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by Elaine Biech, author of “The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond

The gig economy is roaring right along, and that means consulting work is more popular than it’s ever been. And the truth is there are many great benefits to becoming a consultant. In fact, you may even be thinking about taking the leap yourself.

But before you hang up a shingle, here’s a sobering truth: Consulting sucks.

Well… some of the time it does, anyway.

While consulting work is rewarding, fun, and often quite lucrative, no one should jump into it blindly. As much as I love consulting, it definitely has a dark side. And it’s important to explore some of the darker corners, so you’ll know what you’re getting into.

Here are some drawbacks of consulting:

1. As with all start-ups, failure is an option.

According to the Small Business Administration, half of all start-up businesses fail within five years. Responsibility for success or failure rests almost entirely with the person who started the business. Some of the reasons include mistaking a business for a hobby; asking friends and relatives for advice; mismanaging money; lack of a business plan; poor or no marketing; lack of pricing knowledge; inability to manage growth; lack of commitment; failure to set and revise goals; inability to develop, monitor, and understand financial statements; inability to balance business and family; and underestimation of time requirements.

A lot can go wrong with a start-up. You’re better off being prepared up front for the level of effort it takes to stay afloat.

2. You probably won’t strike it rich.

Even though many consultants charge over $2,000 a day, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll “get rich” as a consultant. Without an employer to share the burden, you’ll still have to set aside money for taxes and benefits like health and life insurance and retirement. On top of that, you can’t do billable work five days a week because you’ll need to allot time for preparation, marketing, and administrative work. You can definitely make a living doing this work, but don’t expect to make a killing.

3. You’ll give up the security blanket that is a regular guaranteed income.

One reason people go to work for companies is to have a guaranteed income. There is a lot to be said for the reassuring promise of a steady, predictable paycheck. But — oh no! — there is no such security for consultants. You are responsible for acquiring business, servicing clients to their satisfaction, and billing promptly to keep the cash flowing.

4. Clients don’t always pay on time.

Clients don’t always pay their invoices on time, or at all, in some cases. That means that you have to continuously generate enough work (and stay on top of billing) to maintain a steady cash flow in case money you counted on doesn’t arrive. It also means learning to live with the psychological burden of not knowing when (or even if) a check will come through — and, depending on your personality type, that can be a heavy burden.

5. You might be disrespected or viewed with suspicion.

There’s a lot of negativity around the consulting field, and you’ll have to have a thick skin to handle being called a “beltway bandit,” conman, pest, or worse. I’ve been called all three of these names! There are many charlatans out there, so in some cases the negativity is deserved. In addition, the profession lacks legal standards or legitimate certification. But there are also lots of great consultants as well; unfortunately, they must often fight a battle of trust due to poor ethics or overcharging by a consultant who worked with a client previously.

6. You won’t always win the client…

Imagine investing 10 hours to write a proposal that you later learn never had a chance because a candidate was preselected. It’s also common to lose a proposal on a technicality.

Clients choose to ‘go another way’ for all kinds of reasons. The disappointment never gets easier, but it’s best to take it as a learning experience and move on.

7. … and when you do win them, clients will exhaust you.

You’ll be working for clients who go to work early, have tight deadlines, and experience huge pressures. This often translates to doing 12 hours or more a day of sustained work for your clients — more if you take them to dinner after the workday. And depending on your client load, you could be working with multiple people inside several different companies each week and dealing with various personalities and sets of office politics. It can wear you down, which is why it’s so important to make time for self-care and relaxation during your time off.

8. Your client roster will stay in flux.

You may have 11 clients today, but that could change tomorrow. A change in the economic climate or the industry, or even a change in leadership, could end a project abruptly. This possibility means that you must constantly market yourself and network so you don’t end up with only one or two clients.

9. Any semblance of work/life balance may go out the window.

Consulting life may sound glamorous, but it’s really about long hours and a lot of work. Like most entrepreneurs, consultants spend 60 to 80 hours a week getting their business up and running during the first year and beyond. You’ll wake up for 4:00 a.m. flights and spend countless hours waiting in the airport. You’ll miss out on plenty of family dinners and often arrive home well after midnight. Weekends often aren’t free either, and you often devote them to catching up, making phone calls, and even traveling. (Remember, if you travel on a Monday, you will lose a billable day of work.)

10. Let’s be clear: Traveling will consume your life.

Your clients may live all over the country or the world, which means you’ll spend much of your time away from home. On the plus side, this means you can live anywhere as long as you’re driving distance to an airport.

11. Consulting is a lonely business.

Working for yourself can be an isolating experience. On top of that, there’s no one to help you when you’re overloaded with work. This is why some consultants choose to hire people, from an assistant to answer phones to creating a partnership with another consultant to complete the workload. This, of course, means taking on the burden of generating more income (to pay the second person) or facing the growing pains of expanding your business.

12. You’ll struggle to get good food and enough exercise.

You have to work really hard to eat a healthy diet and exercise while on the road. Instead of enjoying homecooked meals, you’ll be eating lots of poorly prepared restaurant food, and most of your exercise will consist of running through the airport to catch your flight.

13. Your social life will probably take a hit.

Traveling means that spending time with friends is harder to schedule and carry out. When you fly back into town on a Friday evening, it’s usually too late to make weekend plans for social activities. And if you do have something planned, you may need to cancel when a crisis comes up. It is possible to maintain an active social life when doing this work: You just have to be thoughtful with your scheduling and grab opportunities when you can.

14. You will miss your loved ones at home.

Being away so often for work places an obvious strain on you and your family. Though you can stay connected via Skype and the telephone, you will no doubt miss being near your loved ones and have to forgo at least some events you wanted to share with them.

15. Working from home can be distracting.

When they’re not traveling, many consultants work in a home office. This has some obvious pros, like enjoying privacy and working in sweatpants, but the biggest drawback is the constant distraction. Your mind will wander off to any number of personal projects. Your dogs will bark, and if you have kids, you can count on having them barge in when you’re on an important phone call.

