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In the pause: Cornell Tech campus opens on New York City’s Roosevelt Island

Yesterday’s event at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island filled me with inspiration and possibility. It was quite a testament to what can be achieved through private – public partnerships with tech CEOs from IBM, Qualcomm, Verizon, and startups, investors, journalists, Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Mike Bloomberg, and the President of Cornell all in attendance.

The spaces, indoors and out, are incredibly thoughtful and stunning. Best of all, it’s been built as an inviting setting for the public. Bring your laptop, book, or sketch pad, grab a coffee at the cafe, and take it all in with plenty of wi-fi and collaborative space. This is a place of community, and the hope is that companies and projects started by students and incubator sponsors (yes, your company can get space here!) will diversify and grow the NYC economy. Already, Cornell Tech has spun out 38 companies, 94% of which are based in NYC.

Graduate and doctoral studies as well as Executive Education courses comprise the student body here and it will also be a stage for events at the cross-section of tech, business, art, and social impact.

Grab the F train, bus, ferry, or tram, and go check it out!

In the pause: It’s amazing what you hear if you listen

As a writer and business leader, I have one superpower: I’m a tremendous listener. I take in people’s stories and perspectives like I take in air. I listen for what’s said and what’s not said. I pay attention to body language, posture, tone of voice, emotion, and intonation. It’s a skill we don’t celebrate or value enough, and one we should all hone. I’ve found teachers, mentors, friends, and heroes by being a good listener. It’s an action that’s changed my life for the better, and one I’m proud to be able to do every day.

In the pause: Being a writer makes me a better product developer

Being a writer makes me a better product developer. The daily practice of writing across genres for the past 10 years has helped me understand the art of brevity, the science of engagement, and the power of inspiration. High-quality products and books, and the marketing and promotion behind them, convey their intrinsic value in simple, elegant terms. At the very heart of great writing and great products, there must live the ability for them to improve the quality of life for those who consume them. I am proud and honored to stand in the parallel worlds of product development and writing. Both acts of creativity are more than a career to me; they are a part of my soul. They are who I am.

In the pause: Authors, the marketing of your book is on you

Publishers tell authors they need a platform. Here’s what they really mean: the marketing and promotion of your book rests with you. That care and concern can’t be farmed out. No matter who you hire or who publishes the book, you must be your own advocate, cheerleader, and agent. Being an author is a business; thank goodness I have an MBA.

I let myself feel disappointed by this fact for about 5 minutes. It was a rough 5 minutes. And then I picked myself up and went to work executing against the plan I had laid out months ago. It’s a grind and I have to give it everything I have in this last stretch before the November 1st release. I wrote and sent 43 pitches in 36 hours, most of them in the very weeeee hours of the morning.

I also had to come to the frustrating conclusion that the act of writing the second book has to take a backseat while I promote the first book that comes out in November, especially in these last few months before it’s released.

And with every query I just couldn’t get this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald out of my mind: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Today, what we can dream about for the future rests firmly in our ability to manage what’s already been done.

 

In the pause: Mo’s Bows defies the odds and stereotypes of the fashion world

Meet Mo Bridges, the 15-year-old fashion designer from Memphis who started Mo’s Bows, a bow tie company. His mom is his business manager and together they are defying the odds and stereotypes in the fashion world. Mo plans to attend Parsons in NYC and create his own fashion line by age 20. Further proof that belief in yourself and following your passion with action yields incredible results.

 

In the pause: What to do about all of New York City’s empty storefronts

I’ve been obsessed with store windows since I moved to New York City in 1998. At one point, I tried to figure out how I could become one of the people who create the magical display windows in places like Bergorf Goodman. Honestly, I never figured it out, but I’ve continued to keep that dream in the back of my mind. Blame it on the movie Mannequin, which I watched about 1,000 times as a kid. Hollywood was my hero.

On my way home from dinner last night, I started counting the empty storefronts on Columbus Avenue. I got up to a dozen in as many blacks before I stopped counting. There are just too many empty spaces that are begging for inspiration, art, and manifested dreams. So I started jotting down the phone numbers on those empty storefront signs. Clearly until they’re rented, there must be something we can do to make those spaces useful, or at the very least give passersby something to think and smile about, something to keep them going during these challenging times. Stay tuned…I’m going to make something happen with them.

 

In the pause: My 10-year business school reunion

A week from now, I’ll be in Charlottesville at my 10th reunion with my dear Darden MBA friends. Those two years were joyful and difficult. They were filled with learning and challenges and triumphs. I was sometimes disappointed and sometimes elated. I failed and succeeded in equal amounts. I worked my tail off every single day. And the greatest thing I received there was not a degree but the amazing relationships I formed. We started that journey as classmates, students, professors, and staff members. Two years later, we were friends. And that is priceless. Can’t wait to give all of you a hug in a week!

In the pause: You can do this, whatever this is

“Never let someone who has done nothing tell you how to do anything.” ~Al Pacino

If I learned anything from my childhood, it’s this: when the Godfather gives you advice, take it. What you’re trying to do right now is difficult. You’re trying to do something new. Something that matters. Something that has an impact. My friend, Sheldon, once recommended a book to me called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Hard things don’t have easy answers. To get them done, you have to persist in the face of adversity. You have to believe more in yourself than anyone else does. You have to vault yourself over the endless flow of hurdles being thrown in your way. Be an artful, graceful dodger. Work like hell for what fires you up. The naysayers and doubters are everywhere.Live out loud. Dream out loud. So loud that you drown them out. Take what they say and let their words and doubts make you stronger, more resilient, and more determined.  Watch yourself rise. And take others with you. The world needs you.

In the pause: An immigrant’s fortune was made in yogurt

This month’s Fast Company features Hamdi Ulukaya, the Founder of Chobani, in its cover story. A Kurdish immigrant who moved here to go to college after facing persecution in his home country and without speaking a word of English, Hamdi is an inspiring figure in business and in life. If you want to feel hopeful about America and the good that capitalism can do, I highly recommend reading the article. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down and all I want to do is eat Chobani yogurt and learn more about this fascinating man. With a lot of hard work and the right intentions, it’s amazing what the human imagination can accomplish.

In the pause: The power of thinking small

One of the main tenants of business and new product development is to develop the least expensive, least time intensive version of your product to test with exactly the people you hope to become your customers. You want to put in just enough money and effort so that the idea of what you’re trying to do is clear and the experience is positive. And you want to keep from putting in too much money and effort on an idea that just doesn’t work. It’s all about using resources wisely and conserving as much as you can while also still giving the idea a fighting chance to show its value. It’s a tricky balancing act, but it has to be done.

With A Can of Coke, my online platform to provide college- and career-readiness counseling for high school students, I can use an easy, light-weight combination of Google Calendar and Google Hangout with a small handful of students to help them in the evening and weekend hours for a couple of months. This way I can see if the idea works and what needs to be improved without incurring a lot of cost.

Fast, simple, small. It’s how all great ideas start.

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