Want to Be a (More) Successful Entrepreneur? 5 Top Tips from NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg

“The most powerful word in the English language is “Why.” There is nothing so powerful as an open, inquiring mind. Whatever field you choose for starting a business – be a lifelong student.” – Michael Bloomberg, 3-term mayor of New York City

Entrepreneur Mike Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg

In this piece from LinkedIn.com, Bloomberg shares 5 dynamite tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur, based on his own unique experience of building a company from the ground up, leading New York City as mayor, and founding a philanthropic organization. Get them here, from LinkedIn.com.

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Greater IBM, we know there are lots of successful entrepreneurs in this group. What tips would you share?

- Posted by Regan Kelly

Top Leadership Lessons from 2012

leadershipIt’s been quite a year for leadership lessons.  Any number of the major world events for 2012 could serve as a showcase for how to, or not to, be a great leader…..the London Olympics, Hurricane Sandy, Facebook IPO, Rover Curiosity lands on Mars.  Great leadership seems to grow from great vision, but basics like having a plan and respecting the competition are also key.  Here is a round-up of some of the top leadership lessons from 2012.

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–Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

What Defines an Entrepreneur? – Thoughts from Billionaire Businessman Richard Branson

What is your definition of entrepreneur?

Speaking at an entrepreneur event in Egypt earlier this week with President Carter, he mentioned how President George W Bush had reportedly said “the French don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

A quick Google will tell you that the word entrepreneur is a loanword from the French verb “entreprende”, which means “to undertake”. That sounds quite fitting, as entrepreneurs are always undertaking new challenges and coming up with new ideas.

Joseph Schumpeter’s definition is pretty good. “Entrepreneurs are innovators who use a process of shattering the status quo of the existing products and services, to set up new products, new services.” Peter Drucker was onto something too when he made the following definition in 1964: ” An entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities. Innovation is a specific tool of an entrepreneur hence an effective entrepreneur converts a source into a resource.”

But to me, being an entrepreneur simply means being someone who wants to make a difference to other people’s lives.

When making a start in business with Student Magazine, I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was. All that interested me was starting a publication to protest against the Vietnam War – and having some fun along the way. If that meant becoming an entrepreneur, then that was fine too.

Over the years the nature of entrepreneurship has changed as new businesses have developed and the world has evolved. New innovative businesspeople will keep coming along and changing the game all over again. Here at Virgin, we intend to keep changing the game for good too.

So – what does being an entrepreneur mean to you? Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

5 Top Tips to Starting a Successful Business, by Richard Branson

Wildly successful businessman started writing for LinkedIn.com this year. In his debut post, he shares his insights on how to start a successful business. An entrepreneur and thought leader you can always learn from – get the five top tips he’s “picked up over the years” right here.

Business magnate/billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the 400+ company Virgin Group

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What would you add to this list?

3 Strategies to Dominate a Still-Scary Economy

Here’s how smart companies are facing the doomsayers with great ideas and fearless moves

By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large, FORTUNE

Gloom has become a menace. The drumbeat of distressing news — Europe, the fiscal cliff, China — is enough to rob anyone of hope. It’s a nasty, insidious force that’s undermining the native optimism that buoys up businesspeople everywhere.

Resist! The reality is that even in today’s uncertain economy, some companies are winning big. Growth and success are always possible if we adapt to the times. Three strategies are helping smart companies dominate.

They manage for value — not for EPS, Ebitda, gross margin, revenue, cash, or anything else. That sounds obvious, but in difficult times, managers get seduced into value-destroying moves. For example, accounting rules say that R&D and marketing are expenses, so if you cut them — and they’re easy to cut — reported profit jumps. Who doesn’t want higher profits now? But in reality those costs are investments that pay off for years, so cutting them destroys value.

