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The 4 Core Proficiencies of the Barefoot Startup

If you’ve survived the entrepreneurial process from idea generation to capital generation and you were asked to sum it up into core principles, what would you say? Where would you start? We were met with this exact challenge. Clients, business associates, and our employees insisted that we should break our journey into its fundamental parts and elaborate on those parts. We tossed ideas around for a year, thinking about how to get these principles across to startups.

Thinking about why so many startups fail seemed to be a good starting point. What did they have in common? In what areas were most of the “failures” incompetent? To our surprise, each of them was incompetent in at least one of the 4 key areas. That led us to focus on and prioritize them in The Barefoot Startup’s GPS (Guiding Principles for Success). Here’s a brief synopsis:

1. Cash Flow Management. Here, your goal is to reduce the need for capital. Do you know how to distinguish and utilize your “hidden” assets? Ideally, your buyers might pay you before you have to pay for overhead and supplies. This is possible, but for most of us, juggling is necessary! And, before we pay ourselves, we must spend every cent on the bills. This is why minimizing overhead, outsourcing, and pay-as-you-go are crucial. This is why frugality and revenue are necessary. No matter the amount, revenue must be established before you ask for investors’ money. Do you know how to create strategic partnerships with your buyers and suppliers, to decrease your need for capital?

2. Monetization Strategy. It might sound crazy, but many startups never ask the all-important question, “Why are we doing this anyway?” Is it a legacy? Is it a lifestyle? Or is it to make money on brand equity? If you’re looking at an eventual merger, public offering, or acquisition, the first steps of your journey are key to your survival. They will determine plans for expansion and how your brand equity is maximized. This means your goods or services must be accessible, and that your business can operate without you. It means your files mirror your acquirer’s due diligence. It also means that you understand and create the milestones and metrics necessary to become an acquisition target, or, as we like to say, “Get your peanut in front of the elephant!”

3. Personnel Management. Here, your goal is to reduce turnover, the top hidden cost of business, and to empower and inspire your employees. Finding good people and building great people are covered in our video mentioned above. In our opinion, it’s necessary to overdo it during orientation from the first day to show where the money comes from, including all the jumps and hurdles it must pass over and through to get to them. Paying for performance inspires better performance. Paying employees hourly encourages more time spent at work, not necessarily leading to productivity. Publicly appreciating a job well done, encouraging innovation and creativity, and nurturing a culture of permission are undeniably crucial to a supportive and productive team. Share challenges with the whole staff on a know-the-need basis, rather than a need-to-know basis. This helps on-the-fly problem solving by unlocking your personnel assets!

4. Distribution management. Do you know how to get your product on the market? More importantly, do you know how to keep it there? Distribution encompasses everything from supply chain management to sales. And, sales is not just to your end consumer, but also to your people, then your B2B customer, then their B2C customer, and finally to your (and their) end-user. Knowing, understanding, and delivering what everyone in the chain needs can be the difference between market access and being shut out. A failure to understand the true cost of sales is the principal reason why so many startups fail. Start small. Make small mistakes. Learn from them, and get yourself together before you go large. Don’t move fast to lose fast! 

Interested? These 4 core principals, so often disregarded, are so critical that we spend a whole hour on each of them in our video course, The Barefoot Startup’s GPS (Guiding Principles for Success). Check it out and see for yourself!

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Investing Personal Development Women In Business

Are you Financially Healthy? – 7 Simple Action Steps to Beat Financial Stress

While tax season has come and gone, it’s not the only time we deal with financial stress. From budget planning, P&L, and quarterly reports to payroll and accounts receivable financial stress can be a constant throughout the year regardless of the nature or size of your business.

In a recent survey 7 out of 10 people claimed to be stressed about money and debt. Loss of sleep and anxiety are some of the most common health challenges we might experience. A study shows 27% will suffer from ulcers and digestive issues, 44% from migraines, 23% from severe depression and 6% will experience heart attacks.

