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4 Entrepreneurial Skills We Should Be Teaching in Schools

4 Entrepreneurial Skills We Should Be Teaching in Schools

“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” is the most memorable line from the 2004 movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. In the film, a kid fails to dodge the heavy steel projectile and gets nailed in the face; he falls to the floor writhing in pain.

For me, this is the perfect metaphor for the American educational system, with the wrench being the future students aren’t prepared for.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can teach that kid, the ill-prepared student roaming the halls of the school in Everywhere, USA, to anticipate and learn to play — to succeed. We can teach him to build platforms, create confidence, recognize patterns and win by failing. We can teach him entrepreneurship.

Building platforms.

Beyond skills, the ability to think critically and creatively is what often separates the most successful from the average. They are learned platforms an individual can leverage to deliver value and outperform the competition. Blogs, vlogs and podcasts, on the other hand, are examples of platforms entrepreneurs use to reach potential customers. The idea is to combine the two types of platforms to influence the marketplace and make profit.

Schools already teach content creation, but it’s often outside of the realm of useful — kids do it for a grade and little else. What if we replaced English essays with compelling blog posts? Argumentative writing supported with evidence is already taught in high school English and could be applied to a blog. With teachers no longer being the sole audience, the effectiveness of the student’s arguments could be judged by metrics such as engagement numbers, reader or viewer or listener comments, and eventually product/service purchases.

Personal branding.

Kids know what they like but don’t always know what they stand for. They are influenced by peers and media. Marketers have developed a set of strategies to sway their opinions. Psychologist Marc Andrews describes advertising techniques such as using attractiveness, humor, scarcity, fear, social proof, sex and subliminals in his book Hidden Persuasion: 33 Psychological Influences Techniques in Advertising — all designed to influence and close the deal.

But, if a teen spends time branding herself, which involves reflecting on personal values and identifying who she truly is, she can become more self-aware and use this awareness to influence the world in positive ways. Then, she can create stories and products or services that are valuable, not superficial, because they are things she is passionate about and wants to share with the world.

Personal branding has other benefits, too. It builds confidence. It allows individuals to introduce themselves to the world and create a positive digital footprint, which is becoming essential in pursuing business and employment opportunities. Additionally, creating a personal brand differentiates one from the crowd and allows her to showcase skills and expertise.

Creating products or services.

While startup failure statistics vary greatly depending on the criteria used to define failure, a CB Insights survey of 101 failed startups found the top reason for failure was creating products consumers did not want, with 42 percent of the companies naming this as one of the reasons. Product “pricing/cost issues” and “user-unfriendly product” were near the top as well.

Renowned physicist and futurist Michio Kaku explained on The James Altucher Show that robots are “really bad at pattern recognition,” a skill that is strictly human. For now. Armed with the knowledge artificial intelligence will stink at it for decades, we can teach pattern recognition in school. And while some of it is intuitive, a 2012 study concluded that expertise in a domain greatly improves intuition. The researchers also found individuals can be trained to recognize patterns when given a set of thoughtful criteria to use.

Thus, we can teach students to develop approaches they can use to create products and services people actually need. One such strategy is design thinking — a human-centered design model developed by the Stanford d.school — currently gaining popularity in K-12 education.

Smart failure.

Experts say the willingness to start over from scratch is one of the key traits of successful entrepreneurs. This involves skills but also mindset — the willingness to change products, adjust the marketing approach, shift industries or rebrand.

And this is an area in which American schools lack. While growth mindset has become part of educational jargon and is encouraged, many of the encouragers — school teachers and administrators — do not practice it. Failure is often final, as evidenced by the emphasis on test scores and grades. It is still uncommon for high school teachers to allow students multiple ways and opportunities to prove concept mastery. While NECAP has nothing to do with fixing torn menisci, STAR will not make your child popular among his peers and PAWS is not the title of the latest episode of Paw Patrol, every U.S. state participates in standardized testing, and a multimillion-dollar industry exists to get parents and students “ahead.”

George Couros, a well-known educator and author, writes about the need for educational leaders to “make it clear that failure is an option” and teaching students that reflecting on failure and learning from it leads to “true growth” in his bestseller The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. As a successful entrepreneur himself, Couros recognizes that status quo education is lacking in its preparation of kids for the world of now.

