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How to Give Back Through Your Business

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Have you ever wished for a way to give back that’s integrated with your life and your work?

EO Oklahoma City member Piyush Patel has figured out how to do just this. He has managed to seamlessly weave charity into his life and businesses through social entrepreneurship, employee volunteer programs and much more.

Piyush offers these tips on how to prioritize and embrace giving during the course of your entrepreneurial journey.

1. Identify the issue you are passionate about—and be open to unexpected opportunities to fulfill your giving goals

Piyush’s background is in elementary education. So, he has three areas of focus for giving: education, children and mothers. In fact, as the keynote speaker at the University of Oklahoma graduation in 2017, Piyush paid off one of the graduate’s student debts.

“When I joined EO almost 10 years ago, my Forum did an activity around bucket lists. We had different categories and one was philanthropy. I wrote down, ‘Put a stranger through college.’ I had no idea how I was going to even do something like that. However, when I was asked to give the commencement speech, just a few days before the speech I walked out of the shower and told my wife this would be a perfect time to accomplish that bucket list item.”

2. Create sustainable giving through social entrepreneurship

One-off giving opportunities make a mark, but ongoing giving amplifies your impact. You can even create self-sustaining giving. Consider Piyush’s Conclusion Wine company, a social entrepreneurial venture that just keeps giving.

“I was lucky enough to sell my previous company for a large exit and instead of moving to the beach we decided to start a number of new companies. The winery is our social venture where we craft an amazing wine that is then sold at a high price and instead of keeping the money we donate all of it to a non-profit each year,” he explains.

Piyush suggests you can also make giving part of an existing company through the work you are doing, “My previous company, Digital-Tutors, provided advanced technical education to many countries where this education was not even imaginable.”

3. Acknowledge how giving benefits you

Giving is good for you, and it’s OK to admit it. Piyush explains that charity fulfills his deep need to be part of something bigger, bonds our employees and is simply the right thing to do.

4. Lead by example

Make your impact grow exponentially by cultivating a giving culture in your business. How? Lead by example.

“It has to start with you, the leader,” Piyush says. “I wove giving into my company with things like volunteering the day before the Christmas holiday (after all, no work is getting done on that day anyway), creating a supply drive to get school supplies for kids (I would match all donations), or packing food at the food bank as a team-building exercise.”

Not only are you and your team fulfilling a charitable goal, you’re also supporting team growth. Piyush explains, “In my experience, creating these shared experiences outside of the office has a huge impact in how people treat each other in the office. They see their roles as bigger than themselves and see how their impact in the community matters.”

Piyush’s book, Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters, reinforces how to lead by example by giving to your employees.

“The book—as well as my speaking events—are really focused on how to transform the lives of your employees. I want to teach other leaders and founders how to not only reach your business goals but also transform the lives of the people who you trust the most to reach those goals. I feel we have a duty to create belonging, affirmation and meaning for our employees and I love teaching others how to do this,” he says.

5. Revisit your inspiration

It can be challenging to stay motivated in your giving, especially if like Piyush, you have been actively participating in charity from a very young age. He began his giving efforts as a teen, as the only male candy striper at a local hospital.

Wherever you find your inspiration, make sure it is a place or person that you can always look back on. Refer back to it when you need to replenish your giving tank.

6. Start small, as long as you start

Still not sure where to start? Piyush also reminds us that charity exists in small and simple everyday acts of kindness.

“In each of our wine bottles, the cork features a message with a random act of kindness. One day, the one I had in my pocket was ‘Buy a Stranger a Cup of Coffee.’ I was getting a Starbucks coffee and while waiting in line, a guy cut to the front and then looked at me since I was next. You could cut the tension. Who would go next?

“I stepped up, put in my order and then turned around to ask him what he was drinking. I paid for his coffee and he looked at me with a weird look on his face. Here he was cutting in front of me and now I’m buying his coffee? I gave him my cork and told him to pass it on to the next person. Not only did he shake my hand and say sorry, but when he left he made it a point to say goodbye. I know this is super simple, but in that moment he transformed from a rushed, unhappy person to a thankful and grateful person. I have to think he had a better day because of that small act.”

