First I Launched My Company And Then I Had To Start Learning About Managing A Product.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | First I Launched My Company And Then I Had To Start Learning About Managing A Product.To some degree, I always knew I’d launch my own business. I just didn’t know which field of study the company would rest in. So after spending much of my 20s working in finance and real estate, and then going to business school, the right opportunity sat in front of me. In 2011, I formed SquareFoot, a new kind of commercial real estate company, to address growing companies and their office space needs.

We spent those early years building our website and fleshing out our marketing and messaging to reel in clients who suited our solutions. For a few years, this process worked well for us, and I took it on my own shoulders to grow in my knowledge first and then my role and leadership to include more. As I managed the real estate component of the company, and pinch-hitted adequately on the marketing front, too, I came to realize that I wouldn’t be able to carry the team in one crucial element: product.

My thinking on this was simple – There were three areas of the business that needed to be top-notch for us to succeed: 1. Real estate, 2. Marketing, and 3. Product. I could handle the top two, but not the last one. Not if I wanted the company to deliver on the vision I had. So I set out to hire a COO who could. I needed someone with complementary skills to mine, to fill in the gaps and to lead the other half of the organization. That person’s background would be, ideally, the inverse of mine, someone who was strong on product, could assist with marketing, and likely wouldn’t know the first thing (at that point) about negotiating real estate deals.

Over the past 3.5 years, I have been a stakeholder in the success of our product management, not the leader. And both the organization and our clients are better off because of it. I sit in on meetings where our COO and the rest of the team outline how and why to build out the product offering to give our clients more and better tools. This is an ongoing area of growth for me. Much of the interactions we have with clients are in-person, which falls into the real estate category of our negotiations and communications, but we must also have a high-quality website and app to match the promises and commitments we’ve made. I know we’re in good hands.

Some CEOs are product-first front their experience, skillset, and interests. They have a leg up on people like me who are catching up as they go when it comes to product, and depend on others more able than them to lead that portion of the business. But, I’d argue, nobody has done it all, or can do it all. For the product-oriented founders, they’ll need to eventually hire a business-oriented executive to help them build and grow for the future. What’s most important in these thought processes and conversations is to be honest and upfront about your own limitations and how those may be standing in the way of valuable progress or long-term success.

Since every company is different in makeup, there’s no definitive time to expand the executive team. You know it’s the right time, in my experience, when you feel in over your head again. As discussions internally began to mount among junior team members looking to me to make the ultimate decision, I was comfortable and confident in the real estate and marketing areas far more than I was when it came to product. It reached a point where I had to acknowledge and accept that I would eventually make a bad misstep if I didn’t turn to someone who was more capable of handling those situations and circumstances. That’s not a sign of weakness for a CEO, it’s a show of maturity. As SquareFoot grew in employee count and in client base, I had to grow in my leadership, too. Bringing on my counterpart then helped accelerate that growth overall across all metrics.

The advice I’d give to CEOs first starting out is to try to manage it all for as long as you can. But also be realistic and honest about when that style ceases to work. These are good problems to have, as it means you’ve tackled and conquered many layers of company growth to reach the point where you can no longer scale yourself to cover it all. Bringing on someone at that time is a smart move. Finding the person best suited to balance out your weaknesses with their strengths is the best path toward reaching what you set out to do and continue to seek. For me, that was understanding that product wasn’t something I could pinch-hit on. Once I turned to an expert, I haven’t had reason to look back.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Jonathan WasserstrumJonathan Wasserstrum is the Founder / CEO of SquareFoot a commercial real estate platform based in New York City. Founded in 2011, Squarefoot helps companies find their next (and next) office space.

10 Legal Tips that Can Save Your Business

Whether you’re just starting out or have been operating for years, there are many legal issues confronting business owners. This article will identify tips to take that can save your business.

Tip 1: Incorporate

Legal documents must be filed in order to incorporate your business, thereby protecting your business and personal assets. If you are operating as a corporation, you need to file articles of incorporation, and if you are operating an LLC, you need to file articles of organization. Fill them out and file them.

Tip 2: Select an Appropriate Busienss Name

Ensure that your business name is different than the names of existing businesses that offer the same or similar products and services, in order to avoid litigation over use of another business’s trade name. Check state and federal name registries to see whether other businesses have the same or similar names.

Tip 3: Obtain All Necessary Licenses and Permits

Many businesses require licenses and/or permits to operate, whether they are issued a federal, state, or local government. Research the requirements for your business, and obtain them.

Tip 4: Adopt Governing Documents

The structure you choose for your business determines the type of governing documents you need to have in place, such as operating agreements, bylaws, etc. Governing documents should be adopted for every business. These documents identify and set out the company’s structure, ownership, voting rights, responsibilities of directors, day-to-day operations, how profits and losses will be treated, and more.

