My Blog Posts

Mindful Living: Ideas on enjoying every moment

In this time and age, it is ever more important to be wary of stressors and learn the ‘art’ of enjoying life to the fullest. Yes, you read that right. Staying happy and enjoying each moment is an art which requires practice. 

More often than not, we are so consumed by the circumstances of our past or the worries of our future that we forget that today is what we really have.

This idea of conscious living, or mindfulness, may seem contradictory to those who are habitual of going after their goals by sacrificing living right now. But cultivating mindfulness will not only help you achieve your goals faster but also allow you to enjoy life as you go for what you love.

There is new research on happiness – that suggests that happy people tend to be more productive, confident and successful. By being mindful, you will notice that you enjoy your meals more, you enjoy time with family and friends more, enjoy your work more.

You will be astonished to notice how a small change like this could bring lasting positive changes to your daily life. A study conducted at the University of Utah confirms that people with mindful traits have more emotional stability. They are also found to sleep better at night.

This attitude of mindfulness will not come naturally, because we are living in a culture where we are continuously bombarded with information, deadlines, work, stressors, and expectations to act, socialize, feel, and be a certain way.

Cultivating a sense of mindfulness will require some patience and practice, but the results will be worth it all.

You are more than your thoughts

Life is unfolding in the present moment. But most of the time, we let the present moments slip away. We are in a constant state of flux, always busy doing something and thus we forget what it feels like to be still and calm.

“We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. The following will sound familiar to most of you; when we are working, we think about when we would take a vacation. When we are vacationing, we worry about the work piling up.

Intrusive memories of the past or apprehension about the future – things that may never even happen – keep us from focusing on what really matters right now.

Something that Mark Twain wrote always brings a smile to my face, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

We don’t enjoy living in the present because our minds are hard-wired to hop from thought to thought and create imaginary fears to paralyze us from functioning to the best of our abilities.

Most of the times, ordinary thoughts that cruise through our minds, control us. We become victims to our own negativity and can’t find a way to let go of unwanted feelings, even when we want to.

Living in the moment means being in a state of active, open, and intentional attention to the present. Instead of becoming immersed in your thoughts, you become an observer of your thoughts – rejecting what you don’t like, or what doesn’t benefit you.

Mindfulness has many other benefits – it reduces stress (obviously!), boosts your immune system, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure and even helps people cope with diseases like cancer! It also reduces the risk of heart disease.

Naturally, people who are mindful are happier, more confident, more secure, exuberant and emphatic.

Mindfulness has a powerful impact on interpersonal life

Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia say that mindfulness actually inoculates people from aggressive impulses. “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement, so people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value,” says Kernis.

In general, being mindful will help you connect with other people better – you will become more emphatic, more ‘one with the universe.’ Mindfulness will increase your awareness about how you interpret and react to the thoughts in your mind. In fact, it increases the gap between impulse and reaction.

Unlike most people, you will get a chance to ask yourself, ‘This is what I’m feeling. How should I react to it?’

Next time, if you find yourself in a heated argument with your significant other, just take a step back and focus on your breathing. There’s no better way to calm down and bring all your senses to the present moment than breathing deeply.

A study was conducted to test the impact mindfulness has on people. Each subject was told that the other subjects were forming a group and taking a vote on whether he could join. After 5 minutes, the experimenter announced the results. Either a subject was accepted or rejected.

Before the start of this experiment and as a mindfulness exercise, half the subjects were given a raisin each and told to savor its taste and feel all the sensations that came with it.

Later on, in what they thought was a separate experiment, the subjects were asked to deliver a blast of painful noise to other people. Those who were rejected by the group and hadn’t gone through the mindfulness exercise let their frustration out on other people.

On the other hand, those who did go through the mindfulness exercise but were rejected by the group refused to inflict pain on others.

So do yourself a favor and let your mind rest for a bit, every day. A few months down the line, you will find that you’re a different person altogether and will thank me for this advice.


Change small habits today to achieve big tomorrow

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” – Confucius

Bringing a lasting change seems like too much work. The word ‘change’ itself brings overwhelming emotions like depleted willpower, lack of motivation, or even feelings of guilt for failing to stick to your ‘change’ goals.

What if I told you that bringing lasting change wasn’t all that difficult – but just a bunch of mini decisions that you took every day? Take these mini decisions each day for long enough, and what do you get? Habits.

According to a study by Duke University, habits make 45% of your total behavior. The great thing about habits is that you don’t have to think about them. They become part of who you are. And soon enough, change becomes ‘normal’.

Most of the times, people get so stuck in worrying about not achieving their ‘change’ goals that they end up doing just that. For example, I want to grow my expertise in my chosen field and I know that I haven’t been reading enough. Now reading 8 books a month means I have to take out lots of time to read – this is the psychological impact of setting big goals.

The easy thing to do here is to break this goal down into small mini habits – like reading 5 pages a day. When I reach the 5th page, you think I’ll stop? No. I’ll continue on to maybe 10, 20 or more pages, especially if I’m enjoying the read. Done over a period of time and bam! It’s a habit. I don’t have to think or worry about it anymore. It just comes to me naturally. It becomes part of my routine.

This is true for everything we do in life. Whatever lasting change you want to achieve in life – whether it’s getting in shape, teaching yourself new skills, increasing your knowledge in your area of expertise or learning to make more money – break each goal down into a subset of behaviors. Do them frequently enough and no matter what your goal – you’ll see results.

Here’s how you can develop a habit that sticks

  • Set a goal for 30 days and focus on developing one or at the most 2
  • Make sure to write your goal down on paper and look at it every day
  • Fully commit to your goal. If you think you’re one of those people who find it hard to stick to their goals – publicly commit to it. Find someone who helps you measure your progress each day and encourages you to keep going.
  • Log your progress regularly.
  • Remain publicly accountable – report on your progress each day.
  • Reward your little successes.
  • If you fail, that’s okay. Find out what went wrong and start again.

What is more important than your habits?

Literally, nothing. Habits are the foundation of the quality of your life. And if the foundations are weak, you will not be happy with the way you live. One major reason why people fail to create lasting change in their lives is that they try to do too much at once.

In other words, if your new habit requires more willpower than you can muster, you will fail. If your new habit requires less willpower than you can muster, you will succeed. This is why it is so important to start small, and increase gradually.

The achievable habits

Achievable habits are habits that are easy to follow through. If you think reading 10 pages each day is too much to do, keep a target for 5, or even 2. I can assure you that once you start, you won’t keep the book down after reading only two pages. Keep a target for 5 pushups each day, and I guarantee that your workout won’t stop at those 5. You will end up doing many more variations.

All great things start small

It is true for almost every wonderful thing around us. All great things start small. Richard Branson started Virgin with a student magazine. Some of my most favorite projects started out small – but turned into some of the best opportunities over a period of time.

I was fascinated by Dale Carnegie’s world famous book, ‘How to win friends and influence people.’ The opening gave me some food for thought. He says that the book took 15 years to complete – because it started as a lecture, turned into a leaflet, then into a series of booklets each expanding in size and scope, and then came the book. The entire process took 15 years to complete.

Do you see what I mean?

The challenge of ‘big’

The problem is that we interact with big ideas, big things, big companies, so frequently in our lives that we tend to forget how these big things started out. Whatever it is that you want to achieve in life; I suggest you take some time to sit down and break them down into small, achievable targets for each day/ week. No matter how scary the goal seems, broken down into small bits, it will be so much easier than you imagine.

Here’s how you can make your new habits stick;

First things first, the only way you will ever change something in your routine and habits is by recognizing the larger goal for which those habits are being developed. Otherwise, it will take a lot of willpower and effort to remain true to what you’ve decided for yourself.

