Ever Thought About Owning Your Own Franchise?
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Nothing lasts forever. Hot brands in franchising don’t stay hot forever. New brands are always entering the marketplace. New ideas for products and services are introduced every year. Some of these new franchise concepts end up succeeding–exploding even. Some of them fade away soon after they’re launched. But, even the hot ones eventually lose their fire. Keep that fact in mind as you’re searching for a franchise you’d like to own like cell phone or computer repair.

Picking the Winners
Too bad crystal balls don’t really work. If they did, you could choose franchise concepts that were getting ready to go big. But, they don’t, so you’re left with doing good old-fashioned detective work to find then research franchise opportunities you hope will be a good fit and that you can be successful owning.

Goal-Setting
Before you begin taking a serious look at franchise opportunities, it’s important to set some goals. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself clicking from one franchise opportunity website to another for hours on end-with nothing to show for your efforts except a sore wrist and tired eyes.

Ideas for Goals
I want you to decide on your own goals for a franchise you’d like to own. It’s your life and your money. But, allow me to prime the pump a bit. Check out these 5 possible goals.
1. I want to own a franchise that allows me to have a lot of flexibility in my day.
2. I don’t want to invest more than $200k in a franchise.
3. I want to own a franchise with a well-known brand.
4. I only want to buy a newer franchise concept so I can get in on the ground floor
5. I want a franchise that can serve as a family business-for my family.

Did I get you thinking?

Deciding When
Number #3 and #4 above may not be goals you had planned on having, but, they’re important ones to consider. That’s because you need to decide when you want to get in. In other words, would you like to have first dibs on a franchise location in your area? If so, you should look into younger franchise brands … franchise businesses that are up and running in other parts of the country-just not in yours.

Or, would you like to be the second or third franchisee in your local area? If so, that could mean that the “best” locations may already be spoken for. It may also mean that the residents living in your area already know of the brand; that could make it easier for you to get your new business up and running.

The Ebbs and Flows
If you know going in that all franchise brands experience ebbs and flows, you’re already ahead of the game. You may end up buying a franchise that’s considered an up and comer. Your timing could turn out to be perfect. If so, take advantage of your brand’s popularity. Earn as much money as you can. But, make sure you put aside some of your earnings if possible, because business may not always be good.

Tip: Choose a franchise opportunity with an innovative executive team. A team that’s not afraid of introducing new products/services to the marketplace. It’s one way to try to limit the inevitable ebbs and flows that all brands experience.

Source: SBA

We Asked, She Answered: Ashley Mehta, President & CEO, Nolij Consulting
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Businesswoman at desk checking phone with tech graphs in background

Professional Woman’s Magazine  recently spoke with Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting, a woman-owned, solutions-focused healthcare IT company that specializes in digital healthcare modernization for the military, public and commercial sectors.

Mehta founded the Northern Virginia-based Nolij Consulting in 2013, and since then, has scaled the company to be the leader in healthcare IT.

We asked the Ohio native more about Nolij, her challenges as a female business owner and her goals for the future: 

Professional Woman’s Magazine  (PWM): Tell us a little bit more about your background. Were you always interested in IT? 

Mehta: I am a graduate of the Ohio State University’s Max. M. Fisher College of Business. I have two children and am privileged to be in a position where I can create a positive, impactful work environment for my employees while giving back to the community and championing causes that I am passionate about, including veterans’ and women’s issues. I love working in IT because, whether it’s making systems more efficient, reducing client expenditure or producing better outcomes, technology is able to create a significant and real change in organizations and people’s lives. Yes, I’ve always been interested in technology as it increases business efficiencies and brings people together to solve the most pressing business problems.

PWM: What led you to create Nolij Consulting? 

Mehta: I was a former stay-at-home mom with two young children who found herself in a position where I needed to go back to work. I joined a large consulting firm and had the opportunity to learn the entire spectrum of the business – from compliance to proposals, business development, technology and everything in between. As the industry started shifting from large business opportunities to more small business opportunities, I recognized my chance to start my own company and make a real difference in the industry while having the work/life balance I wanted so I could juggle all of my responsibilities. From there, Nolij was born. Over the past 9 years, we have made great strides against considerable odds in establishing ourselves amid a crowded GovCon marketplace! Ironically enough, I have trained several previously stay at home moms in this business and they now work for Nolij.