Some aspects of consulting really do suck — and it’s best to know up front what you’re getting into. But that is also true of any job. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll have the energy to power through the demands and you’ll enjoy clients and your work. When you deliver outstanding work that you truly believe in and care about, you’ll feel great about yourself — and that great feeling makes all the rest worthwhile.

Even with all the drawbacks, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was the best leap I ever took. I never feel as if I’m going to work; I feel that I am going to play every day.

Elaine Biech is the author of “The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond“. She is a dedicated lifelong learner who believes that excellence isn’t optional. As a consultant, trainer, and president of ebb associates for more than 35 years, she helps global organizations to work through large-scale change and leaders to maximize their effectiveness. She has published 85 books, including the Washington Post #1 bestseller “The Art and Science of Training“.

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Frontier markets are developing countries that are still too small to be considered as emerging markets. This means that these are countries with a lot of potentials but are also too risky for investors to give attention to. The frontier market is a term coined by the International Finance Corporation’s Frida Khambata in 1992.

Such countries are sometimes labeled as emerging markets, but they are still less advanced capital markets in the developing world. Frontier markets are developing countries where it’s risky to invest in, but emerging markets are more stable. The bottom line is that emerging and frontier markets are still different from each other.

Some countries known as frontier markets are Argentina, Lebanon, Vietnam, Nigeria, Oman, Bahrain, and Bangladesh. These are just a few countries from the MSCI Frontier Markets Index. It’s generally risky to invest in any of these countries due to multiple factors.

Investing in Frontier Markets.

Risks that are included when people do invest in these countries include political instability, substandard financial reporting, and large currency fluctuations. Surely, with these risks, investing in such countries is not as easy as purchasing Natural Frontier Market products from mercato.com as that’s a very different thing.

However, Efosa Ojomo, the author of Crackling Frontier Markets on HBR.org believes that understanding these risks when investing in frontier markets is just really part of the process. What investors should think is that leading economies were once frontier markets too.

According to him, where markets are today doesn’t mean that it is where they will always be. With the right strategy and understanding the role of business, innovation, and capitalism in these countries, the return of investment is still possible.

The Role of Nation-building to Reaching Prosperity.

Since frontier markets have risks and issues that can be considered as trailing, then as an investor, you’ll need to understand that it’s part of what you’re trying to profit from. Investing in any businesses in these countries will mean that you are trying to hit two birds with one stone.

You’ll be building a business that could help these countries prosper, and this does sound like an overwhelming task. However, ensuring that this happens can help you make sure that the growth of your investment is secured.

To be able to attain this, you’ll need to make your products simple and affordable to your market. You’ll basically create a new market to pull in the resources you need. Since you’re also ensuring the growth of a nation, this means that you should also make jobs available to their people.

What Role Does Innovation Play Here?

These frontier markets have people who are labeled as poor, and this is why you need to make your services and products affordable in the first place. Many frontier markets are known for efficiency innovations.

Efficiency innovations just really mean making cheaper products available to your market. You can outsource and build a business where you can legally hire people for lower wages. It is also common for frontier markets to exploit their natural resources to lessen the expenses to produce products and services.

Ojomo stated in an interview that the amount of time to wait for profits to come in when investing in a frontier market really depends on multiple factors. The risks are certainly factored in, but investors will also have to predict how well their business can help the country’s economy.

The ability to innovate products and make them more affordable seem to be the main key that Ojomo and his team are pushing when it comes to investing in these frontier markets. It is when people who live in these countries finally afford an investor’s product that profits are ensured.

The impact of a business’ growth will be the stem of a frontier market’s economic growth. Innovation is what will fund many infrastructures and what will start the development of a society.

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by Bruce Cleveland, Founding Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners and author of “Traversing the Traction Gap

As we continue our exploration of the Traction Gap Framework® – a step-by-step approach that startup teams can use to go from ideation to preparing to scale – I will walk you through the principles. The first post drilled down into the often-overlooked notion of “market-engineering” and why it’s so critical. In part 2, we covered what exactly the “gap” in the Traction Gap Framework is, why traversing that gap is such a challenging phase for startups and what you can do to give yourself the best chance to accomplish this goal.

In this final post, I’ll review the foundational building blocks that all companies must continuously measure, refine and optimize if they are to avoid hitting the rocks where so many other startups meet their ruin.

Structuring Your Startup for Success. 

At Wildcat, we recommend benchmarking your startup against the four core architectural pillars of the Traction Gap Framework: product, revenue, team and systems. Each has specific requirements linked to each stage and value inflection point of the Traction Gap journey. Understanding these requirements will help ensure your success.

For a startup to succeed (aka gain traction and grow), it’s imperative to understand these four pillars and how each relates to its ability to successfully transition from an idea into a thriving company.

Product Architecture.

Product architecture – the collection of defining technologies, applications and features in your product – is one of the fundamentals critical to achieving traction. Most early stage startups tend to do well in this area because entrepreneurs generally launch their startups believing they have a great product idea. A well-developed product architecture helps a startup to achieve rapid market/product fit by successfully appealing to customers (users).

What happens if a team finds they need to pivot – for example, by building out new product capabilities or changing the positioning or market segmentation – in order to nail market/product fit? What does this mean for their early stage investors?

First off, these pivots are common and healthy because they are made in response to actual market feedback; they are based upon facts, not theories. Second, most early stage investors should be, and will be, open to providing more time and capital – if the team can make a convincing argument that the potential for decent value creation still exists. Vitally, startup teams must be absolutely certain that both customer and market validation have been achieved before declaring market/product fit. And they should resist the urge – and pressure from investors – to expand before market/product fit has been confirmed.

Revenue Architecture.

Key components of revenue architecture go beyond simply predicting sales to include: the name and attributes of the startup’s category, a messaging matrix, a pricing strategy, a sales strategy and other business model elements. A comprehensive revenue architecture should be designed to enable a startup to generate and monetize awareness, engagement and usage. Weak revenue architecture poses the greatest near-term risk of failure for most early stage startups.

Whatever the product and business model, entrepreneurs must be prepared to build critical momentum. They need to establish a Minimum Viable Category (MVC), develop thought leadership concepts, and create an “epic story” talk track that is meant to compel the world to use the startup’s product or service. All of this is part of the “market-engineering” that must be performed alongside product-engineering.

