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Turing Distinguished Leader Series: Ashu Garg, General Partner, Foundation Capital

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Turing Distinguished Leader Series: Ashu Garg, General Partner, Foundation Capital


In this Turing Distinguished Leader Series session, we conversed with Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital. Ashu is an early investor in several unicorns, including Turing.

Jonathan Siddharth

Welcome to Turing Distinguished Leader Series. Today, we have a special guest, Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital and Turing’s founding investor, with us. So Ashu, could you please introduce yourself?

Ashu Garg

Absolutely! Thank you for having me here today. Here’s a very quick introduction—I’m a general partner at Foundation Capital.

I’ve been at Foundation for 14 years. And before Foundation, I started my career as an engineer graduating from IIT Delhi. After that, I spent 15 years in various operating roles, primarily in technology companies, [that culminated] in two stints at Microsoft—leading the machine learning and AI work, and before that, leading field marketing for the software businesses.

And coming to the topic of today’s discussion: What’s the secret behind building unicorns? 

Great companies always start with some unique insight into a customer problem and solve it. In any recipe, the salt makes all the difference. The ingredient [in the case of companies] is founders. 

I think they are what make a difference when everything else is equal. Founders who have persistence and are willing to do what it takes to cross the hurdles every day are game-changers.

Jonathan Siddharth 

Yeah, that’s right. You said to pick a big customer problem and have a unique insight. But there’s a lot of work to validate the problem and the feasibility of your solution. How do you know if this is a unicorn-sized problem?

Ashu Garg

You’ve said it well. I think in most B2B problem spaces, especially at the application layer, the hardest part is identifying a problem that deserves your attention and time and identifying a point of entry through which you can create your wedge. 

It takes a lot of contact with customers and other people participating in that market to figure out that one thing people will buy. What is that thing that will reduce friction for them? What’s the compelling customer value proposition?

And in most cases, if you spend too much time coding, you miss the forest for the trees. Because now, you lock yourself into whatever features you’ve built without really understanding what the market wants. Now, that’s not necessarily always true. To be fair, I think there are situations, especially as you go lower down the stack, where the technical innovation matters. And very often, you have to follow the technology and see where it leads you. 

Let’s return to your broader question of how do you decide that a market is large enough? At some level, you never know. But I think about this from the first-principles point of view. 

Let’s take Turing as an example. If you ask yourself: How many engineers are there today? What do you think that market will be three or four or five years from now? In the case of Turing, the market is massive. It’s a multi-trillion dollar TAM. Now, not all of that market will be applicable on day one. And so, you have to slice and dice that and think: What engineering will people outsource? Who will be willing to outsource remotely? 

Some of those are judgment calls. But in general, my instinct is if you’re solving a huge problem and thinking

about the market broadly enough, you have a much higher probability of building unicorns than if you start with a very narrow view of the market.

Jonathan Siddharth

That sounds great. What things does a company need to do differently as it transitions from a scrappy startup phase to a unicorn phase?

Ashu Garg

That’s a great question. In some ways, it’s a paradox. What makes you successful at the scrappy startup stage can hinder you in some ways later, but you have to find the right balance. 

One: I would say the first thing that exceptional startups in the scrappy stage do well is they have an incredible level of focus on a customer problem on a set of customers.

I would say that’s something you don’t want to lose. And so the balance for founders and companies is [focusing on] innovating on the product without getting distracted by new shiny objects that come along, especially as they get more cash. Cash, in some ways, is the biggest distraction. It allows you to start thinking about doing different things. And you want to leverage the cash to strengthen your value propositions, but you don’t want to get distracted by trying too many new things. So focus while innovating. 

Two: In a small, scrappy startup, the founder / CEO does almost every job in the company. And as you start making the transition, you have to step away and build a leadership team. You need executives in each key role to build and scale those functions. But attracting, recruiting, and managing executives take a lot of time and energy. It is more than a full-time job for most CEOs. 

And so, how do you balance the things you’re doing today? Because you need to keep growing the company every day while building your leadership. That’s hard. I encourage people to start doing this early. 

Because if you suddenly get to the point where you need to hire six executives simultaneously,  you’ll hire zero. And so you need [to hire] one every quarter, and you need to plan through that. So I think that’s a big transition. 

Three: The third big transition is about putting systems and processes in place and keeping them lightweight. Now that you’re no longer managing every function yourself, you want to have some indication of how the pipeline looks. And so you need some tracking tool or some process [in place.] But, at the same time, you want to keep that lightweight because you don’t want to build too much bureaucracy and silos in the organization. 

So those are the three things to think about as you go from a scrappy startup to a unicorn and beyond.

If I had to pick the one thing that is most likely the barrier to becoming a unicorn or a decacorn is how much time and energy people spend on building a leadership team. Because this process is never complete. As soon as you think you have the right leadership team, another hole will emerge. So you just have to make it part of what you do every day.

