What to Pack When You Go on Vacation

What to Pack When You Go on Vacation

access_time Jul/21/2017

From sunscreen to snacks, Smart Shopping Expert Trae Bodge, with Entrepreneur Network partner Jessica Abo, shares her packing list for entrepreneurs signing up for some R&R this summer.

Watch more videos from Jessica Abo on her YouTube channel here.

Related: Apps to Help You Be More Efficient

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The Importance of Portfolio Diversification for Your Investments

While your income is your greatest wealth-building tool, it’s certainly not your only tool. As an entrepreneur, you already know how important it is to stash away as much money as you can and invest wisely to provide a bright and promising financial future for your family.

Related: Want to Get Rich? Know How to Diversify Your Investments.

But before you get too heavy into investing, be sure that you understand the significance and role of diversification.

What is diversification?

It’s a simple word that you’ve certainly heard before, but do you really understand what diversification is? According to Investopedia, “Diversification is a risk-management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio. The rationale behind this technique contends that a portfolio constructed of different kinds of investments will, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than any individual investment found within the portfolio.”

“Another term for 'diversification' is 'asset allocation,'" Michael Crawford has explained on LinkedIn. Crawford, who's principal and founding member at NWM in Red Bank, New Jersey, continues: "Many financial advisors will divide investments by equities and bonds, depending on risk and age. There are other asset classes to consider, including private equity, hedge funds, real estate and collectibles."

Related: Diversify Your Income: Protect Your Finances with These Strategies

4 reasons to prioritize diversification/asset allocation

Sounds pretty simple, right? So, why are so many savvy individuals rejecting diversification and putting all their eggs in one basket? The only possible explanation is that they don’t understand the benefits. Here they are:

Lower risk. The number one reason for diversifying is that it lowers your overall risk. The more you spread your assets out, the less likely it is that a single event will negatively impact your portfolio.

Think about it like this: if you have all of your investments in a single stock and that stock loses 50 percent of its value over the course of a year, you’ve just lost 50 percent of your portfolio. But if that stock only makes up 3 percent of your portfolio, a massive 50 percent drop-off won't affect you as much. That’s the beauty of diversification -- it lowers risk and allows you to ride out just about any economic downturn.

Different investment styles. There are multiple types of investment strategies. Two of the more common are value and growth.

“A value manager tends to consider, among other things, the fundamental strength of a company and its management team, and whether that company’s stock price is undervalued based on estimates of its true worth,” Sentry Investments has explained on its site. “A growth manager doesn’t necessarily take into consideration the price of the company’s stock. Instead, it considers how fast the company has been growing and whether new products or other competitive advantages should accelerate earnings in the future, which would likely benefit the stock price.”

If you were to only take a value approach, you’d miss out on the many benefits of growth investing (and vice versa). By spreading your investments across both of these styles (among others), you can enjoy the benefits of each.

Limits home country bias. In investing, there’s something known as “home country bias.” This is an investor’s natural tendency to be attracted to domestic markets. It’s even possible for an investor to focus more narrowly on his or her own state or industry. The problem is that home country bias limits your willingness to invest in other markets that may be more lucrative, simply because they’re outside of your comfort zone.

When you diversify, you force yourself to work past your home country bias. This opens you up to international markets, which ultimately diminishes your risk during times of domestic economic recession.

Provides more opportunity. Ultimately, diversification opens you up to more opportunities. While additional opportunities could theoretically expose you to more risk, the hope is that you’ll make savvy choices that bring balance to your financial portfolio. 

For example, say your natural inclination is to invest in U.S. stocks. If you only invest in stocks, and an opportunity to invest in a piece of lucrative real estate arises, you might shrug it off because you don’t feel comfortable moving beyond stocks. As a result, you could lose thousands of dollars in potential earnings. But if you’re already accustomed to diversification, you’re much more likely to give a good opportunity a second look.

Related: 8 Money Mistakes to Avoid on Your Way to Being Wealthy

Protects and grows your investments. Once you understand the full benefits of diversification, you’ll find it easier to start practicing it in your own life. Contrary to popular belief, diversification isn’t something that’s difficult to do. You simply need some good financial guidance and a healthy dose of patience. Diversifying your portfolio won’t bring you quick riches, but it will steadily build wealth over time. 

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The One Reason Leaders Let the Marketplace Pass Them By

It’s always surprising to discover how many leaders I work with have allowed the marketplace to pass them by. Leaders who allow that to happen can’t sustain any level of momentum and soon lose their impact and influence all because of one main reason: They are unclear about their subject matter expertise and what their leadership solves for and thus practice substitution over evolution.

