Entrepreneurs: Stress + The Recession

Entrepreneur Magazine
The Psychology of Stress
You’ve managed to keep your business afloat, but how are you managing the stress?
By Tiffany Meyers, April 2009

Author’s Note: At the height of the recession, business mags were full of tips for keeping small businesses healthy. But what about keeping a healthy mind? To find out how entrepreneurs were (or weren’t) dealing with the emotional stress, I checked in with psychologists and entrepreneurs. This article was more positively received than almost any I’ve written, with a letter to the editor published in the subsequent issue of Entrepreneur. 

In the economic tailspin of the late 2000s, loss is part of life. Workers are losing their jobs, employers are losing their businesses, and as credit becomes more and more scarce, everyone is losing confidence. What’s more, entrepreneurs are grappling with a sense that they’ve lost control of critical factors that could determine their futures.

Those psychological hurdles are perhaps the biggest challenges facing today’s business owners; after all, it was probably that shining confidence and ability to innovate that got you started in the first place, right?

“So much of it has nothing to do with you,” says Tarek Tay, 36, co-owner and managing partner of Atlanta’s Zaya Restaurant, which launched strong in February 2008, boomed through the summer–and then saw business drop 30 percent in September. Although well-reviewed, it has operated in the red since, even with $1.2 million in 2008 sales. “If your food isn’t good, you can improve the quality,” he says. “If service is the problem, you can train your staff. But if the problem is that no one’s going out to eat because of the economy, what can you do?”

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Special Report: Innovate In a Recession

Entrepreneur Magazine
Innovate in a Recession
By Tiffany Meyers, January 22, 2009

If the downturn is hurting your entrepreneurial spirit, we have good news for you: Recessions are historically ripe with opportunity for innovation. Don’t believe us? Read on.

Change Your Mindset. The economy tanks. You have two options: hole up in a bunker and hope it ends before you run out of tinned peas, or innovate and emerge stronger than when the economy took the hit. “During a recession, people tend to say, ‘Let’s stop everything and save money until it’s over,'” says Bernard Meyerson, vice president and CTO of IBM’s systems and technology group. “Well, you’re not going to save your way to greatness.” But you can innovate your way there. So stop moping and heed our experts’ advice. Here are three steps that’ll help you focus on innovation rather than recession woes.

Take a Reality Check. “Love the lows,” the experts proclaim. “Relish the recessions.” Given the national mood, even Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David comes across as more sensitive. In fact, before you relish anything, “make sure your core business is strong,” says Susan Schuman, CEO of innovation and leadership firm SYPartners. “Protect your core, because only then will you have the capacity to innovate.”

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Green up Your Office

Entrepreneur Magazine
Making a Green Office
By Tiffany Meyers, March 2009

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and office buildings are guilty. They binge on more electricity than any other type of commercial building, representing about 25 percent of the sector’s total electricity consumption. The natural gas they guzzle accounts for almost 14 percent of consumption in nonresidential buildings. But if you take a few simple steps toward a more sustainable office, you’ll see payback in many shades of green—from money saved to increased employee morale and retention.

1. COOL IT   According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Sustainable Systems, space cooling accounts for 11 percent of total electricity consumption in commercial buildings. If you’re in a mild climate, ask your landlord to consider adding an economizer, which conditions by bringing in outside air—not by using refrigerant—when it’s cooler outside than in. For optimal wintertime savings, experts recommend setting thermostats to 68 degrees during work hours and 55 degrees after hours. Stay on track with a programmable thermostat. HVAC maintenance matters, too: You and your landlord should seal leaky ducts, change filters and have your contractor come out to do annual tuneups.

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Where It’s Greener

Entrepreneur Magazine
Where it’s Greener
By Tiffany Meyers

As sustainability becomes more important, these cities are setting the standard.

Cities across the U.S. have at last realized the need to take action against global warming. Implementing some of the most innovative, far-ranging environmental programs and plans for residents and, in particular, business owners, the 10 cities featured here have earned themselves a rightful place on Entrepreneur’s sustainability map.

Seattle
Population: 594,210
LEED -Certified* Buildings: 46
More Than 800: Number of mayors who’ve pledged to meet or beat Kyoto Protocol targets since 2005, when Seattle’s mayor, Greg Nickels, launched the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement
For Entrepreneurs: Ecotuesday: Eco-minded businesspeople meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month (ecotuesday.com).

Portland, Oregon
Population: 550,396
LEED -Certified Buildings: 47
Likes Bikes: Portland was the first major U.S. city to earn a Platinum rating from the League of American Bicyclists.
Succession Planning: With a $149,000 Coleman Foundation grant, The University of Portland teaches sustainable entrepreneurship, cultivating the next generation of ecologically responsible businesspeople.

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Design Your Home Office on a Budget

Entrepreneur’s StartUps
Design Your Home Office Space
By Tiffany Meyers | March 2009

Among the benefits of working from home: your 32-second commute, pajamas and the freedom to create an environment that works for you, not the common denominator. Checking in with interior stylist Amy Lenahan of Chicago’s design i interiors, we located two lackluster office spaces with one goal in mind: break all the rules of corporate décor without breaking the bank. 

HOME OFFICE NO. 1
Don’t know where to start? Follow your heart. Commit to an item you love and build the room around it. For curtains, Ikea’s Fredrika fabric ($5.99 per yard) paired with a more basic red fabric, the Minna ($6.99 per yard), set our hearts aflutter, so we carried the eye-popping reds throughout the rest of the room.  “In a home office, where privacy isn’t such an issue, I advise clients not to hide windows behind heavy drapes,” Lenahan says. To maximize natural light, mount your curtains on the outside of the frame. (While we’re on the subject, Ikea’s Täljare curtain rod set, $14.99, couldn’t make curtain hanging easier.)

