Posts tagged: starting a business

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Ditch Your Dress Code and Other Interesting Advice

I am a child of the 60′s;  a hippie and a non-conformist. I worked in Corporate America for over 2 decades. I enjoyed it and I learned so much. What I didn’t love was figuring out what to wear.

First… there’s no such thing as business casual for women. As much as I’d like to show up in a pair of Dockers and a sport shirt (NOT) … or it’s equivalent… I’d be glad to.. but there is no equivalent.

Second … The idea that “clothes make the man” is passe and needs to be rethought.

Third… Check out this article titled,” 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Dress Code”  You may get more out of having a culture of flexibility in employee dress than maintaining strict standards.

Fourth… Diversity of  people can lead to creativity in thought and action.

This doesn’t mean having no standards in dress. Clearly there are certain clothes that are inappropriate in a business environment. Also, a culture that allows casual dress but tolerates disrespect isn’t doing itself or it’s employee any favors. Hard work, communication, listening and customer focus are more important than whether someone wears jeans. Build trust with your employees and peers and we’ll all benefit.

Photo credit: Photographer Irum sneaker

Are You a Risk-Taking, Risk-Tolerant or Risk-Averse Person?

Most of us would agree that surfing can be a dangerous sport, yet lots of people — all over the world– surf. Why? The reasons are complex but the psychology boils down to — how much risk are we willing to take in our daily life? Some of it is related to our personality and upbringing, some of it is our drive and competitive spirit.  To learn more about our own risk acceptance or aversion –  answer the following question:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are you to take risks?

– If your first thought is to ask questions like.. under what circumstances… then count yourself in the 1-5 bracket.

– If you immediately thought… yeah, I’m willing to take a risk… but not a stupid one; then count yourself in the 6-8 bracket.

– If you helicopter ski or big wave surf… then count yourself in the 9-10′s.

Understanding your risk profile is important because as you go through life’s up and downs, you may need to either increase or decrease the level of risk you’re taking depending on the situation.

In a difficult economy, more risk is required. We see more women and 20 something’s starting businesses than ever before. Is this because women today are better risk takers than previous generations? I don’t think so. I think it’s because the times require us to be inventive.

Many people are doom and gloom about the economy and I will grant you, there are many issues to be concerned about. I would also suggest that, as Americans, we rise to the challenges in surprising and wonderful ways.

Are you taking appropriate risks for the circumstances of your life? If not, check out, “It’s Takes Guts to Start A Company,” from Fast Company magazine.  I particularly like these 2 quotes,

  • “Guts-driven entrepreneurs aren’t fearless; they just know how to cope with, and maybe even thrive in, uncomfortable environments”
  • “The guts to endure lets us recognize that failure is not an option but rather a reality”

Look deep into your risk portfolio. Are you taking the right risks? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Photo credit: mikebaird Father and son surf lesson

The “Skate to Where the Puck’s Going To Be” Career Management Philosophy

Recently I came across an article titled, “7 Jobs You Never Heard of and Why They’re Awesome,” e.g. futurist, greensman (not keeping the putting green nice..) and parabolic expert. Do you think these sounds silly? Think again.

It might seem odd to remember elevator or telephone operators, but what about travel agents, department store clerks (try to find one these days) or assembly line workers. Ten years ago a fair number of people held these jobs.

Today a lot of people have titles that didn’t exist 10 years ago, e.g. Director of Inbound Marketing, Content Marketer, Java Developer, .net Developer or Internet Security expert, etc.. If you believe what Wayne Gretsky (aka the great one… hockey player) said, “Skate to where the puck’s going to be, not to where it has been…” and apply that to your career,  it’s possible that your next job could be something you’ve never even heard of.

If you were born after 1980… it’s very likely you will have a job that hasn’t even been invented yet (not to mention being actively engaged in creating new companies.)

When I speak to educators I remind them that it is their responsibility… along with business leaders… to find out what skills will be needed and to start today to create programs to prepare our future employees. And this is not just for young people! Boomers and Gen Xer’s need to change too.

Because if we, as Americans, don’t figure this out…someone else in the world will and if we think the economy is ugly now…

This is not the ‘responsibility’ of politicians and/or ‘someone else’. Each of us must be prepared. Consider the shark or crocodile– they’ve been around a long time while many other creatures have become extinct. Adapt or die.

Image credit:  Oldster’s view

Look, I Fell Down!

I’m fortunate to have 3 grandchildren under the age of 4 and yes, it’s as fun as everyone says.

There’s joy in watching them grow but there’s also a BIG LESSON. Here it is…

They fail… a lot. And they do it with a big smile. They fall down, the say words wrong, they make ridiculous observations about us…

How about us? When did learning become something SO serious. We get older and suddenly we have to be good at everything? If we have to learn something new we get impatient, even angry at ourselves for not:

learning fast enough/being smart enough/knowing how to do it and on and on.

If you aren’t “falling down” regularly, you are probably not learning very much. That’s why being a parent is an interesting journey. You are guaranteed to fail regularly (whether you realize it or not!)

Today, you have a choice. Learn something new, take a chance. I’m getting ready to learn a new kind of art. I’m a little freaked out. What if people tell me they don’t like it. What if the stuff looks ugly? This is what risk takers face everyday.

Write down the top 3 risks you are taking this week/month/year. You can tell if it’s a real risk if you feel like talking yourself out of doing it and you have all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it worked out in your head. So please, fall down, take that risk. Tell me about the risks you’re taking and I’ll keep you up to date about my art experiment. Everyday I’m talking myself out it so I know it’ll be worthwhile.

