NYC Welcomes Tech, But Only If It Helps New Yorkers

New York City is a leading hub for technology and innovation — but you wouldn’t guess it by its most-hyped headlines. Ironically, some of the most eye-catching recent news in the tech sector centers around how the city prevented one of the most influential tech titans from setting the foundation for a Big Tech colony in Long Island City. 

For the short span of a few months, it seemed as though New York was teetering on the verge of supplanting Silicon Valley as a home base for major tech companies. The city had a plan — and a provisional agreement — to host Amazon’s much-courted HQ2 within its borders that many in the tech industry heralded as the start of a new era of innovation and prosperity. During a press conference shortly after the announcement of the agreement, Governor Andrew Cuomo celebrated, saying: “This is the largest economic development initiative that has ever been done by the city or the state or the city and the state, together.”

The agreement certainly had some startling numbers to back it; analysts projects that the deal would generate no less than $27.5 billion in state and city revenue over 25 years with a 9:1 ratio of revenue to subsidies. HQ2 was expected to create roughly 25,000 jobs in its first decade, in addition to the 1,300 construction jobs and 107,000 direct and indirect jobs the building initiative would require. Amazon further promised to launch a tech startup incubator and a new school on its campus, as well as allocate as much as $5 million to workforce development efforts. 

On the surface, the partnership between New York and Amazon was a tech proponent’s dream come true; however, the proposed HQ2 deal faced vehement opposition almost immediately after its announcement. Several protests against the initiative were held in Long Island City in the fall of 2018. By February of 2019, the deal was off. 

Now, New York’s highly-publicized divorce from Amazon’s HQ2 plans could be interpreted as a sign that the city wasn’t interested in supplanting Silicon Valley as a home for Big Tech. However, I would argue that the issue the city had with Amazon isn’t based in bias against Big Tech or tech as a whole, but in concern that Amazon’s presence would come at too high a cost to the people of New York. The city courted the tech giant, perhaps to the point of overreach; all told, the public funds and kickbacks given to Amazon would have totaled close to $3 billion, with the city and state paying the e-retailer as much as $48,000 per job. With that cost, opponents argued, were the “benefits” Amazon offered even worth their price?  

Rejecting Amazon doesn’t mean that New York City is hostile to the tech sector — quite the opposite. The city wants a tech sector, but it wants it on terms that suit the people who call it home, rather than those who run Big Tech’s boardrooms. It seems to be relatively successful in its pursuit of that goal, too: Startup Genome reports that NYC ranks first globally in funding availability and quality in NYC, and the metro region alone received $13 billion in funding in 2018. In 2018, New York’s tech sector represented 333,000 jobs in 2018 and encompassed a full 10% of the nation’s developers

Moreover, it seems probable that the city will continue to serve as fertile ground for tech-center development, given that it currently supports over 120 universities and is ranked first globally for the number of STEM-field graduates produced annually. Those students are likely to stay and contribute, too; tech firms in New York City have the fastest average hiring time for engineers across all U.S. tech ecosystems and offer wages that are, on average, 49% higher than private-sector rates elsewhere. 

Amazon’s failed HQ2 deal notwithstanding, even Big Tech is expanding its presence in the city. This past spring, Netflix put down $100 million for a production hub in Williamsburg and promised to create over 100 new jobs in Manhattan. In late 2018 — around the same time that Amazon was fielding controversy over HQ2 — Google committed $1 billion to create a new Lower Manhattan campus and double its local workforce. Facebook wants to open up shop in Hudson Yard; Apple is reportedly looking for more office space in the city. 

The signs are clear that, despite what the failed HQ2 deal might indicate, New York City wants tech, big and small alike. The city will continue to keep pace, if not ultimately overtake, the Silicon Valley tech scene. Provided, of course, that the tech investment it facilitates supports — and is in turn supported by — its people. 

By |2019-09-23T16:55:59+00:00September 23rd, 2019|Current Events, Technology|

How Amazon is Redefining How Everyone Does Business

When you mention the name Amazon, one of dozens of different ventures may come to mind. Of course, there’s the website that started it all, with convenient two-day shipping and a seemingly infinite selection of goods. Maybe you think of the high-quality content arising from their Prime Video streaming service, or the Amazon Movie studio that’s released films from acclaimed auteurs like Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch. There might even be an Amazon Echo in your home, connecting you to Amazon during your every waking hour.

