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Frank C.

What makes a good entrepreneurial leader? 6 must-have traits for success

By Wish Group No Comments

Did you know that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in 2025? With whole new generation of employees as well as a shift in workplace dynamics, it’s more important than ever to have a strong entrepreneurial leader at the top.

Your ability to lead is always being put to the test, even if you’re a newly-minted entrepreneur with no employees. The success of  your day-to-day interactions depends on it – from your dealings with contractors, customers, clients to navigating the general marketplace.

But how exactly do you qualify good leadership? Most people realize that leadership qualities are important but can’t quite figure out how to measure it.

Having run several successful ventures over the last 20 years, including the Wish Group, I’ve had more than a few opportunities to learn and observe the keys to good entrepreneurial leadership. In my experience, when it’s missing at the top, the organization is not destined for long-term success. The leadership vacuum drives away quality talent and wastes the efforts of those who do work for the business, as they won’t be motivated to achieve your goals.

What exactly is entrepreneurial leadership?

Before we dive deeper into what makes a good entrepreneurial leader, we should lay out a definition for entrepreneurial leadership. It is a mindset that focuses organizations towards turning problems into opportunities that create economic and social value. It very often goes hand in hand with a relentless optimism about the world.

Psychological testing also indicates that this type of leader is able to thrive in uncertainty, exhibits a passion for ownership and is able to persuade others towards their purpose. They are nimble, decisive, agile and embody the entrepreneurial spirit.

As an intangible quality, there are no concrete metrics or data to measure the effectiveness of entrepreneurial leadership. But it is easy enough to tell when it is missing, as it impacts every other aspect of a business that we can and do measure, such as employee productivity.

The good news is, if you don’t consider yourself an entrepreneurial leader right now, it is learnable.

Different entrepreneurial leaders have different styles

When it comes to being a great entrepreneurial leader, there is no one perfect way of doing things. Everyone has their own style, and each employee responds differently to it, depending which part of the world they’re from – we’re all unique and work at our own rhythms.  Some might respond better to a boss who’s more demanding while others prefer a laid-back approach.

As an entrepreneur, you tend to have a singular vision and a certain way of doing things that gets you where you need to be. This is how I got to where I am today. I always kept the big picture in mind – what direction I wanted to take my business in any given moment and any potential opportunities for growth.

Employees don’t have access to this information. As an entrepreneurial leader, it is incumbent on you to communicate these things to them in an effective manner, so that they can understand the larger purpose of their work.

You’ll always want to be setting a positive example. The more you can inspire your employees and make them happier to be a part of your team, the more productive your workplace will be as a whole.

6 of the most important leadership skills

Here are six of the most important qualities that I believe that every entrepreneur should have to be a good leader and sustain their business success:

1)  Know yourself

One of the key characteristics of great entrepreneurial leadership is that they know themselves and what matters. A successful leader has a singular vision for the company and understands why they’re doing what they’re doing. They know their own talents and limitations. They’ve put together a concrete business plan.

Without a stable base, you can’t set expectations for others or persuade them to follow your lead. Everyone whose help you need has to believe that you are the right person for the job.

Successful leaders understand what they’re all about. They exude the necessary self-confidence, take responsibility for their decision making and are transparent in all their dealings. When they find their business in a difficult situation that could have big implications on its future, they have the confidence to take a step back and consider things before deciding. It’s what I like to call a ‘pause moment.’

The end result is that you’ll manifest a culture of trust and belonging. You see this all the time in successful companies like Adobe or Hubspot – and, dare I say, Wish Group. Employees can and will be comfortable coming to these kinds of leaders with ideas for change and innovation. This makes it that much easier to reach your business’s goals and objectives.

2)  Nurture employees

As the captain of your business, you have a responsibility to everyone that works under your stead. You want to get the best out of them. Entrepreneurial leaders that take the time to develop the talents and skills of their workforce see it paying dividends for their businesses.

Too often, this side of the business gets neglected. Did you know that 79% of employees report quitting their jobs due to a lack of appreciation? By creating a more fulfilling climate for employees, you’ll be able to acquire, develop and retain a more motivated human resource pool.

The gestures don’t have to be grandiose. Good leaders start by sharing tidbits about the company culture, achievements and where appropriate, shortcomings (although not absolute ones) across the internal network and social media.

It is equally important to provide support on projects without taking over. If you’ve brought on the right people, you should feel confident enough that they can find a good solution for your business. You should create a culture with diverse skillsets, with various strengths and specialities.

Pass on your knowledge through mentorship, so that they can develop their own leadership skills. (This has been a cornerstone philosophy for all my businesses right from the beginning.) As employees develop, they’ll pay it forward to others in the organization. Push everyone up to the limits of their abilities. Successful leadership teams understand that they don’t need to take on everything on their own.

Empower your team to be better – this is one of the earliest lessons I learned as an entrepreneurial leader.

3)  Know when to listen

Great leaders in any field, no matter if it’s sports or business, know that it’s not always about what you say but how you listen. This means actively listening and making decisions based on not only your own interpretations but what others tell you. If you’re running a business, this is one of the best ways to provide everyone with what they need and demand.

This is a necessary but underdeveloped aspect of people’s communication skills. People will often say they are listening but in reality, they are focusing on what they want to say, instead of actually hearing the other person. Don’t fall into this trap!

Take the time to connect with others throughout your organization in a genuine fashion. A stronger connection leads to a stronger company, which can better cope with any difficult situations (i.e., a global pandemic).

Don’t be afraid to ask for and listen to advice when you need it. There is no shame! It helps you come across as a more empathetic leader, one that employees can trust and be inspired to put more into their work.