PWM: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a female founder and CEO in this space? 

Mehta: The biggest obstacle I’ve faced to date is the lack of prime IT opportunities specifically set aside for women-owned businesses. As Nolij has grown its footprint across the GovCon space, and is now expanding into the commercial sector, I’ve continued to focus on key areas, such as cybersecurity, RPA and AI, where we can expand our partnerships to create new opportunities for women-owned businesses. 

PWM: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to-date?  

Mehta: Building a successful, thriving business and creating an outstanding consulting company with a great work environment for my employees while being a great mother is my greatest accomplishment so far. Our employees gave us a 4 on Glassdoor, which is no easy feat to achieve for an organization. Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies. I am proud of employing leading talent across the industry and having the expertise to serve our clients and add to their success.

Nolij is proud to give back to various charities and support the less fortunate in our community. As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having extra money to give to those in need.

I’ve been able to do this while raising two beautiful children who have worked hard as well and have bright futures ahead of them. These successes inspire me every day to keep moving forward.

PWM: What advice would you give to another female entrepreneur?  

Mehta: I would say that leading by example, putting yourself in front of clients and marketing your company on social media is very important. It’s also critical to set yourself apart and create a differentiator for your company. Distinguish your company and invest heavily in training resources and certifications for your organization and your employees. To build a successful team, be sure you are offering the right benefits that will keep employees with you and give them the chance to grow professionally. It’s no longer expensive to provide the benefits and resources that larger companies do. It is important to create a strong foundation to make people feel valued and enjoy coming to work each day. And remember, once you have a strong service/product offering, no one will care if you are a man or a woman.

PWM: What are your goals for Nolij Consulting? What do you hope to achieve in the future?  

Mehta: We are focused on strategic growth in a number of areas going forward to make the company future-ready. We are also focused on strong partnerships and relationships to further strengthen our capabilities to meet our clients’ goals. We’ve created three new joint ventures (JV) focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies and health IT services. These joint ventures are a combination of 8A, WOSB, Hubzone, and SDVOSB managed JVs. We also have a mentor protégé JV relationship with a large health IT company where we plan to win opportunities under relevant IT contract vehicles. We are currently working to win several contract vehicles that give us the ability to win task orders under those vehicles. We just recently won GSA 8A STARS III and Navy Seaport NxG. We are also strengthening our AI /ML solutions to establish a strong capability in software testing and Electronic Health Records (EHR). We just won an artificial intelligence sole source opportunity with Health and Human Services (HHS). We’ve established several emerging, next-generation technology product partnerships and are currently establishing a workforce that is well trained on delivering these products. Our goal is to achieve an even stronger health IT company focused on our employee’s wellbeing while providing excellent health IT services to our clients.

PWM: What is something colleagues would be surprised to know/learn about you? 

Ashley Metha
Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting

Mehta: I have a twin brother who is also in IT. He is more in the sales and software product side of the business. My son looks quite a bit like him. I also have an older brother who is in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. I grew up with my father owning his own consulting business around continuing education for CPAs. He did not have the luxury of the business conveniences that we have today. Due to the lack of technology, he had to educate CPAs in person, ship heavy training materials for his classes and had to conduct business over a phone hooked up to a wall. Today we can offer e-learning opportunities, send large documents over the internet, use our mobile phones to have Zoom or WebEx meetings with clients across the world. As a business owner and mother, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what my dad accomplished while raising kids without the technological advances we have today.

PWM: Anything else you would like to add that we missed? 

Mehta: If your company has predominately male leadership, if it’s not leaning more towards a healthy even split, then the next generation of women will consider your company yesterday’s product. A product not worth their investment and time; a place where innovation and creativity will be stifled by outdated norms.

I want to take a moment to recognize the bright daughters of my outstanding employees and all that they are accomplishing. It’s exciting to think about a future where their contributions will not only be recognized but will be sought-after. Ultimately, empowering women in the workplace ensures your company will be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Jeff Bezos Is Going To Space (For A Few Minutes)
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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'll be on board a spaceflight next month, in a capsule attached to a rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin. Bezos is seen here in 2019.

