10 Entrepreneurs Share Fail-Safe Strategies For More Effective Meetings

This story appears in the January 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

We asked readers: How do you make the most of everyone’s least favorite work routine? Here’s what they had to say.

1. Plan ahead. Set the agenda one week ahead of time. Allow employees to comment on it prior to the meeting so they have time to really think about it — and then stick to the agenda. — T.J. Allan, owner, Ageless Fitness, Gillespie, Ill.

2. Be holistic. We use the principles of sociocracy to make meetings valuable. It’s a whole system approach for inclusive decision making, effective governance and the ongoing evaluation and improvement of your organization. — Abhishek Gupta, technical consultant, Creative n Innovative Research, Jaipur, India

Related: 5 Rules for Successful Meetings

3. Stand up. Have all-hands-on-deck meetings standing up. We stand in a circle at 9 a.m. every morning and one by one state our goals for the day. Because we’re standing, we’re energized and we move fast. We’re done in 15 minutes. — Aidah Omar, consultant, Leads Gen Expert Pte Ltd., Singapore 

4. Make notes. Always have someone taking notes on actionable items — who said they would do what, and when. Then have that person send the notes around after. It helps to move things along and make the meeting meaningful. — Sandi Danilowitz, founder/CEO, The Health Engine, Toronto 

5. Get clear. I have people state concerns or questions beforehand. I call this “clearing.” Without it, people will be focused on their problem throughout the meeting — and may derail it to get their point across. Clearing makes the team more focused. — Dylan T. Dahlquist, research assistant, Canadian Sport Institute Pacific,Victoria, B.C.

Related: 6 Easy Ways to Make Your Workspace Happy, Productive and Organized

6. Clarify tasks. Everyone writes their weekly must-dos into a Trello board for all to look over. Then we do a quick roundtable to reiterate and clarify. Sometimes verbalizing what’s written makes it appear more or less important. — Cliff Harvey, founder, Holistic Performance Institute, Auckland, New Zealand

7. Ask and listen. I like to stick to an agenda, but that doesn’t work with every client. For the non-agenda types, I ask what technology problem has been bothering them. (We do IT solutions.) The client is able to vent about their previous experiences and then can communicate what they actually need. — Mike Perez, founder and CEO, With Perez, New York 

8. Do lunch. My most productive meetings follow a simple formula: no more than five people, and over lunch. When only the key people attend, it prevents loss of focus and time. Lunch is optimal because it removes stress — and the odds that everyone will attend are high. — Dr. Naim Drid, clinical research fellow, Paris VII University, Paris

Related: Fresh, Fun Ideas to Bring Your Team Together

9. Constrain them. I worked halfway around the world from my team for a year, and we had enough time for a single 30-minute meeting each day. That forced meetings to be front-loaded with clear action steps. We got very good at asking questions. — Jason Lengstorf, consultant/owner, Bearstone, Austin, Tex. 

10. Stay on task. When the discussion starts to digress and it isn’t productive, peers may be hesitant to stop it. A leader will suggest that we discuss the new topic at a later time. Post-meeting I can decide whether to handle via email, call or another meeting. — Andrea Spirov, CEO, The Boss Food Company, Houston, Tex.

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4 Easy and Highly Effective Business Development Tactics

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partners Jason Balin and Chris Haddon discuss four easy, highly effective business development tactics that you can implement today. 

To start, Balin and Haddon suggest doing Facebook Live broadcasts on a consistent basis. From giving people a behind-the-scenes look at your company, teaching your audience something new or showcasing your product or service — doing a little on-camera blurb will engage and entice your audience. 

The pair also suggest sending email blasts to your database of contacts. That way, you’re able to reach a number of clients (or potential clients) in an effective manner. Getting something nice for your top clients is also a great way to show your top spenders that you care. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money, just think of something thoughtful. It can be as simple as a handwritten note. 

Lastly, Balina nd Haddon recommend to organize and host group meetups or networking events. Start off by only inviting around 10 people for a roundtable. You’ll be able to connect with people inside and outside of your industry, and make it a regular event. 

To learn more, click play. 

Watch more videos from Hard Money Bankers on their YouTube channel here.

Related: When to Hire Virtual Assistants and Outsource Help

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What Big Tech Companies Can Teach Your Business About Going Green

Messaging, sharing photos, streaming videos — can you even recall what life was like before the internet? Those days are long gone, and today the internet is the backbone of the modern economy.

All of this connectivity comes at a price, however. The amount of energy it takes to manufacture and power our devices and data centers accounts for nearly 7 percent of global electricity, explains environmental organization Greenpeace in its recently released “Clicking Clean” report.

Related: 9 Easy Ways Companies Can Save Money By Going Green

Greenpeace has been measuring energy consumption and performance in the IT sector since 2009. In its new report, the organization issued letter grades to major tech companies based on their green efforts. Big players Google, Facebook and Apple each received an overall grade of “A.”

The scores are based on five categories: energy transparency, renewable energy commitment and siting policy, energy efficiency and mitigation, renewable procurement and advocacy. Apple and Facebook both earned all As and a B in advocacy, and Google received all As and a B in energy transparency.

Unfortunately, a number of major tech players have yet to demonstrate similar efforts. A high number of Ds and Fs were reported among video streaming companies including Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Vimeo. (YouTube, which is part of Google, received an A.) Video streaming generated 63 percent of global internet traffic in 2015, and Greenpeace expects that share to increase to 80 percent by 2020.