Big names like Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and many others rely on daily habits to achieve their biggest goals. These people understand the importance of good habits – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same.

Were there any challenges that you faced when trying to bring a change you badly wanted? We would love to hear your stories.


What habits keep people poor?

Have you often wondered where your money goes by the end of the month despite a decent income? Think bad money habits.

Unfortunately, money habits aren’t taught in school. Most people get them from their parents. And if your parents didn’t have good money habits, it’s likely that it’s rubbed off on you.

Unless you really focus on changing habits that are costing you in the long-run, you’ll likely always be having a hard time managing money, or creating a fortune. Following are the most common habits that keep people poor – even those with a good income.

You’re relying on a single source of income

Most people just rely on a linear income and try to tiptoe through life wondering why their wealth isn’t growing. Linear payments include a salary, allowances or one-time payments.

Smart people, on the other hand, tend to focus on creating sources of passive income. They come in the form of royalties, interest, profit, etc. They don’t rely on a single source of income.

In fact, 65% of people had at least 3 streams of income before making their first million dollars. A lot of people seem to think that creating a passive income is a quick and easy alternative.

While it is definitely the smart option, it requires a lot of effort and possibly even years of hard work before you can see your labor bear fruit. If you’re like me, the best way out is to create sources of passive income while keeping your day job.

If you’re just earning money via your job and not investing time and money on starting a side business or passive income project, it’s likely that you’ll eventually run out of luck.

Linear income is like carrying a bucket to the river to fetch water. After a while your energy levels and health may not remain as robust – that’s when the real problems begin.

You have poor saving and spending habits

At one point I was working for a PR agency in Dubai, and making some serious money. I was working really hard, didn’t have much of a life outside of work, didn’t have time for friends and family, and at the end of the day didn’t even have any savings to show for my efforts. Why?

Because I was spending every penny I earned on a fancy apartment in upscale Dubai, buying expensive clothes – I thought people would take me more seriously for it – and spending truckloads on a fancy car and gadgets.

While it’s good to improve your lifestyle when you can, if you’re constantly looking for ways to spend your money, you’re destined for failure.

Stop thinking about ways to increase your expenses as soon as you get a raise. Instead, work on saving first, and spending later.

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, says, ‘Pay yourself first.’ Whether it’s an investment in real-estate or side hustle, or simply putting 20% or more of your earnings aside, do that first and take care of the expenses second.

Only 5% of the poor saved 10% of their income, according to this 5-year study. None saved over 20%. Certain habits keep the poor, poor. 93% admitted they never budgeted their spending.

66% admitted they were not frugal with their money. They also had a bad habit of spontaneous spending.

88% of the poor in the study had $5000 or more of credit card debt.

You’re always waiting to start your journey of success

How can you start your journey of success when you can’t move beyond the starting line? Whether it is fear, lack of capital or anything else; there’s no better time to start a business than right now.

While you’re worried about not having enough capital, somebody is being resourceful about whatever little they have and building something valuable from it.

While you’re complaining about having a ton of challenges, someone is solving those very same problems, helping society become better, and earning money in the process.

The answer to all these and similar problems is this; start today, be resourceful and cast your fear aside. More importantly, anything that you want to do has already been done by someone else. It means all you have to do is learn and try.

You don’t have a ‘growth mindset’

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” writes Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

People with a rich mindset, or growth mindset, spend at least 30 minutes reading every day to learn. The rich were found to be reading all sorts of things that helped them understand and be more successful in life. It’s not that the poor don’t have time due to childcare, housework or other issues. The difference is that they choose to indulge in time-wasters more frequently – which brings me to my next point;

You don’t value your time

People often don’t realize it but time is a lot more precious than even money. The rich understand this all too well. They invest their time wisely in building a notable career or multiple side incomes.

According to this study, here’s what’s draining the time for most people;

  • 77% of the poor people admitted to watching more than 1 hour of TV every day. They prefer reality TV. While less than 67% of the rich watch less than an hour each day.
  • 74% of the poor people surfed the internet a lot more than was needed – more than an hour a day – while 63% of the rich spent less than an hour each day on the internet. This freed up more time to invest in self-education.
  • Conversely, only 11% of the rich said they read for entertainment. Most of the rich surveyed read biographies, books on career, history, money, and self-help.

You spend time with toxic people

One of the habits that keep people in a vicious circle of poverty and struggle is who they choose to associate with.

‘You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with’. Regardless of how often we hear this advice, it just never gets old. Here’s a great article on why you absolutely must stop spending time with people who are toxic.

The more time you spend with people who are unhelpful, unsupportive, disrespectful, envious, resentful, dysfunctional or outright damaging to you, the less value all your time has,’ says Dan. S Kennedy in his book No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs.

Almost 95% of the poor confirm spending time with people they consider toxic. No matter how hard you’re trying to change your circumstances, if you are associating with people who discourage you, pull you down, indulge in idle gossip, or bad habits –these mindsets are sure to rub off on you.

Instead, choose your circle wisely. Associate with people who are optimistic, upbeat and enthusiastic. If you don’t know where to find them, volunteer at a community nonprofit.

You don’t manage your anger

Feeling angry and frustrated is normal. Everybody feels those emotions at some point. But the way you express them can make or break your success.

“Anger, I found in research, was one of the most costly emotions. No matter how many good habits you had, if you didn’t have control over your emotions, you literally wipe out all the good that you do, because you damage relationships with people who would otherwise want to help you in life,” says, Tom Corley.

On the flip side, successful people choose their words carefully and weigh their impact before using them.

Conclusion

Could getting rich be a matter of adopting the right habits? The answer is, yes.  An abundance mindset is one that plays a major role in every aspect of a person’s life. Children, from an early age, pick up the habits of their parents without even recognizing it.

And if you’ve been taught that money is bad, it’ll be a long time till you’re able to yank those ideas from your mind in pursuit of wealth. Not to mention, such ideas can put kids at a big disadvantage.

You can learn insider secrets from biographies or by talking to people who are already doing what you want to do. Learn, bootstrap and go.


5 traits to help you become world-class at whatever you do

You know what you want from life – but you look around and feel dispirited. There are many obstacles in your way. It seems very hard, if not impossible, to reach your goal.

The passion is there.  But you just don’t know how to move forward. Many things are holding you back. And competition is one of them. You’re worried that thousands or millions of people are trying to achieve the same things you are.

After all, there are just 24 hours in a day. You have bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of, relationships to give time to, a job to focus on. It’s all so overwhelming; it seems hopeless.

With so much going on, it just makes sense to start tomorrow. Moreover, the learning curve is so steep and time so limited. What should you do? How do you get out of the rat race? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you become world-class at your gift when you’re stuck trying to start?

The truth is, it is very easy to surpass most people at a competitive level. They are dealing with the same practical and existential crises that you are. Most of them give up and quit before reaching mastery at their craft. They have little or nothing to show for their efforts. Others keep playing at the level of mediocrity.

With a few adjustments and tweaks to your lifestyle, you can quickly jump to the top 5-10% of your field. That’s where the real challenge begins. Your next target is to get to the top 1%. And it requires a change in your very being.

Getting to the top 1% also means you’ll have to alter your entire life to become focused on your creative expression. Every moment of your life will either take away from your performance or add to it.

Take the first step

Taking the first step in a new venture, whether it’s a business or career path, is always daunting. I remember how difficult it seemed when I wanted to start a blog. First, I kept thinking about starting it for months.

Then I got stuck trying to find the right niche because I’m multi-passionate. When I finally decided on one, I still had to figure out a load of technical stuff like SEO and keyword research.

