Digital Is Dead

Has America lost its fascination with the tech industry? An article that went viral on CNBC suggests that the bloom is very much off the rose. Fashioned as a letter from a disappointed dad to an misguided son, it blasts the tech world for its miscues over the past year, from frat-boy antics to a sometimes appalling lack of transparency.

In a sense, this shouldn’t be surprising. Silicon Valley is no longer a collection of swashbuckling upstarts battling corporate behemoths. Today, Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft are the most valuable companies in the world. Younger firms, such as Facebook and Uber, have already become powerful forces in our lives.

Perhaps most of all, the digital revolution is now two decades old and it has become very hard to move the needle. Compared with the personal computer, the Internet and the smartphone, smart watches and talking assistants just don’t add that much value. To be truly useful, digital technology can’t stand alone, but must learn to empower industries in the physical world.

The New Energy Revolution

We mostly think about the cost of energy when we have to pay for gas at the pump or when the electric bill arrives, but it’s far more pervasive than that. The Institute for Energy Research estimates that it makes up 8% of the global economy, so roughly eight cents out of every dollar you spend goes to energy, which functions like a tax on your consumption.

Yet that will likely change over the next few decades. Renewables, like wind and solar, have already achieved grid parity in a number of places and costs are steadily decreasing. In fact, the US Department of Energy predicts that solar costs in 2030 will be half of what they are now. Experts expect that electric cars will become more efficient than gas powered ones around 2022.

The main bottleneck now is energy storage, both to power electric cars and to handle the intermittency issues on the grid. The current technology, lithium-ion, is still too expensive and is nearing its theoretical limits, so completely new battery chemistries need to be developed. Nevertheless, there seems to be significant progress here as well, with several prototypes in the testing stage.

Add it all up and it’s possible — even likely — that our energy will not only be much cleaner, but cost half as much by 2030, which is like giving everybody a tax cut of 4%. Also, because the burden of energy costs hit low-income people harder, it will also positively impact income inequality.

Tackling Crippling Healthcare Costs

One of the great achievements of the 20th century was modern medicine. A hundred years ago, we had no way to treat simple infections and even a scratch while working in your garden could turn deadly. Conditions like heart disease and cancer were basically untreatable. Once you got sick, there was little you could do except wait to die.

Improvements in health care changed all that. Life expectancy in developed countries soared from about 40 years in 1900 to almost 80 years today, while child mortality and health inequality decreased significantly. Better health also had other benefits that were somewhat counterintuitive, like a decline in the birthrate and a reduction of population growth in developed countries. 

However, modern medicine has also had some unintended consequences. When people live longer, they are more likely to get chronic conditions, like diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s, which are considerably more expensive to treat. Today, healthcare makes up 10% of global GDP — far more in the US — and costs are increasing significantly more than the general inflation rate.

Yet here again, there is cause for hope. New genomic techniques, CRISPR especially, are being used to treat cancer as well as hereditary diseases like hemophilia. This is still a very new area, so we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface, but it is already clear that there is great potential to improve outcomes while lowering costs.

Advancing Manufacturing

While many still think of manufacturing as an “old economy” business relegated to hollowed out rust belt towns and developing countries, in recent years it has been a hotbed of innovation. In fact, the Obama Administration set up a network of advanced manufacturing hubs to develop new techniques in a diverse number of areas, from fabrics to photonics.

One rapidly developing technology is low-cost collaborative robots. Unlike traditional robots, which need to be set away from workers in cages, these are intelligent enough to work alongside humans safely and easy enough to use that they can be reprogrammed in minutes. They mostly do mundane tasks, like loading objects onto a conveyor belt, which frees up workers to do higher level jobs.

Probably the most exciting area is developing advanced materials. For example, the new 787 Dreamliner, which because it uses far more advanced composite materials, is 20% more efficient than its predecessor while achieving similar performance. Consider that the airline industry uses tens of billions of dollars worth of fuel each year, and that really adds up.

In the future, we can expect the cost of developing new materials to come down significantly. One company, Citrine Informatics, applies advanced machine learning algorithms materials databases in order to find valuable new compounds much faster and cheaper. It already enabled firms to develop new materials 2-5 times faster and that should improve in time.

Manufacturing still makes up 17% of the global economy, so even a small improvement is worth a lot.

A Fundamentally Different Kind Of Innovation

Over the past few decades, we’ve come to see innovation as what happens when someone like Steve Jobs stands on stage and shows off a new device. Clearly, advances in energy, healthcare and manufacturing are not that. However, the potential impacts in these areas are far greater than the typical Silicon Valley gadget.

