When business as usual isn’t cutting it, you might consider turning your company’s strategy on its head. Or, perhaps, find someone else who can help you do it.
That’s the premise of Moneyball, a film based on the 2003 Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game about the Oakland Athletics baseball team. After several seasons of painful losses, the team’s general manager, Billy Beane, adopted a radical, statistics-driven approach to building a competitive baseball team under an ownership that underinvested in the franchise.
The film made its U.S. premiere this weekend.
As Major League Baseball nears the end of its regular season and starts looking to the playoffs, here are three business lessons small-business owners can learn from the true story behind the film:
1. Make change when it’s needed
After a painful loss in the 2001 playoffs and then losing three top players to larger-market teams which were ponying up millions of dollars to acquire the best players, Beane — played in the film by Brad Pitt — decides that drastic changes need to be made. He turns to a young Yale economics graduate who believed players should be valued by their on-base percentage (how often a batter reaches base) rather than the traditional method of relying on scouts’ experience and intuition.
Not only did this new way of doing business enable the A’s to acquire run-producing players, it allowed them to do so at a lower cost because those players were largely undervalued by other ball clubs. “We are card counters at the blackjack table and we’re going to turn the tables on the casino,” Beane says in the film.
2. Stand by your decisions
Beane’s unconventional methodology was ridiculed by baseball critics. It also wasn’t greeted warmly within the A’s organization, with player manager Art Howe and several coaches among his early detractors. But Beane didn’t budge. He fired at least one top scout who refused to adopt the team’s new recruiting plan.
Beane also worked to get the rest of the team and staff on board. He explained the process and spent weeks teaching and encouraging players to perform to or beyond expectations.
3. Set realistic goals
Even though winning the World Series championship would have been an amazing accomplishment for the A’s, Beane says in the film his main priority was to demonstrate the value of the team’s new methods, to “change the game.”
In the 2002 season, the A’s reached the playoffs but lost in the first round to the Minnesota Twins. However, the team set an American League record for winning 20 consecutive games during the regular season.
Two years later — following the A’s statistics-driven approach to player acquisition — the Boston Red Sox won its first World Series championship in 86 years. The team won the title again in 2007.
So far, Beane and the A’s are still hunting for a championship season.
This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Jason Fell. Although its an end-of-September post from 2011, the lessons are still very relevant today – especially as I sit back and watch the Cleveland Indians break this American League record.
Mentors. They’ve been there, done that and have seen it all. Yet, a woeful number of entrepreneurs start their careers without one. In an age where instant gratification is glorified, it’s unsurprising that many entrepreneurs and young founders do not seek out a mentor as hard as they try to find a co-founder.
While arguments abound on why entrepreneurs do not need mentors but should only follow their own instincts and gut feelings, most successful tech titans have founders who had mentors. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs. Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula — an early investor and executive at Apple. And Eric Schmidt mentored Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.
Like most startup founders, I didn’t start with a mentor. I got into the industry and had to look up to someone who is well known in the field. This is not as effective as working hard to get a mentor to guide you while you run your business — but it’s better than nothing. Having been in business for more than seven years, I’ve realized the importance of having a business mentor.
Here are seven reasons having a mentor is important.
1. Gain experience not shared in books.
Experience is a very expensive asset — yet it’s crucial to business success. There’s only so much about a person’s experience you can gain from books. It’s an unstated truth that most authors do not feel comfortable revealing everything about themselves in books. Some personal experiences may be too intimate to be shared, yet how they dealt with it can help an inexperienced entrepreneur’s career.
Mentorship is one guaranteed way to gain experience from others.
2. You’re more likely to succeed with a mentor.
Research and surveys prove that having a mentor is important to success. In a 2013 executive coaching survey, 80 percent of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. In another research by Sage, 93 percent of startups admit that mentorship is instrumental to success.
Your chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentor. The valuable connections, timely advice, occasional checks — together with the spiritual and moral guidance you will gain from having a mentor — will literarily leapfrog you to success.
3. Network opportunities.
Aside the fact that investors trust startups who are recommended by their friends, a successful mentor has an unlimited network of people who can benefit your career. Since they are already invested in your success, it only makes sense for them to let you tap into their network of people when the need arises.
