Blog, Business

Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Consistent Fitness Routine

This blog post originally appeared on Paul Saunders’ website.

In entrepreneurship, many personal habits often fall by the wayside to open up one’s schedule to accommodate work-related events. More often than not, such sacrifices are made on a rather extreme scale, with some industry leaders foregoing sleeping in their own homes and at normal times to ensure their business remains on track.

When one chooses to care for a company over their own bodies, it is not hard to imagine how quickly their health declines. Stress levels rise, balanced diets become a thing of the past, and their overall quality of life falls at a striking pace. Therefore, it is imperative all entrepreneurs create healthy habits at the onset of their business venture and strive to keep them a priority throughout the years.

To elaborate, let us examine the benefits of maintaining a consistent fitness routine, regardless of one’s work-related responsibilities.

Improved cognitive abilities

When one exercises regularly, they will experience more mental clarity and sharpness, as such activity aids the brain in creating new brain cells and neural pathways. Furthermore, their ability to make decisions effectively and efficiently will improve as well, giving them the potential to further control their other mental functions to work together more cohesively.

Lowered risk of lifestyle diseases

Due to poor dietary habits, a general lack of discipline, and the almost inescapable stress of today’s business landscape, cardiovascular disease and diabetes run rampant amongst entrepreneurs and full-time employees alike, regardless of their age.

Additionally, such diseases are at an all-time high in several regions of the world, and are only projected to worsen if a widespread change is not made soon. Therefore, implementing a regular fitness routine will mitigate the risk of developing such disorders.

Improved confidence

No matter one’s industry or specialty, confidence is an important trait to posses. After all, entrepreneurs are expected to convince others of the value and necessity of the products and/or services their company provides.

Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the simplest methods of attaining that confidence and posture that attracts prospective clients and investors. Plus, possessing an improved physical appearance could provide opportunities to appear at events, such as speaking engagements and conferences, and speak of the work their business is doing.

All in all, investing more time and effort into one’s well-being wields a myriad of benefits, both long- and short-term. Perhaps now would be as good a time as ever to contemplate your own fitness journey, and how taking a truly dedicated approach to your health could improve not only your personal life, but your business opportunities as well.

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Blog, Business

Some Priorities for Young Entrepreneurs

This blog post originally appeared on Paul Saunders’ website.

As entrepreneurship and independence become all the more valued in our society, we are seeing a major shift in our workforce, hence the recent, rapid rise of the gig economy. By definition, this sort of working mentality emphasizes temporary positions that aid independent workers make ends meet. Such gigs are often contracted out by larger organizations and, if one’s cards are played right, can be quite lucrative.

However, it is imperative to note that the days of classic entrepreneurship are far from over. Per a recent BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, members of the millennial generation have been starting businesses at younger ages than their older counterparts, and this trend is not projected to slow any time soon. Millennials are more eager to apply all they learned in college and other positions to create their own success, and they are willing to take the risks necessary to achieve those goals.

As more and more of these young adults venture into the realm of entrepreneurship, it is important that they reevaluate their priorities every so often to ensure they align with the current state and scale of their business. With that in mind, let us examine some important priorities every young entrepreneur ought to hold.

Follow your own schedule

It is no secret that entrepreneurs are held to some outlandish standards that often force them to prioritize work over fulfilling their own basic needs, namely eating, sleeping, and maintaining personal hygiene. However, such habits will only propel them further down the road to burnout.

Therefore, it is imperative entrepreneurs follow their own schedule and ignore the entrepreneurial buzz that surrounds them. Just because Elon Musk gets the bare minimum of sleep — in one of his own manufacturing facilities, no less — does not mean you have to follow suit.

Be honest with others (and yourself)

As an entrepreneur, you may feel the need to shoulder your own burdens and avoid delegating tasks, as you do not want to let others see you sweat. However, maintaining such an attitude will thwart your long-term goals, rather than allowing them to thrive.

Therefore, it is imperative you be honest with yourself and those around you, and seek help when you are feeling stretched too thin. It may be difficult to admit at first, but once you find individuals you can trust with the smaller tasks, you discover just how much bandwidth you have to be creative and turn your ideas into reality.

Do not downgrade your goals

Once you are in the throes of overseeing and operating your business, you will likely wonder why you started this venture to begin with. When these moments arise, it is important to keep your long-term goals at the forefront of your mind and resist the temptation of lowering your own expectations. You began your business for a valid reason; stick to the path you have forged for yourself, regardless of how difficult it may be at times. You will certainly thank yourself for your dedication and perseverance.

Blog, Business

How to Prevent Burnout in Your Employees

There is no doubt that work can be stressful. Mix in the toll of one’s personal life and the risk of burnout is very real, and the impact even more so. Paying attention to the warning signs and taking action will make it easier to curb burnout and still allow for the motivation to make the necessary changes to get back on track.

With that in mind, let us highlight some effective ways you can help your employees if they are showing signs of burnout.