Jonathan Siddharth

And I think unbilled recruiting is one part of it. Another aspect is making sure that your executive team is successful, building the right relationships with their peers, and integrating well with the company. 

And that takes quite a bit of work because, at each stage in the company, the kind of people you hire are slightly different. It’s almost like driving a car. There’s first gear, second gear, third gear, and when people come into different gear ratios, there’s a little bit of constructive friction from time to time. 

And there’s merit in both sides.  There is no blanket area to match this culture. The company’s DNA changes with these new ingredients [new members] that you add into the gene pool.

Ashu Garg

Yeah. And most founders have to realize that great executives bring a ton to the company, but they are still executives. They’re not founders. Many of them have worked in a siloed environment. They’re used to working in silos and creating silos. Many of them have worked in more political settings, and even if they’re not usually political themselves, some of that rubs off. 

So how do you create an environment where they work well together? If you focus on their gaps, there will always be friction. But if you focus on their strengths and help each of them realize what they are exceptional at, that’s when a team goes into gear four, and you start to see an acceleration in speed.

However, you have to decide when someone’s weaknesses have gotten to the point where they are a barrier to the next growth phase. And at that point, you have to have the difficult conversation and have them step aside. 

In the first phase of a company’s growth, you want a sales leader that leads from the front. They’re still a manager of salespeople, but they’re often the best salesperson in the team. They’re the ones you go to when you want to close the big deal. Sometimes those people are also very good at the process, but they’re often not. 

And in the early days of getting to the unicorn stage, you can supplement them with process people. But as you start to go from unicorn to decacorn, it’s almost entirely about the process. So sales must become a system at that scale. And you need someone who can design and run that system. 

Going from a team of 10 to 100 plus salespersons often takes a different leader. Not always – some people can do both. But if you don’t have that person, you have to make a change.

Jonathan Siddharth

Awesome. What are some common pitfalls that companies run into at the unicorn stage? 

Ashu Garg

That’s a great question. But, just like there’s no one formula for success, there’s no one reason why companies struggle or fail. In many situations, luck is a big part of it. 

But if you put that aside, the first reason companies fail is because the value proposition is just not compelling enough. So listening to the customers and thinking: “Is this [value proposition] really important enough?” is vital. 

The second thing is a lot of founders underestimate the friction to buy and adopt new technology. Most founders have a very optimistic, risk-taking outlook. But if you look at the society at large, that’s a tiny subset of people. Customers don’t have that personality. 

So most customers are thinking about: “What if this doesn’t work? What is it going to take for me to integrate this technology? How am I going to migrate data? How am I going to manage my downside risk?” 

So you have to think through the adoption issues. And even if you have a compelling value proposition, it is crucial to think through how you get people to adopt. I’ve seen companies with incredible technology that never closed a sale because of adoption issues. 

The third thing is challenges around founder dynamics. The initial phases are challenging. There are some fantastic days. There are tough days, too. If you have only one founder, they have challenges because there’s no one to talk to. If you have multiple founders, then you’ll run into fingerpointing situations.

So I would say those are some factors companies should look out for. I’ve never seen a company fail because of the lack of cash. If you have the right team and customer momentum, you’ll always raise money, in my opinion. If nothing else, I’m a firm believer that once we’re in for a penny, in for a pound.

Jonathan Siddharth

That sounds good. Can you talk a little about how companies plan when they reach this unicorn stage? What’s the process? Do they look one year ahead or three? What do they get right or wrong as part of the planning process?

Ashu Garg

It’s a great question, Jonathan. The lack of planning is hugely problematic. And at the same time, too much planning early on is also problematic because you’re essentially throwing darts blindfolded. And so at the unicorn stage, I think about a company as having a solid product-market fit, having absolute clarity around the unit economics, their sales cycle, sales, productivity, etc., 

First of all, you have to start with a top-down view. If you let every executive build a bottom-up plan, then you get into a dozen strategies that you’re trying to reconcile with different assumptions. 

So you need to create an envelope for the plan that is top-down. The envelope needs to have a lot of clarity. For most companies, it is four quarters out. In some cases, where you have very short sales cycles, you can put two quarters out. 

In some cases where sales cycles are more than six months, you need a six to eight-quarter plan. This duration is necessary because the planning window depends on how far ahead you have to hire salespeople. And if you have a 12-month sales cycle, then a 12-month plan doesn’t tell you much. So, in that case, you need a 24-month plan. 

You then put some basic structural constraints in place. You put some basic assumptions around productivity, resourcing, etc. Be very careful not to make too many aggressive assumptions. One of the most significant risks of planning is assuming an improvement in every metric. Individually, those improvements seem reasonable. But cumulatively, it is not very likely it’s going to happen. 

