Tuesday, March 28, 2017

3 Reasons Why Your Startup Should Hire Kindergartners

Chance (my son):  “Dadda, we should add another letter in the alphabet.”

Me:  “Really?  Why?”

Chance:  “My Letterland character doesn’t sound right.  C is supposed to sound like Clever Cat.  We need a letter that makes the CH sound.  (pauses briefly) Can I have a snack?”  (casually walks away as if he didn’t just turn my entire world upside down)

Me:  (Mind blown.  Jaw drops to the floor.  #geniuschild!)
**note- www.letterland.com is an awesome resource to help kids learn how to read.**

I have been on this planet for almost 40 years.  I have had the opportunity to lead and follow some of the greatest minds in the country.  I have a graduate degree from a top tier university.  I try to surround myself with innovative thinkers in the startup community.  Not once have I heard a comment so obvious yet so outside of the box.  Not.  Once.

I was excited.  Motivated.  I immediately wanted to hire my son (who is in kindergarten) to review my business plan.  I had so many questions.  There had to be some things right in front of my face that I was missing.  LIGHT BULB!  Maybe I could do a focus group with the kids in the neighborhood?  And it would be cheap too, all I’d need would be a box of popsicles and a homemade bike ramp!

Well, the popsicles melted while I was trying to build the ramp.  Apparently that shiny orb in the sky produces a lot of heat and as it turns out I’m not very handy.  Epic fail on the focus group I guess.  However, I did come across a couple of other resources that reinforced the idea of trying to think about business like a kid.

Chris Heivly, cofounder of MapQuest, wrote a book called “Build the Fort” (check it out here).  In the book he relates the experiences he had as a kid to building a startup.  Simple, yet effective ways to think about building and growing a business.

Carl Nordgren, entrepreneur and professor, wrote a book about a class he used to teach at Duke called “Becoming a Creative Genius (again)” (check it out here).   It discusses how we are born creative and helps us find ways to get back into that way of thinking.

From those books and numerous follow up attempts on the focus group, I’ve come up with the top 3 reasons why your startup should hire kindergartners.

1       Creativity
      Kids just go outside and play.  They make up games and rules as they go.  The games constantly evolve.  As more kids come out to play, they find a role for them.  They are creatures of creative action.  Imagine if your startup did that.  

2       No boundaries
      Kids know right and wrong, but they don’t allow their minds to have boundaries.  They don’t know how to give their minds boundaries.  They are little explorers.  What’s over here?  What is this?  How does it work?  It looks like it could be a good addition to my rocket ship.  Our minds are trained to only go so far down the rabbit hole.  It’s a stick.  I will put it in the yard waste bag.  Kid brains are designed to chase things all the way down the rabbit hole and then to dig another series of tunnels to come home.  Imagine the possibilities in your company if there weren’t boundaries.

3       Lack of fear/embarrassment
      When kids are playing they share their ideas and build upon each other.  When they think of something that sounds fun or adds value to the game, they blurt it out.  No fear.  They are just having fun and trying to continue to do so.  Adults often get self-conscious about voicing ideas and opinions.  Imagine if the people in your organization didn’t hold back.
Imagine what could happen to your business if you looked at it like a kindergartner.  You take creative action.  You don’t allow yourself boundaries in thought.  You encourage the sharing of ideas.  

Now, before I get emails from every labor lawyer in the country, lighten up.  I’m not actually encouraging people to hire (or condone hiring) kindergartners.  After all, it’s not practical.  They take naps during prime productivity time…

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Robot Love

"What is the robot version of Bro-mance?" - Homer Simpson via "The Simpsons"
"Ro-mance." - Homer's robot friend, Bender
What if humans could coexist with robots? Gasp! (the nerve)
Relax. I’m not talking about creating little half-human, half-robot babies here. I’m talking about not viewing robots as competition, but rather as a tool to use for enhanced service.
There have been countless articles pitting robo-advisors against human advisors. The robo world says they can do things better, faster, cheaper. The advisors say that the human element is the most important piece of a comprehensive plan. It’s like the old Miller Lite ad: “Tastes great! Less filling!” You both like the same beer! Stop fighting!
At the end of the day, robo-advisors and human advisors are both trying to do the same thing, help the individual better prepare financially. Imagine the possibilities if they created a Ro-mance, as Bender says. I know there are some firms that have adopted this idea but it is largely still a competition. The logic is that if the two team up and each focus on what they are good at, then everyone wins…especially the client. 

What Is a Robo-Advisor?

A robo-advisor is an automated, algorithm-driven investment tool that focuses on asset allocation and rebalancing using low-cost index funds. It is largely based on modern portfolio theory and efficient market hypothesis (academic theories that have been around a long time; opponents say “But now is way different…” Check your Google machine for more info).

Why Use a Robo-Advisor?

The goal of a robo-advisor is to minimize fees and remove emotion from investing. The whole world knows buy low and sell high. Emotion says buy when the market is going up and sell when you start to panic as it crashes. Emotion is usually not good when investing. 

What Is a Financial Advisor?

That is a bit more difficult to define. In broad terms they could potentially advise on insurance, investments and/or taxes. For our purposes we will focus on investments. There are brokers, who earn commissions on products sold based on suitability of your needs. There are planners, who charge a fee for planning and advice (often times as a fiduciary, which means they have to act in your best interest). They are regulated and licensed by FINRA, the SEC, and/or states.

Why Use a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors provide a human touch which can lead to a better understanding of your goals and guidance to help you achieve them. They can help you come up with a comprehensive plan which may help you prioritize multiple goals, address insurance needs, assist with estate planning, and deal with complex financial situations.

The Ro-mance

Oftentimes a financial advisor spends a significant amount of time creating and monitoring portfolios for clients. How much value are they really adding there? Their real value is in the relationship. After all, if he or she was the world’s greatest stock picker wouldn’t they be running a $10 billion hedge fund? Advisors should get out from behind the computers and in front of more clients building relationships. 
How awesome would it be if you found an advisor who used a robo-advisor to complement their services? The human would look at where you are compared to where you want to be and help figure out how to make it happen. One small piece of that puzzle could be the robo-advisor for your investments. 
What that would mean for you is an advisor who understands you and your goals and provides a comprehensive plan, all while minimizing fees on your investments.
Love is in the air. Robos and humans can complement each other. It could lead to a budding Ro-mance.