4)  Be malleable

The business landscape is always changing, especially now in the “new normal.” There is also no shortage of unforeseen developments (such as the shift words remote work) and market changes that can compromise your chances of success.

The only way to keep up with it all is to be a malleable leader, taking calculated risks and innovating where possible. This could mean launching a new initiative, strategy or even a service that opens up another avenue of growth for your business.

Entrepreneurial leaders thrive in uncertainty and always open to new experiences and ways of doing things. They are not limited by convention and comfortable with calculated risk – heck they took one by starting their own business! They’re not frightened by them or take unnecessary ones but use them as a source of motivation and minimize it as much as possible as they strive towards the goal.

The worst thing you can do is to search for instant gratification – make the necessary sacrifices and avoid taking the easier, shorter route. When facing an issue, a good leader will develop a long-term fix instead of relying on a series of patchwork fixes that can reopen and cause your business lots of headaches.

5)  Lifelong commitment to learning & wellness

Just like your employees, an entrepreneurial leader is never a finished product. He/she is a lifelong learner and is committed to keeping themselves healthy. They take a healthy interest in the world around them.

An effective leader has a life outside of work. They spend time away from the business to think things through as well as take time for themselves with vacations, hobbies and personal interests. Over the years, I’ve found that the best ideas usually come when you’re not actively thinking about them (and shooting a few rounds on the golf course).

Running a business is a marathon not a sprint. If you don’t pace yourself and equip yourself properly, you’ll never make it to the finish line! An entrepreneurial leader never gets too high on success and never too low when faced with obstacles. You can’t have poor sleeping and eating habits and expect to be your best self. Whenever possible, set routines for yourself so you can get into the right mindset.

6)  Maintaining your integrity

An entrepreneurial leader always safeguards his reputation and the reputation of his business. You always want to make sure your brand is known for the right reasons.

If you do find yourself in a sticky situation, honesty is usually the best policy. According to an Edelman study, 56 per cent of people don’t trust those who stay silent on important issues.

To avoid any confusion, as the leader, it is imperative that you make it clear from the outset what you stand for. Outline your personal and company values. Put together a code conduct for everyone to follow – live this code and make sure to include it in performance evaluations. You’ll find that if you keep things consistent, you’ll receive better employee performance and retention.

 

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about getting started, how to lead effectively or any other topic for that matter, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

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How to become a successful entrepreneur: Lessons I’ve learned over 20 years

By Wish Group No Comments

It was twenty years ago, just after the August Long Weekend that I set off on an entrepreneurial journey that would change my life forever.

I had just resigned from my position at Bell Canada on Tuesday and by Friday, I was set up in a small 8×10 office space, with only a desk, telephone and printer to keep me company. I began making calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to connect with prospects from the east coast to the west coast.

Let me tell you, each was a new adventure – my emotions ran from nervous excitement to trepidation to mind-numbing fear. Luckily, the business started turning a profit within a few months, and I got the sense that we would make it. There is nothing more exhilarating than starting something from scratch and experiencing all the emotions as you begin to gain traction and break through to success.

It was only through trial and error as well as listening to advice from those who came before me, that I learned what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. And as we emerge out of the Covid-19 crisis, it’s easy to draw parallels with the economic turmoil in the early 2000’s, when I first began.

What better way to make use of all this knowledge than to pay it forward to future generations of entrepreneurs?

Here are my thoughts on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and some of the most important tidbits I’ve learned over the years. To be clear, there is no actual blueprint for success, as everyone’s path is different – I can only gently steer you in the right direction.

What is an entrepreneur?

Simply put, an entrepreneur is someone who launches a business venture, usually in the form of a company, that builds and sells a product or provides a service. They capitalize on an existing problem or new opportunities to create a solution others may have overlooked.

Entrepreneurs serve as stewards of the business, holding down the fort, initially for themselves and later for the members of their team. A successful one generally has a solid mix of industry knowledge, skills and experience – leveraging partnerships can help fill in any gaps.

It all starts with a good business idea

Did you know that up to 75 per cent of startups fail and over 22 per cent of small business fail within one year of launch, half fail within five years and two-thirds are gone in ten?

There’s no sugar-coating things – having your own business is exciting but there is a lot of hard work ahead of you. Just because you’ve decided to start one, there’s no guarantee you’ll build a profitable business.

In the beginning, all you have is your idea, so you should choose something you’re passionate about. Make sure you get your business plan validated before you sink in valuable time, resources and effort. There are many great business ideas out there but not all of them are sustainable.

From there, you’ll need to consider the following:

  1. What is your product or service? What are your priorities?
  2. Who is your target audience? Who are you competing against?
  3. Why should customers purchase what you offer?
  4. When and how will your business operate?
  5. What are your contingencies for unexpected emergencies? (i.e., Covid-19)

Traits that all successful entrepreneurs have

Regardless of what anyone tells you, entrepreneurs are made, not born. That being said, there are specific traits you want to have in your back pocket, to increase your odds of success.

On the surface, successful entrepreneurs have good communication, organizational and time management skills as well as an aptitude for strategic thinking. These are all necessary for day-to-day operations and effectively dealing with customers, vendors and team members.

Digging a little deeper, there are some more nuanced skills that a successful entrepreneur must have to lead a business:

  1. Level-headedness – As an entrepreneur, you’ll constantly face challenges and struggles. The key is to be able to deal with them effectively and not get overwhelmed. When you’re centred, you’re able to tap into your creative juices and solve problems with great ideas.
  2. Trust yourself – While you should always be open to feedback, never doubt your instincts and vision. Don’t apologize for your choices. In the early stages, when you don’t quite have the resources, it’s natural to be worried about what the clients and employees will think. This will only compromise your decision-making. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to focus less on where you are, and more towards where you’re going with your business.
  3. Listen to complaints – No one enjoys failures or criticism, but they are a necessary part of successful businesses. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, especially as a small business owner, you’ll need to keep it all in perspective. It’s a good idea to take classes or seminars and read as much as possible about other entrepreneurial successes to see their thought process.
  4. Passionate – I touched on it before, but to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to love what you are doing because success isn’t always immediate. having this fire inside you will help you overcome those inevitable failures.