Solid market-engineering sets startups up to generate the momentum they need to propel them across and out of the Traction Gap with sustained and significant growth.

Team Architecture.

One of the biggest causes of startup failure is related to team dynamics. Early stage startups often have small, product-oriented teams. When the time comes to hire a complete management team or other personnel needed to scale, the right personality and experience fit are critical. Often, the wrong people are hired for the wrong roles, or early team members can’t evolve in line with the company. These people can become toxic to the rest of the team.

Other times, the founding team may pull together a good core management team, but lack a comprehensive strategy to address the extended team: the board of directors, customer advisory board, products council, employee advisory group and so on.

Entrepreneurs must systematically build up their teams and dramatically reduce the team dynamic risk. This is quite the balancing act. But, it is essential to do it well because the more you can fill out your team and the longer you work together, the less risk there is in the eyes of investors.

Systems Architecture.

The systems and processes of a startup can either help accelerate or hinder growth. A successful systems architecture must integrate front and back offices, establish performance metrics and cultivate the progressive culture startups need to thrive.

Many early stage startups use a no-frills CRM solution for sales and support, a simple development system and maybe a basic e-commerce platform for the web. They typically outsource back-office functions such as payroll. When we at Wildcat invest in such startups, we ask them to architect – though not necessarily implement – new back- and front-office systems and processes. These are the systems and processes they will eventually require to scale.

Startups must also ensure they have a solid development stack (the suite of applications that a startup uses to manage its development process). We have found that the type of engineering management infrastructure a startup uses can negatively impact margins and hamper the company down the road. We advise founders and teams to build systems and processes with the right foundation early. This allows operational efficiency to fuel, as well as keep pace with, growth – while minimizing the amount of financing required.

Applying the Traction Gap Framework.

How do these four core architectural pillars interact with the Traction Gap Framework?

The Traction Gap begins about a year into a startup’s existence – at Initial Product Release (IPR). It stretches to the value inflection point of Minimum Viable Traction (MVT) – which can occur as much as three years later, when the startup has achieved a certain level of revenue growth, engagement, downloads or usage. These variables signify market validation and positive growth.

It is within this critical 36-month span that a company will blossom or perish. During this period, the four pillars will vary in importance, as follows:

  • Team and Product architecture will take a front seat in the period between ideation and Initial Product Release (IPR) – the go-to-product phase.
  • Revenue architecture is paramount from IPR to Minimum Viable Repeatability (MVR).
  • Systems architecture must take center stage from MVR to Minimum Viable Traction (MVT) as the company prepares for the go-to-scale phase.

In plain language, until your initial product is released, team and product should be your primary concerns. Once you’ve released your initial product, revenue and/or usage becomes your focus, and it should remain your focus until you’ve proven your company has established enough repeatability in core functions that an investor can see demonstrable signs of traction. At this point, the core foundational systems on which the company runs will become the center of your universe. Your company is now ready to scale. If the right foundation was set up early, it will run efficiently, gaining momentum along the way.

Using the Traction Gap Framework with its four architectural pillars and foundational principles is no guarantee for success. But failure to set up this framework early on and to observe early warning signs (e.g., incomplete market-engineering tasks), in our opinion, means you are more likely to fail along the course. Here’s to your success!

You can learn more about the Traction Gap Framework here.

Bruce Cleveland is a Founding Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners and author of the book “Traversing the Traction Gap“. The book pulls from Bruce’s three decades of experience as an operating executive at once “early-stage startups” Oracle and Siebel, and as an early-stage venture investor in companies such as C3, Doximity, Workday, Marketo, Obo and Greenfig (the latter two he co-founded).

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When many of us think of education, we think of children in orderly rows taking notes as their teacher tells them about the world in all its complexity. Though that environment can sometimes be useful, that isn’t really the vision Russell Hazard has for our children.

Russell is an educational researcher, teacher professional development specialist, curriculum designer, and classroom teacher who works with schools and also at the level of educational policy development. He believes that students need a much more dynamic kind of education than they are currently receiving in many classrooms around the world. His work provides valuable resources on multimodal literacy, education policy, and project-based Education for Sustainable Development.

Russell works to build partnerships across sectors such as public/private education, EdTech companies, NGOs, and international educational organizations to improve their impact at the ground level. Hazard’s research and curricular work has been presented at international educational research conferences including UNESCO TECH, the National Institute of Education in Singapore, and University College London. He currently leads the implementation of innovative pedagogies, such as multidisciplinary project-based learning, digital literacy, educational technologies, and global citizenship education at the Aidi School Teaching, Learning, and Innovation Center in Beijing, China. He also does volunteer work with a range of organizations such as the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).

Originally from Victoria, Canada, Russell Hazard received a bachelor of science degree from Trent University. He then completed a certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) before completing a master’s degree in education from the University of Calgary. He also has a Cambridge Teacher Professional Development Qualification (PDQ) leadership certification and a doctorate in education (ABD). He has studied with a range of top international teaching and learning teams such as the Buck Institute of Education and Harvard’s Project Zero.

During his time as Director of the Teaching, Learning, and Innovation Center, Russell Hazard has developed a number of initiatives focused on developing the future of learning, STEM, sustainable development, multimodal literacy, and the requisite skills for 21st century living. He also designed and developed curriculum for an open-concept, high-tech, multidisciplinary, project-based, sustainable development Innovation Lab for budding young change-makers.

You’ve advocated for the need of more STEM-based education such as coding and robotics, as well as socio-emotional learning and project-based learning.  What kind of digital intelligence do you think is required to sustain entrepreneurship in the future?

Russell Hazard: Well, I actually don’t place technology education above everything else. Although, things like computational thinking through coding and overall technological competence should be improved for many students, the arts and other programming are also incredibly important. With regard to digital intelligence, or DQ, you are talking about a relatively new framework of competencies that was developed by the DQ Institute in Singapore and which is being adopted globally in conjunction with both the World Economic Forum and the IEEE standards organization. It is genuinely important because of the unique realities of the digital world that many people, and especially young people, are still unable to navigate. Research in this field has identified many issues such as the viral nature of information, the unique realities of detecting bias or outright “fake news” in the digital world, cyberbullying, and other features of emergent digital life that are pivotal for the well-being of young people but also for the health of our societies as a whole.

