Resolving Conflict Situations

To manage conflict effectively you must be a skilled communicator. That includes creating an open communication environment in your unit by encouraging employees to talk about work issues. Listening to employee concerns will foster an open environment. Make sure you really understand what employees are saying by asking questions and focusing on their perception of the problem.

Whether you have two employees who are fighting for the desk next to the window or one employee who wants the heat on and another who doesn’t, your immediate response to conflict situations is essential. Here are some tips you can use when faced with employees who can’t resolve their own conflicts.

  • Acknowledge that a difficult situation exists. Honesty and clear communication play an important role in the resolution process. Acquaint yourself with what’s happening and be open about the problem.
  • Let individuals express their feelings. Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be expressed and acknowledged.
  • Define the problem. What is the stated problem? What is the negative impact on the work or relationships? Are differing personality styles part of the problem? Meet with employees separately at first and question them about the situation.
  • Determine underlying need. The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can live with. Looking first for needs, rather than solutions, is a powerful tool for generating win/win options. To discover needs, you must try to find out why people want the solutions they initially proposed. Once you understand the advantages their solutions have for them, you have discovered their needs.
  • Find common areas of agreement, no matter how small:
    • Agree on the problem
    • Agree on the procedure to follow
    • Agree on worst fears
    • Agree on some small change to give an experience of success
  • Find solutions to satisfy needs:
    • Problem-solve by generating multiple alternatives
    • Determine which actions will be taken
    • Make sure involved parties buy into actions. (Total silence may be a sign of passive resistance.) Be sure you get real agreement from everyone.
  • Determine follow-up you will take to monitor actions. You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in about two weeks to determine how the parties are doing.
  • Determine what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved. If the conflict is causing a disruption in the department and it remains unresolved, you may need to explore other avenues. An outside facilitator may be able to offer other insights on solving the problem. In some cases the conflict becomes a performance issue, and may become a topic for coaching sessions, performance appraisals, or disciplinary action

Here’s How You Differentiate Yourself in a Crowded Market

Have you ever come up with a fantastic new business idea only to later realize that dozens of people are already doing it? You are not alone. If there is a business opportunity in offering a product or service, there are people doing it already. Waiting for an idea that is not only highly profitable but also has no competition is akin to a unicorn sighting.

Improving experience.

This is by far the most common and popular strategy to penetrate a market. To do this, you understand the average customer experience in the industry and make it demonstrably better for your customers. Some of the biggest companies today have successfully deployed this strategy.

Apple has done this several times in the past with products like iPod and the iPhone. The iPod was not really the first portable music player in the market, just like how the iPhone was not really the first smartphone. Yet both these devices dramatically improved user experience. With the iPod, users could hold up to a thousand CD-quality songs in a single device, something revolutionary at the time.

Cost disruption.

Cost disruption is yet another popular market penetration strategy. But this may not always work in your favor. Offering your product or service at a lower cost could quickly devolve into a price war from which there is no going back.

You could, however, deploy this strategy successfully under two conditions: (1) you have enough capital to weather a price war, and (2) your business model lets you enjoy lower operational costs compared to your competition.

Product personalization.

This is an ideal strategy for startups that compete in a space led by big brands. Huge brands typically operate at industrial scale, making it difficult for them to adapt and personalize their products to individual customer tastes. Startups can use their agility to offer a product or service that is more appealing customers.

Alala, a brand that competes against the likes of Adidas in the female workout clothing space, lets their customers customize their apparel.

A few of these strategies are not applicable across industries. However, the bottom line here is that creating a unique differentiator helps your business get noticed and this, in itself, is one of the most effective ways to penetrate a crowded market.

