These Horrifying New Airline Seats Are Designed To Cut Legroom By Huge Amounts

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If you’re an airline executive, your ambition may be to rise to the top.

Sadly these days, many such executives seem to think the best way to do that is to squeeze passengers from the sides and below, while gently sliding their hands into passengers’ pockets.

Just to see if they can locate any loose change, you understand.

One concept that caused outrage was the notion that passengers could stand during shorter flights.

I’m not sure I like the thought. I mean, Flight Attendants do that and look at most of their faces.

Not happy. Or, at best, fake happy.

Yet last week saw the Aircraft Interiors Expo, where fine minds come to demonstrate how they can help airline executives rise.

Some ideas were really quite clever. 

Then there was the SkyRider from AvioInteriors. 

Go on, guess what a seat called SkyRider might entail? 

That’s right. You fly as if you’re riding a winged horse. 

This is the seat often referred to as the saddle seat.

Essentially, it’s little more than being perched on one of those little shelves on the London subway.

The seat is shaped like a saddle. Take a look.

The joy — for airlines, of course — is that they might be able to reduce the seat pitch to a mere 23 inches — from the current 29 to 32. 

Well, you’ll be sitting far more upright, won’t you? What, you’ve never been on the mechanical bull in your local bar?

And just imagine how shoveling these seats into the back of the plane could delineate those who chose to fly Basic Economy, the Sub-Cattle Class that airlines concocted to appall passengers into paying more to avoid it.

Soon, they will surely be called the Giddu-Up Seats. Or perhaps Leper Colony Seats.

Classic Economy Class passengers will finally have someone else to scorn.

Naturally, the makers told Stuck At The Airport that the seats could make flying more affordable for some people. 

Oh, just imagine these things in turbulence.

Wait, you’ve really never been on the mechanical bull at your local bar?

American Airlines CEO Just Gave a Stunning Reason Why Your Flight Could Be Delayed

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It’s heartening, in its way, when an airline CEO tells it like it is.

One such truth-teller is American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

In his regular chats with employees, he tries to give them honest answers — even if some of those answers are a touch too honest for any sort of public consumption.

For example, when he admitted he’d never flown the airline’s splendidly uncomfortable new planes.

Oh, and when he claimed that taking things away from passengers was an example of “Going for Great.”

His latest plain speaking came in another chat with employees, captured by View From The Wing’s Gary Leff.

This time, the questioner was a frustrated pilot who wondered why there’s too often no gate available when an American flight lands.

Parker explained that most American passengers aren’t flying non-stop. They’re connecting.

Ergo:

Our ability to sell connections is key to our having an airline that works. So we try to sell as much as we can, we don’t have any excess gates at peak times. We’re using all those because that’s how you maximize connections.

Well, yes. And whoa.

So American is selling as much as it can and uses every single gate at all times?

Parker went on to admit that the airline might have been overly enthusiastic in trying to use every gate possible, leaving absolutely no room for error at all.

Planes have to leave on time and arrive on time or else the system immediately starts to fail.

But we’re talking about flying here. And we’re talking about airlines.

How likely is it that on any given day there won’t be some snafu — controllable or otherwise — that will knock the system out of sync?

Yet what Parker seems to be saying is that there are no contingencies. None. 

Airline staff — at United, as well as American — have recently been complaining bitterly that they’re being held to the so-called D0 standard. 

This means you have to pull back on or before departure time — or else you’ll likely have to explain yourselves to your superiors.

Yet Parker freely admits that if one or two flights get behind for some reason, the knock-on effect is a little like that of a critical Donald Trump tweet about a company on the blood pressure of that company’s CEO.

The concerned pilot told Parker that he and his colleagues measured these delays in “dog minutes.” Each minute is like seven.

And you have to wonder how and why the airline tolerates such an apparent mess.

Perhaps, though, Parker answered it himself: “We try to sell as much as we can.”

How Starbucks Went From PR Management to PR Disaster Over the Philadelphia Arrest Video

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Perhaps Starbucks thought it could handle it.

After a video showing two black men being arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks was posted on Thursday to Twitter by Melissa DePino, there was a slow burn of online rage.

Here were two black men being confronted by six police officers, handcuffed and led away, as a white man who said they were waiting for him pleaded with police to tell him what these men had done wrong.

The men, identified by the Philadelphia Inquirer as real estate developers, were subsequently released without charge. 