These competencies are not just for young people. As workplaces continue to change, as we increasing interact digitally with people from different national or cultural backgrounds, as ad-hoc teams are increasingly brought together for a single project and then disbanded, and as teams with combined human-AI properties become more commonplace, digital intelligence traits such as digital empathy, cyber-security, and digital global citizenship competencies will logically contribute more heavily to the success of both individuals and teams. 

The digital age requires young people today to have new knowledge, skills, and attitudes that relate to the digital realm.  Why is the development of this knowledge just as important to students as traditional IQ?

Russell Hazard: Traditional IQ is actually a fairly contentious issue and considered by some to be a pretty biased measure. However, if we just focus on the foundational idea of the ability to acquire, retain, and process a variety of types of information cognitively, IQ is clearly extremely important. What DQ researchers might say is that because of the rapid shift toward fully integrating our digital and analogue lives, which is will shortly be intensified by near ubiquitous augmented reality and artificial intelligence, DQ competencies will start to have just as significant an impact on important life variables such as income, health/mental health, and job performance as have been previously posited for IQ.

Linking back to your previous question about entrepreneurship, I think it should be clear we need well-balanced people that have competencies that match the needs of the time. We can’t get too hung up on one narrow model. So, while accepting the undeniable importance of digital intelligence, I think that sustaining a dynamic environment in which people are able to ideate, plan, and build successful enterprises that lead them to happy lives requires more than just DQ. I am sure that most people who understand digital intelligence would agree with that. We certainly also need what is sometimes called IQ and also emotional intelligence, or EQ. Empathy and communication are becoming more important than ever in the workforce. The frameworks don’t operate at the expense of each other. It is also quite important to remember that these are all just frameworks and don’t fully express the complexity of human intelligence. It is easy to confuse the components of each that are relatively stable with those that can be developed over a lifespan.

There is also a lot of talk about how our old model of developing knowledge-skills-attitudes is shifting so that the priority is becoming attitudes-skills-knowledge. Attitudes and dispositions such as considering the needs of others, ecological awareness, intellectual curiosity, embracing diversity, resilience, and comfort with complexity are becoming drivers of excellence as much as any specific subject’s content knowledge. This refocusing on attitudes, dispositions, and values is important as attitude formation is complex and requires different teaching and learning practices than something like the rote memorization of knowledge.

None of this saying that traditional IQ ability such as the acquisition and retention of knowledge and the processing of that knowledge through thinking maneuvers is unimportant. Learning to be an adept digital citizen is now a crucial competency, but it continues to be situated within a broader whole-person education. 

You agree that digital literacy training should start at home and at an early age.  What can parents do to ensure their children are up to speed? 

Russell Hazard: First, I think that digital literacy will need to be part of lifelong learning because the technology, and therefore the implications of the technology, will continue to change rapidly for the foreseeable future. Therefore, I think parents would do well to truly educate themselves and commit to their own continual engagement with these issues. We know that media shapes our beliefs, perceptions, interactions, and our collective political decisions. Understanding issues around this phenomenon is now a basic life skill for everyone, whether younger or older.

Practically speaking, learning about the issues and developing competencies alongside your child is a great way of modelling the idea that you are a lifelong learner that demonstrates the attitudes of curiosity, openness to change, and critical thinking you are trying to help your child develop. There are many resources for this joint study available, but a good place to start would certainly be discussing the ideas and programming offered by the DQ Institute through DQ World as it is the current international standard, it pitched for young people, and it carries the foundations for in-depth discussions that adults can engage their children in. 

At the same time, the role of teachers is crucial in this changing world, especially with the impact of technology.  Broadly, what would be your ideal vision for the future of education?  

Russell Hazard: That is a big question. A good place to start is with being more open to changing education as the world around us changes. Some of the most respected researchers in the field of educational policy, such as Harvard University’s Fernando Reimers, argue that education needs to continually transform as the needs of society and the individuals within those societies change. As we are experiencing a sustained period of exponential change, I think the future needs to be one of continual experimentation and an openness to question the very foundations of what we are doing. Fundamentally, education needs to help us grow into mature people who are able to contribute to our families and communities, inspire us to be excited by the world around us and the lifelong learning necessary to understand it, and prepare us to solve the problems that we notice in our own lives. Job readiness is certainly a part of this, but not the whole picture.

To support this, education needs to focus much more on generating high quality thinking rather than the regurgitation of facts. I really respect the work of Project Zero for this reason. Teachers and students need to become ‘thinking masters” who understand, who can name, and who know when to apply a range of highly specific cognitive and metacognitive thinking processes. Subject knowledge is just the material that we manipulate with thinking. Their approach to individual and collaborative thinking can help to future proof us all as the knowledge base in the world around us changes ever more quickly. It could also help to support dynamic, thoughtful citizens.

I also think we need to work more on aligning attitudes-skills-knowledge both to the needs of the local, and to the global. I think that Education for Sustainable Development is a very useful framework for this. Some people hear this term and think that is it only for lower income countries or for environmentalists. However, it is actually geared around developing a full suite of 21st century capacities for identifying and solving problems while considering the context of those problems are occurring in and the future ramifications of our actions.

These project-based approaches don’t necessarily need to completely replace traditional teaching and learning. Often, they can be complementary and help students to integrate discrete subject knowledge into understanding that can more effectively be transferred to a wide range of real-world situations. This model certainly seems to be an excellent way forward for entrepreneurs as well as for whole societies looking to generate a mix of innovative enterprises, capable civil servants and governmental leaders, and a populace capable of making good decisions. This seems to be true regardless of the current level of economic development in a country.

Educational technologies of the future should likely take a greater role in providing highly personalized learning so there are periods in which every student is studying at the optimal level of difficulty and speed for their own needs. However, the social and collaborative aspects of learning mean that teachers and learning communities will continue to be as important, or more important, than ever. Educational technology will hopefully have an especially profound effect on the most vulnerable populations of students around the world quite soon. For example, there are researchers currently working on providing low/no cost digital personalized learning that can be delivered through mobile devices to students in developing countries who now receive little or no education.

