Wednesday, November 29, 2017

5 Ways to Boost Brainpower and Creativity

By Scott Vollero

Clearly, your brain is your most valuable asset. But how often do you nurture it to keep it that way?
As with most of your body's muscles, your brain needs exercise to stay at the top of its game. An active well-functioning brain keeps you productive at work, ensures the decisions you make are smart and gives you the tools you need to come up with new ideas and problem solutions.
How can you keep your brain sharp and increase creativity? Follow these five tips.
1. Exercise Your Body
OK, you're busy. An hour at the gym is not going to happen. But, you can fit in a daily walk, even if it's a 15-minute walk around your office building. 

“That little walk allows your brain to do amazing things. Regular physical exercise improves cognition, memory and protects against degeneration.”—Scott Vollero

Exercise also relieves stress. Find ways to engage in physical activities, such as one or more walks and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, throughout the day.
2. Get Some Sun
Vitamin D is essential for optimum brain function. The best way to get vitamin D is direct exposure to the sun. Your skin needs 10-minutes of sun exposure per day without the use of sunscreen. If you live in an area where sun is limited or cannot go without sunscreen, consider taking a supplement. Speak with your doctor about how much to take.
3. Take Breaks
A Hiroshima University study published in The Atlantic found that the formula for optimal productivity is taking a 17-minute break after 52 minutes of work. Scientific observations concluded that your brain, just like any other muscle, tires from repeated stress. In other words, your ability to perform at optimum capacity diminishes over time. Your brain needs periodic breaks to refresh itself. So, work hard for 52 minutes then spend a few moments looking at cute cat videos. It's good for your brain.
4. Eat, Drink, Sleep
Your brain thrives when it and the rest of your body feel good. Avoid eating junk food and get plenty of rest. And, believe it or not, drink coffee. Best done early in the day so it doesn't interfere with sleep, drinking coffee with caffeine actually does help your brain function. Coffee helps you focus, boosts intelligence, improves your reasoning capacity and increases reaction times.
5. Develop and Improve Your Natural Creativity
When you were a kid, you asked questions. You wanted to know about everything. If you're like most adults, however, you've gotten caught up in the day-to-day and lost some of your natural curiosity, and with it the inborn creativity, you once had. Creativity drives innovation. It gives our brains the ability to interpret events, predict outcomes and produce ideas.
Here are a few ways you can get those creative juices flowing again:
  • Step out of your comfort zone. Change your routine. Drive a different route to work. Order something you've never tried before off the menu. Even small changes invoke new ways of thinking.
  • Learn something new. Take a language class in person or online. Learn a new skill. Take on a new challenge.
  • Play games. According to Entrepreneur magazine, playing Tetris not only has positive effects on the brain, but playing Tetris after a traumatic experience has been shown to decrease the negative memories of the event and victims suffer fewer flashbacks. Logic games keep the mind sharp. Word games increase vocabulary.
Bio: Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs: Do You Have What It Takes?

By Scott Vollero
A lot of people dream about starting a successful business. Very few actually take the first steps toward entrepreneurship, however. Of those who do, fewer still have the personality traits to take their ideas to fruition.

“It turns out that successful entrepreneurs have personality traits in common that make them more likely to succeed.”—Scott Vollero

