TIME Careers & Workplace

Yes There’s a Secret to Success, And It’s This

office
Getty Images

Don’t let past successes lull you into putting tradition before innovation

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Tradition is safe, easy and has brought your business success at some point. So why change it now?

All too often, the urge to uphold existing methods can be detrimental to a company’s growth. Times change, and if you want your business to stay current it has to change with them or risk being left behind.

Just look at Google. In the late ’90s, Microsoft dominated the PC space to the point that there was an antitrust suit leveled against it for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. A few years later, Google exploded onto the scene when it revolutionized the search engine. It wasn’t long before the technology giant created Chrome, one of the most popular web browsers out there, busting the myth that a browser coupled with an operating system restricts competition.

If Google hadn’t broken this tradition, it probably wouldn’t be the massive, influential company it is today. But this isn’t just for giants. Your company can successfully break tradition and achieve tremendous growth, too.

Identifying Outdated Practices

When you’re analyzing where to abandon tradition to pursue growth and innovation, there are three main things you should do:

  1. Examine your industry. Identify traditions and ways of doing things that are begging for re-examination.
  2. Look internally. Find practices that once made perfect sense but have become unnecessary or detrimental due to company and industry maturation.
  3. Get help. Involve your employees, customers and stakeholders in uncovering traditions that are no longer serving you well. As a leader within the organization, sometimes you’re too close to the traditions to spot the outdated ones. When you involve employees and customers in the discussion, they might recognize opportunities for growth that you would not have seen.

Moving Forward

Once you’ve identified the traditions that must evolve or be left behind, there are a few things you need to do before moving forward:

  • Determine whether a tradition is still valuable. Sometimes, long-standing traditions still offer a great deal of value and don’t need to be done away with entirely — just revamped. In other cases, traditions have to be gently moved to the museum. Be intentional about deciding whether or not traditional practices are still useful.
  • Remember that change is not an attack on the past. Just about every process and method can be refined, leading to waste elimination, reduced cycle time, improved customer satisfaction and a number of other benefits. The initial difficulty is sometimes simply recognizing that there might be a better way of doing things. But just because there’s a better way of doing things doesn’t mean that people were doing it incorrectly up until that point. Be careful to honor the past, but also learn from it.
  • Rely on an expert. Once they recognize the need for change, many business leaders struggle because they don’t have the in-house expertise and resources needed to implement that change. You may need to call in someone from the outside who can guide and train your staff to carry the torch and continue changing for the better.

Change is scary, difficult and there’s no guarantee that it will bring success. So why do it now?

When you let go of unnecessary traditions, you’re seizing the opportunity to push your business into the future. If you involve your staff, customers and stakeholders in the initial evaluation of what needs to be improved, it will be much easier to identify weak areas and develop innovative ways to revamp them. It’s risky, but it’s worth it. The proof will be in your bottom line.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Reasons CEOs Should Offer Unlimited Vacation in 2015

vacation
Getty Images

The results could build a better company

Inc. logo

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.

As a CEO, do the words “unlimited vacation” cause cold sweats and an overwhelming urge to hide all your employees’ passports? If so, you aren’t alone–most CEOs have some discomfort around the concept of unlimited vacation, which explains why only 1 percent of U.S. companies offer this program.

Among these 1-percenters is Netflix, an unlimited-vacation pioneer and the company that inspired Richard Branson to recently announce a similar policy for Virgin. As Reed Hastings explains in the 2009 Netflix “Freedom and Responsibility” practices, his company exercises a “trust policy” when it comes to scheduling their vacation days. It’s a policy that puts control in employees’ hands.

Unbridled PTO power is what makes some CEOs worry that their staff will shirk work responsibilities and opt for a four-day work week every week. As it turns out, employees do just the opposite. This vacation policy is not about giving employees the go-ahead to be lazy or unreliable. It’s about trust. It empowers them to best meet organizational and individual goals in the hours that make sense for both parties–and it works. Let’s face it, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. hours are not the hours of the digital age.

At SmartRecruiters, we’ve seen fantastic results from offering unlimited vacation and flex hours. It has driven employees to take greater ownership of their roles, collaborate better with their teams and work smarter while in the office. Success is measured not by how much time everyone spends in the office, but rather by “have I achieved my goals?”

Growing an organization-wide sense of trust has been the biggest benefit of an unlimited vacation culture at our company. Here are five more benefits you could see at yours:

1. It creates better connected teams and an agile workforce.

According to a 2014 Glassdoor survey, three out of five employees admit to doing work while on vacation. According to the survey, the main reason is that they are afraid of getting behind. This speaks volumes about the existence of unsupported team members. An open vacation culture encourages your employees to pitch in and cover one another’s work load, which then builds stronger, more versatile teams.