Tip 5: Implement Written Contracts and Agreements

Many businesses make the mistake of operating without written contracts. This is an antiquated practice. Having written contracts helps all parties understand their rights and obligations.

Tip 6: Market Properly

There are many legal issues that arise relating to the way businesses market and advertise their products and services, which are governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and also by state and local laws. The most basic rule with regard to advertising and marketing is: don’t lie.

Tip 7: Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a creation of the mind. Every business has some intellectual property, whether it is the special method for creating your product or simply your business name or logo. There are specific steps you must take in order to protect your business’s intellectual property, which can be protected through copyright (written and artistic content), trademark (logos and slogans), or patent (inventions).

Tip 8: Comply with Employment Obligations

If your business has employees, you need to ensure that your business complies with a number of federal and state employment laws. For starters, you must pay employees at least minimum wage, operate a safe workplace, and treat employees fairly. If you are not interested in having employees but need help operating your business, then independent contractors should be considered—but they come with their own legal issues.

Tip 9: Get Your Financial Metters In Order

First, open bank accounts and obtain credit in the name of your business, and keep those accounts separate from your personal accounts. Failure to do so may result in a court finding that your business is not a separate legal entity, resulting in you becoming personally liable for debts against the business. Second, ensure you pay all necessary taxes—employment taxes, income taxes, sales tax, etc. Third, get insurance. Fourth, manage your receivables. If someone doesn’t pay you and there’s no basis for the non-payment, pursue them.

Tip 10: Adopt a Recordkeeping Program

As your business grows, you will have to maintain accurate records for your business. A common issue for small businesses is failing to maintain the required records. These records may include minutes of corporate meetings, stock certificates, financial statements, payroll documentation, injury logs, etc. Adopt a record keeping program and follow it.

Regardless of the type of business you operate, you need a trusted attorney to help you wade through the many legal issues you will encounter in the operation of your business. To find the perfect attorney for you and your business, quickly post a short summary of your legal needs on www.legalserviceslink.com, and let the perfect attorney come to you. No time, no hassle, no cost.


About the Author

Matthew Horn, Esq.Matthew Horn, Esq. is the President and Co-Founder of Legal Services Link, a platform allowing those with legal needs and attorneys to quickly and easily connect via email. Matthew is a frequent speaker and author on various tech, business, and legal topics. He holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a JD from The John Marshall Law School.

During this Crisis, Don’t Expect Business as Usual from the Family Enterprise

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | During this Crisis, Don’t Expect Business as Usual from the Family Enterprise | family businessIn the last half-century, the pace of change and the many innovations that have reorganized our behavior in no way compare with the unanticipated situation we now face from the coronavirus pandemic. We simply have no precedent for how to plan for what may come next, or for managing the pace of the upheaval. And yet every day we must act – even making tough choices – without much information about the best direction to take.

Family businesses and wealth are under threat like never before. With family members unable to go to work, it’s hard to imagine how to go back to some sense of normal once we get the “all clear.” That uncertainty and inability to be in command of business operations makes us anxious. And when we’re anxious, we do impulsive and short-sighted things.

In times of crisis, feelings of anxiety and loss cause people to draw inward and focus only on how circumstances directly affect them. That explains the lines at grocery stores and gun shops. Similarly, the individualist model of most businesses ownership is a lone wolf. Rather than seek help, owners make the tough decisions on their own.

But a crisis can also present the opportunity to lead more openly and plan together how to respond. By sharing the specifics of their dilemma, they are more likely to receive help and to also be available to each other.

The owner of a small family business has no idea of what will happen next. He or she must deal with anxiety in family members, employees, customers and suppliers, and the community. What was built over time is suddenly threatened. Rather than deal with these issues alone, the legacy owner is better off using this opportunity to bring others in and develop a shared response.

For example, within resilient family businesses, owners are not just together to make money, but to share values, responsibilities and a commitment to future success. These family businesses are able to act collaboratively.

Family business owners will want to act on these principles when responding to this crisis:

1. Shared family responsibility.

Family members have grown used to the security of the business. Even with its ups and downs, they’ve learned to depend on you. Rather than give false reassurances, it’s time for transparency and open discussion. This is a time to share the challenges regarding fixed costs, debt, obligations and the cost of doing business. A family discussion of what’s actually happening and the difficult choices that need to be made can actually provide more assurance and confidence than empty promises.

Use this opportunity to talk to younger generations in the family about business operations and the trials ahead. Describe what you are doing, and ask for help and ideas. For example, the family might decide to create an austerity plan and talk about how to cut expenses. The family can also discuss its underlying values and how, especially in this time of social hardship, how to look beyond their own self-interest and use their wealth to help others.