If you're a budding entrepreneur, you may be wondering if you have what it takes.
Here are seven personality traits winning entrepreneurs have or developed. How many do you have?
1. Highly Self-Motivated
Despite rumors to the contrary, there are no overnight successes. To succeed, an entrepreneur has to be highly self-motivated, believe in themselves and are positive their business model is viable. Starting a business and turning it into a profitable company takes time. There will be ups and downs. There will be fits and starts and restarts. Can you remain positive through the bad times? Are you self-motivated enough to keep going no matter what?
2. Strong Leadership Skills
Are you the go-to person at work or at home? Do you like to be the person in charge? Do others come to you for advice? Great leadership skills require a willingness to reach a goal no matter what. Great leaders know the road to their goal may not always be pleasant or easy, but it doesn't matter. They'll get there anyway. Effective leaders are proactive go-getters. They don't sit back and let opportunities fall into their laps. They make them.
3. Creativity, Innovation and Versatility
Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to recognize opportunities and create out-of-the-box innovative solutions. They also have to wear a variety of hats, particularly in the beginning. As an entrepreneur, you'll be responsible not only for pursuing opportunities, selling your service or product and growing your business, but also for answering the phones, paying the bills and ordering supplies. Can you keep creativity alive?
4. Business Knowledge and Skills
To efficiently run your business, you'll have to set up internal systems, processes and procedures to keep track of inventory, invoicing and billing, supply purchases, taxes and other business-related transactions. You'll have to devise filing systems and routines to follow to ensure proper tracking. You'll most likely have to come up with a workable telecommunications system. Setting up an office involves more than throwing a computer on a desk. Do you have the skills to create the proper work environment to efficiently run your business?
5. Big Picture Vision
Entrepreneurs look not only to the here and now, but have a big picture vision of what the future holds. Where do you want to take your business? What do you expect your business to be in five years? It's that future vision that keeps entrepreneurs on the right path. Without a realistic future vision on which to base decisions, there is no direction. A business without a set purpose flounders.
6. Willingness to Fail
The most effective entrepreneurs take risks. They try new things. They carve new paths. They know that not every new attempt will succeed. That's OK. An entrepreneur realizes that making mistakes is an integral part of success. Learning from mistakes and moving forward with new knowledge leads to a greater chance for future achievement.
7. Decisiveness
There's no room for procrastination or indecision when you're an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs possess the ability to quickly assess a situation and make a decision without hesitation. Opportunities are lost when too much time passes. Are you able to make quick, yet informed decisions? It's what successful entrepreneurs do.
Bio: Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Rock Your Inner Boss and Delegate the Right Way

By Scott Vollero

Successful entrepreneurs are great at a lot of things. They think outside the box, they see the big picture, they're willing to take risks and they're determined to succeed. What entrepreneurs may not be so great at, though, is being the boss.
Delegation doesn't come naturally to most entrepreneurs. If you're an entrepreneur who has either already hired people or getting ready to, you owe it to yourself and your employees to learn how to boss effectively. If you don't, it doesn't matter how talented your employees, they'll walk out the door.
Follow these tips to find your inner boss and make sure your employees stay happy and productive.
Delegate and Let Go
You're good, but admit it — you aren't an expert on everything. That's precisely the reason you hire people — to fill your skills and knowledge gaps, give you time to pursue big picture solutions and to provide a solid and well-rounded functioning business.

“Delegating is difficult for many entrepreneurs because up to this point, they've been doing everything themselves.”—Scott Vollero

Entrepreneurs like being in control. Allowing someone else to take over a specific area seems unnatural and frightening.
But, if you're confident you hired the right people, delegate to them and let them do their jobs. Resist the urge to micromanage. Empower employees to make decisions within their assigned area and back them up if an issue occurs.
Adapt to Personalities
Remarkable employees come in a lot of different packages. One person may be boisterous and work best in an environment around other people. Another may be more introspective and works best in a quiet place without a lot of distractions. Put each person in the environment that lets them be the best they can be.
You also have to adapt your management style to fit each individual's needs. Some people may prefer lots of face time to talk things out. Others may prefer written communication and the opportunity to discuss work as they need. There is no “one size fits all” when you work with people. Get to know each employee well enough to learn the most effective ways of motivating them.
Show Yourself
Employees won't get behind you if they see you as an aloof entity. To truly engage employees, they must view you as part of the same team. Sure, they expect you to direct them in their work, but they also want to know who you are and see you as a real person.
Become transparent. When you make decisions, explain your reasoning. If possible, include your team in the decision-making process. If you make a mistake, admit it. Ask for your team's help during crisis situations. Your company succeeds when you and your employees pull together and are all invested in its success.
Remember They're Human
Your employees are human beings with lives outside of work. Sure, that sounds obvious; but you’d be surprised at the number of managers who act like their employees are machines. An employee may need extra time off work at some point or need assistance with a personal situation. Be generous. Figure out ways to reduce work stress levels and help them out during the crisis. It's what great bosses do.
Make the Tough Decisions
Yes, being a boss means empowering employees and giving them the best possible environment in which to work. But if an employee is simply not working out or lacks the desire to improve, it's your job to let them go. An ineffective employee not only isn't productive, but can reduce the morale of your top people. You can't let the situation fester. Be a boss and make the tough decisions.
Bio: Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Avoid the Nightmare: 5 Tips for Hiring the Right People

