What successful teams can learn from The Avengers

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Not everyone can be Tony Stark.

You know … Iron Man. (Okay, if you’re somehow not aware, Tony Stark is the genius alter ego of Iron Man as portrayed by Robert Downy, Jr. in the Iron Man, The Avengers, some Captain America, and Spider Man movies.

“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” is how Stark describes himself in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. Continue reading “What successful teams can learn from The Avengers”

How to hire VA’s and freelancers that help you crush it every single day

The pain can be excruciating.

Maddening.

Sometimes, it can make you want to give it all up.

I’m talking, of course, about the growing pains of a successful small business.

You try to run lean. Control overhead.

And that means resisting hiring new employees.

But then how do you get all the work done?

As a two-person business, I feel your pain.

That’s why virtual assistants (VA’s) and freelancers have been vital to me.

When I bring up the topic of outsourcing, however, I get mixed responses.

Some folks have a skewed or uninformed view of what virtual assistants and freelancers actually do.

Others have had bad experiences in hiring them.

For example, one colleague says that using VA’s actually makes him less productive because of the time it takes for him to explain tasks and “clean up” the work of his VAs.

So I’ve decided to share here the process that has worked best for me.

It’s a strengths-based approach to hiring freelancers and VAs.

Step 1: Know Your Strengths

The things I like to do at work, sometimes aren’t the things I’m best at doing.

I’ve learned that through trial and error.

But I also know I need to focus on my strengths.

Sometimes its hard to know what those strengths are.

For instance, I’ve tried several times to outsource my writing.

But it’s one of my strengths.

So I don’t outsource it anymore. But I do outsource spreadsheet management.

And design work.

And other tasks I’m simply not good at (even if like doing them).

If your company is succeeding because of your strengths, do not outsource them.

To get started on your journey to discovering your strengths, click here.

Step 2: Outsource Your Weaknesses

We often spend far too much time focused on trying to “fix” our weaknesses.

We should instead focus on amplifying our strengths.

And managing our weaknesses.

So it goes with outsourcing to VA’s and freelancers.

Do what your strong at. Outsource your weaknesses.

It’s that simple.

If you’re a really strong writer, you’re never going to be happy with the product you get back from a freelancer.

You’ll feel like you could’ve saved time had you written it yourself.

But the stuff you’re weak at?

Trust me — you’ll love the work product you get back because it’s work you didn’t have to do.

Further, it’s probably work that takes you too long to accomplish.

Step 3: Find the Right Freelancers

I’ve used several freelance companies over the years.

The one I’ve used for the longest time is Upwork (formerly Odesk).

I’ve had good experiences with Upwork.

And I’ve had bad experiences.

It’s been a process of trial and error to find people I can trust.

Now that I’ve identified them, it’s great.

But a recently-launched company with which I’ve had awesome success right off the bat is called Speedlancer.

It was founded by Medium mega-blogger Jon Westenberg.

It uses only US-based freelancers and VAs.

It offers a concierge service for those who pay $500 per month (trust me, it’s worth it).

It also has pre-existing tasks and bundles, with clear guidelines and expectations.

And, it offers the opportunity to create your own custom task or bundle and seek bids.

I’ve loved working with Speedlancer, and I think you will, too.


If you’re considering hiring a freelancer or VA, or if you’ve had bad experiences in the past, I hope you find this post helpful.

VA’s and freelancers have been vital to my company’s growth.

With a strengths-based strategy, they can be vital to yours, too.

Outsourcing to VA’s and freelancers is just one of the 25 Productivity Hacks I feature in my FREE eBook you can get by clicking here: http://productivityhacks.curtmercadante.com

TV’s ‘Nice Shark’ shares his tips for selling anything to anyone

Credit: http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/cast/robert-herjavec

The sharks are circling.

Some of the prey are nervous.

But some are confident. Prepared.

Unshakeable.

The latter walk away with deals. The former, in tears (sometimes).

I’m talking, of course, about the hit TV show, Shark Tank.

As an entrepreneur, I love the show.

It makes me nervous. And mad. And excited.

My kids love it, too.

I love them watching how the real world of business and deal-making works.

It also teaches the importance of presence and preparedness to making a successful presentation.

One of the “sharks”, of course is Robert Herjavec.

He’s known as the “Nice Shark” on the show, but has proven his grit and toughness throughout his life.

He was born in communist (former) Yugoslavia.

Robert escaped with his parents to North America and started to build businesses.

He’s bought and sold several IT companies, including the Herjavec Group, a large technology company.

He’s also written several books, including DrivenThe Will to Win, and You Don’t Have to Be a Shark.

Robert also recently shared his lessons on sales.

How to Sell Anything to Anyone

I’m a fan of Robert’s, and I follow him on LinkedIn.

