Trust or Die Trying…

Rachel Bosman’s recent TED Talk about collaborative consumption, linked below got me thinking about our brave new online world marketplace, and how we are transforming our lifestyles and businesses based on our ability, and need, to trust others, online.  But can we?

When you jump into an UberX does it ever cross your mind that you are getting into a car with a driver who was vetted by a different standard than a taxi driver? Historically, our collective trust has been built out of necessity: When you get on a plane, you need to have the trust, and faith, in the pilot’s abilities and that the airline and government went above and beyond to secure your safety. There has to be a certain level of trust, because you are quite literally putting your own life in someone else’s hands. As a society we are doing this more and more every day, in every aspect of our lives. We trust and we act. But should we?

As the title of Bosman’s  TED Talk suggests, the economy we live in is based on trust – But, how do we know who to trust? Is social media and online commentary reliable? Between Google, Facebook and other online options, can we learn enough to tell us if we want to buy, rent, or date you?  Online consumer confidence is so popular that many companies are beginning to aggregate what folks are saying about you, collectively online, over tracking your influence or Klout score we are moving into online reputation scores and reputation management.

As a society, we perpetuate this new trend of online trust by embracing a whole spate of emerging online businesses, such as CouchSurfing or AirBNB where people you don’t know and never have met can stay in your house. And we judge  AirBNB profiles like we would an online dating profile; we see if there are shared interests, geographic desirability, and attractiveness. But we have absolutely no idea what the people who own the rooms are really like. Sure some quick Facebook and Google stalking could tell us more, but how far can you get with that?

The concept of “catfishing” demonstrates that online fraud is all too easy; however, we tend to forget that  you will eventually be exposed. We as consumers foolishly  expect honesty, but we shouldn’t  naively navigate the online market without some mechanism to help efficiently weed out the crazies, or protect our own credibility. Like in person, as in the real world where people meet face to face, you know, there are plenty of people who present facades.

Bosman’s talk made me wonder if we are  being too careless by blindly trusting people and companies online, based on our gut instincts and collaborative consumption.  Sure, there are a lot of fishy folks that walk in our non-cybery world every day –  I’ve come across my fair share – so how do we asses them? Equally important, how do others judge and trust us? How do you think others would describe your level of trust in 3 words? Is your reputation in person as credible as it is online, and vice-versa?

As the common maxim argues, “actions speak louder than words,” I, too, believe that you build trust from what people do, not by what they say. For many, words come easily. I have a strong gut instinct and am able to get a good read of a person when I meet them, but online is a totally different game. I have to base my trust on what they write or post, or what the internet says about them as other helpful measures such as body language or facial expressions don’t come through online.

Maybe, like with Uber’s two-way rating system, we know we need to be on our best behavior because not only are we judging the drivers, but they are judging us as well, and we both want good ratings. The smart thing to do is to always be kind and honest online and in person, much like you should be in life…treat as you’d like to be treated…  And as you navigate this brave new online world, it is equally important to ask yourself the following question – What would others say about you or more so, what would you like others to say about you? In this new online economy, no one wants their stock or reputation to be devalued.

Clearly the new landscape presents a whole new paradigm to consider, but perhaps the golden rule of our very first marketplace still applies to our modern evolving virtual marketplace – caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.”  Or to invoke another savvy self-protecting credo, trust, and verify… or die trying-

 

 

Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust

http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_currency_of_the_new_economy_is_trust.html

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8 Tips to Finding Your Angel…

Looking for investors or making sure they find you can be a make or break for your startup. So how do you know what an investor is looking for? How can you help to increase the chance that they will invest in YOU. Last month, I posted a video link on New York Angels chairman, Brian Cohen and insights from his new book, What Every Angel Investor Wants You to Know, which inspired me to come up with eight valuable tips to help increase your chances for dollars and sense:

1. Make Sure Your Elevator Pitch is Kickass: How you pitch your company will instill confidence, and let others know what you think about it and how you sell. For a powerful elevator pitch, get to the point fast and make sure both you and your audience understands clearly what problem you are trying to solve within the first few breaths. Play out any roadblocks or potential issues and be prepared for all types of questions. Know how to deal with issues and problem solving; have financial materials ready, and have your research done on the competitors in the market.