Related: 4 Ways Transparency Separates Companies That Thrive From the Ones Lucky to Survive

Netflix, which earned a D overall, accounts for one-third of internet traffic in North America. Because the company provides no regular data regarding its energy consumption, energy sources or greenhouse gas emissions, it scored an F in transparency. In the past, Netflix has claimed that streaming its videos is “more energy efficient than breathing,” but Greenpeace identified room for improvement.

Because of their size, the tech companies mentioned above have the power to sway others in the industry to go green, and these efforts also factored into their overall grades. Although smaller businesses don’t wield the same influence, here are three lessons they can learn from the tech giants about transitioning to renewable energy.

Transparency

Facebook and Apple lead the industry in transparency, providing easy-to-access information about their facilities and their consumption. By releasing this data to the public, they’re holding themselves accountable. Not all companies are big enough, or have a large enough budget, to invest millions of dollars in green energy, but transparency indicates that a company takes the issue seriously.  

Goal-setting

Transitioning to renewable energy won’t happen overnight. After pledging to become 100 percent renewable, Facebook broke down its commitment into smaller, actionable goals. The company set the goal of being 25 percent renewable by 2015 — and 50 percent by 2018.

Related: 3 Simple Steps for Company Goal Setting

Google took a similar approach, although before getting started, the company clearly articulated its own set of principles and criteria for renewable energy. It created a plan for executing its goals.  

Partnerships

A key to transitioning to renewable energy is partnering with companies or clients who also commit to this green effort. In some cases, that may mean drafting guidelines and company policies require production plants, data centers or any other partners to use or be moving toward renewable energy usage.

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A CEO’s Tips for Raising Work-Smart Kids

What one issue is most likely to keep parents awake worrying at night? Ask around. The answer likely goes something like this: “How can I help my children, who have grown up with everything they need, to understand the importance of hard work and the joy that can come from it?”

Instilling an appreciation of work wasn’t something my parents had to think about much: Our financial situation was such that my sisters and I were simply expected to contribute to the family. I had a job from the time I could safely ride my bicycle around town and deliver newspapers.

Later I took other jobs — working at a garden center, managing an apartment complex, refinishing antiques — that allowed me to (mostly) pay my way through college. My wife also worked her own way through college, but we both graduated with debt.

Value and joy through work.

Is it unrealistic for successful business leaders to expect children who have grown up in more comfortable circumstances to feel that same urgency? Perhaps. But there are few lessons more fundamental to communicate to children than the value of hard work and the satisfactions it brings.

When we talk about our children “reaching their potential” or “being themselves,” this is key. Whether they are investment bankers or poets or carpenters, they will only find value and joy in the labor that fills up so much of their lives if they learn the benefits of applying themselves to a task they care passionately about and of being driven forward by the desire to better themselves and perfect their skills.

Related: 6 Skills to Learn Online for a Lucrative and Productive 2017

So how can we as parents instill a love of work in our children? 

Teach responsibility early.

The paper route I had as a kid was a revelation. Sure, I learned to show up every day whether I felt like it or not, which was important. But I’d expected that. The bigger thing was that I had to go collect the money from my clients and turn it over to the person who organized the paper routes. And there was always a problem with somebody paying late, or somebody I just had to keep going back to again and again in order to persuade them to pay their 25 cents.

I learned about tenacity and follow through and being assertive with people who had more power — grownups. And I learned that some people really hate to part with money. Those weren’t lessons I was getting in my eighth grade classroom.

Let kids fail.

This cannot be overstated in a time when “helicopter parenting” is a best practice in many households. Yes, it’s hard to watch our kids stumble and fumble. And parents who live and breathe a culture of winning and performance at work may find this especially hard.

But allowing kids of all ages to make mistakes and learn from them teaches them to weather tough situations, reflect upon them, bounce back — and, yes, win. As parents we really should practice standing back more often than stepping in — from the playgrounds and the playing fields to the classroom. 

Encourage college work that is aligned with studies.

Every parent has to decide on the value of summer jobs for their kids in high school. My wife and I pretty much left the job decision up to them when they were younger — Lifeguard? Ice cream scooper? Landscaper? Fine by us! But by the time college rolls around, college students should be strategic in shaping their summer work choices and matching them to their college major — already an area of interest.

Is your daughter going to major in political science? Perhaps she can work at a non-profit. Does your son want to break into marketing? Encourage him to find an internship at a marketing firm or advertising agency. It’s valuable for kids to get a glimpse at life in their chosen fields. It might just stoke their ambition while they start building a resume.

Related: 5 Components of an Attention-Grabbing Resume

Ask young adults to open their wallets.

Who foots the bill for college is a highly personal decision for families. Partly because of what my wife and I went through, and the student debt we carried in our 20s, we haven’t asked our kids to shoulder that responsibility. We are also incredibly fortunate, and don’t take that lightly. But I can tell you from experience that paying for college yourself magically sharpens your focus on your school work and the decisions you make.

Perhaps you ask your child to pay some of the cost — books, room and board, study abroad expenses or something along those lines. Or you can decide they will be the one footing the bill for those late night pizzas and off-campus meals. That used book or night out may be cherished by a student paying for it with her hard-earned money!

Adjust expectations of success.

Ok, so perhaps you always hoped your daughter would be a doctor or join the family business. Your son may have yearned to be a newspaper reporter. But these dreams don’t always work out in the face of experience. Sometimes igniting an ambition means being flexible enough to change direction. An internship I had in commercial banking in college was a coup for me to get. I applied myself to the work and absorbed everything I could. As part of my training I worked in all different aspects of the bank, and I was grateful for the opportunities it presented to me.

