Want to empower your employees? The solution may be sixteen digits

Want to empower your employees? The solution may be sixteen digits

When leaders take deliberate steps to show employees that they are trusted, “employees are more likely to be powerful, confident individuals.”

However, most commentary on employee empowerment focuses on the ambiguous or intangible; Leaders are told to “encourage communication” or “provide opportunities for ownership,” but are seldom given concrete advice on how to do so.

At Divvy, we see a lot of people receiving their first corporate credit cards and we wondered if that kind of experience—something targeted and tangible—could affect employee morale. We decided to test our hypothesis.

Here’s what we found:

In a workplace data study, we surveyed 268 people from a dozen companies. 

Our goal was to measure changes in employee sentiment after receiving a corporate credit card. 

To do this, we asked employees to agree or disagree with various statements relating to their company—modeled after an annual workplace survey. We measured their sentiment before and after receiving their corporate card. 

Responses were ranked from 0—strongly disagree—to 10—strongly agree. While not all categories showed significant change after receiving a corporate credit card, we did measure meaningful improvement in the following three areas:  

  1. Employee empowerment 
  2. Company pride
  3. Career development

1. My company empowers its employees.

Of all the categories we measured, employees reacted the strongest to feelings of empowerment. 

After receiving a corporate card, the majority of respondents agreed strongly that “My company empowers its employees.” We measured an astonishing improvement of 1.72 points (moving the average rating from a neutral 6.65 to 8.37). 

2. I’m proud to work at my company.

If you want employees to be proud of where they work, a corporate credit card could help improve their team spirit. 

When asked to agree or disagree with this statement—“I’m proud to work at my company”—sentiment improved by 0.58 points after receiving a company card. 

3. My company looks for ways to develop my career.

Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed with this statement: “My company looks for ways to develop my career.” 

Before and after receiving a corporate credit card, employees moved from 5.1 to 5.29 on average—an improvement of 0.19 points. While this may not seem like a significant jump, any HR rep can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to move the needle in workplace culture surveys. We found it notable that something as simple as a corporate card could affect a positive increase.

Is such empowerment sustainable?

For each of these categories, our research discovered an interesting, significant bump after employees received the physical card.

While our research has not (as of yet) measured whether this increase is sustainable over time, we are looking forward to studying the more long-lasting effects of this change. 

A corporate credit card is just one way to improve employee sentiment, but overall, our findings support a positive impact.

Here at Divvy, we’ve seen this time and again with our customers—corporate cards have the power to change company culture. 

Amber Johnson, COO of Jump Software, said the cultural impact boils down to two words: “trust and accountability.” Employees who never had the power to swipe a company card now feel a sense of accomplishment and ownership. 

The results we’ve found have a simple solution: empower your employees by giving them credit cards.

This blog originally appeared here. Thank you to Divvy for support PHX Startup Week!

About Divvy

Divvy is free expense management software paired with smart corporate credit cards. If you want to learn more about their product, schedule some time to chat.

Why you don’t have to be a dorm room genius to be a great innovator

Why you don’t have to be a dorm room genius to be a great innovator

By: Kristen Plymale, Global Expansion Lead of the Venture Café Global Institute

Ask most people to envision an innovator – more often than not, they will picture the classic image of a lone genius furiously coding away in a dark and messy dorm room.

Whether it be Zuckerberg or Gates this stereotype has permeated pop culture. It makes a great story and is definitely meme-able (as shown), there’s just one problem: It’s all wrong. The reality is, the typical profile of a successful innovator is completely different. This view of Zuckerberg is the exception, not the rule. So, if you think you can’t be an innovator because you’re not like one of these guys, I’m here to convince you otherwise.

Meme of four "people who left school" (Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates) and "me if I left school" image of person working in a fast food restaurant

At Venture Café, a global community for innovators of all backgrounds, we believe “innovation is for everyone,” and here’s the data that proves it.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of entrepreneurs at the time they start their company is 42 years old, which is twice as old as your typical undergrad. But what about the most successful startups? Surely, they are started by young founders and that’s why the stereotype exists! In short, no. When considering the top 0.1% of startups based on growth, the founders had an average age of 45 when they started their companies. This age remains the same for startups that successfully exit through IPO or acquisition.

When venture capitalist Jennifer Neundorfer was describing her firm, Jane VC, to Crunchbase last year about their decision to focus
on funding female founders, she said: “We’re going to invest in an underlooked asset class that is overperforming.”

