The Counterproductive Office Life

The Counterproductive Office Life

In our modern-day office life where we “work to live” instead of “live to work”, one could say it is remarkable how little has been done to design a work culture that actually benefits productivity and the quality of work. After all, working eight hours a day behind the same desk, surrounded by the same people who call pointless meetings for the same reasons they did last week, is still a harsh reality for many. Similarly, people will still raise their eyebrows when one of their colleagues leaves early, although they can’t possibly have the slightest idea about the quality or amount of work the early-leaver performed that day. This implies that the average office still holds the general consensus that the hours spent on work correlate with how hard one works. But isn’t that a little superficial? Isn’t it time to realize that the people who stay in the office the longest might not spend all that time on work because the human brain is simply not capable of being concentrated for eight hours straight? Isn’t it time to realize that some people work a whole lot faster and get done twice as much in an hour than their eyebrow-raising colleague? Isn’t it time to realize that it is quality and not quantity of work that brings money to the table and makes the world go round?

"If you are interested in boosting productivity at work, it might be useful to design a work culture that stimulates people to get into the flow or the zone.”

The 8-hour working day dates back to 19th century socialism, when the industrial revolution resulted in organizations letting children and adults alike perform hard work without any upper limit of daily hours worked. Unions fought extremely hard to eventually establish the 40-hour-work week as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. As you might have noticed, it is 2020 today and we have seen our fair share of change along the way. A war here and there, some questionable world rulers, the internet, smart phones, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Trump’s hair (oh wait, that remained the same). The point I am trying to make, is that the world has changed and so have its people. Our mindsets, values and working preferences are fundamentally different than they were once we were working our asses off in cole mines in the 19th century. Back then, the 40-hour-work week made sense and came as a relief; as a form protection. 200 years later, the 40-hour-work week doesn’t make sense and feels like a trap; as a form of attack to our precious lives, with which we could do so much more. 

Naturally, there is more people questioning modern-day office life. Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that heuristic work requires people to get into the physiological state of flow a.k.a. “the zone”. This refers to being fully concentrated and committed to an activity. In fact, people are up to 500% (!!!)  more productive when they are in “the zone”, according to a 10-year McKinsey study. So, if you are interested in boosting productivity at work, it might be useful to design a work culture that stimulates people to get into the flow or “the zone”. Funnily enough, the theory is in sharp contrast with what is considered normal on the floor. Hour long meetings by default, colleagues that come by unannounced to “pick your brain”,  Hour long meetings by default, colleagues that come by unannounced to “pick your brain”, overflowing inboxes and continually switching between tasks  are all flow killers. 

 

To illustrate, Adobe research revealed that, on average, people spend six hours a day on email, checking it 74 times and touching their smartphones 2,617 times daily. (I bet workers did not get Gmail notifications in those cozy cole mines.) Consequently, you might find yourself sitting at your desk at 5pm being extremely surprised with how little you actually got done, while raising your eyebrows when you see Matthew from Finance leaving the office. The result? Frustration, misunderstandings and perhaps a few all-nighters. 

So, what do we do about it? I mean, we can’t possibly have legs to sit on an adjustable office chair all day and acquiring a couple of standing desks is not going to solve the problem. Changing our counterproductive habits requires a more rigorous approach. It demands a shift in the way we think about work, about management, perhaps even about trust. And thank God, there are countermovements. For instance, experiments with the six-hour-workday have shown promising results. It has led to people becoming better at prioritizing, being more rested, more emotionally stable (due to more time with friends or family), but above all it has boosted productivity. Other movements involve companies letting their employees work remotely, as they understand that an office environment might not be the best place to get into the desired flow. But also the rise of freelancers show that (young) people are taking matters into their own hands. In fact, the number of freelancers in the EU has doubled over the last decade, which is not surprising considering that Generation Y and Z highly value freedom, flexibility and feeling alive. After all, the dream of being a digital nomad appeals to us more than having a station wagon. Fifty years ago, that would probably have raised eyebrows. 

How do you deal with the shift in working preferences? We’d be happy to exchange ideas.

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

6 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

6 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

"Engaged customers account for 23% more revenue than “normal” customers."

