How to Lead Your Business Through Times of Uncertainty

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis has created immense challenges for entrepreneurs and business owners is an understatement. Like the 2007 to 2009 economic collapse, the downturn happened so quickly. Both have been compared to the Great Depression in its catastrophic impact, but that’s where the similarities end.

This is my second financial downturn, and the lessons I learned from growing my business during the Great Recession have prepared me to be a better leader in this current crisis – a time when companies must radically pivot to keep their businesses viable and employees must reexamine their roles in a rapidly evolving workplace.

There are very few industries that haven’t been severely impacted by the pandemic. Among those hit hardest have been transportation, sports, entertainment, retail and restaurants. Earlier this summer, for example, United Airlines announced it could be laying off or furloughing up to half of its workforce—a staggering 36,000 employees—this fall, and an ESPN analysis projects that sports leagues will lose $ 12 billion in revenue. Experts predict that it will be a matter of years before businesses recover to pre-pandemic benchmarks.


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Leading during times of uncertainty

In 2007, I was in my mid-20s and a small-time developer. I saw many major players get wiped out and learned just how quickly things could go bad. But in the aftermath, I developed several principals and strategies for succeeding after a downturn. I learned the necessity of being proactive so I could be best positioned to take what the world had to give as the business climate improved.

In business, the fundamentals still apply in good times, but especially in bad times.

If you are an entrepreneur just now staring out, it’s essential that your business fills a basic need with its product or service.

Also, do not set your goals too low. Consider all of your ideas and laser focus on one or two that may not be the easiest to get done but will have the biggest payoff when they do.


Related: How to Safely Return to the Office During COVID-19

One of the most important things you can do is to stay motivated and not just settle for returning to the status quo once the pandemic has passed. A key question you should be asking yourself is, “How will I come out of this downturn and set myself up for more growth?”

You need to develop a proactive mentality. It is never easy to make a change or to reinvent yourself (I’ve been recreating myself all my life!), but now is an ideal time to take stock. Is your company growing? How are you continuing to manage this current crisis?

I strongly recommend that you lean on your employee base. This is their time to shine, to step up and participate. We pick our employees because they are passionate self-starters. They have been conditioned to thrive during hard times, because out of a downturn comes opportunities for huge growth.

The best investment you can make in this time of uncertainty is to hire good people. The current crisis is part of the story you tell about where your company is now and where it is going to be. Investors want to hear how you will meet the new demands of a changing world.

If there is anything that 2020 has reminded us, it is that you cannot and must not freeze up. If you do, the world passes by. That was my takeaway from 2008. At that time, many people could not operate or make a decision, but I aggressively bought apartments. I knew that people were being foreclosed on and would have to rent, meaning rentals were a great place to invest. I am operating under the same mentality today.


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Above all, the utmost responsibility of an entrepreneur, especially in a downturn, is to communicate that everything is going to be fine. This hit home for me when I tested positive for COVID-19. I presented a calm and positive attitude across the board, even when I was experiencing fears. You cannot just pray for the downturn to go away. At the peak, when everybody was concerned about the effects of the pandemic, I considered it important to keep a level head and lead with a positive message. Your employees, investors, and especially your family, need reassurance that you have faith in your business plan, vision and ultimately, yourself.

Leading in times of uncertainty is all about persistence. So, how will you react?

The post How to Lead Your Business Through Times of Uncertainty appeared first on StartupNation.

StartupNation

After lockdowns lead to an e-bike boom, VanMoof raises $40M Series B to expand globally

E-bike startup VanMoof has raised a $ 40 million investment from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital and Balderton Capital. The Series B financing comes after a $ 13.5 million investment in May. The funding brings VanMoof’s total raised to $ 73 million and furthers the e-bike brand’s ultimate mission of getting the next billion on bikes.

The Series B funding will be used to meet the increased demand, shorten delivery times and build a suite of rider service solutions. It also aims to boost its share of the e-bike market in North America, Europe and Japan.

Partly driven by the switch of commuters away from public transport because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the e-bike craze is taking off.

Governments are now investing in cycling infrastructure and the e-bike market is set to surpass $ 46 billion in the next six years, according to reports.

