Contributed by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, disaster avoidance expert, speaker and author.
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are asking their employees to work from home. But are they considering the potential disasters that can occur as a result of this transition?
An example of what might occur comes from one of my coaching clients, from a few months before the pandemic hit. Pete is a mid-level manager in the software engineering unit of an entrepreneurial startup that quickly grew to 400 office-based employees doing electronic health records (EHRs). Due to rising rents on their office building, the company wanted to shift their employees to a work-from-home set-up.
Pete was assigned by senior management to lead the team transitioning all 400 employees to telework. He had previous experience in helping smaller teams to working from home in the past. However, this significantly higher number of people was proving to be a challenge—as was the short amount of time available, which was only four weeks, resulting from a failure in negotiation with the landlord of the office building.
3 Key Steps to Preventing Disasters in Implementing Decisions
When Pete approached me for advice, I recommended the “Failure-Proofing” strategy, which is a pragmatic and easy-to-use technique to defend against planning and project disasters.
Step 1: Imagine that the decision, project or process failed, and brainstorm reasons for why your plan failed.
Meet with your key stakeholders and discuss your plan. Make sure to provide all the details. Next, use an approach informed by the premortem technique and ask the participants to imagine a future where the plan failed. Doing so empowers everyone, even those who are confident that the plan will succeed, to tap their creativity in coming up with potential reasons for the failure.
Each participant should anonymously write out three possible reasons that the plan failed. The reasons should include internal decisions within the scope of the project team, such as manpower or budget restrictions. It should also include potential external factors, such as new policies set by government agencies.
Next, the facilitator gathers the participants’ statements. The group discusses the central themes raised as reasons for the plan’s failure. The facilitator should highlight reasons that would not usually be brought up if the process of writing down the reasons and discussing them was not anonymous. If you will be doing this technique by yourself, list down separate reasons for the plan’s failure from the perspective of each relevant aspect of yourself.
Going back to Pete, he decided to gather six stakeholders composed of one manager each from the four departments that urgently needed to be shifted to a work-from-home setup, as well as one team leader each from the two teams which would provide auxiliary support to Pete’s team while they were facilitating the transition of the teams. He recruited Ann, a member of the firm’s Advisory Board, to be an independent facilitator.
Ann discussed the current plan, which was to shift all 400 employees to a remote work setup in four weeks. Everything—even business meetings— would be done online after four weeks. Pete’s team would migrate the 400 employees to a remote work setup in four weeks, and will be doing so in batches of 100 employees per week. The records division would be included in the last batch to be migrated, to give ample time to convert all documents and processes to digital forms.
After outlining the plan, everyone submitted their anonymous reasons for failure. Ann read out the participants’ anonymous statements, which highlighted one key theme: The plan failed because it wasn’t communicated in a clear and timely manner. Most of the participants raised doubts that management can communicate the plan efficiently due to past cases of miscommunication of company policy changes.
Step 2: Brainstorm ways to fix problems and integrate your ideas into the plan
Pick several plan failures that are the most relevant to highlight, and think of ways to solve these, including how to tackle possible mental blindspots and cognitive biases. In addition, present any evidence you might use that would serve as an indicator that the failure you are addressing is happening or about to happen. For this particular step, it is critical to have people with authority in the room.
The facilitator writes down the potential solutions. If you are going through this step by yourself, ask for outside input at this point.
Circling back to Pete’s discussion group, Mary, an HR manager, took on the task of addressing the communication problem proactively.
Mary will discuss the communication issues tackled in the discussion group with senior management. She will then propose for senior management to send out immediately a company-wide announcement on the migration to telecommuting and the steps that will be taken.
Then, each senior manager would have in-person meetings with their direct reports in middle management, to get their buy-in and ensure that the message passed effectively down the chain of command. In turn, the middle managers would meet with the frontline staff and work out details of the next steps for each team.
Step 3: Imagine that the decision, project, or process succeeded spectacularly, brainstorm ways of achieving this outcome, and integrate your ideas into the plan
We tackled failure, so now let’s imagine that your plan succeeded superbly! This way, your company can maximize its success.
Imagine that you are in a future where your plan succeeded beyond expectations. Ask each participant to anonymously write out possible reasons for the plan’s success. After that, ask the facilitator to focus on the key themes.
Next, the facilitator gathers everyone’s statements and leads the group in discussing the reasons given. Assess anonymously the potential of each reason for success, and decide which ones need to be focused on. Check for cognitive biases as well. After that, come up with ways of maximizing these reasons for success.
The facilitator writes down the ideas to maximize the plan’s success. If you are going through this step by yourself, ask for outside input at this point.
In Pete’s discussion group, Ann asked each participant to anonymously write out the reasons for the plan’s success. When Ann read out the statements, there was one key theme: They imagined that the plan succeeded because the management was very responsive to anxieties and concerns from employees during the transition. To address that, Pete’s team set up a number that staff could text or call, which was always staffed by some members of the team. Then, they could quickly answer questions, or route the question to the person who had the answer.