By Scott Vollero

Your sister-in-law’s second cousin’s best friend didn’t turn out to be the best employee, did he? And remember the time you hired your daughter’s best friend? What a mess that turned out to be. It only takes one nightmare employee for you to realize you need to hire better.
You're ready to hire someone but you don’t want to make the same mistakes. What can you do to hire the best people from now on? Here are five tips to get the job done right.
1. Ask Not What the Employee Can Do For You, But What Your Position Does for the Employee
Although it sounds backward, the Wall Street Journal reports that United States and Canadian researchers found that qualified applicants are put off if a job posting is nothing but a list of qualifications and demands.
By far, the most effective listings offered employee benefits such as collaboration with talented people, constructive feedback channels and avenues for employee growth. Write job descriptions that not only describe requirements, but employee advantages as well.
2. Focus Less on Hard and More on Soft Skills
Clearly you don’t want to have to train someone from scratch, but soft skills are vitally important in new hires. If a candidate doesn’t have every single job requirement but has an eager, positive and intelligent outlook, they may be exactly the right person for the job.
3. Ace the Interview
Yes, if you want to hire the right people, you have to conduct an ace interview. Give your applicant your complete attention. Don’t place too much emphasis on technical skills. Listen to the applicant’s answers. For example, if you ask the applicant why he left his last job and he blames someone else, ask for more details. The applicant may have a legitimate reason to blame the other guy or his answer may be a red flag that he is difficult.
You can also learn a lot by asking open ended questions. For example, ask your applicant where she’d like to be in 10 years time. Her answer could give you insight into her ambition and drive.

“A great interview is give and take. Invite the candidate to ask questions about you and your company.” — Scott Vollero

Answer truthfully with a realistic description of what working for your company is like. A candidate who’s hired and doesn’t like the environment does not make for a happy employee.
4. Be Social
You will most likely do a quick background check on potential hires, but don’t forget to look at an applicant’s social media accounts. Of course, what employees do with their personal lives, unless it’s something illegal, is their own business, but you can tell a lot about what type of worker an applicant might be from their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
5. Avoid Hiring Relatives, Friends and Friends of Friends, Most of the Time
Surprisingly, hiring relatives or friends does work - once in a blue moon. But most of the time, if you value your loved ones, just say no. If you enjoy your friends, simply say no. It’s not worth the aggravation and very possibly the end the relationship.
Bio: Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Interview with Entrepreneur and Innovator Scott Vollero

In this adapted excerpt from an exclusive interview, Scott Vollero talks about how he succeeds as an entrepreneur and shares some tips to help others start and grow their businesses.
1. You've started several successful businesses. How do you come up with the ideas in the first place?
Scott Vollero: The idea behind every successful business, mine included, is a solution to a problem. For example, Autocats Inc. came about because we saw the need for an innovative process to extract trace elements of platinum, palladium and rhodium from used catalytic converters. No one else was doing it. It was an undeveloped and undiscovered solution. And it took off. The best business ideas come from providing new and more efficient processes to better meet a customer's needs.
2. In your experience, what are the best strategies for growing a business?
Scott Vollero: The one consistent strategy to grow a business is focus on what the customer needs. A business plan is great but if it doesn't include meeting and exceeding the needs of your customer, the business could fail. Begin by exceeding customer demands and be willing to change along with them.
3. How do you stay focused and productive?
Scott Vollero: There are several ways I stay focused and on track. I keep detailed notes throughout the day and review them over breakfast. I complete one business-related task daily, no matter how small it seems. And, I take care of myself. I exercise, try to get enough sleep and make time for quiet reflection. To run a business well, you have to take care of all aspects of your life.
4. Do you have advice for the young entrepreneur?
Scott Vollero: A higher education is desirable, of course, but in order to succeed you need to develop high value practical skills as well. How can you develop high value practical skills? With real world work experience. My first full-time job was at an investment bank. I learned how to work with people and the importance of loyalty to my colleagues and customers. I gained experience by working and moving up the ladder in a variety of different industries. I developed critical thinking and teaching skills. The skills I learned then keep me going now.
5. Any last words of advice for entrepreneurs and business executives?
Scott Vollero: Don't become complacent. Challenge yourself every single day. That doesn't mean you have to climb Mount Everest or that it has to be a business challenge. It simply means moving out of your comfort zone and doing something different. I find it's the best way to hone my coping skills and deal with the unexpected.

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Is Your Workforce Strong Enough? 5 Ways to Tell & 3 Things to Do About It

By Scott Vollero

Economists are a pessimistic bunch. Even typically sober publications like The Atlantic love to give voice to doomsayers who can’t stop talking about how bad things are (or about to get). It’s enough to make you want to climb into bed and pull the covers high over your head.

Then again, maybe the eggheads have a point. The economic experience of the past decade has been alternately traumatic, depressing, boring, and maybe — for certain people in certain places — moderately hopeful. It’s never a bad idea to look around for the next shoe to drop.

