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Inc.

Checklist: Don’t Let Fraud Win

Posted by Inc. Oct 20, 2015

Inc-Article-Logo.gif5 Common Small Business Vulnerabilities and How to Avoid Them

 

While data theft and similar breaches at large companies get plenty of media attention, small business owners are actually the more likely targets of various forms of fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reports that small businesses suffer 28 percent higher median fraud losses than larger businesses. To cite just one example, the median loss caused by a single case of occupational fraud (that is, fraud committed from the inside, by an employee) costs a victimized business $145,000. Therefore, the onus is on you to take steps to prevent both internal and external fraud.

 

Here’s a look at five of the most common types of fraud and how to prevent them:

 

  1. Payroll fraud. Payroll is ripe for abuse – hourly employees can inflate their hours or deceptively claim overtime; sales people can report false sales or orders; and bookkeepers can alter payroll records to receive additional pay. The solution? Audit timesheets and sales orders, install biometric time clocks, and institute separation of duties in the accounting department.

  2. Online Transaction Fraud. Credit cards have recently gained an extra measure of fraud protection due to the mandated addition of EMV chips, but online and mobile transactions remain prime targets for fraudsters. Online fraud exacts a heavy price, as retailers not only lose merchandise but also the costs involved to prepare and ship the goods. Fraudulent chargebacks—a scam whereby people receive items but deny having done so, gaining refunds and keeping the disputed merchandise—are on the rise. To cut down on online transaction fraud, employ customer authentication tools, validate suspicious orders, create a “blacklist” of fraudsters, employ a variety of delivery confirmation services offered by freight carriers, and use address verification services.

  3. Banking fraud. To combat cyber banking fraud, institute strict password protocols that include rules that mandate passwords be changed frequently, require two-person approval for fund transfers, educate employees about phishing scams, and consider dedicating a single computer for use only for financial transactions.

  4. Vendor fraud. Vendor relationships present multiple opportunities for fraud, both internal and external. Employees can set up shell companies where they direct phony vendor payments or simply create dummy invoices and put them through for payment. A variation involves hiring family members or friends to perform services and inflating the billing, then receiving a kickback. To prevent these scams, review invoices and match them to specific goods and services, institute rotation of duties in the accounting department, and conduct due diligence on vendors before instituting payment.

  5. Payments fraud. As the payments universe expands, fraud is growing along with it. Checks remain the largest target for fraud, followed by credit/debit cards and wire transfers. To deter check fraud, use positive pay to match checks presented for payments with a bank’s issued check files, reconcile daily, review checks routinely via reverse positive pay, and consider moving to electronic payment. For wire transfers, employ multiple means of communication to verify purchases, especially large wire transfers, and educate staff on email and phone scams. For a business credit card, implement safeguards including limiting the number of credit cards and authorized users and comparing charges with expenses reports.

 



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Inc.. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Inc-Article-Logo.gifFrom cracking glass ceilings to breaking industry barriers, today’s women are defining business ownership on their terms.

 

There’s a national conversation in play about women in the workplace and the challenges they face with regard to pay equity and advancement opportunities. But that conversation is centered on women who work for someone else. Shift the focus to women who work for themselves and the whole dynamic changes—which is one reason why more women are exploring the opportunities they can create as small business owners.

 

“I don’t see that there are any ceilings once you become an entrepreneur,” says Susan Rittscher, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Center for Women and Enterprise. “Capital is a little bit more challenging at times, but we help women through that. The other thing is that many women who are on a corporate ladder have decided that they don’t want a corporate lifestyle. They opt for becoming an entrepreneur so they can have more flexibility and have a better work-life balance.”

 

Choice is one of the perks of entrepreneurship. Women who need to juggle business ownership with other priorities can turn to organizations like Rittscher’s to learn how to manage and control small business growth. Others find that with the right management structure, they can pursue more ambitious profit and growth goals. As entrepreneurs, they’re in the driver’s seat.