But at a certain point I realized I was far more fascinated in how businesses worked than in how to lend money to them. I gave myself permission to switch tracks, and never looked back. That child you observe dawdling his way through law school might actually shine as an entrepreneur or a salesman or — who knows? — a commercial fisherman. You need to enlarge your vision of your children’s possibilities, and help them enlarge theirs, too.

Related: How to Change Careers in 2017

Having conversations with our kids about our expectations for them isn’t always comfortable. On top of that, framing those talks so they actually engage and absorb this guidance can prove challenging for parents. However, watching a child blossom, seeing him or her reaping the personal rewards that come from success —however it is measured — is excellent for them and one of parenthood’s greatest satisfactions.    

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This Entrepreneur Lives in the Back Room at a Gym While Building His Business

The walls of my makeshift room rattle to the bass of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” The floor under my back rumbles from the impact of heavy weights hitting a concrete floor. With my head pounding and my eardrums aching, I slowly stand. My bloodshot eyes open to the sunlight peeking through my cardboard-covered window. I peer through the crack and my nightmare is realized. It’s 5 a.m., I live in a gym and there’s a damn CrossFit class outside of my door. My day has begun.

I drop my head and begin the walk of shame. I can feel the eyes of these morning warriors tracking me as I disappear into the hallway. My self-esteem drops with each step. I’ve slept on couches in Harlem with nothing but a fan to fend off the July heat. I’ve crashed on beanbags in Wall Street offices with nothing but the echoes of free market capitalism to keep me company at night.

Related: Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian: Building a Business Mostly Isn’t Fun

Hell, I even moved back in with my parents well after they turned my bedroom into an office. I thought I was finally immune to this never-ending state of anxiety. Nope. I can’t help but feel defrauded. This is not the life Hollywood promises. This is nothing like all those commencement speeches that told me to “follow my passion” and “all it takes is ambition.” Maybe it takes more than a black turtleneck, vegan diet and a gigantic ego to “Think Differently” and change the world.

As I place a thin strip of toothpaste onto a dying electric brush, I search for motivation. Jobs. Gates. Musk. They were the geniuses of their generation. I’m a former pro hockey player with more scars than accolades, a night school degree and a goal to change a game dominated by moguls with Monopoly money. Still practically in REM, I think back to the phrase in broken English that ended my hockey career and turned my world upside down.

“American[sic] drink this shit!?”

I wasn’t sitting in a Cambridge lab concocting formulas with MIT professors. All it took was a tiny locker room in northern Scandinavia, the overbearing scent of mint Snus and my captain staring down disgusted at a 5-Hour Energy bottle that changed my life forever. I honestly don’t know why this struck such a chord, but it did, and my pursuit of an energy shot fit for athletes began. TruEnergy was born.

Maybe, I received one too many blows to the head that caused me to live in my own alternative reality. How can I possibly impact the beverage industry while living in a gym, babysitting on the side and coaching tennis to 5-year-year olds for lunch money? If this were March Madness, I am the 16th ranked team with a handful of undersized guys and they are Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team. The odds don’t seem favorable.

Related: How Jack Ma Overcame His 7 Biggest Failures

I take a swig of Listerine, hoping to chase away the doubt, but it just keeps coming. My friends with their slick jobs, big paychecks and healthy relationships. My Facebook feed with its relentless optimism. The wedding invitations flowing through my mailbox (at my parents’ house). I feel lost. I’m the CEO of an energy shot company who spends more time flirting with an empty bank account than with pretty women at the bar.

I stare into the mirror, struck by the drooping eyes looking back at me. Apparently, I have aged faster in the 20 months since taking TruEnergy full-time than I thought biologically possible. The consistent stress, inconsistent food, and all-nighters are finally catching up to me. My waistline is shrinking and the full head of hair that once flowed beneath my helmet is disappearing. Maybe it’s time for a vacation. I think about taking up my brother’s offer to join him on a quick trip to Belize where I could take in some much needed sun. I contemplate jumping at my friend’s suggestion to take a break, head to Colorado and carve up the slopes. Except those things take money and I’m broke. But more than that, I need every second for the business. And while I’m devastated by the reality of my circumstances, I remember that this was no one’s fault but my own. I chose this.

Now fully drained of life, I splash a wave of freezing water onto my face with one last hope of jump-starting my day. The water succeeds where the Listerine failed. Everything becomes clear. Maybe, this is not the life that was architected by my formal education, my family or even God; however, I am addicted to the rush. Keeping my head above the quicksand of our burn rate is a constant struggle that I strangely enjoy. Wearing more hats than a mannequin exposes creativity within me that I never knew existed. Poking the giants of the beverage industry leaves me exhilarated as they ignore my jabs due to my small stature. I am not a Monster, a Rock Star or a Red Bull. I antagonize, disrupt and irritate. I am the little brother that you wish you never had. I am a tick that one day the industry will notice after it’s too late. The journey is my passion while my legacy will be the outcome. This is my chance.

Related: The 7 Toughest Startup Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way

After all, I know why I’m here. There is something inside me, inside everyone like me. It pushed me into that first incubator and then dragged me through the next two accelerators. It’s not dumb luck that people invested their hard earned money in the company and that friends and family backed the crowdfunding campaigns. There is a reason why so many people helped me to get to this point without asking for a damn thing in return.

The reason is simple. Those people believe because I believe. I towel off my aging but energetic face. Sure, I may never be the next Richard Branson, but that’s not the goal. I will never be a self-made man as it’s not really a battle of me against the world. Everyone around me has made sacrifices so I could get to this point. People have come out of the woodwork to help turn my dream into a reality. I owe my friends, family and investors everything. Self pity won’t pay the bills while quitting is treason. A spirit-crushing dose of reality from a locker room mirror will be profitable. I can’t give up now. This is where I belong.