2. It shows you think of employees as adults which, in turn, makes them more responsible and valuable.

Empowering employees to define their schedule shows that they are valued and trusted peers. Say an impassioned employee works 40 hours in a week, yet they want to keep plugging away on a project. Without the ability to “get back the hours” at a later date, that employee will either have to push their work to the following week or forever lose their personal time to meet goals. This can lead to resentment and reduced eagerness to go the extra mile in future projects.

3. It boosts employee morale, happiness and productivity.

Studies have shown that employees perform better when they take time off to rejuvenate and have less stress in their daily lives. Unlimited vacation gives them the flex hours they need to harmonize work with other aspects of their lives. Besides, committed employees are always “on,” even during their time-off. They might come up with the next great idea for your company while relaxing on the beach or driving to their kid’s Little League game.

4. It can save your company money.

An unlimited vacation policy saves the cost of tracking and managing your organization’s PTO schedule. It also eliminates the liability and unexpected expense of paying out accrued and unused vacation days when employees leave (if you’re among the companies that follow this practice).

5. It will help recruit and retain the best candidates.

An open vacation culture can be a strong competitive differentiator for recruitment. Candidates, especially millennial job seekers, look favorably on unlimited days vs. the 16 days most U.S. companies provide. The impact can last long after recruitment. Netflix, for instance, saw an increase in employee engagement and retention after introducing its unlimited vacation policy.

Let me be clear, I don’t think there is a magic number of vacation days that businesses should all adopt. What I am advocating for is more freedom for employees to integrate their careers with the other pillars of their lives, such as getting to know their kids, discovering new perspectives through travel, and fueling creative thinking through passion projects –all things that lead to happier, more innovative and more committed employees.

In 2015, I hope unlimited vacation policies catch fire and more CEOs think of it not as merely a benefit or perk, but as part of crafting a high performance company culture built on trust and respect. The question to ask yourself isn’t “how many days off do my employees deserve?” but “how do I empower smarter, more responsible employees in 2015?”

Go ahead, take some time off to think about it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Thoughts That Will Totally Crush Any Chance of Success

Businessman holding his head at desk
Getty Images

Using a lack of contacts or connections as an excuse for failure is a self-limiting thought

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

You’ll hear that successful people think differently — that they are somehow hard-wired for high performance. There’s the notion that some entrepreneurs perfectly combine analytical and reasoning skills with optimism, creativity, problem solving and people skills.

But successful people entertain the same kind of negative and self-limiting thoughts that everyone else has. What differs is their identification and reaction to them.

Here’s a roundup of thoughts that absolutely limit, kill, crush and smash success. Catch these thoughts as they arise and flip them on their head.

Related: 4 Ways You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

1. “I’m not an expert.”

Do you tell yourself over and over again, “I’m not an expert”? No one starts off doing anything as an expert. Expertise is built up over time. You have to make yourself an expert. When considering a project or business, don’t ask if you’re an expert. Rather, ask if you love the subject matter.

If you’re passionate about the subject, you’ll do everything you can to soak in as much information as possible.

For most fields of business, two years of intense learning can make you a top expert. The process starts with your accepting that learning experience as a journey. Make sure it’s one that you enjoy and that you want to spend a lot of time on every day. Change this thought into a question, “Where do I find what I need to know?”

Related: Act Like the Leader You Want to Be

2. “It’s already been done.”

Have you ever told yourself the self-defeating thought “It’s already been done.” Yes, it’s true that some ideas are actually new. The futuristic proton beam that destroys cancer cells without touching other cells comes to mind. But if you’re coming up with an idea for an app, probably similar products already exist.

If you’re already entrenched and working inside a particular industry, you may see your ideas unfold elsewhere in the marketplace and be developed by other people. But that doesn’t matter one bit.

If you know that a lot of people need your product or service, the fact that competitors exist validates your plans. In business, it’s good to be first, but as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has said, it’s better to be last.

Bringing an idea to life and then executing your plan better than others matters a whole lot more than the uniqueness of your concept. Challenge this thinking by asking, “How can I do this better?”

3. “I don’t know the right people.”

You’ve probably had “it’s all whom you know” beaten into your head since birth. It’s true to a certain extent that knowing key people matters. But the problem is that many people accept their current circle of contacts (their colleagues, clients, friends and social media networks) as the limited resource they have to work with.