Through retail, entertainment, even food, Amazon is quite clearly becoming a driving force in our everyday lives. It’s no secret that the company wields a great deal of influence over the things we buy and watch. But lesser known is just how much one particular division of the company provides the underlying support for all these products plus many others, in ways that carry serious implications not just for the company’s own business and those it hosts, but international relations and more.

Launched in 2002, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers subscribers a complete online business platform via access to virtual computers and servers upon which they can conduct their day-to-day dealings. Thanks to an incredibly vast array of servers, a massive number of businesses from startups to industry hegemons currently conduct their operations under the Amazon umbrella.

With revenue of $17.4 billion in 2017, AWS has become a major piece of the supercorporation’s plans. Thanks to a roster of over one million clients, Amazon’s Internet dominance now reaches far beyond their retail origins. Customers of the web services range from Netflix to Unilever to the CIA, an impressively diverse set of users. We’re operating in unmapped territory when web-only businesses operate in the same sphere as colossal retail conglomerates and the world’s most powerful intelligence agency. Of course, if such a map does exist, it’s in the sole possession of Bezos and company.

To be clear, Amazon is not the only web giant offering such services. But similar initiatives from Google, Microsoft, and others don’t have nearly the reach that Amazon does, both online and off. Over a third of the entire world’s cloud computing services are handled by AWS, with no indication of slowing down. This means that, as business is increasingly done over the Internet, all roads must pass through Bezos’ domain.

Additionally, competing cloud computing services don’t have the integration with the mass shipping infrastructure that Amazon has built, nor Bezos’ continual expansion that’s been virtually without precedent. Google may be today’s biggest name in web services, but they don’t have a fleet of airplanes. Amazon does. Microsoft doesn’t have nearly 500 nationwide grocery locations with large footprints in virtually every major American city. Amazon does.

Skeptics have pointed out the potentially grave implications of one company holding this amount of power. A lengthy diatribe in The Nation magazine paints a gloomy picture of a world where all businesses must play by Amazon’s rules in order to function at all. If AWS continues to grow the way it has already through 15 years of existence, there’s no telling what the end result may be and whether new regulations will come into being to reign in the company’s ambitions.

Whether these predictions will come true or not, it’s undeniable that as the Internet is the staging area for more and more of everyday commerce, Amazon is poised to be the dominant force in that sphere and all touched by it for years to come.

By |2019-05-30T19:18:15+00:00February 24th, 2018|Technology|

How Roommate-Matching Startups Help Renters in NYC

Obtaining an apartment in New York City has been covered in many movies and TV shows as a triumph to be celebrated, and rightly so. A prime living space can change the entire experience of the city. So once people have a home, they’re reluctant to let it go, even when a friendly roommate leaves.

Equally popular are the roommate horror stories. Welcoming a stranger into their home creates a difficult situation for people who need to find professional, appropriate matches to help cover the rent or sublet. It was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs looked at the rental market and decided there could be an app for that.

First, there are roommate matching services, which are more like traditional matchmaking. Some of these businesses are also taking a page from dating services. Speedroommating is based on speed dating, with the same set-up where strangers can join others in a social environment, mingle briefly, and speak more in depth if they believe it’s a match. Events are held in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Attendees wear a badge showing whether they’re seeking a room or a roomie, as well as their budget, preferred area, and other details.

Several websites not only match roommates but also review the profiles for warning signs in advance. Roomiematch even checks the person’s IP address to see where they’re really located, then filters through responses to a series of questions to look for signs of strange behavior. These are similar to the traditional rental matches that were made by housing services before the internet. The matchmaker is a cherished role, but it’s not quite the modern, quick fix many people seek, so there’s a lot of opportunities for new businesses to let people connect directly.

For renters seeking their own apartment, New York is a particularly complicated place to look because the city uses real estate brokers, who can help navigate paperwork and lead renters through the massive number of apartments available. However, according to Investopedia, the average New York broker takes 15% of the annual rent as a fee. Brokers can save people immense amounts of time, sweat, and tears. But not everyone can afford a broker or knows how to find a reliable one and avoid a scam. There’s a lot of money on the line, and many startups have stepped up to try to make renting in NYC easier.

