Top 5 Books for Business Success

Hi everyone,

Today I wanted to talk about a key element of success — reading. It’s no surprise that reading is a common denominator amongst many of the biggest names in business, and almost all entrepreneurs have a book or two they accredit to changing their lives and shaping their careers.

Warren Buffet credits his business philosophy to “The Intelligent Investor,” by Benjamin Grahman; Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy changed Elon Musk’s life — and boy, did it! Sometimes it’s not a business book that gives you your “Eureka! Moments,” but nevertheless, it’s important to be constantly consuming new content to stay sharp and creative if you want to succeed. Bill Gates takes up 50 books a year, Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day, Mark Zuckerberg challenged himself to read a book every other week and Jeff Bezos is also an avid reader.

With that, I thought I would share some solid recommendations for you to check out:

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

It is a common book suggested by business leaders, but it has such fundamental lessons that I would be remiss if I did not mention it. This 6th century BC book is still used for military strategy today and has direct translations for business strategy and management. Based on Chinese warfare and military thought by the legendary general Sun Tzu, this book can be used to gain advantage of opponents in negotiation, understand office politics and foster a sustainable and positive corporate culture.

Check out some of these quotes to get an idea of its timeless insights:

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Some strategies don’t change within 25,000 years. This is a must read.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M Christensen

There’s nothing better than using your predecessors to guide your own success. There’s a reason why Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This book offers the success and failure stories of the world’s biggest firms and creates a guide for capitalizing on innovation. It encourages you to strategically think about the best times to take big jumps in your business — especially as it pertains to technology. It also covers situations when demand might not meet your innovations, which could destroy the business you already have.

This book is a great guide for when you come up with your next big disruptive innovation idea.

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

This book is championed by business schools around the country and illustrates a simple strategy that revolutionizes how people think about how to beat competitors.

A good takeaway from this book: avoid the cutthroat competition of going to a business market (or a bloody “red” ocean) and instead look for bluer waters, where you can swim to success unbothered. Sometimes it is much easier to become top in your field by finding your own niche than by trying to directly compete against more established enterprises that already own their respective markets.

Check out the full read for more insights into this idea.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic book is perhaps the most well-known from Carnegie, and for good reason.

It gives practical tips for establishing relationships in business and in your personal life as well. Relationships are the foundation for success in many ways, so learning skills that allow you to cultivate meaningful and impactful connections with those around you is something that pays for itself many times over.

This book shows you how simple it really is to do — although getting yourself to follow them is a different challenge.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

All of the habits that Covey suggests in this book seem simple — but they have a profound impact.

The one I want to stress the most is the habit of continuous improvement that Covey calls “sharpening the sword.” Covey stresses that through meaningful progress and growth, you will propel yourself along a path of personal freedom and success. One of the main things you can do to “sharpen the sword” is read! So by reading Convey’s book, you will be already starting to develop one of those highly effective habits.

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In business, the best way to be on top of the competition is to diversify your perspective, reimagine solutions to our world’s biggest issues and do things that spark your creativity. Reading the worthwhile thoughts of great thinkers is one of the best ways to do just that.

So while we are still stuck at home for the time being (although it is exciting that we are slowly opening up in Kansas City!), I suggest you spend some time reading.

This lists is a great place to start and will help give structure to your thoughts and your business ideology, but business ideas can come from anywhere. Start with whatever you have on your shelves, and who knows, you might think of your next big venture or inspiring idea.

Until next time,

~ Michael Gortenburg, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri.

How to be Productive Working from Home

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all are continuing to stay safe and healthy.

Here in Kansas City, businesses and retailers are starting to reopen as the city eases its coronavirus restrictions, but like many of you I am not rushing to return to a shared office space just yet.

Working from home is great for reducing your daily commute and is obviously ideal in terms of practicing proper social distancing, but it can also be challenging to remain focused and connected to your work when the lines between your personal home life and your work life are so blurred.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a few tips with you that help me maintain my focus and more importantly my mental health while navigating these new workplace dynamics.

Set up a Designated Workspace

Whether you have a home office or not, make sure you have a space in your house where you can spread out and concentrate without disturbing other members of your family or letting them disturb you. Going to this same space everyday ensures that your mind will associate this space with work and not the personal tasks that are so temptingly close.