Using a lack of contacts or connections as an excuse for failure is a self-limiting thought. Tap the contacts you have. But if you don’t know the right people, make it a point to get to the right people. Contrary to what you may have heard, reaching out to the right people can work if you try hard, even if you don’t have a special connection. Turn this thought into “Whom do I have to get to know — and how?”

Related: 3 Practical Ways to Connect With Millionaires

4. “You need money to make money.”

It’s easy to think that there’s some reason that other people are successful — that it’s because they went to better schools or have superior personal skills. Indeed many people point to others’ success by noting that they had the money and resources.

It’s easy to use lack of money as an excuse for lack of progress but in many business areas, limited resources can be a blessing.

Lack of resources might prompt you to keep your operations lean and mind fresh and sharpen your focus. You can be extremely successful by being smart about expenses and business planning.

You don’t need money to make money. You just need to come up with the exact cost of your first product, which might be completely free. Think instead, “How can I do things better because my operation is small?”

5. “I always …”

When you run your own business, the lines between your personal and professional life blur. Your personal attributes often dictate the success of your business. When you think about yourself, you often think of what you are now.

But when you think of your business, think of what it could be. The trick is to think of yourself much the way you consider your business — as a growth vehicle.

When you catch yourself saying, “I always . . .” (such as “I always mess up when I talk in front of people”), know that you’re chiseling that negativity into stone.

It’s your job to expand your definition of yourself. To grow a business, grow yourself first. Bet on your becoming capable of positive change. Remember to consider this: “I’m not who I once was.”

Mastering the way you think is the first step toward success in any business. It’s a target that’s always moving and a goal that you may never fully reach. But trying to catch and turn these thoughts around is what drives entrepreneurs forward in their journey.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Positive

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways to Take Your Networking to the Next Level

Close up of two businessmen exchanging business cards
Getty Images

With a few pointers, anyone can leverage the power of networking to improve their business

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: Share one great tip and/or tool for networking.

Give a Handshake and Repeat the Person’s Name

“Give a firm handshake as an initial impression. Say the person’s name three times in your first conversation, and it is likely that you will always remember his or her name.” — Eddie Lou, Shiftgig

Use Bizzabo

Bizzabo is an excellent app to use at networking events. Often at those events, it’s hard to know which people would be the most beneficial for you to meet. Bizzabo solves exactly that problem and lets you easily connect with other people.” — Ben Lang, Mapme

Find the Most Interesting Person

“Networking is sometimes a drag, but I always approach it like an investigator: I try to figure out what makes someone tick, what they are passionate about or what they have to offer the world. Pick an individual and try to figure out why he or she is the most interesting person in the room. Approached from this angle, it almost becomes a game, and you win when you have put the pieces together.” — Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

Follow up Consistently

“The most important part of networking happens after an initial meeting when you have an opportunity to follow up and start to really build a relationship. If you have a great conversation with someone at an event or over coffee, be sure to pave the way for future communication. A simple thank-you message is great; offering an intro or resource related to your conversation is even better.” — Martina Welke, Zealyst

Utilize Rapportive

Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that quickly allows you to connect with everyone you email on social networks. Enter an email address, and it allows you to connect on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, AngelList and more with one click. When doing sales, it allows you to reach the prospect via different channels, which is far more effective.” — Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

Use Business Card Readers

“We collect tons of business cards at nearly every networking event we attend. To help us manage this, we use a new app from Infusionsoft (our CRM system) that allows us to scan the business cards on our iPhones and import them directly into our CRM database while also keeping notes about our interactions. It eliminates the paper clutter and helps us keep great records.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Leverage ‘Friends’ Into Relationships

“With so much buzz about social media these days, it’s easy to lose track of one tried-and-true networking tactic: real-world interaction. By making physical, face-to-face connections with your online “friends,” you become more than just a “like” on a page. Leverage your online network into true relationships by arranging for lunch dates, social events and other opportunities for meaningful contact.” — Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery

Share Personal Interests

“Talk about your real interests that don’t include work. If you’re a less-experienced entrepreneur hoping to impress a legend in the startup space like Jason Calacanis or Steve Blank, or if you’re courting a tech writer for a story, don’t start with shop talk. You won’t get anywhere unless you’re THAT amazing. Talk to their personal interests so the connection is authentic and less transactional.” — Danny Wong, Blank Label

Offer Something in Return First

“Reverse the traditional process of networking where you ask for help and then offer something in return. Instead, show the person you want to establish a connection by demonstrating what you can do for them before inquiring about what they can do for you.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

MONEY

How to Compete for an Out-of-Town Job

illustration of station wagon pulling office desk
Mikey Burton

You can improve your chances of finding a new job by taking your search on the road, but you’ve got to be strategic in selling yourself.