There is a loss of control

Individuals that start to lose control over aspects of scheduling and time management inevitably begin to feel helpless and hopeless, thus running the risk of major burnout. Therefore, it is important that employees do not have structures and policies that are inflexible, as such constrictions can make them feel trapped. Encourage employees to take 10-15 minutes every morning to outline the goals they would like to accomplish so they can regain a sense of control of their day.

There is a lack of transparency

When employees feel as if they are being overlooked for a promotion, are not being properly compensated for the work they are doing, or feel as if they are not getting the full story from upper management, they run a much higher risk of experiencing negative feelings and, ultimately, burnout. As a supervisor or manager, it is best to be open and honest with employees when communicating about decisions and giving reasonable explanations. Offering workshops and other resources to help employees cope could greatly curb burnout as well.

There is a shift in overall attitude

When employees are stressed, emotions can be difficult to control and it is easier for them to get angry or upset in a matter of moments. Burnout contributes to moodiness, negativity, and an overall lack of motivation. Talk to employees and offer support. Suggest taking up a new hobby and encourage disconnecting from work when out of the office.

There is a loss of confidence

When employees experience burnout, they often begin second-guessing themselves and the quality of their work. If an individual feels that they are not able to confidently do their job, they fully disengage and do not actively contribute to the task at hand. To mitigate such a situation, make a point to check in with your employees and help set a few reasonable personal goals to help regain their confidence. Also set small, achievable performance goals to help get them back on track.

Burnout has become a pervasive issue in Western societies, especially since the advent of mobile devices. Ensure you are doing all you can to set your employees up for long-term success. After all, their triumphs are also yours.

Paul Saunders is a founder and principal of James River Capital Corp. and its affiliated companies. In addition to those roles, Paul also serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of James River Captial Corp. and James River Financial Corp. To learn more about Paul Saunders and his professional pursuits, please be sure to visit his website.

Blog, Business

Simple Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

Contrary to popular belief, becoming an effective communicator is a skill set that is learned, not something embedded in a person’s DNA. While there are certain personalities that have easily obtained the qualities of astounding communication, there is no communication skill that cannot be learned through hard work and dedication.

With that in mind, let us review a few fundamental skills that will help improve one’s ability to effectively communicate and influence others as a leader.

Think outside of the box

To become an effective communicator, think creatively and do not immediately dismiss an idea because it seems outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes, the most inspiring ideas evolve upon reflection and adaptation. Therefore, smart leaders know they need to stretch their creative bounds to inspire and influence others.

Practice makes perfect

Organizing thoughts and ideas into a polished outline will not only keep them in order, but also allow for a more natural message conveyed in real-time — a trait that is especially imperative in large meetings and other professional gatherings.

Once one has completed this step, it is imperative they practice all they have put into place. Read each point of conversation aloud, as this will allow for the discovery of content that needs to be adjusted or re-worded. Rather than reading from a slideshow or stiffly reiterating lines on a sheet, the message will be confidently and naturally delivered to the audience.

Be an active listener

A speaker best communicates when they are actively listening, which ultimately allows for a more organic response and expands their understanding of the dialogue at the same time. Keep in mind that real communication involves an exchange between all parties involved, not just by one individual.

Engage in organic dialogue

Leaders that engage in organic and interactive dialogue will establish a trust and rapport that cannot be formed from an audience that is being talked at. When a speaker reads from a slide with little to no emotion, the experience is dull and most will not take anything away from the message. Engaging and connecting with the audience will convince them to show empathy and pay attention to the message.

Avoid using certain words

Using strong, effective words will contribute to better communication as a leader. There are words that should not be used often and some that should be avoided entirely. There are situations that are more cavalier, but profanity should be avoided.

Other slang words like “dude” and “guys” are informal and can come off as being immature. Words like “actually,” “but,” “assume,” and “fine” lead to a negative connotation immediately. Therefore, it is imperative you adapt your language accordingly, as co-workers and peers do not want to hear excuses or sugarcoating.

Finally, always be constructive, respectful, and positive when communicating with individuals inside and outside of the workplace. You may be surprised how small, seemingly meaningless changes will garner results.

Blog, Business

How to Create and Maintain Strong Mentor Relationships

This blog post originally appeared on Paul Saunders’ website.

Success is very rarely achieved alone. Instead, it is a product of multiple interrelated factors, such as support, advocacy, and receiving advice from the right people at the right time. More often than not, these above qualities are best found in mentors. Unfortunately, as more and more young professionals flood the workforce, the idea of finding a more experienced shoulder to lean on and glean insight from is quickly fading into the background.

However, we must shift our focus from encouraging these fresh faces from actively seeking mentors. Instead, we ought to encourage those with professional experience to step into such roles more freely, as they will not only be able to teach the next generation, but learn from them as well.

With that in mind, let us explore how one can effectively create and maintain strong mentor relationships.

Search your existing network

It is likely that you already work with, or at least know of, one or more young professionals in need of support. Therefore, the first step to becoming a mentor is getting to know each of these individuals. Take the time to discover their aspirations, goals, and learning styles. Once you have a better understanding of their long-term direction and goals, it will be much easier for you to engage with those you feel your expertise would benefit the most.