After all, the Starbucks manager had apparently called police solely because the men had sat in the restaurant and declined to buy anything.

As the retweets of the video multiplied, the local police commissioner Richard Ross insisted his officers had simply performed their duty.

He explained that the police had received a call from Starbucks accusing the men of “disturbance and trespass.”

“These officers did absolutely nothing wrong,” he insisted.

Disappointment.

I got the sense that, even on Saturday, when the video had been viewed by millions, Starbucks thought this was manageable.

It first issued a somewhat guarded statement: 

We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores.

Disappointed? Is that all?

There was no real sense of suggesting that anyone at Starbucks might be to blame.

Worse, the statement referred to what happened as an “incident,” when there’s no evidence any sort of incident took place.

After all, other customers in the restaurant insisted the men had done nothing wrong.

Subsequently, voices within Starbucks suggested to me that this restaurant had been robbed at gunpoint two weeks before, and so was on heightened alert.

There’s no question that those who work in restaurants, bars and other retail establishments always have to exercise acute awareness.

The video, however, appears to show nothing but overreaction, while the men remain completely calm.

I talked to a couple of Starbucks managers in the Bay Area who told me that they do, indeed, call the police when they feel any sort of disturbance or threat. 

This, they said, was made easier by the fact that the local police are customers of their restaurants and they know them personally.

At heart, though, the managers said they make judgments about what might be a threat and what definitely isn’t.

In the Philadelphia case, the impression given by Starbucks was that the manager was simply following company policies.

Otherwise, why else would the company say it needed to review those policies?

Urgency.

By Saturday evening, however, it seemed clear that the company’s tone had changed and that a certain level of urgency and even panic had set in, perhaps too late.

Starbucks released a letter to partners — what Starbucks calls employees — and customers from CEO Kevin Johnson.

In it, he unequivocally said: “The basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.” 

Where the first statement had, stunningly, made no mention of the glaring issue of race in the incident, Johnson’s letter said he wanted to “reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.”

Where the first statement said that Starbucks would review its policies, Johnson’s letter reiterated that policies needed to be looked at, but also said: “I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.”

Johnson tried to take responsibility, while apparently attempting to alleviate some of the burden on the manager.

“Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” he said. 

At the same time, he wrote: “I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day — which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.”

So the manager’s actions led to a very poor reflection on the company?

Criticism is being relentlessly aimed at Starbucks.

After all, this happened at a restaurant owned by a company that presents itself as a bastion of progressive values.

Just as United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz during the infamous passenger-dragging incident — his employees had called on police to evict the passenger from the plane — Johnson admitted in his letter that “the video shot by customers is very hard to watch.”

Yet Starbucks initial reaction was merely disappointment.

United remains something of a much-repeated joke in many people’s eyes, even though it’s taken several steps to improve.

How long will it take Starbucks to retrieve what may have been lost?

Perhaps the urgency should have set in a little earlier.  

Why a New Virtual Card Is Being Created Despite Ban by VISA, American Express and MasterCard

Cryptocurrencies appear to continue to be the center of confusion and controversy, with the recent international news being that India and Pakistan want all banks to cut their ties to the alternative form of currency. While that news has caused some to question the legitimacy of the space, for others it presents opportunity.

Further, startups in the space need to be careful about enhanced illegality surrounding crypto assets. I recently discussed that with MoxyOne founder Tanshul Kumar, who wants to create a virtual card backed by cryptocurrency at a very difficult time.

You’ve surely seen that operators of an ICO were recently arrested for committing fraud in association with a project to offer a debit card. What are you doing to ensure that you are different from that project and how can you assure potential investors that they won’t fall into a similar trap?

Kumar: At the first stage, Moxyone will only offer a virtual card provided by payment companies across the globe. VISA, American Express and MasterCard have banned cryptocurrency cards, but there are still several credit card companies that support cryptocurrencies like JCB, UnionPay and Diners Club. Moxyone is negotiating with these companies.

The idea of issuing a debit card is bridging the cryptocurrency world with the real world. In Asia, people tend to pay with their phone. China has AliPay and WeChat Pay. Japan, Korea and Taiwan have LinePay. Vietnam has Momo and of course there’s ApplePay and Google Wallet. In Moxyone’s business model, we aim to create a payment version of Uber, where people can help others to complete the real life payment with a phone-based payment gateway.