Dress Up (Sort Of)

As much as most of us are living in sweatpants right now, it’s still important to maintain some aspects of your morning routine to get you in the work mindset. No need to commit to putting on a suit or heels, but at least change out of your pajamas, brush your teeth, and go through any other steps to make you feel ready and awake for the day.

Take Breaks

Part of being productive is learning to step away from work to refocus when you’re in a funk and can’t seem to be making any progress. Get away from your screen and take a walk outside, talk to a friend or family member, or even do some spring cleaning. When you return to your desk with a refreshed attitude, you’ll be more prepared to maximize the time you do have to work.

Stay Connected with your Coworkers

When working from home, it’s easy to feel isolated or disconnected from your office. Make sure you’re utilizing instant messaging and videoconferencing tools to stay connected to coworkers both for your own personal health and the greater health of the company.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone if you feel that you aren’t being heard – sometimes words can be misinterpreted over text. And remember to share the occasional funny email with coworkers to lighten the mood.

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There are plenty of other strategies for maximizing your time when working from home, but these are a few that I have found to be the most helpful for me. Ultimately, I would suggest using trial and error to figure out what functions best for you, since every person works differently.

I would also love to hear from you about how you work best from home. Out of the box strategies are especially encouraged.

Please continue to make smart decisions both for your own health and the health of others. I know it is difficult to picture a life after the pandemic right now, but I am confident that together we can carry each other through this difficult period.

Talk Soon,

~ Michael Gortenburg, CEO and Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri.

Interesting Features at CES 2020

Hey everybody, Michael Gortenburg here.

I just got back to Kansas City after attending the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). For those who might not know, CES is an annual tradeshow that features the latest consumer technologies making their introduction into the consumer market, from wearable technologies to smart house devices.

The show attracts some of the most brilliant minds in technology and innovation from all over the world, and this year certainly did not disappoint. While I cannot begin to cover all of the exciting features that were present, I thought I would share just a few highlights from the show.

Quasar System

Through my work at Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, I always keep a steady eye on the real estate industry and try to keep up with any technologies that can improve or add value to homes. This is one of the reasons that Wallbox’s Quasar System was a standout item this year.

The system is used in conjunction with power stations for electronic cars and allows users to convert the energy that would otherwise go toward their vehicle into powering their home. The Quasar System is built to “plug in” to a home’s electrical network and transfer energy into running everyday things like lights, air-conditioning, etc.

Not only is the engineering aspect of this system a marvel, it even allows the user to SELL the excess source of power back to the grid. Needless to say, this is an exciting idea for homeowners and property managers alike, and it will be very interesting to see how this technology develops in the years to come.

Hydraloop

Hydraloop was another addition that definitely impressed me. The Hydraloop is an automated water recycling device that has the ability to cleanly recycle water throughout a property.

It’s about the size of large freezer and is installed into the water system. Once installed, the system uses a series of brilliant engineering methods to treat and re-use water throughout the house – conserving a substantial amount of water and saving the owner money on their bill (after an initial investment of around $4,000). Another great aspect of this device is that it is largely self-automated and requires very little maintenance. The designers wanted to create a product that homeowners would actually want to use and know how to operate with ease. There is even an app that the user can download to gauge performance.

These devices are currently being used in places around the world where water conservation is a serious issue, but as we all look toward solutions for sustainable living, there’s a safe bet that this type of technology will expand greatly in the U.S. market.

Ballie – the Smart Home Robot

When robotic vacuum cleaners came out years ago, it was easy to see that domestic robot devices were going to be huge – and we are witnessing the expansion of this technology with the introduction of products like Ballie.

Created by Samsung, Ballie is a cross between a nifty pet and a tool for managing a house based on your lifestyle. It’s a ball-shaped robot that can fit into the palm of your hand, but you won’t have to carry it around. Ballie is equipped with a camera and uses advanced AI programming to roll around the property, where it begins to recognize and learn your behaviors to help you fulfill basic tasks around the house.

It’s designed to work with other smart devices from the Samsung line such as vacuum robots, smart TVs, smart windows and more. Once Ballie has gathered enough information about its owner, it will respond to commands and use its AI programming to help you with daily tasks. For example, if Ballie notices that it’s time to clean the house – it will send a notification to the vacuum robot to automatically start working. Ballie is even designed for home protection, as it can detect unusual activity around your property and send notifications, pictures and videos to your phone.