Three out of four hiring managers recently surveyed by Challenger Gray & Christmas reported a shortage of local talent. So theo­ret­ically you could have better luck finding the job of your dreams if you’re willing and able to move.

Problem is, many companies are hesitant to hire out-of-towners because of concerns over relocation, money, and local knowledge. But you can put hiring managers at ease by preemptively addressing these three issues in your application:

How Willing You Are to Move

Transparency is crucial. “If a recruiter in Pittsburgh sees you’ve been working in L.A. for 10 years, they’ll want to know why you’re applying,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm.

Don’t skirt these issues or, worse, lie by using a local pal’s address. Instead, write beside your address that you would be eager to relocate to the area for the right career opportunity, recommends Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York HR consulting firm.

What It Will Cost the Company

Hiring costs are top of mind for recruiters when evaluating long-distance applications. So pay your own way for an in-person interview if you can swing it, says Stefanie Wichansky, CEO at Randolph, N.J., management consulting and staffing firm Professional Resource Partners. A subtle approach: Indicate that you are frequently in the area and can make yourself available at the hiring manager’s convenience.

Definitely don’t bring up needing relocation assistance in your cover letter. “That makes your candidacy less attractive, as you’ll be a more expensive hire compared to the local competition,” says Wichansky. Wait to raise the issue until the company has determined that you’re the best candidate. “You’re in a better position to negotiate once you’ve proven the value you can bring to the organization,” she says.

How Well You Know the Area

Unless you have a skill set that’s unique or in high demand, you’re going to need to convince a hiring manager that you’re not ­hampered—and wouldn’t hamper the company—by your lack of knowledge of the local market, says Yeager.

One way to tap into the market from afar, besides following local news and blogs, is to join region-specific industry networking groups on LinkedIn. Start discussions to gain an insider’s perspective, then demonstrate this knowledge in your cover letter. An out-of-towner looking for work in commercial real estate, for example, might study neighborhoods and establish relationships with local developers to show he can hit the ground running.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Books That Will Make You a Better Person

books
Getty Images

And tips from each one to get you started right away

Inc. logo

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.

Leadership is not about who you know, or why you know it, or how much you are paid to lead. It’s often about what you know and how you apply that knowledge. That’s why I’ve decided to scour the best books on leadership that were published this year and distill the information down to the most useful tip with a quote from the book (in my opinion).

1. Resilience is critical to success in leadership

“A few years ago, two former business school professors of mine, Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power, and Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, did an informal study of my Stanford MBA classmates to discern what factors were the most influential in determining which students would “make it” and which would not. (As I recall, they were not looking for those who had made it as measured by dollars earned, but those who are most successful all around in achieving their goals and dreams.) After eliminating many different factors, they landed on resilience as the one defining skill and behavior that allowed some to stand out from the rest. After all it wasn’t that none of us face that adversity–we all did. But some were able to pick themselves up and brush themselves off and move on, while others were not.”

Denise Brosseau in her book Ready to Be a Thought Leader: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success

2. You must bridge the communication gap created by leadership

“Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals who cannot add value to a situation or topic but force themselves into a conversation just to hear themselves speak. Good communicators address both the what and how aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.”

Mike Myatt in his book Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly

3. Leadership is, at its core, about the mobilization of ideas

“Leadership is about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.”

John P. Kotter in his book Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

4. Good leaders are highly aware of their own vulnerabilities

“The role played by blindspots is to meditate between the poles of self-confidence and self-doubt. A leader with too many blindspots can be overconfident, even blindly arrogant, and exposed to a range of risks.”

Robert Bruce Shaw in his book Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter

5. Leaders equip people for success beyond their own purview

“Entrepreneurial leaders foster in people the feeling that they are personally successful–the hallmark of leadership.”

Derek Lidow in his book Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises

6. The role of a leader is primarily to care for others

“And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”

Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

7. Take time to reflect and lead in the moment without stopping only to focus on problems

“Most leaders can barely breathe through the blur of activity, much less reflect on and register the best of what is happening in the present moment. And on the rare occasions when they do step back to assess the situation at hand, they focus on the problems, ignoring the opportunities.”

Kathryn D. Cramer in her book Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do

8. Trust in leadership can be distilled down to four basic elements

“Trust in others (and their trust in us) depends on four elements: reliability, congruence, acceptance, and openness.”

Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie in their book Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity, and Impact

9. Body language trumps spoken instruction

“Remember, every communication is two conversations, the spoken content and the body language. The body language always trumps the content when the two are in conflict. So in planning your content and failing to think much about your emotions, which drive your body language, you’re leaving that to chance–the more important of the two conversations.”

Nick Morgan in his book Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact

10. Hope in leadership comes from analyzing success and feedback

“To increase your chances of moving toward your ideal self, challenge any self-defeating thoughts. Keep in mind your past accomplishments, candidly assess what has stopped you from achieving goals, as well as your personal beliefs about your abilities. Consider relevant feedback from others about what you have achieved and what your potential is. This helps increase your sense of hopefulness, which research has shown is critical in imagining and realizing the ideal self.”

Stewart D. Friedman in his book Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways Truly Successful People Basically Never Act

Close-up of glasses on table
Getty Images

If something doesn’t work out as planned, don’t look for excuses

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Whether we are talking about a football game, an election or an entrepreneurial journey, one thing is certain — there are going to be winners and there are going to be losers.

Want to stack the odds of being a successful entrepreneur in your favor? You can start by taking note of the following 10 things that you should never do.

1. Be jealous or envious

Seeing other people around you succeed should motivate you, even if they are your competitors. You should understand that every single person has the ability to become successful, and wasting time focusing on other people’s success or achievements will just sidetrack your own progress.

Related: 7 Things Confident Entrepreneurs Never Do

2. Look back

You are going to face hard times, difficult decisions and possibly even failure at some point. Don’t let small bumps in the road stop your forward progress. Find ways to maneuver around obstacles and continue to push forward, never looking back.

3. Make excuses

If you make a bad decision and screw up, own it. If something doesn’t work out as planned, don’t look for excuses. Search for the cause of the problem and chalk it up to a valuable business lesson. If you identify and own the problem you will not make the same mistake again. If you are constantly making excuses for your mistakes, you will continue to make them because you haven’t properly identified the root of the problem.

4. Stop learning

Your age, years of experience or level of success should never prevent you from learning. There isn’t a single person on this planet who knows everything. We can all continue to learn and be inspired from other entrepreneurs, whether they are billionaire household names or those just starting his or her entrepreneurial journey.

5. Associate with negative individuals

People who constantly make excuses, complain and have a negative outlook should be avoided like the plague. We all know people like this. No matter what you say or what the situation is, they always chime in with negativity. People like this are a cancer and their negative aura can rub off on you. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals that are as focused and determined as you are.

6. Wake up without a plan

Time management is a crucial part of being an entrepreneur. There are only so many hours in a day, so to be efficient you need to know what your goals are and what tasks you need to get done prior to starting your day. If you are scrambling to create a plan of attack every day you are going to be in trouble. End each day by mapping out the following day’s to-do list.

Related: Don’t Delude Yourself. These 3 Common Behaviors Hold Your Business Back.

7. Be scared to make changes and adapt

You need to be willing and able to adjust your plan and overall strategy, because there is a very good chance that you will need to adapt to maintain success in the future. Imagine if Apple never adapted and just stuck to making computers? After releasing the iPod it started manufacturing smartphones, tablets and now are releasing its first wearable technology, the Apple Watch. Once just a computer company, it is now a consumer-electronics powerhouse.

8. Let your bark be bigger than your bite

Successful entrepreneurs don’t sit back and talk about what they are going to do. They plan, follow through and conquer. Nothing is going to get accomplished just by talking about it, and nobody is going to be impressed with words alone.

9. Focus solely on dollar signs and decimal points

Instead of chasing the money, focus on creating products and services that make a difference and provide value. If you do this, the money will come. I would be lying if I said the goal of my company wasn’t to make money, but focusing on providing a great service paves the path for the money to follow.

10. Let failure stop you

Most statistics state that eight out of every 10 new businesses fail. Successful entrepreneurs go into everything knowing that there is a chance of failure. If in fact they fail it is viewed as part of their growth and they keep plugging along.

James Dyson is a perfect example, as his first 5,126 prototypes were failures, but the 5,127th one worked and went on to become the top-selling vacuum in the U.S. He is now worth $4.5 billion because he never once let failure stop him.