Start with a basic plan. You want to get every executive team member to participate in the planning process. And there is a combination of buying and negotiation there. 

And during that process, the most challenging part for a CEO is listening and distinguishing where an executive is merely negotiating and where they just don’t believe the plan is doable. Because if it’s the latter, you have to change the plan. 

There’s no point in having a plan that your exec team doesn’t embrace. Your senior team doesn’t have to have 100 percent confidence, but your people have to believe it’s possible. So if I try to pick a number, I would say 80 85 percent confidence level [is vital.] So I think that process of going back and forth and fleshing out the assumptions is a critical step in the path. 

This planning process and the process of articulating the assumptions help you understand what the drivers and warnings of the business are at that point.

Once you have that plan with that envelope, I recommend reviewing that plan. Let’s assume it’s a four-week plan for a typical sales cycle where a company has a three to six-month sales cycle. You should review that plan with a lot of detail every two quarters and revise it because every six months, you’ll have a lot more information every six months. 

And you should do a very lightweight review quarterly and start tweaking the assumptions quarterly. But most of the update happens every two quarters, and every time you update the plan, you want to do a rolling four-quarter plan. So you then have planned out the next two quarters. This is because you need to start building capacity for the subsequent year at that point.

Jonathan Siddharth

And typically, how long have you seen companies do this process?

Ashu Garg

Once you have 10 million in revenues, somewhere between 50 and 100 customers, and ten plus salespeople, planning becomes critical. Otherwise, a lot of uncertainty starts to creep into the system. 

But generally, I would say if you do a rolling four-quarter plan every six months, that should take you through to a billion dollars in revenues.

Jonathan Siddharth

Right. And at a unicorn stage, what do you see typically getting discussed at board meetings?

Ashu Garg

So I think board meetings have two dimensions to them. There is a dimension around operational and financial metrics reporting at the unicorn stage. At this point, you have a plan and an understanding of why you are deviating from the plan. And so, it’s essential to define the key metrics that you’re going to focus on. There should be one metric for revenue, one metric for cash, one metric for gross margin, and you need to have a shared understanding of how those are defined. 

Getting that set of metrics agreed upon and digging in at the start of every board meeting is critical. Ideally, you want to circulate the metrics in advance. So the board meeting is focused on a discussion around ‘why’ not ‘what’ the metrics are. I would say that’s a third of a board meeting. 

The second third of the board meeting is an opportunity to dig into one or two strategic topics. Again, you can pick a topic that you do a regular cadence around maybe twice a year. So if a metric isn’t going well, that’s an obvious topic to dive into. So pick a couple of topics that you can go deeper into and have a more substantive conversation. 

The trick is to know where you’re looking for input and help from the board versus where you’re trying to drive to a decision because those are three different things. And you want to be explicit about which of the three sets of objectives you’re chasing. So that’s the second third of the board meeting. 

The last third of the board meeting is a closed session, which provides a safe environment for the CEO to talk about the people dynamics in the business. But most of the closed sessions focus on the people dynamics because that’s a top area where founders have almost nobody to talk to very often, not even their co-founder.

So I would structure the board meeting as three thirds.

Jonathan Siddharth 

I’d love to dig into the second portion regarding the topics to discuss. Are there any patterns in what issues typically come while discussing metrics? Or is it particular to individuals or companies?

Ashu Garg

So I think there are some patterns. I don’t think they apply all the time. But most of the time, one of the pitfalls for companies transitioning from unicorn to decacorn is customer satisfaction or customer advocacy. 

[In this stage] the product-market fit is not static. And when a company has five or 10 or 20 or 50 customers, the founders and key leaders know every customer and their issues. As you start scaling, some distance builds up between the day-to-day product usage by customers and the key leaders in the company. 

And I think that that’s where the risks of product-market fit getting compromised are the most. So at that stage, having a handle on what is going on with your customer base and creating the proper instrumentation is essential. 

That instrumentation can include everything from CSAT scores to other product usage and adoption metrics. So that’s the number one topic at that stage because it requires structure.

The second topic at this stage that becomes critical is starting to instrument productivity metrics for the organization because you now have many layers of leadership. 

You need to figure out your engineering productivity. But, then, you need to find a way to have that discussion. Because very often, as you’re increasing the size of the engineering team, engineering productivity is falling. And that shows up over time, either in the form of technical debt or slowing innovation. And so, having the conversation around engineering productivity is an important deep dive topic to have.

Very often, in these cases, in the case of engineering directly, you may not get a lot of input from the board. So you are not looking to the board to make a decision. But it forces the team to rally around that topic and make a conscious decision. 

Sales productivity is so much easier to measure that people focus only on that. But I’ve often seen that the lack of discussion around engineering productivity is what drives a decline in value creation. 

