MONEY Small Business

The Best Way to Keep Your New Business from Failing

Conjoined paperclips
Find the right partner if you want your startup to succeed. Helen Sessions—Alamy

Making sure you're compatible with your business partner is a key to success. So ask yourself these questions before you pair up.

Nearly two-thirds of high-potential startups fail because of conflicts between co-founders, says Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman. Make sure you know these things about a prospective partner:

How does he respond to adversity?

With a startup, “the highs are high, but the lows are very low,” says Eric Del Balso, founder of Ignite Advisors. Ask the person’s friends, family, and former co-workers how he handles letdowns and curve balls.

What are her goals for the business?

Discuss key decisions you’ll make together—like, Will you raise outside money? Pay top dollar for talent or hire temps? “If you can’t resolve those, there is a high likelihood the team won’t be aligned,” says Wasserman.

How does he handle money?

An overspender may burn through funds before you find revenue. But a timid spender can hold you back. Pull a credit report on your compatriot. Then discuss “what you each think is worthwhile to spend on and what’s lower priority,” says Wasserman.

More on starting your own business:

MONEY Careers

How to Change Your Name Without Hurting Your Career

"Just Married" car
What to do if you're driving away with a new last name. Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Kim K. is now Mrs. West, she says. For the not-so-famous, though, adopting your spouse's name can create confusion in your professional life. Follow these eight strategies to keep your career running smoothly under your new handle.

When you accept the proposal, do you also take the name? Kim Kardashian, or should we say Mrs. West, has. The celebrity revealed her legal name change on Tuesday when she shared a new passport photo on Instagram.

That kind of change can be a bold career move when your name is your livelihood. The same is true for any bride switching names after exchanging vows, though on a much, much smaller scale.

Altering your professional identity can pose a problem if you’re established in your career and have built a reputation around your name—something that’s more likely as couples marry at a later age. Last year the median age at first marriage was 29 for men, and 26.6 for women, the Census Bureau reports. Plus, those with bachelor’s degrees—and therefore better career prospects—are more likely to wed than less educated Americans are, according to the Pew Research Center.

If you plan on adopting a new moniker in both your personal and professional lives, follow these simple steps to make the transition less disruptive at the office.

1. Hedge Your Bets

Think about how costly it would be to cut off your connection to the body of work or marketing that’s tied to your maiden name. If that worries you, opt for a more moderate approach. “The easy out is to keep your maiden name at work and in professional contexts, but use your spouse’s last name socially,” says Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs.com, a site that helps women change their legal name.

Another compromise is to use both surnames, either by making your maiden name your middle name, using both last names, or creating a hyphenated last name. Kim took this approach initially. Shortly after exchanging vows with Kayne, she changed the name on her social media accounts to Kim Kardashian West. And just as Kim has done, you can use both surnames for a brief transition period to help people get used to your new identity before dropping your maiden name.

2. Get Help From Your Company

If you plan on making a complete switch, reach out for advice. “You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. You’re not the only who has gotten married or changed your name,” says Michelle Friedman, a career coach who specializes in women’s career advancement.

A good first move is to check in with your HR department, which may have policies in place outlining exactly what changes you need to make to your beneficiary designations, insurance benefits, company email and directory listing, and tax and Social Security forms. Aside from offering help with name-change paperwork, HR may be able to offer advice about managing contacts, as well as insights into how others in your industry have handled the change successfully (ask co-workers too).

3. Don’t Make It a Surprise

Give co-workers and clients ample notice about your name change to avoid confusion, especially if contact info such as your email address will be updated. Sandra Green, a U.K.-based executive coach, recommends reaching out a week to ten days before the wedding.

One easy way: Put a small note in your email signature in advance, says Julie Cohen, a Philadelphia career and personal coach. It’s an unobtrusive reminder and a good way to get people familiar with the change.

Not everyone in your email contact list needs to know. Run through your list of clients and sort them into groups based on the closeness of your working relationship. Some you’ll just need to include in a quick email blast, while others you should talk to directly.

“Obviously you don’t want to get on the phone with everyone, but in certain important client relationships this may be good to do,” says Friedman.

4. Stay on Top of the Technology

After you’ve made the switch, set up forwarding on your previous email account, or write an automatic reply that includes your new contact info. This way you don’t miss any important messages, and people have a longer grace period to update their contact info and adjust to your new name.

5. Go Back in History

Give former employers and references a heads-up about this change as well. This way if you’re applying for a new job, your background check will go smoothly, and you won’t run the risk of having people mistakenly deny that you worked for their company.

