever get rid of the free refill or drink to-go after the meal expectations? In short, no. That is now an embedded part of our culture. But communicating with customers is important. If, as a restaurant owner, you’ve decided not to increase your prices even though your vendors have, and decided to only charge for “upgrades,” let your customers know. You were looking out for most of the customers who don’t ask for the extras by keeping your prices down. Most will appreciate the honesty.

Today employees are rarely being taught what being employed means. Leaders are wise to invest training time with newly hired employees about the culture of work in your establishment. This doesn’t only apply to those making minimum wage. I’m seeing many young people fresh out of college get their first job when they begin their careers.

Begin with your interview process. Inform potential employees of your expectations of employment. We are in an age where we need to teach people what work is, before we teach them what is required to be successful in their job performance.

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3 Steps to Improving Your Determination

Determination is your ability to align your energy and attention into a sharp focus. Want to deepen your resolve? Try these three steps:

Choose practice over luck. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the need for devoting 10,000 hours to performing a task to master it. How many of us have heard how it takes 15 years to become an overnight sensation? Sure, there is an element of luck, but I’ve always believed luck is opportunity meeting preparation. Your dedicated practice will properly prepare you for your opportunity.

Be aware of distraction and obstacles. These are the weeds that can choke out determination. Complete determination requires a monomaniacal focus on the success you want to achieve. Olympic athletes are a terrific example of determination and being monomaniacal. They devote their entire existence to achieving the pinnacle of their abilities. I know entrepreneurs who are the same in their focus. Now, think of the great athletes who fell at their peak because of the distractions they let get in their way. Fame and fortune can be very distracting. For the rest of us, social media, your phone and TV are all weeds we need to prevent from derailing our success.

Feed your intention. Good habits feed the proper preparation for determination. Make sure healthy choices for your body, mind and soul are your routine. They may not be the most popular choices, but they are the best choices.

As the quote says, “I like hard. Hard is where other people give up. The more difficult things I complete, the less competition I have.”  Make the right choices and improve your determination.

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