Week 1 wrap up and the WHY behind #mollyinaminute

Some History

I’ve been thinking a lot about video content in the past couple of months. A few years ago I started watching Diggnation (a weekly webcast featuring Digg founder Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht) and segued that experience into watching Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss’ later webcast, The Random Show.

I also watched a lot of TED Talks and then (lightning!) discovered the magic of Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is an excellent example of someone who used the power of video to transform his business, his life, and eventually the lives of countless others. In 2006, he started Wine Library TV, a regular video blog about wine. This made sense because he was the co-owner of a wine retailer called Wine Library and had spent years learning about and buying wine for the store.

Along with his general business prowess, his experiments in video and social media created tidal waves of growth for the company. Like the cool dude he is, Gary picked up a lot of lessons along the way and has since shared them through his books, by speaking at conferences, and now through his own non-wine-related video posts.

Gary’s success in business is inspiring, but what is most inspiring to me is his ability to show his passion, share his ideas, and cause real change through this medium.

I’m not Gary, but we do have a few things in common. I created this fancy venn diagram to prove it:

Figure 1: Molly Oehmichen vs. Gary Vaynerchuk

I might’ve missed a few important things, but you get the general idea. When Gary Vaynerchuk started Wine Library TV, he was pretty much a nobody. Today, Gary is a tried and true influencer in social media, technology, customer service, and of course, wine.

Sometimes influencers are born, but more often than not they make themselves. I wasn’t born much of anything, but I plan to use every opportunity available to make something of myself.

So What?

So a few months ago, video started looking like an attractive option to reach a new, broader audience. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to talk about or that I could really speak to any one particular subject. I went back and forth with the idea for so long that I knew I had to start doing *something* with it or it would drive me insane.

From that idea, #mollyinaminute was born. It’s basically a daily vlog (video blog) where I talk about whatever is on my mind when I happen to hit record.

Goals (evolving)

  1. Get into the habit of posting something every day.
  2. Get comfortable recording video of myself.
  3. Get comfortable recording video of myself in front of people I don’t know.
  4. Interact with people I usually talk to on twitter in new ways.
  5. Learn more about personal interactions on the web, analytics, and content management.
  6. Speak concisely (a minute is short)!

So, without further ado, here are the first seven episodes (first full week’s worth) of #mollyinaminute videos. Follow along by following me on twitter, using hashtag #mollyinaminute, or following my YouTube channel. And send questions, comments, ideas, and random thoughts to mollyinaminute at gmail dot com.

Episode 1: Monday, June 18th

Episode 2: Tuesday, June 19th

Episode 3: Wednesday, June 20th

Episode 4: Thursday, June 21st

Episode 5: Friday, June 22nd

Episode 6: Saturday, June 23rd

Episode 7: Sunday, June 24th

Place (Still) Matters

Between the recession and the millenial generation’s anti-employer movement more of us than ever before are freelancing and working from home. Right now from your couch you could be working on a contract assignment for a large corporation or starting the next Google. [I can’t be the only one that works from my couch, right?]

My couch looks sort of like this one.

The important revolution is that work isn’t a place- it’s a verb. Theoretically, most of us could do our work from anywhere. If you’re on the “work is a verb” bandwagon it’s important to recognize: place still matters.

I could work from my house day in and day out cut off from the world except for my thrice-hourly twitter feed and gmail checks. In fact some days that is exactly what I do. Other days I crave inspiration, interaction, and humanity.

To solve this problem I meet friends and co-work at local coffee shops. I make the short commute downtown for working lunches at corner cafes surrounded by the white-collar hustle and bustle. Soon [read: when it fits in the budget] I plan to take the leap and get a “permanent desk” at Launch Pad.

Some folks are natural introverts and don’t mind working in complete isolation. If that’s you, you do not have my permission to work at home alone every day. Trust me, you don’t want to turn into this guy.

