Are You One of the 52 Million People Who Work At Home? Do It Right With These 3 Tips

work at home lead photo purchased from Canva Aug 14, 2018

According to the State of the American Workplace Report, more than 40% of Americans say they spend at least part of their time working remotely, a 4% increase from 2012 to 2017.  Since a whopping 52 million* people work from home it makes sense to learn how to do it right. This article provides three tips on maximizing your remote work including one that may surprise you.

Why are there so many remote workers? Remote work means more flexibility and happier employees. It also saves time and money in areas like dry cleaning, gasoline, and day care. I know these benefits well: I worked at home for IBM for a decade and for the last five years for my own PR firm.

IBM’s old rule was that you were assigned a traditional office if you could be in it at least three days per week. My managers and closest coworkers were often in Boston and New York so this Californian usually was sent home to get her work done. That was a win-win. It saved Big Blue a lot of office rent money and I scored a bunch of awards for results. All that extra sleep due to not having to drive two hours a day to and from the office paid off in more energy and awards for results.

extra sleep quote graphic

Times, however, they are a changin’. Sadly IBM Corporate reversed their position on working at home. Luckily I left the company before this happened. I still “bleed blue” by the way; I don’t regret building my career there.

The good news is that many companies are still encouraging workers to stay at home. Some  established startups I’ve worked with are are mostly home-based. Executives tell me it makes it a lot easier to recruit. Worker retention is probably higher because employees don’t want to leave to change to an in-office role.

Here are three tactics I’ve used to be more productive and happier at my at-home job.

  1. Wake up early and take a shower. Don’t work dirty! You feel peppy and professional when you are dressed and feeling your best even if the only person who will see you that day is the FedEx delivery guy or gal. man showering purchased from Canva
  2. Decorate a teleconference wall. Make sure the wall behind you and above your head has attractive decor and the nice lighting. Test what it looks like before a video call with a client or prospect. One test I like is a laptop selfie. I learned this video conference tip from two under 30 CEOs, one in Austin and another Toronto, who had decorated their in-office walls. I thought, people at home should do that too!Home office bedroom wall decor photo purchased from Canva
  3. Get outside every day. Take a walk, run, swim or hike mid-day. Exercise during the work day even if it’s packed with urgent tasks. Remote workers who take on a lot of desk work have the challenge of getting a little lonely. Get outside for a shot of Vitamin D and energy and mood-boosting exercise. Additionally, attend networking groups a minimum of two times a month and invite your favorite client to coffee. When you have a lot of work and you aren’t pitching you clients this tends to happen. When you are wooing new clients it usually doesn’t happen. walk during a work break purchased from canva

In summary, if you are starting a company, don’t be afraid to encourage your workers to stay at home more. They’ll be happier. If you want the benefits of working at home like not having to sit in hellish traffic every day, consider moving to a stay-at-home job.

*How did I get this number? An August 2018 Statistica report said there were 130.64 full time U.S. workers in July. Forty percent of this is 52 million. Therefore around 52 million of us in the U.S. work at home either all or part of the time.

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Michelle McIntyre, an award winning Silicon Valley publicist runs Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. She blogs for VLAB which brings together startups, established companies, VCs and members of academia to promote emerging tech like artificial intelligence. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle. Image credit: All are from Canva.

 

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10 Premium Tips to Kick-start Your New Business

By Michelle McIntyre

Purchased.from.iStock_000029377892Medium

October marks the two year anniversary of my public relations consulting business. Since I left my corporate job and started working for myself, I have produced results for 10 clients. They have included consumer and B2B software app start-ups, engineering services and clean tech firms and the third largest technology company in the world.

If you are thinking of starting your own consulting business, here are tips. These are things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Set a goal and make it realistic! You’ll need a few months to set up a website, figure out your finances, and develop your brand. Don’t plan on getting a customer during that time. I achieved my goal of acquiring my first customer less than a month after I launched my website. In fact I got two customers during that time.

2. Legally define it early. For example, is it going to be an LLC, single member LLC, or S-Corp? An LLC allows you to own your company name and generally protects your private property from being taken should someone sue your business and you lose. Read up on the definitions and consult a lawyer before finalizing the plan.
Be aware that in California, LLC’s have an annual $800 fee-tax on top of regular taxes.

