The Professional Passion Entrepreneur

The Professional Passion Entrepreneur

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Harvard Business Review has reported that today’s workforce of 17 million independent workers should rise to 23 million by 2017.  Those numbers speak of a growing number of full-time employees working as an independent contractors on off hours.  Moonlighting, if you will. Why now?  What has changed?  Perhaps it is based on the recent years of economic turmoil.  More workers find the need to supplement their salary to makes ends meet.  Or possibly there is a fear of change management resulting in one’s unemployment with no fallback plan.  Or is it shear entrepreneurialism with a constant curiosity for growth and challenge?

 

For me I say yes to all three.  I’ve taken the entrepreneurial road as a weary traveler from corporate misfortune.  I needed something else in my life that didn’t revolve around impressing the boss.  It was time I began to impress myself.  And as I take the next step to establish a full-time position back in some part of the corporate world, I think these many months of working on my own have given me an invaluable perspective on business, success and what I am looking for in my next challenge (surely not just a paycheck). The truth is that I am looking for more meaning in my work.  The days of punching in and punching out are over.  There just isn’t a time in my day or evening that I’m not thinking, rethinking and planning for some way to improve, sustain and perfect what I am doing.

 

You may think that I have lost perspective and balance in my life.  Well I’d have to agree; but there you have it.  Single, childless and no hobby leave me seeking fulfillment through friends, family and work. Turns out I’m not alone.  People of my generation are seeking more meaning out of their careers…even at the risk of lowered salaries.  This shift certainly isn’t how things were when I began working decades ago.  It speaks to today’s GenX and GenY workforce.  We now have the experience to be in positions of real power and influence.  And I hope we are using that power wisely.

 

I’ve come across an infographic that sums up my position quite succinctly.  I would love to know if you agree with it.

INFOGRAPHIC - What makes you happy at work V2

Another Example of great Customer Service

Another Example of great Customer Service

Quality customer service is one of the most appealing offerings any company can provide to its customers. Often forgotten or difficult to support, when any company makes a gesture of simple human touch, it will always strengthen the brand and it’s value. Basecamp did just that to me recently. I plan to stay a loyal customer to any company that treats me so well.

Thank you Basecamp.com!

Responsive Websites vs Native Apps

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reposted

A strong mobile strategy is essential for your business. But what presence will you build: a responsive website or a native app? It’s a hot debate, especially when resources are limited or you have existing web properties to consider.

It’s not a simple question with a one-size-fits-all answer. Since every company and business plan is unique, the mobile presence you need will depend on many factors. At Sourcebits, we’ve built a wide range of both responsive websites/web apps and native apps for iOS, Android and Windows.

To help you evaluate the mobile format that’s best for your needs, we’ve highlighted the pros and cons of responsive websites vs. native mobile apps. Consider these factors as you determine which is best for your business. And keep in mind — some companies have BOTH a responsive website and a native app, depending on their needs and resources.

Responsive Websites/Web Apps

Pros:

  • Lower development cost (usually) compared to native app
  • Single URL that works for web and mobile
  • Simpler, less expensive marketing because it’s a single brand property
  • Greater speed and flexibility of deploying updates or bug fixes
  • Faster and wider audience reach since one browser fits all
  • Easier and cheaper to find teams with web development skills
  • Can be packaged like a native app through PhoneGap

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work properly on some devices and old browsers
  • Doesn’t incorporate all the smartphone features like the accelerometer or GPS, or phone dialing, that a native mobile app can leverage (an update based on comment feedback: APIs and code libraries are evolving that could solve these issues for web apps)
  • Works only when mobile internet/wi-fi is available vs. native apps that can run locally(an update based on feedback: HTML has local caching that allows a web app to work offline, with limited functionality. A web app by its nature is still more reliant on the Internet than a native app.)

If you’re going to build a website from scratch, our web engineers recommend you focus on a responsive design and build the mobile version first, as mobile browsing is on the rise and this is the smallest screen. You can then expand to larger screens — tablets and desktops.Responsive design should eliminate the fluff of the desktop experience so users can quickly access the content they want, otherwise you will lose them.

For more about responsive web design, download our free whitepaper here.

A side note about web/hybrid apps (which I’ll explore more in a future post): At Sourcebits, we’ve developed an easy framework for creating responsive web apps that can look like native apps. ChocolateChip UI offers built-in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript support, and includes phone gap so you can package your web app with native coding and submit it to the app stores.