Substitution is when you believe you are taking a different approach or changing your mindset, but in reality it’s similar to how you have led in the past -- and not what you and your business need to grow and compete in the 21st century. When leaders merely substitute, they are unable to define new “templates” for success. They fail to evolve as individuals, making them incapable of evolving anything beyond themselves either. This type of leader then seeks recognition for maintaining the status quo, rather than seeking to earn respect by identifying ways to challenge the status quo. And too often, they get that recognition, especially if the bottom line is growing.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

That’s because substitution activities often go unnoticed when the business is making money. Substitution hides underneath the act of “winning,” and then often only becomes glaringly noticeable to leaders when organizations begin to lose competitive advantage and lose their best people.

A generation ago, it could take years for these problems to emerge. But, at the speed of business today, it can be months. That’s why, in times of rapid change and great uncertainty, evolution is at a premium -- not just when businesses lose ground and the need for change management becomes urgent but also businesses strive to recreate growth or manage the growth they have. Evolution should be constant regardless of whether you are growing or not.

Leaders who embrace evolution:

  • Are the change agents that demand high-performance and critical thinking
  • Understand success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue
  • Embrace risk as the new normal
  • Live with an entrepreneurial attitude, and unleash their passionate pursuits in search of endless possibilities to maximize the full potential of the people and organization they serve
  • Are in constant survival, renewal and reinvention mode
  • Have the sheer will to make things better, invest in relationships and cultivate an environment of transparency and reciprocity allows them to lead to leave a legacy

Related: A Challenge to Tomorrow's Business Leaders

Leaders who do this find respect by casting a clear vision and working to ensure the organization is foundationally strong to withstand the demands of organic growth in the workplace and the marketplace.

It’s impossible to do any of this, however, if leaders are unclear about their subject matter expertise and what their leadership solves for. Do you? Put your leadership to the test and answer the following questions in two or three words:

  • What is your subject matter expertise?
  • What does your leadership solve for?
  • What opportunity gaps does your subject matter expertise allow you to identify?

I’ve asked dozens of senior executives these questions and not one could clearly or succinctly answer all of them. Only 25 percent of these executives provided strong responses.

Related: These 5 Styles of Leadership Don't Work. Do Any of Them Describe You?

For example, here are the answers from one of the respondents, a marketing executive, and those I suggested to him:

What is your subject matter expertise?
Response: Defining a strong value proposition for our brands
Suggested response: Brand distinction

What does your leadership solve for?
Response: Brand loyalty
Suggested response: Creating differentiation

What opportunity gaps does your subject matter expertise allow you to identify?
Response: Competitive threats
Suggested response: Lack of innovation

Notice that this leader’s answers and my suggested responses each lead to different outcomes. While his responses lean towards a leadership approach where substitution and evolution can be inconsistently applied, my suggestions require a leadership approach that supports constant evolution with a strong end game in mind -- where “the solve” is always clear.

Being clear about solving for the right things allows leaders and their teams to grow new opportunities and share their success along the way -- which supports evolution and breeds environments of significance. Leaders who achieve this never get complacent and let the marketplace pass them by because they understand the difference between substitution and evolution. They have the wisdom to evolve themselves and understand their subject matter expertise and what their leadership solves for in support of their organizations’ evolution.

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Somebody Needs to Tell Jeff Sessions That Legalized Marijuana Does Not Cause More Crime

Since early 2017, one of the issues revolving around legalized marijuana was generated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

An adamant opponent of legal marijuana, Sessions said in February that legalizing marijuana ends up creating violent crime. He said had this information from experts. To this point, he has not furnished that data, but it has raised the question:

Does legalized marijuana lead to higher crime?

So far, studies show that is not the case. A recent study in California actually showed just the opposite.

Related: Women Cannabis Entrepreneurs Gather In L.A. for Empowerment Summit

No Dispensary, Higher Crime

The study by researchers from the University of Southern California and published in the Journal of Urban Economics, compared crime data in Los Angeles neighborhoods where dispensaries were closed by the city with areas where dispensaries remained open. The researchers wrote, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open."

They found that many of the crimes committed were the sort that the presence of bystanders would have stopped, such as property crimes and auto theft. They found a similar pattern in areas where restaurants were forced to close because of health violations.