Ties Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof, commented: “E-bike adoption was an inevitable global shift that was already taking place for many years now but COVID-19 put an absolute turbo on it to the point that we’re approaching a critical mass to transform cities for the better.”

VanMoof says it realized a 220% global revenue growth during the worldwide lockdown and sold more bikes in the first four months of 2020 than the previous two years combined.

Stew Campbell, principal at Norwest said: “Taco, Ties and the VanMoof team have not only built an unparalleled brand and best-selling product, but they’re reshaping city mobility all over the world.”

Colin Hanna, principal at Balderton: “As the COVID-19 crisis hit supply chains worldwide, VanMoof’s unique control over design and production was a key advantage that allowed the company to react nimbly and effectively. Moreover, VanMoof’s direct to consumer approach allows the company to build a close relationship to their riders, one that will be strengthened by new products and services in the years to come.”

VanMoof launched the new VanMoof S3 and X3 in April of this year. I reviewed the S3 here and checked out the earlier X2 version here.

Startups – TechCrunch

Seeking tech lead for AI/ML industrial (pre-seed funded) UK startup

Hi everyone,
We are a pre-seed funded startup focussing on building an industrial analytics platform.

We use data from existing sensors (heavy industries) on machines, and apply analytics to find actionable insights.

Where we are:

  • Currently in trials with 2 industrial companies
  • Successfully delivered 1 data trial and now commercially discussing
  • Just been funded to accelerate product development and build
  • We are based in the UK (generally get boxed in predictive maintenance but that's just a start)
  • Current team of 3 (CEO + Data Science + Sales – all friends and average 8 years of industrial experience each)
  • Competitors usually that get mentioned, Uptake, Datadog (incorrectly), OEM services (GE Predix for example), MachineMax, QIO, etc

Looking for:

  1. A tech lead who has experience of productionising ML/AI models, on time series data (a type of data in industrial)
  2. Experience of IoT would be great, but more importantly, understanding the different data relationships and the AWS platform elements would be fun
  3. Full-time (remote is ok, EU preferred for time zone reasons)

DM me for a chat or comment.

If the format is wrong or can't do here, let me know and can remove it.

submitted by /u/virginmaverick
[link] [comments]
Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

[Virgin Hyperloop One in The Economist] Could dawdling America lead the world in a new form of transport?

A hyperloop system involves passengers or freight transported by pods elevated by magnets, which travel within raised pipes. The pods can be propelled at 620mph (1,000kph), says Jay Walder, boss of Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the firms pushing the idea.

Read more here.

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OurCrowd Blog

Bucharest-based Innoship raises €550K to lead last-mile delivery for e-commerce in Romania and CEE

Romanian startup Innoship, the SaaS solution that enables e-commerce businesses to integrate and orchestrate multiple last-mile delivery options, has announced a seed investment from GapMinder VC. The investment of €550K comes just six months after the commercial launch of its solution.

Founded in 2019, Innoship is an aggregator of multiple fast delivery options for retail and e-commerce companies. Its platform democratizes access to advanced technology for retailers of all sizes, helping them to efficiently manage their courier contracts, and offer customers multiple delivery options and shipping services, at a minimal cost. Overall, Innoship streamlines the costs of courier services by up to 25%, and increases delivery performance by up to 15%.

Innoship implemented its solution for its first customers at the beginning of 2020 and currently manages approximately 20,000 daily orders. The Innoship solution can be integrated with all large e-commerce platforms, warehouse management systems, ERP (enterprise resource planning), fulfillment and marketplaces active in Romania and regionally. So far its client portfolio includes well-known names in the local e-commerce and distribution ecosystem, such as Miniprix, Kalapod, OLX, Depanero, Network One Distribution, Dentstore, Oralix, Topline, xpertbeauty.ro, Arco Expert, Algernon, green-future.ro, mezoni.ro, Generalmotor, and many others.

Founding partners – Daniel Nicolae, Andrei Paul, Dan Ungureanu and Robert Tănase – have long experience in companies such as Orange, Penny and Urgent Cargus. Cătălin Grigorescu, a well-known lawyer specialized in technology in the region, joined the team in 2020, as an investor and strategy and business advisor.

