TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Guaranteed Ways to Gain a Mentor

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Remember that mentoring relationship is a two-way street

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Question: What’s one thing you can do now to encourage older/more experienced entrepreneurs to WANT to mentor you?

Don’t Just Be a Taker

“Find a way to give back to the more experienced entrepreneur. Also, when you ask for 30 minutes, only take 30 minutes. They will appreciate your attention to their time.” — Andrew Howlett, Rain

Remind Them of Themselves

“Every week I receive emails from individuals wanting to have coffee or ask questions. The ones I tend to meet with often remind me of a younger self. Whether they went to my college, hail from my hometown or have the same passions I had in college, I (like most people) gravitate toward like-minded people. Showing an entrepreneur that you have a common thread can go a long way in securing a mentor.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Add Value to Their Business

“I’ve found it’s easier to start a new relationship by giving rather than taking. Do research on your perspective mentor, and find out what they’re working on. Study their process, and come up with an innovative way to improve it. Then, share your findings with them. This will demonstrate that you are worth their time, and it won’t become just a one-way relationship.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Don’t Come Empty-Handed

“Show that you are capable of executing to some degree on your own, whether that is by gaining some traction, some buzz or just building a great product. The worst is when someone comes to me with nothing and expects me to do too much of the work for them. I only want to surround myself with A-Players, and that goes for mentors and mentees alike.” — Danny Boice, Speek

Find Similarities in Your Situation

“People will want to help you if they understand and trust you and see a little bit of themselves in you. Older, experienced entrepreneurs almost feel a need to reinvest back into the karma that has made them successful. As people grow older and acquire everything they think they need, they figure out that life is about giving. Ask Bill Gates about that one.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

Be Professional

“No one wants to help someone who isn’t professional. Keep your emails (especially those with requests) brief. I don’t want to see more than a paragraph when you’re asking for information. Respond when my assistant emails you to confirm an appointment. Be prompt and friendly, and it doesn’t hurt to take notes. Afterward, send a thank-you email or, even better, a handwritten note!” — Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

Give Them a Reason

“As with any investment, older/more experienced entrepreneurs are looking for an opportunity with promise. If you want someone to mentor you, show them why they should, and demonstrate to them that their efforts will not be wasted.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Be Available

“Make yourself available, and be humble and teachable. The men and woman who have gone before us have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so we need to sit at their feet, listen and learn. However, it’s not enough just to listen to them; it’s about acting on the advice. When mentors see their advice impacting your business, it encourages them to keep teaching and the student to keep learning!” — Adam Degraide, Astonish

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Bad Habits to Abandon for Increased Productivity

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Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive

startupcollective

Question: We talk a lot about daily habits and productivity. But what’s one thing entrepreneurs should STOP doing every day?

Talking About Themselves

“Entrepreneurs tend to get so wrapped up in the pitching, convincing and selling of their day-to-day life that sometimes it becomes all they ever talk about. Being well-rounded and conversational will help you have rapport with others around you. While talking about yourself and your business is important, doing so constantly comes off as being self-centered and oblivious to the world around you.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Focusing on a To-Do List

“The best leaders I know focus on building the right culture and energy in the office. Sitting in a corner and pounding out to-do items may feel productive, but don’t forget about doing the things that aren’t fully quantifiable. Helping teammates who may be having a bad morning or struggling with a project could be the single most valuable thing you do all day!” — Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial, Inc.

Eating Pizza

“When you head into the startup phase of your company, everything you used to do that was healthy is going to stop. You are going to put on weight. You are going to end up with too much stress and a back that is in constant pain. Don’t eat pizza. It will make it easier to get back in shape when you’re out of that phase.” — Andrew Angus, Switch Video

Using Social Media Distractions

“Shut down all your personal social media distractions during the work day. Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter will all be there after you complete your daily tasks. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize just how much time they waste reading and engaging on these mediums and also just how much it decreases their daily productivity. To succeed, use your time wisely.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Multitasking

“Multitasking has its place in the business realm, but there are also times when it should be avoided. If you multitask two separate and very important projects, you can end up with two sets of dismal results. Know when to multitask and when to focus on a single task.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Waiting for the Right Moment

“Stop waiting for the right time, and just get things done. Define the one thing you can do today that will help grow your business and not just keep you busy.” — Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