For employers, the best defense against an uncertain economic future is a strong, dynamic workforce. It’s one thing to parry challenges you can see coming a mile away. It’s quite another to face black swans and sudden swoons with confidence and conviction.

But building a dynamic workforce is easier said than done. Some would argue that it’s easier to place bets on future uncertainties than to sort through so many proverbial haystacks to find the talented human needles capable of meeting them head-on.

Let’s set the haystack aside for a moment — it’s scary, no question. First, let’s take a look at how to dispassionately evaluate your workforce for gaps and inefficiencies that could compromise your ability to face the economic challenges we all know are coming. The first step to recovery, after all, is admitting you have a problem.

1. Measure Your Passion Quotient

Are your employees passionate about their work? They should be. And, if they’re not, you need to ask why. Their apathy could compromise your ability to win and keep clients, compromising your bottom line.

Size up your employees’ “passion quotient” directly, with frank surveys that ask questions about their buy-in (or lack thereof) and commitment to the cause. You can also gauge employees’ passion indirectly, by objectively and subjectively evaluating their effort and work quality.

2. Check Credentials

Credentials don’t guarantee quality work. An advanced degree isn’t a tonic against laziness or incompetence; in some cases, it’s actually a smokescreen for such undesirable characteristics. But, by and large, you want to have subject-matter experts playing on your team. If the candidates with the best resumes consistently slip through your fingers, there’s probably a good reason. When those candidates wind up at the competition, your whole company suffers. If you don’t address the issue quickly, you could develop a reputation as a second-rate employer — one that’s formidably difficult to shake in competitive industries.

3. Evaluate Resilience & Flexibility

Strong workforces are flexible and resilient. They’re able to adapt to new information, unforeseen challenges, and sudden shifts in the state of play. They’re steady in crisis situations, no matter how much happens at once or how little control they feel like (or actually do) have.

The best way to evaluate these attributes is to observe your workforce at crunch time. Do they stay cool and calm, or do they panic?

4. Look at Inflows and Outflows

One of the many measures money managers use to gauge fund performance is known as net inflow/outflow. When a fund’s capitalization grows, it experiences a net inflow. When its capitalization shrinks (as investors request their money back), it experiences a net outflow. You can probably guess which is bad.

Employees aren’t literally made of money, but their net movement — and the frequency with which they apply for open positions — is a good proxy for public perception. As your company’s stock rises, talented candidates flock to your HR department and existing employees stick around, producing a net inflow of talent. As your company’s stock falls, talented candidates look elsewhere, and existing employees start updating their resumes. Beware the net talent outflow.

5. Listen to the Chatter

Who said gossip is unhealthy? Painful as it may be, one of the best ways to gauge the strength of your workforce — and determining how your company is really perceived outside the cozy bubble of your executive suite — is to pay close attention to current and former employees’ off-the-cuff comments. Mind you, it’s not healthy to obsess over such things. But it’s not a bad idea to spend an hour or two per week with your ear to the ground on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed and the like.

Alright — you’ve assessed your workforce and can bravely admit where it falls short. What can you do about it? To start, these three things.

1. Identify and Support Rockstars

It’s not clear whether the 80/20 rule applies to workforce dynamics. It’s probably unrealistic to expect 20% of your employees to account for 80% of your company’s value-add. But that doesn’t mean your rockstars don’t do more than their fair share. Always be on the lookout for talented, loyal employees who clearly want to grow with your company — and always be willing to give them what they need to succeed.

2. Always Be Hiring...

...even if you don’t have any open positions at the moment. There’s no harm in taking applications — at the very least, an open-door policy expands your talent network and keeps your company on talented candidates’ collective front burner.

3. Go Beyond the Paycheck

To attract and retain truly talented, game-changing employees, it’s not enough to simply outbid your competitors’ salary offers. Though in-demand employees care about that bottom line number, they know they’re going to get paid well anywhere at the end of the day. No — they’re more concerned with solid benefits, workplace flexibility, and work-life benefits that leave them feeling like they control their own destiny.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

These 4 Things Explain China’s Rise (And What Happens Next)

By Scott Vollero

If you’ve been paying attention to world news at all this year, you’ve likely heard a great deal — much of it unflattering — about China. For better or worse, the U.S. presidential campaign has further heightened the rhetoric and sharpened the American public’s focus on the Middle Kingdom.