6. Use This as an Excuse to Network

Send an email to everyone in your work circle. “Whenever someone changes jobs or retires, they send these emails about good news,” says Cohen. “Do the same with this.”

This also gives you a perfect excuse to remind your network what you’re up to. “You always want to remain in contact,” says Friedman. “But sometimes it’s hard to think of a natural reason for reaching out. This gives you a celebratory excuse.”

You could even send this blast twice, says Green. First a few days before the wedding and again after you return from your honeymoon, when the change is in place.

7. Make Yourself Easy to Find

Think about how people locate you and your business. Is it through search, a review website, social media, or all of them? Update all your bios.

When you add your new name on sites like LinkedIn, keep a vestige of your old name. That can help people find you during the transition period. “Include your maiden name on social,” says Cohen. “If people are finding you by search it will serve you best to keep connected to both names.”

If you had a more common name or are making the switch to a more popular surname, adds Tate, having both names online could even help you come up higher in search results.

8. Update Your Memberships

To further help your new name show up high in search results and build up credibility for your new moniker, Friedman recommends having any professional organizations, alumni associations, company or community boards, or other groups you belong to change your name on their membership roles.

If you hold a leadership position or are listed elsewhere on an association website, perhaps for winning an award, request that the name change appear throughout. Ask to have any older content that can easily be altered, such as a post listing you as a guest speaker at a conference, updated too.

Of course, should things not end up “happily ever after,” you can follow the same steps to smoothly insert your maiden name back into your career.

 

 

MONEY Fast Food

Why People Care So Much About McDonald’s One-Minute Drive-Thru Guarantee

McDonald's drive-thru sign
Ace Stock Limited—Alamy

A McDonald's drive-thru promotion in Florida has kickstarted discussions on the treatment of low-wage workers, the quality of food and customer service, and even fast food's effects on health and society in general.

When McDonald’s restaurants in Florida began a limited-time promotion guaranteeing that drive-thru orders would be ready within 60 seconds, it seemed like a pretty interesting development to us. But we had no idea just how interesting others would find it. The response it has generated on the TIME Facebook page has been off the charts.

And it all stems from what seems at first glance like some quick, little article about a limited-time promotion that’s only available at McDonald’s in one state. What gives?

After reviewing hundreds of comments, as well as seeking comment from McDonald’s, low-wage worker activists, and assorted industry observers, here are some theories for why the story received such a huge reaction.

Concern for Low-Wage Workers
The comments section discussion is dominated by a wide range of people—McDonald’s workers, former McDonald’s workers, fast food customers and noncustomers alike—who essentially are worried that McDonald’s employees will be screwed over by such a guarantee. They say that fast food staffers are already overworked and under too much stress, for wages that aren’t nearly up to snuff. There’s “enough pressure right now without having to deal with this,” one commenter who said she is a McDonald’s employee wrote. “They are some of the most mistreated workers in our community,” another commenter wrote of McDonald’s workers. “This is a terrible, terrible idea and I do not support it whatsoever.”

Worker activist groups such as Chicago-based Fight for 15 and New York City’s Fast Food Forward have been campaigning for more than a year to push fast food giants such as McDonald’s to institute a minimum hourly wage of $15. As a Fight for 15 statement explains, “We believe that people who work hard for a living should make enough to support themselves, their families and their neighborhoods—and that workers should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“This is just another example of how McDonald’s is the boss, despite what it says,” reads a statement released to MONEY, credited to Angeling Carter, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker in Miami who makes $7.93 per hour. “The corporation sets rules and controls just about every aspect of its stores, from drive-thru service speeds to up-to-the-minute reports on labor and sales. If McDonald’s really wanted to improve customer satisfaction, boost their bottom line and help the economy, it would raise workers wages instead of telling franchisees they are paying too much.”

McDonald’s responded to our inquiry by saying it was “great” the post received such a big response on social media. A statement from the company also clarified, “The 60-second guarantee promotion is reinforcing a standard we’ve had for many years regarding timing from the ‘cash’ window to the ‘food present’ window.”

Because there’s been much confusion about what exactly is being guaranteed, let’s reiterate: The timer starts after the customer has placed an order, paid for it, and received a receipt. After that, employees are to deliver the customer’s food within 60 seconds. If they miss the cutoff, the customer does not get his or her order for free. Instead, the customer receives a coupon good for a free sandwich on a future visit to McDonald’s. And again, the 60-second guarantee is a promotion only at McDonald’s in Florida with drive-thrus (approximately 800 restaurants), only Monday to Friday from noon to 1 p.m., and only through August 29.

