Question: What is the best business or career book to give as a holiday gift and why?
The best business book I’ve ever read is the E-myth by Michael Gerber. The E Myth teaches entrepreneurs how to think about building their business so that they can turn their company into a well structured, systemized business. I truly believe too many entrepreneurs do not follow the advice in this book, which is why 80% of start ups fail.
Question: I know how people feel about them, but occasional meetings are needed for our team. What is 1 simple thing I can do to make sure they are useful?
Meetings can be productive if your team is vigilant and disciplined. To start, all meetings should have an agenda as well as an organizer. If you give someone the responsibility of setting the meeting topic, conducting the meeting, and then following up with action items, there is a good chance the meeting will actually be productive and drive your business forward.
Question: What is the #1 suggestion you’d give an employee who wants to pitch his or her boss on leading a new project?
There is a difference between average employees and great employees. Average employees identify problems/inefficiencies and bring them to their boss’ attention …great employees identify SOLUTIONS to problems/inefficiencies and present those solutions to their boss. If you want to lead a new project, you must be a great employee who has a reputation for developing solutions, not enumerating problems. That will give your boss the confidence to let you take the reins on a new project, knowing that you’ll end up eliminating any problems / inefficiencies that come up instead of creating new ones.
Question: I don’t check in with my employees often but would like to. What is one straight-to-the-point question to ask them when I do?
Regular check-ins are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your company. Frequent, shorter check-ins are better than infrequent, longer check-ins. I always strive for a 2-5min chat with every member of the team bi-weekly instead of a 30 min chat every quarter. When you meet that frequently, you’ll have no problem getting a sense of what is on their mind (sometimes, it will be nothing, and that’s ok). The best question to ask is always ‘From your perspective, if you could change one thing about the company for the better, what would it be and why?’ You’ll be surprised at the insight your employees have!
Question: We’re looking to upgrade the laptops we buy for our employees this year. What is one thing I should consider when comparing equipment other than price?
It’s more important to ensure your team is working on the same platform than it is to get the latest and greatest technology. Especially for our engineering team we’ve found that by standardizing our OS and tool set, we’re able to resolve issues faster, on board new employees quicker, and make more progress as a company.
Question: I’m considering working with an offshore development team. What do I absolutely need to know before going this route?
There are 2 important things you need when working with an offshore dev team. First, you need to have a clearly defined project with a definite set of requirements. Otherwise, there is no real end or goal the team will be working towards. Second, you absolutely need to have a person on your team managing the project. There will always be questions that come up, as well as decisions that need to be made during the project. Without a project manager overseeing these decisions, you run the risk of making incorrect decisions / assumptions, which leads to a loss in time and productivity.
Question: What’s one sign a team member is ready to take on a managerial role?
One sign a team member is ready for a managerial role is having a consistent reputation for presenting solutions to problems (not just enumerating issues). Second, they quantify their progress and contribution to the team. Managers are judged based on their perceived progress, so before landing that managerial role, people need to understand the importance of developing SOLUTIONS to problems AND quantifying those solutions.
Question: What is one tip you would offer an introvert who wants to network more at events, but genuinely struggles?
Do research on the attendees and ask them specific questions about their background and/or experience. People love talking about themselves and their areas of expertise, so encourage it!