Peer-to-peer connections and rental startups are just as valuable for people seeking an apartment. The app Inside Digs connects apartment hunters to the people leaving the apartment directly, so that they can ask questions about neighbors, noise, or other difficult to discern details. It also connects apartment seekers to brokers and even to landlords who have signed up for the service. This is also useful for people looking to sublet their apartment for the short-term.

Another service called Roomi combines questionnaires about house rules and habits with features like in-app chats, so people don’t have to share personal contact information before they’re ready. The site Leasebreak specializes in sublets, shares, and short-term rentals, which could be helpful, for example, for people who need to leave for a brief work contract out of town.

Like any startups, many of these companies seem to disappear as quickly as they arrive. Some of the problem is their own success, because when someone finds a rental, they leave the app. But there’s always going to be people moving in and out of New York, and they’re going to need help renting. Plus, it’s only getting more expensive in the city. When Forbes calculated the most expensive zip codes in 2016, New York dominated the top fifteen, with New York zip codes ranked at numbers 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, and 14.

Landlords are as eager to fill empty apartments as renters are to live in them, but there’s more than just personalities to match up. For people seeking an apartment, the cost and time spent searching can be daunting and prohibitively expensive. In New York, startups will continue to have room to grow and help renters in new ways.

By |2018-10-31T19:00:18+00:00July 25th, 2017|Culture, Technology, Urban Planning|

6 Stats About Millennials, And What They Mean For Business

We hear a lot about Millennials in the news, and not all of it is flattering. But as one of the older members of this generation—the largest generation in the workforce, and the largest alive—I think it’s time we stop complaining, stop pandering, and start understanding what forces Millennials have set into motion. This could not be truer anywhere than in the corporate world: for many businesses, Millennials are both a key source for employees and a vital customer base.

Businesses shouldn’t treat them like nuisances and children, nor should they expect them to be the same as Generation X or Baby Boomers. This is the connected generation, after all, and these digital natives are highly informed and educated. We have different ideas about everything from careers and politics to shopping. We’re going to impact every facet of the business world, present and future.

I occupy a unique position in the generational breakdown—post-Generation X, nearly pre-Millennial, and part of the overlapping and oft-overlooked Generation Y. As an entrepreneur in the NYC real estate industry, I find this gives me an advantage in business, especially since so many Millennials are renting in the city. For companies without insight on the Millennial end, however, research can be a useful barometer in deciding how to adjust to better suit this generation.

Here are 6 stats about millennials, and what they mean for business. The first three highlight Millennials as consumers, while the last three focus on Millennials in the workplace.

1. Millennials own, on average, 7.7 connected devices

And we use 3.3 of those devices each day. Millennials are ultra-connected, and if they’re not checking email on their smartphone, they’re reading the newspaper on their tablet, or working on a spreadsheet on their laptop. In their free time, they’re watching cat videos on their smart TV or playing an MMO game on their desktop. Or, running successful startups and other businesses (don’t forget, if we’re not your boss now, we will be someday).

The point is this: Millennials are connected across multiple channels all the time. To reach them effectively, businesses must be prepared to go wherever they are, which means creating marketing content that can do just that.

Noz Urbina, a global leader in content strategy, describes this kind of content as adaptive content—or a “content strategy technique designed to support meaningful, personalized interactions across all channels.” Such content is born, brainstormed and built around the context, mood, and aspirations of the customer. In real estate, having engaging and mobile-friendly websites is a must, not to mention complimentary apps like Zillow, and I expect this is similar in other fields of work.

2. 93% of Millennials Read Reviews Before Making a Purchase

Millennials want to hear what unbiased buyers have to say about a product before they go purchase it. This explains the rise of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews and others. Studies also show that they tend to trust personal recommendations from friends and families much more than branded content and ads.

Clearly, we Millennials don’t want to hear brand promises; we want to see how others have—or haven’t—benefited from a product, and then make their purchase decision accordingly.

Businesses need to pay careful attention to such sites in order to address customer concerns and deal with inefficiencies in their products or services. Initiatives should also be implemented to help the brand spread via word-of-mouth, both online on social media and blogs, and offline in conversations.