By , NPR

Jeff Bezos has already selected a hobby for his post-CEO life: space travel. Just two weeks after he steps down as CEO of Amazon, Bezos will climb aboard a rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin. “If you see the earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one earth,” Bezos said in a video posted to Instagram on Monday morning. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space.”

Blue Origin’s rocket is called New Shepard, and it’s reusable – the idea being that reusing rockets will lower the cost of going to space and make it more accessible. The pressurized capsule has space for six passengers. There are no pilots. This will be the first time a crew will be aboard the New Shepard, in a capsule attached to the rocket. And it won’t just be Bezos: He invited his brother Mark, too.

Want to join the Bezos brothers?

You can bid on a seat on the flight in an auction that benefits Blue Origin’s foundation, which has the mission of inspiring future generations to pursue careers in STEM. The current high bid is $2.8 million.

The flight is scheduled for July 20 — the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Bezos gives up his CEO title on July 5, when he’ll pass the reins to Andy Jassy, who currently leads Amazon’s cloud computing division.

Bezos ended his Instagram post with Blue Origin’s Latin motto, Gradatim Ferociter – which the company translates as “step by step ferociously.”

What does it mean, Bezos is going “to space”?
Technically, the Karman line is the altitude at which space begins – about 62 miles above sea level.

But Bezos won’t be above that line for long. The flight is expected to last about 11 minutes, and only a small portion of that time is above the Karman line, according to a graphic of the flight trajectory on Blue Origin’s website.

The New Shepard’s journey is called suborbital flight, meaning the rocket isn’t powerful enough to enter Earth’s orbit.

A Giant Leap For Billionairekind
Bezos isn’t alone in spending some of his enormous wealth on space exploration.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon now regularly carries astronauts to and from the International Space Station. And in May, a test flight by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic reached an altitude of 55 miles, marking its third human spaceflight.

But neither Musk nor Branson has traveled to space yet in their companies’ aircrafts.

In 2014, two pilots were aboard a Virgin Galactic test flight that crashed California’s Mojave Desert, killing one of them. An investigation found that pilot error and design problems were to blame in the crash.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Microsoft Teams just became a WhatsApp alternative
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Microsoft teams to replace whats up

By , Pocket Now

Microsoft Teams is not the first name that comes to mind if you’re looking for an alternative communications platform to WhatsApp after the controversial policy change around user data. So far, Teams has made its name as a workplace collaboration platform, but it is now going personal to become your preferred platform for staying in touch with family and friends. Today, Microsoft has announced that Teams is now available for personal use as well, and it is free on mobile (both Android and iOS), desktop as well as the web.

So, what features do you get on Microsoft Teams? Well, you can chat with friends and family members, to begin with. And even if they don’t have the app on their phone, Teams will let you communicate with them via SMS. But that’s not all. You can create tasks and to-do lists directly from chats, making it easier to collaborate on a family event such as your next barbecue party. Moreover, you can also schedule meetings and share invites without leaving your chats. And soon, Teams will also let you create polls in the app.

Coming to video calls, Teams will let you conduct a video call with up to 300 participants for free for up to 24 hours. However, this is a temporary perk for the pandemic era and will be waived off soon. Even after being scraped, Teams will allow you free 24-hour video calls for 1-on-1 interactions, while group calls will be capped at 100 participants for a maximum of 60 minutes. And in case the tile view reminds you of exhausting office video calls, Teams has a Together Mode that changes the view to that of a virtual cafe or a lounge for a more relaxed feel.

Moreover, there are some cool options to express yourself such as GIFs, chat animations, and emojis during video calls. And just in case you missed a group video call, you can still catch up on the fun as Teams keeps the text-based conversation happening during a group video call. Another convenience is that anyone can receive a Teams invite and join a video call over the web, even people who don’t have a Teams account.

Click here to read the full article on Pocket Now.

How Technology Will Change The Way Business Is Run In 2021
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Taryn Lee filming a vlog on her laptop while being surrounded by halo influencer lights

By Celinne Da Costa, Forbes

Today’s technology is evolving at a breakneck pace.

New digital trends pave the way for a rise in society’s expectations, and things that seemed impossible just a decade ago are now taken for granted. Having witnessed virtual reality, enhanced 5G connectivity, and even drones integrate seamlessly into society, it begs the question of when—not if—the next breakthrough is coming.