Native Apps for iOS, Android and/or Windows

Pros:

  • Far more popular with consumers
  • Better UX than responsive web apps
  • Incorporates all smartphone features like a camera or GPS
  • Benefits from inclusion in app stores, for organic and promoted discovery
  • Native apps can operate without an Internet connection
  • It stays on the mobile device once installed (unless it’s uninstalled)

Cons:

  • Built only for a particular operating system
  • Time-consuming and higher development costs
  • Needs app store review and approval with every update
  • Needs additional app marketing strategy

Native apps are far more popular among users – and amongst our clients. Despite being more expensive and time consuming to develop, the benefits often outweigh the cons.

Roughly 3 out of 4 (78%) of our clients have decided to build native applications vs. web apps. iOS tends to win out over Android, although many companies build apps for both operating systems. At Sourcebits, we have teams dedicated to each platform – and they have strong opinions about the pros and cons of Android and iOS. In an upcoming blog series we’ll share the heated debate that’s broken out between the teams, along with our tips and tricks for both platforms.

Looking at the chart above (source here), you can see the majority of users spend their time in native apps.

But that doesn’t automatically mean native is right for you. Carefully and holistically consider the combined factors of your targeted user experience, budget, mobile marketing plan, and overall business development. You want to get the best ROI for your money, time, and talent.

  • I’ve also created a SlideShare that looks at 8 factors to consider when developing a mobile presence. It compares web vs. native apps across cost, Internet requirements, marketing, deployment speed, audience size, smartphone features, platform support and outside oversight. Check it out.

Posted originally on April 2, 2014 by Elliotte Bowerman is VP of Marketing for Sourcebits, a global leader in mobile app design and development. Sourcebits has created more than 500 products, including 30+ chart-topping apps. Clients include many top enterprises (SAP, Intel, Coca-Cola, P&G) and startups (Skyfire, Touch of Modern, Posterous, Twitpic). Subscribe to the Sourcebits newsletter for mobile tips and tricks.

Craig’s List Creepers and Cons – 11 Ways to Find Resources Safely

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I’ve had recent experience finding the right developer(s) to extend my network and body of client-opportunity.  Business is a diverse marketplace, so having an experienced tribe of subject matter experts (SME) can make your business agile and ready to take on projects.  All work doesn’t always have to fall within your company’s wheelhouse, but SMEs can help you quickly to meet the challenge.  Plus fear can be a driver for failure.  If you are a conscious learner with a ravenous hunger for each new lesson, fear is mute.  There is nothing more frightening and exciting for an entrepreneur than walking into a project in an industry we personally know very little about.  Having the proper network of SMEs means that you will likey have a connection to an industry, market with insights to measure success. 

Today’s lesson: Craig’s List. 

It’s not Craig’s List fault, per se, that they’ve developed a free platform for Creepers and Cons.  It just so happens to be the perfect habitat for that species to thrive.   However, Craig’s List can be useful for connecting your various “needs” with “solutions” if leveraged properly.  For example, finding the right developer to build a site that looks good, works intuitively and drives traffic can be key to growing a business can be very difficult.  It’s asking a lot.  After all a visitor’s first impression can inspire them or deter them from moving forward and contacting your client. But how does one go about choosing the right person or developer?  One way is Craig’s List.  It is simply riddled with folks looking to offer their expertise.  But be wary.  Not everyone on Craig’s List is on the up and up.  Still, not everyone is a narcissist looking for his or her next con.  What to do?  What to do?

From experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about seeking resources on Craig’s List.  Here are some tested procedures that may protect you from falling prey to creepers and cons: 