Companies can also directly ask for feedback from buyers, as Millennials like to see that a business is listening to their concerns. The ecommerce giant Amazon does a great job of this with its comments, feedback, and ratings system.

3. Millennials Are More Likely To Use A Sharing Economy Service

Compared to other generations, Millennials have a greater tendency to use the sharing economy. For instance, Millennials are 12% more likely than Generation X to use the sharing economy for accommodations. That’s precisely why hotels are having to change their business strategy; they have to find ways to compete with Airbnb. In real estate, this is something we take into account everyday.

When creating a product or service, businesses have to be thinking about access as well as ownership. Millennial are willing to share if it means saving money or less hassle. This shift is occurring for a variety of reasons, including changing opinions on ownership and the trillion dollars of student debt they carry (an amount that is still rising).

4. Millennials value professional growth and career development above all else in the workplace

Millennials have been given an unfair reputation by some in older generations as being lazy and entitled. Research and reality states otherwise. A survey by Quantum Workplace found that professional growth and career development are the most important drivers in retaining and engaging Millennial employees.

Millennials aspire to be better employees, with 72% saying the chance to learn new skills is important in choosing and staying with an employer; only 48% of Baby Boomers prioritize learning new skills.

With two-thirds of Millennials planning to leave their current jobs by 2020, clearly employers aren’t doing enough. If businesses hope to future-proof their organization, they must meet the needs and goals of Millennial employees. They must create a Millennial-driven culture, one where employees are encouraged to learn, collaborate and innovate.

Leaders should provide direction on how to improve. Perks, like with other generations, remain important, but should be more customized in order to satisfy the unique needs of this generation. Freedom to work anytime and anywhere is paramount as well, and businesses should encourage networking and socializing with clients and coworkers.

Overall, the Millennial employee wants professional improvement and flexibility. That desire should be satisfied not only in the work duties and expectations, but also in the company culture.  

5. Millennials Are More Diverse Than Any Generation That Preceded Them

44.2% of Millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group, which makes the generation far more diverse than previous ones. The Pew Research Center notes that this trend is being driven in large part by the large wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants over the last half century. This change in demographics offers much opportunity for businesses to be even more successful. The key is in embracing diversity in hiring practices, company culture and networking strategies.

In addition to a more diverse workplace at home, businesses are rapidly becoming more globalized. Operating within such a diverse marketplace necessitates businesses actively recruit and retain a diverse Millennial staff—one that reflects the generation’s diversity. It’s crucial to accessing the insights and experiences of the entire market, not just a portion of it.

By bringing a diverse and talented set of Millennial employees together, teams can benefit from the wide range of perspectives and experiences being brought to the table. Creative ideas can arise, innovation can occur, and new relationships can be made. And a sustainable business can be built.   

6. 84% of Millennials Want To Make A Positive Difference

Millennials want to see that their work has a larger benefit to society. 84% of Millennials believe making a positive difference in the world is more important than getting recognized for professional endeavors, and an amazing 92% of them believe business success should be measured by more than just profit.

All of this places more pressure on businesses to be more socially responsible. If a company gets a bad reputation, my generation won’t work for that company or buy its products.

In addition to providing Millennials with a diverse workplace where opportunities for professional growth are widely available, businesses need to focus on more than just the bottom line if they want to keep top talent.

Companies should promote philanthropic activities, as Millennials want to know their employer is doing its part for society. The products and services developed by businesses must first serve the purpose of helping improve the world. The response from Millennials to the arrival of the Tesla 3, the company’s first mass-produced affordable electric car, is evidence enough that this generation values brands that aim to move humanity forward.

Millennials And The Future of Business

The Millennials are certainly coming; in most ways, we’re already here. Soon, my generation will have the highest income and spending power, meaning our professional dreams and buying behavior are going to carry immense weight.

The good news is statistics like these display the potential for businesses to benefit greatly from the rise of the Millennial worker and consumer. Don’t infantilize us or bemoan our newfangled tech: we aren’t going to ruin the world, as some pessimists may state. For the most part, my experience and research suggests Millennials are intent on improving it.  