As for the criticism that the guarantee is unfair to workers, McDonald’s instead characterizes the promotion as “energizing our crew and … entertaining to our guests. Contrary to some of the Facebook comments, the feedback thus far from the crew is that they are having fun with it. They are engaging with customers in a new way and are having some fun camaraderie with each other.”

Concern About Quality and Service
Many commenters took the opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction with McDonald’s drive-thru service even when there is no timed guarantee. “I’ve had to wait at drive thru 10 minutes for a Coke,” one customer chimed in. “The staff employed have no idea how to count change back, poor interpersonal skills, and little to no work ethic.”

When employees are under the gun to get orders ready under a strict time restraint, the assumption made by many is that the service and quality of the food can only get worse. Commenters joked, “Now you can get your wrong order even faster,” and “I’ll take 50 Big Macs and 24 snack wraps. Good luck doing that in 60 seconds.” Others offered more measured, sensible thoughts: “I’d rather have good service and good food by a polite employee than rushed, bad service with a half-cooked burger,” and “Accuracy is better than fast.”

McDonald’s maintains that restaurant accuracy scores “actually improved when this program was tested in Tampa and we’re seeing similar results more broadly thus far.”

Steve Connelly, of the Boston advertising firm Connelly Partners, said via e-mail that the reaction shows how much people care about food quality. “The seesaw between quality and speed, which has for so long leaned towards speed, may be coming back into balance,” he said. “People have finally started to figure out that something worth eating is worth waiting for. In a down economy, food is fuel. When the economy is less dire … food elevates in importance. Dare I say, it may even be worth [waiting] 90 seconds.”

Concern about Society in General
Some received news of McDonald’s limited guarantee as yet another indication that the priorities of our instant-gratification, rush-rush-rush society are way out of whack. “It’s sad when society has gotten to the point where it can’t wait more than 1 minute for something,” one extremely popular comment reads. Another person commented, “increased speed = decreased quality, and if you don’t believe that you’re delusional, and if you don’t care… well that shows you where society puts its priorities.”

Concern That Fast Food Is Ruining the World
When McDonald’s introduced a creepy mascot named Happy recently to consumers in North America, the masses took to Twitter to declare it the stuff of nightmares. And sure, the idea of a Happy Meal come to life with googly eyes and big teeth might be a little scary. But that alone doesn’t explain why so many people felt compelled to bash the Golden Arches.

Connelly, the ad executive, explained at the time that McDonald’s isn’t merely a brand but “a piñata” that some people must poke at every available moment. Likewise, the reaction to the 60-second guarantee shows that, “McDonald’s is a target for everyone,” Connelly explained. “No matter what they do they will be bashed. This is very important to consider here: the people who don’t eat at McDonald’s or who will never admit they eat at McDonald’s will smash them at every available turn for being a bad employer and serving bad-for-you food.”

Indeed, the people who commented on TIME’s Facebook page along the lines of “Eating that timer would be better for you than eating McCrap,” and “now they can kill Americans a little faster than Usual” probably aren’t McDonald’s customers. At least, you’d hope they aren’t.

Concern That Some People Don’t Read Beyond Headlines
Many commenters said the guarantee was absurd because customers sometimes take more than one minute to order, or they don’t have their money ready and therefore take up more time to pay. Others wondered why their local McDonald’s doesn’t have a 60-second drive-thru guarantee. And still others commented something to the effect that they will place a huge order that will be impossible to deliver in 60 seconds, and then come away with all of that food for free.

What all of the comments like these reveal is that some of the commenters didn’t read the story before responding — or at least not very closely. (One commenter who did read the post chastised this group: “Reading comprehension people!”) To clarify again, the 60-second timer starts only after the customer has paid. The guarantee is only in effect in Florida McDonald’s. And if McDonald’s fails to meet the 60-second cutoff, the customer receives a coupon for a free sandwich in the future. You don’t get your current order for free.

But why even bother with this explanation here? The people who didn’t read the initial five-paragraph post probably aren’t reading the end of this much longer story now.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Ace a Video Job Interview

Looking for a job? Practice smiling, because it’s likely you’ll be on camera. A survey by staffing company OfficeTeam found that more than six out of 10 employers use video interviews “somewhat” or “very” often, and only a quarter of companies said they didn’t use video interviews at all.

So if you haven’t yet encountered a virtual interview during a job hunt, it’s likelier than not that you will sometime in the future. Here’s what human resources experts say you have to do when you’re trying to sell yourself on-screen.

