Small Business News
When communication and trust break down among you and your top execs, you need to fix it fast. Here's how to get to the root of the problem.
When stress is high and deadlines are tight, it's natural--and even OK--for a team to experience some tension. What's not OK is a breakdown in trust and clear communication. If you, the CEO, and your management team have gotten to the point where you're airing your grievances against each other to other people in the office, you need to fix the problem fast.
Liane Davey, author of "You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done" and vice president of team solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital, has a solution to fix communication and trust issues between executives. Davey has created what she calls a "Team Inoculation program," which she refers to as "the flu shot for teams."
"Few people are aware and honest enough to see the role they play in the dynamic of the team," Davey writes in the Harvard Business Review. "When things on teams go wrong, most people spend their time blaming everyone else for their predicament," she writes. "You have to take accountability for the effectiveness of your team."
The key to fixing a quarrelsome team is to recognize the role you've been playing and change your actions. Below, read the roles Davey has outlined with the necessary changes you need to make to come to a solution.
The 'Wicked' One
Usually one or more people are actively destroying the team dynamic, Davey says. If you rely on truculent tactics--disparaging, trivializing, and interrupting your team members, or spreading rumors and telling employees to ignore another executive's orders--you need realize you are causing the strife. "With greater self-awareness and some coaching, you can change. In my experience, the wicked team member is actually the easiest to convert. Usually this is because the wicked ones are smart and want to have an impact," Davey writes. But if someone else is the wicked one you have to "give them a way to make a more significant and positive contribution," she says.
The 'Wronged' Team Member
If you're the team member who has been marginalized and trampled, you need to change your attitude. There is no time for "wallowing" and you need to start standing up for yourself, Davey says, but do not go on the attack. "It's time to change how you show up. You might be surprised to learn that, in my experience, it's more likely to be the wronged who is voted off the island than the wicked. That is because the wronged often lack the energy and resilience to make another earnest attempt at making the team better," Davey writes. "They are exhausted by the experience and often past the point of no return."
You could very well not be involved in the dysfunction at all--you may be happy to sit on the sidelines and watch your team go after each other's throats. But, as a leader you cannot be a bystander. Not intervening when you know you should is just as bad as instigating the problem. A leader needs to mediate between the two opposing sides and help everyone come together again. "The witnesses are the first to throw up their hands and say that life on the dysfunctional team is unbearable. Unfortunately, commiserating does nothing to change the course of things, and their disengagement costs the team, too," Davey writes. "Are you just watching as your team goes down the tubes? Get in the game."
Effective email marketing campaigns require proper timing, deep knowledge of your audience, and plenty of restraint.
Email marketers must walk a fine line when crafting newsletters and other messages. Your missives can be a welcome promotion, filled with information of real interest to subscribers and sent infrequently enough to remain unobtrusive--or they can be just another inbox-clogging nuisance. Here are the most important tips from Mashable on getting subscribers engaged and keeping them from clicking the dreaded "unsubscribe" link.
Pay attention to timing
Not only does the message itself need to be timely to resonate with subscribers, but it's important to send it at the right time. Mashable cites a recent survey by Experian Marketing Services that finds emails sent on Saturdays and Sundays receive the most clicks and yield the highest revenue-per-email rate. Late nights are also good--with a lower volume of competing messages, emails sent between 8 p.m and 4 a.m. garner the highest response rate. You'll need to do some testing to determine the optimal times.
Personalize the message
Sending out a single email blast to all subscribers may save time, but it's a poor way to make a real connection with them. It's far more effective to break the list into groups based on demographics or behavior from the user data you've collected. The more relevant you can make the message to each individual recipient, the more likely they'll be to engage with it.
Don't forget mobile users
A huge portion of your audience will receive your email newsletter on a mobile device, so making the text readable and the links clickable is crucial. That may seem obvious in this mobile-dominated era, but a study by software company Equinux earlier this year found that less than 12 percent of major brands' newsletters were optimized for viewing on mobile displays.
Acknowledge when a subscriber engages
To maintain the connection with subscribers, send an appreciative response when they sign up, as well as the first time they make a purchase or engage with your email materials in some other way. Just be careful not to bombard them with follow-up messages--sending too much email is the surest way to lose new subscribers.
Give an "opt-down" option
Another way to avoid email overkill is letting customers choose to receive fewer newsletters or other messages. When someone on your list indicates that s/he wants to unsubscribe, present this as an alternative.
Expect to lose some people
No matter how useful and well tailored your campaign is, you're going to lose some subscribers, most often within 30 days of their sign-up date. It's an inevitable part of email marketing, but one that you can minimize. When people opt to unsubscribe, ask them to fill out an exit survey where they can click a button to indicate their reasons for leaving and fill in a field to give more specific feedback. Collecting this information can prove vital for preventing the loss of other customers in the future.
It's been a landmark year for innovative tech companies locking horns with regulators. The genetic-testing company is the latest case study in the government's watchful eye on Silicon Valley. Here's what it means.
It seems we could barely go a week this year without government regulators stepping in against a Silicon Valley company.
First it was Uber, the car-hailing app, which has regularly been under attack from municipal taxi-and-limousine commissions as well as a patchwork of city and state regulators across the U.S. I told the story earlier this year of how the company fought back against regulators in Denver, Boston, and faced an uphill battle in Miami.
Next, Airbnb, the website that facilitates short-term home rentals, found itself in the crosshairs of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, in part for costing the state millions annually in tax dollars. The company was slapped with a subpoena, and some renters fined.
Last month, federal regulators told yet another audacious, innovative company to stop in its tracks. The U.S. Food and Drug administration issued a stiff warning against personal-genomics startup 23andMe. And that warning was followed five days later by a class-action lawsuit from a customer in the Southern District of California.
It's a little shocking for a seven-year-old company founded and run by a reputable, well-educated entrepreneur--Anne Wojcicki--with $126 million in venture-capital funding to just be told to cease marketing and selling. The $99 saliva test kit, from which individuals' genetic material is analyzed, is the company's only product, and it's been around five years now. What gives?
The product itself doesn't seem to have earned the FDA's ire. Rather, it was the company's marketing. On the company's website, its service is explained as a "first step in prevention," and having the ability to help users "mitigating serious diseases." However innocuous those claims seem--they sound a lot like medical claims, which is an area the FDA regulates strictly. And it seems, based on public documents, that the FDA and 23andMe had met more than a dozen times and had exchanged hundreds of emails before the warning hit.