There was just one obstacle after another. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted myself. I often wondered if my efforts were even worth it.

Suddenly I found myself in an unexpected situation; I got pregnant and had some complications. My doctor advised strict bed rest. I said goodbye to my fulltime job, but my mind needed something to focus on. I needed an outlet for my creative energy. That’s when I actually started the blog I had been thinking about for the past 2 years.

Everyone starts as an amateur. Don’t compare yourself with someone who is far ahead in her journey. Have humility.

Here’s a story I really like. Meet Kenzie and Harris. They both dropped out of Brigham Young University, got married and were working at an Apple Store. They were both passionate about music and kept recording music covers on YouTube and Vines.

They had enough money between them to last a year and decided to quit their jobs and focus on their music fulltime. They kept uploading videos for months – without gaining much traction or being noticed. At max, they had a few thousand followers.

Then one day, everything changed. They posted a Vine that went viral. Suddenly, they were being called by agents for contracts and other Viners.

What did Kenzie and Harris do that most people don’t? They put themselves out there again and again and again. They had the courage to take the first step.

Get educated

Take your dreams seriously. Most people don’t. Commit to your dreams if you really want to be world-class in your endeavors. Get educated. Find a mentor. Join a course. Take a class. Go back to school if you have to.

When I first started my blog, I thought all I needed was to know how to write. And then I discovered writers who were so much better. Their work could cast a spell on readers, and I went on to spend hours each day studying how they crafted their pieces.

I immersed myself in the process to the extent that it was easy to forget about time when I was working on my blog.

I also had a mentor who helped guide me and taught me more in 2 months than I could ever learn on my own. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m confident that I soon will.

Be consistent until you have a breakthrough

To become truly world-class at what you do, be consistent. It is another area where most people fail. Everything meaningful in life is a marathon – not a sprint. It tests your willpower and commitment.

Most people burn out and quit. Consistency is the most fundamental virtue to becoming the person you most want to be.

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” Cus D’Amato

If you want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Even a lack of results won’t stop you. In fact, obsessing over a specific result will make your efforts forced, instead of natural.

When you truly want something, you’ll be willing to forego sleep, lessen time with friends and hobbies and take risks. When you have that resilient consistency in you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly results start to show.

Transcend guidelines and follow your instincts

This is the final stage of the process of becoming world-class. Putting yourself and your work out there in the world will get you ready for this part. As you do that enough number of times, you’ll develop keen instincts. It is now easy, almost natural for you to transcend guidelines and bring the best of your art to the world.

At times, when you’re following your instincts, you’ll be told it won’t work. And regardless of how frequently you’re told this, the idea wouldn’t enter your head.

At this point, you are becoming more holistic about your art.

You’re going above and beyond what it takes to be great. Everything you do – the way you sleep, what you eat, how you organize your life around your work, how you spend your mornings and evenings – is focused on optimizing your performance. You’ll follow creative and insightful bursts of energy to get your best work out with consistency.

Most people have no structure to their lives. They are living a long bout of reaction to everything that happens. They open their eyes and check their email or social media, they talk endlessly about other people, they focus on the negative, they waste time, they eat unhealthily, they don’t exercise, and then they wonder what’s wrong.

Stellar performance requires: a mindset and 10,000 hours of practice

Skills, talent, and initiative are all required to be the best in your field. But there’s another element; the right mindset, confidence in yourself and your abilities, and faith. And then there’s the effort. Real, backbreaking hard work and sacrifice.

A now popular study was conducted in 1993 where three psychologists picked 10 of the best violin students who could become international soloists. They picked another group of 10 students who were good enough to be part of the orchestra and 10 more who could become music teachers.

All of them had started playing the violin at age eight, and had decided to become musicians at the age of 15. In addition, each of them spent 50 hours every week at their academy practicing violin.

The top two groups of violinists spent exactly 24 hours each week practicing on their own, while the bottom group spent 9 hours practicing outside the academy.

The difference between the very best in any field and the average ones is almost always the amount of time each person spends practicing their craft. And then there’s the mindset.

Phil Knight, founder of Nike and author of ‘Shoe Dog’ said,

“I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact.

People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.


How to make your customers love you

Are you making your customers fall in love with your business? Have you ever thought of romancing your customers? Or treating them as valued partners who help your business grow?

These cultures are adopted by companies that are on the fast track to growth. And such mindsets, when embodied by employees, can create win-win situations every single time.

Major change begins from the inside out. To provide exceptional customer service, you need to value your employees and be interested in their growth too, because happy employees literally equal happy customers.

The Ritz-Carlton understands this all too well. In an interview with Forbes, Ritz-Carlton Group President and COO, Herve Humler, has one word to describe their outstanding customer service: employee engagement.

He said, “I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement.”

The hotel chain is so well-known for its exceptional customer service that many stories about it have made into books. Author John R DiJulius in his bookWhat’s the secret to providing world-class customer experience?’ shares one such experience.

He left the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota in a rush and forgot his laptop charger behind. He planned to call the hotel when he got into his office, but before he could, he received a next-day air package from The Ritz-Carlton with his charger. It also had a note that said;

“Mr. DiJulius, I wanted to make sure we got this to you right away. I am sure you need it, and, just in case, I sent you an extra charger for your laptop.” The note was signed by Larry K. Kinney, in Loss Prevention.”

This customer service story, and many others like it, are so over-the top-good, they sound unreal. But the Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to stellar customer service is evident from the fact that every employee is allowed to spend up to $2000 per day to improve customer experience in some way.

If you’re just starting a business, this is the one differentiating factor that will give you a clear advantage [apart from having a great product or service offering, of course].

The battle for customers, it seems, is based on price points and features. But the fact is, it is often decidedly more emotional.  The more you demonstrate your care and consideration for the customer, the easier it is to capture and retain their loyalty.

Amazon is yet another company that has grown its business to one of the largest in the world on the back of exceptional customer service. They’ve built a billion-dollar business on their ability to go the extra mile for each buyer.

Here’s what Jeff Bezos has to say about it,

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” 

Source

To run a successful online business today, it’s not enough to just close the sale. You must turn your customers into raving fans who adore your brand and don’t even want to look elsewhere for the product or service you provide.

Today, everyone is talking about creating a business and employing a marketing strategy that’s customer-centric. But when we get right down to it, not many brands are actually doing it. It’s a great opportunity for smart brands to outshine the competition.

Customers are craving good experiences. Research confirms that people are willing to pay as much as 55% more for a positive experience.

Source

And while you may think losing a customer or two isn’t a big deal, let me tell you this. It is also anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. On an average, smart business owners understand that every business relationship lost costs them $289 per year.

To thrive in the competitive business world of today, you need to focus on exceptional customer service as the differentiating factor.

Recognize the value of word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing is the most priceless asset for any brand, and when utilized right, can be used to propel a business towards profitability. According to the Wharton School of Business, a customer acquired through word of mouth has a 16-25% higher lifetime value than a customer acquired from other sources.

So when you combine word of mouth marketing with proven techniques to improve your sales and carefully analyze what your competitors are doing; you have a definite advantage.

Almost 92% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends more than any other form of marketing.

 

Source: Nilson Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Q3 2011.

On that topic, Zappos’ founder and CEO Tony Hsieh, says, “Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.” Source

The goal is simple: make your customers fall in love with your brand. At the end of the day, happy and satisfied customers mean you’re creating a league of devoted brand ambassadors who work round the clock to get you more business.

Netflix is a great example of a company that utilizes word of mouth to retain and acquire customers. Its core products such as House of Cards and Stranger Things offer an original customer experience that people naturally want to talk about. Netflix boosts customer experience by tapping into user data and sentiments to create and deliver shows that customers really want.