  1. Ask around before you even tap Craig’s List.  Talk to your friends and family or other trusted contacts in life.   Ask them for recommendations.
  2. Before committing to Craig’s List, remember it has a tremendous wealth of information that may help you better define the type of resource you seek.  There is nothing wrong with having a look at some of the offerings out there.   Many swear by it as a viable lead generator, after all.  I just say, be aware of your surroundings.  It is akin to walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood alone as dusk.  Check your back.
  3. So you’ve done your research, asked your friends & family, perhaps even spoken to a referral or two.  You should have made a list that tasks each individual need for a specific resource.  Now it is time to wade into Craig’s List.
  4. Enter Craig’s List and search for each task within the appropriate category.  When reading posting results, do your best to be pragmatic and read without emotion.  See the listings’ wording of each skill they offer for what it is.  Do not enhance what has been written with your own words and expectations.  If someone posting says they has experience with Worpress and other CMS technology, accept for now that WordPress experience may only exist until it and other CMS technologies can be verified through examples and recommendations. 
  5. Collect a good number of skilled prospects.  Reach out to a few and begin an email dialog utilizing Craig’s List emails.  DO NOT give out any personal information at this point.
  6. Place your own advertisement on Craig’s List with the robust research you’ve done to find exactly the resource you seek.  Again, utilize Craig’s List email so as not to reveal personal information. 
  7. Follow the same instructions at #4.  Narrow your leads to a few and ask for their contact information.
  8. Contact them as anonymously as possible.  Block your cell phone or send emails from a safe account.  Begin a dialog to test and verify what has been discussed via Craig’s List.  In your mind, play the part of research analyst seeking information and verifying data.  Narrow your prospects.
  9. You should be down to finalists 1 or 2.  Then and only then is it time to have a face-to-face meeting in a public location. Choose a local coffee shop or something equally benign.  Ask the finalists bring their portfolio (or electronic visual) and at least 3 written references.
  10. Don’t give up now.  You’re at the homestretch!  Verify everything in the portfolio and call each reference using similar scrutiny.  Remember, this is you and your business you are protecting.  Don’t get lazy.  Discuss scope of work and agree to rates.
  11. Make your choice and execute some detailed agreement in writing prior to work being performed.  Business is best accomplished when both sides know the rules of engagement.

Boy that seems like a lot of work!  Well, it is.  You need to protect yourself.  And importantly, you need to protect your clients who assume you are working on their behalf with the utmost in quality and ethical behavior.  No one said being an entrepreneur was easy, but it is rewarding.  Take the proper steps wherever you can and minimize the shortcuts.  Shortcuts may get you there, but image where you may end up. 

This is another lesson I’ve learned in a hurry.  Fortunately I make mistakes quickly and learn from them immediately.  Take my advice; you’ll save yourself a lot a grief and cash!  Good luck friends.

Read more dubious advice here: Top Eleven Things I Have Learned in a Hurry

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Welcome (again) to the World’s Digital Age

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Forbes’ 4 Principles of Marketing Strategy in the Digital Age repost is not a new article.  Rather, it is a reminder as we enter 2014 and beyond that the consumer…well, consumerism in whole…. has changed in our world due to the digital age.  As companies plan forward, we must also evolve to face an omnichannel marketplace where behavior and relevancy are primary pillars of our customers’ interest in product and services.  Are we messaging them in a way they want; when they want to be reached; and with how they want it delivered?  If we aren’t, be assured that someone else is.  And if you aren’t moving in that directions folks, pack it in now.  Playing catch up is far better than simply standing your ground…no matter how well it has worked in the past.  “In the digital age, brands are no longer mere corporate assets to be leveraged, but communities of belief and purpose.”   Read on….

What Bosses Should Never Ask Employees

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Repost of Jeff Haden

They’re bosses. They’re in charge. They have the power.

But while some tasks are obviously out of bounds, others are less so — which is why bosses also shouldn’t use their powers to:

Make employees feel they should attend “social” events.

No matter where they happen to be, whenever employees are with people they work with, it’s like they’re at work. Whatever happens there doesn’t stay there; it comes back to work.

Embarrassing behavior aside, some people simply don’t like to socialize outside work. And that’s their choice… unless a boss does something to make them feel they should attend. Then what was probably intended as a positive get-together becomes anything but.

And keep in mind that “pressure” can be as simple as saying, “Hey, Joel, I hope you can come to the Christmas party…” While all you may be doing is letting Joel know you enjoy his company, if he doesn’t want to attend, this is what he hears: “Joel, if you don’t come to the party I will be disappointed in you.”

The best outside social events have themes that work for employees. Maybe it’s a kids’ Christmas party. Or a picnic at a theme park. Or taking anyone who wants to go to a sporting event. The right move is to choose one or two broad themes that cover the majority of employees interests, and let that be that.

Bottom line: never try to force camaraderie or togetherness. It doesn’t work.

Make employees feel they should donate to a charity.

The United Way was the charity of choice at a previous employer, and the company’s goal was 100 percent employee participation.

Pressure enough? It got worse; every supervisor reported results from their direct reports to the head of fundraising… who also was the plant manager.

The United Way is a great charity, one worthy of support. But bosses should never, even implicitly, pressure employees to donate their time or money. Sure, make it easy. And match contributions if you can. But make donations voluntary, and never leave the impression that results are monitored on an individual basis.

And don’t do the “support my kid’s fundraiser” thing either.

Bosses should never make employees feel that what they do with their money is the company’s business.

