Digital Parenting: Engage

Digital parenting is one of the hardest parts about being a modern day parent; the possible dangers that come with digital interaction, especially when unmonitored, are well known thanks to news articles and TV specials.

To help parents raise their children, companies have produced plenty of products meant to keep children safe, from filters to site blockers to parental intelligence systems. Parents often develop their own systems to keep children safe online; they may put a limit of the amount of time a child spends online or prohibit the use of a computer in a child’s bedroom.

I believe that it is important for digital parents to avoid creating restriction upon restriction. According to Connectsafely.org, based on surveys of 25,142 families of 9-to-16-year-olds in 25 countries, researchers came to the conclusion that parents' active engagement with their kids' Internet activities works better than restricting them.

"For parents, talking to their child about the internet, encouraging them to explore alone but being nearby in case they are needed and talking to them about what they do online are all ways in which they can reduce online risks without reducing their child's opportunities," said EU Kids Online research director Sonia Livingstone in a press release.

This is not to say the resources available online should be ignored. However, perhaps before jumping to block every single site on the Internet, a quick conversation is all that is really needed. Calmly explain to your children that there are dangerous people online, and that nothing online is truly private. Motivate your children to think: Is this something I want people outside of my house to see? In short, teach them to use the Internet safely and responsibly.

Remember: giving children guidelines is more effective than enforcing restrictions; as tempting as it is to create rule upon rule for your children, encouraging open dialogue between you and your children will lead to a more trusting relationship for both parties, and as a result will let parents talk to and monitor their children with less resistance.

Related resources:
uKnowKids Parenting Blog & Resource Center

 

Perspective… The ultimate weapon in the fight against “chase the shiny object” syndrome

Life, business, politics, competition, family… These things can all be challenging at times.  Stress in inevitable.  Over the years, I have determined that the most valuable tool you can acquire for managing these challenges is "perspective" or "context".

When you think about the big picture and put your daily stresses into a proper context or perspective, you often realize how minor the bumps are.  In the short run, challenges can seem huge and the desire for quick fixes is strong.  I like to call this the "chase the shiny object" syndrome.  For organizations, "chase the shiny object" syndrome leads to inevitable failure. 

In the long run, most challenges are manageable.  By staying focused on the big picture and by continuing to put one foot in front of the other, you can make amazing progress that compounds on itself to create success.  Intuitively, we all know this, but it is often hard to keep that state of mind when you are in the weeds and when the pressure is on for instant success.

As a leader in your organization, it is always important to keep folks focused on the big picture… to give your team perspective and context on what is going on around them.  Create a roadmap or plan.  Concentrate on execution.  Put one foot in front of the other over and over again.  One morning months later, the team will wake up and be pleasantly shocked to see how far they have traveled and how much they have accomplished.

If you want the ultimate perspective, watch this video.  It is awe inspiring to me, and it certainly puts our daily, personal challenges into a much bigger picture.  🙂

Hanging in my hood… Arlington, Virginia

I live and work in Arlington, Virginia, and as this hilarious video points out, it is the toughest town West of the Potomac and East of the Beltway.

The funniest part of the video for me was that I was sitting in a Starbucks wearing my brown flip flops when I first watched it.  Check out this video if you want to understand the inside humor here.  🙂

Hot Streaks! How do they happen?

I just arrived home from a terrific, extended, overdue vacation on the beach in Florida with my family.  I really had a great time as I am sure you can imagine.

While there, I was practicing my putting stroke on the beach-side putting green when I suddenly starting knocking in every putt I looked at.  Since I couldn’t seem to miss a putt, I grabbed my video camera to see if I could record a bit of my hot streak, and that is when the following video was taped…

Since we are on the subject of hot streaks, I want to recommend a book to you that I read while on vacation.  Rosabeth Moss Kantor’s “Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End” is a fabulous read, and it is now one of my personal favorites.  The book digs into the subject of how teams, organizations and people get on winning streaks or losing streaks.  What separates the two?

My favorite observation from the book, because we all know it is true, is that “failure and success are not episodes, they are trajectories.”  Doing the little things well, every day, breeds success.  If you think success comes from a lucky lottery ticket, you will be a disappointed person in the long-run.  As my childhood basketball idol, Dr. J, once said, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.  Yard by yard, life is hard.”

“Confidence” is an awesome book, and for every current or aspiring leader, it is a must read.  Enjoy!