It’s unlikely that you possess all these traits, much less at an above average level – I know I didn’t. You’ll need to fill these gaps by finding and delegating duties to ambitious, talented people.

Building a foundation for entrepreneurial success

When you’re in the business for over twenty years, you tend to pick up a few lessons along the way. There are certain foundational items you need to maximize your chances, no matter which industry you are in. These include:

  1. Develop a business plan. Make sure it’s clearly outlined with objectives and strategies for reaching them. This is a crucial step for getting investors on board and monitoring your progress in the early goings. It will also help you manage your risks, so you don’t overspend and stretch yourself thin.
  2. Build a great team. As much as it pleases your ego, you can’t do everything on your own. Getting the best people around you to help your reach your goals is essential. Delegate tasks based on their personal strengths – the more they can take on their plate at once, the better. This way you focus on the areas of the business where you can bring the most value. After this pandemic, people will be more mindful of their company benefits, so if you’re an established company, you’ll need to offer better sick leave policies, more comprehensive health coverage and so on to entice talent.
  3. Evolving with the times. Successful entrepreneurs know that it is important to have open and ongoing conversations about new ideas and processes as well as maintaining an agile operational structure that can respond to crises. One thing you can do is have an open-door policy. Keep your senior leadership upfront and transparent with lower-level employees, sharing details and updates about the company on a regular basis. It may not always be obvious, but this sort of connectivity is greatly appreciated. You also need to be aware of changing circumstances in the business sector. The future of the workplace is hybrid. According to Emergent Research, 15 to 18% of the workforce is likely to remain home-based, with most workers operating on a hybrid model, splitting time between the office and home. As a business owner, you need to prioritize the employee experience and remain flexible. If your business does continue to operate out of an office, be mindful of its layout. Ideally, it should look less like a workspace, with rows and rows of cubicles, and more like a place of community. It will make it a more exciting place in which to spend time.
  4. Start with a minimum viable product (MVP) & promote it. With any business venture, you’re going to need to convince consumers that whatever you’re selling is the best option for them on the market. To do this, you’ll need to hone in on your unique selling proposition and business model. Once you have that, you’ll want to use it as the centrepiece of your promotions – Google My Business and social media are two free tools you should be using. Facebook peer groups are also beneficial.
  5. Avoid hiring mistakes. Making additions to your team is a big investment in time and money. To avoid disruptions to the status quo, I often tell business owners to hire people based on cultural fit and personal motivations, not just on revenue potential. Trust me, you don’t want to deal with the headaches. Whatever skills your new employees may be lacking, you can always train them.
  6. Figure out your funding. Without some financial backing, it’s difficult to get your venture off the ground. Depending on the type of business, you’ll need a source of funding to purchase equipment and materials, develop your product or service, iterate upon your offerings and refine your processes. My advice for entrepreneurs is to always aim to do more with less. You have two different financing avenues you can take: self-funding or raise capital from investors. If you go with the former route, you’ll need to take out personal loans or have your family or friends invest. If you go the latter route, there is a lot of money and interest among venture capitalists right now, with stock markets near record highs and numerous multibillion dollar IPOs in the news. There are also many government programs in the U.S. and Canada pushing economic growth, which is driving investment. If you are an entrepreneur with a tech company, even better, as investors are always looking for emerging technologies.Take the path that makes the most sense. Whatever you do choose, however, I’d strongly advise allocating part of your revenue into an emergency fund for those unexpected crises. You can also opt for insurance to protect yourself and your business.

Guiding a successful business through murky waters

If I’m being completely honest, the best teacher over the last twenty years for me has been adversity. Heck, when I first started my journey as an entrepreneur in the early 2000s, we were knee-deep in an economic recession.

But if you have the right structure in place and focus in on your decision-making, you can make it out of any sticky situation. Here are some of my best practices for established and newly-minted entrepreneurs:

  1. Be financially diligent. This starts with being prepared even before a crisis hits. Set some money aside and save it for that rainy day. Being consistently disciplined with your business’s finances will ensure that you’re able to do this, as you will already have costs under control and be operating within your means. When the difficult times do come, you will have to adjust, but won’t have to undertake wholesale changes, a welcome relief for your employees.
  2. Maintain a positive mindset. In business, as with life, you’ll face challenges. Any crisis is manageable, regardless of the triggers, if you maintain a healthy frame of mind. How do you do this? Successful entrepreneurs know that it’s about what you allow into your brain. Limiting engagement with negative people, build a strong support network, reading inspirational books as well as consuming less news and social media are a good start. I’d also recommend focusing on what you can impact right now, such as responding quicker or communicating and strategizing with your team.
  3. Control expenses and cash flow. Even though you’re feeling optimistic that we are finally, truly rounding that corner toward a better economy, if there’s currently more money going out the door than coming in, you risk not making it across the finish line. We can’t predict just how long the full recovery will really take. As an entrepreneur, being optimistic is in your blood. But too much optimism can sink you, especially if it’s a new business. This is a marathon not a sprint.
  4. Prioritize your health. Without you, there is no business. Take an introspective look at your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it can be pretty lonely carrying the weight of a business on your shoulders – it exacts a toll on you physically and emotionally. Many entrepreneurs have 10 to 12-hour days and are constantly dealing with the anxiety of paying bills and waiting on cheques. Get regular exercise, don’t skimp out on sleep and consider taking up yoga or meditation to help you filter out the stress. It’s also a good idea to limit your caffeine intake!
  5. Keep your business health in perspective. Analyze the year that just passed and review any aspirational budgets – that lofty number you wanted to achieve. Continue to focus on key client relationships and add value wherever you can, so they continue to appreciate what you bring.
  6. Embrace technological trends. Staying ahead of the game can help your company deal with any crisis. Here at the Wish Group, we actively hunt for technological trends, whether or not we’re in a pandemic. Obviously, without a crystal ball handy, we can never know for sure what is coming but we pay attention to the indicators. As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to do the same.