Whether the customer is king, is something that can be questioned. What can not be questioned, however, is that customer engagement should be on top of your 2020 agenda. Customer engagement is generally defined as the emotional connection between the customer and the company. And, although that might sound vague and dreamy, customer engagement is actually rather important. Engaged customers buy more, promote your product or service and drive loyalty. So much so, that engaged customers account for 23% more revenue than “normal” customers, according to recent Gallup research. Yes, that means that you are missing out if you are used to taking customer engagement with a grain of salt. Luckily, we are here to help and put together several ideas that will help turning your customers into engaged ones in an instant.

1. Start Analyzing the Customer Journey
What better way to know what your customers are going through, than having a clear, well-laid out customer journey? So, get into the shoes of your customers, take their journey and critically take note of every touchpoint. Do your newsletters add value or have they become a monthly, spam-generating habit? Do you respond to reviews? And are you doing that well? Are you actively following up on e-mails? Is your staff friendly and professional enough? Every touchpoint represents an opportunity to get closer to your customer, you might just as well make use of that.
 
2. Deliver a Consistent Omnichannel Experience
Having analyzed your customer journey once more, it probably becomes apparent that you are using numerous channels to interact with you customers. Physical locations, websites, e-mails, blogs, phone calls, social media, you name it, it is important that, regardless of the channel, the experience is consistent and seamless at all times. This might sound straightforward, but very few companies actually get this right in practise.

3.Get Witty on Social Media (But Not in Excess)Social media provide endless opportunities for interacting with your customers. Make sure your content is in line with your brand, that you actively ask for customer input and respond to this accordingly. Doing so in a sassy way is fun and will probably be appreciated. But, don’t cross the line; that will do more harm than good. Below is an excellent example of how Razer went a little too far when it attempted to put Apple in bad daylight when the 2016 Macbook Pro was released without an SD drive. An expensive joke. 

4. Be Prompt in Your Communication
People in the 21st century are impatient. I mean, aren’t you? 42% of customer reaching out to a company through their socials expect a return within 60 minutes. A delayed response is almost as bad as no response. If you are unable to attend to your customers’ needs within those 60 minutes, at least make sure they get an update stating when you will take care of them. People expect to be told what to expect.

5.Don’t Be Pushy
Customer engagement should be a natural flow of interaction between company and customer. This means that customers should not be forced into it. The company creates the opportunities and offers its services, but it is up to the customers to respond to this and actually make use of those services when he or she feels the need for it.

6. Monitor Your Reputation Score
Reputation scores are becoming more and more important determinants for customers to consider your brand and to even find you. Guess what? Most reputation scores are largely driven by customer engagement. Therefore, make sure that you aware of the kind of reputation scores that apply to you and how they affect your business accordingly. 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

7 Things to Keep in Mind About a Potential Exit

7 Things to Keep in Mind About a Potential Exit

Let’s start with a classic: how do you recognize a VC in a room full of people? It is the guy who is always looking towards the exit. As you might know, investors live by exits, while many founders are fantasizing about unicorinization and only start thinking about an exit when it is actually too late. As a result, founders often leave money on the table. Thus, it is safe to say, that having a solid exit plan in underrated. So, upon starting a business, there are two fundamental questions that any founder should keep in mind: how are you going to get your money out of the business? And how much money are you going to get? Along the way, there are several things to keep in mind. That is where we come in…

1. Plan for Multiple Options
Of course you don’t need to have an entire exit strategy laid out in detail as of day one of your operations. However, it is important to think about the general exit possibilities from the very start. That is, founders need to make sure that they create options. Acquisition is most likely, but there are other options such as IPO, RTO, SBO, LBO, Equity Crowdfunding and even ICO.

2. Handling an Acquisition
Startups should be bought, not sold. In other words, the time to exit is not when money is short, it is when most money can be made. So the question that derives is: how to get bought? Techcrunch identified that the main reasons for a company to buy you, are characterized by talent hire, a product gap, being a revenue driver, being a strategic threat or a defensive move. Something to keep in mind.

