How To Become a Master at Talking To Strangers

A couple of years ago, I started to talk to strangers. That’s not to say I hadn’t talked to strangers before that, because I had. I’m the son and brother of highly social small-­business owners, and I’m a journalist, so talking to strangers has been both a way of life and a livelihood for me. And yet, a few years ago I noticed I wasn’t doing it much anymore — if at all. Between balancing a demanding job and a really demanding small child, I was often tired, distracted, and overscheduled. The prospect of striking up conversations with random strangers in coffee shops, or bars, or on the bus started to feel daunting. Eventually, I just stopped doing it.

This was a coping strategy, of course. I was overwhelmed, so something had to go. And talking to strangers can, as it turns out, be taxing. Psychologists have found that just making with a stranger can be cognitively demanding, tiring, and even stressful. That makes sense. You don’t know the person, you don’t know where the conversation is going, so you must pay closer attention than you would if you were talking to someone you know well. But psychologists have found that talking to a stranger actually boosts your mental performance — for that same reason: It’s a workout. I was saving myself a bit of effort, but I also noticed that my life was becoming less interesting, less surprising, maybe even a little lonely.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Memorable Small Talk That Gets People Interested In Working With You

After my epiphany, I got to wondering: Why don’t we talk to strangers more, what happens when we do, and how can we get better at it? It turns out, many researchers are asking the same questions. I started flying around the world to meet them: psychologists, evolutionary scientists, historians, urban planners, entrepreneurs, sociologists, and — you guessed it — a ton of fascinating strangers I met along the way. They all taught me that talking to strangers can not only be fun but also enhance our sense of well-being, make us smarter, expand our social and professional networks, and even help us overcome some of our most intractable social problems. (I detail this all in my new book, The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World.)

And as I researched the book, I kept coming back to the implications talking to strangers could have for entrepreneurs. Because I come from a family of small-business owners — and for a while served as executive editor at this magazine — I have seen firsthand how beneficial it is for businesspeople to hone those social skills. I have also spoken to a lot of college professors who lament that their students struggle to make the sorts of serendipitous social connections that will serve them so well once they start their careers. And, like all of us, I’m coming out of a year spent in relative quarantine. I’m rusty on these skills and need to get used to the sorts of fun, fruitful, and, yes, sometimes difficult freewheeling social interactions we were deprived of for more than a year.

All of which is to say, I decided that I needed to become an expert at talking to strangers. How? I signed up for a class unlike anything I’d ever taken before and bought a plane ticket to London.


Our journey begins on a bright day in a small classroom at Regent’s University. I’m sitting on a chair, limp with jet lag, clutching my third cup of coffee. There are four other people there, too. They appear to be functioning at a higher level than I am, thankfully. We have come to this classroom to learn how to talk to strangers.

Our teacher is an energetic 20-something named Georgie Nightingall. She’s the founder of Trigger Conversations, an acclaimed London-based “human connection organization” that hosts social events and immersive workshops aimed at helping people have meaningful interactions with strangers. Since she founded it in 2016, Nightingall has done more than 100 events and many training sessions — with strangers, companies, communities, universities, and conferences, both in London and around the world.

Related: How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event

Nightingall has learned that, for a lot of people, the hardest thing about talking to strangers is initiating the conversation: approaching someone, making them feel safe, and quickly conveying the idea that you don’t have an agenda, that you’re just being friendly or curious. She found that older people are much more likely to initiate a conversation, for instance, whereas younger people require a little more assurance. But she also found that in all her own attempts to speak to strangers, the vast majority of those interactions were substantial, and many went great.

She came to believe, too — and this is important — that making a practice of talking to strangers could offer more than a jolt of good feeling for an individual. There was joy in it, profundity, real communion. If practiced widely enough, she believed it could help repair a fracturing society. “We’re not just talking about a few individualized things,” she says. “We’re talking about a different way to live.”

Nightingall stands before our class, bright, engaging, and articulate, and walks us through what to expect over the coming days. She wants to take us “from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, and from conscious competence to unconscious competence,” she says. In other words, we are currently bad at this and we’re unaware of why or how. We will learn what we are lacking. We will improve on it. And we will, hopefully, become so proficient that it will become second nature to us.

Our first lesson is small talk. A lot of people hate small talk, which is understandable, because a lot of small talk is deadly boring. Nightingall concedes the point. Yes, she says, small talk can be dull. But that’s because most people don’t understand what it’s for. It’s not the conversation. It’s the opener for a better conversation. It’s a way to get comfortable with one another and cast around for something you want to talk about. That, she says, is why it’s important to be aware of your response when someone asks something like “What do you do?” You are failing to understand what that question is really asking, which is this: “What should you and I talk about?”

Nightingall came to this insight via a couple of sources. She had done improve comedy in the past, and in improve, you start a sketch with something familiar to everyone in the audience — something relevant, timely, or present in the room — to bind the room together. Only then can you really take the audience on a ride. That’s small talk. But Nightingall has also followed the work of social anthropologist Kate Fox, who has studied, for instance, the seemingly inexhaustible English desire to discuss weather. While some critics have pointed to this affinity as evidence of a listless and unimaginative people, Fox argued that weather wasn’t the point. Instead, it is a means of social bonding, a greeting ritual. “English weather-speak is a form of code, evolved to help us overcome our natural reserve and actually talk to each other,” Fox writes. The content is not the point — familiarity, connection, and reassurance are. Once those are in place, a real conversation can happen.

When you recognize that small talk is just a door to a better conversation, Nightingall says, then it can be useful, because it’s structured in a way that naturally leads you toward common ground. We have all experienced how these conversations, if given the time, can move in ever-tightening circles until you both zero in on something you have in common and want to talk about. With that in place, you can wander, get a little personal, go deeper. But it’s probably on you to take it there, Nightingall says. “Everyone is interesting, but it’s not up to them to show you — it’s up to you to discover it.”