Ask an employee to do something another employee was asked to do.

You assign Marty a project. Then you find out Marty hasn’t finished and probably won’t. You’re frustrated with Marty, and you really need to get it done… so you plop it on Sarah’s desk because you know Sarah will come through.

And she will, but she’ll also resent it. She might be gratified to know you feel you can count on her, but she definitely won’t be thrilled about having to pull another person’s weight.

Leave Sarah alone. Deal with Marty.

Cause employees to go without food at mealtime hours.

Say you go to a 5 p.m. wedding. If there’s a reception afterwards you expect a meal to be served, right? Bosses shouldn’t invite employees out for after-work drinks at 6 p.m. The time makes it a company dinner, not company drinks.

Lunchtime meetings are the same. If it’s a working lunch, provide food. Some employees go out to eat, so if there’s no food they’re stuck.

And always err on the side of caution. If you order pizza for a group and you run out, some employees won’t remember they had two great slices; they’ll only remember they wanted a third… and you were too “cheap” to provide it.

Ask employees to evaluate themselves.

An employee who does a great job always question the need for self-evaluations. Doesn’t the boss already know they do a great job? On the flip side, employees who do a poor job rarely rate themselves as poor, which turns what could have been a constructive feedback session into a potential argument.

Self-evaluations may sound empowering or inclusive but are almost always a waste of time. If it’s feedback you want, ask the employee you can do to help further develop their skills or their career.

That’s information every employee will be glad to share.

Ask employees to evaluate their peers.

I’ve done peer evaluations. They’re no fun. “Peer” means “work with.” Who wants to criticize people they need to work with? Claim evaluations are confidential all you want, but people always figure out who said what about whom.

Bosses should know employee performance inside-out. If they don’t, they should never use employee peers as a crutch. Great bosses dig in, pay attention, and truly know the people they lead.

Reveal personal information in the interest of “team building.”

I once took part in a transformational leadership offsite. We were told to make small boxes out of cardboard. (Why do offsites always seem to involve arts and crafts?) We were told to cut out magazine photos that represented the “outer” us, the part we show to the world.

Then we were told to write down some things no one knew about us on slips of paper, put the papers inside our box (get it?)… and reveal our secrets to the group when it was our turn.

I was okay with putting pictures on the outside of my poorly constructed box, even though my lack of scissor skills was a tad embarrassing. I didn’t want to create “reveal” strips, though, and said so.

“But why not?” the facilitator asked.

“Because those things are private,” I said.

“That’s the point!” he cried. “The goal is to reveal things people don’t know about you.”

“They don’t know those things about me because I don’t want them to know those things about me,” I said.

“But think about how much better you will be able to work together when you truly know each other as individuals,” he said.

“Knowing a person’s secrets doesn’t help me work better with that person. Plus sometimes I think it’s possible to know too much,” I said. “If Pete and his wife like to dress up as a Star Wars characters on their date nights, that’s cool for them… but I’d really rather not know.”

(I stuck to my guns and didn’t end up participating, a potentially career-limiting move that turned out fine when upper management’s focus shifted from “Transformational Leadership” to “Back to Basics” and voila! I was back in vogue.)

Bosses don’t need to know their employees’ innermost thoughts and feelings. More importantly, they have no right to their innermost thoughts and feelings. They do have a right to expect solid performance.

Talk about performance, and leave all the deep dark secrets where they belong.

Ask employees to alert them when they “veer off course.”

One of my bosses was long-winded. He realized it and asked me to signal him whenever I thought he was monopolizing a meeting. I gave him the signal a couple of times; in each case he irritatedly waved me off, probably because he felt what he was saying was just too darned important.

Bosses should never ask employees to monitor their performance. To the employee it’s a no-win situation.

Ask employees to do something they don’t do.

Not something a boss “wouldn’t” do, but that a boss doesn’t do. Would is irrelevant. Actions are everything. So lead by example. Once in a while, help out on the crappiest jobs. Not every time, but definitely some of the time.

Employees may never care as much as their boss, but they will care a lot more — and will be willing to do whatever it takes — when they know their boss is also willing to do whatever it takes. Once in a while, “all hands on deck” really should mean “all.”

Think it doesn’t matter? It’s been twenty-five years but I still remember the plant manager helping us load trucks at midnight in an attempt to meet a critical customer deadline. We worked our butts off because we weren’t just told how much it mattered — we could see how much it mattered.

What about you? What do you think bosses should never ask employees to do?

I also write for Inc.com:

(photo courtesy carltondramaticsociety)