“The color red speeds up our heart rate and increases our pulse,” says Kate Smith, founder of color consulting firm Sensational Color and member of The Color Marketing Group, an international color trend forecasting organization. “It’s good for an office because it encourages action and confidence. It makes us feel physically empowered–and even the boldest entrepreneurs sometimes need a little of that.”

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Entrepreneurs: Make Like a Bird and Go Cheap

Entrepreneur Magazine
Frugal is Back
Here’s how to channel your inner miser–the right way.
By Tiffany Meyers

As recessionary gale storms blow, entrepreneurs are reining in runaway costs. “Smart entrepreneurs are doing more with less,” says Joseph R. Cardamone, president of the U.S. Federation of Small Businesses. “With diminished cash flow and tight credit, only those businesses that operate efficiently will survive this economic downturn, which may last several years.” So if you’re going to make like a bird and go cheap, these measures can help and range from relatively to totally painless.

SYSTEMIC SAVINGS
Announce your plan to ration paperclips and watch employees use binder clips like they’re going out of style. “Whatever savings you see from one-off efforts will be short-lived, while costs pop up elsewhere, like for binder clips,” says Adam Hartung, managing partner of strategic business consulting firm Spark Partners.

Instead, ask employees to map out how they do their jobs from start to finish, then solicit their ideas for efficiency gains, explains Hartung. “Instead of saying, ‘We need to cut travel costs’–which will get everyone groaning–say, ‘Let’s look at how we get work done and see where we can make changes.'” To jump-start imaginations, ask: How would you do your job if you worked at a different company? How would you do it if you were four years in the future?

You might discover that some part of billing could be automated, a step in payment processing could be eliminated or client interactions could be handled via web conferencing. “Now you’ve introduced more efficient processes,” Hartung says, “and the savings will be everlasting.”

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Marketplace Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

Author’s Note: Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual “Hot Trends” roundup of marketplace opportunities for entrepreneurs, including the two sectors I covered.

Green
Decades in the making, this $209 billion market has its roots in everything from water to energy to food. Look especially to organics, clean energy, alternative fuels, and water reuse and reclamation services.

Boomers
Representing the biggest wealth transfer in history, these individualists started the green movement and are ready to cash in on the environment, health, financial planning, travel and everything in between.

Green Cities: Director’s Cut

Author’s Note: In spite of my best efforts, I occasionally geek out on my reporting. In this case, I dug up way more content about green cities than my editors had space to publish. So I sliced and diced it. Then came the blog, vessel for all good stuff that ever got cut. Here is the longer version of the Green Cities story, salvaged from the cutting room floor.

AUSTIN, TX
POPULATION: 743,074
PUBLIC TRANSIT: 18 million trips taken during the second quarter, 2008.
HOME TO: The nation’s largest utility-sponsored sustainable building program, Austin Energy Green Building.
ALSO HOME TO: Whole Foods HQ.
LEED-CERTIFIED BUILDINGS: 18.
LIKES BIKES: According to The League of American Bicyclists—which gives Austin a Silver—almost 4 percent of Austin’s residents bike to work.

In what Austin Mayor Will Winn has called “the most polluting state in the most polluting country on the planet, from a carbon-emissions standpoint,” the straight-talking city chief enacted the Austin Climate Protection Plan, which calls for, among other things: powering city facilities with renewable energy by 2012; requiring new single-family homes to be zero net-energy capable by 2015; and making all municipal facilities and fleets carbon-neutral by 2020. A major player in meeting these targets? Utility company Austin Energy (AE). That recipient of the 2008 EPA Climate Protection Award offers a sweet photovoltaic rebate (up to 75 percent of installation cost). Meanwhile, so many customers recently subscribed to buy clean energy through AE’s GreenChoice program that the company stopped taking applications until 2009. In 2006, AE and the city launched “Plug-In Partners,” a campaign to show automakers that there’s market demand for plug-in hybrid cars now (So get cracking). Austin is also tackling the water crisis, coupling conservation measures with a Water Reclamation Initiative that will provide reclaimed water for non-drinking purposes to several venues, like the University of Texas.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN
POPULATION: 377,392
THE LARGEST URBAN SOLAR ARRAY: In the upper Midwest will be built here, thanks to a $2 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund.
LEED-CERTIFIED BUILDINGS: 2.
LIKES BIKES: The League of American Bicyclists gives Minneapolis a Silver.

Mayor R.T. Rybak aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from city operations 12 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020. And in true Midwestern fashion, residents rolled up their civic shirtsleeves in 2007 and did their part, buying enough wind-generated electricity from Xcel Energy’s Windsource program to power almost 2,800 homes for a year. In this City of Lakes—which planted, on average, 3,385 trees annually from 2003 to 2007—environmental enthusiasm reaps rewards: Minneapolis recently awarded 25 grants to support local organizations’ efforts to motivate Minneapolitans to conserve energy. The University of Minnesota continues to garner accolades for its renewable-resource research, while The Green Institute, which operates a $2 million salvaged building materials ReUse Center, diverts 4,000 tons of building materials annually from landfills. The city also cut 150 vehicles from its fleet since 2003, and those vehicles it is adding will be green: In five years, says the mayor’s office, buses on main thoroughfare Nicollet Mall will be hybrid-electric.

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