Anand Srinivasan

This Is the Future Of Remote Work In 2021

The percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021, according to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research (ETR). “The productivity metric is proving that remote work is working,” said Erik Bradley, chief engagement strategist at ETR. “So, we all thought that there would be some increase in permanent remote work, but we didn’t expect that to double from pre-pandemic levels.” Another recent Gartner CFO survey revealed that over two-thirds (74%) plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the Covid-19 crisis ends. As expected, Big Tech companies are paving the way. Twitter, based in San Francisco, told employees in May that they could work from home indefinitely. Square, which is also led by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, adopted a similar policy around the same time and will allow employees to work from home indefinitely, even after offices reopen. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees in late May that many would work remotely indefinitely and plans to keep staff remote through 2020.

Remote work means less office space

Moe Vela, Chief Transparency Officer of TransparentBusiness, predicts that the need for large physical office spaces will gradually become a thing of the past. “Completely remote companies with no headquarters will continue to form as other organizations decide to reduce their office space for hybrid teams or forgo one altogether to save on costs,” adds Vela. And companies are already taking steps in this direction. Earlier this summer, outdoor retailer REI announced that it is selling its brand new, unused 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington. In a statement, CEO Eric Artz said the company would “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model” for employees. Many companies are also planning a new combination of remote and on-site working, giving rise to a hybrid work model. As Anna Convery-Pelletier, CMO at Radware, suggests, “One strategy might be to have specific days for in-person meetings and collaboration, and then other days allocated for remote work. In-person meetings might be reserved for brainstorming sessions, introducing new projects, or team-building exercises, while remote days would be for work that can be performed individually. The office could be redesigned and reorganized by getting rid of cubicles and creating more collaborative meeting spaces.”ADVERTISING

Remote work requires more engagement

In an office setting, a positive attitude and strong relationships open the doors to advancement. One of the disadvantages of working remotely is that it’s more difficult to highlight professional achievements. In 2021 employees will need to put extra effort into amplifying their engagement virtually to ensure they have access to new opportunities. In a remote setting where employees collaborate mostly via email, engagement is much harder for workers to convey and for employers to identify. By participating in virtual events, being active in online meetings, and keeping enthusiasm high, employees will be able to stand out as leaders while working from home.

Remote work affects performance management

Remote work has changed performance management considerably. Organizations will increasingly focus on work done instead of hours worked—making tools and apps to help manage remote employee performance more essential. To maximize employee efficiency, employers will need visibility over what workers are doing. Some examples of remote employee management tools include Time Doctor, Timely and TransparentBusiness. At some point, it may even be necessary to create a new job position, like Director of Remote Work, to oversee production and collaboration and ensure operational efficiencies. Some companies are also making performance reviews ongoing rather than annual. Continuous feedback will become essential as managers strive to help employees navigate their job responsibilities and meet performance expectations. Rethinking how goals are set and identifying key performance metrics will be critical to managing remote workers in the new normal.

Remote work makes cybersecurity vital

As organizations allow a significant part of the workforce to remain remote, cybersecurity will become an even greater concern in 2021. In Cisco’s Future of Secure Remote Work Report, 85% of all respondents reported that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before the pandemic. A real concern is around how data is being accessed and how to secure it effectively. Jack Mannino, CEO of security firm nVisium, agrees that organizations need to think more strategically about cybersecurity investments and how to best protect workers, data and equipment. “The shift to remote work has prompted many organizations to make significant new investments in their IT systems and infrastructure,” Mannino said. “While the shift has already happened for many, the security debt created in the process has not been addressed in many places. Securing a remote workforce requires a different mindset and presents an expanded perimeter for an attack.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that we can work from home and do it effectively—without losing productivity. In a survey by Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm, 94% of employers said productivity was the same as or higher than before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely. The future of remote work will require many changes, including investing in digital infrastructure and freeing office space. For most companies, having employees work outside the office will require reinventing many processes and policies. The question is, will the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Only time will tell.