This is an opportunity you cannot tap into if you do not have a mentor.
4. A mentor gives you reassurance.
It has been proven by research that a quality mentorship has a powerful positive effect on young entrepreneurs. Having someone who practically guides you and shares your worries with you — often placating your fears with their years of experience — keeps you reassured that you’ll be successful.
Self-confidence is very important to success as entrepreneurs. A 2014 Telegraph report revealed that having a high self-confidence contributes significantly to career success — more so than talent and competence. Mentors have the capacity to help young founders tap into their self-confidence and see every challenge as an opportunity.
5. A mentor will help you stay in business longer.
When you imagine the number of businesses that fail, you’d wish a lot of business owners had mentors. According to SBA, 30 percent of new businesses may not survive past the first 24 months, and 50 percent of those may not make it past five years. However, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive longer than 5 years.
6. A mentor will help you develop stronger EQ.
Does maturity bring about a higher EQ in entrepreneurs? Emotional intelligence is crucial to entrepreneurial success. When a young entrepreneur has a more mature and successful mentor who advises them, they are likely to have greater control over their emotions.
We all know that a quick way to make a business fail is to mix it with emotions or make crucial decisions based on emotional feelings. Situations like this can be curbed as mentors will help show you how to react in given instances.
A story on Business Insider reveals how Schmidt worked with then inexperienced Page to manage the affairs of running a fledgling startup. An inexperienced CEO often makes decisions based on emotions, but one with a mentor like Schmidt is able to overcome critical hurdles by making smart decisive judgments.
Enduring the consequences of failure on your own can set you back and impact your productivity. In hard times, having a mentor will help you keep your head high. Young entrepreneurs often deal with depression when they are unable to meet their goals and expectations. The impact of depression on entrepreneurs is often underreported. But entrepreneurs without mentors bear the brunt the most.
A mentor who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business is in the perfect position to give positive and soothing words of advice to you when things refuse to go your way. And not only do they have the right words to share, they would also have ideas to help you navigate your way to success.
Originally posted on entrepreneur.com by Sheila Eugenio
Nowadays, many think of the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., which falls on the first Monday in September, as a day for cookouts or shopping deals. But its origins date back to two gatherings of another, more politically motivated sort.
One was a “monster labor festival” featuring of a parade of unions and accompanying picnic, which took place on Sept. 5, 1882, in a New York City park. That gathering is thought to have attracted as many as 10,000 marchers, according to Linda Stinson, a former Department of Labor historian. They listened to speeches in support of workers’ rights, and — in lighthearted activities more in the spirit of what goes on today — people drank beer, danced and set off fireworks.
The other event was a darker one. On May 11, 1894, in a company town outside Chicago, employees of the railway sleeping car mastermind George Pullman went on strike when their wages didn’t go up after the economy tanked. In a show of solidarity, the American Railway Union — said to have boasted 150,000 members at the time and led by famous socialist Eugene Debs — refused to operate Pullman train cars, snarling mail delivery and prompting President Grover Cleveland to send in federal troops to break up the strike. Rioting and arson broke out, and it evolved into what’s now considered one of the bloodiest episodes in American labor history.
A national Labor Day holiday was declared within months.
Some experts say Cleveland supported the idea of such a holiday, which already existed in several states, in an effort to make peace with the unions before he ran for re-election. (He would lose anyway.) But perhaps one of the most eloquent explanations of why the federal government saw fit to declare the holiday can be found in a Congressional committee report on the matter.
Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced a bill, S. 730, to Congress shortly after the Pullman strike, proposing Labor Day be the first Monday in September. Here’s how Rep. Lawrence McGann (D-IL), who sat on the Committee on Labor, argued for the holiday in a report submitted on May 15, 1894:
The use of national holidays is to emphasize some great event or principle in the minds of the people by giving them a day of rest and recreation, a day of enjoyment, in commemoration of it. By making one day in each year a public holiday for the benefit of workingmen the equality and dignity of labor is emphasized. Nothing is more important to the public weal than that the nobility of labor be maintained. So long as the laboring man can feel that he holds an honorable as well as useful place in the body politic, so long will he be a loyal and faithful citizen.