Attending Management Meetings

“Admittedly, management meetings are sometimes necessary and useful beasts. But a culture of meetings is ultimately just a time suck. Everyone has had that experience of waiting for a meeting to end so that real work can resume. To increase productivity, reduce management meetings and time in meetings in general. When you must meet, have a clear agenda and stick to it.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Letting Interruptions Happen

“Interruptions are just a part of life, but I take steps to prevent them. It is so hard to refocus after multiple interruptions. I don’t even want to calculate how much time I lose to redirecting my attention several times a day. If it gets to be too much, I go into do-not-disturb mode. I close the door, only take scheduled calls and tell my staff that they can email me and I’ll get to them later.” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

Going out for Lunch

“The lunch hour is one of the most active times of the day and a great time to get work done. After work is when most socializing should be done. Instead of worrying about getting back to the office or getting work done before you dip out, meeting at the end of the day takes off the edge. You can drink without a conscience, leave the office behind and invite others to join to optimize your time.” — Rameet Chawla, Fueled

Working on the Fly

“One habit to break away from is working on the fly rather than with an agenda. With a startup, things will happen, and you can be pulled in different directions. Don’t make it a habit to make that the way you operate. Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Pleasing Others First

“If you are allowing your time and energy to be diverted from your priority tasks simply to make professional acquaintances (e.g., individuals not in your inner circle) happy, then you’re not investing your time well. Focus on the people and activities that really matter, and you’ll be better off in the long run.” — Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

Emailing Coworkers

“The biggest breakthrough at ThinkImpact has been the realization that we don’t need to email each other. We can use different tools to communicate. Our new favorite is called Slack . It allows you to communicate in one of three ways: via office-wide messages with a related subject, a direct message with a colleague privately or a private group of colleagues.” — Saul Garlick, ThinkImpact

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Things to Consider Before Investing In a New Project Idea

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Following through on the wrong project ideas can be a big waste of resources

startupcollective

Question: What is one thing you ALWAYS do before green-lighting a new project or biz idea?

Test Assumptions

“There are lots of great ideas, but it’s easier to devise them than to execute them. So before you go off and try to execute new plans, it’s imperative you test some basic assumptions. If you already have customers, speak with them directly about the idea and take their feedback to heart. If you don’t, set up a landing page with an AdWords campaign to test response and prove the market exists.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

Ensure It Aligns With KPIs

“Before giving the go-ahead to a project or idea, it’s critical for me that the project aligns with our key performance indicators. If a project doesn’t drive to one of our key metrics, it’s likely not a worthwhile pursuit or use of resources. To have these kinds of checks and balances, it’s important to establish KPIs early on. Once in place, it’s a useful rubric to green-light ideas.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Take a Step Back

“The worst thing you can do is pursue a new project or business because it sounds like an exciting opportunity. The problem is that pretty much every new idea seems like an exciting opportunity at first, but only the best of the best maintain that excitement weeks or months down the road. Set it aside and don’t think about it for a while. If you pick it back up and get just as excited, go for it.” — James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

Analyze the Pros and Cons

“I’m always thinking of new projects or business ideas to help grow our business, so I’ve developed a system to green-light them. First, I write them down and let them marinate for a few days. If the idea still seems legit, I’ll set up a call with my partner, discuss the plan/implementation in detail and write out a pros/cons list. We then analyze the data to make the final decision.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Run the Numbers

“Before moving forward with any new project, I want to make sure that it’s worth our time and the ROI is there. Numbers don’t lie. Financial projections are an essential tool for determining ROI and helping us make business decisions based on fact, not gut.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Ask If It’s What People Want

“I see so many entrepreneurs, especially in the startup world, creating new businesses and products without even determining whether there’s a market for them or if people really want their product. Before green-lighting any new idea, I survey people, hold focus groups, run market tests through AdWords and even call people.” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Organize the Project First

“Before green-lighting a project, you should take the time to organize it. It is prudent to the success of the project or idea to know how long it will take, how it should be executed and who will be responsible before committing to a launch.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Define What Success Looks Like

“Without a clear definition of what success will look like for a given project, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s on track or even finished. By making a point of defining success before we even get started, we can decide how to measure a project and tell if it’s reaching the necessary goals.” — Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