Generations

I don’t know about you but I am getting tired hearing about this and that generation and the characteristics assigned to them. I have been around the block more than enough times to know that as I spend more time on this planet if I am willing to keep my mind and ears open I acquire more knowledge and skills that can help me in business and life. Over the years I have interacted with people both younger and older than myself. They come from backgrounds with experiences and skills that are often different than mine. This is something to be embraced as we can all learn from one another’s experiences both good and bad. My work over the past twenty years in the tech sector as a board member and senior leader of non-profit organization has brought me into contact with many men and women often younger than me. The thing that I find both engaging and amusing is how often during my encounters with younger entrepreneurs they often defer to me because of my age and presumed experience. The thing I have found over the years and shared with many of my younger counterparts is yes I may have more experience than them, but I can always learn things and skills from them that they know that is not part of my my knowledge base. I have never been hung up on titles or classifications and of course we ascribe generations into little boxes or categories. My philosophy has always been that we can always learn something new from one another no matter what year you were born. Nobody has the monopoly on knowledge.

How employers can help staff dive back into in-person work

Although we’re still in the third wave of the pandemic and many areas of the country still have restrictions, vaccination rates are steadily climbing across Canada. This means plans for return to work are becoming a clear focus for employers. While many employees look forward to reduced isolation and to sharing a workspace with their coworkers again, some are feeling very hesitant or even anxious about returning. Most people will experience some mixed emotions about the prospect of emerging from their work-from-home arrangements.

Here’s some things employers can do to help ease employee re-entry anxiety:

Start communicating early

Even if dates are vague at this point and plans are still being made, employers can manage employee expectations while helping them psychologically prepare to adapt their routines and return to the workplace by starting to communicate plans early. This will help employees to start thinking about what being in the workplace may look and feel like. It will also assist them in planning for things like changes in their routine or workday, child or elder care needs, transportation plans and the like.

Be patient

While a return to the workplace is a positive step toward a return to normal life, after spending long periods of time sheltering in place and avoiding contact with people, employees might be concerned about their safety from infection at work. They may feel overwhelmed about arrangements they need to put in place or by the change itself. If they use public transit to get to work, they may feel hesitant initially. Different people will have different feelings about what a return to the workplace means for them and adapt to change at different paces.

To quell concerns about health and safety, employers can make return-to-work health practices and policies easy to access and understand. They can reiterate the protocols they have in place to keep people safe. Create a safe and judgment-free space for questions and encourage people leaders to check in with their teams about how they’re feeling about the return to the workspace well before the slated return date — and then regularly afterward.

Prioritize well-being

Change can be stressful even when it’s a return to something familiar. Consequently, employees may have challenges rebalancing work and life. Now is a good time for employers to take an inventory of the resources they have in place that can help, including resilience training, stress management and mindfulness, but also supports for grief and addictions.

Employers can promote their employee assistance programs and/or extended health benefits providers for additional supports, communications, webinars or self-help materials that can be easily accessed by staff as needed. Organizations can also highlight self-assessment tools to help employees monitor their feelings and identify potentially unhealthy levels of stress or anxiety, as well as offering other mental-health supports and resources available via employer benefits and wellness programs.

Be flexible

When possible, employers should allow for some self-determination of pacing in the return to the workplace. As employees have probably reorganized their days working from home around their home lives, it will be important to be flexible about the start and end of a workday or allow employees the ability to continue to work from home for some of the work week, at least in the beginning. Additionally, employers can allow employees to set their own boundaries in the early stages.

While someone may feel OK about being in the office, they may not yet be comfortable getting on a plane to travel for work. Employees will appreciate having as much autonomy and control over their return to workplace as possible.

Change can be difficult, even when it’s positive. Re-entry into the workplace is only one aspect of pre-pandemic life that will require re-adaptation for employees. Uncertainty will fade as time passes and people get more comfortable and familiar with their new routines, especially with employer support.

New disruptors awaiting employers in the post-pandemic workplace

As employers and their employees exit the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll be confronted with a host of new challenges, said Linda Duxbury, Chancellor’s professor in management at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, during the keynote session of Benefits Canada’s 2021 Benefits & Pension Summit this week.

“Much like with a tsunami, [smaller] waves are going to follow the initial storm.”

Employee burnout, dissatisfaction with return-to-work plans and retention are just a few of the disruptors awaiting employers as they come out the other side of the pandemic, said Duxbury, noting now is the time for employers to develop an action plan to manage the coming challenges and remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape.