The best way to discover that interesting stuff, Nightingall says, is by “breaking the script.” That means using the techniques of small talk, but resisting the temptation to go on autopilot. For example, you go into a store and say, “How are you doing?” and the clerk says, “Fine; how are you?” and the conversation contains no information and goes nowhere. That’s a script. We use scripts to make interactions more efficient, particularly in busy, dense, fast-moving places like big cities. But in doing so, we deny ourselves the chance at a better experience and maybe a new contact, and we wall ourselves off from all the benefits that can come from talking to strangers.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect With Absolutely Anyone You Meet

So how do you break those scripts? With specificity and surprise, Nightingall says. For example, when someone says, “How are you?” she doesn’t say, “Fine.” Instead, she says, “I’d say I’m a 7.5 out of 10.” She briefly explains why she’s a 7.5, asks them how they’re doing, and then just waits. This is when mirroring kicks in; it’s a phenomenon where people naturally follow the lead of their conversational partners. If you say something generic, they will say something generic. If you say something specific, they are likely to as well. Thus, because Nightingall gave a number, her partner is likely to give a number themselves. If they say they’re a 6, Nightingall will ask, “What’ll it take to get you to an 8?” This specificity creates a light atmosphere and makes it harder for the other person to maintain the that you’re of a lesser mind, because it instantly demonstrates complexity, feeling, and humor: humanity, in other words. “Straightaway, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a human,’ ” Nightingall says. “You have that bond, and then, naturally, things open up.”

Here are other ways Nightingall suggests breaking a script. When a shop clerk asks, “Can I help you?” you can reply, “Can I help you?” Or instead of asking people at a party what they do, ask them what they’d like to do more of, or what they don’t do. Or instead of asking someone how their day went, ask, “Has your day lived up to your expectations?” All these things require a certain measure of confidence to pull off, Nightingall says. But they work. And when they do, they will reveal a little nugget of what it’s like to be that person. That is meaningful, because that nugget is indicative of what is beneath the surface. “How you do anything is how you do everything,” Nightingall says. That nugget tells you where to go next in the conversation.


Once you’ve established a little connection, what do you do? I normally start asking questions. Which makes sense: I’m showing an interest in the other person, and I demonstrate my interest by indulging my curiosity. But one paradox about talking to a stranger, Nightingall explains, is that while curiosity is indispensable, a barrage of questions out of the gate can feel like prying, or an interview. They don’t quite know where you’re coming from yet, and they don’t know if you have some kind of agenda. Even one personal question asked too early can create an uncomfortable dynamic because you’re asking something of someone. You’re making a demand.

Nightingall suggests that statements, not questions, can be a better way to open a conversation. A question compels an answer, whereas a statement leaves it up to the other person to decide whether they want to talk. It’s not a demand; it’s an offer. You notice something about your shared surroundings, offer an observation, and leave it to the other party to respond. If they do, you respond with another statement that builds on what they said.

These observations should ideally not be moronic — “I noticed that the sun came up today!” — but they can be simple. Like weather talk in England, the point is to indicate a shared experience. Nightingall has found that proximity helps, too. If you are at a museum, walking right up to someone looking at a painting and blurting out “What do you think?” is very different from making an observation about a painting after standing next to them for 30 seconds looking at it. That’s because you have been in their proximity. They have adjusted to your being there, and you have demonstrated a measure of self-control. Then you can speak. It feels less like an invasion.

Related: How to Become a Master Communicator by Following This One Rule

One day in class, my fellow students and I pair off to practice our technique. I’m partnered with “Paula,” who tells me that one of her favorite things is making a cup of good coffee for herself on the weekends and just sitting alone. I try to remember Nightingall’s advice about opening with statements, not questions, but now we’re in a groove — so I dig in. After four questions, Paula is talking about how resentful she is at having to work for other people. I’m obviously quite pleased with myself as I trot back to Nightingall with this pheasant in my mouth. But she is less impressed. She delicately explains that while “it’s clear you’re a person who asks questions for a living,” everything about my suggested I was looking for something to pounce on. I asked questions too quickly, she said. I was leaning forward. This wasn’t a conversation; it was an interview. Possibly an interrogation.

Nightingall suggested asking simpler and more open-ended questions. Instead of saying, “Do you think this was because you were a control freak?” just echo, or say, “Why do you think that is?” That is the opposite of what I usually do, but it’s what I must learn to do. In a good conversation, you must relinquish control. Your job is to help your partner arrive at their own conclusion and surprise you, not to ferret out whatever it is, slap a bow on it, and go, Next! There’s a powerful lesson there: If you’re interested only in things you know you’re interested in, you will never be surprised. You’ll never learn anything new, or gain a fresh perspective, or make a new friend or contact. The key to talking to strangers, it turns out, is letting go, letting them lead. Then the world opens itself to you.

Why don’t we talk to strangers? The answer I heard, over and over again from experts, is simply that we don’t talk to strangers. In many places, for many reasons, it has become a social norm, and social norms are really powerful. That is why Nightingall uses what she calls a foolproof method to not just violate the norm — but to openly acknowledge that you are violating the norm.

She asks us to imagine riding mass transit — which, as we know, is the last place anyone ever talks to a stranger. There is someone who strikes us as interesting. We can’t turn to that person and say, “Why do I find you so interesting?” because if you said something like that to a stranger on the subway, they’re going to assume this is the initiation of a chain of events that will ultimately conclude with their becoming crude homemade taxidermy. So Nightingall suggests something called a pre-frame. It’s an idea based in the field of neurolinguistic programming, which coaches people to “reframe” the possible negative thoughts of others — ­­in essence redefining their expectations for the interaction to come. Ordinarily, we might be wary if a stranger just starts talking to us. We don’t know who they are, or what they want, or whether they’re right in the head. What a pre-frame does is reassure them that you know all this.

To do it, you acknowledge out of the gate that this is a violation of a social norm. You say something like “Look, I know we’re not supposed to talk to people on the subway, but…” This demonstrates that you’re in full possession of your faculties. You’re not erratic, disturbed, or otherwise off in some way. It helps alleviate wariness and opens the possibility of a connection. Once that is established, Nightingall says, you follow the pre-frame with your statement — “I really like your sunglasses,” for instance. Then you follow that with a justification: “I just lost mine and I’ve been looking for a new pair.” The justification eases the person’s suspicion that you have some kind of agenda and allows you to talk a little more openly.

Related: What to Do When You Don’t Know Anyone in the Room

That’s when questions become more important, Nightingall says. Questions serve a multitude of functions, which is why, as I learned in my exercise with Paula, they can be so complicated. Yes, questions help you obtain information. And yes, on a deeper level, they help your conversational partner clarify the point they are trying to make. But they also help us emotionally bond with other people. In a series of studies in 2017, psychologist Karen Huang and her colleagues discovered that “people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners.” Those who ask more questions, the authors found, are perceived as higher in responsiveness — which is defined as “listening, , validation, and care.” In other words, people like us because we are interested in them.