Start the journey before they become customers

The key to driving great customer satisfaction lies in one thing: understanding the mind of your customer. For this, you need to create clear customer profiles – based on data – that are sure to benefit the most from your business offering. Next, you need to see how you can offer a seamless experience that they remember.

Knowing your customers well will lay the groundwork for strong relationships with them.

Here’s a complete guide to understanding consumer psychology.

 

Once you’ve understood customer psychology, you can now work to provide them with an experience they’ll never forget.

Get up close and personal

Think of customers as the most special people in the life of your business. When you consistently put the needs of your customers at the center of everything you do, your business will grow.

Did you know that bad customer experiences cost US business $40billion every year?

 

Source

Get up and personal with your customers. Talk to them as if they’re your friends and you’ve known them for a long time. Even if you don’t have a one-on-one connection with them, you can still add personal touches to your business experience.

You can use their first names in emails; you can engage them via social media, etc. Find a way to show your business’s personality and let customers feel that you care.

Here’s how asking the right questions from your customers will help you create better experiences for them.

Are you going to extra mile to make your customers feel special? Maybe bending the rules a little can make a big impact in someone’s life. A passenger on Virgin Trains East Coast experienced this firsthand when the train’s manager allowed him to change their travel dates to accommodate their son’s hospital stay.

And not just that, the manager also moved the family to 1st class so the child could sleep comfortably.

 

The family shared their experience on social media, and their tweet garnered over 1.2k likes, 94 comments, and 77 retweets. That’s the power of providing positive customer experiences.

Here’s another example from Warby Parker – the glasses manufacturer. The company revolutionized the pricey glasses industry and made itself a beloved brand thanks to its affordable frames and its try-at-home program.

Here’s an interesting customer service story that gained a lot of traction. A customer forgot a pair of reading glasses on a train and got home to find a new pair waiting for him! Here’s how he narrates the story;

 

This kind of customer service may be hard to replicate on a daily basis, but it sure does highlight Warby Parker’s commitment to exceptional customer experience.

Listen to and implement customer feedback

This is what some of the best companies are really good at doing. They treat customer feedback as a treasure trove of information and use it to better their product and service offerings. The key here is to embrace two-way communication where you treat customers as valued partners.

Here’s what Target did when regular shopper Stephanie Giese posted a blog revealing her distaste for the company’s overly sexualized children’s clothing. Her post became viral, and many concerned parents added their voices to hers. Target was quick to respond and asked Ms. Giese to collaborate with them to change their ways.

 

In a follow-up post, she wrote “I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am going to start working with Target towards change, starting in my own house.

They have asked me to provide them with some specific feedback about children’s clothes, and I am going to start working toward a behind-the-scenes partnership with them to get more of what moms and girls want into their stores. Thank you Target for hearing our voices and taking our concerns very seriously!”

With their quick response, Target was able to turn a strong backlash against it into a minor bump along the road, all the while helping create/ acquire a product that parents of girls actually want.

Not sure how to effectively gain valuable customer feedback? Here’s a detailed guide by Hubspot to get you started.

 

Source: Hubspot

Learn how to manage unhappy customers

We all want to avoid such tricky situations – but it’s a skill that can prove to be very valuable in business. When faced with a client who is dissatisfied or downright angry, most people take the loser’s path by putting off handling the situation. Or worse, they handle it inappropriately.

Postponement may make you lose a client. Now you may think that losing one client is okay – but it’s not. Like I mentioned above, one happy customer will sing your company praises and work as a brand ambassador round the clock. Imagine what an unhappy customer would do?

Here are some tips to help you manage unhappy customers with ease;

  • Acknowledge their anger quickly: Nothing makes a customer more resentful that a company which is unresponsive to her complaints.
  • Show your concern
  • Ask questions and get them talking about solutions
  • Agree on a solution
  • Help them out

Companies are raising the bar every day by not just how they conceive, design, and create those products and services – but by keeping the customer at the center of everything they do.

Let me conclude by this quote from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” Source.

And that’s exactly what we mean when we say stellar customer service.

Have you experienced customer service that was unforgettable? Share your stories in the comments below.


7 things no one tells you about starting a business 

Entrepreneurship has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. It is going through a phase of the romantic renaissance of sorts – everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon and live the American dream.

No doubt, starting a business has never been easier. But it’s a journey riddled with fear and anxiety and comes with its highs and lows.

According to this popular statistic, a little over 50% of small businesses fail in the first four years. This is why you’ll hear people saying that if you spend more than five years in business, you’ve successfully beaten the odds.

What you don’t hear is what happens during those five years that lead to success [or lack of it].

According to Shark Tank investor Lori Greiner, ‘Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week’.

But despite the hardship and hustle, entrepreneurs are also the people who create great things, change the world and grow the economy. If you’re about to start this journey, here are seven things you must know about starting your own business.

It could take a decade to succeed

Unlike what many people wrongly believe, entrepreneurship is not a shortcut to success. It never ceases to amaze me how hard people try to find instant success in business. Well, it doesn’t work that way. It takes a real business product or service, created by real people, that solves a genuine problem for success to arrive.

And you’re in it for the long haul. In business, slow growth is the norm, not the exception. It takes time to figure out what customers want. How to market your brand effectively. How to hire and train staff for maximum impact and results. What your brand positioning should be.

Once all of these elements are fine-tuned, that’s when you’re able to reach the coveted accelerated phase of growth. You can’t expect to get everything right the first time. Since we often see stories of those rare fast-growth companies, we have come to expect this to be the new normal in business.

It is also important to remember that ‘failing forward’ is the process by which companies usually grow. It all starts with a ton of mistakes, followed by learning, and then a little progress. Here’s the paradox: You have to work intensely – and quickly, all the while remembering that success takes time.

“But the idea of creating something out of nothing, something millions of people could use to find love, was worth facing failure for. So we learned to fail more quickly, pushing through bad ideas to arrive at great ideas. That’s ultimately what propelled us forward (and continues to do so): learning and failing quickly, and never making the same mistake twice.” – Aaron Schildkrout, Cofounder, and Co-CEO of Howaboutwe.com.

Work hard, but don’t forget to take care of yourself

Just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you’re working smart. And these two are entirely different things. We are living in a culture where working 17-hour shifts and pulling all-nighters are badges of honor.

But the key to running a successful business is to understand that work is unending. Your attention and energy are limited. Therefore it is best to focus on the most value-adding, game-changing activities in your day.

Many people think exhaustion equals hustle. It’s not. When you’re grinding away just for the sake of grinding away, you’ll have little to show for your efforts except for getting burned out.

Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington, credits her business’s success to finding work-life balance. According to her, “The success at The Huffington Post happened when I started taking care of myself.”

 

Source

She was working round the clock, hustling 18-hour days when she collapsed one day while checking her emails and making phone calls. At the time, her venture was just two years old. That’s when she decided to turn things around and has since become one of the biggest proponents of sleeping 8 hours every day.

So work hard, and smart. And don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re at it.

Goals and deadlines are important, but sometimes you have to trust the path

Most business owners credit their success to their ability to not take no for an answer, break down doors, kick ass and basically go out there and do it. But sometimes, despite all your good intentions and efforts, results don’t materialize, at least not immediately.

It is in times like these that we have to let go and trust God, the universe or the path and know that things will find their way.

Good Morning America Anchor and bestselling author Dan Harris tells a great story about David Axelrod when he was running Obama’s re-election campaign. At the time, many global factors were out of the administration’s control such as al-Qaeda, problems with Israel and Iran, the European debt crisis, etc.