Whether the company chose to ignore earlier warnings is unclear (it did ramp up its marketing push recently, including a surge this season in TV ads). But that wouldn't be an unusual reaction, given how its Silicon Valley peers react to regulatory gray areas. Generally, they take the hit or pay the fine, and plow forth.
However, 23andMe suspended its marketing. It's playing nice. (It is unclear whether the company is still selling genetic tests; CNET reports that it is.)
On the same day the New York Times marvels at the pace of innovation coming out of private companies --and, namely, those in tech in the San Francisco Bay Area--rather than from government, Bloomberg Businessweek concludes that the case of 23andMe "is a great example of how government regulators often overstep their bounds to control new-to-the-world businesses."
Perhaps the only lesson here is that the discord between bureaucracy and innovation has never been louder. From Businessweek:The real issue is that the FDA--like virtually all government agencies--is predisposed to support the industry it regulates, so existing constituents in that industry are protected by it. As a result, innovative new businesses that challenge incumbents are penalized.
The incumbent here being the already in-flux health-care industry, it's difficult to predict which way this will go. The American Medical Association continues to say that it believes genetic testing should be done only in the confines of a doctor's office. But if the FDA is trying to regulate based on the accuracy of one medical startup, it should start looking more broadly at those making health-tracking devices, too.
Gregory Ferenstein writes at Techcrunch that he sees wild variation in the data provided by wrist pedometers, scales, blood tests, and sleep trackers that he's used. To 23andMe critics concerned that some customers, after receiving a positive result for the BRCA1 gene associated with breast cancer, will demand early treatment without consulting a doctor, he says: "Trust me, dieting information causes irrationality every bit as much as genetic abnormalities."
That might be an overstatement, but it highlights the slippery slope of regulations the FDA has decided to go down.
The Colorado college town was meticulously planned to make it one of the more livable cities out west. The unexpected result? A start-up in Shangri-La.
A new startup claims to have packaged the science of well being into a fun, easy to use platform. Does it work?
Is happiness just a natural state some of us are born into (and others are not)? Is it a matter of luck? Nope, say social scientists like Harvard’s Shawn Achor, to a large degree happiness is a matter of good mental habits.
That’s great news, of course, for those of us who want to improve our well being (honestly, who doesn’t?), but it also raises a serious question: What’s the best way to go about training yourself to be happier. Startup Happify aims to be the answer to that question.
The platform teaches users five key skills (to savor, thank, aspire, give and empathize or, handily, STAGE) that positive psychologists who advise the startup have identified as underpinning happiness, using quick activities and games. Users rack up points and can share accomplishments with others on the platform. It’s based on sound principles, according to other psychologists who work on these questions (though its attempts to incorporate social sharing have raised some eyebrows as less in line with research and the young app’s effects have yet to be thoroughly scientifically tested, though studies are now underway).Can Your Really Teach Happiness?
If you’re skeptical that an app can actually boost happiness, don’t worry, so was Happify co-founder and serial entrepreneur Ofer Leidner. "The interesting part about Happify is that, as entrepreneurs, we’re pretty skeptical people generally," he told Inc.com, but he claims that "the scientists who have developed these methods have tested them in the field for decades and are now testing them with neuroscience methods" like functional MRI.
The science is solid, he feels. It’s the term 'happiness' that sometimes confuses people. Don’t expect to smile all day long with this product or any other. No intervention can make your life hardship-proof. The goal instead, Leidner says, is to work out the emotional muscles that help us enjoy our day-to-day and deal with setbacks.
"We’re using happiness because it is a mass market, well understood term, but happiness has a very specific meaning in the positive psychology field," he cautions. "Our hope is the term happiness helps create curiosity around Happify. When you delve deeper you understand that it’s about helping people develop emotional skills that help them live better."
"Happiness as we refer to it is habits that help people create their lives for themselves, help them flourish, help them feel more fulfilled and satisfied," Leidner says.Happify-ing the Workplace
If you’re struggling with personal issues or stress at home, Happify may be one answer, but does it also have something to offer the business owner in the professional domain? As a founder himself, Leidner says Happify as a company has benefited from the lessons of its own app.
"As a company have adapted many of the activities that we recommend to our users. For example, we have a meeting to summarize the week. We talk about things we achieved, plans and things we need to achieve the following week. That meeting is always finished with an intervention called ‘Three Good Things.’ Each of the senior people sitting in this meeting basically tells three good things that he’s grateful for that week. This helps you fight the negativity bias that we all have and focus on the good things, and is a sure way to end the week on a good note," he explains. "We also apply savoring and mindfulness exercises -- when we have lunch breaks, spending time savoring food -- very simple and fun activities."
It’s led to a more positive corporate culture and an optimistic orientation that’s alert for opportunities, he feels, and it’s not bad from the perspective of cold, hard numbers either. "There are many corporations that are now applying this science in helping develop these emotional skills in the workplace, and there is a direct correlation between that and productivity and the reduction of healthcare costs," Leidner says.
Are you interested in the idea of happiness training -- at home or at work?
Companies in the Sharing Economy offer a cheaper, more unique, consumer-controlled experience. It's no wonder they'll pull in a collective $350 billion this year.
The sharing economy is tough not to love if you're a consumer. It is all about, well, sharing goods and services at a reasonable price.
You can rent a spare room through Airbnb, rent out your car on RelayRides, and even rent some spare closet space at ClosetDash. For all those people thinking this collaborative economy is a trend--or companies suing the likes of Airbnb and Uber--Melissa O'Young, founder of the event series Let's Collaborate!, says the sharing industry is only getting stronger. O'Young says the industry will pull in $350 billion in transactions this year alone.
During a recent lecture at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Social Impact Conference, O'Young moderated a conversation with founders creating businesses in the sharing economy. The panel's message was simple: the sharing economy has changed the consumer landscape and is disrupting businesses in every industry. Below, read their reasons why you can't ignore the sharing economy.
The old system is broken.
"The reason [the sharing economy] is all happening is because systems are broken,"Ted D'Cruz-Young, founder of food-sharing cooperative Mealku, told Knowledge@Wharton, the Wharton School of Business' blog. Mealku, in particular, is taking aim at the fast food delivery system. The start-up lets people order portions of home-cooked meals online from certified chefs cooking in their own homes. With just a $10 a month fee, you can pick a meal online and have it delivered to your home within 40 minutes of it being made. It's a simple way to connect chefs with a bit of time on their hands to customers who want affordable, healthy take-out.