Piyush Patel‘s commitment to sustainable giving and advancing educational opportunities for all has earned him a nomination for EO Global Citizen of the Year.

The post How to Give Back Through Your Business appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.



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Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 by @DONNAAMOS

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by Donna Amos | Featured Contributor 

There are trends that are occurring in social media that business owners can take advantage of to help them grow their businesses. As changes take place on platforms, it may benefit business owners to stay current on the changes so that you don’t use outdated practices that no longer work on social networking sites.

Growth of Tik Tok

This site has gained popularity as a social networking site for business owners. Tik Tok is a social networking site that has become very popular with Generation Z.

Individuals who are micro-influencers have gained popularity on this social networking video app. Influencers are aware that using the site to promote video can benefit small businesses because it’s not geared towards traditional sales. The lack of hard sales on the site is popular with users. By connecting with followers through good video content, it will help small businesses expand and provide opportunities to sell products. It’s expected that one of the social media trends for 2020 will include the expansion of Tik Tok to allow platform users to shop online like other social networking channels.

Increase in social shopping

Entrepreneurs can benefit from using social shopping on their company sites because of the growth of e-commerce. During the past decade, social networking sites have contributed to the growth of e-commerce. It’s now the norm for social shopping to occur on social networking channels. Customers enjoy connecting with brands and building relationships with them on social networking sites. Consumers enjoy having access to brands without leaving platforms to purchase products and services. Entrepreneurs can look to expand social shopping on their social channels.

The rise of small business owners as influencers

Small businesses can benefit from the increase in popularity that they have experienced as influencers. Users on various social platforms desire to connect with small businesses rather than huge companies. The ability to connect with an audience on a small-scale is something that small business owners can take advantage of because they have a unique following.

The use of social media to develop consumer confidence

Small business owners can benefit from using their social platforms to develop a relationship with followers that are based on trust. Followers can develop relationships based on the quality of content that is promoted that informs followers about the value that a business brings into the market. By having real conversations with followers and connecting on a human level, companies establish relationships on a much richer level because of the connection that is made by showing the company as a place where real people work.

Use of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful social platform because the site is geared toward business professionals. Business owners can reach decision-makers on LinkedIn to grow their businesses. If a company has products and services to sell and its budget is limited, being active on the platform can help generate sales and gain the attention of decision-makers.

Fewer boundaries between personal and professional lives

Social media trends include witnessing fewer boundaries between the professional and personal lives of business owners. Small business owners can grow their online audience by interacting with followers and showing them aspects of the personal and professional lives. Sharing unique content that shows followers portions of the daily lives allows followers to connect with business owners on a genuine level.

An increase in the number of brief posts

Businesses are posting new content that is online for a short amount of time, and this will continue to increase in 2020. These posts occur on sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Tikk Tok. The time-limited posts are primarily videos and allow businesses to share content that may be more personal and allows business owners to share special offers of their products and services.

Increase focus on customer interaction

Brands are working to focus more on customer responses in 2020. By responding to customer service issues that arise, businesses can learn what is necessary to meet the needs of their customers. Small businesses can gain attention from their followers by working to connect with followers and meeting the needs they address about the products and services they desire to purchase.

Expansion of the use of storytelling

Companies have increased their use of storytelling on social media sites using different types of media such as video and written content. By sharing what a company represents, it allows businesses to reach followers and potential customers. Business owners can engage with their audience telling stories on different social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Increase in video content

There is an increase expected in the amount of video content that brands produce in 2020 on social networking sites. Small businesses can increase their number of customers and followers by producing content that is appealing to followers. Business owners can determine which platforms work best for their followers and provide content that is based on what works best for their audience.

