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7 signs that your company is too comfortable

When a company gets too comfortable, the minor details are lost and what was once success becomes a failure. Here are the signs of any company becoming too comfortable.

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Companies of all size make this common mistake

No matter the size of a company, what commonly happens when you hit a certain stride is that comfort sets in. It isn’t always apparent, and it doesn’t always end in dramatic tweet-offs or Yelp battles, rather results in dissatisfied consumers and clients.

On this topic, Omar Aqel has observed seven signs that your company may be too comfortable and in need of a change. Aqel is the Co-Founder of PTel, one of the original no-contract wireless companies in the United States, and Co-Founder of newly created GIV Mobile, a new no-contract wireless service dedicated to giving 8 percent of a monthly Unlimited Everything Plan to charities of the customer’s choice.

Aqel asserts that no business leader should ever quit learning, so in his own words offers the following seven signs based on his company’s culture that will reveal whether or not your own company is too comfortable:

1. Letting Emotions Make Decisions for You:

Work can be stressful at times but that is no excuse for allowing emotions to get involved. Oftentimes employees or even managers make the mistake of letting heated conversations between themselves and customers reach the point where they act out of emotion. For example, by denying a customer the courtesy of waiving a shipping fee because the customer was rude, he or she potentially lost that customer’s business.

If nothing else, letting your emotions get the best of you once makes it easier for them to get the best of you again. We teach our employees to understand our customers first before seeking to be understood themselves. It’s very unlikely customers are contacting us with the intent to be spiteful. More than likely, they are looking for someone to help them with their problem. Remember, your hurt feelings will last a minute. A lost customer will probably be forever.

2. You Forget You Need Every Customer:

We train our employees to treat each customer as if they were our most important one because I honestly believe that’s true. The moment you lose this mentality and take the customer for granted is the moment your company begins its decline. On top of making each customer happy, this objective creates happier employees. If a customer representative denies a customer’s request to waive a fee, a charge, etc. this could be considered “good” for our bottom line. Objectively, our employee saved us money.

But the customer representative doesn’t get anything out of it, right? Instead, they got an uncomfortable, maybe even heated, conversation. By telling our employees to treat each customer as the most important customer, we give them the freedom to do right by them. With this practice, our employees never hesitate to pick up the phone, making happier employees and in turn happy customers. Your business will never fail if the customers are happy.

3. Companies Don’t Give Back:

Many companies these days make an effort to be charitable to their communities and employees. However, this giving often time dries up with added success. Whether or not a company becomes too busy, I believe companies stop being charitable at their own risk. For GIV Mobile, giving to charity is the cornerstone of our business.

I believe it’s our responsibility as a company to give back in an effort to better our community and in turn, the world. Giving back fosters a community of “people doing good,” which is what our company stands for. On top of boosting morale, giving back also helps us appreciate how much we have.

4. Outsourcing Customer Support and Becoming Out of Touch with Customers’ Concerns:

Everybody knows that many U.S. companies outsource their customer service call centers to different countries with the benefit of reducing overhead. However, there is a reason these call centers have developed a negative stigma. Oftentimes customers will call these centers looking for assistance and end up on the phone twice as long just trying to explain their situation. Outsourcing customer service to another company comes with the risk that the employees will not have the same level of knowledge or care as your own employees.

Our customer service representatives are part of our company in more ways than one. We do our best to treat our customer representatives like family and instill in them a sense of pride at GIV Mobile. If they can’t answer a question they will find the person who can. Our customer service representatives want to do everything in their power to make sure the customer hangs up happy. Companies should constantly research if their customers are truly happy with the customer service they are being provided – if not, immediately make appropriate changes so that the next time they call, they are 100% satisfied.

5. They Don’t Regularly Train Their Employees:

A lot of lip service is paid to training when a company is first established. Often there are training regiments and procedures in place to audit an employee’s performance. However, when a company grows quickly or aims to cut costs, training sessions can become less of a priority or even an inconvenience. When a company allows training to fall by the wayside, they are communicating that the service they are providing is just “good enough.” The real issue isn’t a busy schedule; rather the attitude that “good enough” is acceptable.

6. Lack of Discipline, from Top to Bottom:

The art of discipline cannot be overvalued in any company. A manager might avoid using discipline for fear of being seen as the “bad guy,” but more often than not he or she will come off as lazy, incompetent or apathetic. This can cause employees to lose respect for them. A lack of discipline can also translate into a lack of feedback, causing employees to feel stressed by not knowing whether or not they are doing a good job.

Discipline often gets harder the higher one climbs up the corporate ladder, but if a CEO can’t find it in his or her heart to discipline the managers, one can hardly expect managers to do the same for their people. Discipline always starts at the top.

7. They Forget to Thank Their Customers:

A friend of mine once told me an interesting story: her father never threw out his trash at a fast food restaurants unless the lid had “Thank You” written on it. Quirky, to say the least, but that story had a significant effect on me as a businessman. We always thank our customers. When customers call in, e-mail us or even if they are returning a product, we thank them.