3. Develop a Proper Understanding of the Market
That is, develop goodwill and relationships with VCs. When the time is ripe, this will help promote your deal and until then it will allow you to get a feel of their corporate strategy. As such, make sure you read the big guys’ earning calls. So in a way, you pick your buyer and frame your company in such a way, that it will match what they are looking for. if, at one point in time, you know they have to buy you, you are in a good place for negotiations. 

4. Build a Proper Board/Advisory Team
Learning from your mistakes is great, but learning from someone else’s mistakes is even better.

Having a reliable board of directors might come in extremely handy when navigating the complex road towards a successful exit strategy.

5. Manage Stakeholders
Make sure that the different stakeholders’ goals and expectations are aligned. A team in which everyone is on the same page has proven to be much more efficient and effective than a team consisting of individuals aiming for different goals. Naturally, managing those goals can translate into difficult conversations, however, they can’t possibly be as difficult as the conversation during a potential exit when those differences finally come to the surface. 

6. Be Aware of Dilution
According to the Capshare blog, dilution is “the loss of value of existing shares due new equity terms.” Put simply, if investors are added, stock is distributed or funds are raised, the stake held by each owner ‘dilutes’ according to the company’s value. As such, dilution is very normal to occur for startups, but it is important to be aware of it so that you can anticipate how it might impact your different exit options.

7. Build a Successful Company
Being aware of available opportunities and proactive business activities, support a startup in making it more attractive for acquisition. Don’t get distracted from making your baby flourish; above all, you will need to build a successful company. If you do, they will come. The trick is to be fully prepared when they do.

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

10 Online Tools for Startups to Use in 2020

Running a startup is not easy. Convincing investors, managing a team, arranging proper lunch – all examples of activities that take up more time than you generally have. As such, staying on top of everything is hard. Thank God there are other startups out there that offer great tools that will make startup life more bearable. We put together a list of 10 essential tools that will make 2020 more efficient, organized and fun.

1.Slack
Where would we be without our good old friend Slack? Slack probably is the most popular communication tool among teams. Although you might have been using it for a good while, chances are you are unaware of some of its awesome features. For instance, did you know you can message yourself, to avoid that you forget things? Or, if your team is really into GIFs, try out the /collapse command to only see the important messages. Also, if you and your team are in need of a break, try one of Slack’s super fun games, such as Gamemonk, in which you have to come up with as many examples of a certain category in just 60 seconds.

2. Trello
Are you the messy type? Then Trello is what you need. This project management tool creates a board filled with cards. To every card you can add comments, upload files, create checklists, you get the idea. Is you have a lot on your plate, Trello will support in keeping a good overview on your different projects. 

3. Invision
This prototyping tool created by designers offers great opportunities for, surprise, designers. But it does more than that, actually. Invision also offers a central place for your design projects, so that it will be easy to keep track of them and to create a mockup that can in turn be shared with clients or team members. The fact that big names such as Airbnb, Salesforce and Netflix actively use Invision, only demonstrates its potential. 

4. Gust
Gust supports startups in connecting to the startup ecosystem, by helping them getting their hands on and managing money. As such, they offer access to startup accelerators, help in the application process of raising funds from angel investors and they offer equity management support. As you probably experienced first hand, fundraising is not the most fun part of managing a startup. So having a tool like Gust might not be a bad idea. 

5. Momentum
Momentum is an app designed to replace your homepage and it kind of functions as the friend you need when you are feeling lost and lonely. Momentum greets you by name, with inspiring pictures and quotes. 

It informs you about the weather and allows you to add your to do’s to your homepage. All in all, it eliminates distractions and provides your with focus and positivity. 

6. Sidekick
Ever wondered why that person you sent that assertive e-mail to is not responding? Get to know Sidekick. This e-mail add-on allows you to see whether people have opened the e-mails you sent them, how many times they did so and from where. As such, it can also be extremely powerful for seeing how effective your marketing campaign or newsletters are.  

7. 99 Designs
If you are in the early phases of your startup and you are looking for a great logo or landing page, look no further. 99 Designs makes the process more fun and professional than ever. You will be asked to fill out a design brief, you pay for a package and then the best part is set in motion: you launch a design contest. Wait what? Yes, a design contest. Designers from all over the world can participate in this contest, competing for the winning design, which will be picked by you. 