Related: Oakland Strives to Rejuvenate Economically by Becoming California's Cannabis Capital

Sacramento Study

A similar study published in the Journal of Study in Alcohol and Drugs found that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries had no discernable effect on the crime rate.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the association of marijuana dispensaries and crime in 95 Sacramento census tracts. They found that violent crime and property crime varied depending on the number of commercially zoned areas, one-person households and the local unemployment rate but medical marijuana dispensaries were not a factor.

The report states that dispensaries may actually help reduce crime because many use video surveillance or hire doormen, two factors that contribute to fewer crimes in the nearby area.

Related: Getting Healthy, Not High: Using Cannabis to Fight Cancer

Denver crime increase.

It’s possible Sessions was referring to the crime increase in Denver. The number of crimes has risen 44 percent since adult-use marijuana became legal in 2012. However, local law enforcement does not believe marijuana is the issue. Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson told the Denver Post that “crime is up,” but added,”I don’t know if you can relate it to marijuana.”

Denver has tracked marijuana-related crime since 2012, and found that such crimes constitute less than 1 percent of all crimes in the city, the Post reported. The city report found 183 crimes related to the legalized medical and adult-use marijuana industries in 2015.

Follow dispensaries.com on Instagram to stay up to date on the latest cannabis news.

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How to Raise Your First Round of Funding

It’s tough running a startup on little capital. One of the biggest reasons why companies fail is that they run out of money. As an entrepreneur, raising capital is a skill that you must have. If you are unable to successfully raise capital, your company will have little to no chance succeeding to the heights that you want it to go. I chatted with Kobie Fuller from Upfront Ventures and David Siemer from Wavemaker VC to find out their top advice for raising money

1. Do research on who you’re talking to.

When I asked Fuller and Siemer what most entrepreneurs get wrong, both of them told me the exact same thing -- a lot of entrepreneurs do not do research on the firm or investors that they are meeting with. This is an indicator to investors that lets them know how prepared an entrepreneur is. If you don’t know your investors’ history or specialties, it’s a red flag. You probably won’t get funded if you pitch your photo sharing app to a firm that specializes in making enterprise software investments. Make sure you do heavy research on the investors that you are meeting, as well as the firm that they are a part of. If you go into meetings well prepared, you will leave a much better impression on the investors. 

Related: The One Question You Must Be Prepared to Answer When Pitching Investors

2. Get warm intros, and if you don’t know how to get one, figure out a way.

Most venture capital firms won’t even take a meeting with you unless you have a warm introduction, but how do you get one if you don’t know anybody? According to Siemer, there’s a shortcut if you have some capital -- pay up and get a lawyer. Most lawyers know all the venture capital firms in town, so they could immediately introduce you. Other ways can include contacting angels, who can then refer you to a firm, and if you still have no luck, it’s up to you as an entrepreneur to figure out a way and get it done. If you can’t even figure out how to get a warm intro, you are probably not fit to be an entrepreneur. 

Related: For Entrepreneurs, Venture Capital Is Not Always the Best Option

3. Don’t “pitch” -- be human and connect.

Too many entrepreneurs get caught in the trap of trying to “pitch” too hard and shove their companies down investors’ throats. At the end of the day, investors are human, and they have to sit through long meetings with many different entrepreneurs that just view them as dollar signs. It’s important that you understand this so that you can be a breath of fresh air to them. Usually it takes many meetings to get to know investors well enough to partner with them. Fuller says, “It’s like dating, you don’t want to go on your first date then ask them to get married.” Be patient and foster long-term relationships with people. It will pay off. 

Related: 5 Ways to Take Advantage of Corporate Venture Capital

4. Articulate your vision and have a competitive edge.

Even if you have the greatest product in the world and the most talented team, nobody will know unless you articulate it. It is your responsibility as the founder to effectively communicate why your team will succeed in its field. Work on your ability to articulate your vision so that others can buy into it.

Fuller and Siemer both also suggest that the most attractive companies to invest in have some sort of competitive advantage in their industry, whether it be having a proprietary technology, having more connections and better relationships with supply chains, or simply being the first to market. If you don’t have some sort of competitive advantage, your business is probably easily replicable and susceptible to threats. Develop an edge and hone it. 

Related: To Raise or Not to Raise, That Is the Question

5. Tell a compelling story.

One of the most important points of being able to raise funding is to build a narrative around why you are creating the product. The investors have to understand on a deep level why you are building what you are building, and what motivates and drives you. If you think about great companies such as Airbnb, Facebook or Twitter, there is always a compelling story behind the product. Without a story, it is difficult for investors to really understand and connect with you on a deeper level. You want the investors to be cheering for you so much that they want to join you and be part of the story. 