One man leading the charge in modern technological development is none other than Elon Musk. Taking a keen interest in “wondrous, new technology,” Musk has been furthering research and development in new technological spaces since the start of his career.

Originally from South Africa, he’s the founder and CEO of aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, and the CEO of electric vehicle and clean energy company Tesla. The former company aims to reduce space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. Back on Earth, he aims to accelerate the world’s progression towards sustainable energy and drive the world’s transition to electric vehicles.

A relentless innovator, Musk is well known for his brazen, unorthodox ideas about the future. Musk is quoted as saying, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” His position has never been more relevant as the global landscape changes day by day during the global pandemic. Yet despite the calamity, the outbreak of Covid-19 has breathed new life into old markets. According to McKinsey, consumer and business digital adoption were fast-forwarded by an astounding five years in just the first eight weeks of lockdown. The competition is rampant, and industry innovators show no signs of stopping.

Owing to Musk’s impact, and combined with the worldwide influence of Covid-19, a multitude of contrasting technological trends have now entered the scene for business owners to explore. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest: the industry is estimated to be worth $190 billion by 2025, paving the way for job creation in sectors such as data, cybersecurity, and even healthcare. With the sheer volume of data collated on infection rates and the performance of the vaccine, algorithms need to be sophisticated enough to offer solutions that may well change the world as we know it.

And as for what these trends mean for you, the answer is simple. As technology changes, so do the skills you need to know to enamor your audience, run a future-proofed business, and find long-term success. Undoubtedly, technology will transform the way businesses are run in 2021 and beyond. To stay current, competitive, and in the know about what’s coming next, take it from these three successful entrepreneurs gaining momentum in the online space.

Automation is Reshaping Business

Jaikishaan Sharma, CEO of Sharmaatricks, connects hardworking individuals with social media-based business opportunities. His company shares accessible tools and educational resources to help his growing community of over 70,000 members build budding online businesses and achieve freedom from the rat race.

He believes that automation is reshaping business. Sharma shares, “Digital shifts are opening new opportunities for businesses. I believe that both 5G and artificial intelligence are going to change the way business owners will run their business. With each passing day, automation is reshaping business and contributing to increased productivity – it’s very hard to ignore the impact of technology regardless of whether you’re operating a multinational or a start-up.”

“For the last few years, one thing that has frequently risen above all else in technology is automation. Automation tools are being innovated and developed every single day to make business processes agile. For this reason, I believe that the innovation surrounding automation will cause a rapid expansion of both remote working and video conferencing. We have already seen such rapid growth during the pandemic; Zoom has become a household name and other tools like Google Hangouts, Microsoft’s Teams, and Cisco’s Webex have all been making a buzz in the corporate world. Technology gives business owners and their staff the option to work from home, and moving forward, working from home will continue to be the new normal.”

These advancements in technology lead Sharma to his final point: because of the pandemic, schools and education institutes have been forced to fast-track e-learning and shift online education into the new normal. “Many institutions are changing portions of their curriculum to accommodate online learning well into the future,” he says.

“In 2021, we expect to see huge demand and rapid growth of artificial intelligence. AI is already known for speech recognition, smartphone personal assistants, ride-sharing apps, and so much more. But there is plenty of room for growth and expansion, and small businesses will begin to adopt this new technology in 2021 to help them operate daily. Covid-19 has pushed the adoption of digital technologies by several years, and that could be here for the long haul.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Hyundai: The Carmaker Aiming to Become a Tech Firm
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Black car by Hyundai

For a few weeks this year, South Korean carmaker Hyundai was dusted with the Apple magic. Last month Hyundai let slip that it was in talks with the maker of the iPhone to co-operate on a car project, but this week it said the talks were over.

However, this is by no means the end of Hyundai’s push into technology.

The car firm has been investing heavily in new technology with a string of partnerships, acquisitions and investments within the tech space.

Its takeover of robotics firm Boston Dynamics last year was a clear indication of the direction it is taking – into cutting-edge technology.

The whole auto industry has been forced to innovate as the move towards electric cars and autonomous vehicles accelerates.

Hyundai has been criticised in the past for lagging behind rivals in adopting emerging technologies but is fast catching up, sealing a string of alliances and investments with technology groups recently.

“Hyundai has a different set of motivations and more incentive to push the limit. They have been a lot more aggressive in reinventing themselves,” says Dale Hardcastle, a partner at consultancy firm Bain.