3. Figure out your formal business name. If it’s an LLC, you can choose to add “,LLC” or just “LLC.” If you choose to freelance consult without forming an LLC or S-Corp, etc., be ready to put your social security number on W-9s that you need to fill out for some clients. I have an LLC and just put my EIN number on forms, instead of my social security number.

Unfortunately different lawyers and tax experts may give you conflicting advice on this topic.

The best thing to do is call the IRS or your state tax board directly for information.

4. Order business cards and have a nice head shot taken early on. People ask for cards as soon as you tell them you’re starting a business. Your professional head shot is for social media sites like LinkedIn. You must be on LinkedIn. Wear business attire in the picture or people may not take you seriously. Make sure the same professional photo is used across all social networks for consistency.

5. Set up a website and get social! People will not take you seriously without a website and social media presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ are all the main places to be. Pinterest and Instagram are important in some markets, for example, if you are selling clothes, Pinterest is important.

Pick a couple of social networks to focus on at first but put a profile on all of them.

6. Network a lot. Meet-ups work well and are usually cost-effective. Join for free through Meetup.com. When you are not helping clients, you are networking. Meeting new people face to face to get business works! A popular one is Idea-to-IPO in the Silicon Valley.

7. Have a positive attitude always. Meet regularly with people who support what you are doing. Note some people may never support your plans. That’s okay.

8. Define exactly what you will do in your business and stick to it. If you keep adding services or changing the definition of your value-add, you may confuse prospective clients. When they are confused, they will not hire you.

9. Be a LinkedIn stud. Speak at an event and list it on your profile. Get several quality references and make sure they are on your profile. You are not on LinkedIn? You better get on it today then. Everyone in business is on that social network. Also make sure you have references in your line of business.

People will research you online before hiring you for a service so strategic references are gold.

10. Consult with mentors as much as possible. In addition to pointing out mistakes and boosting your morale, mentors can bring new business by referring you to others.

Good luck!
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, director of marketing communications for SV-IABC, and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle. [Photo credit: iStockphoto.com]

8 Notorious Mistakes Made in Naming Start-ups

By Michelle McIntyre

Naming start-ups can be fun. When I advise clients on name ideas, I just let them know what sounds good and what makes sense based on their target market and growth plans.

However, the biggest mistake they make is naming for the present and not for their business climate many years down the line.

Here’s an example. International Business Machines (also known as IBM) has a name that lends itself to global expansion. It’s more than 100 years old and top investors like Warren Buffet like it. (It’s public knowledge that he owns a lot of stock.)

The name isn’t as exciting as Uber but it makes sense and the acronym is nice.
I love the name Uber. It’s short, cool, easy to say and easy to spell.

After using it recently I’m a huge fan of the private room-or-house-for-rent service Airbnb. But when I tell people to download the Airbnb app to look for their own dream getaway cabin or bargain business trip room, I have to explain how to spell it five or six times before they get it. By the way, you can also rent a houseboat, yurt, hammock or tree house through the service.

Naming a company after its headquarters city may not sound great when it expands globally, especially if that name is hard for someone elsewhere to spell or say.

Or what if the city has a negative connotation somewhere? Suppose I named a store Moscow Chocolates but I wanted to sell them online to the U.S. President? That may not work at this moment.

In any case, whether you are planning to sell software apps or chocolate bars, it’s good to put some careful thought into your new company’s name.

Here are eight of the biggest mistakes start-ups make when choosing a name.

1. NOT SECURING OWNERSHIP. It costs both time and money to take ownership of the new name. Make sure you take care of this early on or you might be sorry later. That doesn’t mean you have to shell out $80,000 to a naming firm although some of them do a great job. A 2013 Mashable article recommends checking your company name here first: http://namechk.com/

2. STEALING SOMEONE ELSE’S. This mostly applies to companies in the same market. If two companies have similar names but sell completely different things, it typically is not a problem. Did you know the game Angry Birds is being sued because there allegedly was already a stuffed animal company named “Angry Birds” in Europe formed years before the popular app came out? Granted the video game came before the “new” Angry Birds stuffed animals came out but if they are both plush toys, it’s definitely a conflict.