Daniel Nicolae, CEO and co-founder of Innoship, stated: “Consumer demand for multiple delivery options and better quality of shipping services poses huge challenges for retailers and ecommerce companies to manage the last-mile delivery efficiently. We created the Innoship platform as an advanced aggregator and orchestrator of multiple last-mile delivery options to help ecommerce businesses gain consumer confidence, increase conversions, and drive repeat buying by building loyalty. Most importantly, Innoship is fast and easy to adopt by retailers and ecommerce companies, being, one the one hand, integrated with all delivery companies and, on the other hand, with the most important ecommerce platforms, ERP, WMS, already used in existing processes.”

The startup’s recent seed round will be used to accelerate the growth of Innoship adoption among retailers in the Romanian market and boost its first steps towards internationalization, all the while speeding up the development of new functionalities on its platform. 

Cosmin Ochișor, Partner at GapMinder Venture Partners, said: ”By using Innoship, online retailers can benefit of a machine-learning powered solution which fits their current workflow, a solution that is very easy to integrate and creates immediate benefits by both boosting the customer satisfaction and optimizing the shipping related costs. The €550K seed round for Innoship is a new step in implementing our investment strategy focusing on companies that immediately and pragmatically use technology to optimize existing business models.”

EU-Startups

3 Core Objectives to Help You Lead Your Startup Through the Pandemic

Navigating through a global pandemic is something that no entrepreneur can prepare themselves for. Past experiences and successes go out the window once uncertainty hits and we are forced to make quick, unprecedented and ultimately risky decisions.

As a founder and CEO myself, production of our flagship device was just beginning as the world came to a sudden pause. With factories shutting down and the economy in flux, it seemed as though the new business was set up for failure.

Despite the grim outlook, a strategic pivot to the business model and quick innovation of a new product saved the company from collapsing. Just a few short months later, Airzai is flourishing, creating new jobs and products to aid in the adjustment to a new normal.

Throughout this experience, I’ve learned more about leadership than I would have ever imagined. This all came from maintaining a single objective, constant internal communication and staying optimistic in the midst of chaos.


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Persistent communication

Collaboration is something we all took for granted before the pandemic. It was simple to just stop by someone’s desk to discuss things in the office in real time. In adjusting to the entirely different ecosystem that is remote work, it’s essential to get your entire team on the same page in terms of communication expectations. This means laying out the preferred platforms, turn-around time for responses and more.

Be proactive in your communication with your team and encourage them to do the same with each other. It’s crucial for the lines of communication to be open at all times and to be as transparent as possible. Remind your team to always include all necessary team members on emails, daily updates and other communication channels.


Related: 5 Tips for Creating a Customer Communication Strategy During the Pandemic

Positive mindset

It’s easy to get discouraged about the unpredictable future. Although the economy is unstable, it’s important to remember that some of the best startups and companies began during an economic recession. Now is the time to negotiate deals. This “nothing to lose” mentality will become your strength!

It’s also important to be cognizant of the stress and burnout that your employees might be feeling from dealing with the uncertainty of the world. Checking in with employees individually and offering your assistance and positive outlook can go a long way.


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Define one main objective

Our company built its success through a global emergency by identifying one key objective to focus on. For us, this was preserving as many jobs as possible within our team. All of our strategies, plans and executions revolved around this goal and we would not have survived as a company without this inclusive, collaborative mindset.

As the pandemic began to become our reality, we knew that tough times would follow for people and organizations across the globe. As a young, growing business entering this time of uncertainty, it is vital to decide on one overarching objective to focus on. Embrace this goal in everything you do, and you will likely prevail.

The bottom line for startups

At the end of the day, collaboration, communication and a growth mindset are what will set you apart and ultimately help your business establish a strong foundation. With these core intentions, you’ll set your business up in the best possible position to weather any kind of storm that may arise.

There will always be times of ambiguity and shifts in societal norms. I truly believe that these core objectives are what allowed us to continue succeeding during these tough times and can help you to do the same. We will continue to implement them, no matter what the future holds.

The post 3 Core Objectives to Help You Lead Your Startup Through the Pandemic appeared first on StartupNation.

