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.

Tips from VC Heidi Roizen: Three Things to Never Do When Starting a Company

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Today Heidi Roizen spoke to 35 female company founders including myself about learning from failure at Procopio law firm in Menlo Park, Calif. The event was held by Women Startup Lab Meetup group.

Roizen is a venture capitalist with Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) who also teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford University. 

In the early 80s she founded personal computer software company T/Maker and later sold it at a nice profit to the delight of her investors including VC Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. 

This was an interesting time to be in software because it was before it was hot.  At the time Lotus Development was getting started and Bill Gates, a friend of Roizen’s, was also a frequent co-conspirator at fledgling PC industry events.

I actually did PR for Lotus for several years long after it was bought by IBM. While I was there it had been rebranded enterprise collaboration software and social business which was definitely a smart move by Big Blue. 

After selling T/Maker, Roizen became vice president of developer relations at Apple Computer and after that, a partner at another VC firm before she joined DFJ. It was interesting to hear that she works part time for DFJ now, often from her home office. 

During her talk on learning from failure, Roizen emphasized the importance of knowing the numbers behind your business as well as being realistic.  

She had many great tips but highlighted three main things to avoid when starting a company.

1. RIGIDITY. Instead, be flexible and open to changing your plan based timely analysis of how things are going.  If you are not seeing the results, then quickly change up what you are doing in order to get them. 

2. PERSONAL FINANCIAL RISK. Roizen said she has seen more than one entrepreneur declare personal bankruptcy as a result of borrowing money to exercise stock options (known as the ‘cashless exercise’) and then being required to pay that money back when the company does not live up to its early promise.  She says personal financial pressure can create a hidden agenda and lead entrepreneurs to make bad decisions.

3. ASSUME A DEAL WITH A BIG COMPANY IS THE PANACEA. She once invested in a company that partnered with UPS. The company placed way too much emphasis on the deal as a key to success. Things didn’t pan out exactly as expected.  In 20/20 hindsight, they realized that although it’s a hugely successful shipping company, UPS’s business reasons for doing the deal were not aligned with what would make the startup successful.  

When I asked Roizen about hot technologies she immediately mentioned how mobile is ubiquitous and the importance for designing software for mobility. She also mentioned fellow DFJ VC Steve Jurvetson’s interest in the space industry pointing out the SpaceX launch that happened a few days ago.

The energy in the room during Roizen’s talk was high and I would like to thank Women Start-up Lab co-founder Ari Horie, my former coworker in IBM Storage in the late 90s, for working so hard with her team to put on such a fantastic venue. 

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Final note

Here are the Twitter handles of organizations mentioned in the story: @DFJvc, @HeidiRoizen, @WS_Lab, @Humwin, and @FromMichelle.

 

Six Tips on How to get Funded from the Queen of Venture Capital

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Venture capitalist Ann Winblad recently spoke to our Women Startup Lab Meetup group in Menlo Park.

Winblad is the co-founder and a Managing Director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. With over 30 years of experience in the software industry she is a well-known and respected entrepreneur and technology leader. She is also on the board of directors of SVForum.

She has a slew of impressive degrees and credentials and founded a software company in the mid-80s which was acquired back before software was hot.  I used to work with Winblad when I was with IBM Venture Capital Group and it great catching up with her again before her talk to about 30 female entrepreneurs.

Today software is not just hot. It’s white hot. Large companies like IBM have shifted their focuses from hardware to software in recent years. In fact last I checked software was IBM’s most profitable group.

Winblad estimates that today 60 percent of companies that receive VC-funding offer software.

Hummer Winblad Venture Partners was founded in 1989 as the first venture capital fund to invest exclusively in software companies.

My key take-away from Ann Winblad’s talk was that she doesn’t like to invest in entrepreneurs who focus on risk.

The word “risk,” says Winblad, has a negative connotation. It is associated with the threat of failure and impossibility.

Winblad instead likes to invest in companies run by opportunists and visionaries.  She looks for company leaders with can-do attitudes who look toward the long-term goal. She says companies that IPO are on average seven years old and ones that are acquired are at least 10 years old.