The OECD estimates that information and communication technologies contribute about 6% to the economies in developing countries — and probably far less than that in the world as a whole. Now compare that to energy, healthcare and manufacturing, which make up about a third of global GDP, and it becomes clear how much potential there is.

Yet none of this can be achieved without digital technology, which can empower the industries of the future. As IBM’s Angel Diaz put it to me, “today we need more than just clever code. We need computer scientists working with cancer scientists, with climate scientists and with experts in many other fields to tackle grand challenges and make large impacts on the world.”

We’re entering a new era of innovation in which collaboration will be the new competitive advantage. The days when the digital world could stand alone in blissful ignorance of how the rest of the world does business are clearly waning.

You Are Worth Less than Elon Musk, but Are You Worthless? Why We Need to Change the Way We Value Humans

One vision of the future says that there will be no jobs, and if we’re lucky Elon Musk will give favor to us mere mortals and we’ll join him on his spaceship to Mars.

Of course, there is a possibility that Elon can’t save us, and the world ends up looking more like Mad Max: Fury Road.

A second vision of the future says that this wave of automation is no different than prior periods of technological advancement. Yes, some jobs will be destroyed, but in the long run most of the people who want to find work will be able to do so, and the workers displaced by automation will find employment doing different jobs. In fact, these workers are lucky, because in theory the new jobs will be better than the old ones.

These future visions are comforting–even the Mad Max version. They are comforting because they operate under the premise that either we are all doomed, or none of us are doomed. If we are all doomed, we’ll be forced to figure out solutions. Everyone will have a vested interest in creating a society that works for everyone. If none of us are doomed, well…none of us are doomed.

But what if just some of us are doomed?

In his reporting on automation and retail workers, LinkedIn editor Chip Cutter notes that cashier and retail salesperson are the first and second most common jobs in America.

What do we do about the potential loss of 8 million low-skilled jobs?

Conventional economic theory has an answer.

That answer says jobs will be reallocated to some other sector of the economy, as they have been in the past. Low-skilled agricultural jobs were, over time, reabsorbed into other sectors of the economy once farming became mechanized.

In other words, in the long run, it will be okay.

However, for workers, families, and communities, the long run can turn out to be a very long run. Manufacturing workers displaced by technology–and to a lesser extent, trade–may never reenter the labor force. If they do, they often earn significantly less than they used to.

Why do we seem to have so little empathy for the actual people impacted by change?

It is true that in economic terms, some workers’ contributions are worth less than others. Though (for now) we are both flesh-and-blood human beings, my economic worth is much smaller than Elon Musk’s. But, as author and professor James Kwak argues, economics has increasingly become the lens through which we view all societal interactions and relationships.

In that world, it’s easy for “worth less” to become “worthless.” In fact, as I write this article, it is literally harder to type the words “worth less.” Autocorrect just doesn’t believe that worth less isn’t worthless.

Our economic model has become a societal model that says some people are worthless–as though what separates the type of people who spend their day in a corner office and the people who stand behind a cash register is pure intrinsic worth, conveniently ignoring that what you contribute to the economy has a lot to do with where you born, the color of your skin, or whether your parents went to college.

Automation and artificial intelligence won’t eliminate all jobs at once. They likely won’t even eliminate most jobs, and there will be new, higher-paying jobs that come with the automation revolution. The challenge of the automated future won’t be figuring out what to do when no one has a job. It will be figuring out how to do deal with millions of people who aren’t going to step out from behind a cash register or leave the cab of an 18-wheeler and become coders or programmers.

That isn’t an insurmountable challenge, and the first step doesn’t even need to be figuring out what jobs 8 million people will have.

The first step is recognizing that worth less is not the same thing as worthless.

You Love Listening To Fleetwood Mac? Science Says This May Say Something Unexpected About You

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

Admit it. 

When no one’s around, your favorite Spotify playlists bathe your soul like a week-long yoga retreat.

Everyone things you’re up with your electronica and down with your rap. 

The truth, however, is that your true loves involve bastions of musical history such as Air Supply, Toto, Chicago, Bryan Adams and, oh, Fleetwood Mac.

Now science would like to whisper into your ear and tell you what this really means.

Researchers from Nagasaki in Japan believe that your musical choices reflect your biological makeup.

As the New Scientists details, talked 76 male and female subjects into being subjected to various sorts of music, but not famous tunes.

Then they asked them which tunes they liked best. 

Oh, and they asked them for a little saliva, too. 

Which was convenient, since they were interested in their testosterone levels.

What they found was that males with higher testosterone preferred music of an “unsophisticated” sort. 

Like soft rock or heavy metal.