More social messenger apps

Small business owners can benefit from using social messenger apps to connect with their customers. The top messenger apps are used primarily by millennials. The top messenger apps include the following.

• Messenger
• WeChat
• Viber

There are over 2 billion messages sent on Messenger each month from businesses. The app is on over 1.2 billion phones. The potential exists for greater customer experiences to occur because of the growth of the social messaging service. Messaging apps that were developed using artificial intelligence have improved customer engagement. It’s expected that the customer experience will continue to improve because of the unique way that companies can improve the artificial intelligence they use to have more unique engagement with customers using social messaging services.

The use of messenger apps outranks the top social networking sites which include the following.

• Instagram
• Facebook
• Twitter
• LinkedIn

Small business owners can work to expand their businesses by using social networking sites and social messaging services. By working to create personalized experiences with customers and potential customers, businesses can expand and provide their customers with good experiences. Having an awareness of what their customers desire will help small businesses grow and effectively market to customers of all ages.

The post Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 by @DONNAAMOS appeared first on She Owns It.



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Hard Decisions Require Empathy

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In the past two weeks we have entered perhaps to most surreal experience in any of our lives. I think intuitively many of us believe it may be a more lasting impact than just “60 days at home,” which is why we almost have a nervous laughter when we call (Zoom!) somebody we haven’t spoken to since before the crisis and acknowledge how bizarre we all feel right now. I have seen the insides of more people’s homes and apartments than I probably ever have as we’re invited into this intimate world of videoconferencing.

Just two weeks into it we are just starting to come to grips with what will no doubt wreak big financial, emotional and obviously dire health consequences and suffering for many.

In our business lives we’re having to deal with decisions that could have lasting impacts on our companies without any compass to guide us in the direction we’re heading . It feels a bit like choosing a fork in the road amidst dense fog and with nobody to guide us what to do.

In our personal lives we’re having to change our routines and figure out how to remain productive — often with other people sharing our homes who have their own ideas of how to use our collective space and time. What do we eat? Where do we shop? What is safe? What are my parents doing — are they being safe? Can I plan a Winter vacation or attend a wedding or travel anywhere again this year?

Who the fuck knows.

But you should know that everybody is in exactly this mind space. That’s what makes this so surreal. I find myself struggling to fully relax at bedtime, with my mind spinning about the world that lies ahead and the infinite amount of weekly decisions I’m having to process. I imagine many of you are, too. It goes without saying that if you find yourself in a really negative headspace PLEASE reach out to any trusted mentor, friend or family member. I promise we’ll all get through this some way and there’s always tomorrow, whatever that holds. I have lost friends who didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in past economic hardships.

For founders of startups or for executives tasked with making decisions with all of this incomplete information, the moment calls for decisiveness on every front:

  • how to deal with customers,
  • what to do about expenses,
  • what to tell board members / investors,
  • what happens with fund raising,
  • do I need to lay off employees or deal with a furlough,
  • do I qualify for government assistance?

If your head isn’t spinning you haven’t fully grasped the severity of the situation.

Each of these decisions could be a blog post in its own right but for today I want to avoid tactical advice and offer something more about your temperament as you wade through complexity and deal with decisions that affects the lives and the livelihoods of others. To say it simply ….

Show empathy.

I know that I shouldn’t have to say that, as it seems obvious. But in the past two weeks I’ve heard many cavalier comments about: cuts, renegotiations, changing terms, “the market environment dictates this” or “never waste a good crisis” or “you just need to cut 25% of your staff” because it seems everybody is doing it. I know that many people are just short-handing given stressful times but do try and pause and think about your actions & words and how they will affect others (or whether they’re the right actions in the first place).

In the words of my friend and a CEO with whom I work,

“Yeah, I know I need to make some cuts because our demand has changed, but I want to do this with a scalpel and not with an axe.”