And yet, the researchers noted, people tend not to ask a lot of questions. Why? Several reasons. “First,” Huang writes, “people may not think to ask questions at all…because people are egocentric — ­focused on expressing their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with little or no interest in hearing what another person has to say. Or they may be so distracted by other aspects of the conversation that they do not realize that asking a question is an option.” Even if a question does pop into someone’s head, they may not ask it, because they worry it’ll land badly and be “perceived as rude, inappropriate, intrusive, or incompetent.” In these cases, people will probably just talk about themselves, which studies show they do twice as often as they talk about other matters — ­which, ironically, makes people like them less. (Good work, everybody.)

But what’s a good question to ask? Nightingall has us complete an exercise in which we are given banal statements — the sort commonly offered in small talk—and tasked with coming up with good questions. For instance, one student says she ran along the Thames yesterday. There is almost nothing in the world less interesting to me than running, and usually I’d take this as my cue to begin plotting my escape. But, working from the idea that small talk is the means, not the end, the class brainstorms good questions to ask that might lead to something more personal or interesting: “Do you run every day?” “Is that a passion for you?” “What would you do if you couldn’t run every day?” I suggest, “What are you running from?” which is meant as a joke, but the class seems to go for it.

Then we move on to the flip side of question-asking: It is listening. When people do start talking, you must listen, make eye contact, and generally show you’re engaged. We know this, of course. But we are not always good at showing it. Two effective techniques to signal engagement are paraphrasing what people have just said — “It seems like you’re saying…” — and echoing — which is simply occasionally repeating things your partner just said—both of which are commonly used by therapists and hostage negotiators to foster connection and build trust. For instance, if they say, “I guess at that point I was frustrated,” you say, “You were frustrated.” This seems deeply weird and unnatural, and feels awkward to do, and if you overdo it, your partner is going to think something’s wrong with you. But I am here to attest that, done well, it is extremely effective. It’s like a magic trick. Researchers have concluded as much. According to the French psychologists Nicolas Guéguen and Angélique Martin, “Research has shown that mimicry…leads to greater liking of the mimicker” and helps create rapport during a social interaction.

Nightingall breaks down listening into three levels. There is listening for things you know about. That’s the most superficial level. That’s when someone says something about baseball and you jump on it and start talking about baseball. Then there is listening for information — you show curiosity about someone but your questions are about collecting factual data. That’s also more about you and your interests. And then there’s the deepest level of listening: listening for experiences, feelings, motivations, and values. That kind of listening is more than simply hearing, or self-­affirmation. It’s paying attention and endeavoring to understand. It is demonstrated with eye contact, echoing, and paraphrasing, and it can be deepened by asking clarifying questions —­ Why? How? Who? — that help the person get to the heart of the matter.

In other words, at this level of listening, you are not simply listening for something you want to talk about, or offering advice, or trying to think of something smart to say in response. It’s not about your agenda. It is a level of engagement that is about helping your partner get to what they really want to talk about, and you going along for the ride. You still want to talk about yourself a bit, Nightingall says — to give a little, and not leave the person feeling like you’ve just rummaged around in the bureau of their personal life and made off with a watch. But you want most of the focus to be on them. It is, again, a form of . You are hosting someone. You are surrendering a measure of control. You are giving them space. You are taking a risk. That risk opens you to the potential rewards of talking to a stranger.

During lunch and after class, I try out some of these techniques around London. I ask a 20-something bartender at a pub if the day has met her expectations, and she confesses with very little prompting that yes, it has. She’s about to quit her day job. She feels she’s been sold a bill of goods about the merits of a straight corporate career, and she’s going to empty her savings and travel the world. She hasn’t told anyone this yet, she says. But she will soon.

At lunch at a Lebanese takeout restaurant, I ask the owner what items he’s most proud of — because that’s what I want. He starts taking bits of this and that and dropping them into my bag. I tell him I grew up in a white neighborhood, and when I was a kid, a Lebanese family moved in behind us and used to hand us plates over the fence of what was at that time very exotic food. Since then, Lebanese food has always been among my favorites. Curiously, when I eat it, I think about home. This, as Nightingall instructed, was me opening up the conversation with a statement, not a question. The owner tells me that in Lebanon, that kind of hospitality is a big deal; people always make a lot of food for visitors. While he talks, he keeps dropping more food into my bag. When he’s done, the bag weighs about five pounds and he charges me for maybe a third of it.

Related: Here’s How to Strike Up a Conversation With Almost Anyone

At the end of the final day of class, Nightingall tells us that practice will be everything. Some encounters will go poorly, she says, and some will be great, but in time, we will get more comfortable with doing this as we internalize the techniques we have learned. We will be able to get a little bolder or more playful. Our confidence, tone, and body language will alleviate people’s wariness at the flagrant violation of a social norm of long standing.

Indeed, Nightingall is something of a wizard at this. She once started a conversation with a man on the tube just by pointing at his hat, smiling, and saying, simply, “Hat.” She will randomly high-five people in the street, she says. She smiles at people going the opposite direction down an escalator just to see if they’ll smile back. She doesn’t order an Americano; she orders “the best Americano in the world.” And people respond. During a break one day, I walked into the campus Starbucks to get more coffee. Nightingall was already in there, talking animatedly with a barista she’d never met before. When she and I walked out, she told me he gave her the coffee on the house.

Nightingall’s free coffee, my Lebanese meal — these were not coincidences. As I learned repeatedly while testing techniques of talking to strangers, I’d often be rewarded with free food. There are, of course, far more fruitful, meaningful, and valuable reasons to talk to strangers. But the food stuck with me. Then I realized why: When you start a good conversation with a stranger, it’s like you’re giving them an uncommon gift. And more often than not, they want to give you something in return.

Joe Keohane

By: Joe Keohane / Magazine Contributor

Source: How to Become a Master at Talking to Strangers

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References:

“Micro review: ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell – Times of India”. The Times of India. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 2020-04-07.v

Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website.

I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment. The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch. Sounds about right from my experience. But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin. Now that approach is really using your head.