Set the stage. “Choosing the wrong location for a phone or video interview can be detrimental. Take these meetings in a quiet place, making sure there aren’t barking dogs or other distractions that could make it difficult to hear,” advises Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Beware of poor lighting or windows in the background that can cast dark shadows.” Check the background to make sure it’s clutter-free — you don’t want to give your prospective new boss an eyeful of your dirty gym clothes slung over the back of a chair.

Run a tech test beforehand. OfficeTeam also suggests enlisting a friend for a “dress rehearsal” before the actual interview. This will give you a chance to get acquainted with the video technology and troubleshoot any issues that pop up. Ask someone else for feedback to make sure you’re sitting at a good distance from the camera to be seen clearly, and that you’re not too close or too far away from the microphone.

Wear pants — please. Josh Tolan, CEO of video interview company Spark Hire, says you should pick an outfit — shoes, accessories and all — as if you were heading to an in-person interview. “Although, they’ll most likely be seated the whole time, wearing a complete interview outfit can help them to focus and maintain the state-of-mind needed for having a successful interview,” he says. Experts say to avoid wearing white, which can wash you out, and busy patterns, which can be distracting.

Do your homework. You might not be in the same room, but a video interview is a real interview, experts say. Make yourself familiar with both the job and the company, says Scott Dobroski, a career trend analyst at online salary and jobs company Glassdoor. “Find out what the job duties are by re-reading the job description, researching what others have to say about what it’s like to work this job title,” he says. “See how the company has been talked about in the news lately, and how it talks about itself on its own website.”

Make a visual connection. “Be aware of your tone over the phone and make eye contact,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders. Curb any nervous tics or a tendency to fidget, she says. Don’t bounce your leg under the table, even if you think the interviewer can’t see it. And although it might seem most natural to look at the screen, experts say it’s important to make eye contact with your webcam. “You still need to connect with your interviewer, even if they’re not sitting in the room with you,” Augustine says.

Watch your mouth. “Avoid colloquialisms, speak slowly and clearly, and avoid your ‘likes,’ ‘ums,’ and ‘ahs,’” says Zach Lahey, a research analyst at research company Aberdeen Group‘s Human Capital Management practice. “Smile, be friendly, and show that you’re interested,” he says. Keep in mind that in a video, “Every movement and action is magnified.”

Sit up straight. “Job seekers should also be aware of their posture and body language,” Tolan says. “Slouching or leaning back in their seat may give off the vibe that the job seeker isn’t taking the interview seriously or is bored and disinterested,” he warns. Good posture will also help energize you. Conversely, don’t fold your arms over your body. “Crossing their arms should also be avoided because they will appear unapproachable and defensive,” Tolan says.

MONEY Careers

Good Ways to Deal With Bad Bosses

Micromanaging boss puppeteer
James Woodson—Getty Images

Your future advancement depends on your ability to manage the crazies above you.

The top reason people quit their jobs, according to a recent Gallup poll? A bad immediate supervisor. Bully for those who can—and want to—find another position elsewhere, but if you otherwise like the job or need it as a steppingstone, you’ll have to learn to live with that subpar superior. The right coping strategy depends on what kind of lousy your leader is.

The Micromanager

Known for: Hovering. Checking your work. Sometimes redoing it.

How to cope: Work on building trust, which is the micromanager’s Achilles’ heel. Besides making sure your work is A+-worthy, put your boss on a schedule for when she can expect status reports, says Brad Karsh, president of professional training company JB Training Solutions. Start with daily updates, then ask for permission to shift to weekly: “If your in-box is crashing from all these memos, let me know. I’d be happy to start checking in on Fridays.”

The Passive-Aggressive

Known for: Praising you in private, then slamming your ideas in public.

How to cope: “The onus is on you to learn what’s going on inside his head,” says Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. To elicit honest feedback, appeal to the person’s expertise, says Mitchell Kusy, an Antioch University professor who studies management styles. For example, “I got the sense you didn’t like my idea. Would you mind next time sharing your constructive criticism in advance? It would really help me improve.”

The Praise Thief

Known for: Stealing credit for your work and ideas.

How to cope: Take ownership by saying, “I noticed that the project I developed has taken off with the execs. I’d love to be included in those conversations.” Still being left out? Start sending big-idea emails to your boss and your boss’s boss, saying that you want to get input from both of them, suggests Karsh.