I hope and believe these threads are all coming together to support a world powered by what Project Zero describes as a positive culture of thinking. It is not a utopia. Such a world is one in which deep thinking is valued, and in which the responsible and respectful communication of that thinking allows a diversity of perspectives but also an improved opportunity for broad consensus based in empathy and mutual understanding. Without this there is a significant danger that we will fail to mitigate, much less overcome, very serious issues such as global conflict, climate change, and the potentially enormous problems arising from rapidly emerging technologies such as AI, biotechnology, and automation that are now upon us. 

The primary aim of Global Citizenship Education is helping students become responsible and active citizens.  How is this concept pertinent to solving the world’s challenges?  

Russell Hazard: There is a lot of confusion around Global Citizenship Education. I am not sure if we can reasonably aim to “solve” all the world’s challenges, but we do have an immediate need to address them strategically. Unfortunately, the concept of Global Citizenship Education is often completely misinterpreted. It does not mean losing your local, regional, or national identity. It does not mean disloyalty to your nation or culture. It does not imply an abandonment of healthy competition.

It does mean recognizing that we are part of a complex, closed ecosystem that has limits. It does mean recognizing that certain issues cannot be solved without cooperation. It does mean recognizing that what happens in one part of the world can directly impact people somewhere else in the world. It does mean recognizing that the same feelings of thoughtfulness and respect that we value so much when applied to the people we care about in our own lives can be extended outward to other people, cultures, and even the majesty of nature.

On an environmental level, does it matter that the Amazon is being decimated? Yes. It matters because people all around the world will quite literally experience the environmental impact if we don’t do anything about it. On a social level, does it matter that many of the local people in the Amazon are suffering as part of that process? Yes. The environmental and social systems are completely entwined. Even if you don’t personally care about the individuals, the problem itself won’t be rectified unless both the social and the environmental are dealt with as a whole. Coming to terms with this kind of complex systems thinking, as well as the global background knowledge required to engage in it, is part of Global Citizenship Education.

Problems require awareness, but also the willingness to act in a meaningful way and that will almost always involve some kind of collaborative project workflow. The attitudes-skills-knowledge necessary to consider and act on issues of a global nature are increasingly called global competencies and are part of Sustainable Development Goal 4.7, alongside Education for Sustainable Development.

The ability to empathize, think profoundly, communicate, plan and execute projects that consider the future, thrive in rapid technological and social change, and build rich, meaningful relationships is not only pertinent to working on the world’s many challenges, but also to having healthy local economies and the positive human relationships that make for a great life. Optimally, these all come together in an ever-evolving future of education that is currently being developed and trialed around the world.

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by Jennifer Warren of GoodFirms

Content is the cornerstone of online businesses these days. Simply put, content attracts traffic, leads and ultimately conversions.

Not surprisingly, every online store out there is trying to make the most of it by crafting copies that compel the readers to take action.

So, now the question is: how to make your content so compelling that readers don’t feel the need to look any other way but singularly focus on your business and your business alone.

I know, it’s easier said than done.

But then the tips discussed below will help you master your marketing messages to win more traffic and conversions:

#1. Track down your Target Audience.

As it turns out, nearly all marketing articles drum on this fact: that you need to have a crystal clear idea about your target audience you are speaking to. You know why?

Because your content should be written with the target audience in mind and not for a broader audience. A generic content written for a more general audience will bore the reader

  • According to Marketo, 63% of the consumers are frustrated with generic ad messages.
  • According to Rapt Media, 63% of consumers relate better with brands that offer content that is interesting, relevant, and valuable.

So, the point is, if you still haven’t defined your buyer personas, take out some time to do so before you proceed ahead with crafting marketing messages. Your ability to connect with your audience will be considerably hindered if you are unable to reach deeper and at a more personal level.

When nailing down the person you are speaking to, think about the following:

Why should they care about your product or offerings? 

 #2. Warm Up to their Pain Points.

Wooing and winning your customers is easy if you put in enough leg work.  Put another way, you will have first identify their pain points and then convince them how your product or service will help them solve those issues.

For example, a content marketing agency will identify a client’s potential pain points in terms of :

  • Low Traffic, Leads, Conversions
  • Low engagement of customers on Social Media

So, their marketing message should speak of the following benefits.

  • Conversion-driven CTA buttons on your product and service pages.
  • SEO-oriented content for wider visibility on search pages.
  • Relevant content for social media platforms
  • Promotional or thought-provoking messages that prompt social media users to engage with your post

So, this how the content marketing agency helps its clients focus on their pain points and also enables them to solve their problems effectively.

It may also happen that the persona the agency is dealing with is seasoned enough to be aware of the nitty-gritty and is looking for more seasoned answers.

They may be frustrated by things like:

  • Enough technical know-how but helpless on the execution end
  • Too many things to handle at one go
  • Not enough employees

In this case, your marketing message should clearly state the problems your customers are facing and how your content marketing agency could chip in with some help:

  • SEO and SEM Experts to help execute plans
  • Prioritizing most important jobs
  • Hire writers on hourly basis

Instead of merely listing what your content marketing agency offers if you manage to outline offers that could help your customers solve issues, your ideal buyers would be interested.

#4. Woo Them with a Compelling Headline.

Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience and their problems, it’s time to hook them with a headline.

Given that your marketing messages will majorly hinge around one single, compelling headline, so make sure your words leave a lasting impression on your audience.

So, take out time to craft compelling headlines that sum up your blog post.

Using the same content marketing agency example from above here’s an example of benefit-driven headline:

A content marketing agency that helps accelerate your traffic and conversions by 50%

OR

Simple tips and tricks to propel website traffic, conversion, and social media engagement of your business.

The point is to communicate the essential benefits in a single, powerful line that gets buyers interested in knowing more about your products and services and how you could help them.

#4. Use Customer-speak. 

According to Mario Velso, the author “Web copy that sells,” you need to avoid corporate-speak, brochure-speak, marketing-speak, and so forth in your digital copy.