Jonathan Siddharth

Yeah. That’s right. And speaking of boards, what advice do you have for founders as they add board members for companies at this unicorn stage? Who’s a good board member for the company at this stage in the company’s journey?

Ashu Garg

There are three things to think about when you add a board member at this stage.

First, you want to have someone adding value where you are looking for good advice. You want a board member that adds to the conversation around the most important strategic topics for the next few years. 

Second, you want to find a board member with whom you have chemistry. Ensure they have chemistry with the rest of the board, too. The most important thing about a board is the board dynamics. If the board works well together, is collaborative, can drive to a decision, is effective in communicating with each other, then that’s a superpower for a company because most boards aren’t like that. 

Most boards have inherent friction. People are not talking to each other. Everyone’s multitasking all the time. Nothing gets done. So ensuring every board member improves the dynamics are the second critical thing. 

The third thing is you want a board member who brings a different and diverse perspective. Sometimes, that perspective comes from gender diversity, racial diversity, functional diversity, etc. So it’s unique to the specific situation. But a board’s job is to help open your eyes to new things and guide you in situations you haven’t encountered before. And so that’s why diversity matters so much.

Jonathan Siddharth

Okay, got it. And typically, at this unicorn stage, do you see companies do board meetings quarterly?

Ashu Garg

So I recommend companies have a formal board meeting every quarter at this stage and then have a board check-in between board meetings. So you’ll end up having eight meetings a year, and you’ll use the check-ins to focus on the tactical topics. But even in the check-ins, try to discuss whatever is on top of your mind. And I would suggest having the quarterly meetings in-person as far as possible.

Jonathan Siddharth

That sounds great. And the final question as we wrap up is, what should companies look for in terms of their investing partners in the unicorn stage? I’m sure it’s different from the early stage.

Ashu Garg 

The unicorn stage is very different from the early stage. First of all, you have to separate [the investors.]

Are you bringing on board an investor who has no board role? Are you bringing in an investor that has a board role? And I think there’s a lot of overlap, but there are some differences. The most important criteria at this stage are ‘do no harm.’ Typically, board members have some marginal upside in a company from unicorn to decacorn. 

So I’m very focused on downside risks because the companies are still very fragile at the unicorn to decacorn stage. You’re playing soccer with a ball of glass. You want to hit hard, but you don’t want to hit too hard. So I think that’s the number one criteria to me. 

Then comes some of the other stuff we’ve talked about, like how they would add value? What are the things you want help with? And can they help you with those topics? I think you’re still too early to worry about the public market experience at this stage. I think it’s the decacorn stage that you start thinking about how they can help you go public. 

At the unicorn stage, focus on the basics. Focus on ‘do no harm,’ consider if they can help or be thoughtful about the strategic issues? Can they introduce you to great executives? Remember, great executives have the most impact on the company.

Jonathan Siddharth

That sounds great, Ashu! And for everyone reading, Ashu and Foundation Capital have been phenomenal partners right from day zero. So if you’re building a company that’s looking for its first round of capital, you should definitely talk to Ashu. 

I highly recommend working with Ashu and Foundation if you’re either at the unicorn stage or have ambitions to be a unicorn someday.

Ashu Garg

Thank you so much, Jonathan. I appreciate that. It’s been an extraordinary journey together, and we’re just getting started. All the founders out there, if you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me, but also check out my podcast, B2B CEO, on the Foundation website, where I’ve interviewed many decacorn CEOs, including Eric Yuan, George Kurtz, Dan Springer, and others. Thank you. 

Watch the complete video.

Jonathan Siddharth

Jonathan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Turing.com. Turing is an automated platform that lets companies “push a button” to hire and manage remote developers. Turing uses data science to automatically source, vet, match, and manage remote developers from all over the world.
Turing has 160K developers on the platform from almost every country in the world. Turing’s mission is to help every remote-first tech company build boundaryless teams.
Turing is backed by Foundation Capital, Adam D’Angelo who was Facebook’s first CTO & CEO of Quora, Gokul Rajaram, Cyan Banister, Jeff Morris, and executives from Google and Facebook. The Information, Entrepreneur, and other major publications have profiled Turing.
Before starting Turing, Jonathan was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Foundation Capital. Following the successful sale of his first AI company, Rover, that he co-founded while still at Stanford. In his spare time, Jonathan likes helping early-stage entrepreneurs build and scale companies.
You can find him Jonathan @jonsidd on Twitter and jonathan.s@turing.com. His LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonsid/

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The Important Benefits of Outsourcing Your E-Commerce Business

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Deanna Ritchie


Nowadays, the impact of e-commerce is being felt in nearly everybody’s life. E-commerce is changing how we do business around the world. Additionally, despite its relatively recent ascension, e-commerce has changed significantly with the passage of time.