Related: 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master Self-Awareness

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Common—And Disastrous—Financial Mistakes to Avoid

Coins on graph paper
Getty Images

Some issues are inevitable, but it’s easy to avoid these simple financial mistakes while starting and growing your business

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re busy working every day to find your way, build your product or services, grow your company and achieve your goals. Unless you’re a financial whiz, it’s not always easy to also work out your financial plan and pin down precise numbers; sometimes important financial details can fall by the wayside. Even if you are a financial whiz, creating a financial plan and managing your finances can be challenging. But it is essential that you understand the importance of accurate financials — both for your own stability and ability to plan, and to convince and assure potential investors of the validity of your business.

As an entrepreneur, you can make many financial mistakes. However, once you know the potential missteps, you can take simple steps to avoid them. Here are the top five financial mistakes startups make and how to steer clear:

Miscalculating (or Not Calculating) Your Cash Burn

Your burn rate is the amount of capital you go through every month to keep your business running. If you don’t have a good understanding of your burn rate, you are seriously hindering your ability to achieve your milestones before your money runs out. According to Hiscox’s survey of new business owners, approximately one-third underestimated monthly expenses. Along the same lines, almost 20 percent of new business owners realized that they didn’t have enough financing. It’s all too easy to miscalculate your operational costs, so initial financial assumptions are often off. Keeping track of all of your startup expenses will minimize these miscalculations.

The first step in managing for cash flow is to create a bottom-up projection, using real-world variables. (see my previous article on Bottom-Up vs Top-Down Forecasting). Top-down forecasting can lead entrepreneurs to be overly optimistic about the sales they’ll close and the revenue they’ll earn. Bottom-up forecasting will give you a more realistic (albeit a less inspirational) gauge of how much money you’ll need to get going — and keep going.

Re-forecasting is also key. You need to account for both fixed and variable costs and continually make projections that accurately reflect the real state of your business. (For more information about managing your burn rate, see my previous article on How to Reduce Your Startup Business Burn Rate.)

Not Completely Understanding Your Market Place

If you don’t properly understand your market, you may be guilty of pricing your products/services incorrectly. Don’t merely add your costs and calculate in the margin you’d like to make. Consider your market position and the value of your offering; start with price and work backwards. In your calculations, keep coming back to the marketplace: Who is your customer? What need does your product/service fulfill? What do you have to offer? Who is your competition? And what trends may affect your market, and how?

Hiring and Expanding Too Quickly

One of the greatest expenses of any company is its people. To keep your costs low, you need to consider ways to save money on staffing. A big mistake many startups make is hiring too quickly. Having too many employees is a huge drain on your funds.

In addition to the recruitment and salary costs, there are additional physical costs such as a necessarily larger office space, equipment and supplies. There’s also the psychological cost: What will happen to these people if your company doesn’t grow and you need to lay them off? And don’t forget the all-important reputation cost as well. How will it look to investors and others if you have to disassemble your team? Instead, hire slowly as you go.

Making Bad Hires

Another key to saving on staffing costs is hiring for potential as opposed to experience. Don’t waste money hiring experience just for the sake of experience. And, whenever possible, outsource non-core competencies. For example, outsourcing your financial support frees up your time to focus on other aspects of your business. The company you hire will be responsible for making sure that you stay on track and take care of your financial obligations.

Doing Your Own Finances (When You Have No Training)

If you’ve closed a seed round of funding, have a lot of expenses, and/or are earning real revenue, you need a CFO to help you manage your finances on a strategic level. If you don’t yet have a lot of financial activity, you may not be in need of CFO services. But, at the very least, you still need some financial support with your day-to-day accounting and bookkeeping. Honestly, it will cost you more in the long run to do your own finances rather than hiring a professional from the get-go.

Note that there is no need to bring a full-time accountant and CFO on staff. If your company is still small, it makes more sense to outsource these functions, getting support on an as-needed basis while simultaneously reducing your cost structure. Just don’t do it yourself!

TIME Careers & Workplace

15 Tips for Being Happy at Work

Mug with smiley face
Getty Images

Want to be happier at work? Try taking time out for these proven techniques

Inc. logo

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.

Breaking news. In 2013, unhappy employees outnumbered happy ones by two to one worldwide, according to Gallup. Based on studies that took place in 142 countries and contained approximately 180 million employees, only “13 percent of employees worldwide are happily engaged at work.”

Of course, you probably didn’t need statistics to know that. Being miserable at work has just become a way of life. Or, has it?

I’ve been trying to be happier each and every day. With 2014 coming to an end, it’s time to turn over that new leaf and start actually being happy at work. But how can you accomplish such a seemingly hopeless task?

Try these 15 proven tactics that will make you happy at workplace.