Chronic stress has caused a rise in healthcare costs only to create further expenses for the individual, increase the debt, leading to more stress thus creating a vicious cycle.

What does a high-performer do to stay healthy? They make sure to cover, business, health habits and mindset. While on the business side, you would consult your CFO and accounting team to provide you the proper financial advice, what do you do to handle those nights your mind is racing?

Here are seven practical health solutions:

1. Create a physical avenue to channel out your stress levels. Exercise is a great way to do that. Walk, hike, run, dance – especially for those with high energy people that need to be active.

2. Need a calming activity? Take a Yoga or Tai Chi class – meditation thru movement, allowing you to focus on your body and your breathing.

3. Create daily quiet time for breath work. Deep breathing delivers oxygen to the muscles allowing toxins to move out and reduce the tension. Breathe in thru your nose to a count of 4 hold for a count of 4 and breathe out through your mouth to a count of 4.

4. Learn to meditate – You don’t need to chant “Om” and sit in silence for an hour “attempting to clear your mind.” I know that is a reason some people tend to shy away from meditation. If you choose, you can follow a guided meditation/relaxation program You can listen to instrumental “New Age” music or just sit in the quiet for 10 minutes a day without distractions focus on your breath, close your eyes if you choose and think of just being in peace. Meditation practiced before bedtime will help you get a better night’s sleep.

5. Eat healthy, balanced nutritional meals, avoid sweets, alcohol, and high carbs – they will add to your stress and to your waist.

6. Drink plenty of water to clear out the toxins in your body.

7. Get self-care – stress affects your health. See a chiropractor, massage therapist or bodyworker regularly to reduce the effects on your nerve system and strengthen your immune system.

Those activities will help reverse the negative physical effects of financial stress in your life.
What about mindset? That’s a story for another time…

Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development Technology

Arming the Cyber Defender – Your Employees

Too often cybersecurity professionals talk about people being the weakest link in security, but I would much rather look at these individuals, your employees, as your first line of defense rather than the weakest link. That is because they are your first line of defense in the cyberwar waged against us.

You may think I’m being melodramatic when I use the term cyberwar, but this is exactly where we are. Our biggest adversaries are foreign governments who use their immense resources to gain access to our personal information and our intellectual property in order to gain advancements and a competitive edge over our country, our companies and our technologies. This is happening every day and China is leading this war against us while we do very little to respond.

You may think that you can’t do much against the Chinese Communist Party, but that is where you need to think differently, there is a lot you can do and it will take you and many more organizations being armed and ready to take action. We are mistaken if we have the attitude that someone else will take care of the problem. That is because we are not fighting this war on the traditional battlefield, the fighters are not the military, they are you and me and we all have a part to play.

For your organization, the defenders in this war are you and your employees, the people sitting in front of a computer all day or connecting a device to your network. They are your first line of defense, but they have not been weaponized, as in, they don’t know how important their role is in this fight; actually they don’t even know the fight exists.

Here is a checklist you can use to help ensure you have your bases covered in arming your employees in this war and protecting your organization and our countries assets.

  • Provide security awareness training that connects the user to their responsibility for security – teach them how to behave, what to do, what not to do, and how to respond then reinforce the training on a regular basis. Make sure they understand their role and how important it is. The more interactive and real the training the more they will connect with it and remember what they have learned.


  • Do not allow users to have administrative rights to their computers, talk to your IT department about this because this right gives attackers more access and a much better chance of installing malicious software on your network.


  • Do not allow users to disable end-point security like host-based firewalls or anti-virus software and keep the software current and working properly.


  • Provide users with clear instructions that are easy to find and follow for how to report suspicious or anomalous activity – make sure they know what it means – test them. Then ensure the response team knows what to do in various situations and test them too. Testing reinforces what people have learned, make it part of the process and not something for them to be afraid of.


  • Provide specialized security training for your business leaders and empower them to discuss security with their employees. Engage your security teams or security consultants to help. This is specialized knowledge that you have to teach everyone in your business, you can’t leave it up to the small group of security experts when all your users are your first line of defense.


