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The impact of happiness on the bottom line

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 13-June 2013 issuezapposhappiness

Unconventional shoe retailer Zappos is getting a lot of attention for its business model and culture centred on the happiness of its workers. And they are reaping the rewards. In yearly workplace surveys from Fortune Magazine and the like. Zappos has been consistently rated as one of the top companies to work for. They have also excelled in the traditional business metrics. It took Zappos under 10 years to reach $1bn in annual revenue. They were acquired by Amazon in 2009 for a sizeable $1.2bn. There is a powerful lesson here. Like Zappos, by putting the happiness and well-being of your staff on centre stage, companies can build a happy culture that is healthy for profits and growth. Continue reading

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If you work from home, get a dog

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 6-June-2013 issue

If US stats are anything to go by, two out of three companies begin in a spare bedroom, garage, or possibly even a bathroom. In fact, that’s how companies as varied as Apple, Baskin-Robbins ice cream, Microsoft, Hallmark cards, the Lillian Vernon online gift catalogue and Purex laundry products got going. Thanks to the Internet, running a company from home is now more do-able and popular than ever before.

However, operating a home-based business also comes with its own unique challenges. How many times have I had a client on the phone when my kids started fighting, the neighbourhood tomcat began his piercing mating calls or there was the loud, unmistakeable jingle of the ice cream truck driving up and down our streets? What about the battle to keep work separate from family and personal life? And the loneliness of working from home can drive you crazy.

One solution to some of these issues: get a dog. Continue reading


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Persistence pays off for entrepreneurs

persistent mountain climber at summitThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 30-May-2013 issue

The 12th series of US singing competition American Idol reached its finale last week. 23-year-old vocal powerhouse Candice Glover took the title. With her talent you’d think she would have been a clear favourite. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, this was Candice’s third attempt on the show. She had auditioned for the ninth and 11th seasons but didn`t reach the finals until the 12th season. In a previous season, former Idols judge Simon Cowell condescendingly told Candice she would never amount to more than a lounge singer. But he didn’t bank on her strong sense of determination. “I always knew for some reason that it would happen if I kept going,” said Glover backstage after her 2013 win. There is a powerful lesson that many entrepreneurs can learn from Candice Glover: Persistence pays off. Continue reading


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The battle between Windows and Ford

This is too good not to share:

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated:
“If Ford had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

In response to Bill’s comments, Ford issued a press release stating:

If Ford had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash…twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn, would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask: “Are you sure?” before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.

PS – Oh and here is another one that is doing the rounds:

When all else fails, you could call “customer service” in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language how to fix your car yourself!


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Meetings are a time killer: how can we make them more effective?

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This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 16-May-2013 issue

On the way to taking our 8-year-old son Jayden to karate, my husband told him that he had to leave a meeting early to come pick him up. So Jayden asked: “Are meetings fun? Are they like play-dates for adults?

Jayden’s comment was spot-on. Meetings are a waste of time, and most of us would rather be working. In 37 Signals’ best-selling book Rework, the company reminded their staff that “every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.” Best of all, in 2011, 37 Signals even implemented National Boycott a Meeting Day.

However, if you absolutely must have a meeting, how can you make them more effective? Here are some useful tips. Continue reading


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Pay what you want: does it work?

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This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 09-May-2013 issue

Dave was in the market for a new car. One afternoon he happened to be driving past the Ferrari showroom when he thought: “Why don’t I take one for a test drive?” An hour later he returned from an exhilarating drive in a Ferrari 458 Spider, with the top down and the engine roaring like a caged panther. Dave was sold. He asked the manager: “So, how much will this one set me back?” The manager responded: “Tell me how much you want to pay….”

If you were like Dave, you probably would have also done a double take. Pay what you want for a brand-new Ferrari? Seriously?

As much as we wish it would, Pay What You Want (PWYW) has not penetrated the luxury sports car industry, at least not yet. But worldwide, more and more business people are experimenting with this controversial new business model across many industries: from restaurants, the music industry, to gaming and movies and free online services like Mozilla Firefox and Wikipedia. So far all of these industries centre around goods and services that don’t cost a lot. Could PWYW spread to industries with big ticket items like cars and property? More importantly, does the PWYW model work? And do the numbers make business sense?

Continue reading