Science has proven that reading can enhance your cognitive function, develop your language skills, and increase your attention span. Plus, not only does the act of reading train your brain for success, but you’ll also learn new things! The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

By: Scott Mautz

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

Dr. John N. Morris is the director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. He believes there are three main guidelines you should follow when training your mind:

  1. Do Something Challenging: Whatever you do to train your brain, it should be challenging and take you beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Choose Complex Activities: Good brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Practice Consistently: You know the saying: practice makes perfect! Dr. Morris says, “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it. The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
  4. If you’re looking for reading material, check out our guides covering 40 must-read books and the best books for entrepreneurs.
  5. Practice self-awareness. Whenever you feel low, check-in with yourself and try to identify the negative thought-loop at play. Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “who cares,” “I’ll never get this right,” “this won’t work,” or “what’s the point?” 
  6. Science has shown that mindfulness meditation helps engage new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways can improve self-observational skills and mental flexibility – two attributes that are crucial for success. What’s more, another study found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.”
  7. Brain Age Concentration Training is a brain training and mental fitness system for the Nintendo 3DS system.
  8. Queendom has thousands of personality tests and surveys. It also has an extensive collection of “brain tools”—including logic, verbal, spatial, and math puzzles; trivia quizzes; and aptitude tests
  9. Claiming to have the world’s largest collection of brain teasers, Braingle’s free website provides more than 15,000 puzzles, games, and other brain teasers as well as an online community of enthusiasts.

 

How the New Child Tax Credit Is Helping Parent Entrepreneurs

Eligible parents are slated to receive their monthly child tax credit payments starting Thursday. How you use the money could affect your business or help you start one.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expanded the tax credit score to $3,600 per baby underneath the age of six and to $3,000 for these aged six to 17. It is in impact only for 2021, although Biden has advocated making it making it everlasting.

Half of the funds might be despatched to folks in installments via December. For instance, a mum or dad with one baby underneath six would obtain $300 per 30 days. Dad and mom can declare the remainder upon submitting taxes for 2021–unless they choose out to allow them to obtain all the cash once they file.

Madilynn A. Beck, founder and CEO of Palm Springs, California-based Fountful–an app that gives “life-style providers” like manicures or DJ appearances on demand–is contemplating that strategy. Beck says that if she meets her enterprise targets this 12 months, Fountful might generate sufficient income to considerably enhance her tax burden come subsequent April. “I am protecting my head above water now,” she says. “What occurs if I’m absolutely underwater then and do not have a life vest?”

The kid tax credit score will have an effect on individuals at a “wide selection” of earnings ranges, says Daniel Milan, managing accomplice at Cornerstone Monetary Providers primarily based in Southfield, Michigan. For aspiring entrepreneurs, it’d offset childcare prices for just a few months whereas they work on getting a enterprise off the bottom. For others, the cash might simply assist alleviate day by day monetary stress.

That is the case for Ruby Taylor, CEO and founding father of Baltimore-based Monetary Pleasure Faculty, which supplies monetary literacy training and produces a card sport that teaches the topic to younger individuals. In April 2021, she and her spouse’s monetary scenario modified consequently of the pandemic however they nonetheless needed to cowl issues like a brand new roof and fence for his or her home.

Their financial savings account dwindled, and Taylor’s nervousness spiked, leading to her occurring blood stress and nervousness treatment. The additional $500 the mom of two expects to obtain means the couple can construct up their security web once more, taking the stress off each of them. “When she’s not pressured, I am not pressured,” Taylor says. It “will assist the enterprise not directly, as a result of I may be extra productive.”

Guardian entrepreneurs face the extra problem of staying current with spouses and kids, says James Oliver Jr., founder and CEO of ParentPreneur Basis, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps Black mum or dad founders financially and with an internet neighborhood (of which Beck and Taylor are each members).

 Month-to-month funds “may very well be the distinction of sending the youngsters to summer season camp, shopping for further groceries, taking a bit trip, or taking the youngsters to the amusement park as soon as a month to assist the household bond,” he says.

Source: How the New Child Tax Credit Is Helping Parent Entrepreneurs | Inc.com

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Critics:

The Internal Revenue Service today launched two new online tools designed to help families manage and monitor the advance monthly payments of Child Tax Credits under the American Rescue Plan. These two new tools are in addition to the Non-filer Sign-up Tool, announced last week, which helps families not normally required to file an income tax return to quickly register for the Child Tax Credit. The new Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant allows families to answer a series of questions to quickly determine whether they qualify for the advance credit.

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows families to verify their eligibility for the payments and if they choose to, unenroll, or opt out from receiving the monthly payments so they can receive a lump sum when they file their tax return next year. This secure, password-protected tool is available to any eligible family with internet access and a smart phone or computer. Future versions of the tool planned in the summer and fall will allow people to view their payment history, adjust bank account information or mailing addresses and other features. A Spanish version is also planned.

Why Emotionally Intelligent People Embrace The Rule of First Things First

I have a recurring nightmare. It goes like this: I’m 16 years old again, back on my old newspaper route. But there’s a major problem: I’m late. I’ve overslept. Now it’s 6:43, and I have 150 newspapers to deliver by 7:00 a.m. If I don’t, I start getting complaints. It’s an impossible task. A wave of immense anxiety immediately follows. Followed by a feeling of pressure, all over my body.

At this point, I usually wake up in a cold sweat–thankful that all of this was simply a dream, until … I realize the dream is related to a real-life situation. The true source of the anxiety, and a real-life feeling of “overwhelm-ed-ness.” After facing this situation over and over, I’ve discovered a rule that helps me to push through those negative feelings, move forward, and do what I need to do.

I like to call it “first things first.”

First things first

When I find myself in an “impossible paper route situation,” I tell myself:

Focus on first things first.

In other words, I narrow my view so as to focus on the first few things I need to do. This allows me to avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the situation, or the huge mountain of tasks before me.

Instead, I make a new list of only two or three things that I need to get done that day.

Then, I look only at the first one, and start chipping away.

First things first has many benefits, but here are four of them:

1. It keeps you moving.

When you have more work than you can handle, the temptation is to not do anything.

But by creating a new list of just two or three tasks, things look manageable again. You regain control of your emotions, allowing you to once more be productive.

2. It builds momentum.

Think about that feeling you experience once you finish a task. Then another. And another.

Next thing you know, you’re hooked. You see results, so you keep going–because at this point it’s easier to keep going than it is to stop. This is what famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow”–that highly focused mental state conducive to productivity.

Once you start building momentum …

3. You see more clearly.

In my nightmare, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, there is no tunnel. Just an unscalable mountain.

But once you start building momentum, you build the tunnel. Once you make enough progress, you can clearly see the path forward.

And once you see the path, it really starts to get good. Because now …

4. You believe.

Things are no longer dark.

The impossible task is no longer impossible.

Seeing the path forward turns into hope, and hope turns into reality.

Following the rule of first things first is how:

Entrepreneurs turn complex problems into simple solutions–and then build companies out of them.

Championship sports teams claw their way back from huge deficits.

Singers turn melodies into albums.