 

That can prove especially true where you might not expect it: in traditionally male-dominated industries in which women are underrepresented. Those who are strong in areas such as science and math or industries like technology or construction may discover that they have a competitive advantage. “Large corporations have to set aside a certain portion of their spend for contracting to women and minorities,” Rittscher says. “If a woman gets into those areas, is very good, and understands contracting, it can be very lucrative.”

 

With that in mind, she encourages women to look into getting their enterprises certified as woman-owned businesses. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) grants certification through local organizations like the Center for Business and Enterprise. Among her clients who have completed the certification process is a marketing and promotional materials company that “really learned how to use the process well and now has contracts with six or eight Fortune 500 companies,” she says. “So it does work.”

 

Women who work as consultants and sole proprietors can land clients in those tiers, as well, either on their own or through subcontracting. And given that 92 percent of woman-owned businesses generate less than $2 million in revenue, opportunities of that magnitude can propel them to unprecedented levels of profitability and growth. “It’s not necessarily easy, but I find that women are quite resilient and able to do a lot more than we think at times,” Richter says.

 

Visit the WBENC website for more information about the benefits of certification, which begin with access to a list of supplier diversity and procurement executives at corporations and government agencies. The site also offers a walk-through of the certification process and the documentation required.

 


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Inc.. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Leasing options can help you to reserve your working capital, manage your credit, and still invest in the equipment your small business needs to pursue its growth targets. Tracking industry trends for 2015 can help you make the right leasing decisions for your company. In addition, you’ll want to learn more about planned changes to accounting rules that will alter the way equipment lease expenditures are reported. These 2015 industry trends and changes in accounting rules can help you assess your company’s equipment leasing options

 


1.   Introduction

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to have cash management concerns distract you from your company’s core areas of focus. At the same time, you need to conserve your working capital and make the most strategic use of your lines of credit as you pursue new opportunities in areas such as marketing, R&D, and expansion. And to complicate matters further, you need to invest in equipment to keep your company competitive and positioned for growth. Depending on your needs and objectives, leasing may make sense for your company when the time comes to acquire new equipment.


According to the Equipment Leasing and Financing Association (ELFA), that time may be now. The organization predicts that 2015 will see record spending of “nearly $1.5 trillion in capital goods or fixed business investment (including software).” That figure accounts for spending by U.S. businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. On the business side, the hike in spending is seen as a sign of economic confidence and expectations of expansion, as companies in some industries see capacity utilization rates “reach or surpass levels historically known to spur business investment.”

 


2.   Taking stock of the industry trends

ELFA predicts a “healthy growth rate of 6 percent” in equipment and software investment this year. It adds that “aircraft, trucks, and other industrial equipment are projected to be among the higher growth types, while agriculture, computers, and software are expected to see slower growth.”


With the Federal Reserve expected to raise short-term interest rates in 2015, the organization predicts that businesses will “seek to lock in equipment financing at lower rates.” In fact, it has forecast a trend toward the use of financing for 62 percent of businesses’ $922 billion in expenditures on plant, equipment, and software this year.


Technological advances are supporting the move toward increased financing. “Equipment finance providers are streamlining their business processes and improving customer self-service capabilities using digital technologies,” ELFA finds. “To meet customer demand and address evolving technology equipment requirements, equipment finance companies will tailor innovative financial offerings.”

 


3.   Taking reporting rule changes into account

In addition to tracking these 2015 trends, ELFA has its eye on an upcoming change in accounting rules that will have an impact on the way businesses account for equipment leases. Lease consultant Bill Bosco of Leasing 101, a member of the ELFA accounting committee, was sponsored by the organization as a working member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) task force to change the accounting rules. He explains that the Lease Accounting Project was initiated by FASB, which establishes accounting rules in the U.S., at the direction of the Securities and Exchange Commission.


“The project’s major objective is to record operating leases as an asset and a liability on the balance sheet of any company that has to report audited financial statements,” Bosco says. “So it’s going to apply to small- and medium-sized enterprises that have to put out audited financial statements for their banks. The objective is to show readers of financial statements what the liability was for operating leases as well as what the value of the right to use the asset is that arises from those operating leases.”