Run Some AdWords Tests

“Google AdWords is fantastic at validating market interest. I’ll run a few different ads over the course of a few days or a week to test how well they convert and at what rate. That tells me how crowded the space is and how strong the market interest is. Usually I don’t even create a landing page. Instead, I’ll send them to one of my other sites.” — Jared Brown, Hubstaff

Talk to Real-Life Customers

“Always test your ideas by talking to people in the real world before you invest tremendous amounts of time, energy and money. Don’t be afraid of anyone stealing your ideas. Get feedback in the wild. Even if it’s simply by sending an email to your customer list asking if it’s something they’d be interested in, that’s a start.” — Cody McKibben, Thrilling Heroics

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Steps For Making the Most of a Networking Event

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The people leaving the event on a high note attend with just one goal in mind — to figure out how they can help others in the room

startupcollective

Most people attend networking events to gain something: job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, opportunities to grow their business. Having organized more than 50 networking events over the past 10 years, I’ve seen plenty of these people leave disappointed, dismissing networking as a complete waste of time.

But I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve seen people walk out with a handful of business cards feeling happy, inspired and excited. The major difference between these two groups of people is this: the people who leave on a high note are those who attend with just one goal in mind — to figure out how they can help others in the room.

True networking occurs when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. In its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”

To follow their approach, here are eight ways to network successfully and have fun doing it.

Start Networking Before You Need It

Seasoned networkers can smell the stench of desperation from across the room. People can sense when someone is only out to help himself. Tip-offs ranging from a panicked look in the eyes to a portfolio brimming with resumes will send them running in the other direction. On the other hand, by networking when you have no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving.

Have a Plan

Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Before you attend any networking event, get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future.

Forget Your Personal Agenda

While you may be tempted to network just to land a job or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.

Never Dismiss Anyone as Unimportant

Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles. Someone you meet may “just” be a clerk, but they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them.

Then, when the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer as you move to the next.

Connect the Dots

Once you begin to listen to people and learn what they can bring to the table, you’ll start realizing how one person in the room may be able to help another. Make it a point to connect people you feel have something of genuine value to each other. When you go out of your way to make those potentially promising connections, you’re doing your part to make the networking event a success.

Figure Out How You Can Be Useful

Before any conversation comes to a close, be sure to ask, “How can I help you?” Because it’s done so rarely, you may encounter a surprised look, but it will most likely be accompanied by an appreciative smile. While the person may not have an answer for you that night, they may have an idea later. Always close by saying something like, “If you need anything, please reach out to me or connect via LinkedIn” and present your business card.

Follow Up and Follow Through

If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments — even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times and it’s quite gratifying.

Believe in the Power of Networking

When you believe that the true value of networking lies in helping others and you do your part, you’ll soon discover magic happening all around you. The beauty of this approach is that you never know when that magic may cast its spell on you.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Unconventional Tips for Becoming Successful

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Because success requires timely out-of-box moves

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Question: What is your most unorthodox tip for becoming successful in business?

Sell Joy

“Stop focusing on selling your product or service; instead, focus on the joy your company creates, and let that drive your growth. Scale the joy. Systematize how you deliver the joy. Sell the joy.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Become an Expert in Something

“If you’re an expert in one aspect of your business, you’ll be able to share your expertise and drive new business because of it. Contribute to publications that reach your target audience, and they’ll come to you for more expertise and assistance.” — Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

Deliver Happiness

“I am a huge fan of the Zappos “delivering happiness” movement. I think that the paradigm for how companies and customers interact is changing in a big way. When I see examples of terrible customer service, it makes me shake my head. Delighting your customers is the fastest way to grow a hugely successful business.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Customers

“You cannot please everyone, so find the customers who fit your company, and don’t waste your time on customers who don’t.” — Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

Remember Business Is Personal

“Business is personal. This is contrary to every cliché you will hear about leading an organization. But at the end of the day, all you have as a business person in the 21st century is your relationships — not factories, widgets or pipelines.” — Panos Panay, Berklee College of Music

Don’t Work All the Time

“When I was young, I used to pull all-nighters a few times a week and would average only a few hours of sleep a night. Looking back, my life was totally unbalanced. I was far less productive and extremely unhealthy in general. Now, I have dinner with my kids, work out every day, do yoga, maintain a reasonable balance and get way more done than when I “worked” more hours.” — Danny Boice, Speek

