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The Top 25 Companies For Work-Life Balance

 

Do you try your hardest to balance your career and personal life, but find that it’s nearly impossible to juggle the demands of both?

You’re not alone.

Achieving the elusive “work-life balance” is an ongoing challenge for many professionals—and it became even more difficult during the recession when employees were expected to work longer and harder. But even as things improve, balancing your family and professional life is no easy feat.

As it turns out, many of America’s biggest and brightest corporations are aware of this issue, and some are even offering perks to ensure their employees maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Glassdoor.com, a social jobs and careers community where people share information and opinions about the places they work, just released its third-annual list of the Top 25 Companies for Work-Life Balance. The report is based entirely on feedback shared by employees within the past year.

To be considered for the ranking, each company had to receive at least 50 employee-generated work-life balance reviews between July 2, 2012 and July 1, 2013 (and a minimum of 10 from the previous year).

Glassdoor spokesperson Samantha Zupan says we all define work-life balance differently. “For example, what work-life balance means to a young single person compared to a parent with two young children can be very different. However I think the key word that often gets used when trying to define this workplace factor is flexibility.”

Many of the companies that made this year’s list offer their employees just that; a flexible work schedule, among other appealing perks. Those include: the option to telecommute, paid time off, compressed work weeks, and family friendly work environments. “In addition, we see many of the companies offering ease of access to food and fitness amenities,” Zupan says. “What also stood out about several companies on the list was senior leadership’s support of work-life balance.”

In Pictures: Top 10 Companies For Work-Life Balance

In total, seven companies have appeared on the list since its inception in 2011, including SAS Institute. The North Carolina-based analytics software developer ranked third in 2011, fourth in 2012, and snagged the top spot this year.

“SAS Institute has consistently been a top company for work-life balance,” Zupan says. “Employees speak favorably about the flexible work schedules, thirty-five-hour work weeks, and the understanding managers.”

A marketing employee in Cary, N.C. who reviewed the company on Glassdoor said: “Amazing workplace culture, flexible work environment, challenging/stimulating work, [and] customer-focused.”

SAS received a rating of 4.5 out of 5, making it the No. 1 company for work-life balance this year.

National Instruments received the second highest work-life balance rating (4.3) from its employees over the past year. According to Glassdoor, the Austin -based company, which supplies engineers and scientists with measurement and automation products, not only rates highly for work-life balance, but they have also been recognized as a Glassdoor “Employees’ Choice Award Winner,” a list of the 50 Best Places to Work, for the last five consecutive years. “National Instruments’ employees also speak about the flexible work schedule, the sense that they don’t feel overworked and the option to work from home,” Zupan says.

An employee at its Texas headquarters said: “I make my own hours, don’t put in much over 40 hours a week, and while it’s not company policy I can occasionally work from home when needed.”

Rounding out the top three: Slalom Consulting. The business and technology consulting firm earned a score of 4.1 out of 5 from its employees.

“When it comes to work-life balance at Slalom Consulting, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., employees speak about the manageable work week (typically working 40 to 45 hours a week), working in a family friendly office environment and having a flexible work schedule.”

Other big names: AOL (4.0), Yahoo! (4.0), MasterCard (3.9), and Shell (3.9).  All four of these companies made their debut on this year’s list.

Zupan says she was surprised to see Internet giant Yahoo on the list this year. “Despite all the public uproar over Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting earlier this year, it appears employees still feel their jobs offer flexibility and great perks.” (Note: Marissa Mayer has an 86% approval rating among employees; CEO approval ratings are calculated similar to Presidential approval ratings in which employees are asked if they approve or disapprove of the way their CEO is leading the company.)

When employers offer perks and create a culture and environment that promotes good work-life balance, they benefit, too.

“The very best companies for work-life balance recognize that while work is an important part of our lives, it isn’t everything,” she says. “It’s important for employers to recognize that fostering a healthy sense of work-life balance among employees can have both short and long-term benefits. In the short term, employees are likely to feel more satisfied, and in the long term they are likely to be loyal and stay with the company longer.”