8. Typeform
Doing market research and having problems getting responses? Try out Typeform. This free tool turns boring surveys into beautiful ones, which are a lot harder to ignore by your potential respondents. As such, without any extra effort, Typeform supports you in creating awesome, mobile-friendly surveys that can unlock valuable feedback.

9. 7-Minute Workout
Short of time but in need of inspiration? You probably can free up 7 minutes right before lunch. 7-minute workout is an app that stimulates you to stay fit and focused, by offering 12 exercises of 30 seconds with 10 breaks. You don’t need any fancy props, a chair and wall will do. 

10. Due
Oh, how much fun it can be to chase after payments! Luckily there’s Due. This app lets you keep track of who owes you what, when it is due and therewith provides a very clear financial overview. Additional features include the option to set up recurring invoices, accept credit card payments and customize invoices. 

Which tools are your favorites? We’d love to discover them! 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]



A Startup Guide to New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Actually Live Up to Them)

A Startup Guide to New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Actually Live Up to Them)

First and foremost, we wish all of our partners and clients a very happy, healthy and successful 2020.  We did not only enter a new year, we entered a brand new decennium. While “normal” people are all together purchasing gym subscriptions, switching to vegan diets and working behind standing desks because sitting is the new smoking, us entrepreneurs should take a moment to reflect and look forward too. After all, establishing proper goals can be crucial for long-term, entrepreneurial success. The largest problem with New Year’s resolutions, however, is that 80% of them fail by February already, according to U.S. News. Time to turn that around. We put together some ideas to consider when preparing your 2020 resolutions in a successful manner.

1.Reflect on Last Year’s Resolutions
Chances are you have a document with 2019’s resolutions or goals in some lost corner of your Google Drive, which was last edited in January 2019. Take a moment to go through this document. Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve? If not, what went wrong? Critically look at how the goals were formulated and adjust if necessary. It might be an idea to alter them according to the classic SMART principle. Meaning that a goal you put on paper should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. 

2. The Eternal Power of Feedback
Remember that tacky saying that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? Actively ask and listen to feedback as part of the reflection process. Your coworkers and partners probably know a lot more about you and your working style than you initially suspect, and therewith represent a valuable source of insights on how to improve. Stay open, calm and analytical.

3. Communication Remains Key
You are probably aware that communication plays a crucial role in any organization, also in your startup. In almost all cases, it can be improved in one way or another. Generally speaking, there are four types of communication to be distinguished, being verbal, non-verbal, written and visual (videos, charts, website, content etc.). For all four categories, be clear and concise. Sharing your thoughts, intentions and plans efficiently and effectively with others, is a fundamental part of growing your business, attracting new talent and clients and enabling innovation.

4. Get Active in the Community
Amsterdam’s startup community is flourishing. There are tons of relevant events which you could not only sign up to, but actually attend.

Spread your knowledge, learn something new and grow your network. Talk to the people in your co-working space, go to entrepreneurial speed dating breakfasts and pay it forward. The reason the Amsterdam startup ecosystem is so strong, is because of its entrepreneurial spirits that keep it alive. Contributing to that might be extremely rewarding.

5. Get Active in the Office
Remember we dedicated a blogpost to staying healthy in the office? You might want to read it again if you are looking to lose those extra Christmas pounds. In a nutshell, consider introducing walking meetings, ditching the elevator for the stairs, BYOL (bring your own lunch), drinking your cappuccino sugarless and drinking lots of water.

6. Think About the Exit
Although there is plenty of advice to be found about getting started (thik lean startup) and unlocking growth, thinking about potential exits should not be underrated either. From day one you should have an idea of what your options are, so that you won’t confuse an offer your can’t refuse with one where money is being left on the table. We will dedicate an article about exit strategies in the near future to help you out with this one.

7. Spend Less Time in the Office
When was the last time you took a holiday or simply time to relax? Although it is very easy to spend 60 hours a week behind your desk on making your business thrive, it is not always the most effective way. In order to guarantee that you will be able to keep up with business, it is essential to create a healthy work-life balance. To illustrate, research has shown time and again that the six-hour workday boosts productivity and is beneficial for relationships between team members. Quality over quantity.

What characterizes your 2020 resolutions?

About Amstel Lab

Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]