Image2. Do Your Homework: Have a clear understanding of who the investor is, their investment history, objectives, types of businesses and industries they like to work with and where their contacts lie.

3. Positivity: When presenting to an investor, be enthusiastic, positive and optimistic about the potential partnership and investments to come. If you’re not excited about your product, why should the investor be?

4. Choose Wisely: Remember along with the money comes the person/personality. These folks ideally provide an advisory role, a rolodex of contacts within the field, a trouble shooter, and many more resources…So be smart about who you want on your team!

5. Only Disclose What’s Necessary: Discuss all key points necessary to get your investors’ attention. Be smart when talking about your company’s financial worth and gain mutual trust before exposing everything you’ve got.

6. Connect With the Money: Make connections to where the money comes from, and the people behind it. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS ARE ESSENTIAL: a successful investment stems from a nurtured relationship between the angel/investor and the entrepreneur. It’s a Win-Win when both parties have something to gain from the relationship and a helpful formula for success.

7. A Dream and a Vision: Make sure you can answer where the money is going and what you plan to put it towards. Tell investors how much you want to raise and how it will benefit the company. Keep in mind short and long-term goals. What is your end financial goal and what do you plan to do with the company long term?

8. Be Advisable: Investors want to know they have the ability to advise the entrepreneur. In order to do so, you must be relatable, dependable and accountable. Utilize their resources. Make sure you’re open; choose advisors and investors who you can learn from and trust.

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Smart Funding

ImageFor full video, click here.

Entrepreneur and investor extraordinaire, Brian Cohen explores how to get smart funding for startups and novel ideas in the video interview with Deirdre Bolton posted above. Cohen discusses a number of trends and tips including what entrepreneurs should know before accepting an angel investment. He goes on to talk about the importance of the relationship between the investor and entrepreneur, as well as building a bright team. Cohen also touches on the development and importance of “Silicon Wadi,” Israel’s own Silicon Valley, a booming startup tech hub in its own right and its effects to the US tech startup scene.

Stay tuned for some of our own tips on how entrepreneurs can increase their investment opportunities.

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6 Tips To A Better Work-From-Home You

Thanks for all the great interest in our last post on the firestorm re: the new work policy implemented at Yahoo! The blog post reminded me of an Entrepreneur Magazine article by Alina Dizik on telecommuting I read recently that captures some of the “don’ts” of the practice.

In that spirit, I outlined some of my own tips that capture the pitfalls and guidelines of working from home. These can help keep the ball rolling as you transition into a one-in-the-same living AND working situation as many of my readers (and myself) do.

ImageThese 6 tips, I hope, will assist you in deciphering what works best for the founder of {INSERT YOUR BUSINESS STARTUP HERE}:

1)   Be a wo/man with a plan.  Have things laid out in front of you, a visible checklist so that you can focus on what you have to do and then knock out each item as the day goes on.  I need to feel like things are in order (whether it looks like it to someone else or not). Having a to-do list is a way to hold yourself accountable and keep a grasp on things, both short-term and long.

2)   Break-time! I’m someone that can’t often sit for hours on end without moving—it’s just not effective for me. If you’re one of THOSE that can work from sunrise to sunset with no break, that’s great! But if you’re not one of those prodigies, then I suggest taking breaks – you’ll be better at your job. I like to save errands and going to the gym for times when I’m working from home and need some oxygen and a stretch so I can come back refreshed and ready to get cracking.

3)   Night Owl? Early Bird? Know when your prime-work-time is. I like to bang out emails, conference calls, pitching, catch up, etc. in the morning and leave myself time once it gets later in the afternoons to take meetings, follow up on media relations, and so on. Late at night is when I’m most creative and do a lot of strategy planning and brainstorming. But if you’re not like me, then maybe the key for you is to save your most productive work time for 6 am while getting other, more trivial tasks done later.