The Hands-Off Harry

Known for: Being so laissez-faire it’s a problem. “You might be working on the wrong things, only to find out later,” says Kathleen Stinnett, founder of leadership consulting firm FutureLaunch.

How to cope: When starting a project, ask your supervisor for specifics on what she’s looking for, then send an email recapping the conversation. You’ll be on the same page and have it on record in the event that there’s a dispute later.

The Narcissist

Known for: Making you work late, calling you on vacation, and generally stealing your personal life. “His time will always be more valuable than yours,” says Gary Namie, co-author of The Bully at Work.

How to cope: Mind the ego. “Narcissists think they’re perfect and hate criticism,” says Jack Zenger, CEO of leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman. So cushion the request to reclaim your life with a compliment. “I admire your commitment to excellence and want to do the best job possible, but my work suffers when I’m fatigued. I need my weekends to recuperate.” Says Namie: “You either challenge the boss or dig your own grave.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Brilliant Qualities You May Not Know You Have

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Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Build on these personal traits to become more effective


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Larry Kim

What does it take to be a great leader?

Once upon a time, birth order and socioeconomic status were considered powerful determinants in who would successfully climb the ladder.

Lately, though, the focus has shifted to personal qualities.

Guiding vision, passion, and integrity are well known leadership traits. But there are lesser known leadership traits, as well–in fact, some historically have been perceived as weaknesses.

These hidden traits can be developed and nurtured to help further your career and your role as a leader, at work, in your community, or in life in general.

See if you just might have some or all of these personal qualities that lend well to leadership:

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps you to manage conflict and relationships. However, it’s become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their customers. People don’t want to be analyzed and marketed to–they want brands to understand what they want and need. Empathetic leaders function better within the company, but can also use this trait to power the business, as well.

2. Optimism

You might think of optimism as the quality of one being hopeful, but it also indicates confidence in successful outcomes. Of course, blind optimism isn’t a good thing, but optimistic leaders can inspire and motivate teams.

3. Forgiveness

No one enjoys the boss who lords every mistake they’ve ever made over their head. There is real power in allowing employees to take calculated risks, but they have to know it’s not going to be held against them later. Doing so kills creativity and motivation–it causes people to think twice before bringing a new idea to the table, or experimenting with a new process or product. Learn how to forgive mistakes to nurture creativity and inspiration and your team will pay you back ten-fold.

4. Altruism

Altruism means you care about the welfare of others. In business, this means you want the people around you to do better, feel better, and perform better. You are not an island. You don’t need to take all of the credit for yourself. You understand that building up the people around you makes you all look better. This is an incredible leadership quality, but not one you might traditionally associate with power or strength.

5. Eloquence

The ability to speak and write persuasively has gained importance in the age of digital communications. People expect leaders to communicate and they want to be “wowed.” An eloquent speech can close a deal. An eloquent memo to staff can quell fears, dampen dissent, or inspire people to reach new heights. Practice your writing and speaking to become a more effective, persuasive leader.

6. Discernment

Discernment is the ability to judge well, whether in relation to people, situations, or business decisions. If you are discerning, you take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one. You don’t jump head first into every opportunity, but think critically and find the best option.

7. Modesty

No one likes to hear how awesome someone else is all the time–especially when it comes from that person. Let your work speak for itself; don’t fall into the trap of being the one who blows your horn the loudest. Confidence is a great trait, but must be tempered with modesty.

These qualities can be powerful tools for entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders who are willing to put the time and effort into developing them.

More from Inc:

The 8 Best Industries for Starting a Business

If This Guy Made $1M Wearing T-shirts and Selling his Name, What’s Holding You Back?

The Top 5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

5 Often Quoted Tips for Powerful Presentations

7 Things Well-Liked People Always Do

MONEY Careers

Got an Awkward Workplace Problem? Get Help from a Career Expert

The office is fraught with uncomfortable situations. Does your colleague clip his nails at his desk? Should you let your office crush know you’re sweet on her? Does your boss ask you a little too much about your personal life? What do you do when your colleague takes credit for your work?

You face lots of sticky issues in the workplace, including ones that could affect your performance and pay. We’ve already tackled questions on friending your boss on Facebook, impressing your manager when you work far from HQ, applying for an in-house transfer, and getting a chatty co-worker to pipe down.

What’s your question? Write to us, and we’ll get experts to provide career advice. And maybe your nail-clipping co-worker will read the story and do the right thing.

MONEY Second Career

How to Shift From Full-time Work to a Part-Time Second Career

Choir Teacher
Nicole Hill—Getty Images

Here are proven strategies for finding both money and joy in your transition to retirement.

