Why Great Business Leaders Mind Their Own Business

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

True story: I have a client–a landscaping company. The company’s owner holds a “voluntary prayer session” every morning in the office before crews go out to work. The prayers are to God and to Jesus. He’s a very nice guy and clearly a religious man. And he wants his employees to benefit from his own faith in the Lord. Remember… It is just “voluntary.” And for the employees who choose not to participate and instead sit at their desks while the prayers happen in the adjacent conference room, it’s not awkward at all, right?

Which brings me to the Starbucks #racetogether fiasco. That wasn’t awkward, right? Read More…

How To Get Paid Faster From Home Depot

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Home Depot is a great company – but let’s face it, they do what a lot of big businesses do: They pay kind of slow. I know this because I have clients who do business with them. Typical terms are around 60 days. These terms are not uncommon when dealing with larger companies. And yet, it’s a huge issue for smaller companies.

That’s because smaller companies need cash. By the time one of my clients sells product to Home Depot or a larger company all of their money has been spent on buying the raw materials, producing the product, paying people, maintaining overhead and shipping the items…and then it’s another 60 days until the cash comes in. Big businesses have greater cash reserves and large credit facilities made available by banks who are more than happy to lend them money. Small companies don’t have these resources at their disposal. They just wait. Read More…

No, It’s Not Time to Abolish Fraternities

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

It was a bright spring day in New York City. And the doorman was just minding his own business, watching the traffic go by on Park Avenue. My mission was to steal his hat.

John was my accomplice. We had a plan. I hid around the corner of the building while John casually strode toward the doorman, purposely looking lost. John had a map in his hand. He stopped the doorman and asked for directions.  And when the doorman looked at the map with John … I sprang into action. I ran down the block and before he knew what was happening I snatched his hat off his head and galloped away. John took off in the other direction. 10 minutes later and 10 blocks away, John and I re-grouped to gleefully inspect our treasure.  We got the hat.

Yes, we were pledging a fraternity. And, like today’s fraternity and sorority members, we were college-aged idiots.

Looking back at the times I spent in my fraternity, I wince at some of the stupid stuff we did. The unhealthy liquids we drank. The excessive drinking that only college students know how to do. The silly pranks we played on other fraternities and the things we were made to do (i.e. finding our way back at 2 a.m. from a cemetery across town after being “kidnapped,” singing songs in the library during finals week, stealing hats from unsuspecting doormen) in order to be in good favor with the “brotherhood.” I know, it all sounds ridiculous. And it was.

And now, in the wake of recent incidents at the University of Oklahoma and Penn State there’s a call to abolish fraternities. “The American fraternity has no place in the 21st century,” writes the author of a book about fraternities (who clearly did not have a good experience at his fraternity). “It’s time to abolish fraternities,” says another blogger. “Disband the club,” storms a British newspaper. “We’re pretty freaked out by you. Good luck with all of that hate and insecurity,” warns a Philly Mag writer.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at University of Oklahoma and Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho should be disbanded and its offending members (who are over 18 and consensual adults) should be prosecuted. Let’s not get into the details. They are assholes. What they did or are alleged to have done was horrible. And that goes for any other fraternity members who are racist, sexist, abusive or break the law. I have a daughter. I’m Jewish. These kids (and their ridiculous, ignorant house mother and likely their parents) should be held accountable for their behavior.

But please … let’s not carried away.

The enormous majority of fraternities and sororities in this country do good. You know that giant charity marathon (THON) at Penn State that’s raised tens of millions for childhood cancer? That’s put on by the university’s Panhellenic Council, a group of fraternities. In fact, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Greek life website there are 123 fraternities and sororities with over 9 million members and the country’s Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S. with members donating over 10 million hours of volunteer service each year. More students graduate college when they belong to a fraternity or sorority than not, according to the site, and a huge number of political and business leaders come from a fraternity background. For the great majority of kids, fraternities are merely a place to live, eat, socialize, study, collaborate and share the college experience with close friends. They are fun.

But everyone … just calm down. Yes, what the fraternities at the University of Oklahoma and Penn State did were really, really bad. But does that mean millions of kids and alumni who enjoy and benefit from an organization have to suffer because a tiny portion of people did something bad? Are there not bigger issues to worry about? Let the national chapters (who have deservedly faced withering criticism) address the problems, as the leaders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are. There is no question that fraternities and sororities should be better supervised and regulated — these are still young, stupid college kids and I know this because I’ve got three of my own. I know for a fact that fraternities can be a very positive thing in a person’s life. And I’ve got the doorman’s hat to prove it.

Why in the World Are Most Business Owners Happy With Their Accountants?

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

A survey this past week from Wasp Barcode–a client of mine who makes asset management systems (I am not being compensated to write this.)–caught my attention. Among other things, its biggest reveal was that 88 percent of the small business owners they surveyed reported being happy with their outside accountants.

88 percent! What is this madness? That’s almost nine of 10 business owners. Are 88 percent of your customers happy with you? I’m pretty sure that 88 percent of my company’s 600-plus clients are probably not “happy” with us. I’m happy if at least half of our clients aren’t firing us! (Hey–we’re in the technology business… need I say more?).

How is it that such an overwhelming number of business owners are happy with their accountants? I’m a Certified Public Accountant. I know these people. CPAs are smart people. But they’re not exactly the life of the party. They’re not the most technology-oriented people either. (See my rant about this here.) They can be ornery, especially during tax season. Some of them can be hard to reach. None of them run call centers or help lines. They usually don’t have “mission statements.” Few I know advertise or take part in big marketing promotions. Yet you never hear about CPAs when people talk about customer service. They’re not bitterly hated like Comcast or Goldman Sachs, but then again they’re not fawningly admired like Apple or Walt Disney either. And yet, 88 percent of the business owners surveyed were “happy” with them. Is this a mistake?

No, it’s no mistake. I get it why so many people are happy with their accountants. It’s really because of four big reasons. Read More…

The Real Reason Most Women Don’t Go Into Tech

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

We’ve come a long way from the days of Mad Men’ssecretaries and cigarette girls. But make no mistake about it: although things have improved, women are still not equal in the workplace. They do not receive equal pay. They do not receive equal treatment. And they are still subject to harassment and discrimination on the job. And being a woman in the tech industry is even tougher. There are hundreds of stories, dozens of studies and the occasional trial (like the Ellen Pao discrimination case which is currently rocking Silicon Valley) that demonstrate this. Hillary Clinton highlighted the issue when she spoke there recently. Female leaders from Sheryl Sandberg to Emma Watson have campaigned for equality.

The environment needs to change, for sure. But this is still not the reason why most women don’t go into tech. Read More…

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