I find myself lurching toward these researchers like Ozzie Osbourne once lurched toward a bat.

How dare they suggest that Fleetwood Mac and its ilk aren’t sophisticated?

And the mere suggestion that Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Nazareth and Uriah Heep are somehow beneath the levels of, say jazz or classical music is offensive to my core.

But that could be just my testosterone talking.

The researchers admitted that they didn’t yet know how testosterone influences musical tastes, though they suspect it may have something to do with testosterone having an effect on regions of the brain that process emotions. 

They did declare, however, that their work showed that men with lower testosterone did prefer classical music and jazz.

There was, though, no link between the level of testosterone in women and their love of, say, Lionel Richie. 

Still, the next time you’re at work and you happen to overhear one of your colleagues humming Go Your Own WayHold The Line or some other classic of its genre, please resist your critical bent.

It could just be their testosterone playing them like a fiddle.

How to Make People Care About Your Brand

People don’t choose to buy from your brand on a whim. There’s always a reason behind their decisions, and uncovering that reason is key to gaining a brand following and growing your business.

According to the American Marketing Association, the average consumer sees up to 10,000 brand messages a day. But out of those 10,000 opportunities, the consumer will only buy from a select few brands. So how do you ensure yours stands out in the sea of brand messages? In his book “Youtility,” marketing consultant Jay Baer says, “You can’t survive by shouting the loudest and relying solely on anachronistic interruption marketing. You can’t proclaim you’re featuring the ‘biggest sale ever!’ every day.”

Promoting your brand anywhere and everywhere just doesn’t work. You need to focus on building relationships with key consumers who will be interested in what your brand has to offer. Here are three ways to make your target consumers care about your brand.

1. Focus on your audience

You could have the greatest product in the world, but if no one cares about it, you won’t sell anything. Before you even thinking of marketing or selling, you need to first think of your customers. Who is it that you’re trying to reach and what do they want?

Do some research and delve into demographics like age, sex and occupation. Then, go deeper. Uncover your audience’s pain points and their needs. Paint a picture of what your target consumer is like. Instead of thinking about marketing to a mass of people, think about how you can market to that one person.

Once you have an idea of what your target consumer is like, figure out where your product or service fits in. What problems can you solve for the consumer? When you can find the crossover between what your customers want and what your brand provides, you’ve struck gold.

In a speech at Content Marketing World 2013, Jonathan Lister, VP of sales solutions at LinkedIn, said, “As marketers, we should be changing the mantra from always be closing to always be helping.”

Consumers today are savvier than ever, and they’re skeptical of brands that are overly promotional. Instead, they favor brands that focus on being helpful and offering value. When marketing your brand, try not to oversell or use too much promotional language. Instead, frame your marketing in a way that shows how your product or service helps the consumer and how it will improve their lives for the better.

2. Don’t be afraid to be controversial

When you’re trying to get people to like and care about your brand, saying something controversial is probably the last thing you think you should do. And while it’s true that you shouldn’t be offensive or stir up trouble, sharing an opinion can actually make more people identify with your brand and like you.

That’s because trying to get everyone to like you doesn’t work. But that’s okay, because not everyone is the right customer for your brand. And if you never share an opinion or choose a side, you may not make anyone dislike you, but you probably won’t get anyone to like you, either.

Sharing your opinion reveals your brand’s values and allows your audience either to agree or disagree with you. In this way, you find your true audience, the ones who will advocate for and believe in your brand.

In his book, “Pour Your Heart Into It,” former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz writes, “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

Don’t hold back on sharing your opinions and potentially being controversial. You may lose a few people who disagree with you, but the ones who agree with you will end up liking you more.

3. Be human

A brand is impersonal. It’s an abstract entity, a logo, a tagline. So how can you expect your audience to care about it?

To get people to like your brand, you need to be more personal – more human. People like people, and they want to know that there is a human person behind the brand they’re following, not just a corporation.

In your content and other marketing, be conversational and engaging. Write as though as you are talking to a friend. You also need to engage with your consumers and grow your following. Start conversations online and respond to any comments. If your customers have any questions or problems, be proactive with your customer service. If you want people to care about your brand, you need to care about them back.

In his book, “The Thank You Economy,” entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says, “A strategy of caring usually out-shines tactics, but when they’re used with the right intent, tactics can help a brand achieve greatness.”

Although it’s quickly becoming cliche, authenticity is an important part of gaining a brand following. A study by Bonfire Marketing revealed 91% of consumers want the brands they follow to be authentic in their posts.

To be authentic, you need to first define your brand values. What does your brand stand for and what are those values? Then, in all of your marketing efforts, make sure your brand voice is aligned with those values.

