Business leader showcase
This East Coast gal is stuck on West Coast time, and once dreamed of being called the Honorable Abayomi-Paul. Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the Owner of Leveraged Promotions, established in 1998, and today spends time telling AG readers what her days look like, what keeps her up at night, and things that only people very close to her would know.
We often revere leaders, but often for their current work, without knowing where they came from, but by knowing what makes people tick, we can not only better connect with one another, but we stand to gain by being able to identify with traits shared with various leaders as a means of inspiring our own leadership paths.
Below is an unedited interview with Abayomi-Paul, in her own words:
Tell us about yourself and your work.
There arel all kinds of fancy words and phrases used to describe what I do but it boils down to this: I help businesses get more customers via the web, which includes mobile.
I’ve been doing this since 1998, at first working just with friends’ sites or organizations that weren’t pursuing a profit. At one point I owned the third most popular poetry site in the world, after poetry.com and Def Poetry Jam. It was called Fireseek, then later Urban Poetic. We had a partnership with About.com which included advertising. At the time I had a full time job, and that advertising got me the equivalent of an extra paycheck after I shared it with my partner.
Due to some health concerns and losing my job, I started thinking about how great it would be to help other people do what I did with the poetry site. At first it started out as helping other people get an extra paycheck a month. Then in 2004, I made more in one day than I did in a month at my temp job. The place I was working for went back on a promise to give me time off for my sister’s wedding. I quit and never looked back. I taught myself everything I could about promoting a business via the web – while promoting my business via the web. I tested things, then sold the knowledge or did the same for other companies.
Walk us through a typical day in your life.
My days living in Las Vegas, where I started my business, have spoiled me – my body won’t switch back from West coast time no matter what I do. I typically get up around 9 am East coast time unless I have something pressing to do. I start the day with research – what has happened with Google, social media, marketing, or PR since I went to bed? Have my colleagues written anything that would inspire me to debate or creation?
Then I share what I’ve discovered, do some commenting. Then I write. Articles, blog posts, work on books I’m writing, ghostwriting sometimes. About once a week I incorporate the creation of audio and video content – new habit I’m forming. By this time it’s midday.
At this point I check in with all my teams to make sure all the client projects are going well. Then I double-check my email, text, social media and phone messages to make sure I haven’t missed any fires that need to be put out.
After lunch is when I have the majority of my meetings. I find myself mentally sharper as the day goes on, even though I tend to get physically tired faster if I don’t pace myself.
I try to wrap it up by 6 pm, but I fail about 40% of the time, so my day often ends around 8, much as it pains me to admit.
What did you do before your current career?
I was in IT, mostly Help Desk. My last long-term job was with the MGM Mirage. They have this cool command center wall – you know how in the movies, NASA has this wall full of screens with lots of different information? It was like that. Before I moved to Vegas, I worked on the Help Desk at the IMF. I was working the swing shift with the Mission Travelers. People would go to remote areas where sometimes there was only dial-up access, so we couldn’t connect to a person’s computer like we could if they were in the building. Nor could we have come drop off their computers. So we would have to visualize the problem and give them oral instructions for how to fix things.
It was ideal for me because I have a kind of photographic memory. It’s not like on TV – it’s more like if I’ve seen something recently and enough times, I can remember something I’ve seen like I’m still looking at it. Like I can be in the supermarket, and look at the last time I saw the refrigerator to know if we have something.
What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?
I meditate and read affirmations. It reduces stress and helps me focus. I used to do it daily, and that what when I was most successful with the least effort. Working my way back to that.
What keeps you up at night?
I don’t have payroll, because I hire other companies instead of other people. It’s cleaner until I need permanent people. But making sure I have enough work to keep working with the same teams keeps me up at night. I am also almost at the point where I need a permanent assistant. So I worry about finding room for that in the budget on a consistent basis, someone trainable but who already has the basic skills I need. I was burned once by someone who was a sharp self-starter, but turned out to be untrustworthy.
If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?
Toni Morrison. She was an editor for a long time, then started writing at 45. She later won a Pulitzer Price and a Nobel Peace Price. At heart, I’m a writer, I think what we read fuels who we are. So I’d love to see how her mind works from the inside.
What tools can you not live without?
I’d throw my phone in a lake if I could. I hate texting, and I want my phone to do less, not more. answer calls consistently and stfu. But my work and my life need to be mobile. Not to mention the fact that I’m addicted to mobile apps.
So I’d have to say my iPad. A very close second would be Jungle Disk – a product by Rackspace that, in conjunction with Amazon s3, gives my company network drives. I also adore LastPass. I kill PC laptops in six months on average, so instead of constantly losing everything, I just save it all to the cloud. I back stuff up to a brick too but with a network drive you don’t have to go through the restore process.
If you could start your current career over, what would you do differently?
I would have skipped directly to owning a company that builds useful or fun software, and focused on creating content for the people who liked the software my company built. I thought I had to be able to code and all that. And I had a serious problem, which I’m currently still getting over, with thinking I had to do everything 1- myself and 2- perfectly. Now i know it’s more important to be timely, and that I can correct as I go. The grammar police and the haters will find something wrong with what you’re doing no matter what.
I’d be making mobile apps and web apps for business now. I still will but it would have been nice to have been doing this from the beginning.
At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As my mother constantly reminds me, I wanted to get a PhD like my father, and also be a judge. I fantasized about being called the Honorable Dr. Abayomi-Paul. I will likely still get a doctorate, but I eventually realized that my dream was to go to law school, not to be a lawyer. And I decided I’d wait until I could afford to go without getting deeper into school loan debt, and if I still wanted to do it, I would.