A company that understands that is Qualcomm (QCOM), maker of the chips that power mobile phones. In the recession its profits fell in 2008, then fell sharply in 2009 — yet the company increased R&D, sometimes substantially, every year through the downturn and beyond. The complaint that mindlessly short-term-obsessed investors punish such behavior just isn’t valid; Qualcomm’s stock has been surging for more than three years.

Other companies manage for value in other ways. Intel (INTC) launched billions of dollars in new plant construction when its industry was on life support and credit markets were traumatized. Coca-Cola (KO) never let up on brand building. Those companies are thriving.

They keep developing human capital. Every company claims that “people are our most important asset,” but few mean it. In tough times most companies slack off on leadership development. Training costs money, and moving high-potential managers into developmental assignments feels like a luxury that can wait for better times. But the best-performing companies know that human capital truly is a business’s most valuable asset, the scarcest resource, no matter what kind of business it is. Look at highflying IBM (IBM), No. 1 in our latest ranking of the world’s top companies for leadership development. It hasn’t even considered cutting back its Corporate Service Corps, which sends teams of promising employees around the world to work with local organizations on local problems. Former CEO Sam Palmisano liked to observe that calling IBM a hardware or software or services company was wrong in each case. “We’re a people company,” he said. Or consider General Mills (GIS), prospering in the fiercely competitive food industry. Its famously demanding leadership culture hasn’t wavered, and the company ranks No. 21 on Glassdoor.com’s new list of the 25 companies where it’s hardest to get hired.

They get radically customer-centric. Most companies don’t even know what that means. They have no idea how much money they make or lose with each customer, and they don’t craft genuinely different offers for different customers or customer segments based on those customers’ needs. But top-performing companies do.

Amazon (AMZN) is the reigning champ, achieving its long-declared goal of being “Earth’s most customer-centric company”; the stock just keeps climbing. In a much different industry, Wells Fargo (WFC) has become America’s most valuable bank, with a customer-centric strategy since 2003. Wharton professor Peter Fader notes that “the average Wells Fargo household has over five different bank products, roughly twice the industry average.”

These three strategies are a bit contrarian in today’s world. Following them demands courage. Fear not. They work. Be brave, adopt them with enthusiasm, march confidently into the gloom, and smile.

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Have a trick you want to share? Let us know.

Contemplating a Major Career Change? 4 Things to Consider

In a job market as volatile as today’s, it’s more important than ever to do your homework. Read how banker Kelly Lynch prepared for, and then made, her life-altering move.
by Lydia Dishman, Fast Company
Author Lydia Dishman

Author Lydia Dishman

Kelly Lynch spent 15 years of her career in equity trading and then private wealth management. When the economy tanked in 2008, Lynch was one of the few in the banking industry who still had a job. That didn’t stop her from worrying. “I started to lose interest [in finance] years ago and had always dreamed of working in sports,” she tells Fast Company. While she grappled with leaving when so many others were unemployed, Lynch admits,

“I worried I was letting a more fulfilling career pass me by.”

For a while she tried to break into the business while still holding down her day job. “Working full time left little energy toward making a real change,” she explains. So early last year she gave her boss 3 months’ notice, then left to focus on getting a job in sports; today, she is assistant athletics business manager at University of California, Berkeley.

Lynch is one of thousands of U.S. workers who’s contemplated a career shift, even in the wake of a wobbly economy. A study conducted during the depths of the recession found that 43 percent of workers said they’d take less pay for more meaningful work according to The Kelly Global Workforce Index. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds people taking the plunge in droves. The median number of years a person is with an employer is just over four.

This trend towards shorter job tenures goes hand-in-hand with volatile times that demand regular adaptation to risk to succeed at reinvention. While some members of Generation Flux make it seem easy to be fearless (hello danah boyd), the more cautious-minded find change a scary prospect. Especially with bills to pay, mouths to feed (your own counts!) and finite funds.

So Fast Company talked to the folks who navigated the turbulent waters (or helped others do it) and emerged on the shores of fulfillment. Here is their best advice.