If you’re a boomer you may remember small “hippie” shops selling fringe jackets. Maybe you still have one of them stored in a closet. If so, your Age of Aquarius memento might have been created by Lincoln Wolfe, now 60.

In recent years, Wolfe has made the transition from full-time (high stress) manager in the craft leather business to part-time (low stress) consultant to the industry. His job duties now range from training young workers to planning factory layouts.

“I didn’t want to work full-time for anyone,” he says. “I enjoy what I am doing at a more relaxed pace. This is retirement.”

Downshifting In the Field You Love
Transitioning from a 40-hour-plus workweek to a part-time schedule in retirement that’s less of a grind, but still in the field you’ve grown to love, may be your idea of retirement, too.

Here’s how Wolfe and professional singer Fay Putnam told me they did it and what you can learn from their experiences.

Wolfe decided he was done with school at age 16 and headed for Florida where he started a business with a 24-year-old, making sand-cast castles on the beach and selling them to various outlets. A customer in New Jersey hired him about a year later, launching his career in the leather craft trade.

Wolfe worked his way up in the industry, sometimes running his own venture and other times for an employer. In the early 1990s, Coach (the high-quality leather goods designer and manufacturer) hired him to oversee the technical development of new products — moving leather goods from the designer shop into mass production.

Coach grew dramatically and the job became increasingly intense, especially when production moved offshore to India and China. But since Coach went public in 2000 and Wolfe’s shares had appreciated some 13 times by 2005, he then had enough money to retire on.

Growing a Consulting Business
When he began consulting from his home in Lambertville, N.J., Wolfe’s initial contracts were, as you might expect, from Coach. His business then expanded through referrals. These days, Wolfe works about a third of the time, usually on the road.

His “unretirement” timing was fortuitous with the revival of the American leather goods industry—mostly designer products catering to urban hipsters. In 2012, Wolfe began consulting with Shinola, the Detroit-based Made-In-America producer of handcrafted watches, leather goods and bikes.

When we talked in late July, Wolfe was in Dearborn, Mich. writing an industrial sewing curriculum for the Makers Coalition, a trade group formed to apprentice a younger workforce into artisan leather manufacturing. The program will be housed at Henry Ford Community College’s Michigan Technical Education Center.

Singing a New Song
Leather craft is an art. So is singing. Fay Putnam spent her career as a professional singer, putting long hours into her craft, mostly with choirs such as the Gregg Smith Singers and the San Francisco Symphony choir. Putnam also had a side business as a voice coach.

She moved around fairly frequently because her husband, Frank, was a U.S. Navy aviator. Now 68, Putnam has started a part-time business in Portland, Ore. as a voice and speech coach.

“I love doing it,” she says. I wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t love it.” Although, she concedes, she’d welcome a few more clients.

Putnam and her husband moved to a condo in downtown Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago. Their son and daughter-in-law live there; so does her husband’s brother. And their money now goes farther. Most of all, Putnam says, they were tired of the San Francisco metro area’s horrendous traffic jams.

Frank is now retired, but Fay wanted to stay engaged in her art and teach the voice and breath control techniques she learned over the years. Most of her business is helping entrepreneurs and employees polish their public-speaking presentations. She coaches some singers, too.

Takeaways From Wolfe and Putnam
Wolfe’s and Putnam’s stories highlight a number of critical aspects that others in their 50s and 60s should take into account as they mull their next chapters.

Both built their new ventures on their existing knowledge and skills, rather than shifting to unfamiliar fields. For most boomers, I don’t believe there is any reason to succumb to the lure of reinvention—the urge to embrace a radical makeover—especially if the goal is finding part-time work that offers a financial and psychic reward.

And yet, much of the late-in-life transition narrative we often hear extols the new, the different, the dramatic change.

You know the story. Someone has labored long in a cubicle, or spent hours as a road warrior, for corporate America. Now, in the last third of life, she finds her passion, somehow manages to open a winery, basks in its growing sales and gets invited to speak about reinventing yourself at global conferences.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly. But I wholeheartedly agree with the cautionary wisdom of Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, in a recent Harvard Business Review column.

He wrote: “After years studying social innovators in the second half of life — individuals who have done their greatest work after 50 — I’m convinced the most powerful pattern that emerges from their stories can be described as reintegration, not reinvention. These successful late-blooming entrepreneurs weave together accumulated knowledge with creativity, while balancing continuity with change, in crafting a new idea that’s almost always deeply rooted in earlier chapters and activities.”