Most of the businesses commit this error of marketing-speak because they think that’s what appeals to their audience. But then, nothing could be further from the truth. Using marketing-speak doesn’t strike-a-chord with your customers.

On the other word, if you use customer-speak, see what happens.

Now, how to use customer-speak? Speak to ideal customers, salespeople, customer support team, and more to get the exact words to incorporate in your copy. This sort of content is what tugs at the heartstrings of the audience.

#5. Present ‘What’s in it for them’.

Once you have your readers hooked through your headline and after convincing them to take a look at your offerings, your next step should be to tell them more about the benefits that they could derive from your product or services.

State your remedial measures, in other words, benefits, very clearly. That is, you need to highlight them. More importantly, you also need to put down that the customers won’t have to go through the same problems again if they start relying on your brand.

Too many brands simply focus on themselves and what they are offering. They don’t get down to what’s-in-it-for-their-audience. This could piss the readers off.

Conclusion.

The process of creating a compelling marketing message is not as easy as it seems. Marketers often end up crafting overly complicated messages that focus too much on their company and their offerings, instead of talking about what’s-in-it-for them. Only when the customers know what’s in it for them, will they start reading up on your company and your offerings.

Over to you now! What’s your methodology to craft compelling content that attracts traffic and conversions?

Jennifer Warren is staff writer at GoodFirms – a review and research platform for top ecommerce development companies, digital marketing companies, web development companies among many others. She has guest blogged for top sites such as Crazyegg, Semrush, Searchenginepeople, Sitepronews, Volusion.com, Socialnomics, jeffbullas, mediapost among others.

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by Manish Dudharejia, President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc

Hardworking, talented interns are a rare breed. Hiring a young worker to help out at your company can be a great decision, but only if you take the time to find someone who can add value to the team.

Because almost every college student in America is looking for an internship at some point, you’ll need to sift through the applicant pool to find the best ones for your small business. Your end goal should be to find an intern that could eventually work for your company full-time, so not just any student or postgraduate will do.

Here are some tips that will let the interns come to you, but will filter out the best of the best for your company.

Make the Application Process Less Intimidating.

Internships are usually one of the first professional jobs young people apply for. Therefore, the process of submitting their information can be lengthy and scary, especially if this is their initial application during or after college. According to the Human Capital Institute, about 60 percent of job applicants quit in the middle of the application because it’s too long and complicated. Don’t turn young interns away with an over-the-top process.

Make the submission as easy as possible. You still need to gather all the relevant information, but remember that you aren’t hiring a full-time employee with years of experience. Gather what you need to know about their qualifications quickly and simply.

You might want to suggest tools to interns that can speed up the process. For instance, some college students might not even have a resume prepared to turn in. Encourage them to use tools like Resumonk to instantly create a polished record of their achievements.

Another great recommendation for young applicants is to have a grammar editor look over their work before they submit it. Free, natural language processing tools like Grammarly can catch silly errors that might cause hiring managers to disregard their resume at a first glance.

The more helpful you can be during the interns’ application process, the more likely you are to receive a high number of qualified candidates. Now is not the time to intimidate; be proactive in helping these young workers succeed.

Share What’s In It for the Intern.

Nowadays, almost half of all college students are accepting unpaid internships. Although that number continues to decrease, many interns take on their positions for reasons other than monetary gain. They’re seeking experience, career-furthering benefits, and networking opportunities that will help them later on in life.

Be upfront about what your interns will receive from their position. Even if you won’t be paying them, what will the job help them learn? Will they obtain new skills? Will they work with interesting people that can influence their career trajectory?

Many young professionals worry that their skills will be squandered on fulfilling coffee orders and making endless copies. If you’re looking for an intern that can handle basic tasks like that, you’re better off hiring another secretary or office manager. Interns want to know that they will be applied to meaningful tasks, not busy work.

Focus less on discovering what the interns can offer you and more on what you can offer them. Do that and the cream of the crop will rise in your applicant pool.

Make the Interview Stand Out.

Some experts estimate that it takes as many as 10 job applications (or more) to land one interview. Therefore, most interns only go to a handful of interviews, but it’s still important to make a good impression on candidates. Remember: you’re not just evaluating them. They’re evaluating your company, too.

Don’t ask the standard interview questions alone. Most candidates prepare thoroughly for those and have rehearsed answers. Instead, ask them about more unique aspects of their lives. Have them describe their personalities, their goals, and interests. Rather than asking them to rattle off a list of their experiences, have them provide specific examples of their achievements.

When you talk about your expectations for the internship, be clear about the skills you’re looking for in a young professional. Both the applicant and the interviewer should leave with an understanding as to whether or not this is a good fit for both parties.

Not only will these tips help you learn more about your candidates, but it will also allow them to exit the interview with a more memorable, positive perception of your small business and its opportunities.

Personalize the Experience.

In the same vein as updating your interview process, make the internship itself personal to the candidate. They need to feel like this is a valuable opportunity they can’t pass up, not just another unpaid apprenticeship where they might be taken advantage of by other employees.

Discuss goals and priorities with each intern to see how your internship can fit into their long-term plan. Figure out what skills you can help them build, what their interests are, and what excites them. Then, explain how the internship can pair neatly with those things.

Another great way to personalize the intern experience is to discuss the individual potential for a future within the company. Some experts at Time Magazine claim that internships have essentially replaced entry-level positions at many companies. Therefore, many internship-seekers may be applying in hopes of working with your company full-time someday. Discussing how an intern’s unique set of skills apply to the company’s future is a fantastic way to motivate and excite candidates before they start.

To Sum It All Up. 

Hiring an intern isn’t a process to take lightly, even if their position won’t last long. Internships can be mutually beneficial to both the intern and the employer, especially if you recruit the best candidates for your specific business.

Instead of focusing on weeding out the bad applicants, focus on making the great ones stand out. How can you attract the top students and postgraduates? What do they want from internships, and what can you offer them?

By making the application process easy and letting them know what benefits they can reap from the experience, you’ll certainly find better applicants than you would by just slapping your job listing on  Indeed.

Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.