Authenticity will inspire trust, and if your audience trusts your brand, they will buy from your brand.

Why should people care about your brand? What do you have to offer your consumers? How can you relay the message in your marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

Snap Needed Emotional Intelligence This Week but Didn’t Have Any

Snap, parent corporation of social network Snapchat, has faced a number of recent leaks about the business, including a new round of layoffs. But the company’s reaction, a threat to sue or imprison employees who might talk to the press, was the second time in a week the company showed a disturbing lack of emotional intelligence.

Snap has made some bad moves in the past, like the initial fight among the co-founders. Turning down $3 billion for an acquisition by Facebook and the fall stock plunge. But the biggest problem of late has been the attitudes toward employees that management clumsily communicated.

Patience is understandably running thing. Over the last six months, Snap has faced the following:

  • Expenses raced ahead of income, increasing fiscal pressures as user growth has not kept pace with expectations. (When Fortune writes, “Its first trick was making selfies disappear. Its latest is sending gargantuan piles of cash into the ether,” you know the coverage will be ugly.)
  • The company saw two big stock drops immediately after earnings announcements in August and November.
  • The current stock price of about $14 remains far below the $17 IPO figure.
  • Layoffs this week and October after a September restructuring suggest the level of problem and money pressures Snap faces.

Snap has been like a sieve for insider news getting out to the press, which has made the company irate, as reported by Cheddar’s Alex Heath. This resulted in a harsh memo that in part said the following:

As a result, all employees must keep our information strictly confidential until disclosed by Snap. We have a zero-tolerance policy for those who leak Snap Inc. confidential information. This applies to outright leaks and any informal “off the record” conversations with reporters, as well as any confidential information you let slip to people who are not authorized to know that information.

If you leak Snap Inc. information, you will lose your job and we will pursue any and all legal remedies against you. And that’s just the start. You can face personal financial liability even if you yourself did not benefit from the leaked information. The government, our investors, and other third parties can also seek their own remedies against you for what you disclosed. The government can even put you in jail.

Not that anyone should minimize the need for a basic level of confidentiality. Leaking information from a public company, particularly if some people have a chance to trade on the insights before others do, can be a significant legal risk. But there are different ways to communicate, and Snap management opted for as heavy-handed a one as might be imagined. If they wished an effective deterrent, internal training and emphasis would have been far more effective.

Instead, this move is almost guaranteed to scare employees not into knowing compliance with right actions but further into psychological bunkers and out of the company as soon as possible.

What can you expect when a culture of secrecy reportedly makes many employees feel isolated and in danger? This is like entrepreneurs who are so intent on protecting their “brilliant” ideas that they never learn how limited or flawed the concepts are because they won’t listen. If you regularly divide employees, you miss the communication and collaboration necessary for innovation and solving problems.

And speaking of innovation, as the hammer comes down in this way, it also strikes in another. In the memo released at the time of the most recent layoffs, via Cheddar, CEO Evan Spiegel discussed the need to create a “highly scalable business model” and an “organization that scales internally.” He wrote, “This means that we must become exponentially more productive as we add additional resources and team members.”

To many, that translates as “your life should be ours.” There is only so productive people can be. They aren’t machines, and if you continually expect more and more, even with additional tools and resources (but likely not), you burn people out. That may work if you think everyone but yourself is replaceable and you want to use individuals as tools to make money — but, on second thought, no, it probably won’t. Some have pulled it off, but far more often these attitudes have limited success at most.

Then that memo ended as follows:

Lastly, I’d like to make it very clear that our team is not here to win 2nd place. The journey is long, the work is hard, but we have and we will consistently, systematically, out-innovate our competitors with substantially few resources and in far less time. And we will have a blast doing it.

Put differently: You won’t have the resources you need but you will succeed and work faster and harder because you are order to, and you will enjoy the process whether you want to or not.

The communications style of Snap in these two instances betrays a remarkable degree of emotional tone deafness. Even though the people responsible are likely sure they are motivating employees while helping select for the types of people who will do well by them, they transmit subtexts that are off-putting to many who could be of immense help but are unwilling to submerge themselves into the drive to enhance the financial well being of a tiny group.

The people at Snap could have avoided the problem with a few steps:

  • Clarify and be honest with yourself about what you really want to achieve. Have someone from the outside look at materials, interview people, and offer a disinterested observation of the situation.
  • Look at things from an employee’s viewpoint and put yourself in their shoes. Given the general atmosphere, if you heard this as an employee, how might you react?
  • Recognize that how you feel personally and what you want to accomplish may not work well together. Focus on approaches most likely to produce the needed results, not something that makes you feel vindicated.
  • Get expert help. If you pride yourself on an engineering culture, as Snap seems to, don’t assume you’re also a master of psychology and motivation. Chances are that you aren’t.

