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How Amazon Stays Ahead of the Game

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Amazon is no stranger to staying ahead in the tech industry, and its web services sector is no different. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, leads the online computing industry offering services at prices that no competitor will be willing to match. How did AWS manage to gain such a competitive advantage whilst keeping long-term sustainability a goal? Here are a few key points in their strategy that have helped them be successful:

  • Be an Opinion Leader: “The idea seems to be to dominate not so much by the traditional “vendor lock-in” of hooking customers on proprietary technology, but by making itself the center of the styles and habits of cloud computing.”
  • Look to the Long Term: Mr. Jassy, head of AWS, said “We’re extremely long-term oriented,” he added. “We’re trying to build a relationship with our customers that will outlast all of us in this room.”
  • Know Your Strengths: Amazon has developed some of its competitive edge by buying technology from smaller firms and applying it to their giant infrastructure.

Knowing which fields your business can improve in will help it develop core competencies that will give your company a competitive edge. AWS has understood this, and with it has built a service with which no competitor can compete. Its intelligent business tactics lend AWS access to the latest technology before it becomes available to their competitors, and securing their position at the top. Applying these tactics to your own company will help you stay ahead of your competition, and stay there.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

Business Cards: Still the Preferred Networking Tool

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First adopted in China over half a century ago, business cards are still commonly used today to exchange contact information. It may seem primitive in this day and age where technology has taken over most of our social interactions, but simply no app has truly been able to replace the business card. How can that be?

First off, apps can be cumbersome as both parties need to have the app in order to exchange the information. Their lack of popularity can be attributed to the following catch 22: nobody downloads the app because it is useless, and it is useless because nobody downloads it! Second, a trading off a business card leaves either party free to connect if they’d like to – but there is no obligation. However, adding one another on Facebook can be awkward as you may not precisely remember another’s name off the top of your head, or you may find it awkward to unfriend them after you completely lose touch.

This is not to say that people have given up on trying to develop apps in order to replace the business card, but none have succeeded. With other updates to the business card such as QR Codes, Social Media handles and high quality photos – we won’t be switching over any time soon. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Read the whole article in the Washington Post here.

3 Tips to Keep Your Start-Up Afloat

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Here at Voice of Reason, we are no strangers to start ups and start up culture. We see many of them rise and fall, and we know it takes much more than just hard work to really see success. Proper strategy and business will drive results within your company. Here are a few tips to ensure your business is headed in the right direction:

  • Know Your Target Market: Understand your customer and know what matters to them. Knowing what they want from your product is key to delivering what they need.
  • Have a Sound Business Model: Proper strategy for value creation and capture will ensure sustainability in your business. Dumping money into unnecessary products and services will hurt your bottom line.
  • Make Sound, Rational Decisions: It is important to be passionate and dedicated to your business, but ensure your decision making is based on hard data, and not your emotions. Too often charismatic leaders will bring their company to ruins because of ideas that should have been altered or even terminated completely.

Running your own business is one of the most challenging endeavors anyone could possibly take on, but with proper guidance, rationale, and hard work, your business will prosper. Know your customer, understand the value your business creates, and success will follow.

Click here to read the full article in Stanford Business

Properly Engaging Your Customers with Mobile Apps

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With apps being at the core of a consumer’s mobile experience, more companies are optimizing their apps for their consumers. Your company’s app experience is the difference between maintaining an active, happy userbase and an entire demographic labeling your firm as out of date and irrelevant. Ensure your app promotes your business with these simple tips:

  • Keep it Simple: A minimal interface is best, as is an interface that lets customers tailor their app experience to their needs.
  • Make it Fast: Ensure that your app’s code is clean and functional to increase load speeds. Just an extra second added to the load time can lose you 16% of your users.
  • Keep Content Useful: Don’t have an app for just the app’s sake. Whether it is a price comparison tool or a reference book for your product, ensure that your app provides utility for your consumer so they’ll have a reason to download it.