In Pictures: Top 10 Companies For Work-Life Balance

Here are the top 25 companies for work-life balance:

SAS
Work-life balance rating: 4.5

National Instruments
Work-life balance rating: 4.3

Slalom Consulting
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

MITRE
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

Orbitz
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

Scottrade
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

Mentor Graphics
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

FactSet
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

Agilent Technologies
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

Nokia
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

MathWorks
Work-life balance rating: 4.1

AutoDesk
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

AOL
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

CITRIX
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

GlobalLogic
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

Yahoo!
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

Tieto
Work-life balance rating: 4.0

MasterCard
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

Morningstar
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

Shell
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

Bosch
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

Chevron
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

REI
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

STMicroelectronics
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

NetApp
Work-life balance rating: 3.9

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3 Ways to Make Freelance Work Better

Bringing contractors into the fold at an IDEO food event

In April, I wrote a piece called “Designing a Freelance Life.” The post received nearly 200 comments. Reading over them, it’s clear that freelancing is a mixed bag. Even the language we use to describe those who work on a temporary basis—“temps,” “independent contractors”—feels wrongheaded.

Summing up my readers’ observations, I made a list of pros and cons. First, from the worker’s perspective:

Pros: Great for work/life balance, higher pay, and the ability to address diverse challenges across multiple industries

Cons: Few or no benefits, lack of community, erratic work and pay

A temporary workforce involves trade-offs for companies, too:

Pros: No expensive benefit packages, on-demand talent, and edge-pushing expertise when it’s needed

Cons: Conflicting timelines, a steep learning curve, and legal constraints that arise when companies need longterm help (especially in states like California)

The list helped define the problem, but it didn’t answer the question: How might we make the experience of freelancing better on both sides of the desk? For more insight, I turned to my colleagues Alicia Terkel and Heather Ferguson, who head up IDEO’s Bay Area contract talent.

Here are some of the ideas we came up with that I’m most excited about:

What if instead of calling people “independent contractors,” “temporary employees,” or “contingent workers,” we created more human-centered titles that celebrated the expertise they’re bringing to the table? Monikers like “Social Media Maven,” “Video Auteur,” or “UXpert.”

What if instead of throwing talent into the deep end in a new office, we invited them into the family through company programs like annual flu shots, office parties, and team-building exercises such as fitness challenges or community food drives?

What if companies relieved the pressure on individuals to provide for their own security by banding together to offer a robust package of benefits and financial services? Companies could share a flexible talent pool and offer workers discounted healthcare and retirement planning. And the network of businesses could pull from that pool in a more reliable way, saving them the time and expense of sifting through a slush pile of resumes or trawling LinkedIn.

If, as predicted, 40 percent of the workforce will be comprised of temporary workers by 2020, we don’t have much time to address this issue in a human-centered way. Companies need top-drawer talent to push the needle and progress. But if we don’t create inclusive, supportive environments, people won’t bring their best work to the table. Remember: Ideas don’t make companies great, people do.

What best practices have you experienced as a freelancer or organization that hires them?

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5 Ways to Become Inspired and Engaged

5 Ways to Become Inspired and Engaged

Don’t expect someone else to keep you motivated. That’s something you should do for yourself.

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Jul 11, 2013

Gallup recently released its report on “The State of the American Workplace,” based a survey of millions of employees.  They discovered that about a third (30 percent) of American workers are “engaged and inspired [by] a great boss” while a fifth (20 percent)  “have bosses from hell that make them miserable [and] roam the halls spreading discontent.”

But what about the other 50 percent?  What’s up with them?  According to the survey, these workers–all 50 million of them–“are not engaged [and] just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers.”

How sad is that?

The Gallup report has many suggestions for managers to improve their ability to inspire and engage those workers, but I’m don’t think that’s going to work.  It’s simply not reasonable to expect mediocre bosses to suddenly become great bosses.

Which means that, if those 50 million “uninspired and unengaged” workers want to be happier at work, they’re going to have change themselves rather than waiting for the good management fairy to wave a magic wand over their mediocre boss.

Needless to say, I’m a big proponent of better management, as illustrated by posts like “9 Ways Not to Be a Bosshole” and the  “The 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses.” Even so, I believe everyone would be better off if they followed these daily rules:

1. Cut your boss some slack.

Truly exceptional bosses are relatively rare.  Mediocre bosses are simply doing the best they can with what they’ve got to offer.  Most mediocre bosses wish they were better, and may even be trying to home their management skills.  Just like everyone else, your boss is a work in progress.