Perhaps this excerpt from The Innovator’s Mindset says it best: “If we are going to help our students thrive, we have to move past ‘the way we have always done it,’ and create better learning experiences for our students than we had ourselves. This does not mean replacing everything we do, but we must be willing to look with fresh eyes at what we do and ask, ‘Is there a better way?'”

Teaching entrepreneurship in schools is one way. It will help students gain transferable skills they can use to play the career game well, no matter what the future throws at them. Undertaking the entrepreneurial journey early on will prepare them for this game. They’ll still get hit by a ball here and there. But, they will always dodge the wrench.

 

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com by Oskar Cymerman

Choose Your Mentors Wisely: 3 Traits to Look for in a Great Mentor

Choose Your Mentors Wisely: 3 Traits to Look for in a Great Mentor

As an entrepreneur, you will consistently encounter new obstacles, both large and small. How you deal with them will either derail you from your path or push you forward. Mentors are invaluable assets to help you navigate those trials. They are the ones who have already earned their championship rings and can coach you to achieve your true potential. In fact, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years. That is double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.

The lessons my own mentors taught me and the wisdom they imparted are large parts of why I have been able to accomplish what I have so far.

Many people ask what makes a good mentor. The answer to that is going to change slightly from person to person and business to business. However, I feel there are three different themes of mentorship that apply universally. I would recommend seeking out at least one of these traits when looking for a good mentor:

A visionary mindset

One of my first mentors was the person who gave me my introduction into the fashion retail industry. He taught me the ins and outs of that world, and being associated with him gave me credibility working in that space.

Beyond that, one significant lesson he taught me was to always look to the future and get ahead of where technology is going. Although he was a fashion executive, he was also a CTO with a keen eye on how the internet was set to disrupt the world. Hard to believe now, but there was a time when many thought the internet was nothing more than a passing fad.

Find a mentor who can help you see past what’s directly in front of you and look to the larger picture of the evolving world — someone who always seems a few steps ahead of the game.

A distinct management philosophy

Another mentor of mine, a former Harvard business school professor who went on to build a multibillion-dollar publically traded company, showed me the absolute importance of finding the right management strategy for your business. Headquartered in Hong Kong, my mentor developed a breakthrough management system and showed me how a company could be run with a Western management style and an Eastern value system. This “three-year planning” process requires a complete overhaul of the business every three years — as if you are starting the company from scratch — along with one massive stretch goal that seems impossible to meet. I incorporate these management techniques along with many others I learned from him in how I run LegalZoom today.

Find a mentor that is a master in management — someone who can help you develop the management strategies and hone the specific types of management skills that will work for the business you are trying to build.

A perspective to push you

Over the years, one of my mentors has given me life lessons ranging from marriage advice to exit strategies. He was my first VC, and in many ways is like an older brother. Many years ago we had an investment that was doing very well; after three years it was profitable and had considerable revenue. He wanted to move on. He told me that it was a good investment, but it was like hitting a single. I could spend the next three years hitting singles with this, or within that timeframe, I could cut my investment and start a whole new company that would hit one out of the park. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of exiting a profitable business at first, but he showed me how to reach farther than I thought I could. He taught me that the enemy of incredible is good.

Find a mentor who never lets you settle — someone who will show you different perspectives that challenge what you think you know and who pushes you past your comfort zone.

The quality of a mentor is important. Research by Endeavor Insightshowed that 33 percent of companies where a founder is mentored by a successful entrepreneur went on to become a top-performing company. Having a good mentor can be helpful. Having a great mentor can change your life.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by John Suh

5 Tips for Starting a Successful Business

5 Tips for Starting a Successful Business

When you start your own business, you’re certain to hear a lot of different advice. Most of it will come from people who don’t know the first thing about running a successful company. Turn to the internet, and you’ll be overwhelmed by a multitude of articles and lengthy lists on the subject. Don’t make the mistake of overthinking and overanalyzing it all. A few simple steps now can start your business down the path toward success. Here, we outline the five basic tips we’ve followed to help us run our company.