Of course we want to show our customers gratitude, but by thanking them we are constantly reminding ourselves, as well as the customer, how valuable he or she is. Your customers don’t have to give you their business. If you’re selling socks, so is someone else. At GIV Mobile, we remind ourselves that appreciating and thanking our customers is essential to maintain a long-term relationship.

The takeaway

Becoming to comfortable is not synonymous with complacency – sometimes overlooking the simple details can cause a decline in the perception of your brand, and as Aqel said, every customer counts. Revamp your efforts today to keep your business successful.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business Entrepreneur

6 simple self-care tips to keep any busy entrepreneur sane

(ENTREPRENEUR) We don’t all have time for yoga and long baths, but self-care can keep us sane and able to keep doing what we love for work – here’s how.

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It’s no secret that Americans are stressed. A recent study shows 3 out of 4 Americans experienced a symptom of extreme stress in the past month. Throw entrepreneurship into the mix, and you’re primed for a breakdown, or burnout at the very least. The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way.

This is why self-care is important.

The term “self-care” is nowadays often associated with skincare routines and Netflix, but in reality, it’s much more than that: It’s valuing yourself and your health enough to graciously set boundaries and say no. That way, you bring the best version of yourself to your job and relationships day after day.

I’ve started several companies, sold two, and recently started a new gig as VP of Growth & Ops for Steadfast Media (hi, guys!) while running Honey & Vinegar, so it’s safe to say I’ve been one tired woman. There were times I was tired, frustrated, and honestly burnt out. At one point, I took a sabbatical for several months at the urging of several mentors, family members, and my career coach. Burnout is real, but I’ve learned ways to cultivate self-care in my professional life that allows me to have a somewhat balanced life.

(Side note: I understand there are situations out of one’s control that can contribute to burnout, including ailing family members, parenting, disabilities, etc. This article is not focused necessarily on these, rather preventing your professional life becoming your entire life. That way, you can focus on the truly important things.)

Here’s what I’ve learned about self-care thus far (mostly the hard way):

1. Set strict boundaries & turn off notifications.

The best advice I ever received was a one-off realization from my brother: gate it, don’t date it.

Meaning that if you have emails, Slack, or Trello on your phone, don’t make it available to where you check it at all times of day and night. Force a gate between you and the app. Put the app in another folder to where you don’t check it 24/7. Don’t let the notifications own you, or straight up disable them.

If you’re the boss, you get to set the standards. Check Slack and emails during certain times, and be as specific as possible when setting those times. If there’s a true emergency, have employees then call or text. Set those boundaries and stick to them. Encourage your employees to stick to them with one another, too.

2. Have friends and a life outside of your industry.

I can’t emphasize this enough, and this is also why I’ve only lived in cities that emphasize one industry. (DC and LA people, I don’t know how you do it! Props to you.)

This allows you to create a life beyond just your professional life.

When it seems like the sky is falling — i.e. you don’t get that round of funding, or that one client flips out, it’s important to have people around you who are a) grounded b) can give you perspective. Compatriots in your respective industry are helpful for support and sounding boards, but it’s easy to b

When an acquisition deal for a past company fell through, I felt like my world was over. I was devastated. My darling friends, one in healthcare and another in real estate, took me to Chuy’s happy hour and gave me perspective. Relationships like these are game-changers.

3. Schedule time for yourself.

Set time aside for yourself, but get real: What does this mean practically in your day to day, week to week life? For me, I purposefully make sure to keep one night a week, ideally two, to rest at home with my husband.

Also, plan that damn vacation! It doesn’t have to be a lavish European vacation, but set aside time where you are intentionally not checking your phone or emails.

When I took my first actual vacation (and not working remotely) in years, It was life-changing. Be intentional to take more than two days to think, journal, set aside goals not just professionally, but what you want you life to look like that following quarter. You, your company, and the people will be a lot better for it, I promise.

4. Cultivate healthy habits that are enjoyable.

Don’t let the hustle culture get to you. Hard work is important, but so is exercise, eating healthy, and maintaining mental health. In other words, some legit self-care.

Some good thoughts from VC Harry Stebbings.

Set routines of things you love to do that also maintain your well-being. I love going to the gym and putting my phone on Do Not Disturb for 30 minutes, but that’s not for everyone. Take your dog on a walk, put on a playlist to cook a good meal, go to that yoga class. Or just go on a walk with a friend. You do you, boo.

This could be you.

5. Train other people to do your job.

You may think you’re the only person that can do a number of things at your job. If you want your company to ever scale, you need, I repeat, need to take those tedious tasks off your list, and even some larger projects off your hands.

I know it’s so hard to relinquish control, but *gasp* there might be people that can do parts of your job better than you. So let them!

Does this mean you need to hire a virtual assistant, a COO, find another co-founder, or just hire that dang accountant? Do it.

Your business is only going to succeed if you’re performing as the best version of yourself, not a stressed-out shell of yourself. If you need to micromanage everything, your business won’t succeed or be sustainable long-term. Don’t let your stress about doing everything stunt your company or personal growth. If you needed a sign, this is it.