By |2020-05-07T19:23:01+00:00February 24th, 2017|Culture, Technology|

The Power of a Humanities Degree in the Business World

There is a common misconception that degrees in the humanities — like English, history and philosophy — are the first nails in the coffin of a young person’s career prospects.

“We need more welders and less (sic) philosophers,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio famously stated on the debate stage. Jeb Bush echoed the sentiment by implying all liberal art majors were destined to work at Chick-fil-A. Not to mention iterations of the same dull question posed toward English majors — “Beyond teaching or becoming the next Hemingway, how do you plan to make money?”

In my experience, humanities skills are undervalued assets applicable across a wide range of industries. In fact, the unemployability of such graduates is widely regarded as myth.

Degrees in business, finance and STEM fields are, of course, vital to the economy, innovation and more. But without the skills central to liberal arts — for which there is an even more universal need — the economy would stop just as suddenly.

All businesses need good writers and communicators.
English majors and others in the liberal arts arena read, write, communicate, and critique — and then read and write some more. Their relationship with the written and spoken language is nuanced and informed. They are taught to express their thoughts with purpose.

Sure, reading and writing are base requirements for most jobs — but being able to do so expertly is uncommon. Whether writing decks, copy, white papers, business proposals or simple emails, professionals with the skills to communicate their ideas effectively go a long way in any workplace.

This is especially true for people in leadership positions, who must be able to communicate clearly and expertly. As an example, current and former CEOs at companies like Avon, Xerox, Disney and MTV all held English degrees. The founder of Starbucks had a philosophy degree, and the head of American Express, a bachelor’s degree in history.

Humanity graduates understand people.
Degrees in STEM fields are highly specialized, which is great for specific jobs and goals. But you could argue that STEM skills are like keys that only unlock very particular doors — their purpose is limited.

Humanity degrees, also called social sciences, are called that for a reason — they are the studies of human nature, thought, and creation. Knowing how people think, what the smartest minds have written and how groups behave provides valuable insight into teamwork and client interactions. What some call soft skills are actually key to professional success.

That’s not to say other majors don’t understand people. I’m saying when your education is centered around human thoughts and ideas, it can amplify your success in a work environment.

Creativity drives innovation.
If the emphasis of humanities is on the human, the emphasis of liberal arts (of which humanities is a segment) is on the art. Art is the expression of the human imagination, which takes creativity — something that is critical in the professional world. Creative writing, as an example, teaches the expression of ideas in a variety of forms utilizing narrative, plot, language, metaphors and just about any type of rhetoric you can think of. Most importantly, it teaches out-of-the-box thinking — going beyond what is usual and what is known.

In science, technology, finance and even real estate, creative thinking drives innovation. While it doesn’t take a writer to think creatively, a person accustomed to brainstorming and bending rules will likely have a lot to bring to the table.

Critical analysis is a business skill.
Another thing that sets the humanities apart is their penchant for critical analysis. This comes in the form of peer review, which is ubiquitous in academia, and in taking a text or idea and being forced to dissect it, to improve or disprove it. Critical thinking helps groups and individuals identify what’s presented, evaluate the intent and function, and the examine the results.

In the business world, this is vital. Great ideas cannot be truly great without healthy dose of doubt and without being viewed from all angles and tested for flaws. A person who approaches anything from clients to projects with this mindset is likely to be a company asset. Combined with ambition and drive, it’s a recipe for success.


This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

By |2018-10-31T16:19:43+00:00July 15th, 2016|Culture|

7 Ways Technology is Shaping the Real Estate Landscape

There isn’t an industry on earth, sea or sky that hasn’t been impacted by new technology over the last century, whether dramatically or slightly. On top of the disruption of industrial age factories, today we have high-speed computers, big data, social media, robotics and so much more to come to terms with. For real estate, the transformation has been slow but steady: as the technology improves, the field has morphed one gigabyte at a time.

New forms of technology change the real estate experience for buyers, renters, and industry insiders. The transformation has been ongoing; in today’s information age, it arguably began once listings were hosted online, since which time the process of buying and renting has become even more digitalized.

Here are seven distinct ways in which technology has begun, and will continue to shape the way real estate is marketed, rented, sold and managed.