When Axelrod was grilled about these seemingly unending challenges, he responded; ‘All we can do is everything we can do.’ Remember this when you start your business. Give it all you’ve got and then hope for the best.

There’s a sense of isolation

Not many people talk about this aspect of starting a business – whether it is out of embarrassment or because it doesn’t fit in well with the perceived notion or personality of an entrepreneur. But when you start a business, the sense of isolation is very real.

We are all used to having reference groups throughout our lives. In college we have friends and classmates, then at work we have colleagues, and as the owner of an established business, you have people around you at all times.

But in the initial days of a business, you’re truly on your own. You may have a partner or co-founder if you’re lucky, but the hustle is hard and long, and you mostly have yourself to rely on. When the going gets tough, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals or why you chose this path in the first place.

These tips from Marie Forleo will make it easier to cope with this sense of isolation;

The lows and highs are intense

Running a startup is truly like riding a roller coaster that doesn’t stop. I’ve had some of the highest highs and the happiest moments I could remember while running my business. But it also comes with some of the lowest lows, and I’ve endured many sleepless nights. Rarely are there any feelings in between, but I think it’s important to celebrate even the smallest of victories”. Ross Cohen, Cofounder Been Verified.

And it’s not just Ross. Almost every business owner can attest to this fact. As a founder, you’ll feel the highs and lows of your business far more than you would if you were an employee. Every milestone, no matter how small, will be more pronounced. Every defeat, no matter how minuscule, will hurt so much more deeply.

My advice? Enjoy the wins deeply and draw a line between you as a person and you as a business to maintain your sanity for the wins and losses that are yet to come.

Learning from other entrepreneurs is invaluable

No matter how many books you’ve read, when you actually get down to it, there’s no substitute for learning firsthand from people who’ve done it before you.

Just 10 minutes of insights from the guy down the street who started a pizza business could save you weeks of headaches of figuring everything out by yourself.

When you’re starting a business, there is no set path to success. You could be starting a company with zero experience in an existing niche or starting one with years of experience under your belt in a new niche. Every venture seems daunting in its early stages.

You could even be in the same boat as Eric Bandholz who started BeardBrand – a company that provides beard grooming products for men. He found himself creating a product no one had created before.

 

Source

But while your product or service idea may be unusual, if you look closely you’ll find lessons from other entrepreneurs who’ve been there.

Although every business is different and comes with a completely different set of challenges, the experience of others will help set you up for success and point you in the right direction.

You will grow more than you can think

As an entrepreneur, you will often find yourself applying out-of-the-box solutions to problems. And you’ll have many of those along the way.

You will have to learn everything there is about running a business and growing it from the ground up. Whether it is product development, marketing, sales, client consulting or accounting – you’ll be managing a lot of different roles.

Over the course of a few short years, you would realize that your career has leapfrogged and you’ve learned and grown more than you thought possible. Had you taken the conventional path, learning all of the same stuff would have taken a lot longer, possibly decades.

Starting a business is a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s exciting, humbling, exhausting, enlightening, lonely, rewarding, frustrating, and awesome – all at the same time. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a business owner, and how did you overcome them?


This one thing can change your life

If I told you that learning this little secret could transform your life – would you believe me?

Go on, try it and see for yourself.

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information. Anywhere you go, anything you look at and every noise you hear is asking for your attention.

So how do you block out distractions to focus on things that really matter? It is not always easy. That’s because our devices ping every second, emails arrive demanding our immediate attention, social media notifications continuously break our concentration, not to mention the calls, text messages and meetings that steal our attention and focus.

But people who are really shifting the needle, doing meaningful work in their fields, innovating and pushing the bar higher are those who’ve learned to master their focus. That’s because they understand that focus is a finite resource. We are talking about the Picassos of their fields; scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, writers, and artists who are making the world a better place.

Bestselling author and leadership expert Robin Sharma says:

‘We live in a world where focus is more important than even your intelligence’.

90/90/1 rule

According to this rule by Sharma, for the next 90 days, the first 90 minutes of your workday should be focused on your single most valuable project.

So you could be writing code that could revolutionize the marketplace. You could be creating an unparalleled product or providing a service that no peer is currently offering. You may be writing a book, starting a blog, learning photography, or switching careers – whatever your game-changing move is – this rule works if you work it.

In fact, applying this rule with consistency will give you an unbeatable competitive advantage. And you’ll essentially be working as the 5% of the world’s top performers.

The problem is, in today’s world there’s so much distraction available that if you’re not acutely careful, it can dominate your days. I’ve used the 90/90/1 rule, and it has transformed my business. I found my client base growing, my health improving and my happiness levels soaring.

Unfortunately, most people play at the level of victimhood and make excuses for the ordinary results in their lives. But all they have to do is make one simple change. Instead of spending your best hours watching cat videos, surfing the internet, tinkering with notifications, or chatting with friends, do your best work in the first 90 minutes of your day.

When Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, two of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world, were asked about the one factor they attribute their success to, they both had the same answer; ‘Focus’.

 

Like with anything else, practice this new discipline enough, and it will become your new normal. On average, it takes over two months – 66 days to be exact – for a new behavior to become automatic.

And how long it takes a habit to form can vary depending on the person, behavior, and circumstances. According to this study, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit.

When you’re focusing on important work, turn off your devices, tell your team or loved ones that you’re busy for the next 90 minutes. Maybe put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door.

Block out times for important things

Sticking to a schedule and blocking time out for important things is more important than you think. If you don’t have a weekly schedule that you can stick with, you’ll have a hard time meeting deadlines and getting things done.

What’s more, you’ll find yourself in a perpetual state of stress. Not using your time wisely can cost you immensely, even with all the resources in the world.

Utilize your mornings, nights or weekends

Pick a time when other people aren’t working to focus on projects that require your maximum focus. Between 5 am to 9 am is my personal uninterrupted time to do some of my best work. I meditate, exercise and sit down to focus on writing articles and doing research.

Doing the same work in the middle of the day would take me at least twice as long because I’ll frequently be interrupted by phone calls, emails, clients needing urgent help, or the kids – since I also work from home on certain days.

Because these 4 hours in the morning are totally interruption-free, they are my most productive. But you may be different. Maybe you can get some of your best work done during the nights or on weekends. Whatever it is, find what works best for you, create a schedule and then stick to it.

Use a calendar and keep it where you can see it

When first starting my business, I noticed that I was constantly canceling dinners with family and friends because it always took me longer to complete projects. I also felt I wasn’t eating as healthy and wasn’t getting enough exercise because my schedule was disorganized and basically a mess.

Moreover, my stress levels were also rising. This one change helped me focus on all the important priorities in my life. Every Sunday, I used a calendar to write out a detailed schedule for the entire week. I would print it out and stick in front of my work desk from where I could see it every day for the next seven days.

With the help of the schedule, I would pre-block time for family gatherings throughout the week, meeting with friends, meditation sessions, exercise, making healthy meals and working on some of my best projects. After a few weeks of doing this, I realized that I had more free time, I was getting more done, and I was available for friends and family too.

Spend some alone time to step into the alpha state

Spending time alone has some excellent benefits in terms of productivity and creativity. These are the two key assets you need to thrive in today’s world. Contrary to popular belief, a little solitude and quiet time isn’t a waste of time. In fact, it makes you a lot more productive, according to this study.

Ever wonder why authors and artists prefer to spend time in a cabin in the woods or a private studio with a nice view to work? Because nature and alone time spark creativity.

Some alone time also gives you the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective. It gives you a chance to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. In fact, your brain steps out of the beta mode and into the alpha mode when given some alone time.

It is the state where you’ll create some of your best, most groundbreaking work. You’ll be surprised to note that research confirms that trying to come up with creative ideas with other people actually comes in the way of the creative thinking process.