Hyundai has been ramping up the electrification of its line-up of cars with a dedicated battery electric vehicle (BEV) range called Ioniq.

Its aggressive electric car ambitions will see it launch 12 new BEV models over the next four years, and fully electrify its line-up around the globe by 2040.

Beyond battery electric vehicles, Hyundai has been busy developing charging points and hydrogen refuelling stations.

“It’s very clear where Hyundai sees its future. It’s a brand that wants to disrupt and push forward, to break up the status quo,” says Mr Hardcastle.

The purchase of a majority stake in Boston Dynamics in a $1.1bn (£810m) deal in December was seen as a major step to becoming a leader in car technology.

Boston Dynamics is a pioneer in consumer robotics, while it has a shared interest with Hyundai in autonomous driving and smart factories.

“Hyundai is being very responsive to the dynamic market trends,” says Bakar Sadik Agwan, senior automotive consulting analyst at GlobalData.

“With the automotive industry getting more dynamic day by day due to the fast technological advancements, companies need to transform their business strategies to secure their position in the future mobility era. Hyundai seems to be well on track in this direction.”

Read the full article at BBC.

Tesla buys $1.5B in Bitcoin, will begin accepting digital currency as payment soon
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elon Musk is pictured speaking to an audience using a microphone

Originally posted by Associated Press

Holders of Bitcoin may be able to cash in some of their investment in the digital currency for a brand new electric car.

Electric automaker Tesla said Monday that it has invested around $1.5 billion in Bitcoin and it plans to begin accepting the digital currency as payment for its high-end vehicles soon. The price of Bitcoin soared 15.4% to around $44,500 Monday in reaction to Tesla’s announcement, according to CoinBase.

The California-based electric car maker headed by Elon Musk revealed the new strategy in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying its investment in digital currency and other “alternative reserve assets” may grow.

Bitcoin has drawn enthusiasts for its scarcity and security, but the volatile digital currency still is not widely used to pay for goods and services. It’s mostly been a store of value, like gold, with some limited merchants like Overstock accepting bitcoin for payment. It’s also used by those distrustful of the banking system or criminals seeking to launder money.

Whether other major companies will follow Tesla’s lead in investing in Bitcoin or accepting it for transactions is unclear. A vehicle is a large purchase, which could make Bitcoin a better fit to pay for it, but the wild price swings in Bitcoin could be a significant risk to any merchant who decided to accept it.

“It was wise of Tesla to announce that it will deem its investment in Bitcoin as an “alternative asset.” That is certainly appropriate, because Bitcoin might be coming into greater acceptance as currency, but it is not cash,” said Anthony Michael Sabino, a professor of law, at St. John’s University.

Tesla said last month that it had cash and cash equivalents of $19.4 billion after selling new shares to take advantage of a rising stock price. Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities said the move gives Tesla “more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on its cash.”

Tesla is in a unique position to accept digital currencies for payment, since the automaker does not rely on a network of independently owned dealerships to sell its vehicles unlike traditional car companies such as General Motors and Ford.

“It certainly seems that beyond embracing it as a store of value for his own trust or his own assets, it does appear that (Musk is) embracing it as a transactional tool as well,” said Michael Venuto, co-portfolio manager of the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing fund, an exchange-traded fund that tries to invest in digital currency technologies.

Venuto’s fund holds a small amount of Bitcoin but mostly invests in companies that build around such technologies.

Even with Tesla’s support, it could take some time before those who’ve made money investing in Bitcoin to use it to buy a car.

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, doesn’t expect it to become commonplace because most people take loans to buy their vehicles or lease them and don’t pay in cash, said Plus, most people at present would not be comfortable taking a risk with cryptocurrency on such an expensive purchase, she said.

Other experts say it’s just a matter of time before Bitcoin finds more widespread use in transactions.

“I think the trend is inexorable,” said Richard Lyons, a finance professor at the University of California at Berkeley, predicting Bitcoin and other digital currencies “will become transactional currencies increasingly over the next five years. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Whether Tesla will get a definitive competitive advantage in accepting Bitcoin remains to be seen. The automaker could be simply investing in Bitcoin because Musk has been known to have eclectic tastes. Musk launched a Tesla car into space to demonstrate the payload capabilities of his SpaceX company rockets.