He produced a very detailed analysis of his customer base and which would be affected. He enacted a program to proactively offer payment holidays to customers in obviously “hit” industries like travel & entertainment. He showed industries where demand was likely to hold strong and he outlined a case for how he could protect as many jobs as possible. He asked for a few more weeks to gather market signals before enacting change. It was the thoughtful response of an empathetic leader.

The driver of your decisions must be logical, rational and economically sound. You need to consider:

  • Has demand for my product fundamentally changed in ways that will persist?
  • How long is my cash runway if this demand doesn’t recover for the foreseeable future?
  • Is there a viable path to raising money / strengthening my balance sheet as one solution?
  • If not, how much must a reduce costs to give our company enough runway to weather this current storm?

The inevitable decisions may mean you shed employees, suppliers, offices, bonuses, contractors — you name it. But here is where empathy becomes most critical. It is very easy to want to insulate yourself from feeling the extreme emotions that will come from the loss of a job or for a supplier of yours with the loss of an important customer. Don’t insulate yourself — handle things personally and be a leader that is present in times of crisis. And if you have to make these hard decisions, empathy goes a long way.

If you have to let employees go or have to furlough them do it 1–1 or have senior members of your staff divide up employees and do each one 1–1 (or 2–1 if you need to have HR in the room (or “in the Zoom”) but my point is that each affected employee deserves a private meeting. And they deserve compassion because whatever stress level you are under, your actions are going to make their stress levels just as bad if not worse.

They don’t need to hear you say in an antiseptic way, “Look, we have no choice. It’s your job or we all run out of cash.” That might be true, but it lacks empathy. It should be something more like, “Sadly we have made a decision that your job is being made redundant. I’m very sorry that this will affect you and I don’t take lightly what a burden it must be to you.” Of course that doesn’t change the outcome, but it’s the humane thing to say.

You can insert you own wording or phrasing but the point is to acknowledge the pain, the cost, the consequence of your actions — even if you had no choice. Let the other person speak. Let them emote. It might be that they have to cry or they might have to yell at you — whatever. This isn’t the time to argue back that you had no choice or that “they weren’t really pulling their weight anyways” or whatever else is playing in your head. This is the moment to let them have their say. It doesn’t change anything. This is a moment to be calm, let others vent and politely move on.

Empathy can also be financial. You need to make sure that you’re making sound economic decisions for your company so I’m not advocating being cavalier about money because ultimately if you run out of cash then everybody loses his or her job and every investor loses his or her money. But at the margin if there are things you can do to be compassionate about severance or medical benefits or helping people navigate government assistance — you should do all that you can. If your company can help with job search, or resume writing or providing references or calling other companies to tell them you did redundancies — you should do it.

The month of March, 2020 has been hard on our country and on the world and the sad reality is that this is still likely just the first act in a long series of heart-breaking stories and circumstances around the world. In times like these your friends, family, associates, colleagues, employees and business partners need you more than ever.

If we know each other personally and you think I can help you please reach out. I promise I will make time.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Hard Decisions Require Empathy was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



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6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business in 2020

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There’s no quick fix, or “one and done” solution when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). You have to be prepared to play the long game to see the full advantages of SEO when developing a site — and it’s worth it to see your site rank highly on search engine result pages.

That said, there are some methods that will give you a quick boost. Shift more attention to the most significant ranking factors and tactics that will give your site the ability to rise to the top of the search results this year.

Choose a Responsive Design

User experience is a big deal these days. Google loves to serve its users the best results possible. If your website isn’t easy to use on a mobile device, you’re going to suffer a setback in ranking. Think about it, have you ever landed on a site where you had to zoom in to read the text and scroll side-to-side to read all of the content? This was most likely the desktop version of a website. It was made for larger screens and doesn’t reformat to fit on different screen sizes.

Responsive sites will resize images and reorganize the blocks of content according to the size of the screen. If you want to test whether a website is responsive, open up a web page on a desktop or laptop. From the full screen, shrink the window by clicking and dragging, and you’ll see the sidebars move, the navigation and header will take on new positions and the content and images will line up differently. 

