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Archive for the ‘Thought Leadership’ Category

The Startup Culture Secret

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Startup culture seems exhilarating; the concept of wearing vintage tees to work and being part of something new and cutting edge. Why does this environment seem so attractive and something that organizations try to maintain even after they’ve grown beyond their initial garage-based business stage?

Here’s there secret: There’s No Directional Compromise.

At least not for a while, that is. In most organizations, there’s a directional compromise that takes place and it often boils down to the question of tradition vs. progression. Without a traditional precedent for people to fight for, there is less directional compromise (in startup culture).

It’s natural for industry veterans to hold onto the way they’ve always done things, so often times the “progressive bunch” with new ideas and French press coffee will compromise their cutting edge (maybe too cutting edge) ideas for something that will please those who have been around longer.  This type of generational change happens in all organizations, but one reason startups seem so revolutionary, is because they haven’t had to encounter that situation quite yet.

Innovation and progression are vital to any successful organization with the respect of history and expertise gained along the way. There are many businesses, non-profits, and clubs that fail due to the inability to stay innovative. But, just because a startup seems innovative when it begins, doesn’t mean it will maintain that culture by default.

Somewhere along the line every startup company that “makes it” will become an aging company and the way they navigate that transition will determine whether they’re really a startup at heart. A true startup company will navigate all decisions with innovation and progression regardless of the traditional precedents.

5 Ways Non-Profits Can Keep & Grow Their Volunteer Base

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

As a nonprofit organization it’s obviously important to use a majority of funds to support the mission. But most nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers to manage a variety of aspects of their organization. So what can you do when your volunteer base is dwindling?

  1. Take An Outside Look:

It’s easy to love an organization that you’ve been a part of for years. Take a step back and try to imagine what your organization is like from an outside perspective. What would be a newcomer’s first impression? Do volunteers feel welcomed? Do volunteers leave with a sense of fulfillment?

  1. Listen To Others Objectively:

Refrain from becoming defensive when someone explains how a process could be done more efficiently. Successful nonprofits are always seeking new ways to improve, and embrace a free flow of ideas from volunteers, sponsors, and other stakeholders. While your ideas may be great, make sure that others feel like they are being heard since their ideas are essential to the nonprofit’s success. Stakeholders will be more loyal to your organization if they feel they are needed.

  1. Help Them Make Connections:

Be intentional about connecting volunteers to staff members and those you serve. Volunteers will be more likely to come back if they felt socially noticed and accepted initially. Make them feel like they will be personally missed if they don’t return.

  1. Provide Opportunities:

Give them a job & provide clarity. They came to volunteer. Before having volunteers come, make sure you have enough areas for them to help in. No one likes going to volunteer, and then being put on a one-person task with five other people. Make sure to plan well, so that people can be fully utilized.

  1. Sell Them On Your Mission:

Great non-profits have leaders who believe in their mission, and help others believe in it too. Sell volunteers on your mission, and then let them sell others – they become your brand ambassadors. Educate new volunteers on what your organization does and why that’s important, and then let them advocate for you.

Young at heart.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Lauretta Taggert of St. Paul, Minnesota gives new meaning to the phrase ‘young at heart’ by becoming an exercise instructor at age 100. While most of us accept the trials of aging, Taggert attributes her vitality to a positive attitude and never letting her hair grow gray.

How often do we get caught up on the mundane day-to-day tasks and forget to enjoy life? Lauretta reminds us that we can live life to the fullest, no matter what our age may be. As a society, we have become obsessed with anti-aging and looking and feeling younger. The media tells us that we have to stop the hands of time in order to feel confident in ourselves. Millions of dollars are poured into marketing campaigns every year on the latest anti-aging creams that are supposed to ‘rewind the clock’, but is that really what we want to do?

We have lost respect for aging and the wisdom that comes with it. The more time we spend on earth, the more we grow from the past and develop into better people. Should your life be defined by your biological age, or how young you feel? At what point do we loose ourselves in this fixation with youth, and forget how beautiful aging really is?

The older we get, the excitement we once felt as children when our birthday arrives becomes replaced with dread and fear. Why is that? Very few people get to celebrate a 100-year mark on this earth like Lauretta, so why not celebrate every year that we are given the chance to make more memories? With every year that passes we gain more experiences that make our journey complete, and that should be celebrated. We get to choose what we do with our life, so let’s make the most of it. Take the time to do the things that make you happy, and never forget to stay young at heart. In the words of Charles Dickens, “To a young heart everything is fun.”