Approximately $3 trillion USD was spent online globally in 2018. That demonstrates that an astounding 15% of all retail sales are now online. Consequently, just about anyone can now launch an e-commerce business. The sector is expanding significantly in today’s technology-driven environment. As a result, one of the best ways for small e-commerce companies to reduce expenses and increase efficiency is through e-commerce outsourcing.

When should you outsource?

The key indicator here is your rate of business growth. Of course, the initial stages of an e-commerce startup company’s operations will be simpler to manage. However, if the company grows, the work will necessarily get more complex. Therefore, outsourcing often aids in managing your business to greater success.

When you outsource, you appoint a third-party e-commerce outsourcing company to handle a certain business function on your behalf. In other words, outsourcing is the process of creating items and providing services through a third-party firm, product, or service instead of performing the task internally.

More trust is necessary for the outsourcing process. Therefore, you must pick a dependable service provider to meet your company’s needs. Additionally, there are other advantages to outsourcing your e-commerce firm. Listed below are some of the most significant benefits.

1. You can focus on your core business.

The e-commerce fulfillment responsibilities are essential, but they also get more time-consuming as your firm expands. When you transition your e-commerce outsourcing to e-commerce outsourcing services, you will gain enough time for branding, product design, customer support, and other core business activities.

Spending more time on e-commerce fulfillment will diminish your focus on scaling your e-commerce business. The outsourcing firm you select should be able to handle other duties, including your inventory, packing, and shipping requirements. You can concentrate on your core business operations to grow your firm to the next level.

2. Reduce operational costs.

Reducing operational and infrastructural costs is one of the significant advantages of outsourcing your e-commerce business. You can reduce the cost of recruiting new staff and leasing extra space for new infrastructure with e-commerce management services.

Further, you can save much money on your current team as they can better concentrate on their assigned tasks. You might use these funds to expand your business opportunities instead.

3. Increase efficiency.

E-commerce support services are typically highly specialized and knowledgeable about the e-commerce sector. They are therefore well-versed in the existing operating procedures and rules, which will facilitate good client relations. Additionally, their knowledge will make your e-commerce firm more effective.

4. Reduce risks.

When your e-commerce activities are outsourced, it will help lessen liability and related risks. The savvy e-commerce service provider will typically have success managing significant projects and brands. This can help you to identify concerns like traffic spikes, credit card theft, and more. And you can avoid and eliminate business hazards by utilizing their best practices.

5. Increase your resource flexibility.

E-commerce outsourcing will support financial stability and flexibility based on demand fluctuations, such as during the off-season or extended holidays.Your service providers might offer you further assistance even if you have pressing needs for human resources.

6. Develop a competitive advantage.

Your brand will increase its competitive advantage in the market due to outsourcing your e-commerce operation. This is obviously another significant benefit.

You can concentrate on your primary business, enhance efficiency, and effectively manage internal resources with specialist e-commerce outsourced services. With this, you can expand your company more quickly than your rivals.

Wrapping Up

Highlighted above are the main advantages of outsourcing your e-commerce business, but of course there will be others. When you outsource your business, your provider ought to offer you several benefits to help you grow. Additionally, they’ll give you access to the newest technology and innovative opportunities to boost your productivity.

Featured Image: Alena Darmel; Pexels.com. Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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12 Habits of Highly Effective Teams

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Calendar


It’s never easy leading a team, regardless of how many members you have. When different types of people are grouped together with different temperaments, miscommunication can occur, which inhibits workplace productivity. As a result, it can drive you to climb the walls. With a bit of tact, however, you can get your team to reach great professional heights.

According to legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

Even though leading a team can be challenging, working in a team can motivate, inspire, and drive employees. It is important to remember, though, that putting together a team at work does not guarantee its success right away. To be truly effective, a team must adopt a variety of positive habits and behaviors. And here are 12 such habits.

1. Quality 1:1s are scheduled every week or biweekly.

In terms of 1:1s, it’s difficult to put a value on them. Or, so we thought. But, we now have plenty of data to measure this essential soft skill.

Studies show regular 1:1s can boost productivity, reduce stress, solve bottled-up frustrations, and more.

As reported by Gallup: “On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.”

Similarly, a report from MHA in 2021 showed that talking to a manager about stressful things at work was strongly tied to the most healthy workplaces.

Moreover, due to regular 1:1s, GE managed to “drive a fivefold productivity increase in just one year.”

Undoubtedly, 1:1s play a fundamental role in high-performing teams, regardless of industry. Most leaders, however, do not prepare adequately for or do not have these opportunities.

2. The main goal of all parties is the same.

Each of us has some goal when we start a new job or project. But do those goals align with the rest of your team?

The entire team’s goal must be the same, even if some team members have different objectives. To be truly successful, a team must have the same principal goals and strive to achieve them all. In an environment where everyone is heading in the same direction, delays and project deviations are less likely to occur.

