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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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.

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.

 

For Women Only! 5 Tips for Launching a Start-up from the Founder of Mightybell and Ning

Three businesspeople working on a touchpad.

I went to a unique women-only meet-up, or gathering of like-goaled individuals to swap ideas and network in what I call “VC country” – Menlo Park, California — the other day.

Venture capitalists like it because it’s close to both Stanford University and all of those hungry b-school grads who usually have the same three goals:

1. Change the world.

2. IPO or get acquired.

3. Make a boat load of cash.

Because VCs like the area, it’s a popular place to start a business, especially one focusing on technology due to it being on the north end of the Silicon Valley. The ecosystem here supports starting companies.

The fairly new meet-up group called Women Startup Lab (http://www.meetup.com/WomenStartupLab/) was founded by Ari Horie. Ari and I used to work at IBM together. Now we’ve both jumped into the entrepreneur pool. A whopping 300 people joined Ari’s group on-line in just 12 weeks. This shows there is a need for more groups that support women entrepreneurs.

Getting together with other women takes some of the gender-related issues away from the meeting. You don’t have to wonder, did he like or not like my idea because I’m a woman?

And because 80%+ new businesses fail, it’s wise to get as much advice as possible from successful entrepreneurs so you can increase your chances of being in the 20 percent.

This particular meet-up was pretty informal yet there was a motivational speaker. It was Gina Bianchini, founder of Ning (http://www.ning.com/) which sold for $150 million.  But like any good Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus, she’s already focused on starting her next company, Mightybell https://mightybell.com/. You can follow it on Twitter, at yes, you guessed it! @Mightybell

Bianchini had a frank discussion with about 35 women including me the other day about what it’s like for a woman to start a company. Some of her points indicated there are some challenges being a woman but they can be overcome.  I left some of the more “honest” advice out of this blog post out of courtesy to Gina.

 I actually thought that her general business advice was excellent and could apply to any start-up but she meant it for “women-only” due to the venue.

Here are the tips:

1. Five great contacts can help you get going. You don’t need to network or friend hundreds of people to accomplish your goal. Be careful how much time you spend networking at conferences. My friend and fellow Saratogan, Bob Karr, CEO of LinkSV (www.LinkSV.com) says it’s 10 people.

2. Keep a razor sharp focus on your goal and stick to the most important tasks only.

3. Market, market, market. If you are not spending 90 % of your time doing marketing and sales, something is wrong.

4. Take up space. When you are sitting at a table or presenting, spread out your arms and walk around the room.  Women tend to cower and shrink at a table.

5. Don’t apologize so much. This tip is geared towards women and actually came from an entrepreneur from Australia during discussion time and Gina agreed with it.

It was nice to have a unique venue where women’s issues were discussed and to hear tips from a female who has already succeeded in a still predominantly male-run technology business world.

On a final note, kudos to the more forward-thinking companies like HP, IBM, and Yahoo. All three have women running the show.

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Here’s a reminder about who I am in case you don’t want to click through to another page on this website to find out:

I’m the President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC http://www.michellemcintyrecommunications.com, a high tech public relations consulting firm based in Saratoga, California, a director with the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, an executive board member with the Sixth District Santa Clara County PTA, and a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for communications, public speaking and journalism. I’m also on the Advisory Board of a hot start-up called Fondu Software Inc. which helps companies form more profitable relationships with their channel partners. I have won 10 awards for outstanding results during my two decade career at IBM and three other public relations firms including Global Fluency where I was employee of the year in 1992. You could follow my tweets at @FromMichelle.

 

TOP VCs TALK ABOUT WHAT’S NEW IN BIG DATA AND CLOUD COMPUTING

SVForum Panelist Jasmin Young of PwC discusses the fast growth of SMAC at a breakfast event in Palo Alto on Tuesday.

SVForum Panelist Jasmin Young of PwC discusses the fast growth of SMAC at a breakfast event in Palo Alto on Tuesday.

My favorite IT acronym now is SMAC.

SMAC stands for social, mobile, analytics, and cloud computing. It’s an area of IT growing at a phenomenal rate according to  the April 23rd SVForum “Cloudy with a Chance of . . .” Panelist Jasmin Young, director of PwC’s Cloud Center of Excellence.

She quoted a 2013 IDC figure when she said SMAC is a $2.1 trillion dollar market expected to increase to $5 trillion not too long from now.  

Other panelists included Serial Entrepreneur Rajan Raghaven Founder of the The Fabric, which is his sixth company, and VCs Arif Janmohamed from Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Peter Lee of  Bessemer Venture Partners.

The latter two companies manage several billion dollars in funds. The companies they all have backed are an impressive who’s who list of tech firms from Netezza which was acquired by IBM, WebEx which was bought by Cisco and Fusion I/O, just to name a few.