Quality control is better.
Quality control for giant corporations has its limits. The sharing economy, however, is all about peer-to-peer transactions and transparency. If an Airbnb renter is a poor host, for example, users will know almost immediately. The entire industry is based on the bottom line of satisfying the customer and building a sustainable community, not selling as many products and making as much money as possible. The quality control mechanisms, like ratings and feedback, are right on each vendor's profile to help customers choose a reputable one.
Instead of the anonymity of faceless corporations, the sharing economy is a system of people--an ecosystem where the customer and the service provider are known to each other. "People have nowhere to hide, and that's great," D'Cruz-Young says. "We're removing bad actors from industry after industry after industry. You don't have the layers between us and finding out who is responsible for making something bad. It's just a person."
Internet is the ultimate life-support.
As Airbnb gets sued by hotel chains and states, it is only getting more noteworthy. The Internet is the ultimate distribution engine--it is always on, always working, and will continue to spread the sharing economy across the globe. John Wiseman, vice president of online teaching platform Skillshare, says the sharing economy will never disappear, even if some of its start-ups become outlawed. "It's like Prohibition for alcohol--it just went underground. The Internet is the ultimate access tool. You can't hide it," Wiseman says.
The tech giant spent a reported $200 million to acquire a social analytics start-up. Here's why.
Apple raised an eyebrow or two Monday, confirming to The Wall Street Journal that it had acquired Topsy, a social media analytics firm that monitors conversation and sentiment on Twitter, for a reported $200 million. The news left many wondering what Apple, traditionally a hardware company, would want with the six-year-old start-up.
According to Gartner's consumer technology analyst Brian Blau, however, the deal makes perfect sense. "There's a combination of interesting pieces that could be really useful for a company like Apple," he says.
Topsy, for starters, is one of just three authorized resellers of Twitter data, along with Gnip and Datasift, which announced Tuesday it had landed $42 million in funding. Topsy's algorithms can sift through that Twitter fire hose and glean insights into user sentiments and trends.
"From a marketing standpoint, Apple could use Topsy to figure out what customers are saying on other social channels," Blau says, and he's not just talking about what customers are saying about Apple, either. "Apple needs to keep up with competition and understand what customers are saying about them, as well," he says.
While most companies are happy to outsource these services, Blau says the acquisition fits with Apple's philosophy of owning its products beginning to end. "They want to make sure they have control of each piece of their technology," he says, adding that the reported $200 million Apple spent on the start-up is still probably less than they would have spent to develop similar capabilities in-house.
The acquisition, finally, puts Apple in a league with other technology companies that are incorporating social data into their traditional services. Both Google and Bing's search engines are influenced by social data. Ross Rubin of Reticle Research told The New York Times he predicts that Apple will begin using Topsy analytics to make smarter recommendations for the App and iTunes stores. Derrick Harris at GigaOm, meanwhile, guessed that social data could improve Siri's functionality.
For his part, Blau says paying attention to social will also give Apple earlier insights into product issues. "They've probably missed some opportunities and found out about issues with products much later they should have known about them," he says. "That's probably the major reason why they acquired this company."
Two questions remain now: Will Apple shut Topsy down and keep the data for itself? And will Topsy continue to focus solely on Twitter analytics? Requests for comment from Apple and Topsy were not immediately returned.
"Apple will need to have access to all different types of social data in the future, whether they can get it from Topsy or not," he says. "How they will get it if they don't get it from Topsy is the question."
Sam Bacharach, director of the Cornell Institute for Workplace Studies, explains how to people to believe in your leadership and expertise.
Philanthropists are hoping to make today to goodwill and charity as big as Black Friday is to retailers. You might ask: 'What's in it for me?'.
This morning, as I was emerging from Penn Station on my way to the office, I had an amazing experience. There were two volunteers soliciting money from the Salvation Army, and they were having a blast: singing, dancing, and blasting catchy hip-hop music while ringing their iconic bell.
Just seeing their passion gave me a huge smile from ear, and I wanted that feeling to continue, so I have them some money from my wallet. It was only $5, but for that $5, I walked to work feeling great, and ready to take on my day and the challenges it would bring.
I've written before about how to improve your mood by giving, but it really is a selfish act, if you think about it. For only 5 bucks, I put myself in a great mood, and went on to have a productive morning.
As it turns out, today is "GivingTuesday," and around the world, the United Nations Foundation and thousands of other organizations, as well as individuals ranging from Bill Gates to Charles Best, are encouraging people to give. They may tell you to give because so many organizations need your help--but I say, give because it's selfish. It makes you feel good, which leads to being more passionate and productive in your work.
Around lunchtime, my high from giving money to the Salvation Army started to go away, so I selfishly gave 30 minutes of my time to all of our interns at Likeable, meeting with them and helping guide them in their careers and lives. They appreciated this a lot, and I got that high right back. It turns out, giving doesn't have to mean money--it can mean time--for some, this might be an easier way to get that high.
Just before writing this, I gave again, this time to my public high school and to Donor's Choose, two of my favorite nonprofit organizations. Now, halfway through Giving Tuesday, I'm feeling better than ever before! I'm also ready to deal with angry customers, demanding investors, challenging employees and all of the other issues that come with running a fast-growing startup.
For just a few dollars and a few minutes of my time, I was able to get myself into a mood that people the world over pursue through other means that can cost a lot more money and can have horrible side effects on their health.
So, are you ready to celebrate #GivingTuesday--and every day--by acting selfishly and giving away your time and money?
Rather than spending money to snag new customers, lavish some love on your current ones.
I love selling. But I’ve always been suspicious of marketing, at least the way it seems to be practiced by most companies. It seems to me that a lot of marketing is often deployed to cover up a product’s deficiencies rather than point out what makes it great, to confuse as much as to illuminate.
So there is no marketing department or chief marketing officer at 37signals. Instead, we behave as if everything we do is marketing. Customer service is marketing. So is product quality. The phrasing of that error message, what you call that button, how you greet your customers-;it’s all marketing. And so far, so good: Our flagship product, Basecamp, has earned the business of tens of thousands of businesses almost entirely on the basis of word of mouth.