I would suggest setting new team goals every quarter. Ideally, this should be an active objective to keep everyone engaged. This could be a significant milestone within the next three months, like increasing overall productivity or completing a project.

When setting these intentions, make sure they’re SMART. In other words, every goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Remember, many goals can cause employees stress or anxiety if this standard isn’t met. You can alleviate this by setting them up for success from the get-go.

Also, I strongly recommend that everyone track new goals using their calendars.

3. Encourage time blocking.

“As the name implies, blocking your time is a way to plan your day into manageable chunks,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Rampton. “More specifically, each block of time is devoted to one particular task or a group of similar activities.”

Sounds simple.

“In contrast to a to-do list, time blocking tells you when and what to do at any given time,” Rampton adds. At first, the concept might seem counterintuitive. However, dividing your calendar into blocks keeps you focused. Also, it keeps other people from stealing your time.

“Furthermore, time blocking lets you begin each day with specific tasks to complete rather than following an ever-expanding to-do list,” he adds.

As a leader, promote and encourage time blocking. How? Tell your team things like, “I’ve got 30 minutes to review your proposal on Tuesday, so I’ll let you know.”

It’s easy for them to follow your example if you show them how you do it.

4. Maintain a distraction-free working environment.

Get in the habit of “Play Hard to Get” from Not Today: 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity by Erica and Mike Schultz. It sounds obvious. But you can’t be productive when you’re distracted.

According to a survey by Mopria Alliance on workplace distractions, today’s workers experience 77 distractions a week, or one distraction every 31 minutes. Mopria Alliance’s survey found that most in-office and work-from-home employees were distracted by:

  • Answering personal communications (such as online chats, texts, and phone calls)
  • Checking their email
  • Internet browsing
  • Having unplanned conversations with colleagues

Not only does this interfere with their productivity, but it also can contribute to a decline in their mental health. With that said, you might ask your team to pause Slack notifications, close out of email, and keep their phones out of reach while they’re engaged in deep work.

5. Give your team members ownership.

In a team environment, everyone shares equal responsibility and accountability for their responsibilities and quality of work. Additionally, “team ownership” does not mean someone owns the team. It means that everyone has equal ownership.

As part of team ownership, employees ask each other for feedback, such as:

  • “What is going well for you today?”
  • “If you need assistance with this assignment, what can I do?”
  • “Are you going to finish your assignment by the deadline?”

Overall, it emphasizes collaboration, communication, and collective leadership.

To implement ownership among your team, here are some ways to get started:

  • First, make sure that they feel like they belong, like celebrating wins.
  • Then, give your team a sense of ownership. For example, let them choose how and when to work.
  • Align work, goals, and purpose. Developing a solid sense of purpose at work is strongly correlated with making intentional efforts to improve performance, according to a Northwestern University study.
  • Avoid micromanaging. Rather than focusing on the small details, think about the big picture.
  • Get input from your team. Encourage everyone to provide constructive, kind peer feedback to each other.
  • Eliminate the culture of blame. Every team will inevitably miss a deadline, make an error, or underestimate a risk at some point. Use these mistakes as learning moments instead of pointing fingers or feeling angry.
  • Reward your team for success, as well as being transparent.

6. Allow free dialogue to take place.

Communicating openly within the workplace should be a habit all leaders adopt. The key to having an accessible dialog is to avoid being rude. Instead, the idea is to allow your team to express ideas, proposals, and suggestions for improvement without worry.

Honesty is also part of open communication. As such, encourage your team to give feedback and share opinions. By doing this, you’ll always know how your team feels and what you can do to make improvements.

If you want the conversation to flow freely, try the following:

  • During work hours, you can have informal meetings. The occasional half-hour coffee break will not significantly affect the total productivity score. But it will strengthen the personal relationship between your team.
  • Make an online hub where everyone can communicate and collaborate. This could be an online blog or a Slack channel where team members can exchange ideas or offer advice.
  • Get the team together after work for some team activities. For example, you can organize a weekend team-building event or a monthly dinner. Regardless, let everyone gather in an environment that isn’t an office. And, leave the work talk back at the office.

Keep in mind that open communication involves both parties, so make sure you’re involved as well.

7. Embrace healthy debate.

“An absence of any conflict or debate on a team may be a sign of a dysfunctional team,” writes business speaker, author, and workplace trainer Michael Kerr. “The absence of heated debate might indicate apathy, complacency with the status quo, a lack of passion, or an inability to share uncomfortable truths or differing opinions – which can lead to dangerous group thinks.”

“The best teams encourage healthy debates that focus on ideas, not personalities,” Kerr adds.