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t believe unless they knew you.
I’m much quieter in person than my long, rambly writing would have you believe. MUCH.
What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?
I’m paraphrasing what I was told is Emerson, but I can’t remember what essay this quote is in, nor have I had much luck Googling it.
“Your attitude towards a given situation is more important than the facts that actually prevail.”
I’ve found that to be universally true. Most of think our thoughts and emotions are just electrical impulses that happen to us, that we’re enslaved to them. In life I’ve learned that your thoughts are a choice that you can make conscious, and that we can control a great deal of our emotions. Some of my early close friends think it odd the way I often deal with conflict, because they grew up with me being confrontational, even when the situation didn’t necessarily call for it.
But around college, I began to realize that if my TRUE goal is to resolve a conflict, and not just to win an argument or stress myself, then what’s the point of arguing over stupid things? It’s not like your anger can Do anything. It’s not like worry makes things better. It’s not as if your tears have curative powers. I’m not dead inside or anything – I still have so-called negative emotions. But now, instead of something bothering me for weeks or months, I have learned to shift my focus so it only affects me for minutes or hours.
Most incredibly, it’s what frees up my energy for achieving what I want to in life. Drop as much of your baggage as you can – no one helps you carry it.
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.
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.
Product Hunt is putting their money where their hunt is
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Product Hunt is putting money where their hunt is by announcing a new Maker Grants service to boost small and independent creators.
Product Hunt – a technology centric site that aggregates new products daily – recently announced a new Maker Grant program that is designed to identify and help startups get their products started with a $5,000 grant.
Since its inception in 2013 by Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt has been a success vehicle for numerous products and companies by giving them access to a large audience of potential customers and investors. Available as an app across multiple formats, it allows groups to post their ideas and get feedback from a number of sources through comments and an integrated voting system. Everything from books, podcasts, hardware, and games can be found on Product Hunt, with dozens of new entries every day.
And now, Product Hunt’s new venture is to give 3 promising products their own substantial grant each month in an effort to give back to its community by placing money into the hands of its followers.
In a statement in its press release, Product Hunt announced that, “We know that building products can be expensive work, and passion doesn’t always pay the bills. As a way of saying thank you to the community, and to encourage makers to keep building, this year we’re offering cash gifts of $5,000 to three makers each month.”
Users will be able to nominate Makers that they feel deserve the investment by filling out a form. Product Hunt will take these suggestions and make decisions from there. In terms of how this will all be done, the official word is, “We’re reviewing makers who launched in the previous month who we believe are shining examples of innovation, grit, and engagement with the PH community. We’ll also be prioritizing those who are bootstrapping their businesses or working on their side projects without the help of venture funding.”
The big takeaway here is that Product Hunt is championing its support of its Makers through direct monetary help. By giving back into their own users, it strengthens and encourages them to put their best ideas forward and believe in their own innovation. Whereas more standard and traditional methods of grants may require several layers of arbitration, paperwork, and other hurdles, Product Hunt is providing a fast track to capital by leveraging its existing group of passionate users. Even knowing where to look can be intimidating and overwhelming.
At a time when banks may not be the best option for grants and loans, seeing a company choose to instead redirect its own money into the hands of its users is uplifting (and even more so given the turbulent market in a pandemic-choked world). Product Hunt maintains that it will do this each month, and will listen to feedback as it continues to build out the program.
Product Hunt’s userbase has reacted with incredible enthusiasm and praise, with repeated posts expressing a huge level of excitement and gratitude. While there are still some questions to be answered, Product Hunt’s flexible and community-driven approach is poised to potentially change the lives of many Makers. It will be exciting to see how this all plays out, and hopefully will encourage other companies to follow suit in creating positive outcomes through financial support.
Snowpocalypse disaster 2021: How can businesses help their employees?
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How did your business manage your human resources during snowpocalypse? How can you protect your team and prepare for the next disaster?
The effects of Snowpocalypse 2021 will be felt for months. It’s not just fixing the power grid, paying off electric bills, or repairing pipes. Many employees lost wages because they couldn’t work. CNBC estimates that over 40% of Americans couldn’t last a month on their savings. Combined with the impact of COVID-19 across many industries, recovering from a 2-week loss of wages from the snowstorm disaster could devastate many Texans.
How does your business manage time off during disasters?
Larger businesses often continue to pay their employee’s salaries during disasters. Exempt employees have different rules over non-exempt employees, but we’ve seen many instances where larger organizations continued to pay employees, even though they couldn’t get into work. Employees with small to medium sized businesses often don’t have an option. These employees either take PTO or don’t get paid. While this might be legal and understandable from the business point of view, there might be other options. What can a business do when a disaster occurs when it comes to employee wages?
Know the law to pay employees right
I’m not even going to try to and sort through the multitude of laws that pertain to nonexempt or exempt employees. Every business should have a disaster policy that informs employees how their salary will be handled during the disaster, whether employees can stay home and work, choose to stay home out of safety or are forced to stay home and can’t work. Know the policies of the ADA, OSHA and FMLA to know what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer when disaster strikes. Make sure you’re paying employees according to state and federal laws.
Consider options to protect employees
We’re not suggesting that businesses put themselves in debt to pay workers during a crisis, but Texas has experienced so many disasters over the past few years, it does make sense to think about how to help employees during those times. Critical time off (CTO) is one option as a benefit to workers during crises. By lowering stress during critical times, your employees come back to work ready to deal with your business.
Building trust with your team by helping them through a crisis can help your business keep your best workers. Now’s the time to look at your disaster response and figure out how to take steps to prepare for the next time.
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