The project began in 2006, and to understand its evolution, it’s helpful to have some background on where accounting rules and practices stood at that starting point. “Operating leases are currently off balance sheet, and what that means is that neither an asset nor a liability appears on the books, but a company reports rent expense,” Bosco explains. “They accrue the average rent, and they pay the actual rent for any equipment that they’re leasing or any office space or retail store space.”


Under that practice, financial statements record only rent expense, and companies footnote future rent obligations, he adds. “That’s so people like lenders can understand what your company is obligated for that might not be on the balance sheet when they’re making a decision as to

whether or not to lend you money.” The SEC decided that it was better practice to include that information on the balance sheet, and that decision led to FASB’s creation of the Lease Accounting Project.

 


4.   Scaling the changes to small business capacity

The details of the initial proposed change sparked concern among small business owners and leasing industry professionals. “People were worried about the complexity of this,” Bosco says.


“A small business doesn’t have a big accounting staff.” But the project has evolved through many iterations and much public comment since its inception, and based on industry input and public comment, FASB opted for a rule that puts the present value of rents on the balance sheet as an asset and a liability but does not call the liability debt.


“That’s an important point. They made it easier to comply because of the way they decided to handle the P&L and the balance sheet,” Bosco says. “The P&L is going to stay exactly the same. A small- or medium-sized company, or any company for that matter, would for operating leases approve the average rent expense if it’s an uneven rent lease, and pay the actual rent expense, same as you do today—so you don’t have to change your rent payment process or your rent cost accounting process.”


Another area of concern was that the new rule would have a negative impact on small companies’ credit ratings, but that fear is unfounded, Bosco says. “Your credit is not going to change at all, because lenders and credit rating agencies always look at operating leases in the footnotes. Just because FASB says you’ve got a new asset and liability doesn’t change your ability to pay your debts, so your credit rating isn’t going to change.”

 


5.   Getting a handle on it all—and preparing for compliance

What does the impending change mean, in practical terms, to you as a small business owner? When the new rules go into effect, you’ll “put the present value of the lease on the books each month with the new present value and reverse the old present value,” he says. “You can actually do it on an Excel spreadsheet. All you’ve got to do is put at the head of the column a present value calculation using your incremental borrowing rate, which is the rate that you’d pay on a loan of the same term as the lease. Put that at the top of the column, do a PV calculation, and make an entry debiting right-of-use asset and crediting other lease liability. It’s that simple.”


In its latest iteration, which is supposed to be signed toward the end of this year, the rule “will give users of financial statements better information, but it will not penalize companies that are leasing equipment as the original project would have,” Bosco says. He notes that the FASB made a great effort to simplify the accounting changes prompted by the new rule and to make compliance less costly.


It’s also important to remember that the new rule will not go into effect for companies until 2018, so you’ll have time to prepare for the change. But by educating yourself about the new rules now, you’ll be better equipped to understand the full impact of your equipment leasing decisions. And that, in turn, will help you to devise your most productive and profitable strategy for investing in your company’s long-term growth and success.

 


6.   Resources

The ELFA maintains the Equipment Finance Advantage website, which offers a variety of resources for small business owners:  


If you’re new to equipment leasing, these ten questions help you evaluate your options and assess the financing terms you’re offered. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/10qs.cfm


This chart provides a point-by-point comparison of leases versus loans.http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/ef101/llc.cfm


Refer to this online glossary when you need assistance understanding terminology used in the lease agreements you’re offered. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/ef101/glossary.cfm


This Digital Toolkit not only reviews the basics of equipment leasing, but also explains how it can work as part of your asset management strategy. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/Toolkit/


Wondering which trends the equipment leasing industry is tracking this year and how these developments might affect your small business? This article provides an overview of what to watch.

http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/rsrcs/articles/10Trends.cfm


Time Value Software created this equipment lease rate calculator to help evaluate your leasing costs.

http://tcalc.timevalue.com/all-financial-calculators/lease-calculators/equipment-lease-rate-calculator.aspx

 


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Inc.. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Inc.

