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10 networking tips for young entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEUR TIPS) – When you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, growth is always on your mind. Networking is one of the most powerful ways to expand your growing empire, so here’s some practical advice to get you on your way.

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It’s time to get out there!

As a budding entrepreneur, you surely have an idol in your industry. This is probably someone who has worked very hard to achieve their position and sits very comfortably with their success. Even the most wealthy and respected entrepreneurs started somewhere, however, and the majority started in the same position as you. One of the ways they managed to climb from beginner to professional is through networking.

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People are the key to your personal and business success. When you network, you’re able to talk with people who have experience in your industry. They can give advice and help you build your trade to a level you may not reach on your own.

“I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking,” says Tom Farley, the president of the NYSE. He argues that networking is one of the most important things young entrepreneurs can do for their careers.

If you’re not sure where to start with networking, then here are a few ideas:

1. Believe in your business

When you’re strongly committed to your business, you won’t seem as young and naïve. You’ll take on the appearance of a confident, successful businessperson. Someone that everyone wants to associate with.

2. Take advantage of service opportunities

Service is free, which always leaves a strong impact on the recipient. Jumping into local events and organizations and offering your time can help you connect with important individuals. People don’t usually turn down free things, and it could be your foot in the right door.

3. Give gifts as a token of appreciation

When someone makes a connection with you, it’s customary to send a thank you card, or even a gift to show your appreciation. Appropriate corporate gifts can send a message of professionalism while leaving a good impression on the recipient.

4. Ask questions of the greats

The wise and successful usually have no problem sharing tips and ideas. When seeking guidance, ask very specific questions, so others don’t have to do extra work in the process. They’ll be much more likely to impart their knowledge when you do most of the work. Take any knowledge you receive to heart, and apply it, so it’s not a waste of your time.

5. Put puzzle pieces together

Networking is kind of like putting together a puzzle. Each connection you make is a piece of that puzzle. Find ways to unite your connections, and integrate the information you’re learning, so it can all create a bigger picture.

6. Have a professional portfolio or blog

On the flip side, sometimes networking is people finding you. When you post a public, professional portfolio or blog, people can view your achievements and will be enticed to make a connection. It saves you time and helps to make more meaningful connections with people who want to help.

7. Follow up

For most people, a single meeting won’t forge a relationship. It takes multiple interactions to create that link, which makes following up essential to networking success.

8. Find your people

Look for those who will have the greatest impact on you, and only associate with them. If you’ve made a connection that’s weighing you down and doing very little to promote your success, don’t be afraid to cut that person loose.

9. Attend conferences

When you don’t have a lot of time for networking on a personal level, go to conferences and other networking events. Many of the people you’ll want to meet will be in a single room, which helps you to narrow down your choices and forge some meaningful relationships.

10. Use social media

Harnessing the power of social media is also a great tool for the time-strapped entrepreneur. LinkedIn, for example, is the ultimate platform for business networking, and you can connect with people on Twitter and Facebook as well. Put yourself out there using this far-reaching online tool, and you’ll see the benefits of your efforts.

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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Entrepreneur

Is COVID proving that efficiency is overrated?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Forget about maximizing profits. Don’t decrease friction – increase it. Oh, and efficiency? Overrated. Wait… what?

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Cut off man working on multiple devices, but lacking efficiency.

When COVID-19 took off in the U.S., shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and blow-up pools had many of us thinking the American manufacturing supply chain must be inefficient. How was it even possible that we didn’t – and still don’t – have enough PPE for healthcare workers?

But what if the problem is that the supply chain is too efficient? That’s what Barry Schwartzis, a professor of psychology at UC-Berkeley and author of “The Paradox of Choice,” argues. Streamlined supply chains, just-in-time deliveries, and little slack in the workforce are all part of the gospel of efficiency. But maybe all that efficiency isn’t really working out for us.

Storing huge supplies of masks in warehouses is, arguably, an inefficient use of money and space. But we sure could have used a stockpile when the pandemic hit.

When businesses run lean, there’s little room to hedge against potential disasters. Schwartzis suggests we focus less on efficiency and more on being prepared for all potential scenarios the uncertain could bring.

It’s all about “satisficing.” (Anyone else now have Elvis in your head singing, “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me”? No? Carry on.)

Satisficing = satisfaction + sufficing. It’s aiming for the adequate, not the optimal. Schwartzis calls it insurance against “financial meltdowns, global pandemics, nasty bosses, boring teachers and crappy roommates.” Sign. Us. Up.

He goes farther and takes that lesson to our personal lives. Don’t try to blow the return on your IRA out of the water. Set a goal that works for good and bad financial times. Don’t search for the best of all possible jobs. Find a job you’ll like doing even if you have the manager from hell. In short, look for the “good enough.”

Sound familiar to those of you who are parents? Amid all the talk of the Tiger Mom and the Helicopter Parent, there’s also been discussion of the Good-Enough Parent. You might want the coffee mug that says “Best Mom Ever,” but you don’t actually have to be the Best Mom Ever. Ditching “best” for “good enough” is like a magic elixir for de-stressing yourself and your kids.

Still, the idea that we can increase efficiency in our personal lives is so seductive. We all want to spend less time doing the things we don’t enjoy so we can spend more time on things that bring happiness and, yes, more money. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, seen the lists: Structure your schedule. Time your tasks. Organize all the things.