During the session, she reviewed the results of an employee well-being survey conducted by the Sprott School of Business that polled more than 700 Benefits Canada readers among other full-time employees.

The results revealed the current public health crisis has increased demands on employees on both the work and family fronts, leading to work-life conflict that’s taking a toll on their overall well-being. “Hours in work and family activities are times you don’t have for yourself to relax and sleep,” said Duxbury. “Overload in work and family is a major predictor of well-being. The more overloaded you are, the less well you tend to be.”

In terms of hours, mothers are spending an average of 77 per cent of the week either working or looking after their kids, while 64 percent of fathers said the same, leaving little time for self-care. And 82 per cent said they’re spending more time on childcare in the wake of pandemic-induced school and daycare closures. With family members home all day amid provincial and local pandemic lockdowns, 40 per cent said they’re now spending more time on chores around the home.

The survey also found many employees are feeling anxious and stressed about caring for elderly dependants. Indeed, 33 percent of dual income female respondents and 26 per cent of men are part of the sandwich generation, shouldering both childcare and elder care responsibilities. Seven per cent of female respondents are single parents with elder care responsibilities. “Elder care is the new childcare,” said Duxbury, adding employers need to ensure they’re adequately supporting these employees since it’s a huge issue that’s only going to become bigger.

The survey also revealed a younger crop of employees has been severely affected by the isolation that comes with remote working. Although some in this group may not want to return to the office, others may steadfastly refuse to continue working in this capacity in the future, noted Duxbury. One-third of survey respondents said they didn’t have a proper home office prior to the shift and data suggested some employees from this generation may demand more support in the way of employer-covered expenses for their remote working setups, she added.

Duxbury cautioned that attraction and retention will be key for employers in the post-pandemic environment. And in light of this, she noted they must consider how they’re going to retain employees in the future. “Everyone in the benefits and pension arena must up their game because the people you’re providing packages for are going to need a new and different and more profound kind of support.”

5 Reasons Enhanced Benefits Programs Are Good for Business

Not all that long ago, employees were happy simply to get a paycheck. Benefits were nice, but they were just that — benefits, not necessities. Today, employees expect health and dental insurance, retirement plans and more from their employers.

Here are the top five reasons that an enhanced employee-benefits program is beneficial for your business.

1. It’s profitable.

As business owners, our goal is to make money. While I am gratified by providing benefits that truly make a difference in my employees’ lives, I always look at the bottom line. I’ve found happy employees make good employees, and good employees are great for business. The numbers back this up: A 2015 report from The Aberdeen Group revealed that companies with high employee engagement achieve higher annual revenue, receive more customer referrals and meet annual sales quotas more often than companies without.

2. It increases employees’ physical and mental health.

Regular exercise is proven to increase energy levels and overall mood, which enables them to perform at their peak. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey found that 91 percent of workers at companies with well-being programs are satisfied with their job and feel motivated to do their best. Even small programs can make a huge difference. Our twice-a-week personal-training sessions help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle and clear their heads during the work day.

Healthy employees are also present more often. Employees with health insurance are more likely to get regular check-ups and take preventative measures, decreasing overall sick days. Plus, insurance gives employees peace of mind. They don’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket for an illness or injury. I am very passionate about the security that health insurance provides. In fact, I pass on doing business with vendors if they don’t offer their employees health insurance.

3. Recruiting is more expensive than retaining.

Many companies still think of benefits in antiquated ways. Instead of rewarding an exceptional employee with additional benefits, companies usually offer a small raise to try to keep the employee happy. These companies aren’t listening to what their employees actually want. According to a 2015 study by Glassdoor, 79 percent of employees would prefer more benefits or perks to a raise.

Providing small raises may save a little money overall. But the expense of replacing an employee if he or she leaves for a better, benefit-laden job ultimately will cost you a lot more. In fact, it can cost 30 to 50 percent of an entry-level employee’s salary to replace her or him. For mid-level employees, the expense is upward of 150 percent of salary. These turnover costs add up fast, especially considering the lost productivity inherent in training a new employee.