The celebration of Labor Day as a national holiday will in time naturally lead to an honorable emulation among the different crafts beneficial to them and to the whole public. It will tend to increase the feeling of common brotherhood among men of all crafts and callings, and at the same time kindle an honorable desire in each craft to surpass the rest.
There can be no substantial objection to making one day in the year a national holiday for the benefit of labor. The labor organizations of the whole country, representing the great body of our artisan population, request it. They are the ones most interested. They desire it and should have it. If the farmers, manufacturers, and professional men are indifferent to the measure, or even oppose it, which there is no reason to believe, that still would constitute no good objection, for their work can be continued on holidays as well as on other days if they so desire it. Workingmen should have one day in the year peculiarly their own. Nor will their employers lose anything by it. Workingmen are benefited by a reasonable amount of rest and recreation. Whatever makes a workingman more of a man makes him more useful as a craftsman.
Cleveland signed the bill into law on June 28, 1894.
Now, more than a century later, Labor Day is firmly entrenched on the American calendar — but it does still come with at least one, much smaller, controversy: the old fashion debate over whether it’s taboo to wear white after Labor Day.
Originally posted on Time.com by Olivia B. Waxman
Lead generation is at the heart of every digital marketing endeavor. You simply cannot grow an online business without it. But getting lead generation right takes finesse. “Think about it,” says Ashley Walsh, VP of Marketing at Formstack, an online form building solution based in Indianapolis. “The ultimate goal is to generate high-quality leads that convert to customers. That means you must attract people to your website, convince them to give up personal information, hope that they’ll truly need/want your solution, and will become future customers.”
Unfortunately, that’s not easy. Luckily, there are proven ways to boost your chances of generating quality leads that will stick. Walsh shares her top four tips for generating more — and better — leads to improve your conversion rates:
#1: Produce Delightful Content
Content is arguably the most important piece of any lead generation plan, Walsh notes. “People are typically first attracted to your site through a valuable piece of content. What’s more, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads.”
But for your content marketing to be effective, you need a defined target audience. “Once you know who to target, you can create informative and engaging videos, ebooks, blog posts, webinars, and landing pages that speak to specific pain points, outline solutions, and prompt visitors to take action,” she advises.
#2: Distribute Content Mindfully
All your superior content will go to waste if you haven’t got a solid content distribution strategy. “You want the right people in your target audience to discover your content, so you have to be intentional about how you get it out in front of them,” Walsh explains.
So, what should you do? “For starters, it’s a good idea to do some behind-the-scenes work on search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). According to Formstack’s state of lead capture report, organic website traffic is “the top source of high-quality leads for marketers.” In this case, organic means natural, unpaid, and attention getting in its own right. So, paying attention to SEM and SEO will allow prospective customers find your content via a simple Google search. You should also consider which social networks are most relevant to your audience, and strategically share your content there,” Walsh suggests.
#3: Use Mobile-Friendly Forms
Once your content entices visitors to your site, the goal is to get them to convert. That is, you want them to provide contact information via an online form that’s intuitive.. According to Walsh, designing mobile-friendly forms is one of the best ways to boost your conversions. “Optimizing your forms for mobile means considering how they’ll appear on a smaller screen. Users shouldn’t have to put in extra effort to complete a form on a mobile device. Input boxes should stretch across the screen, required scrolling should be kept to a minimum, and desired actions should be simple and clear,” Walsh advises. Have friends try out your mobile forms and give you feedback about their utility.
#4: Track Performance Data
“To become an expert digital marketer, you need to understand that the job is never “done”. Refine. Refine. Refine. Always track the performance of your content and web pages with Google Analytics or other tools. Real information helps you determine which efforts are working so that you can optimize and scale those efforts. You can also use form insights to identify field bottlenecks and other elements that may be hindering conversions,” Walsh summarizes.
An effective lead generation strategy is all about attracting visitors with valuable content, converting them with optimized forms, and continually using data to refine your efforts. Put Walsh’s 4 tips in action, and better leads are sure to find you.
(Originally posted on Forbes.com by Kate Harrison )