Do Things That Don’t Scale

“These are the words of the great Paul Graham, and we have implemented this to great effect at DJZ. At the beginning of a company’s existence, you often have to undergo time-consuming tasks to recruit customers that wouldn’t make sense on a huge scale (e.g., personal thank-you letters to customers or gathering new signups in person). These initial unscalable gestures are what ignite the flywheel.” — Michael Simpson, DJZ

Run a Half Marathon Every Year

“When you’re the founder of a startup, your company is on your mind all the time. In fact, you can run into some major personal issues by not being able to properly “shut off” from business mode. I’ve found that signing up for a major athletic event like a half marathon is a great way to de-stress. It forces you to train every day and focus on something besides your business.” — Eric Bahn, Hustle Con Media

Break Rules

“Sure, rules are great. They create momentary stability and processes we can all adhere to, but breaking them for the right reasons can lead to breakthroughs, unique experiences and stories that build businesses and brands in unimaginable ways.” — Henry Glucroft, Henry’s / Airdrop

Don’t Try to Do It All

“Get out of your own way. It’s easy to get caught up trying to do everything in a business when really you should be focusing on removing yourself as a bottleneck. Entrepreneurs should spend their time building systems and plans for their business and watching things happen. Being CEO doesn’t mean you have to be doing all the work.” — Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences

Say ‘Yes’ More

“Success is rarely, if ever, a straight line. And sometimes, the things that are slightly off track or seem a bit outside the lines are the things that may yield the biggest results. So I recommend you say “yes” to interesting things, people and experiences. Those are usually where the action lies.” — Eric Koester, DCI

Buy a Watch

“My most unorthodox tip for becoming wildly successful in business is buying a watch (any kind!) and actually wearing it (every day!). Being punctual in business is key. No one likes to be held up or waiting on an associate who is running behind. Be early to every meeting, finish meetings on time, and never get caught saying, “I’m sorry, I lost track of the time!”” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Key Leadership Lessons From Top Female Executives

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With the right mindset and the proper approach to execution and leadership, women can rise to higher posts and endure less gender bias over time

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Recent studies have revealed something that many savvy women have known all along: women are good for business. With so many women-run startups cropping up and more companies looking to create diverse boardrooms, women are proving to deliver tangible and intangible advantages. A recent analysis by Fortune revealed that Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs earn higher stock market returns than those with male CEOs.

In spite of the evidence that women are a tremendous asset to businesses, many women find themselves struggling to cement their roles as leaders while managing the social complexities of the workplace. I know first hand what it’s like to watch a male peer effortlessly receive and keep the respect of a team while I invest a significant amount of time and energy building relationships and proving my capabilities.

The good news is that women continue to rise through the ranks to sit on boards, run companies and launch successful startups. With the right mindset and the proper approach to execution and leadership, women can rise to higher posts and endure less gender bias over time.

I tapped four of my favorite female executives to get their thoughts on the best approach to leading in the workplace as a woman. Here’s what they had to say.

Invest Time Upfront in Finding the Right Hires

Following her successful launch and sale of her first startup, Stacey Ferreira, Co-Founder of AdMoar, is using her leadership skills to build a new disruptive company. As a leader in a male-dominated industry, her perspective centers on proper team building.

“I think that success in leading a team comes first and foremost from making the right hiring decisions. As a founder, one of the best ways you can spend your time is finding the right people to hire who will contribute to expanding the company vision, executing to make that vision happen and contribute to a positive company culture. If you invest the time upfront, find the right hires and onboard them effectively, then you won’t run into many problems leading the team. Once you’ve found those people, giving them the responsibility and freedom to create and execute with regular check-ins works well for small-to-medium-sized companies.”

Look for Complementary Skill Sets

Knowing where your blind spots are is one of the best way to properly fill in those areas before they become problematic.

“Be keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and build your team to complement those things,” says Sian Morson, founder and CEO of Kollective Mobile.

Communication Is Key

After working for mega personalities and brands such as Magic Johnson and Starbucks, Nikkole Denson-Randolph, VP of Special & Alternative Content for AMC, learned the most critical aspects of successfully leading teams.