But I’ve recently begun wondering: What would our business be like if we put some effort into formal marketing? How many more people could we reach? How many more Basecamps could we sell if far more people know about Basecamp? So we decided to talk to some marketing execs about what they would do if they were charged with spreading the word about Basecamp.
It was an interesting exercise. Not because we hired someone. We didn’t. But I learned a lot about marketing in the process.
When I hire a designer or a programmer or an office administrator, I know what I’m getting. But marketing is different. The very definition of the term changes depending on whom you’re talking to. To some, it’s all about search-engine optimization. To others, marketing means advertising. This
one speaks in terms of public relations. That one approaches marketing through the lens of analytics.
But what was interesting to me was that no matter the specific orientation, every marketer
we met with was focused on one thing: customer acquisition. To the marketers-;to most people,
I guess-;the goal of marketing is to expand your market by picking up business that you didn’t have from people you didn’t know.
I understand that. You market to increase awareness, attract customers, and spark sales.
It makes perfect sense.
But the more I spoke with all of these talented and passionate marketers, the more I realized that I wasn’t interested in what they had to offer. In fact, I found myself thinking less about new customers than about our existing ones.
So we made a decision: 37signals will begin spending money on marketing. But rather than targeting new customers, we’re going to focus our energy and resources on helping current customers get more out of the Basecamp they have.
You’re probably thinking, Say what? If you already made the sale, why bother selling it again?
That’s the thing. If my crash course in marketing taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to market to boost sales in the short term. Instead, our marketing efforts will be about expanding our current customers’ awareness of what’s possible with our product. I want today’s customers to know more about how Basecamp can help turn them into heroes of progress at work.
The way I see it, I can spend a lot of time and money trying to persuade a bunch of newcomers to try Basecamp. Or I can spend a lot less effort helping current customers get more out of something they’ve already purchased and enjoy using. As I said at the outset, sales take care of themselves when you put out a great product and treat your customers with the ultimate respect.
Or, to put it another way: If you take care of your existing customers, they will take care of your new customers.
Robots are just the beginning. Here's a lesson in logistics from the everything store.
A fascinating (albeit one-source) segment on 60 Minutes that aired Sunday took viewers behind the scenes at an Amazon.com shipping facility, which was just as futuristic as it sounds.
Tiny robots known as footers shoved packages off a conveyor belt. And somewhere down the hall, an inventory picker (human, not robot) perused the endless halls, plucking items that shoppers had purchased. Everything was efficient, from the machinery that slapped a black sticker on the boxes to the grouping of products, not by category but space.
Watching the show, I wondered if entrepreneurs could pull off such feats in their warehouses. Without $17.09 billion in revenue to play with, could they achieve such efficient results?
It turns out they can, so long as they stick with the basics. Here, two logistics and transportation experts weigh in on what Amazon gets right, and how you can too.
Always Be Automating
“As a small business grows, it is critical that they invest whenever possible into automation,” says Cameron Baird, the chief executive of CargoBarn, an Inc. 500 alum. A human touch is integral to quality customer service, but “the most efficient companies leverage technology to streamline processes, promote cost savings, and cut down on errors.”
Hundreds of variables also come into play when a company is transporting products. Product temperature, dimensions, weight, required delivery date, availability, location, are key, and costly if things go awry. Since the human brain can only manage so much, investing in WMS/TMS software helps to automate these tasks. Baird also says to consider outsourcing them to a third-party logistics company like Red Prairie or Transplace.
Build Something Small
Bruce Welty, the chairman and CEO of Quiet Logistics, an order fulfillment company that manages the online inventory and distribution for retailers like Zara, Gilt, and Bonobos, sees the beauty in thinking small.
“As your business grows, you can add to it in a modular way,” he says of his company’s robots, who move racks of merchandise. “In the distribution world, everything is moving at breakneck speed, so it’s hard to make changes. But with this, you can just add to the system and it will continue to operate. If the company changes or grow, we just add to it.”
And while it may sound obvious to some, small businesses should always be thinking about flexibility. "You want to be wary of any large infrastructure investments," Welty adds.
Make Everything Portable
“If you’re going to do fulfillment on a growing operation, you’re going to need more space,” says Welty matter-of-factly. “Every building has a theoretical limit on its space and it’s really disruptive when you change locations.” It can be difficult to repurpose the equipment that you already have. But if it’s portable, that’s another story. “You can just move the robot,” he says.
Keep It Simple
Something both experts agreed on was how effective Amazon has become at making everything simple, and uniform. There is no differentiation across any of the warehouses. “You have less software to manage, maintain, and support because everyone uses the same thing,” says Welty. “And if you need to move people from one building to the next, you have fewer opportunities for problems to arise because of the uniformity.”
Hackathons aren't just for geeks anymore. A wide variety of non-techies are trying to solve problems--some serious, some strange--through hours of brainstorming and pizza consumption.
Originally conceived as marathon coding sessions for software designers, hackathons have widened in scope tremendously. The events are attracting non-techies from a variety of fields, who bring their expertise to bear on business and social problems that organizers have deemed solvable through hours of continuous brainstorming and pizza consumption. Now if you can think of a challenge--no matter how strange or frivolous it might seem--there's probably a hackathon that addresses it.--Doug Cantor
Most people enjoy a good steak, but bringing that porterhouse to your plate entails a host of issues. Hack//Meat was designed to improve the conditions in which meat is raised, processed, and sold. One highlight at the June 2013 event was Agent Yum, a Google Glass application than scans meat at supermarkets to provide GMO and antibiotic information.
In February 2013, Purina and Mashable teamed up to put on a hackathon "to help people better understand their pets' wants and needs." Software developers, who were encouraged to bring their pets with them, built apps to assist with issues such as housetraining and keeping tabs on pets remotely.
Teams at this event in December 2012 took on very difficult and important sanitation problems in parts of the developing world. For most developers, it was unfamiliar territory: the solutions included apps like mSewage, which lets people easily report when they see untreated waste near public water sources.
More than a hundred tech professionals gathered in San Francisco in March of 2013 to hash out ways to increase the appeal of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Pretty standard stuff--except that the hackathon took place aboard a British Airways jet bound for London.
Comedians and app developers may seem like strange bedfellows, but Comedy Hack Day periodically brings them together for an overnight event where they create apps and hardware hacks with a sense of humor (and in some cases, some actual practical value). Projects at one Hack Day included an app that integrates news stories into the format of children's books, and HipCrax, "The first app designed specifically for smartphones with shattered screens."