I take one final stare into the man looking back, droopy eyes and all. He is not the smartest guy in the room, the most commanding leader in corporate America or the finest creative mind in the world. He is an ordinary guy willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish something extraordinary. This is just another day at the office, and he is going to crush it.

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6 Bootstrapping Secrets for Building a Successful Business on a Shoestring Budget

Many entrepreneurs feel they cannot start a business because of lack of capital. Of course, capital is necessary, and sometimes difficult to come by. But, what many don’t realize is that today it is possible to build a successful small business on a shoestring budget. Bootstrapping is absolutely doable, and many businesses have been very successful doing it.

Although no two companies are the same, we’ve highlighted six ways anyone starting their own business can cut costs, without cutting any corners.

1. Stick to your skillset.

Sticking closely to what you know not only means you will avoid investing time or money upskilling, but you also won’t have to spend any of your startup savings paying for high cost consultant fees or any other external assistance. By understanding the industry you are venturing into, you will already know the resources you need, cutting organization costs and allowing you to produce revenue quickly.

2. Work from home.

I see this too often: startups think they need an office right away to be legitimate. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Unless you need a storefront to get started, working from the comforts of your home will save you huge amounts of money. Aside from saving you money in rent, working from home means you do not have to pay for a commute and you could even claim some of your house rent as tax deductible.

If you can’t work at home, look for co-working spaces in your area.

Related: 12 Tips to Stay Healthy While Working From Home

3. Look for effective hiring alternatives.

If you need to create a team for your startup, hiring remote workers will save you money. Virtual assistants (VAs) are a great way to fill in the gaps in your business. For needs like bookkeeping, data entry, and even marketing and sales, websites such as People Per Hour, Fiverr, and Upwork connect businesses to capable freelancers. Be cautions, however, and be sure to check their success rates and reviews in order to hire the right person for the job.

4. Use the cloud for your computing needs.

IT costs can use up a good chunk of your capital, but managing and sharing all your folders using cloud-based tech will save you a substantial amount of money. Google Drive and Mozy are just two of the cloud computing services that offer free plans with options to upgrade to larger storage capacity. The business plans on both these platforms offer enough storage to save every single aspect of your company in one place, and some have auto backup so you never lose a file. In addition to this, you can use online CRM platforms that help you coordinate all your efforts without running costly servers of your own.

Related: Bootstrapping Is Much More Fun Than Investors

5. Use free website builders.

All businesses need a good website if they are going thrive. Although many spend weeks — and even months — outsourcing web development and design, there are many free, great options when it comes to website building software. We’ve all heard of DIY website builder Wix, but innovative tools like personal webpage creator Wiseintro and Duda, a website builder for pros, focus on two elements the future web is made of: mobile and personalization.

New tools make web creation easy with a variety of features such as online stores, analytics and much more. You can even learn basic design using tools such as Visme to tailor your website to meet all your requirements without spending extra money.

Related: 6 Types of Businesses You Can Start With Almost No Cash

6. Learn low-cost marketing techniques.

Startups today don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on marketing and promotion. Search engine optimization (SEO), writing fresh content for your blog and social media management are now made easier thanks to tools like SEMrush, Google Adwords, and Buffer. All of these offer free tools like keyword search volumes, competitive analysis, scheduling, and analytical features to not only plan ahead but ensure content is valuable to your target audience.

Building a business on a shoestring budget can be the difference between a successful startup and a failed one. You have thousands of free tech tools and tons of advice from blogs and other entrepreneurs at your disposal now when starting a company. Paying attention to where you’re spending your money can make a huge difference, and using innovative hacks to help your business grow faster will make a solid foundation for your new business to flourish.

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9 Free Apps That Immediately Make Life Easier

Apps are everywhere. Research has shown that Americans on average spend nearly three hours per day using mobile apps, and on top of that we tend to put that time into fewer than five apps daily. If you’re going to spend so much of your life working on, listening to or playing an app, it better be worth it, right?

Whether they’re free, native to your phone, or cost $10 to purchase, you want the app to change your life for the better by doing something no other app can. The good news is that many apps really do go to work for you. From simplifying your routine to clearing your mind or just helping to bring you joy, clear out some storage space and take advantage of what these apps have to offer. All are for iOS and Android phones, unless otherwise noted.

1. Duo

Maybe you’ve got an iPhone and are looking for an alternative in the video-calling space. Maybe you’ve got an Android device and Skype doesn’t really do it for you. Enter Duo, Google’s answer to Apple’s ubiquitous app-turned-verb, Facetime. Available on both Android and iOS, with Duo you can make video calls to anyone else with the app and a phone number. It’s simple to use and there’s an immediate upgrade: the “Knock Knock” feature shows you live video of the caller before you even pick up (insurance against screening a call, perhaps?).

Related: 5 Mobile Apps Every Entrepreneur Should Use

2. Hours Keeper

Being self-employed has its benefits; keeping track of your hours is not one of them. Hours Keeper simplifies the process by organizing the time you spend on multiple clients, letting you sort your hours by pay period and create invoices in seconds with its free PDF template. You can enter your time manually or use the clock-in/clock-out function that acts as a running timer, ultimately helping you stay focused and make the most of your time. There is a paid pro plan.

3. Healthy Living

So, you’re eating more organic foods? Excellent. Reading more nutrition labels? Bravo. But what happens when you start asking questions about what’s in your everyday products like shampoo or shaving cream? Who do you ask? And are you going to need a translator to understand it?