2. Become more self-reliant.

It’s easy to be “engaged and inspired” when a boss provides that mental and emotional energy for you.  It’s much more of a challenge when your boss lacks those skills because then you must find the energy within yourself.  There’s a big advantage to this though: you won’t be dependent upon somebody else to be happy at work.

3. Focus on what’s good about your job.

If you’re not “engaged and inspired” it may be because you’re focusing on the wrong things. Maybe you’re obsessed with all the paperwork, but forgetting that those documents help other people.  Maybe you feel burdened by the hassles of getting anything done, rather than celebrating when something does get done.

4. Set some inspiring goals.

If you’re just “hangin’ in there” and waiting for something good to happen, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time and maybe even forever.  Having goals puts everything you do at work into perspective. Goals, and a determination to achieve them, can turn even a boring job into a valuable process of “paying your dues.”

5. Decide to enjoy the moment.

You know those signs at the mall with an arrow that says “You are here”?  Well, life is like that, too.  You are here.  This is where you are in your career.  Are you going to extract some pleasure and joy from the experience or waste your energy wishing you were someplace else.  It’s up to you.  It’s your decision!

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21 Songs to Inspire You at Work

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” -Plato


We all love to be inspired at work, and we all love great music. So I asked people I respect what songs inspire them most at the office. I asked members of the Likeable team, as well as CEO’s from the Young Entrepreneurs Council and the Entrepreneurs Organization for their favorite songs to get motivated at work, to get them feeling productive on days when that’s not so easy, and to simply inspire them. Below are their choices along with select lyrics from each. From a wide variety of genres, some of these songs are sure to inspire you as well:

 

1) Not Afraid by Eminem (submitted by Carrie Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media)

I’m not afraid to take a stand. Everybody come take my hand.
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm.

2) Imagine by John Lennon (submitted by Sam Sudakoff of Likeable)

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

3) Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce (submitted by Tiffany Hopkins of Likeable)

I’m reppin’ for the girls who taking over the world. Help me raise a glass for the college grads.

4) Don’t Stop Believin by Journey (submitted by Michele Weisman of Likeable)

Working hard to get my fill, Everybody wants a thrill.

5) Number One by Nelly (submitted by Brian Murray of Likeable)

What does it take to be number one? Two is not a winner And 3 nobody remembers.

6) Relax, Take it Easy by Mika (submitted by Sarah Al of Likeable)

Relax, take it easy. For there is nothing that we can do.

7) Countdown by Beyonce (submitted by Ricky Demaio of Likeable)

Do whatever that it takes, he got a winner’s mind. Give it all to him, meet him at the finish line.

8) Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons (submitted by Frank Emanuele of Likeable)

Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
Now learn from your mother or else spend your days biting your own nec

9) Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (submitted by Shannon Maguire of Likeable)

Sweet home Alabama where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama, Lord, I’m coming home to you.

10) Eye of the Tiger by Survivor (submitted by Scott Gerber, founder/CEO of the YEC)

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, risin’ up to the challenge of our rival.

11) Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions (submitted by James DiSabatino)

It’s time for a show…Here I am, rock you like a hurricane.

12) Beat it by Michael Jackson (submitted by Kofi Frimpong)

No one wants to be defeated. Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight.

13) One Day by Matisyahu (submitted by Sarah Schupp)

In this maze you can lose your way. It might drive you crazy but don’t let it faze you no way.

14) Safe and Sound by Capital Cities (submitted by David Cohen)

I could lift you up. I could show you what you want to see, and take you where you want to be.

15) Make the Money by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (submitted by Clay Hebert)

Listen, see I was meant to be a warrior. Fight something amongst me, leave here victorious.

16) Walking on a Dream by Empire of the Sun (submitted by Evan Kirkpatrick)

We are always running, for the thrill of it, thrill of it. Always pushing up the hill.

17) Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen (submitted by Derek Flanzraich)

I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies, like a tiger defying the laws of gravity.

18) Let’s Go by Calvin Harris & Ne-Yo (submitted by Eric Koester)

Make no excuses now. I‘m talking here and now.

19) Lose Yourself by Eminem (submitted by Hemang Mehta of Entrepreneurs Organization)

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

20) Firework by Katy Perry (submitted by Fran Biderman Gross)

Baby, you’re a firework. Come on, show ’em what you’re worth. Make ’em go, oh, oh, oh.