Risk and Reward: Shift to a Startup

Joanne Wilson, the angel investor known to many as simply Gotham Gal, has mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years. Her best advice before making the leap: “Park your tush at General Assembly (or an incubator/co-working space close to you) and start meeting other entrepreneurs.” Wilson maintains that those smitten by the idea of starting a business can get a better read of the landscape and the marketability of their idea by attending pitch events and making connections with other entrepreneurs.

Those conversations could lead to collaborative efforts with founders of other startups, which Wilson says is key to understanding whether you are really cut out for helming an early stage venture. Building a company is “a drudge,” she reminds entrepreneurial hopefuls. “If something sparks then you can jump ship and eat ramen until you’re profitable.”

Nothing But Net(working): Shifting to a Dream Job

Lynch found both professional and collegiate sports to be a very small, competitive industry filled with folks who had advanced sports management degrees, strong alumni networks and years of experience. So Lynch sat herself down and made lists of her transferrable skills and noted what she could add by taking classes. Her financial services background could potentially land her in an operational role but she took accounting at a local community college just to refresh her resume.

Meanwhile, she networked through “a handful of friends who knew somebody somewhere.” Informational interviews and meetings followed and eventually landed her the Berkeley position. “I couldn’t have done this without taking a different perspective on the power of networking, and doing networking the right way,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask your work contacts or friends to put you touch with someone who’s in a field that interests you.”

Social Responsibility: Shift to the Nonprofit Sector

Not long ago, Nancy Lublin of DoSomething.org wrote a manifesto for people using the recession as an excuse to break into the business of changing the world. “News flash: We’re not a bunch of dummies in Birkenstocks,” wrote Lublin, who proceeded to give readers a dressing down about every misconception from corporate experience (“When was the last time you built a brand with a budget of zero?”) to perks (“Not-for-profit people work crazy hours too–without the promise of overtime pay or the possibility of a car service to take us home at 10 p.m. when we finally turn the lights off. FYI: We turn those lights off by ourselves.”)

Alice Korngold, who’s been consulting, training, and placing executives on nonprofit boards for decades offers a few words of wisdom. “Consider skills-based volunteering, and nonprofit board service,” as well as reading relevant books that connect corporate and nonprofit organizations.

Sharpen Your Pencil: Shift to Graduate School

Andria Krewson left the Charlotte Observer in 2009 after a 24-year tenure. At the time, Krewson observed journalism going through a “sea change” so she signed up for a certificate through the University of North Carolina’s journalism school. After trying her hand at freelancing and landing a gig as a political correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review, Krewson still felt she wanted to earn her graduate degree–online.

“As rigorous as an on-campus program but designed for working professionals, [UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication] launched in August 2011 and I leaped at a program that offered the ability to keep working while getting a master’s,” she says.

While the media industry continued to shrink, Krewson kept building freelance work in line with her studies. “I had two good clients and increasing confidence because of classwork and supportive fellow students reinventing for the digital world,” she says.

Krewson cautions, “Lots of online programs exist now, and not all programs match the rigor of ‘real’ school.” As for making the investment, Krewson adds, “In the worst case scenario, I’ll aim to put off grad-school loans until I retire,” which she admits may be a long time coming. “Knowing that also made the investment in more education important,” she adds.

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Are you contemplating a big career change? Tell us how you’re preparing.

Running Your Own Business? Take a Vacation Anyway

- from Forbes

As a business owner, it can be really tempting to work all day, every day. Forget about weekends or vacations—it’s up to you to keep your business running 24/7, to continually improve, and to expand your reach to new customers. Attending to your growing business can make it difficult to walk away, even for a short summer vacation.

Beach vacation hammock

Think you can’t take a vacation? Think again.

Sure, you can probably get more done when you do everything yourself, but taking a break can be restorative. Nervous about how things are running while you’re away? Use these dynamite ideas and quit worrying.

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How do YOU handle vacation time away from work? Share your best tips!