“Be approachable. The more welcoming you are, the more communication you will have so there’s much less confusion on your team and fewer unwelcome surprises. Don’t be hesitant to deal with individuals as soon as a problem presents itself. Address it right away, be clear about what the issue is and most of all be constructive. Address the issue, and provide context or an example of how it should have been prepared/handled/etc., and the end result should benefit the both of you. Set an example. There should be consistency between your actions and what you’re asking your team to do. Reward the right work ethic, and address actions that don’t support the company values/philosophy. Encourage developmental growth. Assign tough, but fair tasks, learn about their career goals and share as much relevant information as you can to support their growth.”

Put Your People Ahead of Yourself

She calls herself the Michael Bay of business and for good reason: Cindy Gallop, founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and Make Love, Not Porn, runs two game-changing startups and continues to blaze trails for women who want to launch and scale enterprises. “Hire the very best people you can find, give them an inspiring, compelling vision of what you want them to achieve for the business, free them up and empower them to achieve that vision any way they choose to using their own skills and talents, constantly demonstrate how much you value them (with words and deeds as well as compensation), and enable them to share in the profit they help to create. And always put your people ahead of yourself.”

As you can see, having the right mix of people is a common thread, but it’s also important to properly manage them. Beyond that, it’s important to stay focused on the goals you’ve set for your team. Remember that every interaction doesn’t have to be a battle. Sometimes being at odds with a team member means getting creative with how you approach influence and negotiation. Studying topics such as communication differences between men and women will also aid you as you adapt your style of leadership to various settings.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Your Email Is Killing You: 9 Ways to Survive

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Here's what to try instead

startupcollective

Question: If you believe that email can be a productivity killer for your employees, what strategies have you implemented as a manager to make sure that your people do not get bogged down from accomplishing “real” work?

Standardize Subject Lines

“Client requests often come in at all hours of the day, and in order to ensure we can work on projects and not just respond to email all day, we like to use “URGENT” and “FYI” in our subject lines. This helps identify issues that need to be addressed immediately and notifies us of emails that can wait until a more convenient time.” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Kill Long Threads

“If an email thread goes past three replies, then I prohibit continued back-and-forth nonsense. Pick up the phone and have a conversation instead of wasting time on paragraphs of spell-checked pontification. Keep email actionable, brief whenever possible and easy to read.” — Seth Talbott, CEO and Startup Advisor

Use P2 Instead

“P2 is a WordPress theme we use internally for all communication. Instead of sending an email, just make a post to P2. It cuts out on long email threads. It’s searchable and indexable for later. And it’s way more transparent.” — Wade Foster, Zapier

Implement a 5-Minute Limit

“You cannot let emails accumulate. So, if you can answer the email in fewer than five minutes, you should answer it immediately, and stop procrastinating.” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Create Mailboxes For Tasks

“We have established a ticket system, and we are gradually moving away from using emails because it is a productivity killer. In the meantime, we have created new mailboxes where scheduled daily tasks are delivered to keep our general email accounts clean. We also ask our employees to immediately unsubscribe from emails that are distracting.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Hang Out on Google

“We leverage Google Hangouts a lot in our work. We can set up immediate, unplanned chats where we can talk things through and move on, rather than cluttering inboxes with hundreds of messages that may be misinterpreted and take much longer to respond to in writing. Just talk to each other, and drive on with business!” — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Track the Productivity Metrics

“At our company, we track all the productivity metrics of our employees. One particular metric we track is the amount of time spent on email. So, as an example, I spent 16 percent of my workday on email. As a general rule, we try to keep email use under 20 percent, and if it’s at anything over that, we look at what that person is doing.” — Liam Martin, Staff.com

Unplug

“Spend 60 minutes offline. At Lemonly, we have a mandatory hour in the day offline. No email, no Skype and no browsing. This is the most productive hour of the day for most of our team, and people focus on larger projects.” — John Meyer, Lemonly

Set Up Your Space For In-Person Collaboration

“We encourage our team to talk to each other to quickly resolve issues instead of waiting on an email answer. This means being respectful of your team and not interrupting unless the question is really worth the interruption. We have found that this helps us remove obstacles more quickly than using email, and it keeps communication flowing internally.” — Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

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Failure is not the opposite of success

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Question: What’s your best tip for overcoming the fear of failure?