Finally, for my personal favorite song to inspire me at work…

21) The Final Countdown by Europe

Oh. It’s the final countdown. We’re leaving together.

Here is a Spotify playlist of all 21 songs that Michele Weisman from Likeable put together!

Those are some of the songs that inspire my colleagues and fellow business leaders at work. Now, I’d love to hear from YOU. Do you love any of the above songs? What is your favorite song to inspire you at work – to get you feeling good when you’re feeling down? Let me know in the comments below, and perhaps we can make this list go from 21 to 2,100 songs!

Photo: ZoneFatal/Shutterstock

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If you liked this article, you will like:

5 Marketing Lessons From Lady Gaga

3 Weird Truths About Business From a Night With Weird Al

My Best Mistake: A Life Lesson from Reality TV

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Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local and Chairman of Likeable Media, a leading social media agency. Dave is also the author of Likeable Business & Likeable Social Media. You can read more posts by clicking the Follow button above.

How To Harness The Power of Numbers

Many people give up on a dream – or don’t even get started – because they’re intimidated by the size of the effort involved.

Want to launch a business? It can sound too hard if you think about the thousands of tasks and decisions and steps involved. Want to finish a marathon? It can sound too hard if you consider the hundreds of miles of training you’ll need to run. Want to write a book? It can sound too hard if you think about the tens of thousands of words you’ll need to write.

That’s the negative power of numbers. Fortunately, there’s a way to harness the power of numbers on your side – and all it takes is a simple shift in perspective.

The Power of Quantity

Check out this passage from Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open:

“Every ball I send across the net joins the thousands that are already covering the court. Not hundreds. Thousands. They roll toward me in perpetual waves. I have no room to turn, to step, to pivot. I can’t move without stepping on a ball…

Every third ball… hits a ball already on the ground, causing a crazy sideways hop. I adjust at the last second, catch the ball early, and hit it smartly across the net. I know this is no ordinary reflex. I know there are few children in the world that could have seen that ball, let alone hit it…

My father says that if I hit 2,500 balls each day, I’ll hit 17,500 balls each week, and at the end of one year I’ll have hit nearly one million balls. He believes in math. Numbers, he says, don’t lie. A child who hits one million balls each year will be unbeatable.”

The difference in perspective is simple yet incredibly powerful. Instead of thinking, “There’s no way I could ever hit a million balls…” Agassi thinks, “There’s no way I can lose if I hit a million balls.”

The Power of Ratios

Or consider what Buffer founder Joel Gascoigne calls “Ratio Thinking”:

I think we all understand that we might not get a 100% success rate on everything we do. In fact, in most cases it is far lower. For myself, I think I have struggled to fully comprehend this.

I’ve heard the idea of a ratio for success many times. I think perhaps the best description I’ve come across what Jim Rohn describes as the “law of averages”:

If you do something often enough, you’ll get a ratio of results. Anyone can create this ratio.”

Once I fully understood this, it made everything much easier. As soon as I accepted that the whole world works in ratios, that’s when it became easier. Knowing that success happens in ratios allowed me to go ahead and send that email, without worrying about not getting a response, about ‘failing’.

According to Joel, the law of averages is the perfect example that persistence is a crucial trait for anyone who wants to succeed in a major way.

I use the power of numbers when I make angel investments. I know every company I invest in won’t succeed. So I do no real due diligence (in most cases, I don’t even meet with the founders or schedule a call), don’t make follow-on investments, don’t serve on advisory boards or have official involvement… either I like the founders or I don’t, and either I like the idea or I don’t (which is largely irrelevant because the idea will undoubtedly change as the company evolves.)

Why? My real constraint is time. I’m maniacally obsessed with helping build HubSpot into a success story – that’s where all my time goes. So I optimize for my time, not for some theoretical magnitude of outcome. And I know that the numbers are on my side. On average, angel investments do pretty well (given a large enough portfolio). I accept that some investments will do well, others won’t… the key is to keep investing in new Internet/software startups and let the power of numbers play its role. Note: I have now invested in over 40 companies.

(And, of course, let the power of investing in really, really smart entrepreneurs play its even more important role.)

The Power of Application

All you have to do is put the real power of numbers to work.