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Blackstone’s growth investors lead a $200 million investment into Oatly, the oat-milk juggernaut

Investors’ love affair with new, plant-based alternatives to animal products continues as Blackstone Growth, a (newish) investment vehicle from one of the world’s largest financial services firms, said it led a $ 200 million investment into the colossus of oat-milk brands, Oatly.

The Malmö-based company also attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment, consumer business and international finance as Oprah Winfrey, Roc Nation, Natalie Portman, former Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz, Orkila Capital and Rabo Corporate Investments, the investment arm of Rabobank, joined in to finance the company’s latest round.

For Blackstone’s newly minted head of growth investments, Jon Korngold, the deal for Oatly is representative of the types of commitments his firm will make into growth companies. It’s a company that has proven to be a leader in its category; there’s very little technology risk left in the business, but Oatly can benefit from the network of logistics, supply chain and consumer companies that the investment firm owns.

It’s also a company whose mass adoption can potentially help move the needle on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Oatly is one of those companies that does well by doing good,” said Korngold in an interview.

While the same can’t be said for all of Blackstone’s investments (Blackstone was criticized by former presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren for its stake in Hidrovias do Brasil, an infrastructure company reportedly linked to deforestation in the rain forest), Oatly does have significant environmental benefits. The company’s product makes for a more environmentally friendly milk substitute than almond milk (almonds are a hugely water-intensive crop) and aren’t processed like the genetically modified milk replacements coming to market. Oats also require less fertilizer, which has ancillary benefits for the water table and other forms of pollution.

With the Oatly investment, Blackstone Growth is riding a wave of investor support for the creation of an alternative, more sustainable food system driven by increasing consumer demand for these more sustainable goods. One investor has called the coming tidal wave of innovation around changing food production the biggest entrepreneurial opportunity in a generation.

Startups – TechCrunch

5 Tips That Will Help You Lead Your Team Remotely

As more companies acknowledge the benefits of a more flexible workforce, more than two-fifths (44%) of organizations are planning to change their flexible working policies as a result of the pandemic. The long-term impact of this could be even more substantial, with 19% of employers expecting to eventually reduce their office space.

With this in mind, employers need to take immediate steps to improve the way they are managing virtual teams and overcoming the key challenges facing employers today.

Key Challenges When Leading Workers Remotely

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a significant catalyst for remote work, with around 49% of UK employees working from home towards the end of April 2020. During the past few months, businesses have had to find ways to overcome key challenges while operating remotely. These include:

Communication

Strong communication skills are paramount to leading a team virtually. If you are managing several people in different cities or even different countries, communication can become complicated – especially when you’re working across multiple time zones. Information sharing tends to happen at a slower rate, and this can affect productivity levels.

Communicating via text-based platforms can also limit the tone and meaning of a conversation, without non-verbal cues like body language or tone of voice. When managing remote workers, using the right video collaboration software can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of communication.

If you, like many employers, have started to rely on Microsoft Teams to support your team’s digital collaboration, check out this free training toolkit, which includes a manager’s guide to Microsoft Teams and much more to help your workers improve their remote working capabilities.

Project Management

When employees are in the office, it’s much easier to check-in, monitor projects, and oversee the bigger picture. Remote work can make this slightly more complicated, but there are tools to help.

Take advantage of the tools available to support remote project management, and schedule daily online catch-ups to stay updated on everyone’s progress. It’s also important to encourage employees to reach out with any project queries and recent achievements they want to highlight.

Talent Development & Management

When building a remote team, managers may find themselves leading a mix of new and seasoned workers at varying levels of experience. Part of learning how to lead a team remotely is learning how to develop talent and challenge team members to grow from a distance.

Now more than ever, it’s essential to put a robust training system in place, so that inexperienced employees can learn and grow efficiently in a virtual environment. The benefits of effective online training will be felt throughout your team as members share their tips and tricks.

IT Support & Services

Across the world, inadequate technology and infrastructure are some of the biggest barriers to leading a remote team efficiently. Despite some areas across the UK being hubs of tech innovation, less than 15% of firms provide any kind of tech training to employees, with some areas having inadequate internet access for home working.

As a manager, it is vital to be aware that not all employees have reliable or speedy Internet access. Approach these challenges with patience and understanding, to support your team members as best you can.