Which Design Style Is Best for Your Explainer Video?

According to researchers in Canada, the average attention span has dropped to eight seconds over the last decade. That means you have a shorter window than ever to capture your  customers’ attention and “sell” your product. Simple  animation videos, when done correctly, can provide this hook. Studies show they can engage your prospects and provide as much as an 80% boost in conversion rates, according to video marketing expert Rohan Kale, founder of rkale.com. But how do you choose between a 2D explainer video and whiteboard animation video? And what’s the difference between these two formats anyway? Kale walks through the options and when to use each format for optimal results.

2D Explainer Videos:

2D motion graphic promotional videos could be motion graphics and/or cartoon animationw,” Kale notes. “These videos are being used by a majority of the businesses on their websites, landing pages, social media, advertising, etc. They generally appeal most to the crucial 25-45 age demographic. Motion graphics are often used by B2B businesses such as financial services, software, health industry, e-learning companies, accounting firms, legal services and web technology.”

If you want to make a 2D video for your business, the best practices include keeping them short — under 2 minutes — and quickly highlighting the benefits of your product or services. “These videos should be colorful, dynamic and represent a brand very professionally,” Kale says. They should also “create an ‘aha’ moment in your prospect’s mind.”

Motion graphics can also be helpful for explaining a process, how a product works or why a service matters. For example, this video for Blue Triangle Tech explains how their platform works — quickly and in terms anyone can understand.

Cartoons are another option in this category. “Cartoon videos are mostly used by B2C businesses that have a light-hearted and fun brand. Some of these businesses are App providers and Software-as-Service (SaaS) companies,” Kale says. “Cartoon videos, like this one for Energizer, are loved by consumers. Clients can relate to the character in the video, which makes them more appealing.”

2D explainer videos are not simply good for online sales. They can also create an impact during conferences, investor pitches, trade shows, events and anywhere else the company meets the public. Kale says you can’t go wrong as long as “the graphics used for 2D videos depict the things that your prospect sees/feels/hears and does on a daily business basis,”

Whiteboard videos:

Whiteboard videos have been pretty popular since the early 2000s. Kale notes that “due to the nature of video, where a hand does the concept explanation, these videos are mostly popular with the 40+ age demographics.”

Whiteboard videos are mainly used on websites to explain detailed offerings. As a result, they tend to be slower and longer than 2D explainer videos, generally running from 3-5 minutes or more). “The best use of whiteboard video is to break down a complex concept into a step-by-step procedure or process,” explains Kale.

These videos can be used in both B2B and B2C spaces. “Businesses like the educational training industry, insurance business, or dating industry benefit a lot from them,” Kale adds. Because you watch as the pictures are being “drawn,” they can make even relatively flat content (like the contents of this Water Allocation Plan) visually interesting. “The graphics used for whiteboard videos should depict a detailed story about how the customer goes from point A to point B,” Kale says. Because they are easier to make than 2D explainer videos, they tend to be cheaper, which is an added attraction for users.

“Both 2D explainer videos and whiteboard videos can work for your business. Which is best depends on your industry, your demographic, and your budget,” Kale notes. He adds that these videos can always be used in combination as well. “The most important thing is to take that first step towards video marketing,” Kale counsels. “The goal of both is to make video more engaging, so that the user takes the necessary call to action.” The above advice can help you pick the right style for your audience. If you have not considered a video as part of your 2018 marketing plan, now is the time.

 

 

20 Businesses You Can Start for Less Than $20

Whoever coined the phrase “You have to spend money to make money,” probably had more than $20 in mind. Yet in today’s business landscape, it’s entirely possible to start your own company with a little help from President Andrew Jackson–and succeed!

You can start the following 25 businesses for less than $20. So empty your piggy bank, open your mind, and dive into entrepreneurship without drowning in debt.

1. Pet Sitting

Become a paid pet sitter with an investment of $0 thanks to one of many dog sitting services out there. It’s usually free to join and create a profile. Rover.com and dogvacay.com are popular services. 

2. House Sitting

Most people need a reliable, trustworthy house sitter at one point or another. Start offering your services to stay in peoples’ homes and care for pets, plants, and the property right in your neighborhood.

3. Babysitting

Advertise your childcare services for free on Craigslist, Care.com and other services, then start watching other people’s kids for no investment (other than the gas to get there).

4. Blogging and Promoting It

Set up your own website using a free service like Wix or WordPress and start creating original content for the world to see.