A solid investment strategy considering that women only receive about 2% of venture capital, yet the number of unicorns with one or more female founders has been on the rise. In 2019 alone, out of the 78 companies in the United States that reached unicorn status, 27% of them were founded by women. Neundorfer has a point.

People of color lag drastically behind in receiving funding with just 1% of venture capital going to black founders. Similarly, Latino founders receive 1.8% of funding while Middle Easterners barely faired better with 2.8%. Asians were the second-largest backed group with 17.7% of venture capital, while the rest, a whopping 77.1% went to white founders.

But just because these entrepreneurs aren’t getting funded, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Over the last two decades, black women have become the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs, owning nearly 60 percent of all black businesses.

If you find this inequity extremely frustrating, you’re not alone. In 2019, Serena Williams publicly launched her new venture fund, Serena Ventures, which focuses on early-stage investments in companies led by women and people of color.

Serena Ventures is joined by a new class of investors committed to funding entrepreneurs of color such as Harlem Capital, Backstage Capital and Kapor Capital.

Ok, I believe you. I’m an innovator. Now what?

● Go to PHX Startup Week! Check out sessions from experts in your area, but also check out a few that seem like they have nothing to do with you, because you never know, maybe they do… (also- don’t miss our Kickoff Event on 2/17!)
Follow #yesphx for all things innovation & Phoenix- The hashtag is most active on Twitter, but use the # wherever you get your social media fix.
Surround yourself with diversity. Diverse people, diverse industries, diverse functions, diverse hobbies, diverse challenges.
Stay engaged with the community. Check out Venture Café Phoenix when it opens this fall with the weekly Thursday Gathering.
Start. Your. Business. So now that I’ve convinced you that you are an innovator, tell us in the comments below: How do you want to change the world?

Venture Café is a worldwide movement.

Venture Café connects innovators to make things happen. What initially sprouted from a single location now has drawn together scientists, creatives, developers and civic-minded leaders in 11 cities around the world.

Through inclusive programming, spaces, storytelling and engagement, Venture Café Global Institute is focused on building a global community of communities. Venture Café Phoenix will launch in Fall 2020.

Phoenix Founders: Why You Should Stay and Invest in Our Community

Phoenix Founders: Why You Should Stay and Invest in Our Community

By: Sonny Patel, Founder and CEO of Insurmi

We hear it time and time again: in the race to become the next unicorn, throngs of entrepreneurs pick up shop to relocate to one of the major tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Boston in pursuit of growth and funding opportunities.

While these hubs have proven fruitful for countless tech startups, moving there doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, it can become more of a challenge to grow a business in unknown territory, especially if that territory comes with a soaring cost of living and a high turnover of residents, such as the case with Silicon Valley. That’s one reason why the movement for entrepreneurs to remain between the coasts is gaining momentum.  

This trend hasn’t been lost on cities, universities and local leaders, who are actively creating funds and launching initiatives with the purpose of fostering environments where startups can grow, thrive and eventually contribute back to the ecosystem. Such as the case with Phoenix. 

Planting seeds for a future of growth

Startups need to build deep, impactful connections within their communities to succeed over the long haul. In major tech regions that are already saturated with competition, this can become a serious challenge with many entrepreneurs feeling isolated and without support, during the stages they need it most. 

But if there’s reason to have ties to these regions, it is possible to get the best of both worlds without uprooting your life and business. More and more, founders are choosing to double down on the communities in which they live and simply hop on a plane to access the major tech hubs when necessary. 

By choosing to build where you got your start, you can often establish a bigger presence for yourself and your company, stretch your capital further and deepen relationships within an already familiar ecosystem, especially with universities, established entrepreneurs and key community stakeholders. 

In Phoenix, we have a robust community of stakeholders who want to see our local startups flourish in their own backyards and pave the way for successive generations. That’s why cities are increasingly focusing more of their economic development efforts on supporting entrepreneurs by creating funds and competitions with the promise of seed money for winners. Universities are creating incubators to help young leaders transition from idea to implementation. This is very much alive in Phoenix –– and we’ve seen more investors enter the market as a result. 

Raising money locally makes entrepreneurs more attractive globally

The majority of startups can only bootstrap for so long before they need to seek funding. This is where relationships are so key and why it’s helpful for startups to mature in the environments where they’ve established meaningful connections with investors and other key business leaders who’ve observed their growth. And, these relationships don’t just benefit startup founders –– they’re also fruitful for the investors. 