Say you want to deliver a killer presentation. Instead of taking an intimidated, defeatist approach by thinking, “Oh, man, I’ll need to rehearse my presentation at least ten times before I’ll be any good… there’s just no way…” flip it around and think, “All I have to do is rehearse my presentation ten times and I’ll be awesome!”

Think positively and focus on an awesome outcome, an outcome that is inevitable when all you need to do is take the right number of steps.

Hundreds of steps? Maybe. Thousands of steps? Maybe. Who cares? When you take the right number steps success is almost inevitable.

Or say you want to recruit an awesome designer for your startup. Maybe you’ve found you have to contact twenty potential candidates to get two interviews, and that typically one of those two interviews results in an offer. And half the people you make an offer to will accept.

All you have to do is make connection with 40 designers. You’re not guaranteed to find an awesome designer, but there’s a decent chance.

And if your ratio improves, don’t rest on your laurels. Aim higher. Move on to bigger targets. Your ratio may fall again… but that’s okay since the quality of investor has improved.

The Power of One

Every journey, no matter how long, is still made up of individual steps. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking quantity matters more than quantity. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming your current ratio is set and can’t be improved. Never mail it in. Never go through the motions.

Even though you know you’ll sometimes fail, don’t let that knowledge cause you to put in less effort.

The true power of quantity is only as good as the quality of each individual task. The true power of ratios is only as good as the quality of each success and each failure.

Whatever journey you undertake, work hard to make every step a great step. Then the power of numbers will truly be on your side.

What do you think? Any other examples of where the power of numbers can help you?

Dharmesh Shah is founder/CTO at HubSpot and blogs somewhat regularly at OnStartups.com. You can also find him on twitter: @dharmesh.

Scaling Your Startup: The Deliberator’s Dozen

There are many stages of a startup. And as you’ll see below, scaling your business actually often comes much later in the process. The fact is though, as with many things in the startup world, the stages are quite fluid – with stages overlapping or taking place in parallel. In fact, when I discuss this in my Harvard Innovation Lab class (as below), I purposely show the slide in my own handwriting to underscore the fluidity of the stages.

(Slide from Harvard i-lab Funding strategies to go the distance Startup Secrets Workshop)

In the early stages of a startup, your primary objectives center around defining the problem and value proposition to address a large market opportunity and coming up with breakthrough innovation that creates a defensible basis around which to build a company. Eventually, and oftentimes very quickly, this turns to a company’s ability to execute, and knowing when to scale is a key part of that.

Too early or too late? Sync and Pace…

Scaling can become a critical issue, because if you scale too early it will cost you dearly and if you scale too late you may miss the opportunity to lead. And as an investor, my job is just two things in this regard. Sync and Pace. Stay in sync with the team, and bring perspective to ensure we are keeping pace with the opportunity for them to win. With that in mind, I’ve created a framework to help you think about scaling. I call this framework “The Deliberator’s Dozen.”

That is to say, these 12 things can help take the guesswork out of whether you are ready to scale or not. So if you’re in doubt, because you’re not getting repeatability and predictability in some or all of the metrics and measures below, then that should inform your decision. A scalable business that is ready to scale is one where:

  1. You can package your product or service and sell it repeatedly without major modification.
  2. Your marginal cost of customer acquisition is reducing.
  3. Time and cost for customers to adopt and deploy your product or service is lessening and the engagement from your customers is increasing toward a long life cycle value.
  4. The servicing costs for your customers are reducing.
  5. The upgrade cycle for your customer is shortening and the dollars generated from upsell are increasing.
  6. Your ability to innovate and create differentiated IP and to meet market needs is validated by customers and partners who are themselves building on your products and services and investing in your ecosystem.
  7. You are able to develop disruptive and defensible business capabilities in things like your go-to-market model.
  8. Your business model is showing real leverage and at least a potential path to profitability that attracts the funding to keep growing.
  9. The time and cost to onboard people in all major areas of the company to support growth (e.g. sales, services R&D etc.) and get them productive is coming down.
  10. Your management team is successfully developing and promoting people from within into a cohesive culture that is as good as dealing with problems as success and is respected as such inside and outside the company.
  11. Your market opportunity is continuing to be validated as big enough and growing fast enough for you to be able to meet stakeholder expectations for years to come as you scale successfully.
  12. Even if you are “changing the world for the better,” you have learned not to “drink your own Kool-Aid” and instead validate your metrics from the outside in. And with all that your gut still tells you you’re excited to get up every morning and do it again faster, better, cheaper!