How long will it be until Ether and other cryptocurrencies will be integrated in your system and why should anyone participate prior to inclusion?

Kumar: The highlight of Moxyone isn’t supporting the mainstream cryptocurrencies like Ehter or Bitcoin, but all cryptocurrencies. Right now, Moxyone has deals with eBitcoin, inbox, COBINHOOD and FULX. Their cryptocurrencies would be part of the first batch of our cryptocurrencies-backed virtual card. We aim to help them to issue virtual cards this year in Q3.

Is your initial target market only Australia? If so, then why and what type of clearance have you received from any regulatory authorities in that jurisdiction?

Kumar: Our target market is not only Australia; however, the team is based here and the project is to be started here initially, but the project (infrastructure) would be adaptable to any ICO.

MoxyOne plans to use funds to get a legal and compliance team together to ensure that in the countries they expand to they meet all the laws and regulations of that particular country. We are a registered business under the Australian business register.

3 Voice Search Tactics That Will Improve Your Content

For marketers, it’s important to avoid developing a one-track mind. Content in any form can be great, sure, and your strategy needs consistency. But concentrating too much on any one medium could cause you to miss out on other opportunities to engage your audiences and take advantage of trends in the content industry.

Like most things in life, though, this is easier said than done. It’s easy to get comfortable with one tactic, especially if you’ve found some success with it, and using resources to test out something else that you’re unsure about can be a tough sell.

Still, diversifying your content is critical. There are so many ways you can reach your audience members and connect with them through the medium they prefer, and for the past few years, video has been all the rage. But another form has recently made its way into the marketing mix of some big brands: audio content.

No, I’m not talking about radio commercials, web ads that play catchy jingles, or even podcasts, really. I’m talking about digital assistants. You’ve probably asked for help from Siri, Alexa, or Google before. But did you know that the same digital assistant that reads you weather updates can also share targeted content directly with your audience? Here are three things to know if you’re going to adjust your strategy:

1. Be prepared for the rise of voice search.

You work hard to increase the visibility of your content via SEO, but what have you done to optimize content for voice search?

When you search for something on Google, you probably type out a few keywords to get your desired result, like “good pizza New York.” If I were to ask a digital assistant instead, you’d hear me say: “Hey Siri, can you recommend a good pizza place in New York City?” Interactions with digital assistants are much more conversational, which means that you’ve got to adjust your SEO strategy to better fit the questions customers are asking.

Some analysts estimate that up to 50 percent of all internet searches will be done through voice search by 2020. In only two short years, just as many people will be saying “OK, Google” as will be typing their keywords into a search bar. Optimizing for individual keywords just won’t capture as many eyes (or ears) as it does today. Instead, focus on optimizing for long-tailed keywords by writing in a conversational tone that digital assistants can use to answer “where,” “what,” and “how” questions.

2. Help Alexa help your customer.

Beyond voice search, Amazon’s Alexa is providing a great platform for distributing audio content. Owners of Alexa-enabled devices can install “skills” to their digital assistant, expanding Alexa’s capabilities to include a wide variety of functions. These skills can be simple, like asking Alexa to give traffic updates, but many brands have found creative ways to utilize these skills to create connections with new customers.

For example, insurance provider Cigna offers a skill that enables users to ask Alexa to explain confusing insurance terms. Another great example is the travel guidebook company Lonely Planet. It offers a skill that helps users plan their next vacation. Users can ask Alexa about a possible destination, and it tells users what landmarks they should see and what time of year is best to visit. It will even email the user photos of the location.

These skills don’t have to be complicated. Cigna’s doesn’t allow users to purchase insurance, and Lonely Planet’s won’t reserve you a spot on a historic walking tour, but these skills are still valuable to consumers. Skills like these allow Alexa to interact with potential customers on your behalf, so creating content for it is a great way to get your brand out there.

3. Remember Alexa is an assistant, not your spokesperson.

One thing to note about the Cigna and Lonely Planet skills: Neither of them directly promotes Cigna or Lonely Planet. Users will say “Alexa, ask Cigna” or “Alexa, ask Lonely Planet” to prompt the skills, but Alexa doesn’t respond with insurance plans, book offers, or other promotional content. These skills simply aim to establish the Cigna and Lonely Planet brands as the go-to place for consumers when it comes to their insurance or travel information needs. That’s the connection you want to create.