Authors turn words into books.

Artists turn sketches into masterpieces.

And paperboys finish their routes–even when they get very late starts.

Source: Why Emotionally Intelligent People Embrace the Rule of First Things First | Inc.com

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Critics:

Motivation is what explains why people or animals initiate, continue or terminate a certain behavior at a particular time. Motivational states are commonly understood as forces acting within the agent that create a disposition to engage in goal-directed behavior. It is often held that different mental states compete with each other and that only the strongest state determines behavior.

This means that we can be motivated to do something without actually doing it. The paradigmatic mental state providing motivation is desire. But various other states, like beliefs about what one ought to do or intentions, may also provide motivation.

Various competing theories have been proposed concerning the content of motivational states. They are known as content theories and aim to describe what goals usually or always motivate people. Abraham Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs and the ERG theory, for example, posit that humans have certain needs, which are responsible for motivation.

Some of these needs, like for food and water, are more basic than other needs, like for respect from others. On this view, the higher needs can only provide motivation once the lower needs have been fulfilled. Behaviorist theories try to explain behavior solely in terms of the relation between the situation and external, observable behavior without explicit reference to conscious mental states.

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SoftBank Invests $200 Million In Brazil’s Largest Crypto Exchange

Brazil’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, Mercado Bitcoin raised $200 million from the SoftBank Latin America Fund, Mercado’s parent company 2TM Group announced today. The investment values 2TM Group at $2.1 billion and is SoftBank’s largest capital injection in a Latin America crypto company.

Following closely on the tails of SoftBank’s investment in the $250 million round raised by Mexican cryptocurrency exchange Bitso in May, the deal shows a growing interest in bringing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to Latin America.

“This series B round will afford us to continue investing in our infrastructure, enabling us to scale up and meet the soaring demand for the blockchain-based financial market,“ says Roberto Dagnoni, executive chairman and CEO of 2TM Group. “We want to be the main solution provider for corporate players.”

The São Paulo-based exchange aims to increase the number of listed assets (the exchange currently lists approximately 50 tokens) and grow its 500-member team to 700 by year’s end. Further plans involve regional expansion with focuses on Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia and growth acceleration across 2TM Group’s portfolio, which also include digital wallet provider MeuBank and digital custodian Bitrust (both are subject to regulatory approval).

Founded by brothers Gustavo and Mauricio Chamati in 2013, Mercado Bitcoin has become the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the country. In January, it scored its first financing round co-led by G2D/GP Investments and Parallax Ventures with participation from an array of other investors.

Like many of its counterparts, Mercado Bitcoin has seen significant growth over the past year, with its client base reaching 2.8 million in 2021 – more than 70% of the total number of individual investors on Brazil’s stock exchange B3. Approximately 700,000 clients signed up just between January and May.

Over the same period, trade volume on the exchange had increased to $5 billion, surpassing the total for its first seven years combined. “Every single month [of this year], we are trading the full volume of 2020,” says Dagnoni.

“Mercado Bitcoin is a regional leader in the crypto space and the leading crypto exchange in Brazil. They are tapping into a huge local and regional addressable market measured by potential use cases for crypto,” says Paulo Passoni, managing partner at SoftBank’s SBLA Advisers Corp. (which manages the SoftBank Latin America Fund).

“At SoftBank we look to invest in entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo through tech-focused or tech-enabled business models that are disrupting an industry – Mercado Bitcoin is doing just that.”

Despite the rapid growth of the local crypto market, Brazilian regulators have been lagging behind. In 2018, Brazilian antitrust watchdog, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), opened an investigation into the country’s largest banks for allegedly abusing their power by closing accounts of crypto brokerages. The probe was ongoing as of last year.

In April 2020, Senator Soraya Thronicke proposed an extended set of rules for Brazil’s “virtual asset” businesses, custodians and issuers, consumer protection, crypto taxation and criminal enforcement, however no apparent action has been taken on the bill so far. Nonetheless, Dagnoni says the nation’s regulatory environment is favorable, and the company is closely working with regulators “to build a consistent framework for alternative digital investments in Brazil, in line with its vision of a convergence of the traditional and blockchain-based financial markets.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I report on cryptocurrencies and emerging use cases of blockchain. Born and raised in Russia, I graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi with a degree in economics and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I focused on data and business reporting.

Source: SoftBank Invests $200 Million In Brazil’s Largest Crypto Exchange

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Critics:

SoftBank Group Corp. is a Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Minato, Tokyo. The Group primarily invests in companies operating in the technology, energy, and financial sectors. It also runs the Vision Fund, the world’s largest technology-focused venture capital fund, with over $100 billion in capital, backed by sovereign wealth funds from countries in the Middle East.

The company is known for the leadership by its founder and largest shareholder Masayoshi Son. It operates in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, information technology, finance, media and marketing, and other areas.

SoftBank was ranked in the Forbes Global 2000 list as the 36th largest public company in the world, and the second largest publicly traded company in Japan after Toyota.

The logo of SoftBank is based on the flag of the Kaientai, a naval trading company that was founded in 1865, near the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, by Sakamoto Ryōma.

Although SoftBank does not affiliate itself to any traditional keiretsu, it has close ties with Mizuho Financial Group, its main lender.

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How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalizing on Digital Transformation in the Age of the ‘New Normal’

How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalising on Digital Transformation in the Age of the 'New Normal'

The Covid-19 pandemic has carried a significant impact on the rate in which businesses are embracing digital transformation. The health crisis has created an almost overnight need for traditional brick and mortar shopping experiences to regenerate into something altogether more adaptive and remote. While some businesses are finding this transition toward emerging technology a little tricky, it’s proving to be a significant opportunity for entrepreneurs in the age of the “new normal.”

Astoundingly, data suggests that digital transformation has been accelerated by as much as seven years due to the pandemic, with Asia/Pacific businesses driving forward up to a decade in the future when it comes to digital offerings.

With entrepreneurs and new startup founders finding themselves in a strong position to embrace modern digital practices ahead of more traditional companies, we’re likely to see a rise in innovation among post-pandemic businesses. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look into the ways in which digital transformation are benefiting businesses in the age of the new normal:

Fast, data-driven decisions.

Any digital transformation strategy needs to be driven by data. The emergence of big data as a key analytical tool may make all the difference in ensuring that startups take the right steps at the right time to ensure that they thrive without losing valuable resources chasing the wrong target audience, or promoting an underperforming product.