It takes more than luck

There’s nothing like having your own company, being your own boss and making your own money.

However, becoming a successful entrepreneur is difficult and not for everyone. There is a steep learning curve, and most entrepreneurs don’t end up realizing all their ambitions. Beyond a good idea or opportunity, you have to possess the necessary skills and qualities, including taking risks and managing uncertainty, to see long-term success.

If you take only one thing away, it should be this – success in the entrepreneurial world doesn’t happen by accident.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about getting started, managing your business through difficult periods or any other topic for that matter, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 strategies entrepreneurs should follow for post-pandemic success

By Wish Group No Comments

“When things don’t go your way, remember that every challenge — every adversity — contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.”

— Roy T. Bennett

To say the past year was tumultuous for businesses and entrepreneurs around the world would be an understatement. But it was also an eye-opening experience, showing business owners that there are different ways of operating, many of which are better than what we had before.

As we shift towards a new normal, companies need to prepare themselves and their workforce for the changes in communication and operational best practices. This requires planning.

With vaccination rates continuing to climb and a return to “normal” within sight, new opportunities are emerging for companies and entrepreneurs alike. To capitalize on them, you’ll need to take on a little risk and apply some of the lessons learned over the past several months.

Entering the “new normal”

First things first, what does the “new normal” actually mean? This often-quipped (but not always understood) term refers to the transition point in society from what came before — usually after a period of dramatic change and uncertainty.

For our purposes, we’re referring to the pandemic. This watershed moment changed the way that we do things, specifically where and how we work along with the structure of our business models. With most of us tethered to our homes, remote work became the norm, pushing a rising trend into the mainstream. After an initial adjustment period, people grew comfortable working from home, preferring it to the office grind.

At the same time, business models underwent their own transformation. With the virus running rampant, governments the world over shuttered non-essential businesses, urgently forcing them to reconsider how they delivered their products and/or services to consumers. There was a renewed shift towards digitization. Digital storefronts had been gaining traction before but now became the sole means of access for consumers.

People are continuing to see the convenience of digital, and businesses are jumping on board.

The (near) future looks entrepreneurial

In light of this new reality, what are some seeds of opportunity?

For one, the desire to be an entrepreneur and build out a venture has never been higher. In fact, the number of new business applications is up 38 per cent compared to the year before the pandemic. With many people losing their regular jobs, they turned to starting a business, capitalizing on new niches and demands (i.e., the shift towards digitization).

The opportunity to work independently from home as well as the advances in technology were key catalysts for this too. It’s easier than ever to find customers and work with people, no matter the distance – look no further than the widespread adoption of video communication tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Not all of these startups will succeed long term. However, it is encouraging to see this rise in entrepreneurship, instead of having people recede into a shell after such a difficult period of time.

Strategies for success in the post-pandemic world

Here are six strategies you should follow to ensure a smooth transition and see results in the post-Covid world, regardless if you’re a seasoned company or a newly minted entrepreneur.

1.  Invest in new technologies

One of the lessons we can take away from the pandemic and apply to how we do business is investing in technology. During the dark days of the crisis, video collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and shifting towards virtual events were absolutely essential to keeping businesses afloat.

In the future, technology will continue to play a vital role, particularly when it comes to automation. Already on the rise before the pandemic, the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to flourish as businesses try to keep up with increased consumer demand.

The benefits are numerous. Automation helps make the more routine processes easier, so you can spend less time on that and focus on running your business. For example, you could square off administrative functions such as employee onboarding or have chatbots send information to your workforce with notifications and shift alerts.

2.  Give your workforce flexibility

Even with the pandemic zooming into the rear-view mirror, the dynamics of the workplace have changed forever. After a year of working from home and managing their schedule around competing life priorities, many employees are unlikely to accept a return to less flexibility.

As a business owner, you have an obligation to prioritize the employee experience. If your remote workers want to remain remote, you will have to accommodate this request. After all, the last year has shown, given the right support, people can be productive just about anywhere.

An off-shoot of this is that we can find the best person for a job regardless of where they are located. Remote work sites like Upwork and Fiverr were already on the rise before the pandemic. Look for them to surge.

In some cases, this will demand a reinvention of your organizational structure to provide more virtual workspaces. Keep every consideration in mind during this process: Does your team have everything they need to maintain their productivity? Are they safe?

3.  An agile approach to internal communications

Did you know that 61 per cent of the workforce switched to working remotely but only 27 per cent of those have the necessary technology from employers to support that transition? To accommodate where and how their workforce performs its job, companies will need to realign their communication.

In lieu of an office environment where you can get together and hash out ideas, a digital collaboration solution could be the perfect compromise. A virtual space such as Slack gives them the freedom to make decisions and collaborate, without totally isolating them and losing out on productivity.

Try to maintain an open-door policy too. Keep your senior leadership upfront and transparent with lower-level employees, sharing details and updates about the company on a regular basis. It may not always be obvious, but this sort of connectivity is greatly appreciated.

