What to Consider When Hiring Your First Employee

- - Adam Kidan, Business

What TO Consider When Hiring Your First Employee By Adam KidanIf you’re a growing business, the time will eventually come that you need to start hiring employees to help you carry the weight and continue to grow.  But before you do this, you need to make sure that your business is ready for a new employee, and that the employee in-question is a good fit.  I recently read a post on the blog Young Upstarts that looks at what you should do before you finally decide to hire your first employees:

Review your finances: Employees, for all their benefits, cost money.  You might be able to pay an employee’s salary for one month, but you need to find out if you can afford the payroll for an extended period.  This goes beyond base salary; depending on your state, an employer will also be responsible for employment taxes workers’ compensation, and insurance.  One way to attract talent is by offering your employees various benefits, but those cost money too.  If you don’t have the finances to make all of this happen, then a freelancer might be the way to go. 

Legal: As an employer, you need to navigate all sorts of legal red tape, which varies depending on where you are.  So you don’t end up in court for any sort of oversight, consult a lawyer before you end up launching a new business; coughing up a couple hours’ worth of legal fees could save you a huge amount in the future.  

Find the right payroll system: While you obviously need to pay your employees, you also need to consider how to provide your staff with the appropriate information on their take-home pay, taxes, deductions, and contributions.  Make sure that you have a proper payroll system instated.  Do your homework, and find one that works with your budget.  

Identify your needs and expectations: By identifying the needs of your business, you can determine what kind of employee you should be hiring.  Assess which areas of the business require the most assistance.  Consider how an employee will affect your bottom-line as well.  

Using Journalists For Cheap PR

- - Adam Kidan

Using journalists for cheap pr by adam kidanGood PR can help you position yourself, create a powerful brand story, and connect you with the right outlets to continue with the exposure of your company.  Essential as this is, when you’re a company starting out with limited funding, then a top-notch PR firm is often way out of your price range.  But the fact of the matter is that you don’t always need it.  I recently read an article online about using journalists to experience the benefits of a PR firm at a fraction of the price of actually hiring a leading firm.  Here’s what they had to say:

Establish relationships: Start out by building strong relationships with journalists, who can help you tell your story.  Many of these journalists can often offer valuable advice and insight.  

Identify your niches: Understand your potential audience, and how your story is valuable to them.  For example, if you have a tech startup, you should establish a relationship with a journalist working with TechCrunch as opposed to Elle.

Provide intros and ideas: If you can provide journalists with new and interesting stories, and it’s beneficial to everybody if you can offer those to your journalists.  If they see you as a great source of content, that’s a great relationship.  

Keep track of journalists: Keep a database tracking the info of every journalist you meet; their employers, their contact information, etc.  Most of this is pretty easy to find online.  

Stay relevant: You want something that is both remarkable and culturally relevant.  Journalists might want to help you, but that won’t happen if you can’t offer them fresh content.  Your pitches need to be able to pique their interests and those of their readers.  

Making Your Meetings Productive

- - Adam Kidan, Business

making your meetings productive by adam kidanMeetings can be, and in many cases are, the very bane of a company’s existence.  They often drag on for hours and accomplish absolutely nothing.  What can you do to ensure that your meetings aren’t a waste of time?  Here are five strategies for getting the best value out of your meetings, taken from an article I read online:

Is it necessary? A physical meeting isn’t always necessary.  While it might seem more impersonal, a text or email will solve an issue much quicker than a meeting.  Before you find yourself making slides and setting off an hour in the conference room, ask yourself if it’s necessary.  

Plan the agenda: By creating an agenda for the meeting, it will be easier for everybody to prepare for the meeting, and also make sure that nobody gets sidetracked on a tangent.  It allows you to focus on the most important issues at hand, ensuring that you don’t waste anybody’s time.  Of course, people can still go off on tangents, but if you set up a clear agenda, you’ll be able to much more easily steer the meeting back to its proper course.  

Bring key players to the table: After you’ve figured out your agenda, think about who needs to be at this meeting.  If somebody doesn’t need to be at the meeting, then they’ll just bring down productivity.  

Think about the goal: Piggybacking on the second post, stay focused on the goal at hand, and avoid spending too much time on items outside the agenda.  One way to stay focused on the goal is to ask pointed questions to “teach” and guide participants.

Summarize the key points: If there isn’t any follow-up action, then a meeting might as well have been for nothing.  To make sure that your meetings are effective, you need to follow up.  Summarize key points, then distribute them to everybody in the meeting.  Make sure that every key player who should take an action after the meeting knows what they’re supposed to be doing.  