This is a really exciting area for smart devices and robotics. Unfortunately, the concept is still under design and Samsung hasn’t released details for when it will be released or how much it will cost; however, it is certainly worth keeping an eye out for its debut.

Sony Vision-S

As you know, I am a car enthusiast. As such, I was surprised to see Sony introduce their take on electric cars. The Vision-S was a big item at this year’s show, and for good reason.

To start, the car simply looks great. Designed in a sporty/sleek fashion, the car comes equipped with 5G WIFI capabilities and replaces the dashboard with a wall of panels that can be used for things like navigation apps, music control, climate information and more. It also comes with 33 sensors in total that help drivers navigate the road in a safe manner and promises to improve driving performance.

Consumer Technologies at Their Best

These are just a handful of the amazing products and concepts that I saw this year at CES 2020. If you’re interested in consumer technologies or if you’re just curious to see where the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers are heading – I would encourage you to do a little research on the full lineup from the show.

I can’t wait for these products to hit the market and to see how they perform in day-to-day use. Not only are these developments in tech great investment opportunities, but a large portion of them stand to change the way we live our lives for the better.

Until next time,

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

The Value of Teamwork in Business

One thing I’ve learned over the course of my life and as a Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) is that the business world can be highly competitive. Things move at a rapid pace, there can be a lot of pressure and you often have to rely on solid team members to accomplish your goals.

Few things are as important in business as understanding the real value of teamwork. Even if you’re running a solo operation or have a small business – forming a solid team to help carry the load and delegate tasks to can increase productivity tenfold.

Today, I’d like to go further into some of the ways that teamwork plays a crucial role in a business.

Increase Productivity

As stated earlier, teamwork can multiply your productivity no matter what kind of business you’re operating. Whether running a multi-state private equity firm like Eighteen Capital Group, or a weekend landscaping business as a “side hustle” – having a group of people helping to tackle challenges is essential to success.

There are simply not enough hours in the day for one person to tick-off all the to-dos that are required to maximize a business’ potential. Onboarding new hires, preparing for meetings, securing new clients/customers, managing finances and more – it all stacks up.

If you want to scale your company for growth or increase productivity across all of these various levels, it will require teamwork. Building a team and expanding your company will allow you to focus on the bigger-picture aspects of your business while others execute the day-to-day tasks. Having a network of people in place working toward a unified goal will massively improve your company’s productivity.

Increased Efficiency

Similar to improving productivity, a solid team structure within a business can also make your business more efficient. When a company creates an environment where all of its departments and roles are working in unison, teamwork becomes an obvious strength.

A business that contains a solid level of teamwork will develop into its own ecosystem where systems are sometimes on “autopilot.” Of course, there will always be a need for management to guide projects along, but once an established team is set in place, they begin to naturally increase the efficiency of operations.

Departments and different members learn what is needed from one another to make their jobs easier and more successful. They learn how they can help each other achieve their tasks – and the company’s overall mission. They begin to distribute assignments across a wider spectrum, easing the pressure on individuals, and can streamline your operation to get things done faster, smarter and with less effort. Team members also have the ability to learn from one another’s mistakes to avoid future errors.

It can take a while for this type of ecosystem to form, and it may require some organizing from the top down, but it will help any business owner immensely when it all comes together.

Teamwork Brings Out the Best in Employees

When a team has learned to work hand-in-hand with one another, it can bring out the best in us as individuals, as employees, and certainly as a business.

As employees learn that they can rely on their fellow team members to help accomplish goals, they will often adjust their own roles according to their own individual strengths.

A classic example of this is seen in organizational structures like sales teams. One sales rep might be simply unmatched in terms of generating interest from a prospective customer in a product/service – but they may struggle to close the sale.  Another rep might be able to facilitate the final transaction, but might not be able to capture the customer’s initial interest. But together, they can both work through their strengths to achieve the desired result.

Having a network of individuals with their own unique strengths can give business owners an incredible edge and an extended toolset to reach levels higher levels of success. Furthermore, a diverse group of team members can provide insights to a business owner that they might otherwise miss.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

It’s a bit of a cliché, and you may have heard this phrase before, but it is absolutely true. Any level of business success can be multiplied when the right team is put into place. If you’re a business owner, do not make the mistake of underestimating the value of teamwork.

Take some time to study your organization, analyze all of the team work that goes into making the operation successful, and always look for ways to enhance your team so that they can do their best work.