Similar to Tesla, Virginia-based MicroStrategy Inc. announced in August that it would use some of the excess cash on its balance sheet to invest in alternative assets such as Bitcoin. The move has paid off so far. As of Feb. 2, the business analytics company said it held 71,079 Bitcoins that it purchased for an aggregate price of $1.15 billion since last summer. Using a value of $44,500, those bitcoins are worth $3.16 billion.

Continue on to the Associated Press to read the complete article.

Tips for Leading a Strong and Diverse Team During a Pandemic
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By Mariano Garcia,
Civil Trial Attorney, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a healthcare and economic crisis across the country and around the globe. It has also posed some difficult questions for businesses and their workers, like law firms and their attorneys and staff.

There has been a wide range of issues stemming from the pandemic. As an employer with offices throughout Florida, we also have first-hand experience with some of the complications caused by the economic downturn. At the same time, we also understand how important it is to maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace. This is an essential part of our identity as a law firm, which we believe helps us better serve the people and businesses we represent.

Businesses, including law firms, must understand that employment-related and other decisions made now in response to the pandemic can have a long-term impact. They should be mindful of how those moves can affect their ability to recruit and retain a diverse and capable workforce.

Below are some essential tips for weathering COVID-19 without jeopardizing your team.

Keep Diversity in Mind When Considering Cutbacks.

Mariano Garcia
Mariano Garcia

The crisis has unfortunately forced some employers to trim their payrolls by cutting the headcount. Still, it is vital to retain a diverse and inclusive workforce during the pandemic and to be able to retain talent when economic conditions improve.

Company leaders can prioritize diversity by keeping it at top-of-mind when deciding whom to lay off and whom to keep on the job. They should ensure that such decisions are based on objective criteria rather than subjective factors that may make diverse employees more susceptible to the termination.

Leaders can also combat potential biases by being mindful of assignment creation, especially as many employees continue to work from home. Providing your diverse workforce with opportunities to work on important projects or tasks can go a long way in helping all to build confidence and experience on the job.

Understand That Everyone Has Different Personal Obligations

The pandemic, school closures, and the shift to telework can be incredibly stressful for working parents and people who are caring for the elderly or other family members.

It is crucial to acknowledge that everyone has different cultural and personal obligations, and it is especially important to show a commitment to working with employees during this time of anxiety and uncertainty. Allowing for flexible time off during the week and alternative scheduling arrangements can play a huge role in easing the burden for many employees.

Supplement In-Person Networking with Resources for Remote Profile Building

Although social distancing means many people are staying home, it does not mean that all career-building and networking opportunities need to be put on pause.

Law firms and other businesses should already be thinking about helping people bolster their online networking efforts. Tutorials on leveraging Linkedin, getting involved in webinars and other events, and participating in professional organizations can ultimately lead to maintaining and/or expanding contacts.

Internal marketing departments can play a crucial role in this training and development. It is also important to implement standards for tracking these efforts to ensure that they pay off in the long run.

Following the above tips can help all business leaders maintain a strong and diverse team of employees.

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA is a Florida-based personal injury law firm that has represented thousands of clients with car accident, medical malpractice, brain injury and numerous other injury claims.

No, Elon Musk Is Not The Second Richest Person In The World — Here’s Why
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elon Musk is pictured speaking to an audience using a microphone

Thanks to Tesla’s roaring stock, Elon Musk’s net worth has nearly quadrupled during the Covid-19 pandemic, racing from $24.6 billion in mid-March to a current $126.8 billion by Forbes’ estimate. But despite this meteoric rise, the 49-year-old is not the world’s second-richest person yet.

Forbes currently has Musk in the No. 3 spot, behind Jeff Bezos, who reigns supreme at $182.6 billion, and French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, worth $140.6 billion. With the surge in the value of Tesla shares this week, Musk surpassed Bill Gates, who is now in fourth place, worth $119.4 billion.

Musk owns 21% of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for personal loans; Forbes applies a 25% discount to his shareholding to account for the loans. Musk’s net worth estimate includes $25 billion worth of options that he was awarded since May as part of a historic 12-tranche compensation plan.