Failure Proofing Work-From-Home
To prevent work-from-home disasters in this time of transitioning to telework to manage the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, make sure to use the “Failure-Proofing” technique prior to implementing decisions of any significance, as well as to assess the management of substantial projects and processes.
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. With over 20 years of experience as CEO of the training, coaching and consulting firm Disaster Avoidance Experts, he also spent over 15 years in academia as a cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist. He’s an EO speaker, a recent EO 360° podcast guest and author of Never Go With Your Gut (2019), The Blindspots Between Us (2020), The Truth Seeker’s Handbook (2017) and Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (Changemakers Books, 2020)
A Bigger Truth About Restaurant Food Delivery
I was listening to Dan Primack’s podcast on Pro Rata and he was interviewing Senator Klobucher who is now publicly and vocally speaking out against Uber purchasing Grubhub and has tried to mobilize against this.
Her argument is that if Uber buys Grubhub (which itself once merged with Seamless) it would mean that Uber Eats / Grubhub would control half the market and that with DoorDash the two together would control 90% of the market. I think that’s a largely flawed fight to be picking and of all the uses of Senator Klobuchar’s I could think of some much more productive fights to be having.
For starters Uber itself has had to lay off 27% of its workforce due to the pandemic and has been severely impacted financially from the crisis with no immediate respite in sight. Its core business was already struggling to become profitable, so having tertiary businesses like food delivery that can deliver needed profits would be welcome to their financial stability. And the market would still have DoorDash and PostMates duking it out as well as the potential that players like Instacart broaden their business one day or Amazon gets into food delivery.
Even more likely is eventual technology disruption where drones deliver foods and make it hard for existing car delivery services to compete. It won’t happen right away but I’ve seen some innovative companies doing exactly this in places like Australia where they are taking a more liberal approach to allowing drone deliveries. Therein lies the advantages of free markets and competition and if we really believed it were that easy to buy off your largest competitor and be a monopolist we’d all be surfing on AOL TimeWarner portals.
But the broader issue that hasn’t garnered much press attention is how the restaurant industry itself is being transformed and what tools a modern restaurant will need to compete. What is the Shopify of the restaurant industry? I have some compelling data that suggests it may just become ChowNow.
We know that the restaurant business already operates on thin margins and many struggle to survive. So when delivery services came along many were willing to pay the fee to try and increase business. It was only about 10–15% of their actual total revenue per month so for many it wasn’t a battle worth fighting — they just put up with the food delivery company fees. Customers were happy and restaurants focused on their in-store business.
The problem for the restaurants is that the more successful the “aggregators” of customer demand become over time, the less power the restaurants themselves have individually. This will largely be true whether you have 2 strong competitors or 5 because unless a delivery company can make a profit it won’t continue to stay in business.
The delivery companies own the customer relationship and can drive traffic to the most profitable restaurants for them. Obviously if you have a great restaurant brand with differentiated food people search for you by name but for many people looking for pizza, sushi, Mexican food, Thai food, whatever, you might go with the choice put in front of you if it’s being recommended or delivered more quickly. The delivery companies also own many of the assets like the photography so they can make certain options look much more attractive.
So just like when Groupon came out many small merchants welcomed the uptick in traffic, without owning the customer you lose the most valuable asset — the ability to re-market to your customer base and encourage them to become more loyal and more frequent customers. You lose the ability to up-sell and cross-sell products. And just like with Groupon the small businesses ended up having many unprofitable customers.
At Upfront we always took the approach that we wanted to back startups that enabled merchants to own the customer relationship and to increase profits by becoming excellent at marketing and serving ones most loyal customers.
So several years ago we backed a company called ChowNow that enables restaurants to offer self-service ordering for pick-up or delivery and the restaurant owns all of the customer information and relationship — ChowNow is simply a SaaS enablement product.
The company has done well over the past several year but never really captured the same press mindshare as the food delivery companies because when a company shows up at your house you get to know that brand rather than the tech that enables restaurants.
Covid-19 has changed all of that. Whereas pickup & delivery may have been 10–15% of a restaurant’s business before it’s currently 100% and when it’s your entire business the thought of paying huge commissions to a third-party delivery service becomes much less attractive. So while many restaurants knew they eventually needed to invest in better order management software, many had been putting it off.
But just as many product or apparel companies were happy selling at Amazon, Walmart or Nordstrom in the past and have lately realized the importance of Shopify and serving customers directly — so, too, are restaurants. Enter ChowNow.
What data do I have to make the case?
- ChowNow now has 17,000 restaurants using its SaaS platform for take-out and delivery and is adding more than 2,000 / month right now (and trending up)
- 10 million diners now use the ChowNow ordering platform vs. 24 million for GrubHub, so like Shopify while they built the customer base slowly and with capital efficiency they are now rivaling the bigger players in footprint
- Last year they were serving 50,000 customers / day through their platform and did approximately $500 million in GMV (the value of the orders placed), this year they are on track to do $3 billion (with a B) and expect to end the year at a revenue run rate that may top $100 million (yes, I asked for permission to publish these numbers).