Apart from giving a boost to your professional life, some alone time will help you become more emphatic and build mental resilience that will go a long way in terms of both your personal and professional lives.

Don’t panic when things don’t go as per plan

There will be times when things don’t go as per schedule. Meetings may run late, conference calls and projects may take longer. Sometimes, we just may need some downtime, and that’s normal. Delays are part of life, and instead of getting worried or anxious you’ll just have to find intelligent ways to deal with them.

Not to mention, that when you have set up a structure and things arise at the last minute, it’s a lot easier to deal with them.

There will be times in your life when you feel you’re not where you want to be in your career, or for that matter, in your life. But never think that change is impossible.

Don’t allow your future to be limited by your current circumstances. Start small, be consistent and you’ll notice that you’ve come a long way in a short time.

Stop worrying about what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right. There’s an old joke where a man says, “I really want to go to medical school, but it takes at least seven years–and I’ll be 50 in seven years!” His wise friend replies, “And how old will you be in 7 years if you don’t go?”


Want to be a star performer? 5 signs you need to sleep more

More than a third of American adults aren’t getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night. For years now doctors have been trying to help us understand the consequences of sleep deprivation on the human body.

According to Joseph Ojile, M.D. medical director at the Clayton Sleep Institute, when you go from a few restless nights to more chronic sleep deprivation, you don’t realize how tired you are. Sleeplessness and fatigue impair judgment and self-awareness.

Moreover, a lack of sleep manifests itself in other ways too. Your eating habits may become uncontrollable; you may be gaining or losing weight much faster, you may feel oversentimental and find yourself focusing on the negative more often. With consistent sleeplessness, you will also experience decreased libido and an increase in cortisol levels.

In other words, chronic sleeplessness can wreak havoc on the quality of your life. I remember a few years ago when I had just started my career and was working for a PR agency in Dubai. I was constantly overworked, sleepless and stressed. I didn’t have time for family or friends and wasn’t particularly happy about my work either. It kept going, and I soon noticed some swelling on my left thyroid gland.

Fast forward a few days; I got it checked. There were no problems in the bloodstream, but the gland kept swelling and swelling to the point that it turned into the size of a tennis ball. So here’s what I did;

I quit that no-good job that was causing me so much trouble, traveled all the way to Europe on vacation, started meditating regularly and said goodbye to stress and sleeplessness forever.

Viola! The ‘thing’ reduced in size and eventually vanished.

Here’s what chronic sleep deprivation, coupled with stress, can do to you;

You get much less done

Many people think spending less time on sleep gives them more hours to get work done. They think sleep is just a waste of time and ‘interrupts’ their productivity. But instead of becoming more productive, sleep-deprived adults get much less done.  Here’s a schedule I followed for 3 years before I realized I wasn’t going anywhere with it. Not to mention, my body was giving up on me.

6:00 am – Wake up

6:15 am – Exercise

7:00 am – Get ready for work

8:00 am – reach the office & grab breakfast

8:30 am – Start checking emails

9:30 am – Get in touch with writers to check for pending work

10:30 am – Start editing copies

12:30 pm – Take a few client calls

1:30 pm – Check emails again

2:30 pm – Send out a press release to media

2:45 pm – Start calling media outlets for review

3:30 pm – Lunch

4:00 pm – Check more emails

5:00pm – Talk to clients/ journalists

6:00 pm – Get in touch with writers again

6:40 pm – Edit copies again

7:00 pm – Leave for home

8:00 pm – Reach home

8:30 pm – dinner and relaxation

9:30 pm – checking emails again

11:30 pm – check on pending work

On an average day, I would crash before midnight only to repeat the whole cycle again the next day.

Here’s how much sleep people in these countries are getting;

Being exhausted doesn’t mean you’re hustling

Most people assume that sleeping less would automatically equal getting more done. By doing this, they expect to see the results of their labor faster.

30% of the employees sleep for less than 6 hours a night. When your brain can’t function at its optimum, it means you’re taking far longer to finish projects.

So here’s what everyone is thinking; if I sleep less, I can make more time for the activities that are important to growing my business or further my career goals.

For a while it works, but the impact of sleeping less soon starts to show. As I started sleeping less and less, I realized I was performing worse at work. I was much less productive, and I was making mistakes, forgetting important things Not to mention, I felt so much more irritable and short-tempered.

I was also taking much longer to finish projects, reply to emails, finish calls, and find out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Everything was stressing me out, and that’s when my left thyroid started growing in size.

Source

You feel under the weather more frequently

Sleeping fewer hours than your body requires to rest gradually weakens the immune system. While you may be someone who never falls sick, you will notice that you get over one illness and get another.

The immune system is unable to fend for itself and fight off germs. According to one study, people who regularly slept less than 6 hours per night were 4 times as likely to catch the common cold.

Webmd.com confirms the link between lack of sleep and lowered immunity.

Source

If you’re not sleeping well, or not sleeping enough, you will also notice that your body feels sore and achy. Sleep allows your body to make growth hormones and undergo tissue repair.

Stimulants like coffee aren’t always enough to override the body’s need for restful sleep.

You find yourself in the middle of conflicts more often

Researchers believe that lack of sleep may reduce impulse control. You may be the most patient person you know, but sleeplessness can cause little things to rile you up.

Studies have shown that people who slept less read facial expressions incorrectly. They start seeing non-threatening people as threatening. It can have serious repercussions on your career and your relationships with your colleagues, managers, and clients may suffer.

In general, sleep deprivation can lead to workers becoming poor communicators. Sleep-deprived individuals drop the intensity of their voices, pause for long intervals without obvious reason, mumble instructions inaudibly, slur, run words together and repeat themselves.

You go over the material again and again

Sleep deprivation affects cognition and focus which is why you’ll find it hard to retain information. You may end up asking people to repeat themselves because you’re tuning out unintentionally due to fatigue. You may find yourself taking notes obsessively and relying on a plethora of tools like Google calendar and spell checks to keep you in line.

You may also find that what you’re reading takes a long time to sink in and you may even have to read the same paragraph multiple times to make sense of it. Overall, these habits translate into poor productivity levels and performance.

On the other hand, sleeping for just an hour more every day can have a huge positive impact on your productivity levels.

You let go of great opportunities

When you’re not getting enough rest, you are also most likely missing out on great opportunities at work. Being proactive and thinking out-of-the-box requires you to sometimes take additional responsibilities or look at your work differently.

But when you’re at your limit physically, the moment someone suggests taking on another responsibility or trying something new for your career, you retreat into your cave.

Mentally, you may know it’s an opportunity, but on a subconscious level, your system is too overloaded to stomach another responsibility.

The true power of sleep for productivity

Sleeping better and longer can change your whole outlook towards work. You may be wondering how to squeeze another 2 hours in your already packed day.

Well, my friends, it’s all about mental capacity. The more rested your brain is, the faster it can process. A well-rested mind and body can get a lot done during your work hours.

Take a look at the sleeping patterns of some of the top performing athletes in the world;

Source

Except for Tiger Woods, you’ll notice that everyone else sleeps a minimum of 8 hours per night. And looking at Woods’ performance lately, he better start hitting the snooze button more often.

I sleep for a little over 9 hours, and the extra sleep helps me manage my work so much better than before. Projects that took me an upward of 10 hours are now completed in 5 hours or less. Responding to emails, talking to clients, and brainstorming new content ideas has all become much faster thanks to a well-rested, sharp brain!

How to get enough sleep so you’re productive

It takes a long time to get into the habit of not sleeping. But sometimes it also takes a long time to get into the habit of sleeping again.