Looking for a return to their '80s glory days, in December 2012 the NHL's Edmonton Oilers invited data-savvy fans to come up with new ways to analyze the team's statistics. Contestants who delivered the most useful and accurate predictive analysis were eligible for prizes such as game tickets and even a job with the organization.
Santa will get the hackathon treatment in Rome in 2013, courtesy of MONK Software. Developers are invited to bring ideas for apps for gift-buying or anything else mobile users might need assistance with during the Christmas season. Read more: The Year's Top 20 Most-Shared Video Ads
Here are five ways you can use Reddit to boost your online presence.
Reddit had more than 90,900,000 unique visitors last month, according to the company's webpage. Sure the site, which is centered around online discussion forums, is known for attracting some zany characters.
"Creators of Reddit developed the site as a sharing platform so that users could get involved in all sorts of weird and wacky topical chats," Influence Agents CEO Matt Hodkinson wrote in a recent blog post. Influence Agents advises businesses on their social media strategies.
"This site is primarily for those to share their opinions and passions online in a forum style environment." And that passion could work in your favor. You can be sure you'll be targeting users who have already shown an interest in certain topics related to your business, Hodkinson said.
Hodkinson discussed five tips for businesses looking to establish a presence on Reddit. Here's what you should know:
You can read Hodkinson’s full post here.
Welcome to the new entrepreneurial status quo -- business owners who crave independence, not dominance.
When you get to be my age, you realize that, in business at least, climate change is real. The environment for starting companies is constantly evolving. I believe that, overall, it’s easier to start a business now than at any other point in my lifetime. I also believe more people are trying to start businesses than ever before. So you might think we’d be seeing new companies generating more jobs than ever, but we’re not. The reason says a lot about where we’re going--and where we’ve been.
A little history here. Young entrepreneurs today tend to take for granted the encouragement they get from family, friends, and society at large. That wasn’t the case when I started my first business in 1979. Entrepreneurs were generally regarded as either eccentrics or losers. My mother was ashamed to tell people what I was doing. She would introduce me as her son the lawyer, although I hadn’t been practicing for many years.
Not until the mid-1980s did entrepreneurship become cool, thanks partly to Inc., but even more to people such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They had built big companies from scratch, and most of us wanted to do the same. Back then, $100 million in annual revenue was big. That became my goal, and I reached it, creating thousands of jobs in the process. Then I made some bad mistakes, landed in Chapter 11, and wound up destroying almost as many jobs as I’d created. Fortunately, other entrepreneurs weren’t so reckless. They turned the U.S. economy into a job-generating wonder.
For at least two decades, I seldom ran into any entrepreneur whose notion of success did not include building a business that would one day have a lot of employees. But that changed in the mid-2000s. I began seeing more entrepreneurs with a different mindset and a different goal. Many didn’t want employees at all. What they did want was the ability to support themselves and their families without having to report to a boss-;in a word, independence. Thanks to the Internet, moreover, they had an increasing number of avenues to pursue their independence.
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t any entrepreneurs who want to build big companies. Obviously, many do, and some succeed. Witness Twitter, Facebook, and Zappos, among others. But I believe entrepreneurs with such aspirations are a minority these days. As I’ve noted, most of the would-be entrepreneurs I meet are starting Web-based businesses on the side while continuing to hold full-time jobs. Their goal is to be independent rather than to build something big.
I expect this trend to accelerate, with one difference. Members of the post-Millennial generation won’t wait until they already have jobs before starting businesses. They’ll be planning for their independence from the get-go. That will pose new challenges for companies that want to attract and keep the best people. Smart companies are already offering employees a degree of independence unthinkable 20 years ago, including paid sabbaticals and flexible hours. They realize that they’re competing for talent, not just against other employers but also against the opportunity for employees to go out on their own. You can expect this competition to become increasingly intense. Now is the time to start preparing for it.
Do you have a question for Norm? Write to him at AskNorm@inc.com.
Why I invested in the social data platform, DataSift, in the first place.
I’m super proud to announce that DataSift has just completed a $42 million financing round coming at the end of a year where its revenue grew several hundred percent year-over-year. Considering our revenue is SaaS revenue this achievement is even more remarkable.
The timing of the announcement of this investment couldn’t have been timed more perfectly if we tried. Yesterday it was announced that Apple had acquired one of our competitors, Topsy, for more than $200 million. As this astute journalist pointed out, DataSift “likely would have cost a lot more to acquire.”
What gives? Why all the fuss about the Twitter firehose?
I started announcing my Twitter thesis back in 2011 (still serves as a useful read today). I stated that Twitter provided:
- Object Communications (now often called “the Internet of Things”)
- Predictive Data
- Augmented Data
And before that you might enjoy this longer analysis on why I invested in DataSift in the first place, which was written 2.5 years ago and still rings true today, stating the unique Twitter attributes that are disruptive:
- Real time
- Location Aware
- Referral Traffic
- Explicit Indicator (intent)
- Implicit Indicator (what can you infer about me)
If you want details to the bullets they’re in the posts above.
Put simply, the amount of public, real-time information that is now being created by hundreds of millions of users and soon billions of objects will change the way every major business, organization or government must operate.
It isn’t simply that when a leader in the US calls off negotiations with Iran he puts it on Twitter or when a leader from Iran rebuffs that Tweet publicly that a signal is created but it is the unseen. It is the oil pipeline explosion in Nigeria that is Tweeted before people even know a disruption may happen. It is the fact that somebody follows hate groups on Twitter and not commensurate opposing views and is about to be part of a selection group to be considered in an important trial. Those are the obvious cases.
But what if you’re a credit card company and you want to know where to find your next customers? Wouldn’t it make sense to look for graduation Tweets from high school or college? If you’re an auto dealer wouldn’t you want to ring-fence Tweets in your geography and look for keywords like “crashed my car” “totalled” or “thinking about buying a new car. should I go Audi or BMW?”
How can businesses not incorporate information into their marketing and sales funnels? How can governments not track hooligans, terrorists or criminals who give off public information.
Some startups I talk with mistakenly believe you can poll the Twitter API directly to get the feed but the Twitter API isn’t full fidelity, doesn’t have the full historical data corpus and isn’t real time.
But here’s the thing I love the most about DataSift and why we never would have considered selling for anything like $200 million.
Twitter is just the beginning.