Enterprises today have the ability to tap into far greater volumes of data than ever before, thanks largely to both big data and Internet of Things technology. With the right set of analytical tools, this data can be transformed into essential insights that can leverage faster, more efficient and accurate decisions. Essentially, the deeper analytical tools are embedded in business operations, the greater the levels of integration and effect that may have.

By incorporating more AI-based technology into business models, it’s possible to gain access to huge volumes of big data that can drive key decisions. The pandemic has helped innovations in terms of data and analytics become more visible in the world of business, and many entrepreneurs are turning to advanced AI capabilities in order to modernise their existing applications while sifting through data at a faster and more efficient rate.

Leveraging multi-channel experiences.

Digital transformation is empowering customers to get what they want, when they want, and however they want it. Today, more than half of all consumers expect to receive a customer service response within 60 minutes. They also want equally swift response times on weekends as they’ve come to expect on weekdays. This emphasis on perpetual engagement has meant that businesses that aren’t switched on 24/7/365 are putting themselves at a disadvantage to rivals that may have more efficient operations in place.

The pandemic has led to business happening in real-time – even more so than in brick and mortar stores. Although customers in high street stores know they’re getting a face to face experience, this doesn’t mean that business representatives can offer a similar personalised and immediately knowledgeable service than that of a chatbot or a live chat operative with a sea of information at their disposal.

Modern consumers are never tied to a single channel. They visit stores, websites, leave feedback through mobile apps and ask questions for support teams on social networking sites. By combining these interactions, it’s possible to create full digital profiles for customers whenever they interact with your business – helping entrepreneurs to provide significantly more immersive experiences.

Fundraising via blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology is one of the most exciting emerging technologies today. Its applications are far-reaching in terms of leveraging new payment methods and brokering agreements via smart contracts, and while the use cases for these blockchain applications will certainly grow over the coming years, today the technology is already being widely utilised by entrepreneurs as a form of raising capital through Initial Token Offerings (ITOs), also known as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

As an alternative to the use of traditional banks, venture capital firms, angel investors or crowdfunders, ITO tokens can be made available for exchanges where they can trade freely. These tokens are comparable to equity in a company, or a share of revenue for token holders.

Interested investors can buy into the offering and receive tokens that are created on a blockchain from the company. The tokens could have some practical use within the company where they can be spent on goods or services, or they could purely represent an equity share in a startup or project.

There are currently numerous companies that use blockchain technology to simply and secure its operations. From large corporations like HSBC’s Digital Vault, which is blockchain-based custody platform that allows clients to access details of their private assets to small education startups like ODEM, which aim to democratize education.

Another company that’s pioneering blockchain technology within the world of business is OpenExO, which has developed its own community-driven utility token EXOS, to help build a new transformation economy that helps companies to accelerate, democratise and internationalise their innovation.

Salim Ismail, OpenExO founder, is the former Yahoo technology innovator who developed the industry of Exponential Organizations. He has become a household name in the entrepreneur and innovation landscape, and now he launches the blockchain ecosystem that includes Fortune 500 companies, cities and even countries.

Reaping widespread rewards.

Although digital transformation could begin with a focus on just one facet of a startup, its benefits can be far reaching for employees, consumers and stakeholders alike. It could limit the mundane tasks required of workers, offer greater levels of personalisation for consumers and free up new skills to be developed in other areas of a business.

This, in turn, helps to build more engaged and invested teams that know the value of fresh ideas and perspectives. Although the natural adaptability of entrepreneurs makes the adoption of digital transformation an easier one to make than for established business owners, the benefits can be significant for both new and old endeavours.

The pandemic has accelerated the potential of emerging technologies by over seven years in some cases, the adoption of these new approaches and tools can be an imperative step in ensuring that your business navigates the age of the new normal with the greatest of efficiency.

Dmytro Spilka

By: Dmytro Spilka / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP – CEO and Founder of Solvid and Pridicto

Source: How Entrepreneurs Are Capitalising on Digital Transformation in the Age of the ‘New Normal’

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Critics:

Digital Transformation (DT or DX) or Digitalization is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.

One aspect of digital transformation is the concept of ‘going paperless‘ or reaching a ‘digital business maturity’affecting both individual businesses and whole segments of society, such as government,mass communications,art,health care, and science.

Digital transformation is not proceeding at the same pace everywhere. According to the McKinsey Global Institute‘s 2016 Industry Digitization Index,Europe is currently operating at 12% of its digital potential, while the United States is operating at 18%. Within Europe, Germany operates at 10% of its digital potential, while the United Kingdom is almost on par with the United States at 17%.

One example of digital transformation is the use of cloud computing. This reduces reliance on user-owned hardware and increases reliance on subscription-based cloud services. Some of these digital solutions enhance capabilities of traditional software products (e.g. Microsoft Office compared to Office 365) while others are entirely cloud based (e.g. Google Docs).

As the companies providing the services are guaranteed of regular (usually monthly) recurring revenue from subscriptions, they are able to finance ongoing development with reduced risk (historically most software companies derived the majority of their revenue from users upgrading, and had to invest upfront in developing sufficient new features and benefits to encourage users to upgrade), and delivering more frequent updates often using forms of agile software development internally.This subscription model also reduces software piracy, which is a major benefit to the vendor.

Digitalization (of industries and organizations)

Unlike digitization, digitalization is the ‘organizational process’ or ‘business process’ of the technologically-induced change within industries, organizations, markets and branches. Digitalization of manufacturing industries has enabled new production processes and much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, machine to machine communication, artificial intelligence and machine vision.

Digitalization of business and organizations has induced new business models (such as freemium), new eGovernment services, electronic payment, office automation and paperless office processes, using technologies such as smart phones, web applications, cloud services, electronic identification, blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies, and also business intelligence using Big Data. Digitalization of education has induced e-learning and Mooc courses.

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3 Initial Steps To Doing Your Own Public Relations and Getting Excellent Results

3 Initial Steps to Doing Your Own PR and Getting Excellent Results

It’s a classic symbiotic relationship. Entrepreneurs need exposure in the press and the media need information from brands to fill their pages. It should be a balanced partnership then yes? Well… not always. The problem comes when you’re simply not giving the media what they can use, i.e. what’s of interest to their particular readers.

Often this is down to not understanding how journalists work and what they want, but also it can be down to laziness on the part of inhouse or agency PRs who persist in sending mass mailouts to already overserved press.

You may not believe it, but It’s actually surprisingly easy to be featured in the press. And you don’t have to have budgets large enough to employ the services of a PR agency which can easily cost £5 to £10K plus a month plus disbursements (expenses) just for the most basic of services.