How Big Businesses Look Small

- - Adam Kidan, Business

How big businesses look small by adam kidanI recall seeing a McDonald’s ad for “artisanal grilled chicken” a couple years ago.  The idea was pretty absurd; whether or not you like McDonald’s, “artisanal” is about the last adjective I would use to describe their food.  I don’t think that they were fooling anybody, but this betrays an interesting business trend: consumers, particularly in the field of food and beverage, are more interested in local, smaller, “mom and pop” shops with improved quality.  I recently read a post from entrepreneur blogger Chris Brogan, who talked about this trend.  It was a really interesting post, and it made me think about modern business trends.  In the post, Brogan talked about the Belgian-based brewing giant AB-InBev.  Over the years, they’ve bought out smaller breweries and merged with other breweries until they now brew everything from Budweiser to craft brewery Goose Island to the Czech Pilsner Urquell.  It’s an amazing roster of brews, and  AB-InBev has got their fingers in the two big pies of the beer industry: the mass-produced standards that college students love, and the “craft” beers that have been growing in popularity.   

Consumers want something that seems “small batch”, so that it feels local and “authentic”.  Look at the two examples I wrote about above.  AB-InBev and McDonald’s are both publicly-traded companies that get about as corporate as corporations can get.  But they’re still courting that increasing demand for “local”.  Even Wendy’s, another fast-food giant, has recently been running commercials about how their beef, unlike that of their competitors, comes from local farmers.  And look at Chipotle.  True, they’re in big trouble now, but about four years ago they were on top of the fast food chain.  A large part of that had to do with their image of being a company that “cares” and sources “local”.  

The large, impersonal brands of today such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola owe their existence to American consumer trends that took off in the aftermath of World War II.  As the country was becoming more and more connected, people wanted that consistency.  It’s something Andy Warhol touched on in his paintings of coke bottles.  The idea that no matter who you are or where you are, whether you’re the President in the White House or a bum on the streets of New York, a bottle of coke will always taste the same.  But now the emphasis has shifted: consumers want a product and company that cares about them.  This is something that smaller businesses inherently need to do if they want to stay alive, and something that bigger businesses will need to do if they want to stay relevant.  These are companies that were able to navigate business trends to become the giants that they once were.  And it’s not too much of a stretch to think that they can navigate these new trends, even if they’re a lot different from those before.  

Growing Your Business

- - Adam Kidan, Business

growing your business by adam kidanRunning your business requires more than just walking through the day-to-day.  You need to keep a big picture in mind of where you want your business to be going.  Your vision.  The “where you see yourself X years from now”.  This will help inspire both you and your team.  It’s easy to lose track of your vision with the everyday challenges that come with running a business.  Yet there are some ways that you can keep track of your business’ vision, and help chart the course there, taken from a great article by Rich Allen that I read on the blog youngupstarts.com:

Start at the top: Imagine how you want your business to look like in 10 years.  Think of any and all particulars to make your vision as specific as possible.  Include the size of the business, your locations, what you’ll offer, your business structure, your customers, and your own involvement.  

Back up five years: When you’ve charted out your 10-year vision, back up about halfway.  It’s that cliched “where do you see yourself five years from now” question they always ask you during job interviews.  Cover the exact same details that you did when asking yourself where you’d be in 10 years.  Look at where you need to be to achieve your 10-year goals.  Then connect the dots to there.  

Back up another two more years: With a five- and 10-year vision clearly charted, back it up to where you want to be, or more appropriately need to be, three years from now.  Think about if this backs up your five-year plan.   

Back up to next year: Once this is all planned out, time travel once again to one year from now.  This offers you a ten-year perspective on how to get there.  Ask yourself where you need to be a year from now to be on track to reach your three-year vision, using the same criteria.  This allows you to set up your goalposts, so that you can structure your business for each benchmark.  

What to Know About Your Wikipedia Page

- - Adam Kidan

what to know about your wikipedia page by adam kidanHaving a Wikipedia page can be both a blessing and a curse.  The basic principle of Wikipedia is that anybody can edit an article, a democratic ideal based around reasoned and intelligent discussion.  Of course, few things turn out as intended, and sure enough, any Wikipedia page is subject to Internet trolls that can wreak havoc on your page.  As somebody with my own Wikipedia page, this is something that I’ve experienced firsthand.  I recently read an article on entrepreneur.com where another entrepreneur, Amy Osmond Cook, shared her experience navigating the complicated rules and regulations surrounding Wikipedia page.  Her experience was a bit different from mine (I’ve had mine tampered with quite a bit, but unlike her my page was never taken down), nonetheless there were some great takeaways.  Here are a few that stuck with me:

Hire a Wikipedia editor: While Wikipedia states that notability doesn’t depend on the way that a page is structured, that’s not always the case.  Editors take down pages when there aren’t enough sources or they aren’t properly structured.  Yet there are luckily plenty of editors who specialize in Wikipedia content structure.  They spend years understanding the ins and outs of structure, offering your page the best chance for success.  