4)   Distractions—do they help or hurt? Like all of these tips, it depends what works the best for you. When I’m working at home, I like a degree of background noise (usually a nice, low-volume CNN). Having no distractions can be a little distracting itself, so I need a few small ones – and that’s just the right balance for me. Only keep around the kinds of distractions that you know you can handle, and be honest with yourself about it. Set up parameters and boundaries for yourself – what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander.

5)   Where at home shall I work? If you are working from home, determine somewhere to be your workspace. It’s important to have a space completely dedicated to work that’s clean and organized where you can find your focus and have control. Initially, working from home often felt like a treat, a “sick day” from school. It’s important, however, to avoid that trap and make sure that you’re still being productive.

6)   Mix it up. I often feel motivated in the mornings and start working immediately…some mornings, less so. This is when I know I need to get out and work from a less familiar space to keep me inline. If you’re like me, whenever you feel you’re getting unfocused, try heading to a local café or an alternative work environment. Choose a place that has the energy you want to feel inspired and ready to work. If you need to be creative that day, go somewhere with a creative, lively feel. If you need a dose of accountability, ask a focused friend to join you, rent a desk somewhere or get a membership to a shared working space like Affinity Lab where you can find like-minded people to feed off of. You can also read this Washington Post article that includes yours truly about working from cafés/lounges for different tasks at different times.

The key here is that people are diverse in their work styles. What works for one may not work for all – but hopefully you can take these tips, apply them to yourself and tailor you’re home-work or work-from-anywhere-but-the-office situation in the way that’s best for you. So what is that? Tell us on twitter, @SilverStrategy

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Ya-Ya-hoo’ing with Telecommuting?

Working from home can be an effective, popular and flexible approach to the work day, of which WE are a fond supporter.  It’s not a one-approach fits all idea. Just ask Yahoo’s bright and shiny new CEO, Marissa Mayer who recently ended Yahoo’s work-from-home policy. The change, announced by the company’s human resources chief is expected to affect hundreds of employees and the many companies that will follow Yahoo’s so called lead. Every techie we know has asked our thoughts on the policy change; and well, we think it sucks for those who enjoy the work-from-home experience and are effective at it.

That being said, I don’t know the details of the mess Mayer walked into, and I’m not going to jump right on the bandwagon of those who say it’s a major setback for the telecommuting community (and the many parents who juggle it all). Sure, it’s not great to hear about the end of those rights, and we’d admittedly be peeved as well. But it’s possible this is what she needed to do to get a handle on the current situation to help increase collaboration and personal interface and unite the company. Yahoo needs to rebuild.  I understand the necessity to collect and assess. Maybe this is what Yahoo needs to succeed. As a Yahoo user I certainly hope they do! My only wish is that after Yahoo gets back on their feet over the next few years, employees will again have the option to work from home, even if it’s a few days a week. A big part of why I’m an effective remote worker bee is because I love it.  Working from a non-traditional office space (so I’m not sitting in a boring, sterile environment all day) gets my juices flowing, helps me to be creative and gives me the motivation I need to do well. The trick is to be cognizant of what’s good for you and your company.

We believe it works because it’s often good business, for the community, your employers and your company. Here are some of the many benefits that telecommuting offers…

Employers

  • Expands the talent pool- more talent options
  • Reduces turnover and absenteeism
  • Improves employee morale
  • Reduces the spread of illness
  • Reduces costs (such as real estate footprint, supplies, coffee)
  • Increases productivity
  • Reduces company carbon footprint and energy usage
  • Offers a means of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • Enhances continuity-of-operations strategies
  • Improves ability to handle business across multiple time zones/augments cultural adaptability
  • Saves some companies approximately $20,000 PER EMPLOYEE

For employees

  • Improves work-life balance
  • Less gas consumption
  • Frees up the equivalent of 15 to 25 workdays a year—time that would have been spent commuting
  • Saves between $4,000 and $21,000 per year in work-related costs
  • Allows for additional concentrated hours without office side talk
  • Increases productivity and moral

For communities

  • Reduction in traffic congestion/traffic accidents
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the environment

Increased produImagectivity is the biggie here. Why? Well, a company can create an environment that’s friendly and works for everybody. When you’re given the ability to be accommodated, and prioritize in a way that helps you to live your life and produce work, you’ll appreciate it.  Not everyone gets that, and thus will want to remain a valuable asset to your company by giving back. Employees don’t need to worry about the rare emergencies that come up, like a sick child home from school one day or an elderly or sick parent who needs help. As long as they maintain productivity, employees can manage both responsibilities. While I do respect Yahoo’s efforts, I hope it’s temporary.