Is working from home still the future of business?

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

A flexible work environment is currently one of the most valued aspects of a job. Employees want to be able to work from home, make their own schedules, and find harmony in work-life integration. In recent years, many companies have made a transition to more flexible work schedules and an increased number of remote employees in hopes of cutting office costs, boosting moral and productivity, and attracting new talent. Although many companies have had success, some are finding there are unforeseen downfalls to this latest business trend.

IBM recently announced they’re discontinuing their popular program that allows employees to work remotely. Ironically, IBM was a pioneer of remote work technologies and structures, so the announcement was surprising to many of its remote employees. IBM believes that bringing employees back to the office will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work, and they’re not alone. “IBM may be part of a broader rethink of remote work under way at large companies, as corporate leaders argue that putting workers in the same physical space hastens the speed of work and sparks innovation,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, as these companies implement such decisive actions against the remote work trend, they’re taking a risk. Especially when other large companies, such as Aetna, are drastically expanding their work-from-home programs. Many employees, especially younger talents, list flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home as one of their most desired job benefits, putting these companies at risk of missing out on new talent.

However, while employee satisfaction and morale are certainly important, companies must find a balance that ensures work processes are as productive as possible. And while technology allows us to accomplish a lot, it simply doesn’t replace a human connection. Collaboration and communication are more fruitful and productive in person. There’s so much you get out of an in-person meeting that simply doesn’t yet translate on an email, phone call or via Skype, such as body language and the collective energy of progress. So while a remote job position is convenient, it may be a dying trend of the past, instead of the future of business as predicted.

Starbucks is discontinuing its best product – the original coffee shop experience.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

There are a lot of places to grab a good, quick cup of coffee; and Starbucks is certainly one of them. However, Starbucks’ skyrocket to success wasn’t a result of its coffee. Since opening in 1971, Starbucks was inherently different from most coffee shops because it focused on creating a community experience and human connection. Howard Schultz’s (Starbucks chairman and long-time CEO) vision for Starbucks was a place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. And the mission of Starbucks is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.’

For years, this idea of focusing on the customer experience and human connection was evident in Starbucks locations throughout the world. In 2008, Annamarie Ausnes, a regular Starbucks customer who suffered from polycystic kidney disease was in need of a kidney transplant. Her Starbucks barista, Sandie Andersen, noticed a change in Annamarie’s sunny disposition. Usually, Annamarie was friendly and upbeat; sharing stories of her grandchildren and even bringing Sandie vacation souvenirs. When Sandie asked what was wrong, Annamarie shared her story and need for a kidney. Sandie immediately got a blood test, and when she found out she was a match, told Annamarie that she wanted to donate her kidney. A few months later, the kidney transplant was a success!

But Starbucks has begun to lose sight of its fundamental roots that are responsible for its success – good coffee and a human connection. Today, the focus on relationships and customer experience is taking a back seat to convenience and speed. The main objective has become ‘how quickly can we get customers through the line’ with very little interaction between customer and barista. This has only been intensified by mobile ordering, which further moves the “experience” to focus on convenience. Now a customer doesn’t even have to talk to an actual person to get a coffee – how is that inline with the mission of inspiring and nurturing the human spirit?

Starbucks has not only lost sight of its focus on the experience, but also its commitment to its core products. Starbucks coffee is coveted because of its reputation for being a quality, high-end, valuable product. However, through its newest promotions, Starbucks has offered its prized coffee to customers for free with the purchase of non-fundamental menu items, such as sandwiches. What kind of message does it send to give away a prime product that was once viewed as valuable, all to promote an average breakfast sandwich? If the coffee is so invaluable that it can be given away for free, how can Starbucks continue to justify its higher industry prices?

If a consumer wants a breakfast sandwich and coffee fast, why wouldn’t they just go to McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts or any of the other countless fast food options focused on speed and convenience over quality and customer experience? Without the commitment to customers and human connections, Starbucks is no longer a treasured community experience – its just another humdrum fast food joint that will start to seem severely overpriced, without its unique vibe and prime product status.