Besides wanting to support and invest in promising startups for their own monetary gain, local investors have another vested interest in getting involved with homegrown startups –– it stimulates regional economic development, which has longer-term gains for everyone. Investing out-of-state means many returns also stay out-of-state. By prioritizing their investments to high-potential startups in their region, investors are directly and positively impacting the area in which they live. 

When outside investors find startups buoyed by community support, they see stability and longevity –– two important characteristics that make startups more appealing to invest in. Take, for instance, Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” bus tours, which encourages entrepreneurship across the country and specifically outside the major tech hubs. This initiative, with the involvement of big-name investors like Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt, recently closed a $150 million seed fund specifically to invest in cities that have been historically overlooked. As cities establish and grow their own entrepreneurial ecosystems, investors from elsewhere can’t help but want to get involved.

Stepping up to raise up entrepreneurial ecosystems 

When all hands are on deck and through a continuous commitment to one another, the flywheel model of a community carry begins to gain momentum. The more engaged academic institutions are, the more involved key community partners become, and the more committed local investors are, the more likely startups will be set up to succeed. With this support helping startups thrive, the more the local workforce benefits and the economy will grow. Eventually, more local investments will be made and the circular model will strengthen. 

But community carry only works when the startups who benefited from the model take steps to contribute as well. No matter the stage in the cycle, there are a number of ways entrepreneurs and their teams can boost the vitality of their city’s ecosystem. This includes hiring from the local workforce, being a mentor to share lessons learned with those coming up next and choosing local vendors when possible. It also means prioritizing volunteerism and philanthropy and eventually investing in other startups.

Silicon Valley will always be a major draw for entrepreneurs. But with major investors looking to expand their reach and reduce their risk, entrepreneurs could benefit from marinating in their local ecosystems and presenting themselves to investors as the growth drivers within their local ecosystem.

Sonny Patel is the founder and CEO of Insurmi, an AI-based engagement platform for insurance carriers.

He started the company just three years ago at the age of 21 while working as a sales director and financial advisor at a top life insurance company where he realized the process of buying and selling insurance was unnecessarily cumbersome and outdated. He was determined to change this and went to work to develop a solution that would simplify and take the guesswork out of the insurance buying process. That solution would eventually become Insurmi. 

Now, Insurmi is being used by a number of top-tier global insurance carriers to easily generate new business online, streamline customer claims, and deliver excellent customer service through conversational AI.

Thrive Together

Thrive Together

By Mike Jones and Kate Rogers

This year’s PHX Startup Week focus, empowering diversity through intentional inclusion, was reflected at the very beginning of event planning and is the cornerstone this event was built on. The startup community, entrepreneurship in general, and PHX as a community have a reputation for being very male, very white and not only lacking in diversity but unwelcome to anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype.

We knew changing that reputation would take deliberate, intentional effort, and a community of determined people to execute.

It started with a clear vision and mission

Build PHX into a diverse, entrepreneurial hub where innovation and ideas thrive, by connecting PHX entrepreneurs to a community which cultivates and empowers the entrepreneurial spirit, by providing resources, education, and support; one person, conversation and event at a time.

Acknowledging this is year one- we aren’t expecting to do it perfectly- however, our intention is to do our best, listen to the community, and take the learnings from this year and use them moving forward, to continue to build PHX into a diverse and inclusive ecosystem for businesses.

Next, we established core values to shape the culture of SUW 2019, the core organizing team and the commitments from that team, to be in alignment with an inclusive event for our community.

  • Core Values
  • Diversity through intentional inclusion
  • Innovation through collaboration
  • Betterment of the whole community
  • Entrepreneurs empowering entrepreneurs

How would we know we’d been successful? We created event goals to work towards and reflect on as we made choices to guide the event planning process:

  1. Bring entrepreneurs from across the state together for education, connection and support.
  2. Represent AZ’s entire entrepreneurial ecosystem
  3. Engage people from every: Industry, Background, Identity,
    City, Stage of business
  4. Proactively bring diverse voices to the table through intentional inclusivity
  5. Build community, Drive innovation, Empower action

What began as a feeling, empowered diversity, became the theme, Thrive Together- representing the vision of a connected, united PHX Valley, where all entrepreneurs, businesses, industries and people of all types can Thrive. Knowing we’ll go further when we go together, and we wanted to facilitate that vision.

The Thrive Together vision has been woven through the entire event- from forming the core planning team and moving forward- the choices made were intentionally framed with the question, “how can we be more inclusive?” Each team took that vision and ran with it in their own way, which is how we have the conference we’ve been experiencing with you this week.