Enter Healthy Living from EWG (Environmental Working Group), a comprehensive, ratings-based app that explains exactly what ingredients — read: chemicals — are in more than 120,000 food and personal care products. You can search for a product by name, scan a barcode or scroll through the app’s own recommendations on everything from the best serums to cereals.

4. Square Cash

One of the newer digital wallet options on the market, the Cash app from Square lets you instantly send money for free to anyone with the app and between different banks via email, text or a “Cashtag,” a personalized website (and buzzword) where you can receive money from friends and family. Your account is linked to your debit card, so there’s no separate Cash account balance to think about. And bonus: the Cash app has an option for businesses so you can accept payments from clients with no limit to the dollar amount you receive.

Related: Getting Started with Small Business App Development

5. Parking Panda

You’re showered, dressed, remembered car keys/phone/wallet and made it out the door miraculously on time. However, it’s Saturday night and you have no idea where you’re going to park or how to avoid paying through the nose. Worrying about finding a spot or paying for parking at peak times is starting your night on the wrong foot. Next time, spend about 90 seconds searching Parking Panda for lots or garages near where you’re headed. The app is available in more than 40 cities throughout the U.S. and secures discounts up to 70 percent off peak prices. You’ll be able to see a map with the cost of a spot at each location, then pay for it in advance and guarantee that it will be there waiting for you when you arrive. Whew.

6. Evernote 

If you’re constantly searching a combo of a notes app, Pinterest board and bookmark folder for the trove of digital info you create and save, it’s time you try out Evernote, which has become the standard among productivity apps and digital notebooks. Evernote collects everything you want to remember in one streamlined platform that’s with you wherever you go. Create a note, scan a handwritten note or “clip” a web link and save it within a larger notebook or tag that you can then search for and access across all of your devices. The app has tiered paid plans and a version for Windows Phone.

Related: 7 Apps to Help Integrate Tech With Self-Improvement Goals

7. Dashlane

Dashlane is like knowing the host at the hottest restaurant in town. Just show up and you’re in, quickly and seamlessly. Dashlane securely stores personal passwords, IDs and personal details plus credit card and digital payment information so you don’t have to. The app will generate secure passwords for you so no two are the same, and it helps you complete online checkouts in seconds as it automatically loads your stored address, contact and payment information. Using it on one device is free, or you can pay $39.99 for one year’s worth of access across multiple devices.

8. Keelo

We’re all short on time but want to make the most of it, right? Keelo gets this by focusing on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and offering strength, cardio and conditioning workouts ranging from about seven to 20 minutes to complete at the gym or at home. Not only does it devise a workout plan based on your goals, it spells out what you’re going to be doing at each stage of the workout so you know exactly what to expect before you get started. Plus, you’ll have the option to sync with Apple Health and can track your results and access a virtual coach to keep you going. You’ve run out of excuses at this point…right? A  paid premium plan is offered.

9. Headspace

Now that you’re equipped with ways to streamline your life, it’s time to clear your mind. But if you have trouble blocking out the noise and finding some peace, Headspace can be your guide. Wall Street executives, Olympic athletes and moguls from Richard Branson to Arianna Huffington are already among the app’s more than 10 million users worldwide. The free Take10 program eases you in by introducing you to the practice of meditation for 10 minutes a day in 10 days, while a subscription unlocks access to a deeper range of mindfulness exercises from just a couple minutes to one hour. Tailor it to focus on what matters to you most and reap the benefits of its straightforward instructions on breathing and visualization.

Now that you’ve freed up some screen space (and possibly even your data plan!), let these apps help you kick start a new habit and make the most of your time.

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8 Sources of Strength Powerful Enough to Overcome the Fears Holding You Back

What are your powers? Few of us are focused on what our powers are, let alone practicing or leading from those aspects of ourselves. Most of us lead overcompensating for our perceived weaknesses. Leading from insecurity makes us work harder but not necessarily smarter, or with any sense of joy. In overcompensating for our perceived insecurities, we hit burnout quicker, are more anxious, and find work more taxing. Everything in life has threads of fear in it, so we may as well learn to find the strengths which lay beneath them.

1. Knowledge.

Knowledge is the strength underneath the fear of not having confidence. Knowledge is power. It is difficult to feel comfortable when we lack the knowledge necessary to make us versatile and flexible in our daily challenges. Without knowledge we function from a weaker position, especially when in the throes of conflict or negotiation. Preparation and knowledge naturally endow us with more confidence. If we lack the information we need it is important to humble ourselves to saying, “I don’t know,” and learn. We can go back to the drawing board, fill in the missing pieces, so as to avoid being in the weaker position going forward.

When in the fear of insecurity, gather the knowledge necessary to lead from a place power.

2. Openness.

Openness is the strength below our fears of change. Having knowledge is essential for success, but we must not allow ourselves to become so fixed or rigid in our thinking that we come to view our knowledge as the only correct knowledge. Being open is a strength which makes us more likeable and approachable to others. When we are open we are perceived as easier to work with. Rigid thinking and its subsequent limits overcompensate for our fears of change. We falsely believe if we know it all that we are somehow impermeable. However, closemindedness and/or rigid rules do not make our egos any less fragile. No one likes a know-it-all.

When facing fears of change, lead from the strength of open curiosity.