1. Mobile technology is heating up

With the rising ubiquity of smartphones at hand, it’s little surprise that when searching for real estate, over 60 percent of renters use mobile devices to do their research. By allowing a huge audience of potential buyers and renters to browse remotely, sales are driven up and exposure amplified.

This means responsive websites, mobile apps, and quick communication via text and email is more important than ever for real estate industry insiders. Potential buyers are likely to be turned off if they can’t view a property on their device, or send inquiries digitally. The entire process needs to become at once easy, trustworthy, and quick — or else clients will move on to the next mobile-friendly listing.

2. Marketing has been digitalized

Marketing a piece of real estate is no longer as simple as listing your home in a local newspaper. While open houses are still fairly important, quality photographs, information and descriptions are perhaps the most vital in attracting potential buyers. This is because the Internet offers many digital outlets to advertise property on — and great photographs are the bare minimum that buyers look for.

Disseminating your advertising onto different digital platforms, complete with the information buyers and renters need, ensures that the listing isn’t overlooked. It also means that those browsing will have all the answers they want up front in terms of price and amenities, speeding up the process from first sight to lease-signing.

3. Startups are surging

Venture funding of real estate tech firms has been experiencing a surge: in 2015, it crossed the $1 billion mark, and is projected to surpass $1.5 billion in 2016 at its current rate. So, where is all this VC money going?

There are a range of tech startups that tackle all areas of the real estate industry, from listing and search, to investment, to brokerage platforms and lease management software. Some of the leading startups include Zillow and Trulia, both of which provide robust online real estate databases, Redfin, a web-based brokerage platform, and High Tower, which offers online tools for landlords.

The amount of companies occupying this space goes to show that the demand for digital real estate services is not only high, but increasingly essential.

4. Buyers and renters are more informed

With the Internet at their fingertips, buyers and renters have access to more information than ever before. There is no pulling the wool over the eyes of today’s informed buyers: with records of building’s history, neighborhood demographics, comparative listings, fees and reputation. Technology is so often synonymous with transparency, and it’s making buyers smarter.

Informed buyers and renters raise the demand for accountable and specialized real estate insiders that meet their needs. This demand drives better real estate practice in general — and it’s all thanks to communication and information technology.

Unsatisfied tenants may turn to the web to review or report issues they experience. Thus, good management is sought after via online research, and bad management is a digital stain difficult to remove.

5. Virtual tours are on the rise

Photographs are all but essential in real estate marketing, but the next step — virtual touring — is already upon us. For larger properties, such tours are all but expected to give potential buyers a 360 view of various spaces, not unlike Google Earth navigation.

There are emerging ways to enhance virtual tours. Video touring is one popular choice, along with the option of interactive floor plans. There’s also a tool called StyleDesigner by Obeo that lets real estate agents virtually upgrade bland spaces with decorations to show clients how far a little imagination can go. For a tour of the surrounding neighborhood, maps can be mashed up with Google or Mapbuilder to highlight local hotspots and attractions in proximity to the listing.

3D virtual tours are also well on their way. Microsoft recently announced its new Photosynth technology, which can take 2D photographs and render them in 3D for immersive digital tours. Add a whiff of new-home smell and hardwood floor texture, and you could have a 4D experience, too.

6. Online bidding, crowdfunding and transactions

In a day and age where most of individual wealth and information is stored digitally, physical checks and contracts are beginning to seem antiquated, as are the normal means of investing and paying. Nowadays, enterprise software can enable transactions between real estate agents and buyers — this way, documents and information can be shared and signed in seconds, with or without a physical handshake in tandem.

Online, a variety of transactions are becoming more communal, too. Prospective buyers can bid against each other, or pool their money to invest in properties. Homes auctioned virtually through Hubzu and Auction.com will sell properties to the highest bidder. Individuals can also get in on the investing game with a number of real estate crowdfunding options.

7. The sharing economy strikes

Lastly, the success of disruptive vacation rental models like Airbnb demonstrate that renters are interested in more flexible options — for life, work, and play — and are happy to do so without a middleman. This flies in the face of tradition, but is proving to be more than just a trend. There is already a UK startup called Yopa that allows peer-to-peer home selling, purported to save users thousands of dollars.