Equipment: Lease or Loan?

Posted by Inc. Aug 8, 2014

Equipment-Lease-or-Loan.gifWhen further growth requires an investment in equipment, your small business has two funding options: leases and loans. To choose the best approach for your company, you need to consider the financial, cash flow, and tax implications of each. By understanding all available alternatives, you can make the equipment financing decision that best aligns with your company’s overall strategy for financing its long-term growth.

 

Click here to download our guide "Equipment: Lease or Loan?"

Inc.

Infographic: A Road Map to Growth

Posted by Inc. Jun 20, 2014

Roadmap-thumbnail-image.jpgIf you’re looking to grow your business, you have a variety of ways to do it. From building new service and product line extensions and growing your market footprint, to joint ventures, acquisition, and global expansion, our Road Map to Growth infographic gives you a glimpse into what’s working today.

 

Click here to view the Road Map to Growth infographic.

 


Most successful business owners work hard for many years to build a company that provides for the well-being of themselves, their families, and their employees. But what happens after that? As a business owner, it’s important that you take steps to protect the assets your business has created against potential claims of creditors and other third parties, and that effort should begin well before your planned retirement.

 

In fact, it should begin very early, with the selection of the right type of business entity. The best type of entity for any individual business is dependent to some extent on the type of work it does, says Jamie Hopkins, assistant professor of taxation at The American College of Financial Services. For example, partnership is not the best choice for some businesses because liability passes on to the individual partners. “As such, incorporating as an LLC (limited liability corporation) or a C corporation may provide higher levels of personal asset protection,” he says. “However, it does not always add any more business asset protection.” The choice of business entity is also influenced by state laws, which can tilt the balance of power between asset holders and creditors, so it’s important to work with a professional familiar with those laws in your state, he adds.

 

Business owners should also tread carefully in this area, warns Peter Kravitz, chair of the corporate fiduciary and restructuring practice at Province, a consulting firm specializing in financial advisory, corporate reorganization, and trustee-related services. “Asset protection is really an obsolete term,” he says. “I prefer wealth management.” Kravitz is wary of the term ‘asset protection’ because it might suggest suspect motives on the part of the business owner in certain situations, such as a bankruptcy or a legitimate inter-generational transfer of assets.

 

Obtaining sound legal advice is critical in formulating an effective asset protection—or wealth management—strategy, but skimping on good legal representation is a mistake Bobby Harris, president and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, a fast-growing transportation management company, sees too many of his peers make. “You can’t put a price on a great attorney and their legal advice. Sound legal advice is paramount to any business owner,” he says.

 

Many business owners plan to rely on an income stream from their former company in retirement, but there is some risk involved with that strategy. If performance weakens for any reason, that income stream could be substantially reduced or even eliminated, says George Menden, founding partner of MendenFreiman LLP, a legal firm specializing in estate planning. Thoughtful business, estate, and retirement planning should include consideration of all available defensive strategies, such as trusts, annuities, corporate entity type, qualified retirement plans, portfolio diversification, and more.

 

Two strategies in particular are frequently mentioned by asset protection specialists as being very valuable to business owners: LLCs and irrevocable trusts. “An LLC gives the individual (business owner) corporate protections from creditors, while at the same time the business is taxed like an individual,” says John Amorison, a bankruptcy attorney. If you own your building, the land it’s on, and/or any other commercial real estate, it may make sense to place each of those holdings into its own LLC, separate from the business itself. The first LLC that you create for your business can act as a holding company for the others, he suggests. Of course, that strategy would not make sense in all situations, so you should seek advice from a qualified expert before pursuing it.

 

Irrevocable trusts also offer strong protection for assets against creditors, but it’s important to note that putting assets into an irrevocable trust requires you to cede control of them to an independent trustee, Amorison adds. Obviously, the choices you make about which assets to place in an irrevocable trust and the trustees who will control it are very important.