3. Patience.

Patience is the strength that lies beneath the fear of the unknown. Impatience is a reaction to living in the grey area of uncertain results. To overcompensate for this fear we tend to become reactive, causing us to make less than stellar decisions. These impulsive decisions most often push our desired results further away from us. In practicing patience, we develop the strength and emotional resilience to let things take their natural course. Being patient makes us smarter. A little space helps us to forecast our current situation beyond our initial emotional reactions. When we learn to wait, solutions come without us having to chase them.

When facing fears of uncertainty, lead from the strength of choosing to waiting well.

Related: Gary Vaynerchuk: Your Lack of Patience Is Killing You

4. Boldness.

Boldness is the strength which lies beneath the fear of conflict. Many of us cower under conflict. When under siege we hear our instincts telling us what to do, but because we become overwhelmed with the projected negative consequences acting strongly could bring, we don’t allow ourselves to step into our boldness. We can choose to be bold, fair, in our power and to trust that the consequences of our actions will only help propel our success forward, and deepen our sense of self-confidence. A simple fact; unless we say what we want, we won’t get what we want.

When in the fear of conflict, lead from the strength to rise to the occasion.

5. Allow.

Allowing is the strength that lies beneath the fear of not having control. Often times we’re so fear based that we overcompensate for this fear with being controlling. To find a deeper sense of strength allow people to be who they are, allow situations to be what they are, and allow yourself to be who you are, without self-recrimination. Allowing is a tremendous power because it keeps the flow of things open and resistance at bay. It is amazing what develops when we allow things to manifest in their own way and own timing. When we allow the process of success to have its own life, we make succeeding look easy.

When consumed with the fear of not having control, lead from the strength of dropping the rope.

Related: 5 Fears You’ll Need to Conquer Before Starting a Business

6. Courage.

Courage is the strength which lives below our fears of failure. Courage trumps fear. Whenever we feel paralyzed with fear, courage is about the last thing we believe we can tune into or utilize. Fear has two waves; the first is shock. When we’re in shock, courage cannot come. Shock is short lived, however. Once shock passes, our minds begin to unscramble allowing us to think clearly and efficiently. We begin to see a path or paths to our solution, and are able to approach our problem with an adrenalized and focused readiness. This is the birth of courage. Courage isn’t something we have, it is something we do.  Believe it or not, we often perform best when under pressure.

When in the fear of failing, lead from the courage to take action.

7. Quiet.

Quiet is the power beneath the fear of not being good enough. When we feel nervous, the natural tendency is to talk too much. Nervous talking is not success-driven communication, and in reality the more we talk, the more insecure we get, and unfortunately, the more we keep talking. In a social world dominated by extroversion, the strength of being quiet is one many never utilize or study. When we are quiet we present as attentive and calm. People want and need to be heard and understood, so when facing insecurities of not being good enough, learn to listen. When people feel heard they become interested in the listener. Security doesn’t need volume; it speaks for itself.

When facing fears of not feeling not good enough, lead from the strength of being quietly present.

Related: 6 Ways Embracing Mindfulness Helps You Thrive at Work

8. Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the strength which lies below feelings of emergency. Fear is a power all unto itself because fear is a fuel.  Whenever we’re in fear we move into action to remove the fear as quickly as possible. The reason fear causes so many problems is because it makes us reactive. To make fear our greatest strength, we must use it to practice mindfulness. When in a state of emergency fear makes us acutely aware of what is going on and if we can stay calm, as Captain Sully did when landing the plane in the Hudson River, we too will have more clarity on the front lines of our own critical decisions.

When under the fear of a pressured situation, lead from the strength of attunement to the moment.

When we lead from our strengths, we become more confident and successful. We are able to move with a certain grace through our troubles where we are impacted by them, but not flattened by them. To lead from our strengths we must use challenges as tests of our character. We can choose to rise to our occasions and go against our biological programing to naturally regress under stress. Having this type of composure takes practice and awareness, but if we’re going to practice anything this year, why not let it be leading from our strengths?

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How Meditation Can Transform Your Business

Meditation is a common practice of many extremely successful people, and with good reason: CEO Ray Dalio, for instance, has said he uses meditation to check his ego; Steve Rubin attributes his “laser-like focus” to the practice.

Related: Why Meditation Works and How it Benefits the Workplace

What exactly is meditation? And how has mastering it helped so many CEOs to master their business?

When you run a business, your most valuable asset is your mind. Any practice that involves relaxing that mind in order to regain control of it is meditation.

And that control was something I craved myself: As 2016 came to a close and I noticed that I was becoming more easily distracted and my writing had begun to suffer, I enrolled in a ten-day silent meditation course to help me kick off 2017 on a fresh note.

Before beginning this free course run entirely by donations from previous students, I surrendered my books, electronic devices and access to the internet to focus on studying the Vipassana meditative technique. Taught since the time of the Buddha, this technique has students observe their breath and bodily sensations in order to train their minds to be nonreactive.

By not immediately reacting to feelings of pain and pleasure, we not only toughen our minds and boost our sense of inner peace, we also broaden our perspective and capability to understand things a stressed out, self-absorbed mind would miss.

Below are some of the ways that meditation can change the way you run your business in the New Year.

Meditation keeps you disciplined.

Most things in our life are outside of our control. We cannot control the world around us, or what other people say and do, but through meditation and hard work, we can control our own minds. A trained mind can be the best friend you’ve ever had, and with it, you can accomplish things you never thought possible.

Related: Meditation, Mindfulness and Sleep Can Radically Impact Your Success

During my first few days of the Vipassana meditation course, I found my mind racing nonstop, never giving me a moment of peace. Even closing my eyes for a few moments seemed painful, but our instructor, the late S. N. Goenka, was very encouraging in the daily lectures we watched on videotape.