The Oatmeal - Working from home is both awesome and horrible

But aside from turning into “that guy” – There is an argument for doing your work where others are working. Oh look, a handy little list:

  • Feedback — Immediate, in-person, full senses feedback is priceless. An email response is not the same as a visible first impression. If you’re working near someone you trust and respect, quick advice can save you hours of extra work or waiting for email responses.
  • Growth – It can be hard to get motivated, inspired, and opened up to new worlds of knowledge when working alone. Shared passions are like fertilizer for knowledge. Talk about what you love with others and bask in the sunlight of constant personal growth.
  • Networking – I’ve “met” a lot of great people on Twitter. It’s easier than ever to initiate a professional relationship online. But a real life handshake and conversation still beats every form of online communication to date. Most days I would be lost without my personal and professional networks to support me (this includes many job opportunities, introductions, and steering me in a new direction when I get fazed).
  • Mentorship – The most important thing here is to get a mentor. If you can only do this via email/skype, get to it. If your mentor is virtual try to find a way to meet up in person at least once a year. This is why they invented conferences and generally host them in fun places like, ahem, New Orleans.

Now if you are a regular couch-worker you might be wondering how to get started. Volunteer with organizations in your region. Go to business-themed happy hours, young alumni/ professional events, and meet-ups. Try working outside of your house two days a week. If these things don’t exist where you live find another couch-worker in your area and form a group. The hardest step is the one outside of your front door.

I’ve had great accidental conversations with powerful members of the New Orleans entrepreneurial community while riding a bus, sitting at a coffee shop, and at a bar during happy hour. All have moved my personal business forward in ways I couldn’t have predicted and none of them would have happened if I had been working from my couch.

How are you putting yourself out there? Do you have a co-working experience to share?

 

7 (Free!) Ways to Improve Employee Retention

Your employees don’t have to work for you. Some may have deluded themselves into thinking they have no other option. One day they will wake up and remember that they don’t actually have to work for you.

If an employee makes $50,000 a year and they quit, a company should expect to spend around $12,500 replacing that employee. For more details on how to calculate and reduce those costs check out Scott Allen’s post on the High Cost of Employee Turnover.

If you run a small business or a start-up, spending a lot of time and resources replacing employees can be an enormous burden. You probably also can’t afford to spend a lot of money on expensive over-the-top benefits to keep them around. With that in mind here are seven tips for keeping your employees happy, productive, and your employees.

Be Flexible

Sh*t happens. Real people have emergencies, sick kids, bad days, et cetera. If you want to avoid those situations, hire robots. If Sally is chronically late, have an honest conversation about her life outside of work and her work schedule. Does she have to get a kid to school on the other side of town? Does she just not function well at 7am? Can you let her come in and leave an hour later every day? As a boss it may seem like you can’t make those types of exceptions for one employee. You can. Especially if it means Sally will be working harder on behalf of your company’s long term goals.

Recognize Passion

Passion is poweful and when harnessed appropriately can be both a money maker and a motivator. If John gets excited every time he gets to work on X type of project, ask him what about that type of work is important to him personally. Think about how he can work on more projects similar to X. Find out if you can transfer his excitement in that area to other areas of his work.

If Adam seems uninspired by his tasks, have an open discussion about what you can do as an employer to change that. Inadequate training, office gossip/bullying, or even uncomfortable temperatures can turn a once-passionate employee into a mindless drone. Don’t let easy-to-remedy issues hold employees back from really loving their work.

Encourage Growth

As a product of the information age, today’s employees have broader interests. Abby in accounting reads regularly about social media. Dylan the IT analyst trades foreign commodity stocks online. Encourage cross-pollination whenever you can. Multi-specialty teams remove boundaries and give employees the opportunity to work in an area of interest without formal training.

Google boosted productivity, retention, and recruiting by enacting their “Innovation Time Off” policy. This policy allows employees to spend up to 20% of their time doing whatever they want and is responsible for a large amount of Google’s breakthrough products. Providing 20% of “free time” may be extreme, but use the idea as a starting point to consider how you can allow employees to stretch their minds while boosting your bottom line.