2. Transparency with employees.

Local businesses are trying to stay afloat while doing their best to virtually carry out essential services and responsibilities. Many have had to reduce operations, and some have been forced to let staff go. Family business owners need to be open with their employees, transparently communicating information and concerns. They must ensure that everyone across the company, not just employees, shares in the burden. The response must recognize financial reality, but also sustain social capital by respecting all stakeholders.

Collaboration, defining and maintaining underlying values, and ensuring open communication are qualities that will allow family businesses to bounce back after a crisis.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D.Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D., a leading architect of the field of family enterprise consulting, is an acclaimed speaker in programs for business families and financial service firms. Dennis leads the 100-Year Family Enterprise Research Program at Wise Counsel Research. He is also Family Business Scholar at the Smith Family Business Program at Cornell University, a faculty advisor at the Ultra High Net Worth Institute, and a regular contributor to Forbes Leadership channel. He was awarded a special commendation for Outstanding Contributor to Wealth Management Thought Leadership by the Family Wealth Report. His new book is Borrowed from Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises (Wiley, 2020). Learn more at dennisjaffe.com.

Cyber Security Personnel

Cyber Security Personnel, LLCCyber Security Personnel, LLC

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Cyber Security Personnel has strong relationships with proven leaders who are currently serving or just recently completed their service to our country.

Our mission is to transition these proven leaders from their careers in the military and place them in the civilian cyber security sector to continue their service in protecting our country. Cyber Security Personnel has developed a proprietary training protocol to ensure a successful transition and placement.

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The Right Way To Disrupt Markets (Hint: You Might Be Doing it Wrong)

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | The Right Way To Disrupt Markets (Hint: You Might Be Doing it Wrong)For the past five years, I’ve established a highly successful manufacturing company that actually supports the little guy. Lots of people said it couldn’t (or even shouldn’t) be done – that manufacturing simply didn’t work that way. I’m happy to say we are growing at an incredible rate, and helping other business owners see amazing growth in the process. But it didn’t happen overnight, and there are many ways that this new style of manufacturing could have gone wrong, instead of becoming the market disrupter that it is today.

Market disruption has become something of a buzzword over the last decade or so. It’s the ultimate goal of most entrepreneurs: find a new, better way of doing things that will become the new normal. Because there’s a rush to find the unique, disruptive, unheard of technology before somebody else does, some innovators dive headfirst into an idea, planning to take on the large corporations in their marketplace without a clear path to success. The right way to disrupt the market is a more calculated, step-by-step planning process.

It goes something like this:

  1. Know the market, inside and out. Before launching our own brand, my business partner and I worked for years inside the industry. We understood the nuances of profit margins, process, and market saturation. We also knew from this experience that there was room for something more. We saw too many smaller brands shut out of a process that could have been much more accessible, and we knew there was an opportunity to change the marketplace.
  2. Secure financing. You simply can’t launch a large-scale, market disrupting company without some capital. If you are independently wealthy, great – but odds are you’ll need to go looking for investors. Investors want to know exactly how you’re different from anyone who has come before you, and they want to see that you have a thought-through plan to get there. Most of all, they want to see your passion for your disruptive business and a dedication to making it happen. Be ready with your insider knowledge and a solid plan, and you’ll get there.
  3. Have a laser focus on your customer. One of the reasons market disruption becomes possible, even in well-established industries such as manufacturing, is because huge corporations lose focus on who made them successful in the first place: their customers. Constantly put yourself in the shoes of the type of person or company you are hoping will come to you. Revaluate their needs on an ongoing basis. For example, our company not only fulfills an initial manufacturing need – we help on the back end with marketing and brand development. If your customer is successful, they’ll have the means to invest. If you’re the reason they’re successful, they’ll have the incentive to invest in your brand. In short, when your customers succeed, so do you.
  4. Always be ready for the future. As your brand truly is able to disrupt your marketplace, you’ll grow with your customer base. But always remember: there are other disruptors right behind you. Always be planning for the next big thing for your consumers. We are continuously looking for ways to bring prices down, so we can reach an even wider base of clients looking for a small-scale manufacturing solution. We always follow market trends, so we know that our facility has to keep up with the demand for cleaner, sustainable formulas for our products. Our commitment to progress and to find innovative solutions will never rest.

Market disruption comes down to the right idea, with the right team, at the right time. Make sure you’ve put in the preparation – and then you’ll be ready to take advantage of your moment.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Jordan ErskineJordan Erskine has used his motivation and entrepreneurial skills to advance the personal care products industry for more than 17 years. He currently serves as the President of Dynamic Blending Specialists, a global cosmetics manufacturing company committed to delivering innovative solutions to businesses of all sizes. Jordan has contributed to the technical formulations of a variety of products, including those of Fortune 500 companies, and has facilitated the launch of several successful businesses. Jordan holds an MBA in International Business from Northeastern University.