What I applaud about Wolfe and Putnam is that they smartly exploited what they already knew. It’s an insight echoed in a 2010 paper by professor Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University and Mark Melnick of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. When investigating jobs that might be available for aging workers, the authors felt boomers should exploit their skills — albeit, sometimes in a different setting or even industry.

“In many cases, older workers could carry their existing skills and credentials into a new setting,” they wrote. “For example, a registered nurse might move from a major hospital to a community clinic; a computer systems analyst at a private software company might take a job in local government; a civil engineer at a private construction firm might work on a state government highway project.”

Training for the Transition
Of course, you still may have to pick up additional training or education to ease the transition.

Putnam spent her career on the creative side, so she realized she needed to know more about the practical aspects of running a small business. “Most of the time, in the training that artists get, business savvy isn’t included,” she laughs.

To wise up, Putnam took a month-long business basics class called “Better, Smarter, Richer” at Portland Community College. It was designed specifically for solopreneurs and creative entrepreneurs like herself.

The course taught Putnam how to build her website and market her services to local business groups. Best of all, she says, her classmates continue to get together, share information and cheerlead for one another.

Flexibility Is a Must
Like Wolfe and Putnam, many boomers want to continue earning an income during retirement, but put in fewer hours. Their desire for the “big job” and to climb the ladder of the “big career” lies in their past. Phyllis Moen, sociologist at the University of Minnesota, says what many boomers desire are: “not so big jobs.”

Wolfe and Putnam found it much easier to create their flexible work schedules by tapping into their backgrounds rather than attempting ambitious life overhauls. “Older workers value flexibility,” says Richard Johnson of the Urban Institute. “They don’t want to work 9 to 5, five days a week.”

Wolfe’s story reinforces the benefits of flexibility in a different way that will strike a chord with many in their 50s and 60s. He has dialed back on his consulting services recently after being diagnosed with cancer. His prostate cancer has been successfully treated, but Wolfe must now spend more time paying attention to his health, watching his diet, exercising, meditating and so on.

He still enjoys consulting, but his priorities have changed. Cancer has that effect. “I think that I would try to be more engaged than I am now if it wasn’t for the stress of travel,” he says.

Thing is, assuming their health holds up, both Wolfe and Putnam have achieved something all of us desire: Control over their destiny. They can curtail working if they want to. They can stay engaged, if the work remains interesting. It’s their choice.

Not bad for a next chapter.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He writes about Unretirement twice a month, focusing on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income. Tell him about your experiences so he can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to him at cfarrell@mpr.org. His twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

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MONEY Careers

Wish Every Work Day Felt Like a Vacation? For This Guy it Is.

David Harris
"We offer a great product," says David Harris. "It was a matter of getting it in front of the right people.” Benjamin Rasmussen, wardrobe and grooming by Ashley Kelly

After toiling in the tech industry for over three decades, David Harris decided to buy an adventure travel company. Here's how he did it.

For 30 years, David Harris bounced around Silicon Valley, using his sales and marketing savvy to overhaul tech companies. But in 2011 he received a sizable payout from the sale of Tumbleweed Communications, where he had been vice president—and he was ready for a change. Though his work was highly compensated, it was also high pressure. “I wanted to continue to chal­lenge myself,” he says. “But I needed to get out of high tech for my mental health.”

Around the same time Timberline Adventure Tours, a Lafayette, Colo., company offering hiking and biking trips across the U.S. and Canada, went up for sale. Harris and his wife, Kisa, had gone on many vacations with Timberline and had even become friendly with the owners.

For Harris, it was the perfect opportunity. He was looking to do something he felt passionate about, and Timberline filled that bill. Plus, he felt the business had potential beyond its current revenue: “I knew Timberline offered a great product. It was a matter of getting it out to the right people.” While details of the purchase were still being ironed out, Harris moved with Kisa (then an aerobics instructor) and his three daughters to Louisville, Colo., where they lived off investments until he settled into his new role.

Immediately after taking over in January 2012, Harris began boost­ing Timberline’s digital presence—revamping the website and developing strategies for social media and email marketing. He used skills he’d honed in Silicon Valley, only now “product overhaul” meant testing trails and putting together a “fun puzzle of trip itineraries.”

Today Timberline offers 84 tours to about 600 clients annually. Revenues hit $1.2 million in 2013, up from $850,000 in 2011. While Harris isn’t making the big bucks he used to, he’s enjoying going to a job that doesn’t feel like work. “At the end of a trip, when clients are beaming and thanking you for making their vacation,” Harris says, “it’s just such a pleasure.”