I am lucky enough to be working with quite a few companies that are scalable in our portfolio, including Actifio and Acquia*. Actifio, known for radically simple storage, grew 700% last year and is recognized as the fastest-growing storage startup on record. And Acquia, the commercial company behind the wildly popular social publishing platform Drupal, has been recognized by Inc. as the fastest-growing software company in America. In its short life as a startup, Acquia has acquired almost 4,000 customers across five continents and built operations in eight countries.

So what can we learn from companies like Actifio and Acquia? In many ways they exemplify how to overcome the “Deliberator’s Dozen” first and foremost by building great teams who are continuously focused on what they can do better in the market. Along the way, they assume nothing, challenging all the points and more raised above. Yet I never see them deliberate or even hesitate when they see a chance to engage the market and learn from it.

I’m sure there are other factors. What is your experience and what could you add to this list?

*Thanks to the teams at Actifio and Acquia for their contributions to this column (originally published in The Wall Street Journal).

Michael Skok is the creator of Startup Secrets. Held in conjunction with Harvard innovation lab, Startup Secrets is a series of workshops, frameworks and featured case examples to help entrepreneurs think through some of the key steps that could accelerate their success in starting a business. For more information, visit www.startupsecrets.com.

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How to Make the Most of a Second Chance

What can you learn from the Twinkie comeback? Here, Inc. columnists give you actionable takeaways from the second coming of Hostess.

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The much-lamented demise of the Twinkie is now a non-concern. After months of being off the shelves, this week Hostess relaunched all the major brands in a huge campaign they confectionately call The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.

It just goes to show you that failure is not always the end of the world. Not only does much of the company get to continue with many of the same people, but, amazingly, it decided to use the same marketing agency to promote the brands.

It was pretty ballsy of the agency to continue pursuing the account after the failure. You would think if they had done a good enough job the first time, Hostess might not have collapsed in the first place. (Then again, there was that whole senior mismanagement issue. Maybe they should have used the Twinkie defense.)

Here’s my takeaway: Don’t give up prematurely. Business is business and if you can present a compelling idea that is right for the situation, you have a fair shot at winning the day.

And here’s some more advice from the pros:

1. Keep It Simple

If you’re a Mad Men fan, you likely remember the scene where Don Draper pitches the Carousel slide projector, explaining how consumers can be engaged at a deep level if they have “a sentimental bond with the product.” Why do people have such a sentimental bond with the Twinkie? It’s not the cake’s 82-year history (or similarly long shelf life). It’s the plain combination of two basic elements: sponge cake and vanilla cream. There’s a lesson here, and not a complicated one: The simpler your product, the likelier it is to engage your customers at a visceral level.–Minda Zetlin, “Start Me Up”

Read more from Minda here.

2. Adapt and Streamline

Meet the new Twinkie: now with longer shelf life, smaller size, and way fewer jobs! The new Hostess employs 1,500 nonunion workers. The old version had 15,000 union members on its payroll. Hostess also plans to use just 4 out of 11 factories, and bring in outside drivers and salespeople. The company says it can make the cuts and still hit the same capacity as the old version. There are two takeaways here. First, adapt or die. Second, low-skill U.S. workers have almost no bargaining power. Harsh realities, yes, but pretending anything else is as empty as the nutritional value of a Twinkie itself.– Bill Murphy Jr., “D.C. Bill”

Read more from Bill here.

3. Listen or Lose

The triumphant return of Twinkies is also a triumph for social media. When Hostess went bankrupt and Twinkies were taken off the shelves, consumers erupted online through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Apollo Global Management listened to their voices and today Twinkies are back. The lessons for you are clear: Use social media to listen to your customers and prospects, and find out what products they want and need. (And what they don’t want!) And also stop screaming at people through social media and start listening. Or else your competitors will.–Dave Kerpen, “Likeable Leadership”

Read more from Dave here.

4. Don’t Hide for Too Long

We live in a what have you done for me lately world. Our attention spans have never been shorter and our addictions have never been stronger. Hostess has been dark for over six months. That’s a long time to go without a sugar and saturated fat fix. With hundreds of available options, people will have already moved on. Maybe snack foods have longer shelf lives than other brands, but don’t count on it. Here’s the takeaway: If you want to maintain a following or a customer base, you can no longer afford to go dark, at least not for long.– Steve Tobak, “Last Word”

Read more from Steve here.