Diversify

“When I have many irons in the fire, I feel far less desperation around the success of any one. In fact, it is their cumulative successes that has created our brand identity at RTC.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Embrace a Terrible First Draft

“We tend to compare our own blooper reel to everyone else’s highlights reel. Instead just start with a first draft and embrace the fact it might be terrible. But the second try or draft will be better, the third even better. For me the only failure is not improving (or trying in the first place).” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Failure Is Not the Opposite of Success

“If you chose to do something and “failed,” you received valuable feedback on what to do or not to do in the future. If you chose not to do something (this most often takes the form of “waiting” or “thinking about it”), you are guaranteed to be in the same position until you decide to do something about it. Failure is progress. Stagnation is what should be feared.” — Brennan White, Cortex

Failure Is Growth

“The risks of starting and running a business are great, and there are times when you may be tempted to throw in the towel. However, it’s important to remind yourself that with every failure you experience in business, there is another lesson learned that will aid your company and team moving forward.” — Zach Cutler, Cutler PR

Travel Will Broaden Your Perspective

“Go to the Third World, get out of your bubble and realize that even if you fail, life is not so bad.” — Raaja Nemani, BucketFeet

You Won’t Succeed Without Overcoming

“If fear of failure is disabling you from trying or starting at all, then you won’t succeed or truly fail. Instead, you will remain the same — which in the business world is as close to failure as you can get without calling it that. Realize that by encouraging a fear of failure, you have failed yourself and your business because you will neither succeed nor improve with lessons learned.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

So What If You Fail?

“Most entrepreneurs are playing a high-risk game, so fear of failure comes with the territory. In the worst case scenario, you fail, but so what? It will free up your time to work on your next business, and you will have more knowledge about starting and running a business. Just remember: fear makes you human, and when you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.” — Nikki Robinson, Gloss and Glam

Regret Is Worse Than Failure

“When I fear failure, one thing that never fails to overcome that fear is thinking about the terrible feeling of regret. Regret lasts much longer than failure, and it is a thousand times worse. When you fear failure and quit, be warned that regret will always be right around the corner.” — Phil Chen, Systems Watch

Failure Is Like Practice

“I try to think of failure like exercise or practice. You’re going to do things, and you’re going to be terrible at first. The more you do it, the better you will get as time goes on. You will learn a lot if you look at failure as practice.” — Henry Balanon, Protean Payment

You Must Fail to Learn Success

“Do something incorrectly. Make a mistake. Mess up. Then, learn from it. Don’t run from the failure. Evaluate your shortcomings, and use that to propel yourself into your future endeavors. If you never fail, you will never know when you’ve reached true success.” — Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Leadership Tips for Women in Tech

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Being a woman in the fast-growing tech space can work to your benefit

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The tech sector is a notoriously difficult place to be a woman. A congressional report shows that only 7% of women-founded businesses receive venture capital funding. Every time we turn around, it seems there’s another gaffe that causes a rise within the community — this ranges from major companies’ lack of women in board positions to distasteful overheard conversations.

While most everyone in the tech sector has an opinion on the issue, for me, being a woman in the fast-growing tech space has actually paid off. In fact, I think that in most ways, being a female in tech has worked to my benefit.

Maybe it’s the dynamic between me and my co-founder Eileen Murphy Buckley, or the fact that we’re an ed-tech company that operates in a female-dominated industry (nearly two-thirds of teachers in the U.S. are women). I’d like to think it’s because we built an amazing product that helps great teachers teach better. So far, all signs point to the fact that we’re doing something right: ThinkCERCA is now available in schools nationwide, and we’ve secured $1.5 million in funding. We were a graduate of the Impact Engine Accelerator’s inaugural class, and we won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge in July 2013.

So how can you navigate the complex male-dominated tech world and succeed?

Combine Skill Sets

You have to be strategic about whom you partner with and bring onto your team. Our biggest success had nothing to do with gender. It had to do with our team’s unique combination of skills. I come from an entrepreneurial background, and have years of experience taking businesses from concept to launch, growing them in both revenue and size. Eileen is a teacher turned entrepreneur, and the former director of curriculum and instruction for a major school system. So while I brought the entrepreneurial know-how, Eileen brought the industry expertise and a firm basis of pedagogy and research. This helped us create a product that principals, teachers and students really need. Her deep knowledge continues to help us meet our core goal: helping students achieve college and career readiness.