Having an app is a great way to maintain contact with your customers. It will also help you reach a demographic of tech savvy people that otherwise would have never interacted with your brand. By following these tips, you’ll ensure your app maintains a healthy relationship with its users, resulting in an increased number of engaged and loyal customers.

Read the full article here.

Gain a Competitive Edge in E-Commerce by Optimizing Your Mobile Site

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With mobile transactions gaining an increasingly large share of the e-commerce pie, small business owners need to start asking themselves: how can I best accommodate mobile shoppers?

Mobile’s global average share of e-commerce is 34% and in countries like Japan and South Korea that share is over 50%. While US conversion rates from mobile shoppers are still around 2.46% compared to Japan’s 9.35%, it is still important to note that one can gain a significant competitive advantage from optimizing their mobile e-commerce suite.

Here are a few common shortcomings of small business and easy solutions:

  • Use Mobile Solutions that Make Sense: Opt for all-in-one desktop and mobile e-commerce solution with write-once-publish-everywhere capabilities that will streamline your online presence into a cohesive entity.
  • Ensure Your Site is Mobile Accessible: Avoid large images or too much information in a single page as most mobile users are still running off of the slower 3G network. 40% of users will abandon a site if doesn’t load within 3 seconds so ensure your site will load quickly to avoid losing potential customers.
  • Use Everything that Mobile Has to Offer: Mobile users give your site a lot of information when they go onto your website. Take advantage of this data by adding elements that personalize the user experience for the customer.

Recently, Google has started to give an overwhelming priority in its search engine rankings to websites that are optimized for mobile. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will sharpen your competitive edge and vastly improve your online presence. Don’t let your business fall behind – optimize your e-commerce site today!

Click here for the full article on GetElastic

The Satisfaction of Being Your Own Boss

With the advent of e-commerce and a recovering US economy, startups seem to be popping up everywhere. For those entrepreneurs, success is often measured in money generated or people employed, but which entrepreneurs are the ones happiest with their work? The Wall Street Journal dove in and figured out which factors most impact an entrepreneurs’ happiness:

  • Independence Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness: Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean that you will find all of your work to be rewarding. One reason may be because your work may feel repetitive. To remedy that, you can break up your work by pursuing similar-yet-different opportunities or adding new tasks to the same job.
  • Higher Education Leads to Higher Expectations: Ivy League entrepreneurs are often less satisfied with work due to the high expectations for themselves. Be it a matter of personal performance or income, Ivy-Leaguers often expect high amounts of both which may lead them to feel disappointed in themselves.
  • Treat Every New Venture as Your First: Often times serial entrepreneurs who have had successful business believe they can repeat what they did for a previous venture and instantly be met with success. This is often not the case as markets are dynamic and as such will always be changing.
  • Why Did You Choose to be an Entrepreneur: Studies show that why you decided to become an entrepreneur will affect your happiness. Regardless of success, entrepreneurs that chose to start a business because they saw an opportunity were much happier than people that started a business out of necessity.

Starting a business can be the most exciting and life changing decision that someone can make. Being happy with your work means being more productive and leading a more fulfilling life. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and is certainly not a fast track for happiness.

Read the full article here on The Wall Street Journal

C.E.O. Lori Dickerson Fouché on Recognizing Leadership

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Lori Dickerson Fouché is the C.E.O. of Prudential Group Insurance and held the position after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Having taken leadership roles as a young black woman in America, Fouché has been successful in management positions since the age of 24 and continues as C.E.O. of a major insurance company at 47. Here are her highlights from the interview with Adam Bryant:

  • On lessons she learned early in her career: “One was learning how to prioritize. You simply can’t do everything.”
  • Assess your leaders by their results: “I expect my leaders to listen. I expect them to ask questions. I expect them to understand what’s going on.”
  • On Hiring:
    • Know that prospective hires have done their due diligence on the company
    • Ask what kind of cultures they like to work in, where do they excel, and how do they conduct themselves in the face of challenges
    • Look for resilience and perseverance
    • Ask how they would lead people

As graduation season comes to an end and young graduates enter the workforce, it is important that they find jobs that they really want to do and learn what they can from that experience. Lori Dickerson Fouché suggests that graduates find a company that is a good fit for what important to them and their personal values.