Musk became eligible for the fourth tranche in late October after Tesla exceeded the cumulative EBITDA requirement, but Tesla has yet to confirm in public filings that it has certified the results. A representative for Musk did not reply to a request for comment from Forbes in time for publication. Until the receipt of the fourth tranche is confirmed, Forbes is only counting some 25 million options from the package towards Musk’s net worth.

Continue to Forbes to read the full article.

To Build Less-Biased AI, Hire a More-Diverse Team
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A group of diverse engineers huddled around a project

By Michael Li

We’ve seen no shortage of scandals when it comes to AI. In 2016, Microsoft Tay, an AI bot built to learn in real time from social media content turned into a misogynist, racist troll within 24 hours of launch. 

A ProPublica report claimed that an algorithm — built by a private contractor — was more likely to rate black parole candidates as higher risk. A landmark U.S. government study reported that more than 200 facial recognition algorithms — comprising a majority in the industry — had a harder time distinguishing non-white faces. The bias in our human-built AI likely owes something to the lack of diversity in the humans who built them. After all, if none of the researchers building facial recognition systems are people of color, ensuring that non-white faces are properly distinguished may be a far lower priority.

Sources of Discrimination in the AI and Technology Fields

Technology has a remarkably non-diverse workforce. A 2019 study found that under 5.7% of Google employees were Latinx, and 3.3% were Black. Similarly low rates exist across the tech industry. And those numbers are hardly better outside the tech industry, with Latinx and Black employees making up just 7% and 9%, respectively, of STEM workers in the general economy. (They comprise 18.5% and 13.4%, respectively, of the U.S. population.) Data science is a special standout — by one estimate, it underrepresents women, Hispanics, and Blacks more than any other role in the tech industry. It may come as no surprise that a 2019 study by the non-profit Female Founders Faster Forward (F4) found that 95% of surveyed candidates reported facing discrimination in the workplace. With such a biased workforce, how can we expect our AI to fare any better?

Sources of bias in hiring abound. Some of this comes from AI. Amazon famously had to scrap its AI recruiting bot when the company discovered it was biased against women. And it’s not just tech titans: LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Recruiting Trends survey found that 64% of employers use AI and data in recruiting, including top employers like Target, Hilton, Cisco, PepsiCo, and Ikea. But we cannot entirely blame AI —­ there is a much deeper and more systemic source of hiring bias. An established field of academic research suggests that human resume screening is inherently biased. Using innovative field experiments, university researchers have shown that resume screeners discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, and age. Discrimination is so prevalent that minorities often actively whiten resumes (and are subsequently more successful in the job market). Scanning resumes, whether by computer or human, is an archaic practice best relegated to the dustbin of history. At best, it measures a candidate’s ability to tactfully boast about their accomplishments and, at worse, provides all the right ingredients for either intentional or unintentional discrimination. So how are companies overcoming this challenge?

A Musical Interlude

An unlikely parallel exists in — of all places — the field of classical music. In the 1970s and 1980s, historically male-dominated orchestras began changing their procedures for hiring. Auditions were conducted blind — placing a screen between the candidate and their judging committee so that the identity of the auditioner could not be discerned — only their music was being judged. The effects of this change were astounding: Harvard researchers found that women were passing 1.6 times more in blind auditions than in non-blind ones, and the number of female players in the orchestras increased by 20 to 30 percentage points. By focusing on the candidate’s performance (rather than irrelevant discriminatory attributes) companies can increase both diversity and quality of their new hires. Here’s how.

Continue on to Harvard Business Review to read the full article.

Starting From a Company of One
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Brian Geisel headshot

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020.

Geisel Software is a custom software development company that specializes in the medical device and robotics industries and whose clients include FLIR Systems, Medica, iRobot, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Carbon Black and more.

After spending years as an industry consultant, Geisel started the company out of a loft in 2011. By 2015, Geisel had added his first full-time employee and a couple of interns. In 2017, the company moved to a space in the Higgins Armory and sales started to take off.

Today the company occupies a large office space in the Worcester Business Center and employs a large staff of permanent employees, contractors, freelancers and interns. Sales have grown at 83 percent CAGR since 2017.

“I am honored to be recognized by the SBA and I am profoundly grateful to Massachusetts’s incredible support programs that have helped with so many aspects of growing our business,” commented Geisel. “And while the award says Small Business Person of the Year, it really reflects the commitment, hard word and exceptional talents of everyone at Geisel Software so I’m really excited for my team.”