Until next time,

~ Michael Gortenburg, Kansas City, Eighteen Capital Group

Tips for Hiring Employees

Hey there – Michael Gortenburg here!

The year is winding down here at Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, and we have already started to look toward next year. We’re factoring in new opportunities for growth, strategies to improve our business and plotting out a plan for how we would like to take things to another level in 2020.

In looking at all of the plans for Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) for next year, it got me thinking about one of the most important aspects of growing a business – hiring team members. It can be a tricky process, especially if you’re a relatively new business owner and have little experience in vetting and securing top talent for your company.

HR departments the world over have been studying how to improve this process for decades. I thought I would share some tips from my experience on what to look for when bringing on new employees.

Know What You’re Hiring For

Sometimes as business owners, we become so inundated with tasks and aspirations that we can get lost in the process of it all. A business owner who is trying to scale operations might not even know exactly what roles they’re looking to fill – they just know that they need help, and they need it ASAP.

Before any hiring takes place, business owners should take an objective look at their operation to see where exactly they need help. It is important to take inventory of everything that goes into the business to see where time is going, what can be tweaked and what may require the introduction of a new role or employee.

A wrong hire can cost you significantly in inefficiency and mismanagement.

Hold Out for the Right Fit

Sometimes when business owners are seeking to expand, they may jump the gun when hiring to meet their demand. This can lead to making the wrong decisions when hiring new employees or promoting current members to a new level.

Hiring the wrong candidate can be a disaster for your growth plan and even your bottom line. One of the many things that we have done in hiring our highly-talented team at Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City is to carefully consider each candidate before making a selection.

Once you know what it is you’re hiring for, always consider the following:

  • Are they currently experienced enough to handle the responsibilities of the role?
  • Are they capable of learning as they go?
  • Do they have an interest in learning and growing in their career?

To some people, a job is just a job. It’s a place they go to shuffle some papers and do just enough to pay the bills. And while that may work well for that individual, as a business owner – you have to consider whether that works well enough for your plans. There is a saying that “you don’t hire for experience; you hire for mentality.” I have found this to be true to a large extent.

A candidate that might not be the most experienced, but has a demonstrated interest in learning and growing within their career can often be the better choice for hiring. When considering candidates like this, business owners know that they have a team member who will strive to achieve excellence, rather than simply “going to work.”

Understand the Market

Hiring isn’t just about “filling positions” within your organization – it is about retaining top talent that will take your company to higher levels of success. To achieve this, you have to understand the job market within your field.

Know what other companies are offering their employees in terms of salary, benefits and perks. A top-tier candidate is more likely to go to the company that offers more of these, but there is wiggle room that can be made to help entice them to join your team. In the age of digitization, consider offering remote-working, flexible hours, and other things that appeal to workers.

You might think that smaller businesses would have a harder time offering enticing positions, but in a smaller operation, there is more wiggle room to fit the needs of employees. Due to the natural bureaucracy of larger organizations, they have a harder time remaining flexible and are forced to streamline into a one-size-fits-all model. This can turn away top talent who have developed their career and are seeking to be more than just a cog in a corporation.

Ultimately – business owners should do their homework and understand what they need to do to bring the best people into the company.

Go With Your Instincts / Avoid Obvious Red Flags

It’s hard to get a wholly accurate read of a candidate and how they will perform for your business in the hiring process, but obvious red flags should be avoided. Sometimes it just takes going with your gut.

Some classic indicators for when you might want to skip a hiring option:

  • When the candidate shows a lack of interest or general curiosity about your business and industry (this tends to carry over into the role once they’re hired).
  • Candidates who pre-maturely talk negatively of their previous jobs. This could indicate that they carry a lot of baggage and drama that could soon find its way into your business ecosystem.
  • Candidates who fail to meet the bare minimum of effort for interviews. If a hopeful team member dresses poorly, talks like they’re in a sports bar and doesn’t demonstrate their relevant skill sets – it might be time to move onto others who take joining your business more seriously.

There are a number of things that HR departments can do to weed out the obvious no’s, and it is never a sure thing when bringing on a new employee, but these are the types of things that business owners should consider for new hires.

If you’re in the market to hire new employees, hopefully these tips will help you know when to actually hire for a position, what to take into account to retain top talent and some of the more obvious mistakes to avoid.

It is never a clear-cut process, but these tips have served me well. I hope they do the same for you.

~ Michael Gortenburg, Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)