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Startup Employees Rocking the Holiday Season

There’s nothing worse than a busy season to test the mettle of a startup. Excessive orders, customer service wrinkles, products out of stock, you name it. And when something goes wrong the problem usually lies with…you guessed it, the people. When we help clients build cultures, we talk about the importance of hiring to culture–especially for startups where employees are often the face of the company. Hiring to culture is not “can I have a beer with this guy?” It’s a defined selection process that tests whether a candidate will deliver in a way congruent to your company values. It’s employees that live the brand every day and act as an extension of the business no matter where they are.

Since I’m in the business of startups, it’s only fitting I patronize them too. And in checking off my own gift list this year, I decided to put a few service startups to the test. How would they fare when I ordered their goods, asked questions, and responded to problems that arose? And what startup employees are really singing their brand’s tune?

Best Practice #1: Sharing the Brand

Fornash is a startup that pivoted multiple times in the design industry from hand-painted glasses to design-your-own purses to their current successful jewelry and accessories line. Stephanie Fornash Kennedy, founder of the brand, has bootstrapped her way to Oprah’s Favorite Things List. Not only is Stephanie always decked out in her own line, her social media team is constantly sharing ways to wear her items on Instagram.

e88eb1ea5ee411e3977412e829fefa95_8I had the chance to join Stephanie and a group of women last week for dinner, and she came with free baubles for all of us: she gave the Cosmopolitan Bracelet to each of us. We promptly adorned them, took a photo and shared it across numerous social media channels. Brand goodwill starts with friends and family. Putting the product in the hands of friends and sharing the brand you’re proud of makes those who know you, proud of it too. You don’t need Kickstarter to remind you that startup success often begins with the people who have faith in you and are proud to share the story of someone they know. Now I’m off to fill stockings with more Fornash bangles.

  • Shop Fornash this holiday season: use code COSMO for 20% off of the Small Cosmopolitan Bracelets you see above.

Best Practice #2: Informed employees are the best employees.

I inherited a love for giving gifts from my mom. For me, it’s not about extravagance but about the unique finds that are perfect for one specific person on your gift list. As a citizen, I’ve always admired the Back to the Roots story to make food personal. As an entrepreneur, I appreciate their carefully curated product line. And as a consumer, I looked at the Amazon reviews before purchasing one of their Aqua Farms as a gift.

Unsure if some of the problems the reviews cited had been addressed, I conveniently asked Emily, a Back to the Roots employee who popped up in the live chat function on their site as I was shopping. What changes had they made to address the problems? She responded immediately in the chat window with the specific changes that had been made to the product pump, tray and construction using the exact terms I’d seen in the reviews. I was impressed and convinced. She topped it off with a coupon code and I was off to the checkout, one more gift uniquely checked off my list....

...continue reading the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail where it was originally posted.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.





Stop Being Selfish: Doing Good Business Deeds

It's been a big year for me. Got engaged. Revamped my business plan. Pivoted the business. Got married. Took three weeks off for the first time in 10 years. It's this kind of year where you realize who people really are. Really.  I tried to ask for  help.  Sometimes it worked. More often, it didn't. Someone said to me recently: "you're really good at paying it forward and you're not so good at promoting yourself." I'll admit, I took that as a big compliment. I get more value from helping people than almost anything. I champion self-promotion to others in every way possible. I tell coaching clients to make big asks. I tell organizational clients to use multiple channels to promote their brands. But I don't do it so well myself.

In a year like I have had--both professionally and personally--I've been constantly surprised by people. And not always in a good way.  I don't help people because I want something in return. And I don't ask for help often. But this year I did. Multiple times. And the results, especially in business, were surprising.

Here's what I learned--it's so much easier to ignore than help. It's easy to ignore a voicemail, an email, a Facebook friend, a retweet request. If you turn a blind eye, you don't feel as badly. And that happens in business more often than we realize. There's a "me" mentality in business these days. People are selfish. They're prioritizing things in business based on a WIFM (what's in it for me) mentality.

There are tons of messages this season about helping others socially and economically. But what about in business?  How can we use the season to remember business?  Here are a few ideas:

1) Pay attention to your colleagues

I left my last job on December 31st last year. There were plenty of people in the office that day and yet I ate lunch alone. It would have been really awesome for  someone to notice I was feeling a bit down, nervous about the change to come.  Just someone noticing would have done wonders.

2) Promote a new business

Small business is the backbone of our economy. Go promote one!  It's incredibly hard to be an entrepreneur and those who are living the #startuplife will be so grateful for the small token of support.  Two start-ups I'm really proud of this holiday season? My friends Jamey Jeff and Scott Rothrock over at RemarkableHire (offering holiday discounts!), and the fabulous Lauren Thorp over at UmbaBox (can we say holiday shopping done?). Please check them both out.

3) Help a job-seeking friend

It's a tough time of year to be out of work. The good news? January and February are the biggest hiring months of the year. If you have job-seeking friends, send them a simple note: "I know you're still looking for work so I thought I'd can I help?"

4) Talk about and really thank the people who've helped you

Last year I blogged about the people who helped me in 2011. The post itself didn't get a ton of views, but it was really cathartic for me to think about the year, and who was so influential for me personally, and then thank them in a public way.  It's also incredibly interesting to see how those relationships change and evolve. You can learn a great deal about people that way.

5) Make an introduction

Introduce two people out of the blue who could really benefit from knowing each other.  There's a real value from getting a surprise introduction and that sort of altruism can lead to really valuable business relationships.

So stop being business selfish. Do something for someone in the spirit of the holiday season.

As for me, I'm far from perfect, in business and in life. I can learn too, help more and be a better business neighbor. So in that vein, what can I do for you? Let me know.  I also bet I can predict who will retweet and share this blog post.