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Whether you are a first-time exhibitor or a seasoned one — cost saving is always at the back of your mind. And rightly so! As if the escalating prices of trade show exhibits wasn’t enough. Now you have to pay more for their shipping.

From your fabric pop up banners to your retractable banner stands and table throws, you have to ship them all to your trade show destination. The cost of shipping can add up quickly, but if you use a few tried and true tactics you can dramatically reduce your trade show shipping costs, says an expert at New York Banners, an acclaimed fabric banner printing company in New York. So here are some ways to save money on your trade show shipping.

Ship early.

As the event date approaches, you can get very busy with your planning and preparation activities. Meanwhile, you can make a costly mistake of forgetting to ship your trade show booth products. That mistake can make your life more difficult at the last minute. In addition to the lack of time for tackling last-minute shipping, it causes you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars extra payment on rush shipping.

Even if you are busy with training your booth staffers, ordering food supplies or fabric banner printing in NY, make it a point to ship your trade show displays as early as possible. Shipping early is a chance for you to grab those early bird discounts, which may mean thousands of dollars of savings in the end.

Avoid shipping literature.

Remember the time when businesses would give out truckloads of pamphlets, brochures and flyers at trade shows? Well, if you, too, fall into that category, it’s time to chuck that idea out of the window. Shipping materials that visitors don’t even carry past the exit gates of the venue won’t do you any good.

If you do want to invest into something, consider customized flash drives. They make for excellent giveaways and help you package information about your services better. This way, you save not only on shipping, but also on printing costs. You can also have a handheld device handy for visitors to browse through your services and features.

What More to Do.

Here are some other ways you can save money of your trade show shipping:

  • Go for group shipping when you order your promotional exhibit tools, since companies usually provide discounts on this feature.
  • Avoid overpaying for shipping by weighing and measuring each item. This ensures that the freight company don’t overestimate the shipment’s weight and size. Mention the figures on the outside of the boxes.
  • Invest in exhibits that do not take up too much space. For instance, you’ll find many retractable banner stands, X-frame stands and custom fabric banners in New York that can be easily taken apart and packed into separate tubes and boxes.
  • For companies that are always on the move, and exhibit at one trade show after the other, shipping your stuff to your office (or home) doesn’t make much sense. Instead, do a little planning and ship from one venue to the next.

Many companies not only ship exhibit tools and promotional literature but also display tables and accessories. Just enquire at the venue if you can simply rent one.

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Moving to a new town, state, or country can be both terribly exciting and incredibly terrifying. Finding a new place to live, making new friends, settling in to new hobbies – it’s a great upheaval. The greatest change to your life, however, will likely be finding a new job (assuming, of course, that you haven’t relocated for a new job).

Finding a new job can be difficult in the best of times, but when you have the pressure and added expenses around you creating the feeling there’s a ticking clock involved? It isn’t fun.

Luckily, there’s no need to panic. In this blog, we explore various simple ways for you to secure a new job after moving, including networking, graduate work, and recognition of prior learning.

Get Networking.

Ever heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? While it is of course important to be as proficient as possible in what you do as a career, it is true that opportunities do not always present themselves by conventional routes, and can increase with the more people that you know. That is why networking is so important. If you have friends, family or former colleagues in your new location, reach out to them and ask if they know of any job openings. But don’t stop there. Get creative. Speak with alumni from your school, former employers, be as professionally social as possible to branch out and accumulate as many potential sources of employment as possible. It may feel like you are using these people, but in the process you can potentially make some lasting friendships, and later be placed in a position where you can help them out in turn. You can never have too many friends, after all.

Take Advantage of Being a Recent Graduate.

If you have only just graduated from high school or tertiary education, it is likely you will be overwhelmed by the pressure to find your first job. Add moving to a new location, away from the support you have had for most of your life, and that pressure rises exponentially.

Firstly, take a breath. Next, refine your job searches by looking carefully at their descriptions, and see how the experiences you have accumulated thus far can be applied. It is important to show your commitment, and prove that you are worth hiring. If you struggle, it might be prudent to find some part-time work where you can make ends meet whilst you also intern, volunteer or take part in other activities to garner more experience.

Live on Job Sites.

For all its flaws, the internet is a wonderful place to learn of new career opportunities. Companies from across the world will post their job listings on a myriad of sites, rather than wasting their resources on more traditional avenues, such as newspapers and magazines. This can benefit someone moving to a new location, as you can cover a greater geographical distance from the comfort of your own home. The process can be streamlined even further with helpful functions, in which you can refine search lists based on postcodes and regions, as well as industries, pay ranges, and so forth.

Recognition of Prior Learning.

Moving is exhausting work, and it can leave you without much free time or finances. If you have already moved and realise you need further qualifications to enter into the job you want, you might start to fret, as courses generally take significant periods of time, not to mention prove costly. Fortunately, a service exist in which you can use the experience you have gathered in other areas of your life, and use them as credit against new qualifications. This is called Recognition of Prior Learning, and it can help you save time and money, improve your career prospects, avoid repeating the same training, and so much more. Find more information about Recognition of Prior Learning today to see how it can change you career trajectory for the better.

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In today’s fast-paced world, we rely on speedy and reliable wireless internet connection for our work and social needs. To the modern user of the World Wide Web, there is nothing more frustrating than slow internet speed or a connection which frequently drops out. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to speed up your home or business internet.

Read on to find the easy ways to remedy a slow connection.

1. Restart and Reset.

When experiencing slow internet connection, your first action should be checking the wires in your router. It is not uncommon for people to unintentionally knock their router, causing wires to become loose or unplugged.

If the wires appear to be connected, it is still best practice to manually unplug the router and switch it off. Wait about a minute before plugging back in the wires and switching the router back on. This enables the router an opportunity to reset, which can often solve all of your slow internet problems.  

2. Reposition your Router.

Slow internet speed and connection is often a sign of signal interference with your wireless connection. Many factors can lead to interference with your wireless connection, including neighbouring wireless networks and even household appliances.

The closer your device is to the router, the better your connection will be. Repositioning your router is often the simple solution to slow internet connection. When choosing a location for your router it is essential to place it away from any physical obstructions (such as brick walls), and away from any other devices that emit a wireless signal (such as baby monitors).