Users don’t want to be sold to; they want to be served. This is true of any content you produce: Audiences are turned off by promotion, and 79 percent of publication editors say the biggest problem with guest-contributed content is that it’s too promotional.

It’s important that your audio content not be created with the sole purpose of promoting your products. If your content is overly branded and promotes you more than it provides value to your audience, you won’t win any hearts.

Digital assistants are changing the way we use the internet. They can help us find the answer to almost any question, and in an easier way than opening up a search engine and typing a query. You have an opportunity to provide answers to those questions for your customers with audio content. Take advantage of that opportunity by optimizing your content for voice search and by creating audio content that helps customers connect with your company through their digital assistant.

3 Ways Freelancers Can Use the New Tax Laws to Save Big

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the new tax laws, who qualifies for what, and how small businesses, creative professionals and freelancers can benefit the most. When I started designing, I always wanted everything to be professional, so I worked to create a business, choosing to form a separate entity, an S-Corp, to be specific. This, over time, has worked to my advantage over other freelancers, so we will talk about what I’ve learned with Hazz Design, and also get some advice from Aaron Young, CEO of Laughlin USA, a company that has formed and protected over 100,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners over the last forty years.

What About Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Ghostwriters, or Designers?

When it comes to taxes and brackets and filings, where do solopreneurs fall? More than that, what are the best options so that someone operating solo is protected and keeping the most money in their pocket? First, let’s start with you…

Whether or not the new tax laws benefit you, now is the time to have the conversation about being a business versus being a freelancer. There are many benefits already built into being taxed as a business that most freelancers, startups, and solopreneurs don’t take advantage of, which means you pay more taxes instead of keeping more revenue. In the past, the mindset of freelancers was to stay under the radar, not realizing that this mindset wasn’t conducive to the overall profitability.

3 Things to Consider To Protect Your Business Save

First, the disclaimer – please consult a tax professional. I am a designer not an accountant. My point is that, you don’t have to do it alone, or figure it all out for yourself, but you are responsible for taking action, so you should also take advantage of the tools and resources available to you. With all of that being said, let’s break this down into the three simple things you can and should do immediately to save on taxes and protect you and your livelihood. 

  1. Think like a business. Tax laws aside, being a business means thinking like a business. There is a necessary mindset shift to get beyond the pieces and parts. Yes, you have to work, but you should also be thinking about alternative revenue streams that don’t require you to put in more hours. Or, you should think about creating a business that survives you or is an asset that you can eventually sell. Luckily I learned this one quickly and have three different types of revenue streams: a) consulting income, of course; b) my podcasts, membership group, books, and courses; and c) royalty, revenue and residuals from my product designs sold at retail. Do what you can to build out your business, as a separate entity, so that you aren’t looking at a lifetime of the day-to-day grind.
  2. Know Your Deductions. There are 1000’s of deductions that most small business don’t take advantage of. This is equivalent to throwing money away. Many freelancers and small business owners hear words like deduction or retirement and skip town. Kidding, but they definitely turn a blind eye because itemizing and this paperwork sounds like so much work. But we live in the age of digital tools, and there are so many resources to make these tasks easy. I track mileage with an app. There are also dozens of receipt tracking systems, operating like a digital shoebox, so there really is no excuse.
  3. Protect Yourself. Beyond the tax advantages, there are legal protection benefits you should be taking advantage of. The separation of self and business is important. My S-Corp. designation qualifies me for new deductions and allows me to make plans for the future that I probably wouldn’t if I were just operating day-to-day. I knew the proper structure for my business because I consulted a professional. Just as I expect new product designers and launchers to come to me for my decades of expertise, I do the same for my financial and tax needs. Professionals can easily find the right structure for your business, because it’s something they do every day. Points to consider:
  • Not every freelancer should be an LLC or a corporation. The state, the type of business, your growth plan, are all deciding factors for your business structure.
  • Having backup, in the form of experts, is one of the best kinds of protection. They will see the things you would never see.
  • The question shouldn’t be whether or not you should structure your business. The question should be which structure is the most beneficial to you? 

Stressing About All The Deadlines Paperwork

When I first met Aaron Young at an event, he was giving a presentation on protecting your family and your business. It had this post-it slide with all of the forms that you’re supposed to file, and all of the documents you’re supposed to track, and all of the things you’re supposed to think about and this highlights one piece of the stress that is entrepreneurship. Laughlin’s has built a corporate veil service, to alleviate some of that stress, and to make sure I am protected, so I don’t have to remember deadlines for filing, or in case I miss something simple like a resolution, or changing CPA’s, and so on. 