So when he posted an article called, My 5 Essential Tips for Selling Anything to Anyone, I took notice.

As Robert notes in his article, everyone is a salesperson in some way.

Further…

“On Shark Tank, entrepreneurs have to sell themselves just as much as their business because we invest in them.”

Here are Robert’s 5 tips for selling anything to anyone:

The first thing you’re selling is yourself.

“If whoever you’re selling to doesn’t like you, they’re not going to listen to you. Be the salesperson you’d buy something from.”

Listen more than you talk.

“Good salespeople listen to what their clients are saying. They pay attention to the clients’ needs from the start and present accordingly.”

Know who to sell to.

“Make sure whatever you’re selling fulfills your potential client’s needs and is realistic for them.”

Understand what motivates the other side.

“Why should people care about what you’re selling? How is your product or service providing value to them?”

Keep it simple.

“Keep your pitch simple and under 30 seconds — practice your elevator pitch!”

What do you think about Robert’s tips?

Agree? Disagree?

Have any additional tips of your own?

Please share them in the comments!

How reading 100 pages a day helps make me a better entrepreneur

Earlier this year, I met George Washington.

And Winston Churchill.

And Vince Flynn’s fictitious American Assassin, Mitch Rapp.

These are just a few of the wonderful characters I’ve got to know by averaging 100 pages of reading every single day in 2017.

At the beginning of every year, I used to set a “reading challenge” goal for myself.

First it was 50 books in a year. Then 55.

Every year I found myself scrambling during the final weeks of the year to finish my books.

This year I tried something different: A 100-page-a-day manifesto.

The result?

It’s September 5 and I’ve already completed 60 books.

Crushing it.

So, beyond simply reading, how does it make me a better entrepreneur?

Forces Me to be an Early Bird.

The only time I really have available to read is early in the morning.

So, I wake up at around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. to read.

No checking email. No logging on to any device.

I read. I escape. I enjoy.

By the time I’m done reading 100 pages, I’ve finished my coffee.

I’ve awoken my brain.

And then I’m ready to start working … from a “running” start.

It Sets the Tone for the Day

Reading 100 pages every single day is like making your bed.

It’s a small accomplishment, but sets the tone.

As Admiral William H. McRaven, former commander of U.S. Special Operations said in a commencement speech (and now a book) to University of Texas grads:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

 

It Plays to my Strengths

Thanks to the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment, I know that three of my top five strengths are: LearnerContext and Intellection.

Take a look at the descriptions of each of these strengths to see what I mean:

Learner: People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

Context: People who are especially talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

Intellection: People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions … It’s very likely that you derive much personal pleasure from reading.

Given these strengths, it’s pretty obvious why I enjoy reading history, biographies, and management and leadership books.

By utilizing my strengths every single day, I keep my mind sharp and engaged.

According to Gallup (who runs the StrengthsFinder program), people who know their talents and have the opportunity to use them at work are 6 times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and 3 times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.

Further, people who use their strengths every day have 7.8% greater productivity.

Technically, by reading early in the morning, I’m utilizing my strengths before (and not during) work, but in getting the day started off right, I stay engaged for the entire work day.

Instead of waking up dreading the work day, I get up energized and excited to read something new.

Do you have any habits that help energize your work day?

Please let me know in the comments!

My 100-Page-a-Day Manifesto is just one of the 25 Productivity Hacks I feature in my FREE eBook you can get by clicking here: http://productivityhacks.curtmercadante.com

10 Tim Ferriss quotes that will have you wanting to adopt a ‘Four Hour’ mindset

It came at a time when I was drowning in stress and near-burnout.

I’m talking about my discovery of Tim Ferriss’ timeless book, Four Hour Workweek.

I had no expectation that it would show me how to only work four hours per week.

Nor should you.

It’s about having a “Four Hour” mindset.

And it’s about freedom. Not having your work own you.

It’s also, of course, about productivity.

Tim’s book (and his podcast) have had a big impact on my life, and so here I share a selection of ten of his quotes that I like best:

  • “You need to know what your unique strengths are and be willing to delegate.”
  • “If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
  • “Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!”
  • “Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work. If the recipe sucks, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are.”
  • “Focus on being productive instead of being busy.”
  • “’Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”
  • “Creating demand is hard. Filling demand is easier. Don’t create a product, then seek someone to sell it to. Find a market – define your customers – then find or develop a product for them.”
  • “If the challenge we face doesn’t scare us, then it’s probably not that important.”
  • “Information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it.”
  • “To do the impossible, you need to ignore the popular.”
  • “$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”

I urge you to check out some of Tim’s other books, including Tools for Titans, The Four Hour Chef and The Four Hour Body.

If you haven’t already, please download our 25 Productivity Hacks that Will Help You Crush Every Single Day.