8. Avoid positional thinking.

“Your position or title shouldn’t define your leadership,” says John Maxwell. “That’s positional thinking, and it will cause you to disconnect as a leader.”

Influence is the essence of leadership. “Nothing more, nothing less,” he adds. “I make it my goal to see the people I lead as teammates, not employees. We work together toward a common goal.”

In other words, if a team “wins,” it isn’t because the one-star player did well. It’s because everyone played well. Get your employees to adopt this attitude, then build a team that helps each other shine. As Ralph Nader perfectly put it, “The role of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

9. Assume the best intent.

In my opinion, this is probably the easiest habit to break but the hardest to remember. People tend to assume someone purposefully fails you when tensions are high, and frustrations are peaking. But, at the same time, making a choice to be happy and assuming nobody meant to frustrate and irritate you is much more complicated.

Even on high-performing teams, there may be instances where your assumption is incorrect. But this tends to be the exception, not the norm. When we take a moment to pause and assume positive intent, we’re able to reframe circumstances to reflect a more positive outlook.

10. Work at an optimal pace.

“It’s not about speed but finding the right pace,” says executive leadership coach Lolly Daskal. “If your team moves too quickly, burnout will soon begin to set in; too slowly, and things become stagnant.”

To continue to grow and succeed, productive teams must find the right balance, Daskal adds. As a result, it is now more important than ever to create an environment in which teams can work effectively. “Every team member wants to know: Do I have to work around the clock to look productive, or can I pace myself to bring out my best work?”

11. Embrace failure using the Waterline Principle.

What’s the Waterline Principle? W.L. Gore popularized this idea:

“The waterline principle means that it’s ok to make a decision that might punch a hole in the boat as long as the hole is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship.

But, if the decision might create a hole below the waterline which might cause the ship to sink, then associates are encouraged to consult with their team so that a collaborative decision can be made.”

Giving your team the freedom to fail is what the Waterline Principle is all about. Let your team be independent and take risks where mistakes won’t hurt them or the business too badly.

Taking this approach can contribute to an open team environment and take a balanced approach to failure. Additionally, it can accelerate everyone’s development by giving them more opportunities to learn from experience.

12. Have fun.

In the end, you want your team members to enjoy working together and enjoying their work. When a team works well together, they have fun, leading to more productive and efficient results.

In the opinion of author Dave Hemsath, fun is the single most important characteristic of a highly effective and successful organization. Why? Because companies with a fun-oriented culture offer lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, less downtime, and greater employee loyalty.

Published First on Calendar. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Alena Darmel; Pexels; Thank you!

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7 Tips for Small Business Marketing

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Joe Martin


If you want to get your small business off the ground, you know how important it is to attract new customers. Without any new customers, your business would have no way of expanding and growing. And one of the quickest ways you can broaden your customer base is by harnessing the power of marketing.

But small business marketing isn’t something that just happens overnight. A successful strategy needs lots of planning, research, and effort — none of which can be done without the right information. To help you get started on your small business marketing plan, we’ve put together this handy starter guide of 7 tips for marketing a small business.

1. Email Marketing

Email is a great way to market your small business. It’s quick, easy, and inexpensive to set up a newsletter or email campaign. Plus, you can use it to showcase your products and services and bring people back to your website. Email marketing also allows you to target specific groups of customers based on your analytics data, which can help to improve your ROI.

Moreover, email marketing is a great way to get customers’ attention and keep them engaged with your brand. Here are some things to consider when using email marketing as part of your small business strategy:

  1. Use a newsletter to build relationships with customers.
  2. Send coupons and discounts using email marketing.
  3. Use email marketing to promote special events.
  4. Make people feel like a part of your brand by sending them exclusive content.
  5. Offer freebies or discounts in exchange for an email address.
  6. Give people more than one way to opt-out of receiving your emails.
  7. Always follow up with buyers.

No matter what, make sure your email marketing efforts align closely with your business goals. If you don’t have a way to measure how effective your campaign is, then there’s no point in sending out emails.

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Increasing brand awareness is one of the most essential steps in building a successful small business. You can do this by creating an effective social media strategy and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Building relationships with influencers will help to spread the word about your brand online and offline through word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.

Having a strong brand can also be appealing to potential customers. Customers are more likely to buy from a brand they trust, so developing a strong reputation is crucial for building your business.

Customer service is another important aspect of building a great brand. You need to provide customers with the best customer experience possible to win them over. This can mean offering quick responses on social media, answering questions and inquiries quickly via email support, or even providing phone support for customers who prefer it.

3. Develop a Detailed Marketing Plan

If you want to be successful at marketing your business, you should have a detailed plan in place to help you track and reach your goals. This plan should include the steps you need to take to achieve your business goals as well as a timeline for when each step will be completed.