4. It enhances corporate culture and fosters camaraderie.

Providing extensive perks and benefits creates office camaraderie and give employees the chance to connect away from work. The APA survey mentioned earlier found that 91 percent of workers at companies with well-being programs have a positive relationship with supervisors, and 93 percent of employees reported positive relationships with coworkers.

Many of my employees are friends outside of work. They’ll go to the local pub once they’re off, go to dog parks together and alert one another of upcoming social events. While this has no direct impact on my business, it does create cohesion among my employees and makes it less likely an employee will readily leave.

5. It’s just good business.

I find it odd that so many companies have a hard time justifying enhanced employee benefits, yet are quick to approve expensive company parties, trade-show dinners, questionable travel or other frivolous expenses. This sends mixed messages to your employees: “We can’t give you health insurance, but we can spend several thousand dollars on this one trip.”

It also shows how out-of-touch companies are with their employees’ basic needs. Ongoing benefits resonate with employees over time, make them more secure in life and have a greater impact on business. No flashy event can accomplish all that.

How to communicate the value of a benefits plan to employees

It’s often said perception is reality and that’s definitely true when it comes to benefits plans. If employees can’t easily perceive the value in their benefits package then it’s up to the employer to make it clearer.

That’s where branding comes in. A lot of people — even those in branding — struggle to define what a brand truly is. Marketers and advertisers tend to explain it in squishy ways, by talking about things like  “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes” or “a person’s perception of a product, service, experience or organization.” Some simply define brand as a logo. But let’s be clear, brand is so much more than that.

Regardless of the industry or words used, one word emerges over and over again, perception. The ability to influence one’s perception is the ultimate goal of brand design. So, what does this have to do with communicating plan value? Employee benefits plans are often one of the most expensive talent acquisition and retention tools offered by organizations these days. If this is the case, then why are many of these undeniably valuable plans continually struggling to convey that value?

With a little know-how and sustained effort, a successful brand design can engage plan members long enough to deliver the understanding of value employers are trying to communicate. I hear it time and time again, why don’t our employees value their benefits plan? My immediate answer is: “Do you?”

While we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover — sadly most do. How employers represent their benefits plan says a lot about its value. A good, and thus influential, benefits program brand can act as a megaphone — communicating to employees loud and clear the perks beyond pay that a specific employer is providing to them. Effectively communicating the value of a benefits plan could be the difference between valued employees staying or leaving for perceived greener pastures.

Much of communication is visual not verbal, particularly these days when employees are often consuming information on their smartphones where they’re also looking at slick visual Instagram and TikTok posts. To compete with the plethora of other compelling content catching employees’ attention, effective benefits-plan branding should include these elements:

1.  A name. Make the name of the benefits plan something easy to pronounce, intuitive and recognizable. If a plan represents members from multiple employers, it’s important to help them understand that the plan/trust is separate from the associated unions. Being able to identify the benefits program by name is the first step in defining it.

2. A logo. In most cases a name or clean wordmark will do. In other cases, there’s an opportunity to design a logo that not only represents the plan name but has a visual resemblance with the company that offers it. This resemblance reinforces ownership. For multi-employer plans the opposite is suggested. Develop a logo that speaks to the industry or type of plan it represents — avoiding resemblance in this case helps to reinforce the often-confused ownership of the plan.

3. Imagery. When it comes to imagery, the benefits plan is meant to support members at work and in life. Focus on them. If the members you’re communicating to make widgets and you choose employment-related images, at least show plan members making the widgets. Seeing themselves, or those like them, reinforces that connection of personal ownership and pride.

4. A unique colour palette­. Colour has impact — it has the power to stimulate and evoke emotion. Plan sponsors can start with an external brand palette, then choose complementary colours that will only be used for plan communication. Colour is one of the most distinguishable brand assets, think Tiffany & Co.’s iconic blue bugs or Coca-Cola Co.’s red-and-white bottles. If sponsors offer both health benefits and retirement savings plans, you can go one step further and use colour to differentiate the two programs.