You just need to follow the following steps.

1. Select the media titles your potential and existing audience actually reads.

How?  Well, try taking a sample of your social media followers and have a look at what media they are following. That’s an easy start. And don’t be afraid to pop a post up asking them to name or even vote for their favourite titles too.

Also conduct a simple Google search for media titles that reach your existing and potential customers and industry sector.

There are professional media databases which you can use to compile media lists but these can be expensive. If your budget is tight you could consider buddying up with another entrepreneur and splitting the cost.

Be reassured though, it’s really not about the AMOUNT of titles you target, but targeting the RIGHT ONES – i.e. the media that’s actually consumed by your target audience (you of course need to have defined this first).

Think beyond just national newspapers and magazines too. Consider TV and radio programmes, podcasts, social media influencers, smaller local/regional titles. And also titles that might not at first seem an obvious choice. For example, if you have a food or drinks brand, depending on its type and price points, you could consider wellness titles, health & fitness titles, luxury lifestyle blogs, TV programmes with a focus on nutrition or weight loss, parenting titles, supermarket magazines.

Don’t stick your nose up at these – most, including Waitrose’s monthly magazine actually have amazing reach, a fantastic reputation, wonderful production values and loyal readers.  And in the UK, Asda’s magazine has one of the highest circulations and readerships of all print titles.

2. Find the contact details of the best person to approach.

What you also need to do, is find the names and email addresses of the best editors and journalists to actually contact.

This again isn’t as hard as you may think. Most publications have what we call in the trade, a “flannel panel,” AKA a section in the magazine, often near the front, which details all the staff and their roles. On websites it’s usually under About Us or Contact Us.

Look through these and find the journalist or editor responsible for the content that’s the best fit for your product or service. You can also go on to the media title’s publisher’s website and often find contacts there.

And LinkedIn can be another great source – here you can often find email addresses too and if you are a Premium member, reach out direct too. Failing this, a quick phone call to reception will usually reap rewards.

Bear in mind, Editors and Editor’s in Chief aren’t always the best initial contacts to approach because they typically get inundated with emails and requests. It’s often better to find the details of the staff journalists covering the content most relevant to you and approaching them. Larger publications have what’s called “Commissioning Editors” and these are the people to pitch in to. Usually they deal with journalists pitching in, but there’s no harm in you doing this do. I’ll be covering how to pitch well in another article so look out for this.

It’s worth considering targeting the title’s website editorial staff as well as those in the magazine or newspaper as it’s often much easier to get content picked up for online use as there’s unlimited space, whereas a magazine only has a finite number of pages available per issue.

Don’t forget about freelance journalists too – these can be a fantastic way in. Twitter, LinkedIn – both can be very useful sources here. Start to follow #journorequest on Twitter and you’ll see what journalists are seeking, and responding to this can be an excellent, not to mention free, way of connecting to and building relationships with journalists.

3. Provide content they will want to use.

How do you know what information to give your chosen media? The first step is to be really clear on exactly what topics they cover.  It’s pretty straightforward to discover this – look at the content they already use, across as many of their media platforms as you can. Observing the regular content categories they have is quick way to gauge what’s called their “editorial pillars,” the key content their publication carries. By this I mean look at the primary content headings on a website, or contents’ page in a magazine. Hashtags they use on their socials can be a handy clue, too.

The second step is to look at the format of this content – length, tone – is it informal and friendly or more authoritative and serious, and if it tends to be more text led or image heavy. Also note if the content is typically presented as an interview, or a first person column, “Editor’s Pick,” a listicle (i.e. a Top 10 kind of piece) – this kind of thing.

By now you will know what topics they cover and in what style. Step three is to decide what information you want to communicate to these readers, that matches this, and pitch this in to the journalist or editor – or package into a press release. Do consider media titles always prefer to carry unique content – not information that’s been offered and taken up by their rivals, so you will need to create pitches and press releases that are tailored.

Pitches and press releases are usually sent as a simple, short email. I will cover creating these in detail in articles to follow, but essentially you need to communicate what your story is (the topic and specific angle), why it’s right for that title and is newsworthy for publication now – all in the most interesting way as possible.

It’s an art to make your pitches or press releases stand out for the right reasons when a journalist could receive hundreds of these a week, but, with some guidance and practice there’s no reason why you won’t be able to craft these as well as a PR agency and reap the considerable rewards press exposure can bring.

By: Lisa Curtiss / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Source: 3 Initial Steps to Doing Your Own PR and Getting Excellent Results

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Critics:

Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public in order to affect the public perception. Public relations (PR) and publicity differ in that PR is controlled internally, whereas publicity is not controlled and contributed by external parties.

Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations aims to create or obtain coverage for clients for free, also known as earned media, rather than paying for marketing or advertising. But in the early 21st century, advertising is also a part of broader PR activities.

An example of good public relations would be generating an article featuring a PR firm’s client, rather than paying for the client to be advertised next to the article. The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders, and ultimately persuade them to maintain a positive or favorable view about the organization, its leadership, products, or political decisions.

Public relations professionals typically work for PR and marketing firms, businesses and companies, government, and public officials as public information officers and nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit organizations. Jobs central to public relations include account coordinator, account executive, account supervisor, and media relations manager.

Public relations specialists establish and maintain relationships with an organization’s target audience, the media, relevant trade media, and other opinion leaders. Common responsibilities include designing communications campaigns, writing press releases and other content for news, working with the press, arranging interviews for company spokespeople, writing speeches for company leaders, acting as an organization’s spokesperson, preparing clients for press conferences, media interviews and speeches, writing website and social media content, managing company reputation (crisis management), managing internal communications, and marketing activities like brand awareness and event management.

Success in the field of public relations requires a deep understanding of the interests and concerns of each of the company’s many stakeholders. The public relations professional must know how to effectively address those concerns using the most powerful tool of the public relations trade, which is publicity.

Specific public relations disciplines include:

  • Financial public relations – communicating financial results and business strategy
  • Consumer/lifestyle public relations – gaining publicity for a particular product or service
  • Crisis communication – responding in a crisis
  • Internal communications – communicating within the company itself
  • Government relations – engaging government departments to influence public policy
  • Media relations – a public relations function that involves building and maintaining close relationships with the news media so that they can sell and promote a business.
  • Social Media/Community Marketing – in today’s climate, public relations professionals leverage social media marketing to distribute messages about their clients to desired target markets
  • In-house public relations – a public relations professional hired to manage press and publicity campaigns for the company that hired them.
  • ‘Black Hat PR’ – manipulating public profiles under the guise of neutral commentators or voices, or engaging to actively damage or undermine the reputations of the rival or targeted individuals or organizations.