Core planning team: We built a core planning team of 49 people rather than the traditional team of 11, which meant we could represent more people, in more industries, with more experiences and backgrounds- just by building a large team full of talented people from all corners of PHX and representative of the talent available in PHX. Our core team was also representative of the genders, races and ages of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Marketing: Developed messaging and an action plan to ensure diverse audiences were included and welcomed to contribute to content and attend PHX SUW- as well as reaching out to organizations and groups to share the event- and cross-promoting events from other organizations in PHX.

The marketing team knew we could write all the pretty words we wanted, but if we weren’t making an effort to reach outside of the traditional communication channels then our words would be meaningless.

Operations: Our operations team was challenged with finding multiple locations in multiple cities so PHX SUW 2019 was accessible to as many people, in as many parts of the greater PHX Valley as possible. They intentionally sought out locations that were accessible to light rail and other public transportation to make the event even more accessible.

While there have been challenges with each location, we’re relieved those challenges are even diversified and change according to location. (That was a joke.) Really though, three locations in six days is a tall order and require more work from our team of volunteers, but it means more people can attend and connect to our community, it’s worth it.

Sponsorships: Sponsorships this year made a concerted effort to reach out to potential sponsors with the goal of the event — messaging inclusiveness was a win for sponsors as well.

Programming: Our programming team intentionally set out to recruit speakers who would represent the diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem in Arizona, not only diverse for gender and ethnicity, but also for industry.

The programming team viewed over 20 hours of video submissions and every video was viewed and graded by at least three members of the programming team. The result is 22 sessions each day, over six days for a total of 132 sessions. There are 150 speakers between keynotes, workshops, speakers and panelists.

While men still outnumber women 2-to-1 at conferences (according to Bloomberg in Nov 2018) PHX SUW 2019 is shattering that statistic – 46% of the speakers identify as female.

Volunteers: Charging for tickets this year was a very controversial move, after all, PHX SUW has always been a free event. How were we going to make an event more inclusive and more diverse while also charging admission? The answer was, “you can still get a free ticket.”

In addition to sponsoring tickets for ASU and other students, it takes a lot of people working together to pull off an event of this size and length of time. Anyone who volunteered a few hours could get tickets for the rest of the week- if you were unable to volunteer, there was a scholarship sponsorship available.

We are thrilled with what we have experienced so far this year at PHX SUW 2019 and hope to continue to work to bring PHX together, so we can all thrive. This is year one, and we are imperfect and certainly have more progress to make, we are open and ready for feedback about how we can improve and do better.

We are so glad for those that have made it this week, it just wouldn’t have been the same without you. — Mike and Kate

Fear of Modern IT Management

Fear of Modern IT Management

By Joe Flynn, Senior Manager, Technical Architecture at Insight

A huge part of technology, especially how it affects business, is an exercise in fear.

Remember when IT pros were reluctant to move basic Office 365 to the cloud? Or when it felt absurd to think about workers answering emails on airplanes? Augmented reality in the workplace? Yeah, right.

Metaphorically, in that big ocean of a technological change, there’s an appeal for businesses to ride the waves. But doing so is hard, and each wave seems to be more daunting than the last.

Modern IT management is a big wave

The IT industry has been moving toward a more unified approach to IT management for some time now. Modern IT management is about consolidating tools that embrace cloud centricity and make life easier for IT — whether that’s with provisioning, patch management, pushing out applications and anything in between.

The move to the cloud is on. This infographic breaks down 21 stats on cloud adoption — and gives 7 best practices for migrating.

Many of the clients I work with use a big jumble of toolsets. They may image a machine and manage it with a toolset meant only for that device. For another device, they use another toolset. One tool for anti-virus. Another for encryption. It’s a very fragmented environment.

When fragmentation is all you know and nothing breaks down completely — and you use numerous resources to maintain that environment — the risk of adopting something new might feel scary.

Unfortunately, fear isn’t sustainable in the IT industry (if you’re not willing to face it head-on).

Eye openers

Because technology forces change, and companies are becoming tech companies at heart, we’re all being nudged down a different path.

An eye-opening tech report: The 2018 Insight Intelligent Technology Index surveyed IT decision-makers to understand the impact of tech on business. See the findings.