Mayer’s decision has met quite a bit of criticism, such as from mega-mogul Richard Branson, but regardless of opinion, I believe it’s important to avoid attributing Yahoo’s success or failure to this one decision. A recent Yahoo statement said that “this isn’t a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo right now.” And clearly Mayer believes that this will be an effective part of her overall push to get the company back on track…but it’s only a part. She will undoubtedly put other wheels in motion, and though those in the blogosphere and twittosphere love to be generalists and may not read past the headlines, there will be more to Yahoo’s success or failures then this policy. Let’s take note of all the good that can come from working from home, but with that understanding that it may not be the right thing for your company or for you, and that’s OK (although some talented may not apply). Lucky for me, and other entrepreneurs, I won’t be getting a letter like this from my boss anytime soon! Thank goodness for entrepreneurship-

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Every Nut Job and Their Mother…

With the 2012 presidential campaign over, we can now reflect on what has been a major game-changer in November’s election: social media.  The rise of social media over the last few years has been astounding, and it’s impossible to turn a (BIG BIRD’S) blind eye on the fact that it was a clear influence on the sharing and spreading of information (and other stuff) about this year’s election.

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Image credit: @sophers_/Instagram

Up to the final minute—and then some—people were tweeting and liking anything and everything relating to their opinions and feelings on the candidates, issues and results…everyone’s got a soapbox (bless twitter for giving a platform to every nut job and their mother). Twitter hit the 20 million election-related tweets mark, making this year’s election the most tweeted-about event in U.S. political history. Campaigns know that in order to play politics in this day and age, you have to keep up with the constant buzz that is social media.  This ABC News review written by Joanna Stern cleverly captures the scope of just how much it has shaped this year’s election perceptions.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/11/election-night-2012-social-media-the-memes-photos-stats/

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7 Steps to Getting the Clients You Want

As September draws to a close, we must accept what we’ve all been avoiding: summer’s over!  It’s time to refocus on setting goals for garnering new business and clients.  So now that we understand this, how are we going to go about getting these new clients?

Knowledge of what kind of clients you want and taking the necessary steps to obtain them is one of the most valuable assets an entrepreneur can have.  You’ll never get those clients you wish you had if you don’t go after them in the first place.  Sounds obvious, but something we all need to remind ourselves of.

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Here are 7 solid steps to help you get the clients you deserve:

1)    Envision the client you want.  Who are they?  Where are they?  Now take a non-erasable pen and paper, and write it down.  Make it concrete so that you can refer back to it if you lose focus.

2)    Decide how many of these clients you’re targeting and when, and write that down too.

3)    Tell all of your friends and contacts about the clients you want.  They’re probably closer than you think, and those in your circle may help you find them. Often connections come from your larger circle (as opposed to your over tapped smaller circle) or someone in your circle’s other circle that has yet to be tapped into.

4)    Go after those people.  Follow up on suggestions and start building relationships.

5)    Attend any functions at which you think that your ideal client could be in attendance.  A business relationship can start from something as simple as a casual conversation.

6)    Keep note of the people you meet.  Pick a time every few days to sit down and read about what they’ve been up to (in a non-stalker-ish way) and follow up with anyone you’ve been in contact with. If it’s not the right time for them, where appropriate ask the new contact if they can refer you to others you might be able to link up with.

7)    Lastly, yet very importantly, make sure that once you have set your sights on the client/contact you want, you understand how to promote and pitch yourself in a targeted manner with the client you’re looking to get.

Following these 7 steps will put you on the path towards getting the clients you’ve been unnecessarily waiting to track down.  Now instead of lamenting the end of the slow season, ring in fall knowing whom you want and how you’re going to get them.

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