Gather feedback from your employees from time to time to see if your efforts are working.

4.  Renewed focus on innovation & risk-taking

The pandemic brought an urgency to business decision-making and completing objectives, as business owners, leadership teams and employees learned to try new things to meet their deadlines (i.e., video collaboration, dedicating time to health & wellness).

This will more than likely continue in the post-pandemic period. We’ve learned that there’s room for more open and ongoing conversations about new ideas and processes as well as the value of having agile operational structures that can respond to crises.

5.  Anticipatory over reactionary crisis management

Speaking of responses, in hindsight, most businesses were not ready to manage a crisis on the scale of Covid-19. Without a strategy, they were left scrambling and reacting to restrictions.

Clearly, everyone needs to be better prepared in the future.

One way to do this is to build up a team that can focus on crisis management, freeing up resources for your business elsewhere. The goal would be to identify, assess, monitor and mitigate the impact of risk. In this way, you could develop contingencies within contingencies to deal with worst-case scenarios such as disruptions in supply chains.

6.  Keep the public in the loop

While you are making all these changes within your organization and adapting to the new normal, it is key that you let your customers and clients in on the steps you’re taking. Why? It let’s them know about your current operations, so they can take their own steps. You can also see it as an opportunity to attract new customers that forgo traditional approaches (i.e., automation, doubling down on social media).

Final thoughts

What will the future after Covid-19 look like? We have clues but no one really knows for sure.

One things for sure, adapting to change takes time, regardless of the size of your business. Despite many early concerns, the economy will recover. As an entrepreneur, the best thing you can do right now as the pandemic subsides is to be prepared and experiment with new approaches. Doing so will pay dividends in the long run.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about remote work, managing your business through the new normal or any other topic for that matter, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.

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How entrepreneurs can improve the post-pandemic office environment and grow their business

By Wish Group No Comments

With more and more people receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, case numbers dwindling and non-essential businesses opening up for foot traffic, a return to ‘normal’ is close at hand. But many things will look decidedly different in the business world from a year ago, especially when it comes to post-pandemic offices.

In the wake of an unprecedented global pandemic, employees vacated their offices and began working remotely from home (many for the first time). What was once a decade-long emerging trend, accelerated into the mainstream and gained widespread acceptance in the workplace for the first time. Despite concerns over a loss of productivity, a long-standing hurdle among employers, unsupervised workforces often met expectations or were even more efficient than their in-office counterparts.

That raises the question, does the office still have a place in the future? If so, what form will office space take and how can businesses leverage it to drive their business towards success?

In short, yes. But it will be a balancing act.

Pre-pandemic state of offices

Working remotely is not a new phenomenon. Many best employer rankings have a section dedicated to it and companies often provide a formal work from home program to attract top talent.

However, due to the limitations of technology, such as low adoption rates and availability of high-speed internet, people could only be so effective away from the office. Outside of a handful of tasks, if they wanted to collaborate, connect with colleagues and clients, or just plain overhear things, people needed to come in.

And yet, many employees often embrace the prospect of not coming into the workplace. From long commutes to the archaic working conditions and lack of privacy in these spaces, there are many outstanding things about the office that could and should function better.

When the pandemic hit and tethered us to our homes, these issues were magnified. It got people thinking: Why would I go back to the office and deal with these hurdles again, when I am enjoying this much flexibility?

Are office spaces on the verge of extinction?

According to data from the market researcher IDC, at the height of the pandemic, more than half of the entire U.S. workforce did its jobs at home, up from single digits prior to Covid-19. With so many office workers forced into these conditions for so long, it’s fair to say that we became accustomed to the home environment.

However, this isn’t the final straw for offices. If anything, there will be a resurgence, once companies find a way to better utilize the space. After speaking with friends and business associates, I can tell that there is a real itch to return to the office. Being away for so long has fostered a new found appreciation of reimagining the workplace and being together.

That shouldn’t be a surprise – people are social creatures and crave that human connection, perhaps even more so after all this physical separation. It’s just a matter of companies striking the right balance.

A premium, hybrid experience

The future of the post-pandemic workplace is hybrid. According to Emergent Research, 15 to 18% of the workforce is likely to remain home-based once the pandemic subsides, with most workers operating on a hybrid model, splitting time between the office and home.

It’s a workplace model that combines the best of working remotely and being physically present in the office, without sacrificing flexibility. Employers can provide a unique experience that incorporates some of the comfort workers have grown accustomed to while working remotely the past year, with a particular focus on health and wellness in the workplace.

The key for workplaces will be to manage how the divide between remote and office life operates, such as determining how much time each worker dedicates to each type of task (i.e., phone calls). Projects that cannot be done or fully recreated in a remote environment will need to be done in the office, such as onboarding, training, meetings, team-building and face-to-face collaboration. Everything else that can be done remotely, should be, in order to better accommodate employees’ competing priorities (such as family).

Management and entrepreneurs will need to continue working with the human resources department to navigate any challenges, because there will be some problem solving. For example, companies need to settle on how to track the progress of virtual work as well as monitor how workers behave during meetings – the last thing you want is to have the in-person people dominate the conversation at the expense of the virtual members.

With the right balance, a company can expect to see tangible benefits.

According to recent surveys, businesses that took a hybrid approach saw that many workers managed their time better, are more cognizant of their colleagues’ workload and are overall more satisfied with their jobs.

Postmodern vision for post-pandemic offices

Despite all of the changes going on around us, especially when it comes to commercial real estate, there’s still a future for office spaces in the post-pandemic world, given a few adjustments.