I’ve found that companies addressing their fear of change experience a catharsis of sorts. Based on conversations I’ve had with clients, they’re coming to these realizations:

1. The efficiency gains are remarkable.
I once had a client who told me it took five hours to image one machine. Don’t get me wrong, the process was clearly defined. The machine would go to one group that would throw the image on, another group to set it up for users and then a third group to help users transfer all of their data. But with the evolution of technology to a cloud provisioning model, it just doesn’t make sense to spend that much time and resources on such an inefficient process.

2. Fragmentation is costly.
This notion goes back to management toolsets. Although the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” our clients are finding it’s a short-sighted view. Outside of licensing costs, the operational costs associated with supporting an increasing number of devices, dealing with maintenance windows and everything under the sun are really starting to weigh down financially on the business.

The 6 pillars of modern IT: Insight Chief Information Officer Mike Guggemos breaks down what IT pros need to master to drive meaningful change in this podcast.

3. It’s a journey, not a leap.
Many clients aren’t fully ready to release what they have on-premises to the cloud. That’s okay. We know there are limitations with legacy apps and deployment, and some things will simply have to stay on-premises — for now. As tech inevitably evolves, more companies will make the shift to the cloud. An encouraging way to think about it is that modern IT management is still in its infancy — businesses may be behind that curve, but we’re all evolving here.

4. We’re all moving in the same direction.

Take it from Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft, who Tweeted some reassuring social proof stats on Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS):

As of July 7, 2018, EMS has 85,000 customers (a 13,000 increase in 90 days alone) and 82 million active licenses in the EMS stack (up 55% in 90 days). This growth is huge, but mostly, it’s reassuring that businesses are moving toward cloud-based management.

I believe fear can lead to all kinds of positive change. Fear makes people hesitant, but think of it this way: The more hesitant an organization is to ride the big wave of change, the more time it has to think things through, build a strategy and have some great epiphanies along the way.

For additional content around the Top 8 IT Challenges, go here.

About Joe Flynn
Senior Manager, Technical Architecture at Insight
With more than 20 years of industry experience, Joe focuses on the Microsoft stack of technologies to help clients keep up with the workplace technology curve. His expertise revolves around the latest cloud tools that drive collaboration, communication and security.

Empower your small business with streamlined software.

Empower your small business with streamlined software.

Whether you’re a one-person company selling unique products online or a 5,000+ employee SaaS company, every business is different. What all businesses have in common is the need to run as efficiently and productively as possible so that they can grow and meet business goals. One of the most important aspects to consider when it comes to efficiency is how software is helping your businesses to reach those goals.

While it’s important to implement solutions to manage your sales, marketing, finances, support, and so on, it’s also important to consider how those apps will work with one another to make business processes more efficient. You might have a great CRM and awesome marketing tools, but if they aren’t easily integrated, you’ll end up wasting valuable time just transferring information from one app to the other. Or maybe you have a robust finance suite, but you’re stuck exporting and re-importing invoices from your accounting software to your CRM.

Instead of wasting your time on these low-value activities, make your life easier and choose business software that’s built to work together. By using integrated applications, you can save time and automate processes for a more efficient work environment.

One platform to help you run your entire business online, with contextual integrations to empower your business is ZoHo. Whatever business process you have to handle — accounting, sales management, expenses, social media and project management, and beyond — Zoho One comes can help you manage it. Everything from sales and marketing, to support and collaboration, to finances and beyond is in one integrated platform, streamlining your business and increasing your effectiveness.

The deep contextual integrations throughout the platform help you eliminate busy work and automate your processes so you aren’t wasting time switching between apps, copying and pasting data to get the insight you need.

How would you use extra time saved?

Would you focus on big-picture projects? Could you accomplish business goals faster? With enhanced productivity how many other projects could you launch? The possibilities are endless.

How would centralized information transform your business?

Centralized and integrated client information, across all your business software, means you can sell and support your users better and faster and you can view data across your whole organization, showing you where processes are working well, and where you can improve things.

The truth is, we know it’s not easy running a small business where you have to work on so many different things at once. ZoHo is a 20-year-old startup and they know what it’s like. That’s why they strive to help educate solopreneurs, startups, small, and medium business owners so that they can empower their organization with apps that make their lives easier, and eliminate unnecessary cost, rather than the other way around.

Zoho’s holding a free educational seminar going over business basics and best practices and how Zoho can help on March 7th in Phoenix and would love to have you join! They’ll discuss how you can increase productivity and show you how to efficiently run your entire business with one platform for everything. As a bonus, they’re providing free breakfast, lunch, and plenty of coffee to get you through a full day of learning.

Register now.

Hope to see you there!