The One Thing That Successful Business Leaders Have in Common

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(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)

There are people who rely on you: employees, customers, partners, suppliers, family. If you make wrong decisions or go out of business, they will suffer. They are expecting you to make the right decisions so that your company succeeds and their livelihoods are intact. You’re the CEO, the president, the general manager, the business owner. This is why you make the big bucks, right?

Of course, the immediate problems of running your business need to be addressed. Getting a shipment out the door, making sure services are provided as promised, keeping an eye on cash, negotiating a new order, authorizing repairs on equipment, interviewing a prospective employee and on and on. These are things you’re doing every day and they can’t be ignored.

But these are just tasks. Many of them can be delegated to others, when you really think about it. And you should. Because these are not the things you should be thinking about all the time. These are not the things that CEOs, presidents, general managers and business owners who run profitable, growing companies think about all the time. The best of them, the leaders, are doing something else. Read More…

8 Easy Ways to Become an Expert Traveler

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

recent survey found that Southwest Airlines had the best customer service in the airline industry, and they deserve it.

Want proof? Just call Southwest Airlines to cancel a flight: They’ll do it without a charge. Now try the same with some of the other airlines, and you could pay up to $300.

Want more proof? Just listen to this hilarious Southwest flight attendant go over her flight’s safety procedures. I wish all airlines could be like them.

But let’s not complain. In 1927, it took Charles Lindbergh 33 hours to fly from the U.S. to Paris. And no movies were shown. Travel today, especially business travel, is a marvel. For the business traveler, it’s all about comfort and speed. I travel frequently, and I’ve learned a few ways to make the experience even better. Let me share them.

1. Join a loyalty program and stick with it.

Pick an airline, a hotel, a car rental company, and be loyal. On US Airways, I frequently get upgraded to first class (even though … ahem … they charged me $200 to change a flight recently). At Marriott hotels, I’m checked in faster and find it easier to get late checkouts. At Avis, my car is waiting for me when I arrive. These are little things–but still huge things when you’re trying to travel in comfort and save time. You’ll get more thank you’s and offers to help. Top customers are just treated better by companies. Don’t you do the same for yours? Read More…

Will 3D Printing Be Staples’ Field of Dreams?

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

“If you build it, they will come.”

It worked for Ray Kinsella.  Maybe, just maybe, it’ll work for Staples SPLS +2.24%too.  The office supply company is now bringing their brand recognition to the field of 3D printing.  They’re building it.  And now they’re hoping thatentrepreneurs will respond. Staples is a client of mine and I was paid to moderate a panel last week in New York about this new offering.

3D printing is not new.  The problem is that to date it’s not been very sexy and no one is familiar with the players.

Take for example ProtoCAM, a small company near Allentown, Pennsylvania who is also a client of mine.  Since 1994, they’ve been creating 3D prototypes of parts that their customers then use in their final designs of production equipment. It’s not very sexy work.  ProtoCAM’s engineers and technicians use complex computer applications and very expensive, custom made machines that oftentimes take days to pop out molds and models.  They do this using cast urethane models, rapid injection molding, high-quality metal castings and roto-casting.  “We’ve always been at the leading edge using the latest stereolithography resins to provide our customers with the best possible alternatives for their rapid prototyping needs,” the company’s website says.

Look, I didn’t say this was exciting, did I?  And if you really want an alternative to counting sheep, try visiting one of the many Design2Part shows around the country that feature the products and services of other companies just like ProtoCAM.  Or checkout the next 3D Printer World Expo which is scheduled for 2015 in Burbank, California, following a successful event this past month in New York.  You’ll find that many of these companies are, like ProtoCAM, not exactly newcomers to the world of 3D printing.  They’ve been doing this for years.

We’re told that soon people will be “printing” houses, fingers, ears, parts for your car, parts for your factory equipment, food, pharmaceuticals.  3D printing will be creating new industries, generating billions in wealth and forever changing our lives. But even though 3D printing is projected to be a $10.8 billion industry by 2021, most of us aren’t yet affected.  So when will 3D printing become as pervasive and commonplace as just…printing?  How can entrepreneurs with an idea but little capital get in on the action?

Enter Staples.  And 3D Systems.

Last week, Staples announced a partnership with 3D Systems DDD -1.48% to provide 3D printing services at two of its retail locations.   Customers can bring their 3D print-ready files to have them printed at Staples’ stores on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, N.Y. and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, Calif.

The idea is this:  there’s no need to buy a 3D printer (they sell those too) just like there’s no need to buy a regular printer, scanner or copy machine. Just come into the service center and Staples will take care of the job for you.  They’ll have the equipment there. They’ll have people who specialize in 3D printing available.  They’ll be ready to go for any of your 3D printing needs, just like they’re ready for any of the jobs you already bring into the copy and print center.  To demonstrate at our panel event, Staples displayed models of phone cases, chess pieces, figurines and jewelry that they can print in the store.

“We believe that literally millions of small businesses and customers could benefit from the technology,” said Damien Leigh, senior vice president ofbusiness services for Staples. “We wanted to educate businesses so they can get involved with 3D printing at a fraction of the cost because right now they don’t understand it.”

So give credit where credit is due.  Staples is bringing their brand to 3D printing. The company is investing in this technology.  They’re hoping to expand these services nationwide.  They’re training their people to understand the intricacies of 3D printing.  They’re partnering with a well-known company in the industry. They’re buying equipment and promoting the service.  They’re putting everything into place. Like Ray Kinsella, they’ve built the field.  And now all they need is…customers.  Entrepreneurs.  Business people with ideas.

Will they come?  I have no idea.  Where’s James Earl Jones when you need him?

Six Unfortunate but Real Reasons Women Are Paid Less Than Men

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

To all women: Yes, you are paid less than men.

There is no doubt. I see this with my clients. I see this at other companies I visit — both large and small. You are being discriminated against. You are being treated unfairly. You are still not considered equals in many workplaces — not everywhere, but in many, many companies. Why is this still the case, even in 2014? From my observations of the business world, I can list these six common reasons cited:

1. You may get pregnant and leave.

Some men think (and rightly so) that hiring a woman (no matter how competent) comes with the increased chance that she may ultimately have children and leave the company. Many women do this. That’s because the burden of parenting still mainly falls on them, even in these so-called “modern” times. And if you return to the workforce once your kids hit elementary school, you’ve missed many critical years of experience. From an employer’s point of view, this diminishes your value. Read More…

So What if the Republicans Win the Senate?

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

It’s still very early, but that’s not stopping many pundits from making their mid-term election predictions. All 435 House seats are up for grabs and 35 seats in the Senate are in play. Most experts agree that the Republicans will maintain a majority in the House. The big battle is in the Senate. The race is tight. In fact, one report this week put the chances at “80 percent” that the Republicans would win back the Senate from the Democrats this year.

So what does this mean for you? If the Republicans do win the Senate and control both Houses of Congress would this have a big effect on your business? In short, no.

For starters, any Republican victory would be a slim one. Even some of the most optimistic projections from the right put the Republicans only a few votes ahead of a majority in both Houses. That would let them control the agenda and appoint committee chairs. But remember that to pass a bill you need a 51 percent majority in both the House and the Senate. Yet to override a presidential veto you need a 2/3 majority in both. No one predicts that the Republicans will have anywhere near that kind of majority nor does it seem very likely that they would be able to persuade members of the opposing party to join them in overriding a presidential veto during these partisan times. Filibustering aside (and I admit that the ability to filibuster is a powerful tactic) the Republicans would have more, but not much more political power when there’s a Democrat president sitting in the White House. Particularly this president and this Congress who famously don’t get along. Read More…

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