The key word here is “environment.” As I mentioned before, when the post pandemic dust settles, we’ll likely see a hybrid model – a mixture of remote and in-office work. People still want to have the option to come in. Perhaps they will spend less time in the office overall, but when there, they will be producing a different quality and type of work. Flexibility will be important.

While there are many advantages to working remotely, there are still certain functions that are better suited for in-person work spaces. For example, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, it cannot easily replicate the feel of physical contact, overhearing things and connecting with people over a real discussion. Companies will want to make these spaces more hospitable and leverage this need to connect.

So, what does this mean? We need to make tweaks to the layout. Ideally, the office should look less like a workspace, with rows and rows of cubicles, and more like a place of community. You will need to make your office a more exciting place in which to spend time. As a knock on effect, with more engaged employees, you’ll see a boost in your company culture.

Experts predict that a premium will be placed on a clean working environment, with more stringent health protocols, upgraded air filters and filtration systems, occupancy maximums on elevators, sanitizing stations and directional signage where applicable.

What’s more, with fewer people in the office at any given time, you can create more space, add more lounge furniture and features such as a ping pong table. You should also put a renewed focus on the kitchen area as a shared space and working environment for collaboration. Team members can enjoy meals together and connect with one another, but also open laptops up and discuss projects. Kitchens can be a strong centre of community life outside the office. The same can be true inside the office.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about remote work, managing a hybrid workforce and maximizing your office space (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

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What should entrepreneurs look for during an economic recovery? 3 more moves you should make

By Wish Group No Comments

Last month we took a deep-dive into the new opportunities opening up for entrepreneurs, as more of us receive the Covid-19 vaccine and we inch closer to an economic recovery. Those are still very much in play.

However, as the situation around us continues to evolve, even more opportunities are becoming available. Here are three more savvy moves that entrepreneurs need to be cognizant of.

1. Raise growth capital in your business

A year ago, when the pandemic first hit, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding investments.

Now, however, the situation is reversed. There is a lot of interest and money available, with stock markets near record highs and numerous multibillion dollar IPOs in the news. There are also many government programs in the U.S. and Canada pushing economic growth, which is driving investment.

The timing has never been better to raise growth capital.

In the first quarter of 2021 alone, global venture investments reached $125 billion, a 50 per cent increase quarter over quarter and a 94 per cent increase year over year. If you have a tech company, even better, as investors are looking for emerging technologies.

There are some lingering concerns with unemployment levels and access to capital, but these should dissipate once more regions lift their lockdowns and people are more readily vaccinated.

2. Ramp up your sales and business development

In the same vein, now is the perfect time to ramp up your sales and business development efforts. The Wish Group has been very opportunistic in this regard, hiring more individuals to the sales team and looking to invest in emerging technologies.

There are two key reasons why:

  • The presence of government-backed business aid programs.
  • Pent-up demand to do commerce.

As previously mentioned, governments in Canada and the U.S. have been very proactive about encouraging economic growth, even if some of it has gone a little under the radar.

In Canada specifically, there is a wage subsidy for employers. Originally this was supposed to end in June, but the Canadian government has now extended the program to September. It has also committed to continuing other income support measures, which bodes well for regular Joes and entrepreneurs alike.

The other reason to ramp up sales is the pent-up demand for commerce and in-store shopping. Outside of vehicles and restaurants, experts are also anticipating a surge in demand for travel, as people return to their normal routines.

3. Reimagine the office environment

The Covid-19 pandemic shifted the dynamics of where and how we work. Many people began working from home and have since adapted to its unique rigours, so it’s safe t o say that this trend is here to stay.

Yet, the rumours of commercial real estate’s death are largely premature. There’s still plenty of room for office environments in the post-Covid world and with the right adjustments, these too can flourish. The key word here is “environment.”

When it’s deemed OK for all of us to return to the office, we’ll likely see a hybrid model – a mixture of remote and in-office work. People will want to have the option to come in. Perhaps they will spend less time in the office overall, but when there, they will be producing a different quality and type of work.

While there are many advantages to working remotely, there are still certain functions that are better suited for an in-person, office environment. For example, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, it cannot easily replicate the feel of physical contact, overhearing things and connecting with people over a real discussion. You will want to make the office environment more hospitable and leverage this need to connect.

So, what does this mean? Ideally, the office should look less like a workspace, with rows and rows of cubicles, and more like a place of community. You will need to make your office a more exciting place in which to spend time.

With fewer people in the office at any given time, you can open the space up, add more lounge furniture, and features such as a ping pong table. You should also put a renewed focus on the kitchen area as a shared space and environment for collaboration. Team members can enjoy meals together and connect with one another, but also open laptops up and discuss projects. Kitchens can be a strong centre of community life outside the office. The same can be true inside the office.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic recovery (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

Frank Cianciulli selected as finalist for prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Canada award

By Press No Comments

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (May 14, 2021) – In recognition of his success and personal commitment to entrepreneurship and his community, Frank Cianciulli, Wish Group Chairman and CEO, has been selected as a regional finalist for the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Canada award. This national program highlights and celebrates those unstoppable entrepreneurs who shape the world around us.

“I’m proud to be named as a 2021 finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year® Canada,” says Cianciulli. “This is recognition of the hard work and dedication of all the team members across the Wish Group companies. So grateful.”

A serial entrepreneur, Cianciulli has turned his passion for audio conferencing sales into a lengthy string of success, beginning with Enunciate Conferencing, which he co-founded in 2001. In the years since, he’s started or purchased several companies in the telecommunications, human resources and technology/media space, consolidating them under the Wish Group banner in 2008.