DataSift is a real-time data processing platform that can be used with any data source including your internal data. It’s one thing to have “big data” initiatives with terabytes of data stored to query at any moment. But in a world where time is critical to decision-making and much of the data is flowing through public & private systems and perhaps not even in your data store yet - I believe real-time processing of data will become as valuable as big data storage itself.
Already two thirds of our customers are ingesting two or more data sources including Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, Bit.ly and so on, and we do private implementations with the likes of Yammer and others.
For technical teams we have a scripting language that allows teams to build complex queries from multiple data sources and ingest them in one single API stream. For marketers or business professionals we build a visual query builder that allows you to select data sources and human language queries against data and we will do the data extraction for you (and auto-generate the query language if your tech team wants to maintain or edit it).
No other vendor in the market allows a single API, a scripting language and a visual query builder and it’s these and other feature sets that have seen DataSift grow at the astronomical pace it has grown at.
And from an investment perspective I remain incredibly long DataSift. I’m an early-stage investor. I normally look to invest my first money below a $20 million valuation and when deals get to lofty prices I normally bow out to later-stage investors who have deeper pockets.
Not so with DataSift. We co-led the A-round with IA Ventures. We co-led the next round with IA Ventures without even asking other VCs to participate so we did an A-1 round. We knew we had a winner. In the B round we invested the maximum amount we could alongside the lead - Scale Venture Partners. And even in this growth equity round led by Insight Partners we asked for our full prorata investment and took as much as we were allowed to.
Obviously I can’t predict the future and it’s up to the great team at DataSift to continue to execute as well as they have to date. What I am certain of is that real-time processing of big data (both public & private) is going to build some multi-billion dollar companies. And I believe we have as good a shot as anybody.
If you want to read the company’s take on their funding their official announcement is here.
It’s also worth noting what a great win this has been for the UK as our tech & product teams are still based outside of London and we continue to grow those operations under the guidance of Nick Halstead and Tim Barker. In short order that team will top 100 professionals as will our US operations headquartered out of San Francisco.
Huge congrats to everybody at DataSift whom I’ve enjoyed working with so much over the past 2.5 years. Nick - the incredibly visionary behind the company and our technology. Rob - the CEO who came on pre-revenue and build out an amazing organization. Tim, my former co-founder and long-time colleague & friend who joined as global head of products. Pier who has built a world-class sales organization and processes. Ming who the hero of so many customers whose primary reference to other customers is, “make sure you get a Ming.” Steve. Andrew. Lorenzo. And a host of many other people I’m leaving out.
I’d also like to express my gratitude to the great friends, investors and board members on one of the most active boards I’ve been involved with. Roger Ehrenberg. Rory O’Driscoll. Chris Smart. You’ve been marvelous.
Now can we please do at least one board meeting in LA?!?
This article was originally published on Mark Suster's blog, Both Sides of the Table.
Want your words to wow? Take this basic advice to write more effective emails, memos, and other professional materials.
I took many writing classes in college but perhaps the most useful was one focused on business writing. My classmates and I spent a semester editing example after example of rambling or confusing letters, memos, and other professional materials. Here are seven bits of simple advice for clear and concise writing.
1. Limit prepositions when possible.
If you don't remember what they are, here's a list and primer. When overused, prepositions can weaken writing and contribute to wordiness. For example: "The meeting on December 1 about the budget" is sharper when written "The December 1 budget meeting." Also watch out for prepositions following a verb, such as "come up with" or "find out." Instead, you could use "generate" or "determine," respectively.
2. Avoid "very."
It smacks of laziness and indicates your sentence needs editing to pack a stronger punch. For example, consider: "The very tall man strode to the front of the line." The phrase "very tall" doesn't help a reader understand if the man is six feet tall or having to duck seven-foot doorways. How about: "Standing a head taller than everyone in the room the man strode to the front of the line." The second version paints a better picture, right?
3. Watch out for forms of the verb "to be" such as am, are, is, was, were, being, and been.
Usually you should aim for an active, not passive voice. "There are three things you can do to improve your golf game" is tighter when written "three things can improve your golf game."
4. Don't try to impress with jargon or big words.
Readers don't appreciate grandstanding but do value an unclouded message.
5. Use exclamation points sparingly.
Overusing them reduces their impact. And never use more than one at the end of a sentence.
"Elmore Leonard wrote of exclamation marks: 'You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' Which means, on average, an exclamation mark every book and a half," points out Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian. "In the ninth book of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, Eric, one of the characters insists that 'Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.'"
6. Limit emails to five or fewer sentences.
"Seriously. I know it's painful. You have so many important things to say. However, getting it read is more important than getting all that explanation in there. Preferably, it's three sentences. Your goal is to make it easy for [a recipient] to respond immediately from his smartphone," advises 42Floors founder Jason Freedman.
7. Read it out loud.
Before delivering your writing to a recipient, read it out loud. Doing so will likely oust any typos, missing words, or other errors you may not have spotted.
Seth Bannon wants to reinvent the way nonprofits do business. His first job: getting investors to chip in.
Seth Bannon always loved politics, and in 2010, the 26-year-old Harvard junior spent the summer working on the Connecticut gubernatorial campaign of Ned Lamont. It wasn’t Bannon’s first campaign, and it wasn’t the first time he was shocked by the shoddy technology used to organize supporters and raise funds. So rather than returning to school in the fall, he founded a company, Amicus, with an ambitious goal: to overhaul the way nonprofits raise awareness and funding. But first, he had to do some fundraising himself.
June 2011: Bannon wins a prize. But prizes do not pay the rent.
Cash on hand: 37 cents
Bannon founds his company, then called BlueFusion, and recruits developers from Yale University to build it. He does everything he can to save money. “I was basically living in a stairwell in New Haven and using college meal plans to eat,” he says. Nonetheless, he burns through his meager savings. Bannon gets a break when BlueFusion wins the Yale Venture Challenge. Now he needs cash: “I literally had 37 cents in my bank account.”
June 2011: A backer makes a (small) bet.
Cash on hand: $20,000
One of Bannon’s mentors is Miles Lasater, founder of Higher One, a New Haven, Connecticut-based financial services firm for universities and a fixture at Yale entrepreneurship events. After hearing
Bannon’s pitch, Lasater commits $20,000.
June 2011: A futurist is intrigued.