The jury is still out on whether the real estate industry is ripe for disruption by the sharing economy or any of these other technologies. Some argue that it simply does not apply, but I think the truth is somewhere in between.

In some ways, real estate does differ from the industries that have been shaken up by technological innovations — the basic business model is a generally stable and adaptable one. This said, real estate has, and must continue to take tech innovations into stride if it’s to remain profitable and modern. This way, it’s sure to be amplified and augmented by change rather than left shattered in its wake.

By |2018-10-31T16:05:43+00:00February 16th, 2016|Technology|

How Company Culture Shapes Business Outcomes

Company culture is more than just having a ping pong table and the occasional happy hour. It’s the essence of a business: the pervasive vision, values, and systems pulsing within employees, management, atmosphere and more. Some like to call it the genetic code of a company, though in some circumstances it can be more malleable than that.

More and more, good company culture is being recognized as vital to a company’s success; on the flip side, toxic culture has been witnessed contributing to huge failures. Built into business at its most basic level, company culture is both the result of a company’s structure and the support that keeps it standing. It’s both an outcome of hiring choices, and the force that drives them. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle: a company shapes its culture and the culture shapes the company, over and over or all at once.

Company culture is often developed gradually and without intention. At a company’s onset, certain things are decided implicitly: what goals are most important, the attitude it takes to get there, and even common personality traits and values. Even if the company starts with just one person — its founder — a culture is born from that individual’s choices when it comes to hiring and leadership. With each new decision and addition, the culture grows for better or for worse.

Company culture as motivation

The idea of company culture as a success factor isn’t new, but it seems the extent of its value is only on the precipice of realization. Some believe it is just as important, if not more so, than pay. Money is certainly a powerful motivator — as demonstrated with rats by B.F. Skinner in 1938, “operant conditioning” occurs when individuals are rewarded when their behavior is good and penalized when it’s bad. This method of compensation has been the primary model of employment for ages.

But reward and punishment aren’t enough to get the best out of people, Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchical needs suggested in 1943. Basic needs like food, water and shelter can be met by money, yes, but a whole pyramid of needs exist beyond the staples of life — like safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. A workplace that makes employees (and clients) feel safe, welcome, proud and confident will yield higher result than monetary value alone.

Company culture is what either succeeds or fails at meeting these extra needs. Factors like robust benefits, comfortable office space, amenities, extracurriculars and relationship building shape the culture, which in turn motivates employees and impacts productivity.

The benefits of good culture

So, we know that company culture is important. But what can it actually accomplish? We can look at some success stories to get a better idea of what returns may come from investment in culture.

There are various companies that are known for their culture, and are likely successful, in part, because of it. Well-known innovation hubs like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Adobe boast impressive cultures that prioritize inclusion, teamwork and perks. Hiring the right people who will fit and thrive within the culture (in some cases, over qualification and education) differentiates these companies from the rest.

Research suggests that companies with strong, substantial, and adaptive cultures outperform their counterparts when they emphasize customers, employees and investors, fit the business environment and adapt to change. In this way, culture has a strong influence on economic performance.

Culture is more than just perks. It’s onboarding, work-life integration, and an ignition of passion that leaves workers positive about everything from mundane tasks to advancement opportunities. Positive culture makes for happier employees, better business, and also leads to employee retention, which saves time and money on hiring and training.

The risks of toxic culture

There are many qualities that signify a potentially toxic culture, or at the very least a dysfunctional one. Many of these stem from bad leadership, which tends to trickle down into management and employee well-being. Some signs include poor health, high stress, discomfort, fear, and a host of other issues that compromise the hierarchy of needs, as mentioned previously.

In other words, when employees feel unsafe, unwelcome, unmotivated and unheard, it is likely due to a toxic culture. Bad culture costs more than just feelings — productivity is lower, communication is strained, leading to bad business. Equally harmful can be a bad reputation, or worse, lawsuits.

A Gallup State of the American Workplace found that unhappy workers cost U.S. businesses $450 to $550 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. When these unhappy workers leave, it’s not much better: the cost of turnover from just 12 employees is about $250,000 when you factor in hiring costs. When employees are subject to incivility, they spend as little time at work as possible and decreased work quality; those that witness it like clients and coworkers are impacted for the worse, too. In other words, the toxins leak, affecting everyone in the workplace and beyond.