Listen Actively

Employees are very rarely comfortable telling their boss or their boss’ boss how they really feel. Perform anonymous 360 degree evaluations. Everyone who interacts with an employee should evaluate them and that includes having subordinates evalute managers. Trust your employees to provide valuable, honest feedback and they will.

The second component to active listening is making sure your employees know consideration will be given to their feedback. If someone comes to you with a concern don’t immediately dismiss it no matter how outrageous or wrong you think it might be. Being dismissive and condescending is a sure-fire way to let your employees know they aren’t valued. Always have a follow-up conversation after a complaint.

Communicate a Common Goal

Have a clearly defined mission. Talk about it regularly. Post it on the wall. It should be short, memorable, and actionable enough for your employees to remember and repeat. If you find your mission needing a refresh, involve your employees in the re-writing process.

Hire the Right People

Just because you need someone right now doesn’t mean you should hire the wrong person. The long term costs of poor hiring decisions are too high. Sometimes the most important factor when evaluating potential hires is culture, followed by work ethic, and finally by relevant experience.

I once worked in a tight-knit group of about 10 entry-level employees with a culture of mutual learning and respect. A middle manager was hired who clashed with the culture of both the organization and small group. Before long, after being thrust into a backstabbing and pompous environment all but one member of the team had resigned.

Employees are Humans First

Every one of your employees has a brain, a heart, and a soul. They also have a past, present, and future. Respect them as individuals. When appropriate show an interest in their lives outside of work. Your employees are not your enemies or your competition. Quitting is a lot more fun when you work for an asshole.

Have you worked in an environment with high turnover? What could the employer have done to keep people from quitting?

Perfection is the Anti-Innovation and 4 Other Things I Learned From Pottery

I’ve spent 10 years learning, practicing, and (more frequently) totally failing at making pottery. With mud up to my elbows and another mess in the trash bucket, I jotted down these five transferable lessons.

Learn from a master

Finding a mentor can be a daunting task. If you can’t find a “master” to work under, find someone who knows a little more than you. If you can’t find someone who knows a little more, find someone who is creative, ambitious, and willing to learn alongside you.

Don’t let someone else tell you what to do. Ask them to tell you what they do. Then, watch what they actually do and note the differences. Practice what they do, feel out how well their methods work for you, and adjust them until you find your own personal sweet spot for success.

Breathe

Breathe a little more. Breathe a little deeper. Release bad energy before it seeps into everything you do.

A "teapot" I created in 2005

Push hard, but not too hard

When working on a pottery wheel, creating a beautiful bowl requires pushing the sides away from the center. This is a slow, patience-testing process. It takes strength to mold the piece to your desired shape, but if you push just a little bit too hard the whole thing will fall apart.

In a similar way, people mold to the dominant ideas and personalities around them. Feel people out, test boundaries, pay attention to nuances in speech, body language, and behavior. Give a little push, point the conversation and their work in a direction that suits you. Just remember not to push too hard, otherwise you might both trip up and land flat on your faces.

Make a plan, but be prepared to give it up

  1. Draw out your vision on paper. Make as many variations to it as you can. Add wings, glitter, and funky eyeballs to get those cerebral juices flowing.
  2. Test it out in theory. Turn it upside down, backwards, and inside out in your head. Note your assumptions and possible points of failure.
  3. Test it out IRL. If you do the same thing more than three times and it doesn’t work, something is wrong with your assumptions, your execution, or your idea itself.
  4. Don’t beat a dead horse. Pat yourself on the back for trying something new and move on.

Perfection is the anti-innovation

There are a lot of ideas floating around in the world about “perfection.” In this context, perfection is creating exactly what one sets out to create. Innovation is also a product of creation. By creating fast, frequently, and passionately levels of both perfection and innovation can be achieved, but not at the same time. Perfection requires deliberate, pre-determined actions and practice. Innovation requires freedom to fail and adjust your sails when the wind changes.

Picasso created many beautiful, perfect paintings. He also created the Guernica, and was arguably one of the most innovative artists of the 19th century. Follow directions and color in the lines for perfection. For innovation, accept any and every outcome as a new definition of perfection.

What life lessons have you learned from your hobbies?