5. A font: While time and technology continue to play a role in the fonts used to represent a brand, font usage helps to visually tie all communications together and support consistency. Plan sponsors don’t need to create custom fonts. Fonts like Arial and Helvetica are great web-safe fonts but finding a clean, modern font that further differentiates one brand from others is a benefit.

6. Brand guidelines: This is the roadmap to effectively combining everything above. Writing clear brand guidelines down helps organizations better define their direction. Guidelines are the pillars on which a brand is built and should be adhered to with respect. A brand guideline document also allows an organization to clearly communicate important elements of a brand for others to follow. The smallest deviation over time can lead to brand erosion erasing all previous gains.

Now, this is a lot to consider. Brand design is in no way the complete answer to ensuring plan members appreciate the full value of benefits plans through communication alone, but it’s a start. Remember, if  plan members are intended to read important benefits-related information, it should be easy to find and easy on the eyes. For plan members to value benefits plans, employers must start by making their plans appear valuable.

Education could be the key behind employee retention

Months of remote work has made employees contemplate their purpose, and they’re prepared to quit their jobs for better opportunities. In an effort to keep workers engaged, child care provider Bright Horizons offers a program called FastTrack as part of their EdAssist Solutions. The service gives employees the opportunity to obtain high school diplomas and college certificates affordably.

“We think of education as a benefit,” says Patrick Donovan, senior vice president at Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions. “We manage it to make sure that it’s as easy as possible for the employees to take advantage of what their employers want them to do in any area of development.”Say “Hello” to GenerationYou – Health Care, ReimaginedWe didn’t change the goals of advocacy, we reimagined them. GenerationYou delivers a personalized, targeted solution.

Education has become a leading factor behind unemployment during the pandemic. The difference in the unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma or less and a bachelor’s degree or more was 2.2 percentage points pre-COVID — the gap increased to 8.8 percentage points in May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Employees with a lower education level are traditionally in service industry roles that are suffering from lack of revenue due to COVID, according to Donovan. These are also roles that may be automated at a higher rate. For those still employed, it may be financially challenging to upskill and keep up with new technologies.

“One thing the pandemic has done is wake people up to the idea of improving their economic security,” he says. “[Employees] are going to be looking for employers that offer workplace development programs.”

Enrollment in accelerated programs such as FastTrack has grown 40% in the last year as employees seek new education opportunities, greater job security and the potential to explore new options, according to a release. Bright Horizons has approximately 220 schools in their education network they’ve negotiated discounts with. They also provide academic and financial advisors to assist employers and employees with building an education plan.

Educational benefits not only provide a steadier financial future, but make employers more attractive to prospective hires, Donovan says. Employees are more confident at work and more loyal to their employer when their tuition and fees are subsidized.

Lauren Floyd, health and safety director at Bright Horizons, felt left behind after being unable to complete her college degree due to financial reasons. When Bright Horizons presented her with the opportunity to further her education through their Horizons Degree Program two years ago, she jumped at the chance.

“It opened a door I didn’t think I was capable of being able to walk through,” Floyd says.

Despite being furloughed a few months into the pandemic, Bright Horizons allowed Floyd to keep her education benefits. In September of 2020, she graduated with a BA in early childhood education and administration from Ashford University, which led to her landing her position with the company.

Once employers see the payoff — better recruiting, better retention and better productivity — the choice is easy to offer these benefits, according to Floyd.

7 Things You Must Do If You’re Going To Successfully Bootstrap

Running a startup isn’t easy. Sure, it seems thrilling and glamorous: being your own boss, traveling around the world to pitch and raise funds, and making the headlines with your groundbreaking idea.

But it can also be a nerve-wracking process, especially when it comes to fundraising. Anyone who’s started a business will know that cash flow is on your mind, particularly when you start to have a team and office space. If you want to scale, you’re going to have to grow your team and invest in things like marketing to make yourself known.