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Shopify vs. Magento: The Tide is Shifting

Just a few years ago, it was virtually unheard of for an ecommerce site to use anything but Magento for their shopping platform needs. Certainly a platform like Shopify wouldn’t have been in the running for what most considered a “top-tier ecommerce platform.” Slowly but surely, though, these sentiments have begun to change and, in ever increasing numbers, marketers and business owners have begun to look to Shopify instead of Magento. Amazingly, in June of 2016, Shopify overtook Magento in terms of Google trends.

In fact, we here at Group 8A had one of our biggest months ever using Shopify and have been exceedingly satisfied with our choice of platform. Although, the decision did not come easy and we had to look at many different factors to determine which platform would best suit our needs.

Here are a few of the features we took into consideration when making our decision between Shopify and Magento.

Related: The 6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Ease of SEO

It might seem counterintuitive when there are so many other aspects to take into consideration, but for a business like ours that exists in an increasingly competitive marketplace, SEO is key (read: king). Furthermore, more than 35 percent of consumers begin their purchase through Google, so it’s no wonder why great SEO integration can make or break a business.

To be fair, both platforms easily allow the imbedding of page URLS, meta-descriptions, page titles, independent links, etc., which will allow your business to tailor your text to help boost the presence of a page or a site and with it your search engine rankings. But only Shopify has Traffic Control, a handy app that allows you to manage redirects so you don’t lose traffic or SEO rankings after migration. An app like this is absolutely imperative if you’re considering changing platforms.

Of course, Magento being open source, the SEO option could be unlimited if you have the technical know-how. If not, you might end up shelling out lots of money finding somebody who does.

Related: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform

Pricing

Pricing should have probably been our first consideration (and for the folks with the money, it probably was) and both Shopify and Magento have their pros and cons.

Magento Community Edition is 100 percent free. Of course, if you want to upgrade to Enterprise Edition, you’ll have to request a quote from the company, which can be a hassle and potentially very expensive (in the $18,000 range).

Shopify has a few different pricing options for businesses.

  • $9/month + 2.9% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $29/month + 2.9% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $79/month + 2.6% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $299/month + 2.4% + 30¢ credit card fees

Just looking at the raw data, it appears as if Magento Community Editon is the better option of the two, and it certainly could be if you’re looking for something a bit more rudimentary and hands on. But if you take into consideration what Shopify offers its users that Magento doesn’t— 24-hour customer service, tools for manual order creation, and fraud analysis features— it’s clearly a very good option.

Likewise, the price of hosting your site is included in your Shopify subscription. If you’re using Magento, you’ll have to sign up with a third party hosting platform, which could cost anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred dollars a month.

Related: Shopping Cart Throw-down: Which Ecommerce Platform Reigns Supreme?

Design

For advanced users, Magento can be the easier of the two to edit files, as it will connect you directly to an FTP client. But for less experienced users, this might be a bit confusing and possibly very difficult. There exists a decent theme marketplace but, unfortunately, many of the themes aren’t quality-controlled so using one could be dicey. Some are free but most of Magento’s themes will cost anywhere between $50 and $300.

Shopify has a good many more varieties of themes overall, which are easy to adapt without any knowledge of code or coding. A casual glance over the look of the builds show an abundance of themes that are sleek, powerful and, most importantly, mobile friendly.

Related: 5 Signs That You Should Upgrade to a New Ecommerce Platform

Support

As a business, we pride ourselves on always being available to our clients, and when we were looking for a platform, we wanted the same customer service made available to us.

To that point, and to vastly oversimplify it, Shopify has support and Magento doesn’t.

To be fair, Magento has a dedicated community support forum full of knowledgeable and helpful developers. But unless you yourself have a background in developing, or have hired someone that does, this may be of no use to you, especially if your site goes down at 3AM Christmas Eve and there’s no one to troubleshoot with.

Shopify’s customer support is unmatched. They provide 24-hour support staff available over live chat, email or phone, a blog -- Ecommerce University -- full of valuable advice, and, yes, even user forums.

Related: How Shopify Became the Go-To Ecommerce Platform for Startups

Group 8A isn’t the only business to have success with the Shopify platform. Others too have seen massive increases in site conversions after migrating to Shopify. Overall, yes, both platforms boast some great features and, in the end, it’s going to come down to which is more ideal for your specific business and will best serve your strengths. 

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