Then, utilize online services that can help you promote your blog through social media and other avenues. ClickBank.com is an example. Once you gain traction, some of these services will even let you use the money you make on commissions to help promote other people.

5. Direct Sales

Trying the direct sales route can cost as low as $10 depending on the company. Avon and Mary Kay are some of the more famous companies in this space. The initial fee usually covers membership, training, marketing tools, and samples. 

6. Selling Used Books

Sell books that are sitting around your house for a profit on one of several online sites like BookScouter.com. Once you start making money, you can buy more expensive used books and sell them for even more. 

7. Cleaning

Clean houses, windows, or cars for less than $20 by purchasing basic cleaning supplies and marketing yourself to friends and family members.

8. Driving for Uber or Lyft

It’s free to sign up to drive for Uber and Lyft. If your vehicle doesn’t meet the required standards, try a rental solution from either of the two.

9. Consulting

If there’s something you know quite a bit about (website design, health and beauty, knitting, etc.) consider becoming a consultant.

This is of course easier said than done and can take a while. You’ll want to obtain any licenses that are necessary, research and choose which customers to target, all the while building your network so you can get to know the right people.

10. Tutoring

Market tutoring skills for free with people you know and online platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Many of the online services even help tutors find tutors themselves so they can expand what they teach.

11. Professional Organizing

Become a professional organizer with help from social media. A locally targeted Facebook ad for example costs $20 or less.

12. Tour Guiding

Offer tour guides by signing up for free with a one of the sites or apps out there. One called Vayable.com will find your tourists for you in exchange for a percentage of what you earn.

13. Tax Preparing

With tax season on the way, this is a promising option. Search “tax preparation no experience” online. Plenty of companies are willing to train you in time for tax season.

14. Flea Market Vending

Have old stuff you want to sell lying around your house? Become a flea market vendor for less than $20 per day.

15. Selling on Etsy or Ebay

It’s free to sign up on Etsy and start selling your handmade goods there. Your products can be virtually anything you make yourself.

Ebay is an enticing option (as is Craigslist, OfferUp, and other such resale sites) if you want to make money selling old stuff lying around your house or resell cheap thrift store finds for a profit.

16. Running Errands

Professional errand running is a popular niche if you have spare time and (preferably) a vehicle. Join TaskRabbit for an immediate customer base.

17. Delivering Food

Become an independently contracted delivery partner with one of many food apps. Some include Caviar, Doordash or Postmates. They allow you to make your own hours, be your own boss, and get paid–all for less than $20. It’s usually free to sign up.

18. Freelance Bartending

Start out with freelance bartending by volunteering to tend bar at charity events to get experience. Work with clients who already have the necessary equipment to keep it cheap.

19. Training Dogs

Try your hand at dog training. You might already have experience with your own pets or take to Google for some excellent tips and tricks. Start with friends and family and expand.

20. Managing Social Media

Many millennials have an advanced understanding of social media platforms. Turn your knowledge into cash by offering social media management services. You might be surprised what local businesses will pay. 

If you want to follow your entrepreneurial spirit but you’re low on cash, don’t give up – use these ideas to get you started without breaking the bank.

You can launch a business for little initial investment and with a bit of luck have it take off. If Amazon.com can start in a garage, so can your next big idea.

     

Simple 5 Step Plan to Improve Your Company and Yourself in 2018

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to better yourself —and your company. And the road to improvement is easier than you think.

As the year goes on, and you start to get bogged down by seemingly endless new projects, it’s easy to sacrifice your long-term betterment for short-term wins for both you and your team.

But not this year.

While you’re still in New Year’s resolution mode, here are five habits to think about as you enter 2018.

Lead by listening.

Office environments where things are questioned and challenged tend to produce better results–sometimes slower results, but better ones nonetheless. A diversity of opinions and viewpoints makes for better products, and the best way to foster that is simple: just listen.

Resist the urge to give snap judgments toward anybody’s input–even if you don’t initially agree. It only takes one quick rejection for an employee to fear that they aren’t being heard.

The best office dynamics are ones where employees don’t just feel compelled to offer opinions, they know that management is listening. And creating that atmosphere isn’t as difficult as you may believe.

Know the weight of your words.

Google’s Eric Schmidt has sound advice for CEOs and other influential executives: Choose your comments wisely.

In a meeting environment, if you comment on each and every topic mentioned, your employees won’t be able to tell what’s most important to you. Likewise, while meeting with your employees, avoid coming to the table with an overload of ideas. If you mention five different objectives, you risk employees taking on too much in an effort to complete them all.

Instead, think of the most important thing–and just say that. Understand that you have an obligation to be clear, and you’ll be rewarded with productivity.