“Patience and persistence is the secret to success,” he said — a truism in both meditation and business. So I pushed myself as much as I comfortably could, and slowly but surely, saw the results; my mind became clearer and more focused.

Subhash Chandra, the billionaire chairman of Essel Group, is also a Vipassana meditator, taught by S. N. Goenka. Chandra has even donated a 13-acre plot near Mumbai for a new ashram location. Former Monsanto CEO Bob Shapiro and New York Times bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi are among those who have attended Goenka’s meditation workshops.

They’ve realized meditation’s benefits: Staying focused and resilient can be difficult, especially for overworked CEOs who live stressful lives; however, research has shown that mindfulness meditation can boost long-term mental health.

As Chandra told a business publication, “Vipassana taught me how to maintain equanimity in all situations of life. This has helped me tremendously in business, more so in the tough times.”

Meditation helps you maintain a positive mindset.

It’s easy to stay positive when our careers are on a roll, but to be able to find happiness within, even during times of turbulence, is something else again.

Because the Vipassana philosophy emphasizes the concept of time, I had a lot of it to reflect on its nature and how it brings about change. Everything we experience, both good and bad, will come to an end. Vipassana taught me to enjoy the present moment to its fullest without worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

With a cool, calm mind, you’ll be better able to appreciate life’s simple pleasures because you are unconcerned by thoughts of when the moment will end or whether or not you will have a similar experience again. While our circumstances are finite, our positivity is something that can be endlessly harnessed.

This is all part of creating an abundance mindset. When your happiness comes from inside, and you have an infinite well of positivity that you can tap into at any time, the way that you run your business is markedly different.

A related story: Christopher Hawker has said that when he began his company, he wanted to hire a salesperson but couldn’t afford one.

Rather than give up, he thought, “What I need is an amazing sales person with a ton of experience who also happens to be willing to work on a commission-only basis for a hardly existing company.”

Shortly after, he connected with a VP of sales on LinkedIn who wanted out of the 9-to-5 world, and the match was perfect. Had Hawker not cultivated his positive outlook, he never would have engaged with this person.

Meditation teaches you to be nonreactive.

When practicing Vipassana meditation — sitting still and silent as your physical and mental sensations come and go — you learn to observe, rather than react. By adding this layer of distance, we train our minds to respond rather than react, which helps us to gain a more thoughtful and holistic understanding of our situations. As the Association for Psychological Science reported, meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering.

And the result is an increase in tranquility. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this sense within myself after I returned from the meditation course. Without putting active effort into curbing my anger, I found I could reduce it naturally through meditation: I became a calmer, kinder person. I noticed an internal shift manifesting externally.

As we become more compassionate, we are better able look beyond ourselves and our own immediate business interests, helping us to understand long-term implications and the unique positions of all stakeholders. We stop thinking in terms of winning and losing, and friends and enemies, but instead feel the commonnality that we share with all of humankind.

In this context, seasoned entrepreneur and venture investor Chirag Patel told the Harvard Business Review that meditation had made him feel more connected to clients, colleagues and staff: “You start connecting to your customer as your family rather than merely a business transaction,” he said.

By increasing our capacity to empathize and decreasing our stress levels, meditation helps us thrive in all aspects of life, both personal and professional. Mental fortitude, insight and empathy are invaluable assets in any business, and meditation helps these qualities flourish. Perhaps this is why Goenka also created a Vipassana course specifically designed for business executives.  

Related: Meditation Isn’t Just For Hippies: Here is How it Can Help Entrepreneurs

Of course, you don’t need to set aside the time to complete a ten-day course to put meditation on your agenda this year. All you need is five minutes and a (preferably quiet) place to sit, lie down  or even stand. Your mind — and your business — will thank you.

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The 10 Best New-Age Business Ideas You Haven’t Heard About Yet

You don’t have to over-utilize iPads and smartphones to transform your business into a modern one. Connecting with newer generations is easy when you take advantage of the cool, in-demand ideas at your fingertips. Here are 10 new-age business ideas to get you started.

1. Tiny houses.

Sometimes a 10,000 square foot mansion doesnt constitute a dream home. Plenty of college students and graduates seek tiny houses on wheels instead. Why? They let you travel the country without paying for pricey hotel rooms. Even with full amenities, they cost far less than a normal-size home — Tumbleweed’s tiny houses start at about $10,000. They’re cuter and more practical than RV’s, and they’re (almost) fully customizable. Some even have tiny porches to match.

No, tiny houses aren’t just a fad you see on HGTV; they also make up an entire movement and an awesome business idea. Though a couple companies already offer them, those companies don’t take advantage of the full range of possibilities. Very few tiny houses are stylishly decorated, and even fewer are optimized for pets. Maintenance companies tend to ignore the tiny house demographic, too — that’s another business idea, right there.

2. Healthy fast food.

Don’t be mistaken — fast food is thriving today just as much as it ever has. But today people seek out healthy alternatives to the greasy meals that make up much of fast food fare. Taco trucks, burger joints and ice cream stands just aren’t doing it anymore. Restaurants who offer acai bowls, quinoa-kale salads and whole-grain wraps are in.

One great little niche is the healthy fast food truck. Take Green Pirate and Nectar for example; both trucks offer fresh juices and smoothies to a different location every day. Native Bowl and Hola Arepa mix up creative bowls and salads full of fresh, local ingredients. If mobile fast food isn’t really your thing, don’t worry — restaurants like Green Tomato and Zoe’s Kitchen do just as well.

