Standing out from the crowd in the coming year
The one thing you don’t want to be, going into this new year, is just like everyone else. At the start of the recession, the first startups, brands and businesses to die weren’t the ones with the highest prices, it was the ones with the me-too attitudes.
Sometimes it didn’t even matter if they were in the market first, or had a smaller competitor with fewer resources.
Of course this is an oversimplification, especially once a startup grows, since there are many reasons why it could fail. But failure is actually the most common state for new businesses, only one in 12 startups succeed, for a variety of reasons.
The rocky path to success for businesses
Standing out and being different may not be the only marker in the route to success, but it’s certainly not a typical indicator of impending doom., and there are other reasons you want your business to stand out. Maybe you’re in a competitive market and want to get noticed. Perhaps you’re hoping to get funding, and don’t want to be lumped in to the other countless groups that also need startup cash.
It could be as simple as wanting yours to be the email your time-pressed customer opens. In short, there are many ways being different can make a positive impact on the future of your company.
How to stand out by having fewer, deeper relationships
In marketing practices, this is known as targeting your market. The idea is that having a market that includes everyone is a fast road to failure. Most of us have made this mistake at one time or another.
Our logic goes like this: if we create a product that anyone would like, then the most possible people will buy it, and we’ll then be stinking rich.
Even if one day, we’re allowed to sell air, this thinking causes a huge waste of resources. Targeting everyone means you spend the same amount of money to get the person who is least likely to buy, as you do on the person who is not only going to sell everything you buy, but also tell everyone they know.
This targeted person is in the minority (see the 80/20 rule, especially in examples outside of economics). Additionally, since this targeted person may be the one who brings you all the customers you can handle anyway, that is the person you should profile, research and target.
That’s how this goes for marketing, but you’d do well to apply this to as many areas of your business as you find it makes sense. This doesn’t mean throw the 80% away – if 80% of your sales are made by one-time purchasers, that might not make sense for you. However, focusing more marketing efforts on finding people who are most like your 20% has the potential to change your business altogether.
How the 80/20 rule applies to relationships
When you apply the most focus on the very best business relationships you have built rather than trying to connect with every person online, you create stronger, more effective bonds where you need them the most – whether that is with vendors, customers, partnerships, clients, joint ventures, peers, mentors, software, books you read, or websites you follow.
In the few weeks leading up to the New Year, evaluate where you’re getting the most out of your relationships. Don’t forget people who have helped in the past that you have lost touch with, or past customers you never tried to sell to again, or folks who attempted to reach out to you that you missed out on responding to recently.
Here’s one specific thing you can do differently – spend less time on social media, with fewer people. Use social media to get acquainted with the people you want to meet, then follow up offline in about a week to develop a better friendship. If you can’t meet them in person, try a video Skype meeting, or a good old fashioned phone call.
Try this just for January, then compare the results you got out of your social media connections to the last month “normal” month you had (for example, if you’re in retail, you may want to compare it to October or some other month that doesn’t have a seasonal boost).
In part two and three of this series, I will outline additional ways you can start standing out from the crowd that may surprise you – stay tuned.
DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?
(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?
Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.
However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.
When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.
These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.
These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.
These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.
Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.
In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”
There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.
Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.
Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.
It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.
Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.
It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.
If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.
Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.
Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?
I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.
The best course of action is to take extra precaution.
Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.
Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.
How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too
(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.
Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?
A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.
But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.
Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?
The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.
However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”
The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.
The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.
In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.
In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”
Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.
Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes
(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.
A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.
Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”
I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.
Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.
This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.
I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)
While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.
So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.
This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.
Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.
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