On the one hand, longtime China scholars and international businesspeople appreciate the increase in attention. There’s a lot to unpack about (and learn from) the U.S.-China relationship, and the process works better when the public is fully informed and engaged.

On the other hand, an increase in attention means a potential increase in misinformation. No matter their relationship to the Middle Kingdom, it’s important for members of the general American public to have a clear, fact-based understanding of Chinese culture, politics and business.

On that note, let’s take a closer look at what happened before China broke into the mainstream American discourse. These four things help explain China’s rise over the past several decades — and might offer some hints as to what’s next for the Middle Kingdom.

1. China’s Opening to the West

Ever heard the phrase, “Nixon goes to China”? Those four little words more or less kicked off the modern U.S.-China relationship.

For those of us too young to remember the early 1970s, it’s near-impossible to understand just how bold this move really was. Prior to Nixon’s first visit to China, in 1972, the U.S. and Chinese governments basically weren’t on speaking terms. In fact, communist China was a sworn enemy of the United States — firmly in the Soviet Union’s orbit, not ours.

Nixon’s visit didn’t change the state of play overnight, but it certainly laid the groundwork for a renewed trade relationship between the two countries. And it was one of the first true cracks in the so-called Iron Curtain of communism, even if China wasn’t officially part of the Soviet bloc.

2. The One-Child Policy

In 2015, China officially discontinued its one-child policy, ending a 35-year social experiment changed the country’s human fabric in profound ways. Instituted in the late 1970s, the one-child policy had an understandable, if controversial goal: to slow China’s then-explosive population growth, which was already straining the country’s meager resources.

The strictly enforced rule applied only to urban households, but its effects were pronounced and widespread: the Chinese fertility rate dropped from north of 6 per woman in the early 1970s to less than 2 by 1980, and remained nearly steady thereafter.

So far, so good, right? Not exactly. Rural fertility remained elevated, creating increasingly overcrowded conditions in the underdeveloped Chinese hinterland and laying the groundwork for the largest, fastest human migration in history.

What’s more, traditional Chinese families — even urban families bound by the one-child policy — retained a strong cultural preference for boys. That led to the abandonment of tens of millions of female children, creating a massive gender imbalance — more than 30 million more men than women, according to reliable estimates. These men found gainful employment (and willing employers) in China’s booming coastal manufacturing cities. However, many of them are now looking for wives; some are bound to be disappointed, and it’s not quite clear what that means for China’s social stability going forward. In the years to come, millions of Chinese men will likely look for new opportunities outside China’s borders.

3. The Great Migration

When China opened to the West, it gained access to millions of well-off consumers with near-insatiable appetites for cheap consumer goods — and its state-driven economy was all too happy to oblige.

As factories sprung up in the port cities and railroad towns of China’s densely populated eastern third, impoverished rural men and women flocked to their shadows, eager to earn living wages for the first time in their lives. This massive population shift — involving hundreds of millions of people in all — is often referred to as the Great Migration. It’s the single biggest reason China became known as the “workshop of the world” during the 1990s and 2000s, and the country’s coming turn toward consumer-driven economics wouldn’t be possible without it.

4. Rising Wages

In the West, China’s rapidly rising wage floor hasn’t gotten much press. Rising wages are undoubtedly a good thing for struggling Chinese families, but they also make it more difficult for international entrepreneurs to find value in the Middle Kingdom. They’re one of the many reasons low-cost production is shifting to cheaper Southeast Asian nations, such as Vietnam — a worrying trend for Chinese policymakers worried that the shift to a consumer economy won’t happen quickly enough to forestall political blowback among rank-and-file Chinese.

What’s Next for China?

Anyone who tells you they have an easy answer to this question is stringing you along. China is a huge, complicated country. It’s tough to figure out what’s happening on the ground in China in the best of times, even if you’re based there and travel extensively throughout the country.

One thing that’s abundantly clear, though, is that China is in the midst of a potentially momentous turn. In the space of a single generation, it’s poised to transform from a predominantly agricultural and industrial economy into one driven by a mix of consumption and services. In short, it’s about to become a lot more like the developed nations its leaders have long viewed with a mixture of skepticism and envy.

This is a tough transition to make. Other countries, including the United States and most E.U. nations, have navigated it more or less successfully in the past. However, as the old caveat goes, the past is not necessarily prologue. A lot could go wrong, at least in the short term.

Does that mean we need to worry about China’s place on the world stage? Hardly. The Middle Kingdom has been around for thousands of years, and it’s sure to stay relevant for a few more.