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The One Thing Successful People Never Do

Article from Bernard Marr

Success comes in all shapes and colours. You can be successful in your job and career but you can equally be successful in your marriage, at sports or a hobby. Whatever success you are after there is one thing all radically successful people have in common: Their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up.

Successful people (or the people talking or writing about them) often paint a picture of the perfect ascent to success. In fact, some of the most successful people in business, entertainment and sport have failed. Many have failed numerous times but they have never given up. Successful people are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on trying.

I have collected some examples that should be an inspiration to anyone who aspires to be successful. They show that if you want to succeed you should expect failure along the way. I actually believe that failure can spur you on and make you try even harder. You could argue that every experience of failure increases the hunger for success. The truly successful won’t be beaten, they take responsibility for failure, learn from it and start all over from a stronger position.

Let’s look at some examples, including some of my fellow LinkedIn influencers:

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford. Ford was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up, he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Richard Branson – He is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur with many successful ventures to his name including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music and Virgin Active. However, when he was 16 he dropped out of school to start a student magazine that didn’t do as well as he hoped. He then set up a mail-order record business which did so well that he opened his own record shop called Virgin. Along the way to success came many other failed ventures including Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards, etc.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognised as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mum on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft dropped out of Harvard and set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model that left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes whey they created the Microsoft empire.

History is littered with many more similar examples:

  • Milton Hershey failed in his first two attempts to set up a confectionary business.
  • H.J. Heinz set up a company that produced horseradish, which went bankrupt shortly after.
  • Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, the company he founded. Only to return a few years later to turn it into one of the most successful companies ever.

So, the one thing successful people never do is: Give up! I hope that this is inspiration and motivation for everyone who aspires to be successful in whatever way they chose. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there other things you would add to the list of things successful people never do? Please share your thoughts…

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Make sure you click ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from Bernard Marr in the future and feel free to also connect via Twitter, Facebook and The Advanced Performance Institute

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An Entrepreneur’s Most Important Tool: Self-Delusion

It’s one of the greatest inventions in human history. Right up there with the wheel, the steam engine and the waffle maker. I’m talking about self-delusion.

I don’t mean damaging self-delusion (and certainly, too much can lead to disaster). I’m talking about constructive, healthy self-delusion, which is absolutely crucial to building a business.

As an author, I rely on self-delusion as much as I rely on my laptop, Wi-Fi access and excessive caffeine. For authors nowadays, each book is the equivalent of a startup company. You have to figure out your consumer, your unique approach, your budget, your marketing strategy.

And as with every startup founder, I spent some mornings during my last project battling pessimism and despair. Well, actually, most mornings. I was writing about my quest to be as healthy as possible. I’d wake up feeling the project was too big, too unwieldy. I had too many squats to do, too many diets to test. I’d never finish the manuscript.

My solution? Deception. I tricked my brain. I’d force myself to act in an optimistic way. I’d compel myself to email medical experts and request interviews. I’d coerce myself to call my publisher with elaborate plans for the book launch (A health contest for readers? A Dr. Oz appearance? A party with kale martinis?)

And after a couple of hours, it worked. My mind would catch up with my actions. I would start to feel optimistic. It’s astounding how much the outer can affect the inner, how much behavior can affect your thoughts.

Millard Fuller – the founder of Habitat for Humanity – summed it up gorgeously. He said: “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

This is not pseudo-scientific blather spouted bunkum-filled books like The Secret. The idea that your actions alter your thoughts is one of the foundations of cognitive-behavioral psychology and has been studied since the 19 century (both William James and Charles Darwin wrote about it).

Force your face into a smile, you will be happier. Sounds creepy, but it works.

A raft of studies have backed this up, including a recent one in the Journal of Psychological Science that showed fake smiles (or even holding a chopstick in your mouth to mimic the shape of a smile) lowered your heart rate in stressful situations. The book The As If Principle by psychologist Richard Wiseman cites plenty of other research, including how your posture affects confidence and risk-taking (a powerful, chest-out stance boosts esteem).

The idea has spawned rhymes. There’s “Fake it till you make it.” In Judaism, there’s the aphorism “Deed before creed,” meaning that if you follow the Ten Commandments, your mind will catch up.