3. Remove History and Viruses.

Malware can hijack your bandwidth, making your internet connection considerably slower. If you are experiencing slow connection it is therefore important to ensure that your antivirus software is installed and up-to-date. Advanced antivirus software can locate and remove most viruses that have found their way to your computer.

Extensive website history, cached images, cookies and downloads all have negative impacts on your connection speed. It is therefore important to frequently delete your history and other records. DNS records are another frequent contributor to slow internet connection. DNS records are simply stored information about the IP addresses you have previously visited, which can take up considerable space in your data storage. The method you take to remove your history and DNS records will differ depending on your computer software and web browser. However, a Google search will provide you with simple instructions on how to swiftly delete your history and records.

4. Check Your Plan and Provider.

If you are frequently experiencing slow internet connection, it is time to reconsider your plan and provider. Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. If your provider offers a low maximum connection speed and frequently cuts out, it is time to consider alternative options.

With a number of different wireless internet providers available, it can be difficult to determine which will be the best fit for your home or business needs. When choosing the right provider for speedy internet it is essential to research and compare the following features:

Network: The network through which your provider operates will have a considerable impact on the speed of your internet connection. Some networks can become easily congested and subject to resistance. This can lead to patchy connection for many users.

Speed: Many providers will offer a range of internet speeds on different plans. If you have chosen a low-speed plan are unsatisfied with the performance, it may be time to consider investing in a more expensive plan with increased internet speeds.

5. Call your Provider.

All leading wireless internet providers have dedicated customer service teams to assist you with any connectivity problems. If none of the solutions above worked for you, it is best to contact your provider to determine if there are any neighbourhood outages that may be affecting your connection, or whether you have exceeded your bandwidth limit.

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by David Kosmayer, CEO and Founder of Bookmark.com

With endless technology available at the touch of a finger, it’s never been easier to run your own business. However, to be successful, you need to know how to set yourself apart from your competitors and increase your return on investment. This process starts online, where an intelligently designed website makes all the difference.

To make your website stand out from the crowd and to ensure you’re turning visitors into paying customers, you need artificial intelligence.

Here are the ways in which artificial intelligence can help improve your website and increase your ROI for your business.

Better Testing.

Artificial intelligence makes it easier to optimize your website through testing and analytics. It not only takes the guesswork out of the equation, but quickly assimilates best practices by utilizing advanced testing and core engagement metrics.

Advanced Testing.

AI-powered testing does not suffer from the limitations of less advanced A/B testing mechanisms. Whereas A/B testing can only focus on one asset at a time by pitting two variables against one another, AI can run multiple tests simultaneously.

A/B tests function by dividing traffic into two groups, which each experiencing a different variation. The winner of the test is the group that receives the most engagement. Not only is this testing time consuming, but it also limits you to testing a single website asset at a time.

When you use machine learning, you can run multiple asset tests simultaneously. This has far-reaching advantages, as it means you can test your marketing funnel in its entirety, instead of having to focus on one variable of one section at a time. In short, advanced testing equals an untold number of testing combinations being conducted in less time, all with the purpose of making your website the best it can be.

Core Engagement Metrics.

When it comes to using AI to build your website, machine learning is able to synthesize analytics data more effectively than any human. By using core metric-weighted systems to incentivize action towards a goal, like increased conversions, AI is able to make user-based predictions to select and rearrange the sections, elements, images, text, and design styles that work best to optimize your website’s core metric.

An AI-powered website builder, first, allows you to select the core metrics you want to optimize for, then uses sophisticated deep learning algorithms and incoming traffic data to perform instantaneous changes to your website assets.

It then continues to accumulate information over time on which asset combinations are most effective by continually testing website asset changes against a nearly endless amount of possible combinations.

This function isn’t only limited to general traffic. Deep learning algorithms are able to detect individual users and group user profiles and preferences, allowing websites from specific business categories to better present their website to their audience by optimizing for individual and group user engagement.

Once you select your core metric goals, machine learning will monitor and analyze incoming traffic. It will then suggest changes to improve your selected metric. For example, if you choose the metric ‘increase adds-to-cart,’ you will see changes optimized for encouraging this action, leading to an increase in overall items added to cart and, ultimately, an increase to your ROI.

With machine learning and automation powering your designs, your website will be perfect for your business type and your individual visitor. Additionally, it will continue to evolve along with your industry and user-base, as AI and machine learning continues to analyze data and suggest optimal changes.

More Relevant Searches.

Artificial intelligence can also help you improve user experience by providing more relevant searches for your website visitors. By making the browsing experience easier and more tailored to the individual user, you will encourage them to make purchases or other decisions that will impact your ROI.

Predicting User Paths.

AI collects data such as user page visits, item selections, and website interactions to build customer behaviour analytics that help create future predictions. The AI uses past behaviour to recommend things like preferred destinations, merchandise, and much more.

This AI is particularly helpful for ecommerce businesses, as it can predict future purchase patterns and adjust the website to provide the customer with the easiest paths to purchases.

As the predictions get more accurate, you will be able to discern more insights from your visitors and will ultimately be able to provide them with a better user experience.

In the future, predictions can range from the minute details of colour, image container sizes, creative web page asset shapes, and more to ensure your website is tailored to each visitor type.

Personalized Search.

Going forward, AI will help websites be more individually curated to every visitor. This means your customers will immediately see content fitting to their interests as soon as they arrive at your site.

Machine learning’s ability to learn from previous behaviours and customize the experience means users will spend less time searching for what they’re looking for, and more time engaging with the content or products that interest them.

Artificial intelligence is paving the way for businesses to become more profitable and increase ROI by effectively learning from user behaviours to present websites that are optimized for the actions you want.

David Kosmayer is CEO and Founder of Bookmark.com, a website builder disrupting the future of web design with artificial intelligence. David created his first company at 22 just coming out of college. Marketing Extensions Inc., an online affiliate and marketing agency, was born from the basement of his parent’s home. This company grew under his leadership into a 55-person team, topping $60M in revenue in less than a decade.

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