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Interview With Christopher Owens – Why Millennial Networking Is Different

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Christopher Owens

Whether you are at an event passing out your business cards or chatting with someone a few states away through email, you’re familiar with networking. The question is, what changed? With the growth of technology, there’s no denying that millennials network differently. Meetups are organized and advertised through networking platforms or social media and filled with people of similar interests. Relationships are built and groups decide to stay in touch more regularly than just bumping into each other every now and then. We connected with the Founder of LincSphere, Christopher Owens. He built the app to optimize power networking and make it easier to connect with others. In this interview, Christopher was able to pinpoint networking flaws and gave advice on how to grow and optimize your network.

What are some tips you can give for networking?

When you meet or speak with a networking contact, be genuinely INTERESTED in them. Ask a lot of questions and be curious. To be clear, DON’T ASK PROSPECTING QUESTIONS. Just learn more about them, not only as a professional, but also as a person. Your goal for this line of questioning is, “Is there any way I can add value to this person’s professional or personal life.” Of course you might be able to help them by selling your product to them, but you should initially place that idea to the side and focus on other ways you can help.  

From interacting with this person, see if there is any reason you would want to develop the relationship. Of course, if they want your product, you would want to talk with them further, but there are many other potential reasons for engaging further. Maybe they could be a good referral partner for you. Maybe you have the same hobbies or feel strongly about supporting the same causes. Maybe you could see yourself mentoring them or vice versa. But either find SOME reason for wanting to engage further, or allow yourself to let that contact fall to the wayside, at least for now (maybe that will change the next time you run into them). It is true that you can be too narrow-minded in your networking, only keeping the business cards of potential customers. But it is also true that you can be too unrestricted in your networking, keeping the cards of every single person you meet ‘just in case’.  When you do that, you will end up diluting your interest for networking in general, because you feel obligated to follow-up with contacts you have no real interest in.

What are common networking mistakes?

1) Talking too much and too early about yourself instead of asking questions and listening to the other person.

2) Not following up regularly with the people you want to build relationships with. There’s a statistic in sales that 80% of sales happen from the 5th to the 12th contact with someone. The same basic principle applies to building relationships in networking.

3) Not networking until you need it. Networking is the LONG game. It takes time and repeated contact to build a relationship usually. Sure, there are occasional times you will get instant gratification from a networking contact (someone wants to do business with you right after you met them) but those instances are the outliers. Start building your network when you DON’T need it and it will be there for you when you do.

What is the biggest difference between small businesses and startups?

Well, the best definition I’ve ever seen is from author Steve Blank, who explains that a startup is not merely a smaller version of a larger company. It is a temporary organization in search of a business model. In other words, a startup ‘isn’t quite sure what it will be when it grows up’. Startups are often creating new markets, trying to solve problems others have not tackled yet, or finding an innovative way to solve an old problem. So startups are always operating on a certain set of ASSUMPTIONS about who their customers are, what their problems are and what kind of solutions they are looking for. The startup, in it’s early days, is testing their assumptions and seeing how the market reacts. In the end they may find that the customer they are really servicing and the exact problem they are addressing are a few (or many) degrees away from where they started, and so they adjust course and change their business model to fit that. Or they could find that they were completely wrong about the problem they were solving and might shut down.

On the other hand, a small business is starting a company of which there is already a clear market, clear customers, a clear problem and lots of competition. There are FAR fewer unknowns in a small business. Their main issue is just how well they execute the processes and methods that have already been proven out hundreds or thousands of times by other companies.

How has networking changed for millennials?

Well I can’t speak from the millennial perspective, because I’m not one. But the main difference I see now from a decade or so ago is that there are so many more ways to communicate. Used to be you could meet someone in person, call on the phone, or email and that was it. Now if you reach out to a networking contact you can call, text, IM, email, Skype, connect on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn or a host of other applications. For the most part, this a great advantage over what previous generations had. Not only because of convenience and being able to find the right communication medium your contact likes to use, but also because anyone has a decent chance these days of connecting directly with celebrities or business thought leaders if you do it right. And then there’s how easy international communication is. You no longer have to have a lot of frequent flyer miles in order to have an international network. It’s an amazing time to be networking.

What is the problem LincSphere is trying to solve?

There are two problems, actually. The first is that most people are not organized at all with their networking relationships. They collect a bunch of business cards at events and those cards sit in a pile somewhere on their desk or in a drawer, not doing anyone very much good. There has never been a complete business networking CRM-like tool for easily coordinating all of the actions a person does or should do when building networking relationships, and so we wanted to provide that.