Article provided by Inc. © Inc.

Content created exclusively for Bank of America.

 

Growth-Strategies-Thumb2.gifNew product or service development can strengthen your company’s prospects for accelerated growth. Mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances also can set the stage for enhancing your growth potential. But each strategy requires careful forethought and planning so that you steer clear of the pitfalls and make the choices necessary to drive your company’s sustained success.


Click here to download our guide "Build, Buy, or Ally: Growth Strategies for Business"

Benchmarking Guide Thumb.jpgBenchmarking has evolved from a complex, time-consuming endeavor to a flexible strategy for finding ways to improve your company’s performance. With more informal approaches available, it gives small business owners an excellent tool for comparing their practices with those of their competitors. It even provides a means of learning how practices in other industries can convert to strategies for your company’s long-term growth.


Click here to download our guide "Benchmarking as a Competitive Tool"

by Carrie Kerpen


Before Carrie Kerpen could excel at the helm of the social media firm she co-founded, she had to change some things about herself. Here she explains.

 

When my husband, Dave Kerpen, told me at the end of 2012 that he was ready to leave the CEO position at the social media company we co-founded my stomach immediately tied into 1,000 knots.

 

It wasn't because I wasn't capable. When we founded Likeable Media, I was the COO--which meant that I understood how the company operated and what we needed to do to get to the next level. Dave was now asking me to assume the title of CEO, and become the face of the organization. With over 50,000 Twitter followers and a New York Times-bestselling book, my husband and co-founder would be a tough act to follow. I started thinking about what I needed to do to fill his giant and awe-inspiring shoes.

 

My Initial Moves as CEO


There was so much to do! I needed to set my own vision for the company and adapt the strategic plan. I needed to make sure the management team was top notch. I needed to create a succession plan--and to start getting out there myself as a speaker and writer, too. But none of that was what I did first.

 

The first thing I did was, surprisingly, the most critical step for my success.

 

I got myself healthy.

 

Slowly but surely, the pressures of running a rapidly-growing business, parenting two kids, and caring for a dying father had really taken its toll on me. Like many women, I put myself last. My meals consisted of leftover mac and cheese from my five year old daughter's plate or client lunches that always included a giant dessert. 

 

And exercise? Well, if walking from your desk to the office fridge counted as a workout, I was a regular Jane Fonda. Let's not even mention taking time to breathe, and be present, and grateful. There simply was no time. By the time I realized that I was totally losing myself, I tipped the scales at 223 pounds.

 

It's funny, people say that you can't get healthy until you're really ready. Nothing motivated me. Not losing my dad to cancer. Not wearing plus-size clothing. Not feeling less attractive. What motivated me finally was stepping into the CEO role at Likeable Media.

 

To Be a Great Leader, I Had to Focus on Myself


You see, for me to be a better leader, I think I needed to be fit--both mentally and physically. Heck, I think to be a better anything--mom, wife, friend--I needed to put myself first.

 

The first thing I did was set goals. In my first quarter as CEO, the first three months of 2013, I wanted to lose 20 percent of my body weight (roughly 40 pounds). I also wanted to eliminate processed foods, cook dinner three nights a week for my family, and take a class in something--anything, really--that interested me.

 

I met with a nutritionist weekly--which was tough to do with my crazy calendar, but I made it a priority. I remember the looks from the staff as I would say that I couldn't make a meeting because I was meeting with Nikki. They thought I was nuts.

 

I started a gratitude journal. Every day, I wrote three things that I was grateful for. When something amazing happened in a meeting, I would stop and write it down. If I didn't have the journal on me, I would hop out of the meeting and grab it.

 

I gave up coffee and I started making juices. My staff did not understand how their once Dunkin Donuts-obsessed leader was now drinking kale smoothies. They made fun of my "vomit juice"--and I laughed along with them--but it didn't stop me.