You Have to Take Action

Ignorance of the law doesn’t protect you from it or let you automatically benefit from of it, a message entrepreneurs and freelancers need to understand. Ignoring the list of tax and structure to do’s does more damage than anything. Inaction is guaranteeing failure and more tax payments in the future. Luckily we have more resources than ever before to protect ourselves, get the most out of our business structure, and keep the most money in our pocket.

The World’s First Fortune 500 Female CEO

Today, with women like Meg Whitman, Indra Nooyi, and Mary Barra, we have many examples of successful female CEOs.   

But in the 1960’s, when Katharine Graham took over The Washington Post, it was a very different world. At the time, Graham was truly a female pioneer in business. Plus, when she entered the male-dominated newspaper industry, she had minimal experience in journalism and even less experience in business.

It had never been Graham’s intention to take over the paper, which had been purchased by her father, Eugene Meyer, in 1933. But when her husband died while serving as publisher, Graham stepped in to run the family business.

The year was 1963. Katharine Graham was 46 years old. 

To say Katharine Graham was intimidated must have been an understatement. And it took some time for Graham to gain the trust, and also the respect of her male counterparts. However, with courage, persistence and hard work, Graham became the most successful female CEO of her day.

Graham held the reins of The Washington Post for over three decades and was crucial in growing the company into the media conglomerate we know today. She guided the paper through the release of The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal. She was also a social activist who fought for freedom of the press and women’s issues.

A large part of Graham’s success was based on her values-based leadership style. Here are a few of the leadership qualities Graham utilized most. 

Self-Awareness -Graham was aware of her abilities, but also her limitations. By knowing when to ask for help, and surrounding herself with supportive mentors, Graham was able to learn quickly, and get assistance in the areas she needed. 

Compassion and Empathy – Graham was known for being compassionate and empathetic, both in her business and personal life. This trait helped create valuable relationships and inspired devotion to Graham as a leader.

Toughness – Graham relied on mental and spiritual toughness to make hard decisions. Her strong backbone and her ability to fight for her beliefs helped steer the company through many difficult challenges.

Embracing Leadership as a Learning Opportunity – From the day she entered her role at the paper, Graham was always learning. A curious, intelligent nature allowed her to get up to speed in a short amount of time and continue learning.  

Hands-on Leadership – Graham was an accessible leader who often spent time in the newsroom with her reporters. She understood the work they did, and on occasion, she even contributed story tips. Her personal involvement at all levels of the organization created a mutual level of respect that helped the paper thrive. 

Support for Employees – During the increased government pressure at the time of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, Graham never abandoned her reporters or publisher. As a real leader, Graham knew it was her responsibility to support her team, especially when times were tough.     

Following Core Convictions – Graham made difficult decisions throughout her career, but she always followed her core convictions. By following her heart, she could stand behind the outcomes of her choices, no matter the cost.

While Katharine Graham entered the world of business at 46 years old, she certainly made the most of her time. She ran The Washington Post well into her seventies and left a legacy that will be remembered for decades.

This Successful Soap Entrepreneur Is Awash with New Customers from Great Marketing Execution

Business owners and marketers love the idea of tackling new markets. But when a big, exciting opportunity arises, the actual process can be quite intimidating. The mechanics can be complicated, but there are some basic ideas that always remain true.

YPO member Pradeep Cholayil has mastered market expansion. Cholayil is the Chairman and Managing Director of Cholayil Private Limited, an Indian company most famous for its Medimix soap bar. Cholayil Pvt. Ltd. was founded by Cholayil’s father, who was a doctor and practitioner of Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old system of traditional medicine and natural healing. Since his father invented the Medimix bar in 1969, the company has expanded both its products and geographic reach, and now includes several brands, many product lines, and distribution in 25 countries. Clearly, Cholayil understands how to break into new markets.

In an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Cholayil shared his tried and true tips on expanding into new markets:

1. Make Sure Your Product Will Appeal

One of the big unknowns when breaking into new markets is whether the product will appeal to the new population. Cholayil recognized the growing interest in alternative medicine and natural products, and capitalized on that opportunity. Cholayil says,“‘Ayur means ‘life‘ and ‘veda’ means ‘knowledge.’ In Ayurveda, it’s only the herbs, and to some extent, animal products, that are used.” He also recognized the necessity of educating the consumer, explaining, “Slowly, more and more people are able to understand what Ayurveda is all about, especially as yoga increases in popularity in different countries.” The process may not be fast, but you can build the appeal of your product to a critical mass.