How To Lead Your Team Remotely

Follow these best practice guidelines to build good leadership skills and get your remote team operating successfully:

#1 Go Beyond Instant Messaging

When in doubt, opt for a phone call or video conference instead of a text-based chat. Instant messaging is quick and easy, but it lacks a lot of the nuances of face-to-face communication. Without body language and tone of voice to rely on, it’s easy for misunderstandings to happen, causing tension between team members.

Use the tools at your disposal to find the most effective and transparent ways of communicating with your remote workers.

#2 Organize Whole Team Catch-Ups

It’s essential to connect with your whole team regularly, to promote a culture of unity and support. This is especially important for individuals who may be missing regular social interaction with their colleagues or feeling more isolated.

Try putting informal, end-of-week calls in place, allowing team members to catch up and reflect on their week via video chat. This provides a good opportunity to connect with colleagues and start winding down after the working week.

#3 Build A Culture Of Trust

Effective remote working requires the right kind of company culture. Part of this involves building trust between team members and leaders. Taking courses to improve leadership skills will give you the tools you need to establish this trust and encourage your team members to deliver on their targets.

#4 Encourage Your Team To Be Autonomous

The culture of trust and autonomy go hand in hand. Encourage your remote workers to take the initiative but keep you informed. This will make it easier for you to keep track of multiple projects in a remote environment.

Encouraging autonomy in the workplace also gives employees more confidence to make creative contributions to the team, helping to drive innovation.

#5 Ask Your Team For Regular Feedback On Their Experience

Always be willing to learn and grow from experience, especially if you and your team are new to remote working. Ask for regular feedback on team cohesion, communication, project management, and technology infrastructure. This will show you where you need to make adjustments and improvements.

 

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StartUs Magazine

How to Lead A Small Business: 6 Rules From My Self-Made Dad

Not all entrepreneurs are privileged

Photo by Fas Khan on Unsplash

My dad arrived in London aged 7 and could barely speak English. My grandparents had little except for the dream of a better life for their children. Half a century later he owns the majority stake in a nearly 100-year old business with clients including your favorite British TV stars.

He did it the hard way because the easy way wasn’t an option. My dad didn’t go to a fancy university or have access to a mentorship network to guide him through the corporate world. Society was far less tolerant of immigrants back in the 70s but he persevered. A few years after becoming a partner, he became the first person outside of the founding families to own the controlling stake. 20 years later as he prepares to retire, the business is still going strong.

I can never compare our achievements because he gave me my privilege. Everything I have achieved was because he made it possible. There are some of you reading this who are like me and have had doors opened for you. But there are others like my father who need to open the door themselves.

You might not have been primed to lead a company since you were a child or have a seemingly unlimited pot of money from venture capitalists. Yet when you own a business, you are an entrepreneur too and face your own set of challenges. I hope my dad’s success can help you.

Don’t assume people know what you mean

When you’re ambitious you can know exactly what you want. Your employees can’t read your mind though. It can be hard to separate what you’ve thought about and what you’ve said.

The nature of my father’s work means instructions can be complex. There are lots of moving parts and one mistake can cause a deadline to be missed. His trick is to always ask “What’s your plan?” and make sure they say when they aim to have it ready. It’s much better to clear up any confusion before any time has been spent on it.

He used to ask whether someone understood but people almost always say yes: “I spent way too many nights needing to redo something when someone had misunderstood my instructions. I couldn’t blame them though as I didn’t check we were on the same page. They understood what they thought they needed to do not what I wanted them to do”.

I’ve been caught out many times when he does this to me. I will nod along and when he asks me to repeat, I freeze!

Don’t break your own rules

Taking over a company where he had worked for many years was tough. He didn’t want to become cold to colleagues he had treated like friends for years. Yet he needed to maintain standards: “One of the first things I promised myself is that I would be a leader who led by example. Having been in their position, I was uncomfortable in reprimanding people for things I was doing myself.”

For those born with privilege, it can feel natural to be a boss. My dad didn’t have this luxury but this promise helped immensely. He told me “This had a big effect on my own work too and increased my confidence. It made me feel I belonged in my position”.