Being able to always find your keys certainly could reduce the amount of cursing in your home. We can’t just toss out the Holy Grail of efficiency.

So Schwartzis has another word for you: Friction. Slow down. Don’t move too fast.

“Building friction into our lives, as individuals and as a society, is building resilience into the system,” Schwartzis says. It’s like tapping the brakes.

For business, friction could come from companies seeing themselves as caretakers of their communities rather than just profit centers. Could that kind of corporate responsibility lead to fewer jobs eliminated in the name of efficiency?

For homeowners, friction could be in the form of kids, pets, neighbors or the community – making you see the property as more than just a big investment. Could that prevent skyrocketing housing prices by reducing speculation based purely on profit?

Sure, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s an interesting take on issues we’re thinking more about amid the disruption of 2020’s pandemic.

“To be better prepared next time,” Schwartzis says, “We need to learn to live less ‘efficiently’ in the here and now.”

That could be one of the more important lessons we’re learning now.

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Business Entrepreneur

Amazon sets eyes on couture with launch of online Luxury Stores

(ENTREPRENEUR) As of this week, Amazon is an online luxury retailer. Is this good or bad news for smaller luxury retailers?

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Amazon Luxury Stores logo

When I think of high-end fashion shopping, Amazon is not the first store that comes to mind. Groceries, random knick-knacks, and pet accessories for my adorable pooch are the items in my cart.

For years, the retail giant has tried taking over every single market. This year, they came one step closer to realizing drone delivery to customers. And now, they have their eyes set on couture.

This week, Amazon confirmed the launch of its high-end online designer fashion and beauty brand shopping experience, Luxury Stores. Currently, Oscar de la Renta is the first brand to launch on the platform, but more are on the way.

Available by invitation only to eligible Prime members, the store launched on Amazon’s mobile app. Eligible customers received early access to the designer’s Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections. The collection included “ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume,” according to Amazon.

If you’re a Prime member and didn’t receive an invitation, you can request an invite by visiting amazon.com/LuxuryStores.

Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta said, “Oscar de la Renta is thrilled to partner with Amazon for the launch of Luxury Stores.” He told Vogue that “somewhere near 100% of our existing customers are on Amazon and a huge percentage of those are Prime members. For me to get more mindshare with existing customers in addition to getting new customers—that’s the name of the game.”

According to The Verge, Amazon has over 150 million Prime members. With that big of a number and potentially huge customer overlap, we can all see why Bolen is so thrilled.

But what does Amazon’s break into luxury retail mean for smaller luxury retailers? Smaller companies are still struggling to keep up with the retail giant. With small brick-and-mortar stores fighting to stay afloat during the pandemic, could Amazon’s online Luxury Stores be an all-inclusive solution?

According to Amazon’s press release, the company doesn’t plan on only partnering with established fashion brands, but also with “emerging luxury fashion and beauty brands.”

“We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and we are inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands in Amazon’s store,” said Christine Beauchamp, President of Amazon Fashion.

Engadget reported that Amazon is taking a hands-off approach with Luxury Stores. The company will offer backend and merchandising tools support. Brands will have control over their pricing, inventory, and selection. With brands being able to have more control over their experience, maybe smaller luxury retailers will feel inclined to use this new sales outlet.

“It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers,” Beauchamp said.

Amazon has yet to reveal which new luxury stores will arrive on the platform. Hopefully, we will also see our local luxury stores on Amazon in the future, too.

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Business Entrepreneur

Small businesses must go digital to survive (and thrive)

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A study at Cisco reveals how digitizing small businesses is no longer optional, but critical to success, thanks to the pandemic.

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Black woman working on a laptop on a couch, running her small businesses' needs digitally.

As digital transformation efforts ramp up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study released by Cisco has highlighted some key insights into how small businesses will need to adapt in order to survive in the “new normal.”

The study, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), analyzed more than 2,000 small businesses across eight different markets, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, and France. Using a four-section index to assess a small business’s digitalization efforts, the research found that 16% of companies said they were “thriving and feel their businesses are agile and resilient.” While 36% stated they were in “survival mode.” Regardless of where they were ranked in the index, the study concluded that 70% of firms were in the process of ramping up digital transformation within their company due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC. “Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”

The study also highlighted several challenges associated with digital transformation. The three biggest obstacles that businesses seem to face during the process were digital skills and talent, budgetary issues (lack of funds or previous commitment of funds), and cultural resistance to change. Despite these roadblocks, 45% of companies surveyed stated that they expect over 30% of their business to be digital by 2021. And 32% responded that they are planning on developing a digital strategy. This included investing in talent with the right set of digital skills moving forward.

Those decisions fall in line with Cisco and IDC’s recommendations. These include creating a three-year technology road map and building a workforce with the right skills to succeed in a digital world. Other suggestions include finding the right technology partner, and keeping up with industry trends. Leveraging financing and remanufactured equipment can aid with cash flow and budget requirements.

As small businesses continue to adapt to consumer behavior and the whirlwind of ever-changing rules that have come with the coronavirus, digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the post-COVID world. According to the report, if half of the small businesses surveyed can reach the second-highest tier of the index by 2024, those companies could end up adding an additional $2.3 trillion to the eight markets’ gross domestic product (GDP), contributing to the global economic recovery.

As we approach the six-month mark of the pandemic, just when and how the “new normal” will emerge is still uncertain. But there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses — even if it’s faint green and contains zeroes and ones.

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