Keep this secret: According to Amy, one great place to find Wikipedia editors is Upwork.  Find somebody that can offer you an honest estimate, then reach out with a dummy account that doesn’t reveal your actual name.  Wikipedia trolls often look for work at Upwork, and will take down the pages of other editors if they don’t get a job.  

Write good content: In the digital world, (good) content is king.  If you try to make your Wikipedia page an advertisement, then it’s going to get taken down.  Make sure what you write is informative and objective.  Furthermore, make sure your Wikipedia page is well-written.  Since so many Wikipedia editors aren’t native English speakers, this can be an issue.

Don’t be a “sockpuppet” or a “meatpuppet”: If your page does end up getting flagged for a debate on whether or not it should be taken down, then you’ll want to solicit other people to speak for you.  Yet be careful with this!  If you have some friends or colleagues speak on your behalf, then you’ll be accused of “meatpuppetry”, or using cronies to back yourself up.  “Sockpuppetry”, where one person creates numerous accounts in their own name to defend their cause, is an even bigger no-no.  Wikipedia tracks the IP addresses on which accounts are created, so it can be tracked.  This hasn’t happened to me, but Amy suggested that if it does, then the best course of action is to hire established editors to review and comment on the page.

If you do get taken down, lay low for a bit: If your Wikipedia entry ends up getting deleted and you keep making edits and resubmitting them, then you could get permanently banned or blacklisted from the site.  Rather, study other entries and become more familiar with guidelines, then wait a bit before you resubmit.  

French Election: The Aftermath

- - Adam Kidan

french election: the aftermath by Adam KidanYesterday, the far-right movement that’s been steadily gaining support in Europe and North America suffered a major setback in France after pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron soundly defeated his rival, Marine Le Pen.  Le Pen represents a far-right movement in France that wants to leave the EU, move away from the single-currency bloc and prevent further immigration into France.  It’s a movement similar to the Brexit that occurred last year, yet with a vastly different outcome.  

In response to the election, the single currency touched $1.1023, the highest level since November.  It also hit a one-year high of 124.59 yen, up .54 yen from Friday.  Nonetheless, these gains were modest when compared to the reaction to Macron’s first-round victory last month.  Yesterday’s vote effectively eliminates any risk of France leaving the single currency bloc.  This brief rally for the euro was exaggerating by low trading in early Asian dealing.

The diminishing uncertainty surrounding the eurozone is going to be a key theme in both finance and politics, and will most likely be fairly supporting of risk sentiment.  Nonetheless, there remain concerns whether the independent Macron can push economic reforms through the National Assembly without any deputies, which raises questions about the longevity of a Euro rally.  A relative unknown three years ago, Macron won 66.06 percent of the vote in his first ever election, nearly double that of his rival (33.94 percent).  He is now poised to become one of Europe’s most powerful leaders, yet it remains to be seen if he can secure a parliamentary majority.  

The problem with Macron being in the center is that both the left and the right has issue with him.  Macron’s economic agenda is mostly centered around weakening labor regulations in an effort to fight unemployment, which will most likely face stiff resistance from both trade unions and the political left of France.  On the other side of the political spectrum, terrorist attacks in France have left many terrified of radical Islam, which serves as a strong fuel for the radical right.  Interestingly enough as well, the right-leaning movement spearheaded by Le Pen is largely a youth movement; her support is mostly made up of younger voters, and Macron’s support base isn’t getting any younger, which could set the stage for a future victory.  

Effective Morning Habits

- - Adam Kidan

effective morning habits by adam kidanOne of the keys to a great day is to start the day right.  Many successful people follow similar morning routines; if you’re feeling like you aren’t getting enough out of the day, then incorporating some of these habits could be a good idea.  I recently came across an article that shared some of them.  These are mostly meant to enhance creativity, but they’re just as relevant for the entrepreneur in all of us.  Try out a few of them, and notice the difference!

Get up early: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.  That’s just as true now as when Ben Franklin scribbled it down.  Waking up early leaves more time for you to practice physical and mental self-care by removing the stress that comes from having to rush.

Take time for reflection: Meditation and mindfulness, where you simply stay open to whatever runs through your head, has been shown to contribute to higher creativity.  This could include thinking about what you’re grateful for, or maybe making sure that what you’re about to do has value and will be fulfilling.  

Walk: Walking is a great way to get your body going and ease you into the day.  Studies have also proven that it’s an excellent way to stimulate your mind.  Interesting thoughts and ideas often emerge when you’re simply strolling down the street.  

Exercise: Piggybacking off the above point, morning exercise is great for your mind just as much as your body.  By boosting blood and oxygen flow to the brain and releasing endorphins, it’s an excellent way to start the day right.  Make sure you don’t forget to eat after your workout; it’s essential for post-workout recovery by giving your brain the necessary energy to function and innovate.  