The second issue is actually the more important one. It is that most networkers treat networking as a kind of a self-interested prospecting game. Kind of like cold-calling in person. When done like that it’s kind of like hunting or fishing where the person is only looking for the opportunities immediately available. But the best networkers out there – the power connectors – approach networking more like farming. They are planting seeds, caring for the growth of those relationships and playing the long game. They know that the watchword of all networking is “generosity”. They help their connections without any expectation of a ‘quid pro-quo’ or tit-for-tat. They view it more like ‘karma’ in that they give help freely and just figure it will come back to them somehow. And LincSphere was specifically designed in all its features to promote that generosity mindset in our users.

When is the launch date?

Well as far as the iPhone goes, we ARE launched. The app has been out since summer 2016. We are working on building a web interface now and we’re also working to bring on investors so we can launch the Android version and do a lot more.

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

Business

Salesforce Predicts Shoppers Moving To Mobile Shopping

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Analytics have confirmed the presence of shoppers to be on their own mobile smartphones. Jeff Barnett, CEO of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, shares his team’s vision on what’s to come for commerce in 2017. Shoppers are spotted to be taking their shopping online, strictly on mobile devices. Reports of a rate of 47% of orders from smartphones on U.S. sites grew in a span of a year alone, with costs of $2.08 worth of average spending on across U.S. E-commerce sites. In total, 4% of total traffic growth are summit to U.S. digital commerce sites. The data is looking at an uprise on mobile shopping, but in a downgrade on traditional brick and mortar retail. 

Discussion on stores making the ultimate decision on either changing their platform or to simply die off are being requested by retailers demanding flexibility in stores. The statics for mobile shopping means a decrease in retail profits. Customers have their attention on their mobile devices, neglecting traditional shopping. This forces retailers to upgrade and expand their business to newer areas.

Traditional brick and mortar retailers should shift themselves to mobile in order for their business to stay afloat. Selling online will keep the business staying competitive and consumer needs met. A majority of customers are already online, all retailers need to do is meet with them there. Distribution is made to be an easier process, with the supply being from one location. Already predicting the end of ATMs, shoppers are beginning to ditch cash with cards. With cards, customers are able to get more purchases to be conducted with extreme convenience. This is a win for both parties.

About 15% of U.S. malls will be disposed or will be converted into non-rental spaces within the next 10 years. Within 15 to 20 years, Howard Davidowitz, a retail consultant expects a near estimate of half of America’s shopping malls to fail. More and more retailers are moving their business online to secure their awareness.

“Three trends are upon us, AI, mobile, and chat, put them together, add water and shake, and what do you get, a long abated killer app for mobile commerce”. Rama Ramakrishnan, the Chief Data Scientist says. 2017 will be the year when AI chatbots for commas will soar and shift into mainstream across all stages of the shopping experience. “This time next year, we’ll look back and wonder how we ever shopped without them”.

With the promise in accelerated delivery, the mobile shopping experience is only improving. Prediction that our own voices will be the next user interface for shopping in 2017. Through services like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, consumers can do more than web searches, but can also purchase products and services online as well. Customer centricity is becoming everyone’s main task on the use of mobile shopping. Without predicting what consumers want, through online history and searches customers can get exactly what they want in their own time of need.

The new shopping method seems to be in favor of the consumers, with new features created to cater shoppers. The evolution of shopping has changed drastically due to technology advancements, their efficiency has allowed many opportunities to open. Although the benefits are in reach for most, traditional retailers much adapt well in order to catch up with the competition. Once the adjustment is complete, finding customers and companies will be much easier.

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Getting Recognition Builds Productivity

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Getting recognition is one of the top motivators and drivers among employees in the workplace. According to studies, 78% of employees work harder if they are better recognized. More recognition for a job well done translates to better productivity and happy employees. This sounds very simple, but is actually a bit more complicated to implement. This is because employees today don’t want just compensation as a form of getting recognition. They also want a close-knit office culture, volunteer opportunities, praises, rewards and genuine recognition for their efforts. Here’s how to do it:

Reward the Right Things

Rewarding employees for every achievement is counterproductive. Instead of singing their praises for everything they do well, reward the right things such as:

  • Actions that align with the company’s strategies and goals. Recognize behavior that aligns with the company’s overall mission. If you don’t have a mission statement, now is the time to define it.
  • Big wins and small wins should also be celebrated. Big projects usually have higher risks and setbacks. To keep your team from being frustrated, celebrate the small ones as well.
  • Being a team player is essential to the survival of your organization. As such this behavior is important because employees who work well together do not let their egos into the organization. Employees like this know how to put the team in front of their own personal interests.