Read the full article here on The Newt York Times.

How to Approach Conflict in the Workplace

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Conflict is a natural element to any functioning workplace, but dictating its course can be the difference between healthy discourse and petty ad hominem attacks resulting in lost productivity. What is the best approach to ensuring a conflict becomes constructive? Phyllis Korkki gauges conflict in directness and intensity in her article in The New York Times. Here are a few key points from her piece:

  • Opt for unambiguous conflict resulting in debate: “The preferred form of communication is high directness/low intensity … With this method, people tend not to focus on any personal stake they could have in their positions. They listen to others’ views and take them into account while working toward a positive outcome.”
  • Avoid high intensity conflict, as employees will become defensive: “When conflict is expressed with high intensity, whether directly or indirectly, the issue can start to feel personal to the parties involved…people may respond by attacking others or defending themselves. They are more likely to dig into their positions without listening to other viewpoints and processing new information, meaning that an effective resolution is less likely.”
  • Make healthy conflict resolution part of your office culture: “When more people understand what healthy communication looks like at work, and the more that people practice it, the more likely they will exhibit it themselves.”

As a manager, it is your responsibility to maintain a harmonious office conducive to productivity and free of negativity. You should keep these points in mind in order to foster a healthy work environment, resulting in happier employees who feel respected and valued.

For the full article on the New York Times click here.

Is Aaron Levie Really Thinking Outside the Box?

box-blog427Silicon Valley CEO Aaron Levie dropped out of college ten years ago to start his company, Box. Providing cloud computing services, Levie’s company is currently worth $2.1 billion and services over 40,000 paying customers which includes about half of the Fortune 500. However, it is not meeting growth projections and is counting on creating an ecosystem just as Apple and Microsoft have with their products. Levie argues it can be the center of a new industry “by helping other companies and third-party consultants create applications that can quickly draw off Box’s cloud-based collaboration technology.”

Despite these ambitions, Box has lost $167 million on revenue of $216 million which is still an improvement from the year before. This year, revenue is expected to grow by another 30 percent, “a marked slowdown that Mr. Levie hopes the new developer strategy may also turn around.” These losses scare not only Box, but also the generations of young tech ventures that never experienced the massive downturn that took place between 2000-2001.

Seasoned investors worry that newcomers may not take the risks as seriously. Ultimately, the losses faced by Box and newer tech companies as they rapidly grow are starting to catch up with them, and may be the beginning of a new downward trend in Silicon Valley.

Read the article here on The New York Times

Pushing Beyond Comfort Zones

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Mitch Rothschild is the chief executive of Vitals , a website that connects patients with doctors and medical facilities. Adam Bryant from the New York Times sat down with Rothschild to discuss his early lessons from managing people, his leadership style, and how he hires. Here are some great points from the article:

  • Developing personal connections with your employees can be emotionally draining: “You always want to be one of those leaders who care deeply about their staff and look after them, but at some point you have to make the shift and say you’re going to do the right thing for the business.”
  • Don’t always assume that people know everything“People just have this incredible thirst to be connected, and they need multiple reinforcing points of communication. I have to remind myself over and over not to assume that everyone knows something.”
  • Seek out a meritocracy: “If you find a meritocracy and you’re highly ambitious and you want to drive your career forward, then nothing’s going to get in your way.”
  • Don’t wear “busy” as a badge of honor: “We’ve become crazy about being crazy, and I’m stunned at how many people are absolutely exhausting themselves. It’s important to figure out how to be ruthlessly efficient and disciplined with your time, and do only those hings that matter.”

To read the article in it’s entirely, click here.