Photo credit:


True Grit and the Marshmallow Test

When my daughter was in college, her softball team’s t-shirts had this saying on the back…

“Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.”

So while this title’s post may sound like 70′s rock band, it is, in fact, the core of some research on the future of work. In “The Future of Self-Improvement:  Grit is More Important Than Talent” the notion that as work continues to  dramatically change over the next 5 years; self control will become more important than ‘talent.’

This excerpt clarifies the concept:

“More and more, we set our own long-term goals, determine our own work schedules, work at an office or at a coffee shop, decide about what we focus on today, and tomorrow. But this freedom also brings a responsibility that demands a vastly increased capacity for self-control.”

The link between grit (hard work in the face of obstacles) and self control (the test of children who successfully delay eating a marshmallow) is central to the new way we accomplish work. Hierarchical work structures, standard job descriptions  and “siloed” work areas are already becoming ineffective work practices.

So how will you as a manager adjust to this new reality? How will you as an employee adjust? Will you lead the way with your own actions?  Will you educate and train yourself and your employees in grit and self-control? Will you make sure that your hiring practices are shifted to include these qualities?

We have a choice… we can determine those skills that will allow us to compete effectively like flexibility and focus or the rest of the world will get there before us. Take Duckworth’s Grit Scale Test here.

Image Credit: Inner Light News

Let’s Play Jeopardy! Answer: A Dental Hygiene Tool?

Ok, today we’re playing jeopardy. I’m giving you the question: What is Quora?

– A tool for improving dental hygiene?

– A movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII?

– An element of new math?

– A supplement guaranteed to help you lose 50 pounds in 3 weeks?

Give up? If I told you it was another social media tool and that it’s pretty cool, you  would never have started reading. But I tricked you… (are you still reading?)

Quora is a “continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” Hmmm, sounds like Wikipedia. Here are some ‘questions” that I’ve opted to follow:

If you have a curious mind, you may enjoy Quora. Oh by the way, here’s advice on using Quora for your job search. Now go start laughing, learning and collaborating!

Photo credit:



They Call It “Social” Media for a Reason

I’m tired of hearing people say they don’t want to use social media because they don’t want to know every detail of someone else’s life. Well, if this were true, celebrity magazines wouldn’t exist; neither would soap operas or the 21st century version, reality TV.

So I thought I gently remind everyone that it’s precisely life’s details that make it interesting.

I was talking to someone about networking and how much I dislike showing up at a event  to make small talk with strangers. Interestingly though, conversing via twitter, blogs, face book and other networks can actually be fun. I have met some wonderful people this way.

And, by the way, you can crab all you want about having to ‘learn’ new things and ‘use the computer to connect’ and engage but the fact is that this train has left the station. You can have fun, learn and look for what’s good in the new world of social networking or not. But please, spare me your tales of not caring, not getting it and not wanting to be bothered. Boy I’m crabby in the new year. I promise I’ll be better by my next post.

What Makes a Good Entrepreneur?

I personally have started 2 businesses and am currently helping another one get cooking right now. While it’s an almost overwhelming amount of work, I enjoy it the challenge of creating something from nothing.

As a SCORE volunteer (part of the Small Business Administration), I meet  a lot of wonderful people who have great ideas. Each of them is taking a step towards starting their own business. They are asking for help (by the way it’s free and available to everyone) and researching their idea. I tell them that even if this particular business doesn’t get off the ground, another one just might so keep learning, growing and exploring.

When people find out that I have started businesses or volunteer at SCORE, they inevitably talk about how much fun it must be. They don’t really think about how hard it is to start the business, find the customers, run the business and do the work. While it may sound a bit overwhelming, 20,000 new businesses start every year. I believe that if the United States is going to remain economically strong, we need more and more entrepreneurs to step up.

When I was looking for an image to include with this post, I realized that no photograph of a person or people would work. Entrepreneurs come in every size, shape, age, race, gender, religion and nationality.  This is an important challenge and even if you are not inclined to start a business, I ask that you to visit, support, encourage and cheer lead for local entrepreneurs. When picking a restaurant, pick a local restaurant instead of a chain. Eat local food, buy local goods and we’ll all reap the benefits. I’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs. We need to stick together!

Joyfully Jobless

To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything else be more fun? Katherine Graham

What would it take for you to be joyfully jobless? Think about it for a minute. Would $500,000 do it? Have you thought about being an entrepreneur? Have you wondered what it would be like to have your own business?

I have not only thought about it, I had a marketing consulting practice. I did a lot of research, wrote a business plan, rented an office and created a web site. It was harder than I thought. Finding the work, doing the work and running the business (legal, accounting, etc.) proved a good challenge. September 11, 2001 squashed my dreams. The good news is I learned a lot. The experience makes me a better employee.

There are so many options for self employment. Where should you start?
These books that help you begin to think about doing it differently.
• Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love (learn more about the author at:
• Caught Between A Dream and A Job – D. MacNeall II
• Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
• Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want And Getting It – Henriette Klauser

Today, I volunteer as a SCORE volunteer. SCORE is a national volunteer organization of experienced business professionals offering free, confidential counseling to new and existing businesses. If you are considering starting your own business, including franchising, service businesses, etc.; I suggest you visit or contact me and I can help you get started with them.

Fun and Interesting Inexpensive/Free Things to Do in Rochester
If you haven’t explored the High Falls area downtown, I recommend it.
At the very least you will see the 96 foot drop waterfall and the bridge, Pont de Rennes which is dedicated to our sister city in France. The Triphammer Forge and, if you plan it right, a laser light show across the falls, make this worthwhile.
For more information:

High Falls Rochester, NY

High Falls Rochester, NY