Mobile search volume accounts for more than half of the total searches made online (see chart below). A responsive, mobile friendly site is no longer an option, but a necessity, when it comes to providing an enjoyable user experience.

Create Keyword Clusters

Making a list of keywords that your ideal audience would use to find the content you’re offering will also boost your SEO ranking. Plug each keyword into a keyword tool to generate additional ideas. Assess the best options for keywords to include in your content strategy by grouping them into pools based on search intent. You’ll notice that many of those keyword options will be subtopics large enough to write an entire blog post about, in which you can provide more detailed content optimized for a related keyword.

For example, if you own a home improvement business, a central page on your site would be kitchen renovation. And because there are so many choices to make when renovating a kitchen, you could then go into depth and create a new page for every option, from counter tops and backsplash tile to faucets and refrigerators. When you’re planning your content, structure the website to feature central pages that are optimized for the most central, competitive keywords and most important aspects of your business.

Publish articles on the related subtopics in full detail in order to provide as much information on those major keyword topics, to show your expertise in your field, and to demonstrate authority within the content of your site. Google looks for this as partial evidence of your status as an expert in your niche.

Google also loves when there is a distinct organizational structure. By linking the subtopic posts to your major product pages, you signal what pages are most important to your site by creating a keyword cluster.

Image source: https://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/3-site-structure.html

Optimize Your Content

On-page optimization enhances the likelihood of your page being ranked for your target keywords. Avoid keyword stuffing and place your keywords strategically. For instance, use your target keywords in the front end of your titles, and keep your titles under 60 characters or they will get cut off in the search display.

Place your keyword in your URL. The most effective URLs are those that are under 5 words and summarize the title or content on the page. Keywords should also be included in the meta description. Using your keyword in the beginning of the meta description will improve the click-through rate for users. As will placing your keyword within the first 100 words in the first paragraph of your content, and using keywords and keyword synonyms in the subtitles.

Use structured data markup whenever possible. If you can provide a rich snippet, you may get a boost in the position your site is displayed.

Make Your Pages Quick and Nimble

With a heavy emphasis on user experience, page speed can make a huge difference in how your site performs. If you’re an ecommerce site, it becomes extremely important because every second your page takes to load will cost your business money from lower conversions.

 graph-seo-png

 mPulse Mobile Case Study on Page Speed Vs Conversion Rates, Image source: https://digitalducats.com/page-speed/

Test your mobile page speed here. You can improve your site speed by reducing image file sizes, using plugins, and using a content delivery network to give your website additional page speed.

  • To reduce the size of your images use Kraken or Smush.
  • W3 Cache is one of the most popular WordPress plugins that increase page speed, but you can decide for yourself by choosing one from this list.
  • Choose a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to reduce your pages load time from a list of options here.

Get Other Sites to Link to You

Establishing credibility and authority is a necessity to be competitive in search results. Backlinks are a powerful way to prove that your content is credible and authoritative because essentially it is being endorsed by the websites that link to you. But stay away from paid links, or any link scheme used to manipulate ranking in an underhanded way. Unnatural linking will lead to penalties and should be avoided altogether.

One approved method of link building is to become a guest author. There are guest posting sites in every niche and having knowledge about your business is all you need to create an article that can be submitted to a site for publication. It may take a few weeks to get a response, and you may need a few submissions before receiving acceptance. Get into a routine for guest posting to build backlinks as fast as possible.

Ask People to Share Your Content

A social network is a priceless asset for expanding your audience and getting more traffic to your website. Build your network by being active on the social media site that has the most impact on your business.

Install social sharing icons on your site and include a call to action to get the most shares. A retweet study revealed that content with share icons received 4 times as many retweets with the phrase “Please RT”.

Conclusion

Although there is a lot to put together to achieve a first page result, it’s a long-term game plan. Start building your website with SEO in mind to give your site the best chance at the top positions in search results.

 



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