Bannon moves to New York City. He’s attending a tech conference when he sees investor and thinker Esther Dyson. He approaches her by saying, “Hello, Esther; nice to meet you”--in Russian. “She perked up, because she’s a big Russophile,” Bannon says. He doesn’t pitch his venture but includes its name and URL in the signature of a follow-up email. Before long, Dyson emails back asking: “What’s BlueFusion?”
July 2011: Another well-placed ally signs on.
In July 2011, Bannon lists the company on the networking site AngelList and connects with Pedro Torres Picón, founder of Quotidian, which invests in service companies that aim to improve stodgy industries. Says Picón: “You could tell this was a guy who would not stop until he changed the world.” Bannon tells Picón he’s traveling to Silicon Valley to look for investment. Picón tells him to keep in touch.
July 2011: Sand Hill Road is not impressed.
Silicon Valley is not hospitable. Bannon takes six meetings a day for a week, but the only nibbles he gets are from investors he doesn’t care to work with. He returns home empty-handed.
August 2011-January 2012: That intrigued futurist? Now she’s an investor.
Cash on hand: $580,000
Unbowed, Bannon persuades Dyson to meet with him. “She was without shoes, on the couch, and I was so excited,” Bannon says. “Then she said, ‘I think you’re solving the entirely wrong problem.’ My heart sank.” Instead of leaving, he sits up straight, makes his case again--and persuades her to invest. Soon, thanks to Dyson’s efforts, David S. Rose, the former chairman of New York Angels, and Jim Robinson at RRE Ventures join the round. So does Picón, who chips in $100,000. Not long after, Bannon changes the company’s name to Amicus.
June-July 2012: Bannon challenges Peter Thiel to a game of chess. And wins.
Bannon is accepted to Paul Graham’s Silicon Valley-based start-up incubator, Y Combinator, and moves for the summer to the Palo Alto house where Facebook once set up shop. At a networking event, Bannon introduces himself to Founders Fund’s Peter Thiel--and promptly challenges the PayPal founder to a blitz game of chess. Thiel, a former U.S.-rated chess master, concedes the first game. Bannon has his attention.
August 2012: The Thiel connection comes through.
By Y Combinator’s Demo Day, Amicus is profitable. It also has a new strategy for pitching, ditching an intensive 12-slide PowerPoint for a single piece of paper. Within weeks of the event, several venture firms commit $3.2 million. Bannon figures he’s done but agrees to meet with Luke Nosek, one of Thiel’s colleagues. “It was just love,” says Bannon. “Luke more than anyone probably got my vision for Amicus.” Founders Fund is added to the round. Thiel friends Bannon on Facebook.
October 2012: A VC signs a $3.2 million offer, surrounded by drunks.
Bannon is working on a second round of funding when Hurricane Sandy hits New York. Before the proposed $3.2 million round can close, Bannon needs a signature from Brad Gillespie, a partner at IA Ventures. Unfortunately, the storm knocked out the power in Gillespie’s Lower East Side neighborhood. So the investor sets out on foot to find a cell signal. Finally, halfway across the Williamsburg Bridge, he gets a signal. “I downloaded the papers Seth sent and used DocuSign to sign it while on the bridge,” Gillespie says, “surrounded by all these people hanging out and drinking.”
Final tally: $3.78 million
Amicus has 14 employees, an office in SoHo, and clients such as Human Rights Campaign and the AFL-CIO. Bannon never returns to Harvard. But he says he got quite an education in fundraising. The most important lesson, he says: “Make sure your revenue is growing, rather than putting so much time into a PowerPoint.”
Whatever you're about to do, it's incredibly important--and you're incredibly nervous. Here's how to get a quick shot of confidence.
A key pitch meeting. A critical presentation. A new product roll-out. Whatever you're about to do, it's incredibly important--and you're incredibly nervous. What you need is a quick dose of confidence.
While true confidence takes time to develop (because true confidence is based on incremental, steady success), fortunately there are ways you can quickly overcome your anxiety and nerves and perform well:
1. Burn off some chemical stress.
When you feel anxious or stressed your adrenal glands secrete cortisol, one of the chemical triggers of the instinctive fight-or-flight reflex. High levels of cortisol heighten your emotions, limit your creativity, and reduce your ability to process complex information. When you're "high" on cortisol you get tunnel vision just like you do when you're startled or scared.
So: Burn off excess cortisol with exercise. Take a walk at lunch. Work out before you leave for work. Hit the hotel gym before your meeting.
Don't think it will help? Remember a time when you were totally stressed and decided to work out. I'm sure you felt a lot less anxious and a lot more grounded when you were finished exercising. The perspective you gained came at least in part from lowering your cortisol levels.
2. Eat the right "last" meal.
Dopamine and epinephrine are two chemicals that help regulate mental alertness. Both are found in tyrosine, which is an amino acid found in proteins.
So: Simply make sure you include some type of protein in your pre-game meal. And don't wait until the last minute to fuel up--the last thing most of us want to do when we're nervous is eat a healthy meal.
3. Prepare for a few "What if?" possibilities.
If you're like me, the "What if?" stuff is your biggest worry: What if my PowerPoint presentation crashes? What if someone constantly interrupts and screws up my flow? What if my time gets cut short?
Fear of the unknown is a confidence killer--and can quickly spiral out of control.
So: Think about a few of the worst things that can happen and create a plan to deal with those things. You'll feel more confident because you will have transformed, "What if?" into the much more positive, "Okay, then I will..."
Plus simply going through the exercise of planning for different scenarios will make you better prepared to think on your feet and adapt if the unexpected does occur.
4. Think past your lucky socks.
Superstitions are a vain attempt to control uncertainty or fear. Wearing lucky socks doesn't really make anyone perform better.
So: Instead of creating a superstition, create a pattern that helps you prepare and emotionally center yourself.
For example, I like to walk the hall before a presentation to check audience sight lines. Maybe you will decide to always do a run-through of your presentation an hour before you go on, even though you're sure you can do it in your sleep. Or maybe you will decide to run your demo one last time before every client meeting, even though you've run the same demo dozens of times.
Pick certain actions you will perform--actions that are actually beneficial and not just based on superstition--and do them every time. Comfort lies in the familiar, and so does confidence.
5. Establish a secondary goal.
Say you're speaking to an industry group and your goal is to convince members to donate time to a worthy cause. Pretty quickly you realize almost no one is listening, much less cares.
What do you do? You flounder. Maybe you try too hard. Maybe you give up and go through the motions. Whatever you do, you walk away feeling like you failed.