Wish Group provides best-in-class business solutions through an award-winning group of companies that work collaboratively across Canada and the US. A continued focus on dedication, respect, flexibility and efficiency defines Wish Group’s corporate culture. Over the years, Wish Group has developed entrepreneurial leaders and cohesive teams that pride themselves on helping clients improve communications, attract and retain world-class workforces and achieve first-rate financial results.

In the coming weeks, a panel of judges will review the candidacy of the finalists and announce a winner in June. The Ontario representative will then face off against other regional winners across Canada during the national selection process, which is slated to begin later this year. The winner there will be crowned the new Canadian EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

Since 1986, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year has been a unique global program designed to shine a spotlight on the brightest and most innovative entrepreneurs who work to improve the quality of life in their communities, countries and around the world. Today, it operates in more than 60 countries and 145 cities.

About Wish Group

With office in Canada and the US, Wish Group is a collection of companies anchored by entrepreneurial passion, hard work and integrity. We continue to focus on becoming the premier business solutions provider with diversified services to clients across industries. We strongly believe our people are the single greatest resource to success. When you combine great ideas with great people, you have an unstoppable force. The energy of our ambitious team together with proven leadership excellence creates a strong foundation built to deliver exceptional service to business clientele. Learn more by visiting www.wishgroup.ca.

Like www.facebook.com/Wish-Group-343031396097623/

Follow https://twitter.com/wish_group

Connect www.linkedin.com/company/the-wish-group/

About Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY)

With offices in Canada and around the world, EY is a global organization dedicated to helping companies solve their toughest challenges and realize their greatest ambitions – from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies – and the work they do with them is as varied as their clients. Through four service lines – Assurance, Consulting, Strategy and Transactions, and Tax – they help clients capitalize on transformative opportunities. EY also helps clients fulfill regulatory requirements, keep their investors informed and meet the needs of all their stakeholders. Learn more by visiting https://www.ey.com/.

Media contact:

Peter Vamos, Vice President Marketing, Wish Group, pvamos@wishgroup.ca, 416-357-5118

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What should entrepreneurs look for during an economic recovery? 3 smart moves you should make in 2021

By Wish Group No Comments

 

For the last couple of months, we’ve spoken at length about how entrepreneurs can navigate an  economic downturn — fiscally as well as mentally. As stewards of your business, you have an obligation to hold the fort, not only for yourself but for the members of your team. A crew and its ship can only go as far as the captain steers them.

So now, as we inch towards an economic recovery, we find ourselves at an interesting threshold. There are several opportunities awaiting savvy entrepreneurs willing to pursue them. Here are three of the biggest ones and the moves you need to make to get a leg up on the competition.

A word of caution though – don’t lose sight of the lessons learned during the economic downturn to avoid overstretching yourself!

1.  Scale up your workforce.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, out of adversity breeds opportunity. It goes without saying that the companies that weathered the worst of this pandemic and did well, want to continue to thrive and do well. That opportunity lies in scaling up your operations.

I’ve seen more than a few companies scaling up their staff recently, leaving heavily into their HR department to identify and bring on top talent. But the old axiom still holds true – good help is hard to find – especially on the backend of a pandemic.

Why? For the longest time, most people haven’t been able to even consider moving employers. There were just so many unknowns when it came to job searches – a very scary proposition if you’re comfortable where you are.

As a business owner, it’s on you to convince potential candidates otherwise and bring them on board. After this pandemic, people will be more mindful of their company benefits, so you will need to up the ante and offer better sick leave policies, more comprehensive health coverage and so on to entice talent. There will also be many talented employees who know they can be productive working from home, at least part of the time. You’ll need to consider this. Which brings us to point two.

2.  Invest in new technologies.

Here at the Wish Group, we’ve been actively hunting for technological  trends that will emerge out of this ordeal. Obviously, without a crystal ball handy, we can’t know for sure what is coming but there are some strong indicators.

One thing is for sure, however, as stated above, working from home is here to stay, even if it is not in the exact same form as it is today. A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.

One interesting development to keep an eye on is the growth of technology solutions in the video collaboration and media space, in particular software as a service (SaaS) and the digitization of entertainment. With more people online, businesses are capitalizing by shifting towards subscription-based models, creating a recurring revenue stream – this shows no signs of slowing down in the post-Covid world.

3.  Explore opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.

If you’ve been in business for 10+ years and have a steady client base, now may be the perfect time to explore expanding your business.

In the first month or two of this pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty, as there was no real playbook for how to handle things, causing a slowdown in the market for mergers and acquisitions. How much? Statistics from Dealogic show that this sort of activity dipped 35 per cent globally in Q1 2020 from the prior quarter.

So why now? There’s a lot of liquidity in the market and low interest rates, so many people are looking for investments. Not only that, but there are also more ways to cut out costs, especially office space, now that remote work is on the rise.

Moreover, many private equity groups are sitting on cash that will make use of as the new normal emerges. Well-positioned strategic buyers are also looking to diversify their portfolio or grow revenue by pouncing on distressed competitors, suppliers and customers at discount prices.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic recovery (or an other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

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How can entrepreneurs stay disciplined during an economic downturn?

By Wish Group No Comments

Self discipline is the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.”

As entrepreneurs, there are many elements that are beyond your control during a global pandemic – lockdowns, vaccine rollouts, consumer behaviour, the economy – but you can always control your actions and attitude. Having the necessary discipline to keep yourself, your employees and your business steady during uncertainty is invaluable.

As the steward of your business, you have an obligation to hold the fort. Having been in business for so many years, I’ve seen my share of situations where fellow entrepreneurs or managers have lost their cool during a crisis. Too often, this can have a negative trickle-down effect, morally and financially, on everything and everyone around them.