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How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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How Entrepreneurs Can Use Data Aggregation to Grow Their Business

One of the rising tech sectors today is data aggregation with many millennials coming to the forefront of the industry to bundle information and convey it in a summary form.

Aggregating is all around us

To fully understand what data aggregation is, let’s look at this example: Data-collecting companies, like Facebook, gather intelligence such as likes or page-visits users consume. This information is carefully organized to promote ads or document what users see in their feeds. In business using behavior metrics such as the number of transactions, or average age of the consumer, helps the company focus on bestsellers. 

Related: Opportunity For Startups in Manufacturing, Logistics and Supply Chain

What does this mean to the average entrepreneur? Using these kinds of systems can pinpoint and increase productivity to boost sales and growth

Related: [Funding Alert] Healthtech Start-Up Innovate Raises $70 Million

Dollars for data

Vasiliy Fomin is an excellent example of someone currently cashing in by way of running a data aggregator, bundling information from various sources into a single API, and allowing all types of businesses to power their offerings to consumers. He’s been able to build a thriving business earning millions in revenue by selling aggregated vehicle data, arrest record data, and more to a network of qualified resellers. 

For entrepreneurs, research and development are essential in understanding the market behavior so as to provide the best services to their customers. Data aggregators embrace innovations, new ideas and critical questioning by syncing with the industry’s changing trends in various aspects like leading, hiring, retaining and technology.

Related: 4 Ways Businesses and Consumers Can Take Back Their Data

By: Luis Jorge Rios Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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3 Tips For Deciding If An Investment In Your Business Is The Right One

Most of us have heard the phrase, “It takes money to make money.” It’s often necessary to invest in order to make more. This isn’t always an easy decision, but the question that many entrepreneurs ultimately have to ask themselves is, can you really expect customers to invest with you if you’re not willing to invest in yourself? 

When you consider investing in professional development such as a coach, consultant, mentor or online course, making sure this is worth both the time and financial commitment is strategic. But if the statistics are anything to go by, this strategy can quickly turn into fear for many women in particular.

Research shows that 71% of all assets held by women are in cash, but that 68% of women lose sleep because of money worries. It’s time to stop letting the fear of not having enough stop you from investing to build your wealth. 

These are my top three tips for making smart investments and minimizing money worries.  

Related: Want to Become a Billionaire? Invest in Your Own Business, Not Your 401(k).

Home in on your goals 

The first step is to write down your biggest goal for your business. What is it you really want to achieve? Is it to make six figures in fewer hours, or perhaps to build a big company that you will lead with lots of employees? Getting clear on this will protect you when you come across “shiny objects” — complex websites, funnels or branding that the sales world will try to convince you is absolutely necessary.

We usually succumb to these entreaties when we’re not focused on our end goal; when we procrastinate and look for quick fixes. Deciding what is just a shiny object or a really good investment starts with the question, “Will this investment help me achieve my goal faster?” 

Only when it’s a yes should you consider the investment seriously. 

Work out your boundaries 

Next, you need to decide if the investment is in alignment with what you want to achieve and how you want to get there. Write down what you are and are not willing to do to hit your big goal in your business. For example, will the commitment of the investment mean you’ll have to work 50 hour weeks when you only want to work 10? If so, then it’s probably not a good fit. 

It’s also a good idea to write down your values. Don’t let your feelings or mental blocks get in your way. Take your time so your fear doesn’t interfere. You might think that you don’t want to do sales calls. However, sales are a big part of a successful business. So, is it actually true that you don’t want to sell and thereby help other people, or could it be that you simply don’t want to feel like an old-fashioned salesman cold-selling by knocking on doors? If you were to feel good about selling, would selling be aligned? Most likely it’s a yes. 

Essentially, if your boundaries and values are in line with the investment, you should move forward to the last step. 

Assess the level of support

Investments are a vehicle for getting you from A to B, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to travel. Think of it like an airplane: You can go from London to Paris flying economy, Business or FirstClass. 

If you know that your money is tight and you are willing to have less support on your journey, an online course could be the way. If you know that you are willing to find the funds to get fully supported and get to your goal easier and faster, bespoke one-on-one coaching could be an option. If you want to be around other high-achieving entrepreneurs to push yourself and achieve more, a mastermind could be a great investment. 

This is when you need to ask yourself the question, “Is this investment providing the right level of support that I want?” If that’s a yes, you’re on the right track.

Related: 10 Ways You Should Invest Your Company’s First Profits

The lowdown of Investing 

Overthinking is often a massive pitfall, making you say no to things you really want and ending in you missing out on great opportunities. Investing in something is supposed to make you feel nervous and excited at the same time, and will most likely be a true game-changer in your business. 

When I started out, I had no savings at all, only debt. But I wanted to move fast, and my family couldn’t afford for me to not make money, so I found a way to make it happen. 

I started with “smaller” investments — $500 or $2,000 — which felt just as scary as the six-figure investments I make now. Since then, I have learned from experience that if the investment is not a stretch, I’m not really taking a risk, so the likelihood of me building success momentum is small.

Today, women invest with me at all levels — from $ 1,000 to $ 100,000 — and I celebrate them all for making the commitment financially, mentally and emotionally. Investment is always a risk, and having the tools to help you decide if it’s one worth taking is essential. 

By: Rikke Hundal Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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Phil Town’s Rule #1 Investing

Everything I teach about investing in companies applies to every investment that you could possibly make, and that’s all based on the advice I’ve received over the years. Today, I’m going to give you my 5 best pieces of advice so that you can be a successful investor too. http://bit.ly/2kFiMBa Knowing you will make money comes from buying a wonderful business at an attractive price. Click the link above to learn the Four Ms for Successful Investing! Looking to master investing? Attend one of my 3-Day Transformational Investing Workshops, virtually! Reserve your seat here: https://bit.ly/r1-virtual-workshop _ Learn more: Subscribe to my channel for free stuff, tips and more! YouTube: http://budurl.com/kacp Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rule1investing Instagram: https://instagram.com/ruleoneinvesting Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rule1_Investing Google+: + PhilTownRule1Investing Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/rule1investing LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/rule… Blog: http://bit.ly/1YdqVXI Podcast: http://bit.ly/1KYuWb4 Buy my bestselling book Rule #1: https://amzn.to/2R9Gofj

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