I actually learned this trick not from rhymes, but from writing a book about six years ago. The book was called The Year of Living Biblically, and was about my quest to follow all the rules of the Bible as literally as possible.

This came about because I grew up with no religion at all. As I say in my book, I’m Jewish, but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is Italian. So not very. No offense. Great breadsticks.

But I had a son, and I wanted to know what to teach him about my heritage, so I decided one way to learn about the Bible would be to live it. To learn it from the inside out.

So I bought a stack of Bibles. I got a board of spiritual advisers. Rabbis, ministers, priests. And I wrote down every rule that I could find. As you may know, a very long list. Over 600 rules.

I wanted to follow all of them, without picking and choosing, to see which improved my life and which didn’t. I wanted to follow the famous ones. The Ten Commandments. Love your neighbor. Be fruitful and multiply. (And I’ll have you know that I was fruitful and did multiply. I had twin boys during my year. So I take my projects very seriously).

But I also wanted to follow the lesser known rules. The Bible says that you cannot shave the corners of your beard. I didn’t know where the corners were, so I just let the whole thing grow. As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time at airport security.

It was a life-changing year. Mostly for the better. Not all, but mostly. But it was also the most challenging year of my life.

The Bible says you cannot gossip, or lie, or covet. I’m a journalist and I live in New York City, so that’s pretty much 80 percent of my day.

So I was faced with this huge question: How do you become a better person? How do you undertake an ethical makeover. And that’s when I tried self-delusion.

For instance, during the year, I had a friend in the hospital, and I really didn’t want to visit him. I hate hospitals. But I said, what would a good person do? And then I acted AS IF I were a good person. And when I was at the hospital, some part of my mind said, ‘I’m at the hospital. I must be compassionate.” And I became a little more compassionate. I tricked my own mind.

I was blown away by this strategy. It changed me profoundly. Of course, I still covet and lie and gossip a huge amount. But after the book, I do it fifty percent less. Maybe forty. Or thirty five.

The strategy was key to actually finishing the book itself. Many days I’d wrestle with writer’s block. I’d faced with that horrible blank screen with the nefarious blinking cursor.

My method: Just start typing. It didn’t matter what. Just the action of clicking on the keys is the important thing. So at the start of a writing session, I’d write the most ridiculous nonsense. Whatever came to mind. I’d write about the pigeon bobbing its head outside my window.” Or “Here I am drinking some decaf Indonesian coffee.” Anything.

Eventually I built up enough momentum that my sentences become semi-coherent. I could just delete the first twenty minutes of babble.

One big caveat: Don’t get too carried away with the self-delusion. You need a mix of self-delusion and realism. The best companies have a blend of irrationally exuberant leaders balanced by the hand-wringers. I try to find this blend in myself (mornings are for realism, afternoons for undeserved optimism).

And now, back to work on my next book. I’m acting as if it will be a huge, massive, crash-the-Amazon-server hit.

 

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7 Lessons Creative Teams Can Learn From A Sixth-Grade Metal Band

The 12-year old bandmates of New York’s shreddingest new metal act, Unlocking the Truth, share their collected wisdom on working as a team.

It’s always a bit of a drag for new bands when they’re too young to have free drinks at the venue they’re playing. In the case of Unlocking the Truth, however, the band members are too young to even see a PG-13 movie after rehearsal, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t already accrued some valuable insight beyond their years.

There are early starts and then there are seriously early starts. Incredibly shredding guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse and thunderclap drummer Jarad Dawkins got the idea of starting a band when they were five years old. As wrestling fans, they’d get amped each week at hearing the sounds of 80s-style thrash-metal emanating from televised matches. Brutal bassist Alec Atkins glommed on to the crunchy riffs of Metallica and such through music videos, and he joined the band years later. Together, the boys jam out all over New York, and they’ve gained a heightened profile this year.

Their performances are energetic displays of technical proficiency. Malcolm and Alec rip around the stage like whirling dervishes, building up to gloriously wonky guitar solos. But just as clear as the boys’ on-stage intensity is the bond they have with each other, which underscores a precocious understanding of what it takes to move together as a group. Co.Create spoke to Unlocking the Truth recently to find out their tips on working together as a creative unit while rocking the eff out.

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