3. MAKING IT HARD TO SAY. Do you want people to muck it up when they introduce the speaker from your company at an awards ceremony? Of course not!

4. MAKING IT HARD TO SPELL. This is especially true in the age of social networking when everyone posts news stories and tidbits so quickly. If you are start-up CEO speaking at a trade show and you want people to tweet your awesome quotes and attribute them to you and your company, then make its name clear and easy to spell. When I’m live tweeting at a SVForum event, I get frustrated when I have to leave out a speaker’s company name because it takes too long to look it up.

5. THERE’S CONFUSION BETWEEN THE COMPANY NAME AND THE PRODUCT. The company Facebook is called Facebook but then the company has an app called Facebook and another one called Instagram. Thinking back, maybe Mark Zuckerberg should have made the company name different than the app to avoid confusion. As widely popular as Facebook and Instagram are, “Facebook’s Instagram” still doesn’t roll off the tongue. Same goes for Google’s YouTube. When I think of Google, I think of Google search. Google’s YouTube sounds awkward to me still.

6. IT MEANS SOMETHING AWFUL TO ANOTHER CULTURE. Again, plan for global growth! Most experienced business people know the number or word four is unlucky in several Asian countries. It’s because it sounds like the word death in some East Asian languages. There are a few of these zingers out there. Here’s a great Mental Floss article about this topic: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31168/11-product-names-mean-unfortunate-things-other-languages

7. NOT THINKING ABOUT INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES. Make your company name easy to find when people are searching for that topic. “Quality Dog and Cat Grooming” will likely come up first when people search for that service.

8. MAKING IT EASY TO LOOK SILLY. This story “50 of the Worst Business Names” at http://bestonlinemba.net/50-of-the-worst-business-names has some hilarious but sad examples of naming gone wrong. No offense to the person who owns Hooker’s Funeral Home but don’t they know what the word means? Is this a place for ladies and gents of the evening to be put to rest? Or is Hooker a highly respected family name? Probably the latter.

In any case, tell your name to a few different people before solidifying it. If at least three of them tell you it’s awful, believe them.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and director of marketing communications of the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle.

Software Experts Advise Startup CEOs to Build those Ecosystems

Facebook recently announced it was buying WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion. WhatsApp is valuable because it has 450 million users and is adding one million new ones per day according to the company.

The app allows people to send each other text and photo messages via the Internet, and will help Facebook grow stronger in the mobile market. A Time article described the deal as “epic” due to the humongous price paid.

Many billion dollar companies have blossomed recently because their apps have been adopted by a huge amount of people.  

And when an app becomes very popular, it can turn into a platform. Facebook, Salesforce.com and Twitter are all platform companies. Other companies make apps that work with them, making them even more popular and innovative.

Developing, building the ecosystem for and monetizing apps and platforms were topics discussed at the SVForum event “Apps to Platforms” Thursday, February 20th, at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose.

About 150 people made up mostly software start-up founders and developer relations executives from large companies like Dell, IBM, Google and Microsoft, and a few consultants like me attended.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed gave the opening remarks, stating more than once that San Jose is the capital of the Silicon Valley. To me, the Silicon Valley is mostly the South Bay and San Jose is the largest city here so I agree with him. Sorry, San Francisco.

Here are some of the other comments from the panelist and keynote speakers.

In the first panel, Adrian Cockcroft, technical fellow, Battery Ventures and Netflix’s former cloud architect said, “There are three questions to ask when developing a killer app. They are, ‘Is it easy to use? How will it spread, and how do you monetize it?’”

Randy Heffner, vice president, Forrester Research says that the granddaddy of APIs, which are tools that help the software programs talk to eachother, Amazon.com took off because it opened its API to mom and pop and boutique websites and blogs. He emphasized the link between APIs and the concept of the internet of things, or how many automated things in our lives are connected.

However, Heidi Williams, director of platform engineering at Box, cautioned, “If you give people all the control in the world, it can lock you in later.” She added that Box’s platform strategy is to build, distribute and monetize.