BY THE NUMBERS

$500,000: What the company cost

Harris, who bought the business with cash from the sale of Tumbleweed, drew on his sales experience to create a valuation. The owners still cared about the company, and Harris says that made it somewhat harder to negotiate them down to the price he wanted to pay.

84%: how much less Harris earns than he used to

While his family can live off the $100,000 he and Kisa bring in (she’s the VP), they’re still adjusting to the seasonality of the business, which requires intensive budgeting. Harris credits Kisa, who is “as organized as the day is long.”

240: Target number of new clients to add in 2014

Harris is proud of Timber­line’s customer loyalty— 84% of travelers in 2012 were returning—but he’d like to grow the customer base so that 40% of clients are new. He plans to introduce more trip itineraries, and he’s working on building corporate partnerships, hoping that this will help raise revenues to $2 million by 2015.

MONEY

How To Robot-Proof Your Job

I, ROBOT, 2004.
Can one of these robots do your job? 20th Century Fox—courtesy Everett Collection

Can a machine do your job? For more of us than you'd think, the answer is probably yes. But there are ways to stay ahead of the automation curve.

If you find it hard to imagine that a robot could some day take your job, you should probably try imagining harder. A new survey finds that one in five companies has replaced workers with automation — and not just in low-wage jobs.

While 21% of companies overall say that they now use technology instead of humans for some jobs, the number is even higher — 30% — at businesses with more than 500 workers, according to a nationwide survey out today by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI). And that trend is only expected to accelerate: According to the report, one-third of employers predict that jobs at their firms that are currently performed by humans will come to be performed by machines in the next decade.

“This has been a threat for a long time and there are many industries that need a lot less people to do the same jobs more efficiently or for less cost,” says Janet Elkin, CEO of Supplemental Healthcare, a company that recruits staff for healthcare organizations.

Interestingly — some might say ironically — working in a cutting-edge industry doesn’t necessarily protect you from this dynamic. In fact, according to the study, workers at information technology firms are twice as likely to see their jobs replaced with automation. Employers in financial services and manufacturing rounded out the top three areas with the largest number of employers “deskilling” workers. Other industries or sectors that will see a big impact: Customer service, accounting, assembly, production, shipping, distribution, and sales.

Several forces are at play. In many cases, technology has and continues to eliminate the need for workers who facilitate transactions by enabling customers to perform those transactions themselves. Think travel agents, customer service reps, and even store clerks. You see it directly if you do self-check out at your grocery store or have eaten at a Panera Bread restaurant that has replaced cashiers with kiosks.

It’s not just affecting lower wage jobs, however. Powerful software is taking on professional and white-collar jobs in accounting, finance, and even paralegal work. “When I talk to my favorite geeks in Silicon Valley,” said Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business, in a May interview in New Scientist, “they look around and say, man, the work of a financial adviser, a junior analyst at an asset management firm, a pathologist, a hamburger flipper, I can automate that.”

Still, though technology taketh away, it can also giveth. Nearly 70% of companies that have replaced workers with automation say the new technology has also required the creation of new positions in their firms, according to the CareerBuilder survey. And 35% of companies that eliminated jobs with technology said they ended up creating more jobs in their firms than they had before automation.

“While automation may eliminate some jobs, it also creates other jobs that are higher paying,” says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “One of the greatest challenges the U.S. faces today is sufficiently preparing the workforce for the influx of knowledge-based jobs that will likely result from progress in robotics and other STEM-related fields.”

So how do you put yourself in line for one of those new jobs?

  • Don’t wait for your current job to become obsolete. If you see an opportunity to make your job more efficient with technology, be the person to oversee the change and train people in how the new system works. “Make sure you’re the one who understands how it all works,” says Elkin..
  • Upgrade your skill set. If you have a job that you think a robot can easily replace, consider going back to school or investing in online courses that can help you gain valued expertise. You may need to explore alternative occupations and industries that are growing and where you can transfer your skill set, says CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz.
  • Pay attention to trends in your field. Is job growth in your business accelerating or decelerating? Is this related to an economic cycle or technology advancement? Research articles online on how your occupation is evolving and develop the skill sets needed to leverage new technologies.

The survey did offer one positive sign for workers who have been replaced: It found that 35% of companies that eliminated jobs with automation hired people back because the technology didn’t deliver as expected or customers wanted to interact with a live person.

“Technology is not perfect and things often go awry,”says Elkin. “When that happens, you need a human to fix them.”

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