Schedule a lunch with all your employees.

Depending on your company’s size, it may be easy for your employees to feel overlooked by management. To begin the year, take time to ensure that doesn’t happen.

If possible, schedule a lunch meeting with each of your employees. If that’s not feasible, go for groups of five or 10. A little facetime can go a long way, and you might be surprised at the conversations that sprout from a simple lunch.

Each time I visit my company’s office in Russia, I have a sign-up sheet sent to all our employees for a one-hour small group lunch each day.

I request that each person come with three questions and two pieces of feedback for me. These lunches have sparked great ideas and conversation, and also present an opportunity to be transparent about recent management decisions.

While you’re at it, schedule a few meetings with yourself. It may sound crazy, but as I’ve written in the past, scheduling a pair of 90-minute “meetings” every week are a great opportunity to organize and prioritize your goals.

Give yourself permission to value you.

Nine out of 10 people would probably tell you they prioritize their family first. But how many of those are consistently home in time for dinner with their spouse and kids?

This year, get in the habit of disconnecting and leaving the office when your business day is over.

Similarly, dedicate time to your personal health. Start with just one sixty-minute time block each week for a workout, a meditation session or anything that can improve your physical or mental health.

Things like proper nutrition, exercise and getting enough sleep may seem elusive, but granting yourself enough time to satisfy your wellness will pay long-term dividends–both in and out of the office.

Read a new book every month.

There’s one thread that almost all great leaders and executives have in common: They’re all voracious readers.

Growing and diversifying your bookshelf will help you think about innovative approaches and could open your eyes to viewpoints or strategies you hadn’t ever considered.

I’m constantly putting my own twist on ideas I read when applying them to my company, Arkadium. A book that I recently read, called Learn or Die by Ed Hess, gave me some great ideas on how to revamp our learning and development program.

Don’t limit yourself to how-to guides or philosophy reads, either. Elon Musk credits a science-fiction novel as one of the books that helped shape his outlook. Oprah Winfrey calls Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird one of her favorites.

Open 12 new books in 2018, and this year might be your most eye-opening one yet.

Adidas Just Released Smart Sneakers That Go Where No Sneaker Has Gone Before

It’s no surprise that all 500 pairs of the limited edition sneakers flew off the shelves. People lined up days in advance to secure a chance at buying a pair, à la Ikea.

The shoes? Adidas EQT Support 93/Berlin.

The allure? These sneakers have a fabric Berlin transit card stitched into the tongues. It’s valid for an annual pass across the A and B zones on Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Berlin’s public transportation company.

The equivalent annual pass costs about $931. The sneakers — free annual pass included — cost just €180, or $220. If you got your hands on a pair and use Berlin’s trains, buses and trams to get around, these were a steal.

Public transportation riders don’t need to scan their feet to enter the subway or hop on a bus. Berlin has controller who check riders’ validated tickets. If you’re sporting a pair of the Adidas EQT Support 93/Berlins, all you have to do is point to your feet. For your “ticket” to be valid, you must be wearing both shoes.

But now for the bigger question: Why exactly did Adidas make these sneakers? It’s part of a collaboration with BVG. BVG wants to communicate the message that riding public transportation is cool, according to a piece in The Guardian. They’re hoping this move boosts ridership among younger people.

Bitte nicht nachmachen!⠀ ⠀ Der @adidas_de EQT Support 93/BERLIN ist am 16.01. (11 Uhr instore) bei uns erhältlich.⠀ ⠀ www.overkillshop.com⠀ ⠀ @bvg_weilwirdichlieben ⠀ #weilwirdichlieben #adidaseqt #adidasoriginals #adidas #bvg #teamoverkill #overkillshop #overkillshop #teameqt

A post shared by OVERKILL® (@overkillshop) on Jan 15, 2018 at 6:38am PST

The sewn-in BVG transit card is just one design element of these sneakers. They also feature the black, blue and red camouflage pattern from BVG’s train seats. A small yellow heart stitched onto the side represents BVG logo.

The translated tweet reads: “Yes, these are sneakers in the BVG design. Yes, they are valid as an annual ticket. No, you can’t put them on the seat.” (Even though one picture features someone putting their feet on the seat.)

“The motivation behind the collaboration is really to get young people on to public transport,” BVG spokesperson Petra Reetz told The Guardian, “We wanted to tell young people public transport is cool – you don’t need to buy a car.”

The NFL Needs a Massive Rebrand. Here’s the Group That Might Be Able to Spearhead It

With compounding scandals plaguing the NFL and controversy over the handling (or mishandling) coming from fans, players, politicians, and even between the 32 teams and their franchise owners, the league is in desperate need of a rebrand. And the decision over who will be the next owner or owners of the Carolina Panthers could be pivotal in how the NFL repositions itself.