Diversity in STEAM Magazine asked Geisel a few questions about his own journey in business:

Diversity in STEAM: What is your educational background?

Brian Geisel: My educational background is pretty non-traditional. I picked up a few books in junior high on computer programming and taught myself from there. By the time I graduated high school, I was considering entering the professional world. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology for one year, skipped to senior level computer science courses and then took the early retirement package. I feel strong that education is really important, but it may or may not come through traditional channels.

DISM: Why did you start your own company?

Geisel: I knew that no matter what I did, it would only ever be the work of one person so I started the company to scale. With a team, you have this multiplication effect like compound interest that gives you an opportunity to have a real, tangible positive impact on the world.

DISM: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Geisel: We founders tend to start companies out of our superpower — something we’re really great at. For me, that was writing software. Suddenly, you find that you need to be really good at running and growing a business and your old superpower can even become a liability. That becomes a tremendous challenge on many levels.

DISM: What advice would your give others who want to start their own business?

Geisel: Never let low self-confidence be your guide in starting a business. There are plenty of great reasons to start a business and plenty not to, but self-esteem should never be one of them. Do you want to know a secret? None of us knew going in that this would work. That’s the nature of business. You learn to embrace it. So, if you want to start something, get out of your own way and get going!

Geisel has been featured as a thought leader in Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg Business, The BBC, Forbes and other major outlets. Outside of the office, he is passionate about helping others. He’s participated in many mission trips to Guatemala, Thailand and other locations to hand out food and supplies and assist with medical care.

Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, is named Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020. Geisel Software is a custom software development company that specializes in the medical device and robotics industries and whose clients include FLIR Systems, Medica, iRobot, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Carbon Black and more.

After spending years as an industry consultant, Geisel started the company out of a loft in 2011. By 2015, Geisel had added his first full-time employee and a couple of interns. In 2017, the company moved to a space in the Higgins Armory and sales started to take off.

Today the company occupies a large office space in the Worcester Business Center and employs a large staff of permanent employees, contractors, freelancers and interns. Sales have grown at 83 percent CAGR since 2017.

“I am honored to be recognized by the SBA and I am profoundly grateful to Massachusetts’s incredible support programs that have helped with so many aspects of growing our business,” commented Geisel. “And while the award says Small Business Person of the Year, it really reflects the commitment, hard word and exceptional talents of everyone at Geisel Software so I’m really excited for my team.”

Diversity in STEAM Magazine asked Geisel a few questions about his own journey in business:

Diversity in STEAM: What is your educational background?

Brian Geisel: My educational background is pretty non-traditional. I picked up a few books in junior high on computer programming and taught myself from there. By the time I graduated high school, I was considering entering the professional world. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology for one year, skipped to senior level computer science courses and then took the early retirement package. I feel strong that education is really important, but it may or may not come through traditional channels.

DISM: Why did you start your own company?

Geisel: I knew that no matter what I did, it would only ever be the work of one person so I started the company to scale. With a team, you have this multiplication effect like compound interest that gives you an opportunity to have a real, tangible positive impact on the world.

DISM: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Geisel: We founders tend to start companies out of our superpower — something we’re really great at. For me, that was writing software. Suddenly, you find that you need to be really good at running and growing a business and your old superpower can even become a liability. That becomes a tremendous challenge on many levels.

DISM: What advice would your give others who want to start their own business?

Geisel: Never let low self-confidence be your guide in starting a business. There are plenty of great reasons to start a business and plenty not to, but self-esteem should never be one of them. Do you want to know a secret? None of us knew going in that this would work. That’s the nature of business. You learn to embrace it. So, if you want to start something, get out of your own way and get going!

Geisel has been featured as a thought leader in Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg Business, The BBC, Forbes and other major outlets. Outside of the office, he is passionate about helping others. He’s participated in many mission trips to Guatemala, Thailand and other locations to hand out food and supplies and assist with medical care.

Each year, the SBA recognizes the achievements of outstanding small business owners and entrepreneurs across the United States. All winners are invited to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C., in May where they will be honored with their award and the 2020 National Small Business Person of the Year will be announced.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  2. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  3. American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021
    November 13, 2021 - November 15, 2021
  4. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022
  5. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022