First things first, you’ll need to change your mindset about sleeping. Life is busy for everyone and work is not going anywhere.

A mindset shift will help you prioritize sleep. In my case, I started saying ‘no’ more often at work. This simple change allowed me more hours to rest. Truth be told, I enjoy sleeping. Sometimes that’s what I do on my off days; I just stay in bed and relax.

This infographic will help you ready yourself for sleep;

A lot of times we use mobile devices right before bedtime. Research indicates that blue light affects your sleep patterns.

Also, it helps going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

Entrepreneurs who sleep more than 8 hours and are very successful

Members of the business world continue to brag about how many hours they’ve worked vs. the number of hours of sleep they’ve lost. While losing a few hours of sleep every day may make sense to entrepreneurs who want to get a headstart on their mountainous responsibilities, most people cannot really succeed without sleep.

In fact, sleep is right up there with nutrition and exercise and is very important for sound mental and physical health. It’s a myth that you can’t have a great business if you’re sleeping enough. Lately, Jeff Bezos and Arianna Huffington have been advocating for a healthy amount of sleep. Hopefully soon, the sleep-deprived entrepreneur will become a thing of the past.

  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: 7 hours per night (9:30 p.m. – 4:30 a.m.)
  • Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft: 7 hours per night (12 a.m. – 7 a.m.)
  • Ellen DeGeneres, TV Host: 8 hours per night (11 p.m. – 7 a.m.)
  • Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon.com: 7 hours per night (10 p.m. – 5 a.m.)

While there are others who still prefer to sleep 3-4 hours a night, you need to find what works best for your body.

Conclusion

We are constantly lying to ourselves when we say we don’t need rest, we don’t need a break, and we can go without sleeping much. In the end, we are just pushing our bodies to the limit, hoping in vain to be productive.

The fact is, the more sleep-deprived you are, the slower you get work done. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital also found that accuracy and speed at a visual search computer task decreased significantly the longer participants were awake, Reuters reported.

Sleep isn’t optional. We’ve been conditioned to see the burning of the midnight oil and waking up before sunrise as traits of great leaders. But the truth is sleeping restfully is the most competitive thing you can do for yourself.


What makes a company a great place to work?

Few corporate awards are as highly sought-after as a prestigious ‘Best Place to Work’ title. And that’s because there are substantial benefits to it.

Research confirms that companies that consistently win such awards are also those that experience significant growth and success. A company that values employee engagement understands the mantra ‘happy employees equal happy customers’.

Simply Business chief executive Jason Stockwood said: “You can’t force people who hate their environment to do a good job. Customers only come first if our employees are happy and doing a good job.” – LinkedIn

Among the variety of Best Place to Work award programs, the most well-respected are held by the likes of Forbes, Inc., The Sunday Times, Business Insider and Glassdoor. The better you understand what elements make a great workplace, the better you’ll be able to make your company a great place to work.

In most cases, the upper management falls into the trap of thinking that bigger paychecks equal employee satisfaction. But employees seek more than just financial reward. In fact, they also list interesting work, recognition and ‘being in on things’ as the most valued aspects of their work.

Here’s what keeps employees motivated, inspired and producing extraordinary results;

Great pay

Let’s be honest. We all go to work to earn money. Multiple surveys have revealed that the number 1 thing employees look for in a job is a good salary. And why shouldn’t they? We all want to be paid our worth. Employers that can afford to pay should pay the best and the brightest to stay on their staff – whether it’s in the form of a salary increment or performance-based bonuses.

Recognition

Employees value recognition and appreciation for a job well done just as much as other benefits. Recognition is an important criterion of all major ‘best place to work’ awards programs.

According to Glassdoor, the average workplace scores just 39% in the area of employee recognition, compared to an average of 75% among the best places to work.

Redactive Media’s Great Workplaces 2016 publication drives the point home; the number one reason most people quit their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.

On the other hand, organizations that had employee recognition programs in place had a 31% lower voluntary turnover than those with ineffective or no recognition programs.

Work-life balance

According to this survey, employees rated work-life balance as one of the most important factors when it comes to deciding whether to leave their current job and take a new one. Employees that are burned out rarely produce the results that companies thrive on.

There are only so many hours in a day. The more time an employer requires, the less time [and energy] an employee has available to pursue his interests and hobbies or spend time with family and friends.

At the very least employers should enable – or at least not prevent – employees from having full lives outside of the workplace. And it doesn’t cost much to do so. In most cases, offering telecommuting options and flex timings can do the trick.

A sense of purpose

A job you love also provides a sense of purpose and meaning. While millennials enjoy a good paycheck, 50% are happy to take a pay cut for work that matches their own values. Employees, mostly born after 1982, want to work for companies that are socially responsible and want to have an impact on society.

This includes contributing to the greater good, investing in social causes and being transparent.

According to Gallup, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. Here’s a detailed article that highlights the difference in performance of companies with engaged employees and those with an unengaged workforce.

Happier employees are 59% less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months, unlike employees who aren’t satisfied with their jobs. This keeps you from having to replace employees you’ve spent your time and resources in – and we all know how expensive that is.

Here’s what some of the top companies are doing to keep their employees engaged and motivated;

Netflix

The company offers a year of paid maternity and paternity leave to new parents. Netflix also allows parents to return either part time or full time and take off days whenever needed throughout the year.

Airbnb

Listed the best place to work in 2016, Airbnb offers its employees an annual stipend of $2,000 to travel and stay anywhere in the world at an Airbnb listing.

Google

If a Google employee dies, the technology giant provides the surviving spouse or partner with 50% of the deceased’s salary for the next 10 years.

Starbucks

Starbucks provides its employees full reimbursement for tuition fees for an online bachelor’s degree from the State University of Arizona.

Bain & Company

The leadership consultancy giant organizes a two-day ‘Bain World Cup’ soccer tournament. It is open to all employees country-wide, and over 1000 employees from its 50 offices turn it into the event of the year.

Twitter

Apart from free meals thrice a day, Twitter also offers on-site acupuncture classes.

Companies like Southwest Airlines, Legal Monkeys, Asana, Screwfix, Dreamworks and many others offer interesting employee perks to increase engagement.

More and more companies are realizing the important connection between the happiness levels of their workforce and overall company output.

Creating a sense of purpose, belonging and happiness, along with support for employee aspirations both inside and outside the workplace are some of the ways to increase engagement.

Don’t think you have the budget to provide such perks? Don’t worry. Your company doesn’t need to have a big budget to increase the motivation level of your employees. Here are some simple tips to help you get started;

Listen

It may seem like a simple thing, but it can go a long way in keeping your employees happy. Provide multiple channels for employees to express their ideas, opinions, and concerns with the leadership. And make sure each comment gets a response.

Have an open door policy

Some companies have an unequivocal open door policy where senior executives sit in cubicles next to their teams to increase day-to-day interaction.

Create a cultural committee

This committee can be tasked with keeping the entire workforce aligned with your company values. From welcoming new employees to directing celebrations for achievements and milestones, these committee members are like your company’s cultural ambassadors who work to increase the spirit of camaraderie.

Small gestures matter

Small gestures go a long way in terms of building a relationship with employees. Several company CEOs have made it a tradition to send handwritten notes to employees on Christmas or Thanksgiving, expressing appreciation for their dedication and hard work. Some CEOs take new employees to lunch to get to know them better from the very start.

Reward and recognize accomplishments

Recognize and then appreciate employee accomplishments and milestones. You’ll find people going the extra mile more often when their efforts are noticed.

Flexibility

Employees who have a degree of flexibility in their schedule, in the way they work and how they execute tasks will always enjoy their work more. Employees who feel trusted are not just more productive and accountable; they are also more committed to their responsibilities.