Saad Khan, Partner, CMEA Capital, who started as an intern at IBM alphaWorks team in the late 90s when I was also working at Big Blue, elaborated on the importance of connecting the software dots. “We’re going to an automated world where everything is modular and connected,” said Khan.

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Another keynote speaker stressed the importance of ecosystem in creating innovation. “A platform is a lot more powerful when you can get someone else to build it,” added Matt Thompson, general manager, developers and platforms, Microsoft.

John Wolport, IBM’s Seeker of Awesomeness (his actual title), and creator of its unique Extreme Blue internal incubator program says that a company like Big Blue adds integrity and helps with partner engagement.

ImageAn audience member asked him, “How can start-up founders and big company workers get along? Their situations are so different.”

Wolport said that there are a lot of entrepreneurs within IBM they are not so different after all.

John Sheehan, CEO, Runscope, stressed the importance of platforms saying simply, “They bring you an audience.” Sheehan used to work for Twilio, which started as platform which is uncommon.

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SVForum is an organization that fosters networking and best practices among members of the technology startup community. The group recently moved its office to San Jose from the North Bay. Its new CEO is Ms. Adiba Barney. @SVForum on Twitter.

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Michelle McIntyre is a public relations consultant, executive member of TEDxSanJoseCA, director with the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, and an IBM vet. @FromMichelle on Twitter

The photos were taken by Michelle McIntyre. They are of, in this order, Saad Khan, Partner, CMEA Capital; John Wolport of IBM; and project managers at the uTest booth.

Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Rock Stars on the Next Big Thing in Technology

On Monday January 27, three seasoned entrepreneur rock stars manned the panel chairs at an SVForum event at IBM in Foster City, Calif., giving several dozen early stage start-up founders advice on the dos and don’ts of successfully getting their tech businesses off the ground.
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The event “The New Venture in 2014 – Choosing the Right Idea, Building the Team, and Getting the Venture Started” was moderated by John Lee, vice president, Silicon Valley Bank.
 
The software-savvy panel included Spreecast CEO and founder of StubHub Jeff Fluhr, Couchbase CEO Bob Wiederhold who was at the helm of Transitive when it was sold to IBM, and Ullas Naik, founder of Streamlined VenturesNaik is a seed stage angel investor whose various firms have backed 200 technology start-ups. Fifty are currently active investments.
 
The three generally agreed that Silicon Valley is the best place to start a technology company because it’s so entrepreneur-friendly.
 
“The technology ecosystem is robust in the Silicon Valley. Your management team should be based here. The way to think about it is if you want to make movies, you move to Los Angeles, not St. Louis,” said Naik.
 
They also said to choose a co-founder whom you know well and that a company’s strategic advisors should receive some sort of equity in order to be truly useful and not just a bunch of impressive names and photos on the website.
 
The panelists had strong opinions on recruiting co-founders. Fluhr said that he founded StubHub with a former Stanford B-school classmate. He added, “It is best if you have known someone a long time, so choose a friend you have worked with before or know from school.” 
 
Naik said, “I typically don’t invest in companies that have related co-founders, for example brothers or husband and wife. I also don’t like to invest in solo founders. There is too much to do. Co-founders who have just met three months ago are also red flag.”
 
He admitted that there are exceptions to the rule, for example, Cisco was founded by a husband and wife team. 
 
An audience member asked the panelists to comment on the next big thing in technology.

Jeff Fluhr said Bitcoin, the alternative form of currency was intriguing.
 
Database company CEO Bob Wiederhold said Big Data and the Internet of Things are important in his market and driving a lot of investments.
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Ullas Naik added that data and what people are doing with it as well as wearables are the next big things in technology. Naik also said, “I believe that an alternative form of currency will be big, but not Bitcoin.”
 
If you are interested in getting more hot tips from top technology company founders and investors, SVForum invites you to attend the APPs to Platforms event in in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 20. Register at svforum.org. The all-day event is priced at under $200.
 
Follow SVForum on Twitter @SVForum.
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Michelle McIntyre is a tech PR consultant with 10 awards for outstanding results at top PR agencies and Fortune 500 companies. She’s a director with Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team at TEDxSanJoseCa. She’s @FromMichelle on Twitter
 

Photo 1: Jeff Fluhr
Photo 2: Bob Wiederhold