Turning a culture around

In the end, company culture shapes business through all sorts of aspects, like employee well-being, management style, and office environment. And because it often grows organically as a reflection of company values, it can be extremely difficult to turn around.

Changing a culture entirely is a daunting and possibly impossible task. But culture can always be improved, if those with the most influence are willing. And there are better ways than simply implementing a Taco Tuesday — like engaging employees with tasks, policies, and initiatives that keep them motivated and happy, or simply making them know their input matters.

Articulating company vision and ethics, supporting worker health and wellbeing, providing opportunities for training and development, fostering camaraderie, and encouraging healthy work-life balance can also go a long way. At worst, these steps will give employees a slight boost; at best, they will shape the entire business for the better.

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By |2018-10-31T15:59:53+00:00January 21st, 2016|Culture|

Forget WHY: What We Need to Know is HOW

Dov Seidman, a world renowned American author and CEO of LRN, published a New York Times Bestseller about his unique ideas on relationships in business and company culture.

In 1994, Seidman founded LRN and built a business that helps more than 500 companies worldwide develop their value-based corporate cultures and inspire principled performance among employees. The idea with LRN was to shape the future of communication and interaction between employees, managers and others. LRN is also a member of the World Economic Forum Global Growth Company which is an early community of dynamic high-growth companies. As a member on this board, LRN hopes to become a driving force of not just economic change, but social change as well.

After having operated LRN successfully for over 21 years, Seidman used his experiences and wrote his New York Times bestselling book, “HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything” with a foreword by President Bill Clinton.

Seidman’s bestseller perpetuates his unique methods on social interaction in corporate capacities. His first rendition,”HOW” was published in 2007 and four years later was supplemented by the highly touted reintroduction of the book.

Seidman’s book addresses an issue that is constantly being evaluated and improved upon both at the startup level and in corporate environments. Company culture and interaction in business has a massive impact on the productivity and growth of businesses and individual success.

Recently, the business world has developed a new level of transparency and the culture of a company is just as important as any other given factor for prospective employees and/or clients. Seidman iterates that, “It’s no longer what you do that sets you apart from others, but how you do what you do.”

For almost two decades, LRN, has helped some of the world’s biggest organizations build a “do it right” culture, which inspires employees to keep their principles first when it comes to work and communication.

Seidman’s vision with LRN has been expounded upon in his book and breaks down how he’s actually gotten companies to practice HOW. LRN has helped more than 15 million people doing business across 120 countries to keep the human aspect in their company culture even in the midst of such demanding competition.

It’s amazing how Seidman’s approach has been received across different world cultures, and has proven so productive for teams that follow his practices.

Since its first release, Seidman expanded HOW with an exclusive Foreword from President Bill Clinton. The author also added a new preface that explains some of the overarching topics that define the book at its core.

Seidman illustrates that our behavior, how we lead others, govern employees, operate in business, trust in our relationships, and relate to others has a massive positive effect when done the right way. But Seidman’s explanation doesn’t just use personal anecdotes from his own experiences, he also explores case studies, edgy research in various field, and interviews he’s conducted with a diverse group of people.

Throughout the book, he defines the methods to uncovering the values of “hows” that will help further your success in modern day business and real-life relationships as well.

Divided into four comprehensive parts, this book breaks down into the following:

  • Exposes the factors that have fundamentally restructured the way organizations operate and the way that employees conduct themselves, placing a specific focus on their “hows”.
  • Provides frameworks to help you identify and understand these “hows” and implement them in powerful ways that increase productivity towards team goals.
  • Helps you channel actions and decisions to get different results.
  • Explains the systems of dynamics between people that shape the culture of organizations. Seidman also introduces a bold vision for leading successful teams through self-governance.

Seidman promotes the importance of values like trust, reputation and how keeping this way of thinking as a staple in your work culture can lead to more efficiency, production, innovation, and growth for your organization. HOW will help you further your business ventures in today’s quickly evolving world where the human aspect tends to get lost.

Photo: The Aspen Institute via Flickr.  

By |2018-10-31T15:52:15+00:00December 29th, 2015|Culture|