Again, back to what I said earlier; happy employees equal happy customers, which means bigger profits. The only way to truly humanize your brand is by genuinely investing in your employees. Success stories of companies that are regularly voted the best places to work back this up;

  • Airbnb, Glassdoor’s 2016 Best Place to Work award holder, was valued at $31 billion in 2017 after just 9 years in business.
  • Softcat, another Glassdoor award winner, was able to increase its turnover from £50m to £600m in just a decade.
  • Facebook, Glassdoor’s current #1 best place to work, is valued at $479.4 billion.
  • Simply Business that won The Sunday Times list of the Best Companies to Work for award in 2015 and 2016 has been seeing steady revenue growth. Its revenue increased from £4.2m to £22.9m between 2006 to 2012.

These ideas aren’t just pretty simple to understand and apply; they are crucial in today’s world if you want to drive better financial returns, surpass the competition and become a ‘best place to work’ that attracts and retains top talent.

Now, we’d love to hear your stories! Share the policies you’ve put in place to ensure a very engaged workforce. Did you face certain challenges and roadblocks while implementing these policies? Let us know in the comments below.


How to launch your first side hustle with no experience and little cash

When I first started my side hustle, I did so to express myself more fully, do something I love and of course build an income independent of my job. I quickly realized that my bank account looked pitiful and between rent and medical bills I knew I had to build the business fast. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Business books and advisors recommend that you start a business with at least six months of runway cash. But it’s possible to start a company with $500 or less.

Most Americans have little to no savings and a ton of debt

America is the land of opportunity, but not everyone is sharing in the wealth. Despite low unemployment rates (around 4.4%), research indicates that wages have barely increased since the eight years after the recession.

A new study from GoBankingRates.com also confirms that more than half of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. The average indebted household owes more than $16,000 in credit card debt.

Find out what you’re good at and sell it

The first step to starting a business is to find out what you’re good at and how you can use your skill to provide value to others. If you’re a music teacher, you can create online courses and teach the world how to play the guitar. If you’re a marketer, you can create a product or service offering that companies can use to further their marketing efforts.

I’m a writer, and I knew that companies need good content all the time. When I jumped into the entrepreneurial world, I decided to use my skills to help companies produce effective blog posts and articles to further their business goals. I realized early on that it was easy to sell my services to companies that couldn’t afford to hire full time, but could still use the services of a professional business writer.

If you’re not sure what to sell or are a multi-passionate individual, then brainstorm a list of services you might be able to provide to businesses and individuals and then pick one or two.

This is the story of MissDesignBerry.com a graphic design company is close to generating a million dollars in revenue. Kristen Berry started it as a side hustle on Etsy in 2011 to earn extra money to pay bills and save some cash. She started by selling logo design, illustrations and more.

“I quickly realized that the wedding products were selling faster than any others, and my illustration style lent itself perfectly to the designs,” she says. – thebalancemb.com

Two years later she hired her first part-time employee. Berry’s company now employs over 20 women who work remotely and also pursue their own creative projects on the side.

Start as a freelancer

Freelancing is simple, and you can start today. All you need is the right level of motivation and the ability to deal with rejection. Freelancing just means taking the skills you already have (or are actively building) and pitching it to companies and individuals who could use them in their business on a contract basis.

“When I started my company, all I had was a laptop and the ability to make animated videos by myself –no extra funding or special equipment was needed,” says Video Igniter Founder, Derek Merdinyan.

Any somewhat established company with a handful of employees should be interested in using the services of a freelancer or consultant who can provide enough value.

It doesn’t matter you’re a copywriter, web developer, software engineer, designer, marketer or photographer – all of these jobs have given you an opportunity to build your skills, and there’s a high demand for freelancers in all of these fields.

Brandon Pearce’s story is empowering. He was motivated to start a business to earn extra cash on the side. As a piano teacher, he knew he was struggling with payment schedules of his students. And he instinctively realized that he wasn’t the only one.

He ended up developing the Music Teacher’s Helper – a software that helps independent music teachers and studio owners keep track of payments and students’ schedules.

Pearce started the project while he was still working for his previous employer.

“I created Music Teacher’s Helper in my spare time, working early mornings, lunch breaks, and late evenings.” – Screwthecubicle.com

Move somewhere less expensive

Living in the most expensive city, area or apartment may not be a great idea when starting a business, especially when you are cash-strapped.

I realized it was challenging for us as a family to pay rent and start a business simultaneously. Consider making a move that lowers your cost of living.

If you haven’t got a day job, or left it, like me, then maybe hop on a plane to Mexico or Romania. I know many writers who are living in Vietnam and Thailand and making the most of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Start by investing little or no money

Spending on glossy photo shoots or expensive websites may be a bad idea at the start. Your set-up cost should be truly minimal.

There are ways to start making money before spending a dime on your business. ‘What if it does work out?’ is a book by Susie Moore that sheds light on these ideas.

A side hustle allowed Susie Moore to walk away from a $500k job as a sales director to pursue what she loved, full-time. But 18 months before quitting her job, she had laid the groundwork for her coaching business.

“I was making great money, but in my heart, I knew what I was doing every day was not my life’s work. I had read 500+ personal development books and was a natural advisor, so I felt called to pursue coaching.” – Forbes.

Another side hustler, Jay Money from Budgets Are Sexy, found unexpected success from his blog. He shares;

“I spent a whopping $10 for a domain name! I started it on Blogger back in the day which was completely free, and then even when I moved to self-hosted WordPress, it still came down to less than $100 for the entire year.”

Jay advises novice business owners that all they need is an internet connection for a blog-based side hustle!

Ryan Robinson took a vote on side hustling set-up costs, and here are the results;

Depending on your venture, if it’s not $0 in investment costs, it should still be really, really low. And its possible too. That’s the beauty of a side hustle.

Pro Tip: Your hustle money should be invested back into your business, so it keeps growing. This is the entrepreneurship spirit in its true sense.

A business needs to be incredibly simple in its early days. When you’re just getting started, any time and money spent on not directly helping people is a waste.

Don’t quit your day job (just yet)

Giving up a reliable source of income is not easy (not to mention inconvenient) and many of us can’t jump in with both feet. You need cash to pay the rent, buy groceries, pay off a student loan and probably feed hungry mouths.

The most important thing that a day job provides you is the certainty of a paycheck and time to work on creating a product or service that the market needs. A winning product requires testing. Along the way, you may be required to learn new skills which can take a while.

The smart thing to do is developing a client-base while holding your day job. As you develop positive cash flow, you can say goodbye to your corporate job.

If you don’t have a full-time job to support yourself during this period, you can easily become desperate. It can have an impact on the way you develop your products and present your services to clients. You may also feel forced to work with clients you don’t want to.

It’s more risky not to start your side hustle

A stinging comment or bad decision is all it takes for your boss to ruin your life. Allowing one person [even if you like her] to have so much power over you doesn’t feel good. You don’t have to work a corporate job if you don’t want to. A 9-5 job isn’t as safe as it used to be anyway. Just take a look around you – layoffs happen in droves.

A side hustle gives you the economic cushion you need to make better choices. It also provides a buffer to help you manage stress levels. As soon as your business starts to grow legs, you’ll get a boost of confidence.

Your income from a side hustle may not be big [at least in the beginning], but with persistence and consistency, it can grow. And there’s no glass ceiling for how much you can earn or how far you can go. For some people, it can mean the difference between just getting by and building a life.

But most importantly, a side hustle give you a chance to build some truly valuable life skills – and the gift of knowing that you’ll be taken care of no matter what.

‘When you know better, you do better.’ – Maya Angelou.