  • Provide users with secure methods for transmitting sensitive data and teach them how to use it. They need to know that email is not secure unless you have given them a secure method for using it.


  • Provide users with secure methods for storing sensitive data and make sure they know where those locations are and how to ask for access. Users need to understand that storing sensitive data on their computers or unprotected network file shares opens the risk to losing that data to an attacker.


  • Keep the conversation in front of everyone at all times, don’t become complacent or allow your people to become complacent. This is on-going and ever changing topic and so must be the conversation.

When I said test them there are many ways you can do this. You can use products that simulate phishing attacks that users will learn from if they click on the email. You can use a penetration test to simulate an attack and test your response capabilities. You can use consultants who can perform social engineering tests to see if users provide sensitive data like passwords or customer information. Testing helps ensure the training you provide is working. It is not to punish those who don’t respond correctly. The only way to know where you stand and correct behavior is through testing, training, and re-testing.

What I like about all of this is that not only are you protecting your organization, but you are empowering your employees to go home and protect their home computers through what they have learned. They can teach their friends and families what to look for. Our attackers are not just after our organizations they are after anyone who can give them the edge they are looking for and that includes you, your children, your parents, and your friends. The more you can teach your employees and the more other leaders do the same, the more we are arming our people at home and at work to be our best line of defense.

This is a high-level list that will help you get the conversation started with your IT, security, and executive team. If you want to dive deeper email sharon@c-suiteresults.com and we can discuss your individual situation. For more articles on this topic visit my C-Suite Advisors Page.

Growth Leadership Personal Development

Hey Leaders, Are You Setting Up Your Team to Fail?

Take, for instance, when we hear about air traffic controllers reportedly nodding off on the job and pilots being forced to land unassisted. As frightening as that may be, personally, I don’t blame the controllers. They were set up for failure.

The majority of these controllers work schedules that sound something like this: work an 8-hour shift, rest for 8 hours; work an 8-hour shift and rest for 8 hours. Many work repeated back-to-back midnight shifts, during which most of them are flying solo.

As Charlie Sheen would say, “DUH!” They’re all falling asleep at the switch because they’re all sleep-deprived!

This system is clearly flawed and therefore, it has failed the controllers – and us. Where are the leaders here? I know grocery store managers who do a much better job of scheduling their clerks than this, and these clerks (typically) are not responsible for the lives of hundreds or thousands of people in one shift.

So, here is my question for you as executive leaders, as bosses, as team leaders, as business owners. Are you scrutinizing your procedures and systems to make sure that you are setting people up for success rather than failure?

I once had a client contact me requesting a team-building training program. In an effort to conduct a little quick and dirty needs analysis I asked him what was going on – what prompted his request. (Since I’ve worked with this company in the past, I have a pretty good idea of their leadership structure.) He explained that they wanted to provide the teamwork training to their salespeople. He further elaborated that these salespeople are set up into two divisions and are essentially competing against each other for customers.

Wait a minute. Back up! You want to provide teamwork training, presumably to help them to work together better as a team, while they are expected to compete against each other? Sounds almost like an oxymoron to me.

The heaviest dose of team-building, training, or rah-rah-rah inspirational/motivational pep talks can’t get these people to function as a team when they are required to compete against each other for their livelihood. That system is inherently flawed.

Policies, procedures, systems, processes all have to be established to set your team members up for success. Do you periodically re-evaluate and re-assess yours to make sure that they still make sense?


What will you:

  • start doing,
  • stop doing, or
  • continue doing or do differently

to make sure that you’re leading your team and preparing them success rather than failure?

Use the comment box below to share your action plan and experiences with us!

To receive solutions to your people problems in your inbox every month, and to receive our report: “7 of Your Biggest People Problems…Solved,” click here.

More articles by Jennifer:

Leadership Team Accelerated Results Program

12 Powerful Questions to Stash in Your Leadership Toolbox

Leadership Lessons to Push Past Homeostasis

Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication.  In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.


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