When you’re the boss you can do what you want, it’s your right. Yet don’t delude yourself into thinking it won’t affect how your staff act. If they see you taking shortcuts, they’ll take shortcuts too.

Give people the resources to grow

It is tough to keep the best talent when predators start circling. Larger companies can make promises my dad can’t. “One of the greatest puzzles I started with is the headache of staff retention. From my clients, I know it’s an issue many other small businesses face.”

“You can’t think employees will sacrifice their own growth out of loyalty to you. You need to make sure their needs and wants are being satisfied if you want to keep them”, he says. “If I can back up words with actions about caring for their growth, they’ve got less reason to take the risk of switching companies. I look out for when people start getting through their tasks quickly and see if they want a new challenge”.

Sometimes he loses people but appreciates they want more than he can offer. The company has kept a retention rate with few people leaving. Over his tenure, he can count on his fingers the number of people who’ve left who he wanted to keep.

There are no upsides to being disrespectful

I’ve never heard my dad say a single bad word about someone from work in my entire life. He’s firm but incredibly slow to lose his temper.

“Everyone I work with is another human being. My employees aren’t machines and my clients aren’t cash machines [ATMs]. They’ve got their own lives and their own problems. I celebrate their successes and support them when they fail. Even if you’re earning money, I believe you lose in the long run when you stop treating people like people.”

Be mindful of not letting yourself snap at anyone. The client who forgets to cancel an appointment might have a family emergency. You don’t know but making the wrong assumption can cause long-lasting damage. Even when ending a client relationship or letting go of an employee, you gain nothing by intentionally trying to hurt them. You don’t know what the future holds and they could still spread positive word of mouth about you.

“I’m not Steve Jobs! I see people read his books and try to copy his abrasive attitude. Most people aren’t exceptional geniuses like Steve. Employees and clients won’t put up with that. If people don’t want to talk to you, they won’t want to work with you.”

Delegate anything you can

This is one of the hardest things for small business owners. It’s your baby so you want to be involved in every last second of it.

It means you spend way too much time on minor issues. My dad says “Hire people you can trust, then trust them”. Do you know anyone competent who likes being micromanaged? You can’t do everything yourself and you can’t annoy the people who are doing it.

As the owner, you can’t neglect the big picture for the small details. Yes, they can be important but often it stems more from a need to control rather than what’s best for the business. Look at your tasks and pick out what only you can do. This is your real to-do list, everything else should be delegated unless you have the time to do it and desire to.

Make a decision and stick to it

According to my dad, “When options are pretty close to each other, just pick one. The time you waste in making the decision probably cancels out anything you gain anyway”.

Some decisions can’t be delegated and need your approval especially if it’s a legal requirement. Yet you can become a bottleneck for entire sections of the business if you fail to take quick decisions. That item 10th on your priority list is losing you money every day you put it off. Your employees may be forced to twiddle their thumbs because they can’t go ahead.

Once it has been made unless there’s overwhelming evidence otherwise just keep it going. Every time you shift direction, you transform previous effort into the garbage. It’s not just about the financial cost of this though. As my dad puts it: “Your employees will want their work to matter. Nobody likes investing time to do a good job only to be told by the boss to throw it away.”

Running a business is like running on a treadmill. If you slow down for too long, you start going backward.

What to take with you

My dad isn’t a billionaire and he’s not on the cover of Forbes. Yet he has come from a humble beginning and runs a successful business. He’s created a life he is happy with and I am lucky to be a part of it.

Here’s a summary for the rules he follows:

  • Don’t assume people know what you mean — Ask people what their plan is to deal with your requests.
  • Don’t break your own rules — Lead by example, if you take shortcuts so will your employees.
  • Give people the resources to grow — You can’t always compete with larger companies but you can back up your words about caring for employees’ growth.
  • There are no upsides to being disrespectful — You only see a fraction of people’s lives. Getting angry can stop future lucrative relationships.
  • Delegate anything you can — Trying to do everything is a surefire way for nothing to get done.
  • Make a decision and stick to it — Don’t block the company’s growth by stopping processes moving forwards.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful day!


How to Lead A Small Business: 6 Rules From My Self-Made Dad was originally published in Entrepreneur's Handbook on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Entrepreneur's Handbook – Medium