The original owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson is selling his rights to the team after it became public that the Panthers organization made multiple confidential settlements for incidents of sexual misconduct and a racial slur by Richardson.

It’s not just Richardson though. The last five years have been the perfect storm of scandals contributing to indicators of slowing growth in the NFL brand. The newly formed Carolina Keep Pounding, LLC, a diverse ownership group, is shaping up to be the bid that could help the NFL brand pivot to put a bigger emphasis on fan value.

Scandal Effect Indicators On Brand Value

The NFL is the most popular sports league, reportedly earning over $14 billion in the 2016-17 season. It’s not new to dealing with potential brand (and revenue) damaging scandals. But the long-term effect of compounding scandals potentially impacting the bottom line should be the most troubling for brand NFL:

  • Drop in TV Ratings – Ratings and viewership has been trending down due to a slow adoption of new media arrangements and controversial sponsorship with DraftKings and FanDuel that has fallen flat with many fans.
  • Empty Seats – The divisive scandal involving kneeling during the National Anthem is reported to have been impacting ticket sales with many fans streaming videos of low attendance and empty stadiums.
  • Decreased Interscholastic Football Participation – The pervasive concussion problem has resulted in lower enrollment of kids playing football. According to the California Interscholastic Federation, football participation decreased by 3.12 percent this year and is down 10 percent this decade.
  • 20 Percent Dip In Product Sales – The National Anthem and sex scandals have been noted by licensees as contributing to the problem of declining merchandising revenue. If you follow my column you know how frequently I cite the statistic that 85% of retail sales is controlled by women. NFL merchandising is no different and the effect is being seen at the cash register with a reported 20 percent dip in NFL merchandise, the largest decline in a decade. Note: The Washington Redskins name controversy alone, led to a year-over-year drop of 43.8 percent.

Carolina #KeepPounding In Charlotte

So who’s behind Carolina Keep Pounding? It’s a coalition of seasoned and multicultural entrepreneurs, investors, Hall of Famers, political figures and philanthropists aiming to acquire the Panthers and keep the team in Charlotte. The group is led by Charlotte-bred entrepreneur Arthur Wylie, whose team of advisors includes civil rights pioneer and Washington Post proclaimed power broker Bob Brown, and his firm BC International’s senior partners, Osyris Uqoezwa and Larry Yon. BC is the oldest and most respected minority-owned global strategy firms.

In addition to Wylie, Brown, and Uqoezwa, the Carolina Keep Pounding team also includes: former Carolina Panthers; John Mazzarino, founder of the $2 billion fund Cherokee Investment Partners; Michael Rollins who runs Jamaica’s Rose Hall Estates and is a member of the Rollins family, the commercial services company behind Orkin Pest Control; and Dale Godboldo philanthropic investor and actor (“The People v. OJ Simpson”). The group is already gaining support from local and state government officials for the city of Charlotte and the Carolinas. Discussions are underway with other high-profile investment partners in efforts to build a well-resourced, diverse team.

Do They Have What It Takes?

If this group is committed to developing everything they need to be a strong franchise partner and direct the Carolina brand, then they need the right skills for brand value zone coverage. Every good brand needs to have these four critical factors to build sustainable growth value:

  1. Media Business Skills: In this case, being business savvy means media and merchandising more than it does sports. The members of the Carolina Keep Pounding team have depth in many diverse areas of media and sports business strategy, investment and tactics making them a fit to steer a brand franchise.
  2. Fan First Focus: According to the Carolina Panthers Twitter page, “The fan is the most valuable member of our team.” Understanding who Panther fans are and why they love the team is essential to building fan trust – the real key to brand growth. 
  3. Integrity Heart: This goes deeper than supporting local charities, having a youth program and wearing camouflage on Veteran’s Day. This is a commitment to the responsibility as role models and people of integrity. Doing what has heart has always been a better bottom-line strategy.
  4. Diversity: Again this goes deep…deeper than skin color. This is about diversity in perspective, age, political leanings, cultural experience, gender, and economic background. Retail brands that have homogeneous management have weak products and even weaker fan loyalty. 

This Carolina Keep Pounding team seems to cover the field with cultural and age diversity, heart, media experience, and passion as fans and as locals. But the question remains as to whether or not they fit the brand plans and re-brand efforts by the NFL and its ownership. There is a tremendous amount of NFL franchise brand value riding on the decision of who will be awarded this elite investment opportunity. It is not just about who can write the biggest check.