1. Begin with a detailed plan.

This one is a must: Develop an in-depth plan that fully details how you’ll attack the challenge ahead. Your plan should define any opportunities you’ve identified, clearly state your mission, describe your target, establish measurable goals, and set deadlines for each milestone along the way. Remember that while it’s important to have a plan, it’s equally vital to be flexible enough to pivot when needed.

2. Get out there and network.

Our business would not be where it is today without all the professional networking we did when we first started. We continue to emphasize networking today. Until you’ve established your business, you’ll need to create your own word-of-mouth. Be your own brand ambassador, touting the benefits of working with your business and showing why people should give you a chance.

Start your own momentum. A wealth of events, trade shows, and networking groups exist to connect you with other professionals. These initial connections can lead to future business prospects, mentors, and strategic partners with the capacity to help grow your business.

3. Surround yourself with the right people.

The right mentors and strategic partners aren’t the only people with whom you’ll need to align. Surrounding yourself with a great team is equally important. Build your staff with smart, talented, and driven employees who share your vision. They can not only transform your business but also accelerate its growth. Hiring positive, can-do employees helps create a culture that encourages teamwork. Foster an environment in which everyone participates, so you can collectively celebrate your company’s successes.

4. Stay ahead of the curve.

You can’t afford to be rooted in the present and solely focused on the day-to-day. It’s crucial to keep one eye focused on the future, including upcoming movement in your industry. If you aren’t anticipating the next big thing, you’re destined to fall behind. Successful business owners study trends and anticipate what’s coming around the bend. This allows them to nimbly adapt and evolve.

Stay current on emerging issues in your field by faithfully reading trade magazines and websites. Keeping pace as your industry changes assures you’ll have your finger on the pulse to predict what customers will want — and which direction your competition might move.

5. Find a healthy work-life balance.

Running a successful business requires an inordinate amount of time and energy. It’s paramount to find a healthy work-life balance, even though it can be a challenge to do so. It’s easy to let work dominate your life. Don’t. It could result in your losing touch with those whom you consider most important. It’s also crucial to take care of your own health and well-being. Your business can’t run without you. You might believe you need that perpetual hustle to stay sharp and succeed. But that pace can and will burn you out, ultimately limiting how much you can achieve if you don’t take time for yourself.

Find ways to maintain perspective and preserve healthy relationships outside of work. Set aside time to get your body active in ways that energize and invigorate you, and schedule catch-up time with friends and family. They’ll help recharge your batteries and inspire you to persevere as you dream even bigger.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Stephanie Abrams Cartin

Become a Fantastic Listener With These 9 Techniques

Become a Fantastic Listener With These 9 Techniques

Not long ago I was reflecting on a conversation that I had with my spouse. I thought that I had not been a very good listener in a conversation that we had about an hour earlier. Knowing that she was in the next room, I called out to her, “Stephanie, I was thinking about that conversation we just had, and I was thinking I need to apologize for not listening or giving you my full attention when you were talking. Will you forgive me?” She responded, “For which time?”

I thought I had blown it, but I had no idea of how bad of a listener I had been. That is the problem. Most of us think that we are average-to-good listeners. Unfortunately, that is the status we all occupy in our own mind.

Most of the time, what gets in the way of being an effective listener is our thoughts. We have this little voice in our head that is constantly judging, evaluating, criticizing, analyzing and editorializing everything that we hear. When I did research among a number of managers and asked them why they didn’t listen, they gave the following explanations for not listening:

“Sometimes I listen to see if I agree or not.”

“I usually am thinking about what I should say in response.”

“I listen to understand if what the person is saying will have a negative impact on me.”

“I don’t listen to some people, because I already know what they are going to say.”

“I know I don’t listen, because I am thinking more about what I am thinking than to what the person is saying.”

Notice in all of these responses, the individual is preoccupied with his or her thoughts. When this happens, they are obviously not listening nor capturing the sum total of the messages that are being sent.

Here are some easy-to-use strategies that will help you become a fantastic listener.

1. Recognize and suspend your thinking.

If your thinking is a distraction, then you must learn to manage the voice in your head. Recognize that the little voice is competing for airtime — and set it aside. If you can’t do it, it would be better to excuse yourself from the conversation and reschedule when you can give your full attention. Listening and attending to others is not something that you can fake until you make it. People know when you are not present.