If you want to see a short spot that outlines the importance of the restaurant industry arming itself with better software tools to serve and market to their customers you may enjoy this 60-second video that makes it clear why it matters. It speaks volumes to why we all love our local restauranteurs and want to see them survive …
Or if you want to see the argument laid out clearly by a customer, look no further than Motorino Pizza in NYC who posted this note that appears before you enter their website:
Feeding the Hungry, Despite National Crisis
The year 2020 has emphasized one certainty: In times of crisis, entrepreneurs innovate, adapt and continue to give back. One example—among many—of philanthropy during the worldwide COVID-19 crisis comes from our EO Gujarat chapter.
Through their organization, Karma Foundation, members Chiranjiv Patel and Priyanshi Patel led a group of volunteers to feed the homeless and needy during the lockdown in India.
This is just the latest example from many years the Karma Foundation has been making a difference in the community. We recently spoke with Chiranjiv Patel (pictured at left) to learn more. Patel is the managing director and vice chairman of P.C. Snehal Group, a construction company based in Ahmedabad, India. He is known for his leadership in business and charitable pursuits.
Tell us more about Karma Foundation.
Karma Foundation is primarily focused on community development across the entire socio-economic spectrum. Our focus includes education, health, livelihood, women development, youth development, literature and culture, and we aim to reach every sector of the society in order to make our efforts more transformational and impactful.
Jeevan Shrishti is one of our main programs. It acknowledges food as a basic necessity. We are working to ensure that nobody goes to sleep with an empty stomach by feeding poor children and the needy. We are also planning to launch kiosks across the city to provide food at negligible cost.
We make food at Sai temple satadhar one day a month and at Anjani Mata temple every day. We distribute food to street people and kids, and also to municipal school students.
Every week we encounter some of those tear-bringing moments, when Karma feeds 250 people who eat until the last bite of their plate. Some of us go to restaurants every week or maybe twice a week and waste food excessively. But here, they respect the food given on their plates and would not waste even a bite.
Since October 2015, we’ve fed approximately 50,000 people.
Other Karma initiatives include:
• Sahara is a program that expresses our core value—support. Through Sahara, Karma extends resources to senior citizens, orphans and abandoned children and other NGOs of the state. I strongly believe that collaboration is the way to drive large scale community transformation.
• Another program is a true example of women empowerment. We believe in the right to cleanliness, or hygiene. Women inmates of Sabarmati Jail manufacture biodegradable and low-cost sanitary pads for underprivileged women and girls.
• The Ahmedabad Book Club is dedicated to literary appreciation and reading, and was formed by EO member Priyanshi Patel. The club has 45,000-plus online members. It provides a platform for online literary discussions and conversations with authors.
• The Science Club encourages adults and children to experience science in new and engaging ways.
There are so many other initiatives we’re working on. I would like to thank the whole Karma team, including volunteers and interns, who support and encourage the soul of the foundation. May we reach our future goals successfully.
How has your work changed since COVID-19 appeared?
COVID-19 closed the entire nation. Even in this hazardous situation, we tried to make 35,000 food packets every day for children and needy.
We would like to thank donors. We are able to run the same cycle every day, and this would not be possible without their donations. It would be just next to impossible. A big thank you to everybody, triggering infinite positivity.
What challenges did you face in delivering meals during the coronavirus shutdown?
We believe that if the spirit inside is bigger than anything else across you, you can win. So we did not consider these big challenges.
Yes, we wondered how in this complete lockdown, people who earn everyday wages to feed their families, how will they manage? For them, it would be like, “bhookh lagi hai, lekin kama ke kha nai sakte” (hungry but can’t eat). In this critical situation, we thought for 24 hours, how we will manage the things? how we will work? how we will all work together at the same place when social distancing is mandatory?
We called up my friend and the volunteers. All 70 volunteers and my friend arrived in the same hour. I would like to salute the volunteers and the core team because in three hours, they prepared 10,750 food packets.
It was very important to follow the requirements of COVID-19. Not only do these rules protect our volunteers and maintain cleanliness while we pack the food, but they also protect the people who are eating from the packets.
As we all know, the heat of Ahmedabad is extreme. We arranged fans with sanitizers, so that clean air can be maintained. As there was a national curfew, we needed permission for volunteers to travel. We worked with local police to ensure food reached the right people.
We were determined to put our mark on the city, trying to reach every individual who is suffering, despite the very high expenditure. It costs almost $2,000 to deliver 12,000 food packets every day.
How has EO supported your efforts?
The most important thing EO has taught us is the value of sharing experiences with your peers. EO also teaches us to lead by example.
I made sure that I was present at the camp every day during the 45 days we worked through COVID-19 restrictions—not only managing operations but also packaging food. In spite of having broken leg and plaster on my leg, my spirit did not subside. I was motivated not to miss a single day.
Also, EO chapter members and most of my forum members visited the camp regularly. In this way, EO has also played a prominent role to make this camp successful.
Read more ways the members of EO are making a difference during the COVID-19 global crisis.
The post Feeding the Hungry, Despite National Crisis appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.
6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business in 2020
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.
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.
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”.
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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