Here are her six tips on how to get funded. By the way, she stressed that her firm focuses on Series A funding, not seed funding.  This means funding a company and not just a concept.

1. DON’T BE A RISK TAKER. Focus on opportunity not risk. It’s not about being a risk taker; it’s about being a visionary.

2. KEEP AN EYE ON THE FUTURE. Winblad says it’s because visionaries are inspired, enterprising, and insightful.

3. SHOW HER YOU CAN ATTRACT TALENT. Do people want to work with you? Are you a team player? Attracting and retaining the best talent is what makes or breaks companies.

4. DON’T HAND HER A COMPANY PROFILE. E-mail her but only if it’s a fit. For example, don’t send her company information if she backs a competitor.

5. HANG OUT AND NETWORK WITH VCs. Half of the companies funded by VCs are Silicon Valley-based and 80 percent of the world’s VCs are based here as well.

6. WHEN PRESENTING, DON’T BE SO BUTTONED DOWN.  VCs invest in people with personalities and heart. This is especially a women’s problem. Don’t be so formal.

Here is a list of selected active and historical Hummer Winblad Venture Partner investments.

 Selected Current Companies:

AceMetrix
Aria

Domo

Baynote

Birst

Insidesales

Kiip

Flite

Infulitive

Karmasphere

Marketo

MuleSoft

Sonatype

Piston

Plumgrid

Voltage Security

And others

 

Historical:

Wind River

Hyperion

AdForce

Powersoft

Starmine

NetDynamics

Intrinsa

Krillion

Liquid Audio

Market Wire

Net Perceptions

Star Analytics

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Visit https://plus.google.com/photos/111651143754275279070/albums/5924958611441888881 for photos of the event.

Michelle McIntyre is president and principal consultant at Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a high tech PR firm based in Saratoga, California. Follow her at @FromMichelle on Twitter. Women Startup Lab is @ws_lab.

Founder of DrinkDrop Finds Inspiration from Other Moms

Lisa Guyman, founder of DrinkDrop find other moms are supportive of her new business.

Lisa Guyman, founder of DrinkDrop finds other moms are supportive of her new business.

According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of businesses owned by women in the United States has gone up 59 percent since 1997. These companies generate $1.3 trillion in revenue and employ eight million people.

I looked up this statistic after noticing that a large number of women, particularly those with children, in my Silicon Valley neighborhood founded their own companies.

Parents Maitjian and husband Todd Welke started their IT services business CMIT Solutions of Southwest Silicon Valley three years ago.  Mom Nikki Brown has been a self-employed graphic designer and personal trainer for years. I have a son and started my high tech public relations consulting firm in January.

My next door neighbor Lisa Guyman has just jumped on the lady CEO bandwagon with her new company DrinkDrop (www.drink-drop.com) and she says the experience has been a good one.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of very positive feedback about our products, and I’ve been blown away with how supportive other moms have been. I think that’s the coolest part about being a female founder–the understanding from other women about the balance it takes to have a business and be a mom,” says Guyman.

A DrinkDrop is a frozen, two ounce individual size drink mix that contains whole fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Saratogans can purchase them at Gene’s Fine Foods.

Guyman says that all DrinkDrop mixes are designed to be combined with a particular liquor and club soda. A DrinkDrop cup is provided to measure the rest. The all natural drink concoctions are also good without alcohol, Guyman says.

Guyman says you can keep DrinkDrop mixes in your freezer, and when you feel like a drink, just drop one in your glass. In seconds, you’ll have an attractive and tasty specialty drink.

Her husband Jeff Guyman came up with the idea after the couple held a wedding reception in their Saratoga backyard for her brother and sister-in-law. They needed a way to serve special drinks to a large number of guests.

Lisa is keeping busy promoting her company. She recently hosted a tasting table at Gene’s Fine Foods. Distillery 209 of Pier 50 in San Francisco is sponsoring the next DrinkDrop tasting event at the San Francisco Ritz Carlton on Sunday, August 25. The details are on the DrinkDrop website.