So, what can you do to maintain your discipline during a crisis? Two things:

  1. Be financially diligent. This starts with being prepared even before a crisis hits. Apply the age-old advice to managing your personal finances towards running your business – set some money aside and save it for that rainy day. Being consistently disciplined with your business’s finances will ensure that you’re able to do do this, as you will already have costs under control and be operating within your means. When the difficult times do come, you will have to adjust, but won’t have to undertake wrenching changes, a welcome relief for your employees.
  2. Maintain a positive mindset. In business, as with life, you’ll face challenges. As I mentioned before, you can’t control every aspect of those situations, but you can choose how you react. Any crisis is manageable, regardless of the triggers, if you maintain a healthy frame of mind. How do you do this? It all comes down to what you allow into your brain. Limiting engagement with negative people, reading inspirational books as well as consuming less news and social media are a good start. I’d also recommend focusing on what you can impact right now, such as responding quicker or communicating and strategizing with your team.

If you need more help managing your business during this pandemic, check out how you can do more with less as well as strategies you can employ to get by as an entrepreneur. To get in touch, drop me a line at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

BOOTSTRAP WITH FRANK CIANCIULLI: Doing more with less during an economic downturn

By Wish Group No Comments

How do you do more with less? It’s a question many countries are grappling with right now, as they frantically race to secure and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine, all while charting a course for economic recovery post-pandemic.

Coincidentally, it’s the same question you, a business owner/entrepreneur, should be asking yourself. When things are going well, it is human nature to become complacent or gravitate towards excess – spending more on events, executing more extravagant marketing campaigns and buying larger office space, to name a few. It’s a recipe for losing perspective.

More, more, more. But what if you pivoted and did more with less?

Obviously, during an economic downturn you need to be mindful of your business practices and be a little more frugal with your wallet. But there is still so much that can be done right now to remain afloat, while keeping an eye out for the future.

Based on my personal experience, here are three of the biggest lessons you can learn during an economic downturn.

  1. Find a happy balance. Tightening the reigns and getting leaner doesn’t mean your business needs to get meaner. With less at your disposal, you will need to find creative solutions that minimize excess and maintain productivity. But be careful – cutting back too far could lead to burning out quicker and festering unwanted resentment within your team. It’s all about striking that delicate balance so you can keep your business growing into the future.
  2. Distinguish yourself. In times like these, your clients and prospective leads will be less willing to spend. There’s nothing you can do about this. What you can do is keep yourself in the conversation, even when you’re not selling. Distinguish yourself now by being authentic and generating goodwill in the community through thought leadership, discounts, free trails and even favourable payment methods. When the world gets back to normal, people will remember these “little” gestures and reward you.
  3. Embrace the challenge. Adversity is never fun, but it’s the challenges that we face in life that build character and give us that edge. Same thing goes for businesses. When you’re hit with challenges, embrace them and double down on your organizational strengths. Put the mettle of your business to the test. This is a proven mentality. Many legendary businesses, from Microsoft to Netflix, found success when they launched during economic downturns. The lessons they learned are encoded into their DNA, allowing them to weather any storm. Heck, the Wish Group was launched in the recession of 2008. The lessons we learned during those days never left us and continue to inform everything we do.

If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic downturn (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

BOOTSTRAP WITH FRANK CIANCIULLI: How entrepreneurs can navigate the COVID-19 economic downturn

By Wish Group No Comments

Happy New Year! With the calendar rolling over to 2021, we have the chance for a fresh start – new goals, new opportunities – even if in a different form than years past.

There’s no sugar-coating it – the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic have been challenging for all of us, especially when it comes to the economy. The increase in unemployment rates, less non-essential consumer spending and erratic interest rates paint a less than rosy financial picture.

The good news is that with the ongoing distribution of vaccines and development of economic recovery plans, things look to improve in the next few months.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you might be wondering how to navigate through this economic downturn and position your business for success as the economy continues to open up.

Well, here are three of the most important things you should do to protect your business:

Manage your cash flow

While sound advice even in the best of times, make sure you continue to control expenses and cash flow. Even though you’re feeling optimistic that we are finally, truly rounding that corner toward a better economy, if there’s currently more money going out the door than coming in, you risk not making it across the finish line. We can’t predict just how long the full recovery will really take. As an entrepreneur, being optimistic is in your blood. But too much optimism at this critical time could sink you.

Continue to be laser focused on getting your money from clients and making sure that payables are sorted, so that you can emerge from this crisis stronger and in line for success. Until we get a clearer picture of how circumstances will unfold this year, I would also hold off planning any big events. For now, keep your event planning to virtual events.

Look after yourself

Winter is in full swing and gyms are closed in many regions, but you must prioritize looking after your health. Without you, there is no business. Take an introspective look at your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it can be pretty lonely carrying the weight of a business on your shoulders – it exacts a toll on you physically and emotionally. Most entrepreneurs have 10 to 12-hour days and are constantly dealing with the anxiety of paying bills and waiting on cheques. Get regular exercise, don’t skimp out on sleep and consider taking up yoga or meditation to help you filter out the stress. It’s also a good idea to limit your caffeine intake!

Put your business into perspective

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you’ll need to put the health of your business into perspective. Analyze the year that just passed and review any aspirational budgets – that lofty number you wanted to achieve. Adjust it as needed for 2021 and start building or restructuring your team to achieve these goals in anticipation of emerging from this economic downturn. Continue to focus on key client relationships and add value wherever you can, so they continue to appreciate what you bring.

Also, look for innovative ways to keep your business in the public conversation. Your clients and prospects are online every day. Post regularly to social channels and create blogs and videos to position yourself as a thought leader in your sector.

Still unsure? If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur with questions and concerns about the year ahead, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.