2. Don’t assume anything.

If you find yourself making negative judgments about what the other person is saying, shift to asking questions that will confirm or disconfirm your thinking. For example, you might ask, “What data led you to that assumption?” or, “Help me understand how you came to your opinion.” Asking good questions will add depth to your understanding and a richness of learning about the individual. This won’t happen if you make assumptions and never ask a question. Ask yourself, “What will I miss if I don’t ask?”

3. Eliminate distractions.

We are so preoccupied with the use of electronic gadgets today. It is a wonder that anyone can give their full attention to another individual. Close your laptop, silence your phone and put them outside your reach. Giving your attention to a person and then allowing your electronic devices to interrupt the conversation is highly disrespectful. You wouldn’t want to be interrupted by someone answering his or her email or an incoming text in the middle of a conversation that you wanted to hold. Do people the service of giving them your full attention.

4. Demonstrate good body language.

Use clusters of nonverbal behaviors to show interest in what people are saying. For example, mirror the eye contact that is being given to you by the person who is speaking. Lean slightly toward the person to show interest. Use your hands in a gesture of making an offer when sharing an idea, or gesture with your fingers that you want to hear more.

Sit on the same level as the person to whom you are speaking. Turn your body to face the person and allow for ample spacing so that they will feel comfortable. Using your body to demonstrate interest in what the other person is saying will put the other person at ease and communicate that what they have to share is important to you.

5. Clarify your understanding.

At any time during the conversation, don’t hesitate to summarize what you believe you have heard. Doing so demonstrates that you are trying to understand the individual. Don’t worry if the person tells you that you have not entirely understood what they were saying. They will correct any misinterpretations that you may have made. What is important is that you demonstrate your understanding while checking the clarity of your understanding.

6. Listen more than you speak.

We were given two ears and one mouth. We ought to listen twice as much as we speak. As you listen, don’t steal the other person’s talking turn. Stealing a turn occurs when you grab the focus of the conversation away from the speaker, and then share your experiences or stories to compliment the message of the speaker.

People with different conversation styles may do this as a way of establishing common ground. But such behavior is unusually looked upon as disrespect. If you are not asking questions to deepen the conversation or to clarify your understanding by summarizing, then you are probably talking too much. Additionally, those who are more assertive frequently cut people off or finish their sentences. Such behavior is also not acceptable.

7. Be patient.

Learning to listen and give your full attention to another person is not easy — even for a practiced listener. Learning to give your full attention to someone over a longer period of time if you are preoccupied with all the things that fill up your agenda requires patience and focus.

Before you listen to another, you would do well to assess the amount of time you can give to listen to an individual. If you realize that you may not have the time because of other concerns, then schedule a time when you will have the time. For example, you might say, “This is a really important conversation, and I would like to talk about it more.” “Unfortunately, I have another meeting scheduled in a few minutes.” “Would it be alright if we picked up the conversation when I return?”

You need to take responsibility to manage your listening more effectively.

8. Ask for meaning.

One of strategies that will help you become a more effective listener is to realize that there is meaning behind the feelings, words and actions that people express or display. If you are in doubt about the meaning of a person’s message, then ask for the meaning. For example, if you observed that someone seems to become defensive, you might say, “I am noticing that you are beginning to become upset. Tell me why.” Or if someone said something that you didn’t understand, you might offer, “After the meeting I heard you say, ‘Oh great! Now what are we supposed to do?!’ Can you tell me what you mean by that?”

What is important is for you to observe what people are feeling, saying and doing, and then try to gain further understanding about what all of that means. Notice that this skill really requires that you give your full attention to the person and notice what messages they are displaying. The challenge is uncovering the meaning hidden behind the message.

9. Apologize when in doubt.

It is not difficult to become unconsciously conscious in a moment and quit listening and attending. If someone calls you on your behavior, admit your distraction, apologize — and reengage. Offering a heart-felt apology will go a long way to building your relationships and establishing your sincerity.

Becoming a fantastic listener requires skill and practice. It also requires a degree of awareness on your part of where and with whom you need to improve your listening ability. We don’t intentionally go out of our way not to listen to people. We must realize that becoming an exceptional listener requires a conscious and deliberate effort to understand and connect with others.

After all, everyone wants to know that they are heard and understood.

 

Originally posted on entrepreneur.com by John Stoker

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