Like other female CEOs, Lisa Guyman is master priority juggler. She and Jeff have a one year old son, three year old daughter, and two rambunctious and just as adorable chocolate Labrador Retrievers. She holds an undergraduate degree from University of California Berkeley and a doctorate in physical therapy from University California San Francisco. She also ran Cal Bear track.

Guyman says, “Raising kids is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve always needed that something else. I’ve worked as a physical therapist for years, and I actually love being a physical therapist, but I’ve always wanted something that’s my own creation.”

Husband Jeff Guyman also has an impressive resume. He is a sales executive for a local power supply company and a Stanford University graduate who used to both swim and play water polo there. At one point he was ranked the number one water polo player in Washington State.

However, Lisa tells me that Jeff is totally focused on his 9 to 5 sales job so she started the company and handles the details herself. Due to the uniqueness and quality of her product, she is realizing that there is a lot to do to fill demand.

She elaborates on this point by saying, “These days, there is a big trend toward fresh herbal cocktails and mixology, or drinking your garden. We take all the work out of it and just say here, have a great cocktail and feel good about what you’re drinking.”

For additional information about trends in female leadership, read my review of the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead here.

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Note: This story was originally published in the Saratoga Patch community newspaper in August and as of today, it has received 146 likes on Facebook.

A popular drink drop option

This is what a DrinkDrop looks like. It’s quite small so you can fit a lot of them in a freezer.

An attractive and trendy DrinkDrop option

Hummingbird Nectar is a delicious, attractive and trendy DrinkDrop option.

8.20.13.2.Sueno

Working Moms: Read this if your Child is in Daycare this Summer

Lean-In by Sheryl Sandberg is on the bestsellers list at my local library this week.

Lean-In by Sheryl Sandberg is on the bestsellers list at my local library this week.

One thing about Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean-In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” that hit home with me was the statistic she mentioned in the chapter “The Myth of Doing it All.”

The main message of the book says is that it’s okay and even recommended that women, if they choose, take their careers to the highest level.

She is frustrated that there are so few women at the upper level of companies. She says that women tend to have less confidence than men and are each perceived much differently in the workplace. One way is that women who are tough are seen as bitches while men who are aggressive are seen as awesome.

Sandberg is wicked smart and has had senior executive roles at successful companies like Facebook. She was in the right places at the right times but at the same time, she worked hard and seemed to have the right attitude in advancing her career, which she says sometimes meant moving sideways instead of up the ladder.

Let’s go back to the topic at hand — the point she makes about guilt and the working mom. I like this fact because for most of the past 12 years, my son has been in day care while my husband and I worked.

In 1991, the Early Child Care Research Network, under the management of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, studied 1,000 children over 15 years. In 2006, the researchers released a report summarizing their findings, which concluded that “children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others.”

Sandberg goes on in great detail about how it can hurt children when you feel guilty and show stress about leaving them in daycare.

The truth is that children are fine and can even thrive when they don’t have a stay at home mom. I have seen proof as well. My son is funny, smart, and mature and has his act together. I had a lot of help raising him from YMCA and Walden West camps in the summers, and from on-campus daycare programs during the school years. Not staying home to raise him 24/7 didn’t hurt him one bit.

My son is going to basketball camp this week but instead of feeling guilty about it, I’m taking Sandberg’s advice. I feel fine and look forward to a super productive week serving my clients.

Sandberg actually repeats the message in different ways but it seems she likes this statement the best.

“Exclusive maternal care was not related to better or worse outcomes for children. There is, thus, no reason for mothers to feel as though they are harming their children if they decide to work.”

Thanks, Sheryl Sandberg for writing this book that is way overdue for the working moms.

The book is available on the best sellers’ shelves20130619_193004 at the local libraries or at Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women-Work-Will/dp/0385349947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373246869&sr=8-1&keywords=sheryl+sandberg%E2%80%99s+lean+in

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