Be yourself

As a mentor, it is imperative you demonstrate every day that you are exactly who you say you are, rather than putting on airs and puffing up your previous experience to garner more awe and respect. This feat is achieved simply by being yourself. Behave, emote, dress, and speak exactly how you would normally. After all, authenticity and transparency are two key components to earning another’s trust.

Hold each other accountable

Sometimes, it is all too easy for these professional relationships to dissolve into average friendships. While this shift may be beneficial in interpersonal ways, it can seriously deter your ability to do more than simply pass advice back and forth.

Therefore, it is imperative you strive to maintain a strict balance between friendly banter and holding each other accountable for your actions and pursuit of professional development. Otherwise, your time and efforts leading up to this point may seem as though they served no purpose.

Clearly, there are plenty of stipulations to becoming a mentor, as it is not simply about forming a bond with another over work-related matters. Instead, mentorship provides a unique opportunity for mutual benefit and growth, meaning it ought to be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness.

Blog, Business

Mindfulness Exercises That Aid in Relieving Stress

This blog post originally appeared on Paul Saunders’ website.

In this day and age, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by one’s responsibilities at home and in the workplace. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that this phenomenon is rapidly sweeping the United States, with upwards of 75 percent of Americans reporting symptoms of chronic stress. Furthermore, approximately 45 percent of the same participants reported experiencing regular sleeplessness.

Thankfully, there are effective methods of mitigating the draining impacts of everyday life. However, it is imperative to note that such a feat is not achieved overnight. Instead, reducing one’s overall stress level is a long-term commitment that often requires further lifestyle adaptations, like exercising more often, adopting a healthier diet, and so on.

With that being said, let us explore some mindfulness exercises that can aid in relieving stress.

Focusing on breathing

When we begin to feel overwhelmed, our bodies release a number of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which trigger your natural “fight or flight” response. Once this switch has been flipped, our hearts begin to pound, our muscles tighten, and our breathing quickens considerably.

To effectively combat the body’s initial response to stress, it is best to focus on controlling your breathing. This can be achieved by removing yourself from your stressors, closing your eyes, and making a concentrated effort to take deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Regaining control over your breathing will subsequently regulate your heart rate and reduce your body’s production of adrenaline and cortisol.

Practicing acceptance

As difficult as it may be to admit, our circumstances are not always under our control. Sometimes, traffic will make us late for work at the most inopportune times; babysitters will cancel and ruin our plans; and we will fall ill before a big deadline or event. However, there is little more we can do than accept the situation and our feelings toward it. Otherwise, we will cause ourselves to become unnecessarily angry and stressed.

Now, this is not to say that you should become complacent and simply accept every negative incident that comes your way. After all, you do have the power to alter situations that you do not like. However, in times of heavy traffic or altered plans, it is imperative we choose our battles and prioritize our personal wellbeing over a simple emotional outburst.

It is entirely possible, if not feasible, to take the reins and steer yourself toward a more stress-free life. However, accomplishing this goal requires patience, persistence, and the understanding you will fail from time to time. After all, you are only human, but showing yourself a level of gentleness and grace will only improve your mindset over time.

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The Benefits of Allowing Pets in the Workplace

This blog post originally appeared on Paul Saunders’ website.

Bringing pets into the workplace is becoming an increasingly popular trend, forged by the likes of Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, and Google. Now there are nearly 180 companies following suit in New York City alone.

However, it is important to note that introducing employees’ beloved furry friends to the office is not just some ploy companies are using to attract the newest members of the workforce. Instead, this tactic has been proven to garner positive results on personal and corporate levels, from improving employee morale to decreasing overall turnover.

With that in mind, let us explore the benefits of allowing pets in the workplace.

Pets improve the company’s image

Allowing employees to bring in their pets not only improves their perception of the company but can make a positive impact on customers and prospective hires as well. This is especially true if clients physically visit the business, as the opportunity to interact with an employee’s pet enables them to relax and thoroughly enjoy their time at the establishment.

Pets alleviate stress

It is no secret that employees endure elevated stress levels throughout the standard work week. However, bringing one’s pet to the office can allow them to feel more comfortable and optimistic, regardless of the tense situations they may encounter.

Furthermore, a 2012 study by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employees who brought their pets to work had decreased levels of hormonal stress, especially when compared to those who did not bring any pets at all. In fact, those individuals showed steadily increasing levels of hormonal stress until the end of the workday.

Pets increase employee performance

Those who work in pet-friendly environments have been shown to work longer hours, as they no longer have to worry about rushing out of the office to care for their pets at the end of the day. Furthermore, these employees also have fewer absences, likely because they do not have to stay home to tend to their pets when they are sick.

Pets promote positive interactions

As previously mentioned, a pet-friendly workplace improves employees’ morale and decreases stress. Additionally, pets act as a common point of interest, thus creating social opportunities for employees who would otherwise not speak to one another. In the long run, these increased social interactions could aid leaders in fostering an environment of teamwork, collaboration, and communication.

This tactic certainly is not for everyone. However, there are some outstanding benefits to bringing pets into the workplace. Perhaps it is time you consider affording your employees this privilege, as it could boost not only their personal performance but your company’s performance as well.