Chances are, you’ll be looking for investors early on to support you as you develop your business to be able to grow even faster. This is also what most of us believe to be the normal route for a startup, with headlines about investment series breaking every day.

And yet there is an alternative that’s slowly growing in popularity: self-funding.

It may seem daunting to take the plunge, but that’s exactly what we decided to do at Recruitee, in 2017. Based on our experience we’ve put together the top seven steps you can take to become self-funded and run a sustainable startup.

PUT YOUR PRODUCT FIRST

We developed Recruitee out of pain point we felt ourselves as we were recruiting. We’ve always put our product at the center of all our decisions, which means our priority is to ensure it’s user-friendly, fun, and accessible to everyone . . . Focusing on your product first helps you make decisions with that in mind. It forces you to ask yourself what problem you’re trying to solve with your product, rather than chasing after opportunities for investment, or developing solely based on input from partners. This should also mean you deliver a product that works for your customers and has product-market fit, rather than one that resonates with investors’ financial plans.

KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS CLOSE

Your product is, of course, important, but without people to use it, it’s nothing. It’s always been important to us to ensure our customers are successful in using our tool. We want to reduce the impact of their pain points and help them do their job. If you’re able to do that, they’re more likely to come back or stay with you for the long-term. With happy customers, you can focus on growth and acquisition based on previous success stories and key learnings.

THINK OF YOUR CUSTOMERS AS YOUR INVESTORS

Once your product is successful, you’ll start to grow your customer base. So view them as your investors. What they pay to use your product is what will help keep you afloat in your self-funded journey. Treat them as you would treat investors, all while recognizing that this option offers you more freedom.

THINK LONG-TERM IN YOUR DECISION-MAKING

If you raise funding, you’ll be calculating your burn rate and thinking about how to spend your newly acquired money—not to mention, investors will probably have an opinion on how it should be spent. This often means that decisions are made with a short-term vision, which impacts your business in multiple ways. When going the self-funded route, take the time to think of your vision for the company in the next five or even 10 years. What foundations do you want to build it on? How will you get there? Making financial decisions based on a long-term plan means you will spend your money differently and pick your investments wisely in a way you wouldn’t if you suddenly had $10 million in the bank.

THINK SCALABLE AND SUSTAINABLE

As a small bootstrapped business, you won’t be able to travel across the country at a moment’s notice to meet potential customers in glamorous locations. You also might not be able to hire all the staff you think you need or invest in all of the marketing channels. To make sure you’re still investing in your business and giving it the attention it needs, think in scalable and sustainable terms. For us, that meant we took most sales meetings online via conference calls. That didn’t prevent us from succeeding, as today, we have over 3,000 customers.

GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR BUDGET

When you’re self-funded, every penny you have counts. That means you’re going to need some out-of-the-box thinking on how to get what you want and how to spend your limited resources. While this may seem scary, it’s actually a good thing. It helps you exercise some restraint and invest only in the necessary items until you’ve reached financial sustainability. For example, which of your marketing channels will give you the most bang for your buck? Which of your employee benefits are the most important to you? Which area of the business needs to be invested in as a priority? You might be surprised by what you can do with less. And if the amounts on your invoices scare you at first, there’s plenty of solutions. You can ask to split the cost or pay in installments, or ask your vendor for a discount.

FOCUS ON YOUR CORE COMPANY VALUES

At the heart of your business are your company values, and if you’ve decided to go the self-funded route, that says something about what you stand for. As a founder, what is it that you believe in and what drives your business? What are the principles by which you want to run the business, and how will that be reflected in the way you work? If you are clear on your values, you’ll be able to use them as guiding principles when you have to make decisions. It will also help you in hiring talent, growing your team, and creating a company culture that can scale.

Becoming self-funded is definitely not an easy decision to make, but it’s one that can really pay off as Mailchimp, Wistia, and others have proven. We’re not suggesting that the above are foolproof steps that guarantee success. Every business is different. But we do know it’s important to ask yourself the right questions and challenge yourself to think differently.