 

I took up spinning and Zumba, and I even took an online course in business finance--something I've been passionate about and learned along the way but was never formally trained in.

 

And, most importantly, three days a week, I took the 4:47 train home (yes, even earlier than Sheryl Sandberg), and I cooked dinner for my family. 

My staff was a bit confused, but supportive. And that quarter, I lost 20 percent of my body weight, eliminated most processed foods, took a class or two--and built the life that I wanted.

 

I Saw Results at Work


And then, it became easier to meet my goals at work. In fact, I didn't just meet them. I crushed them. I became more focused, more present, and more confident. My employees, inspired by what I was doing, started to focus on their own personal goals. This makes them better at what they do, too. Perhaps, it can work for you and your team.

 

You don't have to be quite as drastic as I was--and taking care of yourself does not have to be about losing weight, either.

 

Here are four simple ways to take care of yourself first to become a better leader:

 

1. Set Personal Goals

The first step in taking care of yourself is knowing how you want to improve yourself. Set goals for yourself--and prioritize them above all else.

 

2. Take Time For Yourself

As a leader, you probably have a lot on your plate, and your worst enemy is time. Despite the challenges, make sure to take at least a half hour of me time each week--even if it's just to get your nails done, read a great article, or take a drive in the car.

 

3. Write It Down

Whether you blog, keep a journal, or make lists--it helps to chronicle how you're feeling and what is a priority to you. It also keeps you accountable for your goals.

 

4. Keep Moving

Moving keeps you thinking. You don't have to hit the gym to move. Take a walk around the block sometimes to just clear your head. Some of the best thinking takes place on the go.

 

It's a new quarter, so you can make new goals--both professionally and personally. Professionally, I'm charged up to keep up with Likeable's rapid growth. Personally, I'm still meeting with my nutritionist, and I'm focused less on weight loss and more on getting the right amount of sleep and exercise. Are you focusing enough on yourself this quarter, or are you caught up in a vicious cycle of go-go-go?

 

Article provided by Inc.com  ©Inc.


Want to Be a Better Leader? Put Yourself First | Inc.com



by Mayra Jimenez


Yes, size matters. But it's not the only thing. An ecommerce entrepreneur shows how to compete when you're outmanned and out-spent.

 

If your competitors have a head start in your industry, they have the upper hand. Not fair, maybe, but true. Despite what may be an average product or service, seasoned competitors have a simple leg up when it comes to branding and recognition: age.

 

In internet commerce, for example, age gives you extra 'cookie points' with search engines, as seniority is a factor in page rank, authority, link building, and more. Perhaps your senior competitors had it easier when there was less competition, ranking at the top without much effort, and reaping the benefits of limited options.

 

You might feel you got the short end of the stick because your company was founded in an era of massive competition in your industry. Here are a few tips to position your company among the top players:

 

Separate "professional" from "robotic"


Larger companies tend to present themselves in a rather corporate manner. Their frosty approach gives you a chance to charm the market with your personalized company story. Clients want to feel they are shopping with a company that cherry-picks their products or personalizes their services in some manner. Casualness and customization are not your enemy! Take advantage of the fact that your ideas don't have to go through a string of departments to get approved, and make it as personal as you can.

 

React quickly to industry trends


The most important advantage that you have over your competitor is your ability to react quickly. The bureaucracy of large teams and approval processes are tedious and time-consuming. While your senior competitor moves like an elephant, you're a vibrant cheetah running rapidly towards your next milestone. Stay abreast of innovative strategies and implement them. This is especially important in ecommerce, as blogging, videos, and social media have changed the rules of converting browsers to customers.

 

Push the boundaries of your industry playbook


Let yourself think outside the box. Way outside the box. Be bold. As long as the end goal is increasing profit or branding, go for those ideas that sound crazy. Monitor the results closely, and if it's not working, change it, cheetah.

 

Bottom line: you have more going for you than you think. Your competitors have paid researchers looking for the next big thing in the industry, and watching what new strategies are out there. They know you exist. So outsmart them. Give them a run for their money.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

How to Win When You're the Underdog | Inc.com


Inc.