Make lists: Make lists in the morning about the work that needs to be done throughout the day.  This is a great way to fight stress.  Tackle the toughest stuff first, when your mind is fresh, that way you’ll have time to relax later on in the day.  

Take in information: Don’t get into something distracting like emails first thing in the morning; instead start the day off with something more stimulating.  Maybe catch up on news or check out the stock market.  This gives you different viewpoints and perspectives.  

Connect with the people you care about: By connecting with the people you care about in the morning, you remind yourself why you’re doing what you do and creates a purposeful start to the day.  

Branding on a Budget

- - Adam Kidan, Business

branding on a budget by adam kidanNot every business is going to have a giant budget, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to create a solid, far-reaching brand.  Branding doesn’t need to be expensive; if you’re willing to put in the hours, you can still brand your business successfully.  I recently read a blog post that shared some tips for creating your brand on a budget.  Here’s what they had to say:

Develop and understand a “buyer persona”: A buyer persona, is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on a combination of market research and data about both your own competition and existing customers.  This lets you identify the needs, goals and behavior of potential customers, which in turn tell you how to convey your product or service.  While it might seem time-consuming and trivial, it sets you up to be able to attract valuable traffic in the future.

Find a confident and consistent voice: Once you’ve created an identity for your brand, then stick to it so your brand can truly take shape.  Establish a voice for your brand, one that’s consistent and always on message.  

Use social media: Most potential customers these days hang out on social media.  Find out which social channels your customers use the most, and then you’ll know where to dedicate the majority of your resources.  But using social media properly requires creativity and dedication; consider how your posts add value to your customers.  

Do customer service well: Few things hurt a brand quite like bad customer service.  It’s something that many business mess up, which can seriously damage the public persona of a brand.  But great customer service is a great way to turn your customers into advocates.  

Blog: Blogs are the most powerful weapons for building a brand.  They help you reach your target audience by creating informative and interesting content playing to their interests and problems.  So don’t just settle for mediocre content; make sure it’s good quality, relevant and being posted regularly.  Blogging is also a great way to populate your social media channels while also attracting visitors to your website.  

Common Legal Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

- - Adam Kidan

common legal mistakes entrepreneurs make by adamk idanAs a seasoned entrepreneur, I’ve seen and experienced just about every business mistake in the book.  As somebody who attended law school, I can also tell you that the legal mistakes are the most dangerous.  I recently read an article where IP lawyer Rachel Rodgers, who has nearly 20 years of experience to her name, shared some of the legal mistakes she’s seen, and how to avoid them.  Legal stuff seems difficult and frankly terrifying, and that’s because it is.  But it’s a lot less scary if you’re at least prepared for it.  Here are what Rodgers says are the most common legal mistakes entrepreneurs make.  Pay attention, and they’ll hopefully save you a lot of headaches in the future:

Not vetting the name of your business/product/service: Conduct a thorough trademark search before you invest large sums in building your brand around a name that you can’t use.  If your name is infringing on another trademark that you can’t use, then you need to change the name, lose your Google ranking and rebuild your website.

Not separating your business and personal finances: Especially in the early stages of a business, it’s easy for your personal and business finances to bleed into each other.  Yet it’s extremely difficult to make smart business decisions without clear financial data, and commingling funds means you’ll lose the liability protection from your business.  Set up accounts solely for business income and expenses.  

Not keeping records: “Piercing the corporate veil” is when courts discover that a business entity and its owner are one in the same.  It means that business creditors can come after your personal assets.  To avoid this, record everything that happens with your business on a year-by-year basis, and submit your corporate filings with the state.  Have corporate files with all of your insurance, contracts, leases and other legal documents.  

Not making contracts: Business without a contract is a surefire way to get yourself sued or screwed out of money in some way or another.  To avoid this, have proper contracts in place that outline exactly what’s being exchanged, who owns what, as well as any cancellation clauses or payment terms.  

Not using legal notices: In the digital age, an entrepreneur’s website doubles as a storefront.  So if you collect information from people visiting your website, then you need a privacy policy.  Have disclaimers and terms and conditions outlined on your website that govern your relationship with visitors, subscribers and clients, especially if you’re selling products and services directly from your site.  

Not protecting your intellectual property: Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also hurt your business.  The longer you’re in business, the more intellectual property you produce, and the more valuable it becomes.  This includes logos, slogans, apps, e-books, classes and even blog posts.  Register your intellectual property with the US Patent and Trademark Office and the US Copyright Office.  

Not classifying your team as “employees”: The IRS has a very strong bias towards “employees” rather than “contractors”.  Do a proper analysis to figure out if your workers are employees or independent contractors.  All independent contractors need to sign agreements as well.