A good marketing strategy would include things like:

  • Identifying your target audience.
  • Creating a persona for each persona in your target audience.
  • Determining what types of content will resonate with your audience.
  • Creating an online presence on social media platforms and other websites.
  • Creating a marketing calendar to keep track of when you will post content, send out emails, and run paid advertisements using tools like Facebook ads. 

These are all important components of a marketing strategy, and you must take the time to create one if you want your business to succeed.

4. Focus on Content Marketing

Content marketing does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. You can write articles for your website or blog, create videos and share them on social media, or shoot photos of your products that you can post on Instagram or Pinterest. The more content you create, the better your chances of attracting new customers through search engines like Google and Bing.

As part of any good inbound marketing campaign, you should focus on creating high-quality content that is relevant to your audience. It’s one of the most effective ways to build trust with potential customers and establish yourself as an expert in your industry. 

Always be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to incorporate content marketing into your business marketing strategy. For example, you could try:

  • SMS marketing to reach people on their mobile phones.
  • Podcasts and webinars to reach a wider audience and boost your brand awareness.
  • Twitter chats, Facebook Live, Instagram Stories or Snapchat to connect with customers in real-time.

The sky is the limit when it comes to content marketing. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is an incredibly important part of any marketing strategy, but it can be overwhelming for a small business owner who doesn’t have much experience in this area. Consider working with an SEO expert who can help you create an effective plan for improving your search engine ranking over time.

You can use SEO to:

  • Increase your website traffic.
  • Improve your organic search rankings.
  • Drive more leads to your business.

In addition, local SEO can help attract more foot traffic into your store or office by targeting people who are close by. You can also leverage your existing customers to generate more business by providing them with the tools they need to share your content with their friends. Use tools like Google My Business to quickly and easily create an online presence in your local area. 

6. Video Marketing

Video marketing can be done in many ways, from a simple explainer video that describes what your company does to a full-blown production with actors and special effects. It depends on how much you want to spend and where you’re hoping to get traffic from.

When you’re creating videos for your business, they should be high quality so that they look professional and attract viewers. You should also have a consistent tone throughout each video so that viewers know what to expect from each one. You can upload videos on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, making it easy for people around the world to view them.

A few of the best practices for video marketing that you should follow include:

  • Create a script for your video and make sure it’s short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Keep a consistent tone throughout each video so that viewers know what to expect from each one.
  • Don’t cram too much information into one video as it will be difficult for viewers to follow along.
  • Make sure that each video has a call-to-action so that viewers know what you want them to do after watching it.

Video marketing is an effective way to reach a large audience and build your brand. It’s also an important part of any digital marketing strategy, especially if you want to reach people who live outside of your area. As long as you follow the best practices for video marketing, it should be easy to create videos that people love watching.

7. Website Design

Website design is important because it determines how your business is represented online. Your website should be easy to navigate, and the information on it should be easy to find. You should also make sure that your site is mobile-friendly so that people can see it on a phone or tablet without having to zoom in or scroll around.

You can improve your website by ensuring all the links work and adding content like blog posts and videos. You should also add a contact form so that people can get in touch with you if they want more information about your services or products.

It will also be necessary to incorporate SEO into your website so that it appears higher in search engine results. You can do this by including keywords in your content and using them in the titles of your blog posts. It would also be helpful to add social media buttons to your site so that people who like what they see can share it with their friends and followers online.

A strong website is essential for any business, but it’s especially important for sellers of services and products. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on your website, there are plenty of ways to ensure it looks professional and attractive.

Tracking Website Visitors

Using analytics tools like Google Analytics can help you understand who is visiting your site and what they want to see. It can also help you identify areas where you can improve, such as making your site more mobile-friendly or improving the quality of your content.

You can also incorporate tracking into your advertising campaigns. For example, if you use Google Ads or Google Adwords to promote your website, you can use Google Analytics to track how many people click on your ad. That can help you determine if the campaign is working and how much money it’s costing you.

Conclusion

Marketing a small business is a full-time job, and it’s up to you to define your strategy. You won’t get it right on the first try; it takes time to get to know your customers and figure out where they spend their time. 

But by following these guidelines and incorporating them into your company’s mission statement, you can begin defining your own small business marketing strategy from the start and get ahead of your competition. And if you’re having a hard time, consider reaching out to a small business marketing agency like Scorpion for some help. 

Featured Image Credit: Photo by SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS; Pexels; Thank you!

Joe Martin

VP of Marketing

Joe Martin is currently the VP of marketing at Scorpion, a leading provider of technology and marketing to help small businesses grow. Formerly he was CloudApp’s GM and CMO and a Head of Marketing at Adobe. With over 15 years of experience in the industry and tech that makes it run, he provides strategic guidance on how to build and use the right stack and marketing for businesses to grow. Joe believes marketers need smart training and leadership to scale company growth. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @joeDmarti.

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