2. Use Existing Resources

Besides seizing on the opportunities provided by the expansion of natural products, alternative medicine, and yoga, Cholayil had another ace up his sleeve. It’s only been a few years since expanding into the US market, but already, “in almost all the Indian stores across the US, Medimix is available,” Cholayil states proudly. He explains, “These stores make the fastest route for us, since most Indians already know Medimix.” Successful leaders maximize the resources available, and find ways to increase efficiency while keeping costs manageable.

3. Turn Existing Customers into Marketers

There are more ways to take advantage of the local store opportunity. “We want to go more mainstream,” Cholayil says. But it ended up being easier than he expected, explaining, “What’s interesting is that non-Indian local people living near the stores also visit, and their taste is changing towards Medimix, too.” At that point, existing customers, new customers, and all their friends became fans of Medimix. And every marketer knows that the most impactful marketing is word of mouth from your most trusted network.

4. Consider Expanding Your Product Line

While the Medimix bar is huge seller in India and enjoying increasing popularity around the world, Cholayil is constantly looking towards the future, saying, “I always believe change is inevitable.” He goes on to say, “Ayurveda is all about mixing different herbs in different combinations, and it’s those combinations that give the power to it.” Cholayil recognized there were more market gaps he could fill, so he worked to create new products to meet global consumer needs.

5. Persevere

The perseverance required in business is similar to the perseverance that Cholayil’s father exercised when he developed Medimix in the 1960s. Getting the recipe just right is key, Cholayil explains, saying, “It might be a small molecule in that particular herb that is giving the benefit, but it’s the combination that makes all the difference.” That’s why perseverance is one of Cholayil’s core values. “Every time I look in the mirror, I want to get better and better. Not having perseverance will kill success,” he says. Patience, indeed, is a virtue.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world’s premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

This Company Wants to Be the WordPress of the Blockchain Community

No, this is not about yet another cryptocurrency startup looking to raise money from an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). In fact, ARK is not building a token or currency. It just wants to stay in its lane and provide an all-in-one blockchain solution that can be incorporated into platforms being developed by those who want to harness blockchain technology.

ARK has actually had a product available for more time than most in the space, and is quickly working on developing newer versions for adoption. I recently spoke with Travis Walker, ARK Co-founder/Board Member, to understand more about the project, why France is a good environment for its growth and what its goals are moving forward.

What exactly is it that you’re creating and the service that you’re providing; why do you see a need for it in the space and who are your biggest competitors?

Walker: At ARK, we believe there are two major problems facing the blockchain industry: ease of use and scalability. We are taking both of these problems head on by building forward thinking solutions with a focus on user experience.

The most important thing to remember about ARK is that we aren’t just building another token or currency, we are building a blockchain platform that anyone can use to decentralize their project or service. An ARK powered application can integrate blockchain technology into their development cycle in hours instead of months and they can do it with simple, intuitive systems.

Much like WordPress allowed non-programmers to quickly and easily develop their own custom websites, ARK lowers the barrier of entry to adapting blockchain technology to your projects needs.

We want to enable developers to build the decentralized future but, more importantly, do it in a way that opens up the blockchain and it’s capabilities to everyone. In that same regard, we don’t see anyone in this industry as a competitor. We believe that the only way that blockchain succeeds is by working together towards a common purpose: decentralization. We have a saying at ARK. We don’t have competitors, just future partners.

Do you currently have a model available for use, and why do you think or not think that is important in this age where many startups in the space are highly suspect?

Walker: The blockchain community has been plagued with fly by night offerings and the traditional scams that pop-up when people start to see big dollar signs, but that doesn’t mean the industry as a whole is a scam, a bubble, or a money grab. There are a lot of companies out there building quality projects that deserve to be taken seriously. We always encourage everyone to do their due diligence and let the code speak for itself.

Our core ARK network technology has been open source and available to download for almost a year now. We have also released the first version of the ARK Deployer, which we currently use at the many hackathons we sponsor to allow developers to quickly deploy ARK based blockchains in a matter of minutes for their projects.