I believe it’s this combination of skills that has not only helped us build a successful business, but also secure funding.

Never Shy Away From the Hard Stuff

So much of our success can be attributed to our dedication to our customers. Sometimes that means going against what others are telling you to do. While the ed-tech market continues to boom, there’s still the age-old problem of the chicken and the egg. Several investors wanted ThinkCERCA to be something it was not. They told us we either had to be a content publisher or a technology platform. Despite this feedback, based on our expertise and what our customers were telling us they needed, we decided to be both. Technology alone wasn’t the answer. Content alone wasn’t either. Focusing on both, and using a research-based approach, we have carved out a place in the ed-tech ecosystem and are poised for continued and rapid growth.

Build a Team of Mentors and Advocates

While Eileen and I have a great partnership, we have strived and will continue to work to create a team that complements our skills and builds off of what the two of us have created. We now have 16 people at ThinkCERCA whose expertise ranges from technology to sales to marketing. In addition, we’ve had an incredible group of mentors and advisors, such as Chuck Templeton, the former Managing Director of the Impact Engine accelerator. Our mentors have provided the encouragement we need but also given us hard-nosed doses of reality from time to time. Our mentors aren’t the people who always tell us what we want to hear. They’re always looking out for us and telling us what we need to hear.

As our business has grown, so have we. When we came together, Eileen was “the educator” and I was “the entrepreneur.” Now, we have both learned and have each assumed both roles. We are able to fluidly assume the voice of the customer and the voice of the business, which allows us to brainstorm and problem solve, and — most importantly — switch hit. Thanks to our complementary skill sets, dedication to our customers, and our refusal to accept the stereotypical limits that go along with being a woman in tech, ThinkCERCA is doing great things for the future of education.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

These Small Habits Can Transform Your Life

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Don’t let little time wasters or poor habits bring down your performance

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When you’re starting a business as a young entrepreneur, it seems like there are an infinite number of tasks to juggle. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of the details, no matter how tiny or tedious. Small changes, like reducing the amount of time you spend each day managing email or your remote team, can quickly add up, meaning you can spend your time growing your business instead of your to-do list.

Managing Time Wasters

One of the most insidious time sucks in the modern workplace is at your fingertips every day, and worse, it’s legitimately work related. Ask almost anyone what they spend the most time on while at work, and the answer is bound to be email. Email is the basis of communication in the 21st century workforce. Why not make sure you’re being as efficient as possible when you’re doing something so important?

Professional email etiquette is just as crucial as efficiency, and it’s more than just good manners; it’s good management. For instance, knowing how to start and end a professional email takes a lot of the guesswork out of communicating with co-workers, clients and customers. A professional greeting lets the recipient know that the topic is business, and a cordial and appropriate sign-off can eliminate the need for unnecessary responses as well as the need to go back and read them.

Knowing when to CC or BCC someone can also go a long way in saving time on email distribution. Create folders to keep all emails of a certain type together, and regularly archive emails that you have handled but that still contain information you may need to refer to later. Email search will also save you tons of time when tracking down old emails, so make regular use of this feature even if your inbox is completely organized.

Checking your email the right way can also help keep you on task. A good way to do this is to set aside certain points of the day to check your email, and check it at only those times — if that’s realistic for your situation. Try setting your email program to only check for messages at your decided times if self-control isn’t enough to keep you from clicking that envelope.

Developing Good Habits

Structuring your day and managing your workflow are the two pillars of any successful productivity strategy. Tasks should be outlined at the beginning of every day or at the end of the previous day, and nobody in the office should ever be unsure of what they are supposed to be doing. Setting productivity goals at the start of each day gives both you and your employees concrete objectives to work toward instead of an endless procession of menial tasks.

Good physical habits are often an underrated part of an entrepreneur’s success. As clichéd as it may sound, a good diet, moderate exercise and the appropriate amount of sleep will actually help you feel better and miss work less often, maximizing your potential as a leader and decision maker. Work habits are important as well, and business owners in particular must evaluate their methods on a regular basis to ensure they’re still best for the business. A clean physical and digital workspace minimizes distractions and promotes clarity of mind, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Putting your business in the best position for success means managing your resources wisely, and time is the most valuable and irreplaceable asset a business has. Time truly is money, and making sure not to waste either in the early stages of growth can make the difference for your company.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

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