Related Book: Start Your Own Food Truck Business by The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. and Rich Mintzer 

3. Delivery services for just about anything.

Americans are working harder now than ever before. Between their jobs, school, family, social obligations and hobbies, people just don’t have time to pick up their own dry cleaning, or even to bring takeout to work. While this is a problem for most, it’s an opportunity for the modern entrepreneur.

It seems that, given the opportunity, people will pay to have just about anything done for them. They already pay Postmates and Uber Eats to deliver food to their homes and workplaces. Booster Fuels will fill up their cars wherever they are. And with the rise of services like Amazon Prime Now, people can have everything from groceries to electronics delivered to their doorstep in under two hours. The concept has already proven itself — all you have to do is figure out what you’d like to deliver.

4. Virtual reality (and its accessories).

Virtual reality (VR) is an impressive facet of modern technology. With a pair of goggles and the right computer hardware, you can immerse yourself in a variety of fascinating worlds using VR.

If you aren’t the most computer savvy person you know, never fear — you don’t have to be a programming genius to create a VR-centered business. In fact, most VR-related business ideas have nothing to do with the technology itself. Rather, you can start your own VR industry update website, where you write about new tech, games, software and more. You can sell creative cardboard headsets (like Google Cardboard, but cooler). If you are good at the programming side of things, you can create your own games and software . . . or you can help car companies and real estate agencies create virtual experiences.

5. Ethical business consulting

Ethical entrepreneurship and management is a huge focus of concern for this generation. It’s not just about protecting employees and vendors from discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality and religion — modern business owners and managers also worry about ethical product acquisition, social responsibility and environmental awareness.

Whether they’re first-time business owners or seasoned managers newer to ethical business, there are hundreds of potential clients waiting for an ethical business consultant to help them out. Maybe they’re going through a massive hiring period, and they’d like an ethics consultant to help protect job candidates from discrimination. Perhaps the company is working on making their products fully biodegradable for a “greener” demographic. There are countless areas you could work in, and the best part is, you can easily pick a specialty you find most interesting and engaging.

Related: 9 Business Ideas for People Looking to Cash in on the Marijuana Boom

6. Website rentals.

It’s 2016 — these days, everyone calls themselves a web developer. But do you know what very few people tend to say they do? Rent websites.

You read that correctly: creating websites from scratch for specific companies is now the old way of generating revenue from Web clients. Instead, Web devs are creating several websites at a time for a certain niche, then renting customizable versions of each site to local businesses. The businesses pay monthly for a website the developer maintains. It’s a great way to make passive income and expand your existing Web dev business — as long as you know what you’re doing.

7. High quality or raw pet food.

Pet owners are becoming increasingly careful about what they’re feeding their furry friends. It’s common knowledge nowadays that cheap food can sicken or even kill your pets, grains are sometimes detrimental to a pet’s health and raw pet food, when possible, is preferred over the dry stuff at the convenience store. If you have pets of your own, you may have heard some of these concerns before.

This is an outstanding opportunity for the modern entrepreneur. As long as pet owners are buying high quality food for their furry friends, you have room to create a brand-new business. You may start offering raw food for pets with specific allergies. You may even combine this idea with another one from this list: weekly pet food delivery, anyone? The possibilities are just about endless.

Related Book: Start Your Own Specialty Food Business by The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. and Cheryl Kimball

8. Edtech.

Have kids or younger siblings? If so, you may know that more and more classrooms are allowing computers, iPads, and even smartphones during lectures and school activities. With the rise of this new privilege comes the rise of edtech, or educational technology.  This can include “blackboard”-style student portals, educational games, online discussion platforms, assignment submission forms and much, much more. In fact, we’ve taken a stab at the edtech industry ourselves with the Kidpreneurs Academy. The Kidpreneurs Academy, a series of fun and interactive videos on young entrepreneurship, is a wonderful complement to a book we wrote that teaches kids seven through 12 the same concepts. Combined, «Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas» and the Kidpreneurs Academy are our attempt at combining our area of passion and expertise (entrepreneurship) with youth education and the edtech industry.

It may seem like every type of edtech imaginable has already come to fruition, but realistically, a lot of today’s edtech is glitchy or impractical. Few online classroom resources do everything a teacher or student needs them to do; those that are actually complete are also inexplicably expensive. As an entrepreneur, it’s up to you to create (or sell) a solution that meets more than just one requirement at a time.

9. Activity bars.

Why go to a “normal” bar when you could visit a bar-slash-bowling-alley instead? Why go to a “regular” cocktail bar when you could hit up a speakeasy-style gaming parlor with your friends? For the newer generations, plain old bars just don’t cut it. Millennials want a pumped-up, engaging experience they’ll never forget.

This may not be a business you can execute online, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. Activity bars are popping up all around the country, most with bowling alleys and mini arcades. Can you come up with your own creative spin?

Related: 63 Businesses to Start for Under $10,000

10. Subscription boxes.

You see them all the time on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest: subscription boxes. Now, you can receive a monthly box of just about anything: international snacks, high-end makeup, stickers and even craft beer. There’s a subscription box for almost every hobby and personality… but not quite all. A subscription box business may just be the fun side biz (or full-time gig) you’ve been waiting for.

But what’s even better than shipping out subscription boxes? “Unboxing” them. One particular family of three, UnboxingRocks, has built a highly-engaged audience on YouTube by opening their favorite subscription boxes on camera, then reviewing the contents with viewers. If building and shipping subscription boxes isn’t quite your thing, then perhaps sharing boxes online is.

With these 10 new-age business ideas, it’s more possible than every to create the modern company you’ve been dreaming of. How will you place your own creative spin on these ideas?

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