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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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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How to Motivate Your Sales Team

PINK Magazine 
Sales force stuck in a rut?
Top women managers tell how attention to individuals builds a more productive team
By Tiffany Meyers | February 2008

When it comes to motivating talent, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. But in sales – which teems with naturally driven, highly independent professionals – the value of a customized approach redoubles. “Everything you do in terms of recognition and reinforcement needs to be meaningful to the individual,” says Jill Eichwald, sales effectiveness consultant at Maritz Inc., a sales and marketing services company.

When Maritz conducted a national study on employees’ favorite rewards, results showed that each of six employee types – described and organized according to what they find inspirational, from praise to bonuses – split rather evenly across gender lines. “We were amazed to learn that from a gender standpoint, there’s not a lot of difference,” says Jane Herod, president of Maritz Motivation, a division of Maritz Inc. It’s further proof, she adds, that recognition programs need to be individually customized.

While motivation incentives appear to be gender-neutral, many of the qualities of effective sales managers – who have to light a fire under each seller and cultivate collaboration among competitive types – seem to come more naturally to women. Experts point to the attributes of empathy, consensus-building and intuition more often exhibited by women managers – which are precisely the qualities that result in several best practices in sales motivation.

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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.

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