Understand Why It Matters

According to a study by BambooHR, 82% of employees feel that they do not get recognition for their work and are considering leaving the company. Recognition seems like a small thing and not understanding why it is needed could hurt an organization’s profitability. Think about it, a few simple words of encouragement or gratitude can save your company thousands of dollars in recruitment and training new talent. Recognition helps revenue. When an employee gets the recognition they deserve they are happy and happy employees are more productive. Companies who recognize their employees have 2.5 times more revenue compared to companies that do not reward their employees. This means that high engagement translates to a third higher profitability.

Culture of Recognition

Create a culture of recognition within your organization. For example, you can ring a bell and call everybody’s attention whenever somebody does a good job. This way everybody knows whenever the bell is rung that something amazing has happened. This action also recognizes the achievement of an employee. Soon your office will associate bell rings for getting recognition and will aspire to have the bell rung in their honor.

Tailor Fit Your Recognition

Teams within organizations can have their own culture. For example, this team loves bowling or comic books. Aside from the usual phrases and accolades typically bestowed on them, go a bit further by tailoring recognition for their internal culture like going on a celebratory bowling game after a job well done or treating them to a couple of comic books. These small actions do not only show recognition but it shows that you respect the individuality of your members as a team.

Link Recognition with Performance

The key is to promote good behavior through recognition. In the long run, the goal is to achieve better attitude and improved performance. Therefore managers should know how to tie recognition, company objectives and individual performance. Connecting behavior with specific behavior helps to drive better performance. For example, your goal as a company is to implement zero accidents in the workplace. Be sure to reward employees for avoiding accidents or coming up with a new system to improve safety. To truly drive behavior and reinforce performance, recognition from superiors should be more than just a few nice words. Superiors, management, team leaders and even the CEO should connect saying thank you (gratitude) with behavior (the purpose). Influencing behavior can boost performance and productivity while boosting morale.

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How To Connect With Employees As A CEO

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connect with employees

Thirty years ago, a CEO’s focus was on customers and profit. Nowadays we know that CEOs have a bigger impact. A good CEO knows that a company is more than just their customers and profits. A good connection with employees is also important to keep productivity and motivation up. CEOs need to connect with employees on a regular basis not only to inspire but also to know what is going on at the company’s most basic level. Here are ways a CEO can connect with his employees.

Social Media

Many CEOs use social media to reach out to their clients and customers in an effort to humanize their company. Why not use the same social media to connect with employees too? Sending a congratulatory tweet to a team or following an employee on Facebook can be very flattering to employees.

To some of them, the boss is on the top floor only accessible to a select few VIPs. Being called to the CEOs office is very rare except maybe if they did something wrong. Social media brings everybody closer together because they are used by all kinds of people. Connect with employees on social media to make yourself more reachable, friendly and more human.

Take Mark Zuckerberg for example. Facebook’s CEO is very accessible to all people on his social media. He shares pictures of his kids and daily activities of their family life. This makes Mr. Zuckerberg seem more relatable, not only to employees but to many people as well.

Family Day

Family day is not only a great way for families to get together on company time (and expense), it is also a good time for the boss to connect with employees. Being called by your boss by your first name can be very gratifying for employees because the CEO remembers you. This simple act of remembering first names can be very inspiring and motivating to employees.

Employees also like to see their boss in casual clothing. To them it makes them look friendly and approachable. You can be surprised how many more employees approach their CEOs when they are seen wearing casual clothing. The friendly setting of family day is also a good way for CEOs and their employees to bond and get to know each other outside the workplace.

One-on-One

Having a one-on-one with the CEO can be very intimidating. What does he want with you anyway?

This is not necessarily true. A good way to get to know employees and make them feel important is to schedule a short one on one. It does not necessarily have to be about work. It can be about getting to know each other or catching up. This has to do with people wanting to feel that they are important. A CEO’s day is full of meeting with important people and spending time with ordinary employees will make them feel special. It is an easy motivational tool that does not cost anything but time

Open Door Policy

An open door policy makes CEOs more accessible to ordinary employees. They understand that a CEO’s time is important but an open door policy also makes them feel welcome. This is one of the reasons why many CEOs prefer to have meetings in a conference room rather than their private offices. This is to ensure that ordinary employees can walk in and talk to them if needed.

The door does not have to be literally open. Just make sure they understand that they can drop in anytime or arrange for an appointment to talk with you.

Share Meetings With Employees

Employees like to know what’s going on in the company. It makes them feel involved and valuable. One of the best ways to make them feel that their contribution is important is to record your meetings and share it with them. Sharing is a good idea because it’s a communication vehicle, it shows employees how decisions are made and it encourages precise thinking, communication that reduces politicking.

Leadership style differs from one CEO to the next. CEOs wear different hats all the time. The key is to remember that employees are the lifeblood of a company and finding ways to keep them motivated is one of the duties of a good CEO.

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