1. Have a Sense of Meaning

In 1983 Steve Jobs convinced future Apple CEO John Sculley to leave his job at PepsiCo by asking him one question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Why was this so effective? Besides sparking his curiosity and imagination, it gave Scully the chance to do meaningful work. This has been backed by research from Wharton management professor Adam Grant, who has found that “employees who know how their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don’t; they are vastly more productive, too.” Additional research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile has discovered that no matter the size of a goal–whether curing cancer or helping a colleague–having a sense of meaning can contribute to happiness in the workplace.

2. Create an ‘Office Nest’

Jennifer Star, a founding partner of the Balance Team, notes on Monster that since you spend so much time at work, if you want to improve your happiness there you should “make your space your own, decorate your area as much as your company policy permits, and make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as you can be in your office.”

3. Find a Work Best Friend

Research from my free hosting startup Hostt has found “that having a best friend at work can turn a moderately engaged worker into a highly engaged worker.” When I hire people, I try and really pay attention to referrals of workers. When workers are engaged in friendships they contribute more to the bottom line.

Christine Riordan states in the Harvard Business Review that employees who “have friends at work perceive their job as more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying.” Furthermore, having friends at work can create a support system, comradery and a sense of loyalty.

4. Smile

Something as simple as smiling can improve your happiness at work because it tells your brain to be more happy–thanks to the release of neuropeptides. Smiling is also contagious and will make your co-workers smile as well.

5. Leave Personal Problems at Home

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, informs CBS News that “when your personal life is in tumult, a lot of emotional hijacking goes on. Emotions consume you and stress exhausts you.” When it happens that you have an inordinate amount of stress, it will seem like your work is never ending, you will watch the clock, and you will be distracted from being more productive.

While it’s easy for your personal life to carry over into your professional life, make sure that you attend to personal matters before heading out for the workday.

6. Be Future Oriented

According to experts like Geoffrey James, “you’ll make better decisions and be more satisfied with your results if you know that most of what you’re doing in your work at this time still fits into your long-term plans and goals. That’s only possible if you keep those plans and goals in the forefront.”

7. Say ‘Thank You’

Based on experiments from Professor Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School and Professor Adam Grant of the Wharton School, “receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people that are around us, too.”

In fact, their experiments have discovered that 66% of students helped a fellow student named “Eric” because he thanked them in advance for reviewing his cover letter.

Instead of just saying “thank you” to your peers–and even receptionists and maintenance–you can be proactive and ask for feedback to receive some much-deserved gratitude. Definitely don’t ask again if a person you have previously asked is determined to make you feel unappreciated, or if they are continually condemning you or your team.

8. Take a Breather

It’s incredibly easy to get burned out during the workday. That’s why you need to take a minute and breath before moving on to your next task. Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness at Work, informs Business Insider that “without some breathing space in the face of constant demands, we won’t be creative, competent, or cheerful.” She also adds that by not taking a break, “we won’t get along with others as well, and we won’t take criticism without the possibility of imploding. It is a must to control the level of our daily stress.”

My friend and marketing expert Liv Longley states that employees also need to take time off to recharge from the stress of work. In fact, taking a vacation not only relieves stress and recharges us, it can also improve our overall health and make us more productive at work.

9. Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated

According to Shirly Weiss, a certified holistic health and nutritional counselor and consulting expert for the Balance Team, “maintaining a good diet and keeping yourself properly hydrated throughout your workday can really make a big difference in your energy level and attitude.”

Instead of hitting the vending machine for lunch, have meals that involve yogurt, asparagus, honey, cherry tomatoes. Eating foods that keep your blood sugar within a normal range will stop headaches and fatigue, as well as help you concentrate better.

10. Get Organized

Chrystal Doucette suggests on Chron.com that having an organized workplace will help you be better prepared and work more efficiently. It can also improve your happiness since a “clean desk makes the work environment seem less hectic and stressful.” In short, you have enough stress with work, so avoid the additional stress that clutter and scrambling for lost items will cause.

11. Don’t Multitask

Despite the myth, multitasking isn’t effective. Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University claims that multitasking “wastes more time than it saves.” He also states that it decreases concentration and creativity.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the amount of work you’re trying to juggle through multitasking, focus on one task at a time. Many do well with a simple checklist to accomplish this.

12. Accept People for Who They Are

You can’t change who people are. Instead of letting their personalities or actions affect you, take a step back. You could try techniques like counting to 10 before responding to them, avoiding finger-pointing, and maintaining a professional attitude. There are many fantastic books on this subject as well.