By the way, SVForum is a non-profit organization based in the Silicon Valley that fosters innovation and community among the emerging technology community. Many start-ups, investors and IT executives participate in its many weekly panels, events and mixers.  Law firm Pillsbury hosted the event at its Palo Alto office.

Here are some of the more memorable comments from panelists:

>Jasmin Young, PwC:

  • Fifty-one percent of CEOs say their priority is to grow the customer base.  They also want to create a profitable business, transform operations and create the new IT platform.
  • New technologies are adopted because of how well they work, not how innovative they are.
  • The CIO is not the chief information officer any more. She’s now the the chief innovation officer.
  • Moving IT to the cloud means faster agility.

>Rajan Raghaven, The Fabric — https://svforum.org/Rajan-Raghavan

  • Cloud adoption is real. Many organizations are moving all of their IT to the cloud.
  • 667 exabytes of data is flowing over the internet this year. Big data is growing at 59 percent per year.
  • There are huge infrastructure related issues related to moving to the cloud. A huge transformation is taking place.

>Arif Janmohamed, Lightspeed Venture Partners  — http://lsvp.com/

  • The move to cloud computing has produced big opportunities in big data, networking, software as a service and mobile.
  • It’s about the unboxing of the data center.
  • A long time ago, people moved their money from under their mattresses to banks. Banks then became centers of excellence for security. Now companies are moving their data to the cloud. Cloud centers must be like banks. They also must become centers of excellence for security.

>Peter Lee, Bessemer Venture Partners  — http://www.bvp.com/

  • Eighteen months ago, companies said, “Let’s design with cloud first in mind.”  Now it’s, “I’m a cloud-only shop.”
  • Now it’s how to manage apps across devices and how to maintain governance policies.

Final notes:

IBM was not on the panel but its Cloud Services VP Ric Telford discusses SMAC trends in the “Thoughts on Cloud” blog, so if you are as interested in this area as I am, you might want to check out his posts once in a while.

According to the latest IBM earnings report, Big Blue’s cloud business has grown at a nice rate.  Here’s the URL for the post that mentions SMAC:

 http://thoughtsoncloud.com/index.php/2013/04/the-space-between-where-is-the-real-value-in-smac/

To keep on top of emerging technology trends, follow @SVForum and @FromMichelle on Twitter.

Disclosure: I own IBM stock.

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MMC PR Blog — The Secret to Phenomenal PR Results

The definition of public relations is “changing someone’s mind.”  This is my specialty and it’s what we do at my new consulting firm, MMC high tech public relations.

I convince people to change their ways or think differently. The main way I do this is on a large scale, through media outlets example. This, of course, is called press, media or influencer relations.

One of my business mentors said something profound that always stuck with me. It’s that great PR is based on logic.

How do you change people’s minds? How do you get great press? You develop relationships with your audience, understand their attitudes and communicate your message in a way that they understand and that has impact.

This is just logic, right? I happen to have a journalism degree and a major in public relations with more than two decades of experience in this area, having spent 16 years at IBM and at several public relations agencies. But if you had the right mindset you could become a great PR pro without all of this experience

A journalist needs to write timely and interesting stories and is often on tight deadlines. Ask yourself. How can what I’m doing, or saying fit into what they are writing about?

For example, phablets are hot right now according to several top IT media outlets including CNET. Do you have a new solution for phablets?  Can you speak intelligently about this topic so that you might be quoted in a story?

By the way, a phablet is a combo phone and tablet. You can think of it as a giant smartphone or a smaller tablet, smaller than an iPad.

iStock_000021652636Medium

One example of a PR tactic is being able to talk about how phablets are changing the workplace. They somehow need to be related to one of your offerings of course. If your solution has nothing to do with mobile computing, you probably want to try something different.

The secret to phenomenal PR is creating awesome messages and materials that contain a simple thought or idea.  Announcing new “mission critical software to solve your financial business problems” isn’t newsworthy or interesting to a journalist unless it has a super interesting twist like, “Oh by the way, Apple and IBM merged and this is the first product result of the pairing.”  That type of “Wow” news doesn’t need a ton of creativity to get press coverage.

The idea you tie to your PR campaign can be linked to industry trends, for example, here are two from a December 7, 2012 Forbes article by Todd Woody.

  • “Mobile Device Battles Mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smart phones.”
  • “Personal Cloud: The cloud will be center of digital lives, for apps, content and preferences. Sync across devices. Services become more important; devices become less important.”

Ask yourself, what are you doing that relates to personal cloud or mobile devices surpassing PCs to be the most common web tools?  Can you help a journalist with a story on cloud or mobile? There is much more to it as well but at a high level, PR isn’t that complicated.

Link what your company is doing to something that people actually care about and test it out on someone who is not in the tech business. If they find it interesting, then you are on your way to a phenomenal PR campaign.And then hire someone who can get the message out and develop relationships for you in a quality way.
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