So: If you know what you really want may be hard to get, always have a secondary goal in mind. Plan for success but also plan to turn total failure into partial success. If you can tell you won't succeed with your primary goal, be prepared to plant seeds for another attempt down the road.
Say you're pitching a VC firm and can tell they won't say yes right away (after all, they almost never will.) Be prepared to shift to laying the groundwork for future meetings. Explain what you've done and what you're doing. Lay the foundation for potential investors to see a consistent story and consistent growth over time. Lay the foundation for investors to develop a level of trust with you and your team.
Sure, you may want them to say, "Yes, we'll fund you today!" Shoot, you may need them to say, "Yes, we'll fund you today!" But you should still be ready to turn a one-time meeting into a series of meetings.
Whatever your primary goal, establish a secondary goal and instead of losing all faith in yourself and your mission, be ready to transition to that goal. If things aren't turning out the way you hope you'll still be able to stay confident--and keep moving forward.
The state of small business is strong, but Congress is a serious drag on the economy in which entrepreneurs operate.
At the heart of a new Inc. special report, the State of Small Business, is a survey: We ask Inc. 5000 CEOs about their outlook, then add our own reporting on the economy. You quickly come to two conclusions: The state of small business is strong; entrepreneurs are as resilient, creative, and unstoppable as ever. But the economy in which they operate is under siege by morons.
That is obvious to any business owner who lived through this fall, when congressional radicals threatened to default on U.S. debt. But in fact, Congress has been a drag on the economy ever since it began its fitful recovery in 2009. Even the fiscally conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation is dismayed: According to a study commissioned by Peterson, Congress’s obsession with fiscal austerity has cost the economy 0.7 percentage points a year in growth since 2010. Uncertainty--in large part a product of our legislators’ inability to pass a budget or much of anything else, not to mention their habit of threatening default every few months--has trimmed an estimated 0.3 points a year from GDP.
What could possibly justify throwing such obstacles in the path of small businesses? The radicals say federal spending is out of control and must be reined in right now. But that far overstates reality. Discretionary spending is falling as a share of GDP; the Congressional Budget Office says by 2023, it will be lower than it has been in more than 50 years. Meanwhile, the deficit has fallen 60 percent since 2010. “Deficits become a problem when they drive up interest rates,” University of Oregon economist Mark Thoma told me, “but there isn’t a shred of evidence this is happening.”
The far more urgent problem for your business in 2014 is lack of demand. But when members of Congress threaten to devastate your customers’ life savings and paralyze the global economy by defaulting on U.S. debt, are your customers more eager to spend or less?
Inc. has no interest in taking political sides, but we care about small business. And this much is clear: Because of Congress, the state of small business is far more precarious than it needs to be. Another debt-ceiling deadline comes up in February. If Congress chooses to bring the economy to the brink of disaster again, whose interests would be served? Certainly not yours.
We also just named Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box, our Entrepreneur of the Year. Levie is every inch a founder for our times: He’s 28. He launched out of his dorm room. And he got where he is by seeing technology trends sooner and more clearly than anyone else. He also got where he is by working harder than anyone else, and he is beating the skinny jeans off giant rivals in the process. At Inc., we like to see that.
Even a single depressed employee can have a devastating effect on a small business. And entrepreneurs themselves are hardly immune.
Liza and her husband, James (not their real names), own a successful small business. A few years ago they got hit with the perfect storm--a personal crisis, the recession, Liza's undiagnosed thyroid problem and depression.
Liza's depression made it all the more difficult to recover from the personal crisis and the recession. Predictably, the business suffered. Liza, who does the bookkeeping and content writing for the graphic design business said, "During the years I battled depression, a lot of the writing had to be done by a contractor. That meant more money out the door. The bookkeeping suffered tremendously as well. I got more and more behind because I could only do the bare minimum. Sales taxes got filed late, statements didn't get reconciled for months, receipts and expenses stacked up and didn't get entered into the accounting program. A lot of our invoicing was done haphazardly and I'm sure we just didn't bill some of our clients at all."
Depression isn't something that just affects other people. And it's not simply a personal problem that is handled in off-hours. It affects businesses, and it probably affects your business. The Integrated Benefits Institute estimates that for every 100 employees, businesses spend $62,000 because of depression.
For Liza, the exact costs of her depression will never be known. Lost business, lost revenue, late fees, and perhaps clients who would have come on board but didn't due to Liza's inability to respond to things quickly. When depressed, says Liza, "Everything feels bigger than it really is. The drive to the office, the bother to get ready, getting the day's tasks ordered (or even just written down) -- it all just seems impossible. I didn't eat much when I was depressed, and what I did eat was definitely not the most nutritious food. Poor nutrition and sleep just compounded the depression."
Liza says if she weren't a business owner, she surely would have been fired. Patricia (not her real name) also faced depression, an ever-increasing workload, and an unhelpful boss. Unlike Liza, she was fresh out of college and facing her first "real" job. Before she started work, her boss told her that she was his "third or fourth" choice for the position, which meant she started the job feeling less than competent.
The depression plus the micro-managing boss meant that Patricia developed bad habits that were difficult to overcome even when she started receiving treatment for her depression 18 months into the job. By that time she'd decided to resign. When she did, her boss informed her that they had been planning to fire her anyways. When she disclosed her struggles with depression, the very boss who had treated her poorly said, "Well, why didn't you tell me sooner? We could have helped you!"
Patricia doubts that this boss, whom she describes as the biggest thorn in her side, could have helped her if he had known. She's moved on and switched careers altogether and continues to treat her depression with medication.
How to respond
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make "reasonable" accommodations for people with qualifying depression. That can vary from job to job and person to person, but the person suffering from the depression needs to speak up in order to get help. Patricia's boss may have been able to help her if she'd declared her problem, and if he were aware of the laws around people with disabilities.
For small business owners, a depressed employee may be even more debilitating than he or she would be for a larger business. Whether it's the boss or an employee, the costs to the business can be high. Even small businesses may find it worthwhile to invest in an Employee Assistance Program, which can help people navigate through depression by helping them find appropriate therapists and doctors. According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, medication and psychotherapy can be successful in 70 to 80 percent of cases.
Remember that the law requires "reasonable" accommodations. Even to the extent that some accommodations are not reasonable, most depression, when treated, is temporary. You don't want to lose an otherwise top employee who is suffering from a treatable illness. Proceed with caution and compassion.