10 leadership lessons for Gen-Y

Posted by Inc. Feb 2, 2013

by Steve Tobak



It might be a brave new world, but an old-school approach to leadership still works. Take notes.

 

Wish I knew then what I know now.


You hear that sort of thing all the time; a lament to the wisdom that seems to come too late in life, or at least later than we'd like it to.

 

The current generation of up-and-comers certainly has its opportunities and its challenges. Having grown up with high-tech, they're probably best suited to thrive in the brave new connected world. And I happen to think the digital revolution has only just begun.

 

On the other hand, the world is in the midst of cultural and economic upheaval. Perhaps that's nothing new, but it is challenging, to say the least. There's so much information, so many choices, so much distraction, just those things alone present more complexity than any generation has ever had to deal with.

 

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the wisdom that comes from real-world experience applies to anyone in any generation. At least, that's the theory. Here are 10 lessons I've learned that I suspect will prove useful to the current generation of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business leaders.

 

If you want to achieve great things, you have to do great work. If your goal is to just skate by in life, you can probably pull that off without much effort. But if you want to accomplish some great things that give your life meaning, you'll have to do great work. You only get out of this life what you put into it.

 

Take big risks. Roll the dice. Dive into the deep end of the pool. Throw caution to the wind. Be fearless. Success in business and your career are a function of your willingness to face your fears and take chances. That simple but powerful truth is probably the most important piece of advice anyone can give you.

 

Always seek to broaden your experience. Perhaps the best decision I ever made was to spend the first decade of my career with large companies that trained and groomed me and opened my eyes to a world of disciplines, markets, and opportunities. That, I believe, improved my odds of success in the startup world immensely.

 

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. There's a certain time factor related to all goals, strategies, and achievements. The bigger the objective, the bolder the strategy, the more rewarding the accomplishment, the longer it takes, generally speaking. That runs contrary to our attention deficit culture and our growing addiction to instant gratification. You need to fight that real-time tug to achieve long-term results.

 

There's a certain balance to the equation of life. In school, you learn that there's symmetry in the world. Every force has an equal and opposite reaction. Chemical equations must balance. Supply and demand are intimately related. Life is no different. It's full of tradeoffs and cause and effect relationships. You'll never get something for nothing. Everything has a price. First you do the work, then you get rewarded. You give, then you get. Those equations appear throughout your career, your life, the business world, everything.

 

You probably take yourself too seriously. Children have enormous egos. They think everything revolves around them. That self-centered worldview is essential to survival. But in adulthood, it can be a real problem. Maturity is very much about developing empathy for others, about understanding their needs and wants, what drives and motivates them. It's also key to effective business and working relationships.

 

Don't make self-limiting assumptions based on limited experience. When you're young, there's a temptation to be headstrong, to make sweeping decisions based on limited information. For example, it's popular these days to romanticize entrepreneurship, but it's not for everyone. Keep your options open.

 

Don't confuse freedom with entitlement. You're actually entitled to very little in life, but it should be enough. America's founding fathers were brilliant. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is phrased that way for a reason. With those basic building blocks, you're free to pursue what you will. The rest is entirely up to you. Your happiness and success are in your hands--and only your hands.

 

Real success takes real relationships in the real world. The Internet definitely leveled the business playing field. And social networks enable you to connect with virtually anyone. As a result, you can make a few bucks generating Twitter followers for Lady Gaga or Honey Boo Boo by sitting at your computer at home. But if you have higher aspirations than that, you'll need to develop real relationships with real people in real time.

 

Have faith that things will work out for you. Steve Jobs said it best in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

 

One more thing. I wouldn't think of depriving you all of learning these lessons in your own good time. If you want to throw caution to the wind as I suggested earlier, go ahead and hit "delete." Be my guest. But there's an old expression that I think still applies in our information society: "Forewarned is forearmed." And, after all, you can never go back.


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