13. Move Around

Whether it’s finding the time to take a walk outside, run up and down the stairs on your break, stretch, or do a 10-minute exercise, moving around throughout the workday has a number of beneficial effects–even if you already exercise and eat healthy.

As Lifehacker points out, sitting all day and working on a computer can lead to health concerns like weight gain, heart disease, eye strain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

In short, when you feel better, you’ll be in a better place mood-wise as well.

14. Reward Yourself

Whether it’s by going out to dinner with your significant other, purchasing a new gadget, enjoying a piece of candy, or giving yourself a pat on the back, (the politician applause), find the time to reward yourself after you’ve completed a project or had a fruitful day.

You can even take that a step further and prime yourself to be happy. Research has found that doctors who prepared themselves to be happy were able to reach a diagnosis twice as fast as their colleagues.

15. Reflect on the Day

Why are you working so hard? You can answer that question by reflecting on the day and recalling something that was positive. When you record these moments in your notebook, smartphone, tablet, etc., you’ll have a reminder of why your work matters to you. You can refer to these statements of positive reflection whenever you need a boost.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Rules for Successful Networking

Circle of empty chairs
Getty Images

There’s more to networking than just showing up

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Networking. Everyone does it — but how do you really win at it? Although Woody Allen was credited with saying that “showing up is 80 percent of life,” it’s that final 20 percent that really makes the difference. That is, it’s about how you show up.

Whether it’s the overzealous networker who tries to give everyone his card but has no clear direction of what he’s doing, or the wallflower who doesn’t meet a single person even after showing up, so many people network incorrectly that it actually works against them. With that said, here are a few easy-to-use basics to help you win the networking game.

Meet People Through Other People

The best way to meet people is through referrals. Stick around people you already know who know the people you want to meet. By being introduced through them or joining their conversations, you’ll likely receive a warm introduction to the person you really want. You’ll see this same effect on LinkedIn through their online introduction tool, or through joining the right circle at an event with somebody you know.

It’s Not About You

Although you’re trying to meet a new partner, developer or customer, you’re not going to get ahead with that kind of attitude. This is because everybody else thinks the same way, which is why they’re at the event. It’s worthwhile to go against the grain instead. If you can’t connect for yourself, think about how you can make connections for others. Listen to what people’s needs are and try to make a connection for them, even if it doesn’t benefit you. They’ll remember you the next time around and reciprocate — that’s how you utilize the power of networking.

Get Out of Your League

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and hang out with people out of your league. I went to private executive events before I was even an executive, and when I was half the age of others in the room. No matter who you are, you can find a way to relate to people as long as you’re confident, carry yourself well and are not trying to sell yourself.

Spending time with people who are a step ahead will push you to become better, whether it’s through the advice they offer or the level at which they operate.

Don’t Sell, But Have a Good Elevator Pitch

The worst networkers try to sell or otherwise push their needs onto others. Whether it’s someone looking for a job or selling their services, they rub people the wrong way. People don’t like to be sold to — they like to buy. In order to get them to want to buy into whatever it is you’re doing, or be interested in helping you, a relatable story or connection is a must. Strike up a conversation; it will make building a connection much easier and they are more likely to trust you. Do you have a common friend? Did you work at the same company? Find common ground early in the conversation.

And when they ask you what you do, make sure you have a short-and-sweet pitch to summarize yourself. This is called an elevator pitch, and should be 30 seconds or less. I always try to make sure it’s simple and relatable to everybody, but it does change from time to time depending on the audience. If I can construct my elevator pitch to be more relatable to a specific person, I’ll pitch it that way.

Make Them Come to You

Why go to networking events hoping to meet people when you can make them all come to you? Try holding a niche networking event around your industry that will attract the type of people you’re trying to meet. Everyone will either know or want to meet the host — you — and you can influence who will actually show up. It beats going to some random event hoping you meet the right people. Not to mention that you’re likely to have a lot of acquaintances there already, allowing you to more easily meet people through them.

For example, if you’re trying to meet potential customers for your new app that serves restaurant business owners, build an event around the grand opening of a new restaurant. Sponsor the event and invite people from the industry, offering them complimentary food and wine tastings. Think, if I were this person, what would make me want to go to the event? Build your event around that compelling need.

Conclusion

So there you have it: a few basic rules you can follow to win at networking. Remember, the goal is about building relationships — the network — and a good network will pay major returns in the form of new customers, partners and opportunities. Get out there and meet people, but make sure you’re meeting people the right way. And don’t forget that in networking, it’s that last 20 percent of effort that really counts.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com