6. Practice self-awareness.

There is nothing more valuable than the gift of self-awareness.

Listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Does it need water? Does it need sleep? Start a habit of journaling and seeing what areas where you’re running on empty. More than that — do what your body tells you. Drink that water, my friend!

The takeaway:

All in all, life is more than work and who we are is more important than what we do. Take time for self-care, and you’ll have a healthier mind and body.

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Business Entrepreneur

Performance improvement through self-talk

(ENTREPRENEUR) Speaking to others can be scary, but speaking to yourself is normal and can actually improve your speech performance overall

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Do you talk to yourself? Don’t worry, this is a no-judgment zone. I probably talk to myself more than I talk to other people – especially when considering the inner monologue.

I once read that people who talk to themselves are likely to be more intelligent. Whether or not this is factual I don’t know, but I do know that it’s important that you’re smart about the way you talk to yourself.

I’m a fairly self-deprecating person, so when I’m talking to myself about myself, it’s usually some sort of insult. About a year or so ago, I realized how often I was doing this, and made a conscious effort to be a little bit nicer. In that time, my mood has been a bit more positive.

This experience fits well into the research efforts of psychologist Ethan Kross who has examined the differences in life success based off of how people talk to themselves. “Talk to yourself with the pronoun I, for instance, and you’re likely to fluster and perform poorly in stressful circumstances,” said Kross. “Address yourself by your name and your chances of acing a host of tasks, from speech making to self-advocacy, suddenly soar.”

This can be simplified as, talk to yourself the way you would (or maybe, should) talk to someone else, and respond in the way you would want them to respond. Treat with kindness, receive kindness back – as a result, things are more cohesive, copacetic, and successful.

After working with participants in his study, Kross found a number of performance benefits to this self-talk method, including: better performance, higher well-being, and greater wisdom.

With better performance, judges were used to listen to five-minute speeches prepared by participants about why they should be hired for their dream job. Half of the participants used “I” statements, while the other half referred to themselves by their own name. The judges found that the latter half performed better, and were found to have experienced less depression and felt less shame.

With higher well-being, Jason Moser, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist, measured electrical activity in the brain during participants’ usage of the different types of self-talk. During stressful situations, those who used their names instead of personal pronouns were found to have a significant decrease in anxiety levels, which positively correlated with a major decrease in energy use by the frontal lobe (talk about a win, win!)

With greater wisdom, the research found that people who use their names instead of pronouns are able to think things through more wisely and more rational and balanced way. “The psychologically distanced perspective allowed people to transcend their egocentric viewpoints and take the big picture into account,” Kross said of this piece of the research.

Well, Taylor is now ready to wrap up this article, and she hopes that you’ll give name-first self-talk a try, as The American Genius only wants what is best for their readers! Additionally, encourage people around you and those on your team to give this self-talk, first name idea a try – circle back after a week of trying it and share the results.

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Business Entrepreneur

How freelancers can keep the peace with difficult clients

(ENTREPRENEUR) Freelancers are in a tight spot – keeping customers happy pays the bills, even when they’re impossibly difficult. Let’s discuss how to overcome this tremendous challenge.

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Freelancers have a myriad of benefits, but one distinct drawback is that there isn’t always a team to back you up if you find yourself working with a particularly nasty client. It’s especially important to keep clients — no matter how insufferable they may be — in good moods, so here are a few tips on keeping the peace with your most annoying customers.

It’s worth noting that you can often mitigate a large amount of potential misunderstandings — and thus, nastiness — by being clear with your intentions, terms, and rules up front and over-communicating at all times. A common issue for beginning freelancers is a tendency to settle on less-than-optimal terms for fear of losing a potential customer. A piece of advice – if they’re not willing to pay you what you’re worth now, they never will be.

It also helps to keep in mind that most obstinate clients are simply control-freaks who have found themselves outside of their comfort zones. Knowing that you aren’t dealing with inherently bad people can be the difference between snapping and having more patience.

Once you’ve established that your client is causing you substantial enough discomfort that their behavior is no longer acceptable, your first step should be to communicate to them the specifics of your problem. If possible, do this in writing – promises made via email tend to reinforce accountability better than phone calls.

Freelancers should also avoid using any additional stipulations or rewards for getting clients to cooperate. As long as they’re the one failing to hold up their end of the bargain, they should be the one to pick up the slack — don’t do their work for them (or, if you do, make sure you charge them for it).

Again, the majority of client-freelancer issues can be boiled down to miscommunication and shaky terms, so address all issues as quickly as possible to avoid similar problems in the future. And as previously stated, over-communicate at all times.

Of course, keeping the peace is only viable up to a certain point of abuse.

If your client doesn’t pay you by the agreed-upon due date, continuously disrespects you and/or your team, or keeps changing the terms of your agreement, you reserve the right to set the client straight, threaten to take them to small-claims court, or — if you haven’t initiated the work for your end of the deal — terminate the contract.

Remember, freelancers don’t owe inconsiderate customers the time of day, and for every non-paying customer with whom you waste your time, you’re missing out on a paid, legitimate opportunity.

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