We have seen countless young programmers build some really amazing projects in 24-36 hours with just these two components, but we are constantly working to improve the core network technology and develop and implement new features. We are currently hard at work on our ARK Core v2, which will be a rewrite of our core platform with a ton of new features as well as the first graphical user interface for the ARK deployer.

What are you doing to stay on top of regulations and developments of new laws from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as more scrutiny is being placed on the cryptocurrency industry?

Walker: ARK has taken an active interest in the current state of regulation in the industry, particularly in France, where we call home. Our CTO, Francois Xavier-Thoorens, is working closely with local regulators and the government to advise them on how we can build common sense regulation that allows the blockchain industry to thrive. We have partnered with several firms and legal advisers to ensure that we stay on top of the ever changing landscape and provide insight and guidance wherever possible.

The ICO model has enabled a new level of grassroots fundraising and has the potential to do a lot of good, but we need to create an environment where investors can feel safe being involved with the projects. By working together to push sensible regulations on a global scale, we think we can legitimize the blockchain industry and ensure that it continues to grow and prosper.

Do you attach any import in being incorporated in Europe and, if so, what is the importance to the company?

Walker: Well the easy answer is that many of our team members call the EU home, so it only made sense to look there first, but there is definitely more to it than that. The EU, and France in particular, has taken a very favorable stance on blockchain, the ICO model, and cryptocurrency as a whole. The French government understands the potential in blockchain technology and has reached out to understand the industry and have shown a strong desire to do everything they can to help it grow and take roots in France.

We worked very closely with the French government to establish our SCIC business entity for ARK, which we hope will help pave the way for future blockchain projects that are also looking to have their own business entity. We are very encouraged by the current state of the industry in France and will continue to offer our expertise and guidance wherever we can to help push the industry as a whole forward.

5 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself to Become a Better Leader

To be effective in today’s rapidly evolving business world, leadership development is a critical investment for us to make. As leaders, we need to stay on top of marketplace changes — and have the traits, skills and agility to adapt to those changes — to remain competitive.

My company, Vistage, recently conducted research showing that CEOs from small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are focused on decisions and investments related to business optimization. To fully capitalize on these investments, a CEO also needs to make leadership development a priority.

In the Q4 2017 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, which captured data from 1,377 SMB CEOs, leadership development was only ranked fifth in planned investments for 2018. That’s after investments in talent, infrastructure, technology and customer growth.

If, like our survey participants, you’re a CEO who might prioritize business optimization efforts over your own leadership development, here are the top five questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Are you developing your skills across a broad range of functional areas? 

CEOs are at the center of business decisions that cross multiple functions — from IT and finance to marketing and sales to operations and management. Staying at the forefront of each of these disciplines is an enormous task, which is why leaders must constantly find small ways to broaden their capabilities in diverse areas.

Consider training opportunities that give you access to the latest insights about issues such as building a strong culture, making strategic investments, executing on a strategy and communicating effectively with teams.

2. Do you meet the criteria of a “good leader” or a “great leader?” 

Good leaders tend to focus on others before themselves. Great leaders recognize they must continue to work on their own development while also developing the capabilities of their teams. This creates alignment and focus among departments and instills a culture of excellence across the entire organization. 

3. Can you effectively execute your strategic vision?

Leadership is the art of execution. It’s the art of getting things done. In other words, leadership isn’t just about setting a direction or vision for a business, it’s about executing on that vision. Execution is how a leader translates their vision into a method for managing talent, connecting with customers, optimizing operations and managing the financials that calibrate the business. 

4. What are your priority areas as a leader?

High-performing CEOs tend to focus on five areas in particular:

  • Strategic planning
  • Organizational culture and values
  • Communication and alignment
  • Mission, vision and purpose
  • Innovation

If this list doesn’t align with your own priorities, ask what you’re substituting for these areas. You might need to make some adjustments.

5. Do you have the competencies to identify and address pressing workplace issues?

Today’s CEOs need to be equipped to manage a variety of difficult issues such as sexual misconduct in the workplace, diversity and inclusion practices and sustainability policies. Very few leaders can do this effectively without the right leadership development.

Focus on developing skills that will improve, for example, how you evaluate workplace policies for social events, reduce your environmental footprint, recruit a more diverse workforce or establish a culture of transparency. This will make your organization stronger, and it’ll make you a better CEO.