Thank you buySAFE!

Buysafelogo
Today, I am starting a new chapter in my entrepreneurial story. It is with both a bit of sadness and a lot of excitement that I share with you the news that I have left buySAFE to pursue other start-up and entrepreneurial interests. In addition, I have joined buySAFE’s Board of Advisors so that I can continue to assist the company in whatever fashion is necessary.  Click here to see buySAFE's announcement on the buySAFE blog.

After almost nine years of building buySAFE, I am leaving the Company in very capable hands, with fresh funding, and the brightest future that the Company has ever had. It has been a deeply satisfying experience to create something valuable, and I want to sincerely thank our customers, our partners, my colleagues and the many investors who made buySAFE possible. I am obviously looking forward to my next adventure, but I am also very much looking forward to buySAFE’s continued success over the coming months and years.

I founded buySAFE after getting burned in an online transaction on eBay. As a student, I didn’t have any extra money to lose to ecommerce fraudsters, and so I decided that there had to be a better way to buy and sell products online. buySAFE was born!

This adventure started for me while I was earning my MBA at Wharton in 2000, and as with all start-ups, there have been huge successes and great challenges. For me, both have proven to be invaluable learning experiences.

Developing buySAFE’s early business/technology plan, acquiring our major financial institution and strategic partners (including two major strategic partners to be announced in the coming months), and raising our $30 million in venture capital financing were all challenges that I ultimately found to be great learning experiences. Over time, I was able to lead almost every aspect of buySAFE’s business operations, and all of these experiences were amazing for me personally and professionally. I plan to share with you many of the lessons I learned at buySAFE over the coming months.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of at buySAFE is our team. Early on, I recruited Jeff Grass, Tim Woda, and Hans Dreyer to buySAFE. Today, Jeff is buySAFE’s CEO, Tim is the VP – Sales, and Hans is the VP – Operations. They are the core of our team even to this day. The rest of our team is amazing as well, and it has been a pleasure working with each and every one of them.

I never intended to spend almost a decade working on my Wharton class project, but along the way, buySAFE provided me with an amazing opportunity to make great friends, to learn important new skills, and to see that anything is possible with persistence and creativity. It also taught me that you can’t build a company by yourself.

Although I could never hope to name all of the folks that deserve my thanks, I wish I could. A few folks in particular – my wife, my brother, and buySAFE’s employees, customers, investors, and advisors – have all obviously been invaluable to both me and buySAFE. To all of you, thank you! I sincerely appreciate your investments in time, capital, expertise, and support. There would be no buySAFE without you.

As far as the next chapter in my entrepreneurial story, I am not ready to share the details quite yet, but please stay tuned. I will share my adventures with you here on my blog, so if you are interested, please make sure to subscribe using the form below.

Thank you buySAFE!

Related posts:

"Steve Woda, Founder and Chairman of buySAFE, Pursues New Entrepreneurial Ventures" on the buySAFE blog

"Founder of buySAFE, Steve Woda, Steps Down" on AuctionBytes.com

How Do You Win a Business Plan Competition?

The short answer is that you need to be very, very good.  There are a lot of terrific, aspiring entrepreneurs out there, and so a bit of luck is useful too.  Having said that, winning isn't everything. 

buySAFE is actually a product of the 2002 Wharton Business Plan Competition, but the plan was not the winning plan.  PayMyBills.com has a similar story.  The founders and my good friends, Jeff Grass and John Tedesco, were finalists, but not winners, in the 1999 Wharton Business Plan Competition.  However, they went on to raise tens of millions in venture capital and they built a really nice business in the process. 

Simply going through the business planning and critique process is the real benefit of these competitions in my opinion.  Business plans are funny things.  Business planning is a fairly simple exercise, but if you haven't previously developed a plan, the effort can seem very daunting.  Business plan competitions typically provide basic advice to the entrepreneurs on how to get started.  The competitions also have multiple stages with each stage presenting an opportunity to receive valuable feedback from the experienced entrepreneurs and investors that are judging and/or mentoring in the competition.

The following Business Week video does a nice job of covering the basics regarding what you need to know before submitting your business plan.

Winning a Business Plan Competition | The Businessweek Video Library

In the video, the University of Oregon's Randy Swangard talks about how to win that business plan competition — what to keep in mind before you apply, and why it's sometimes better to come in second.

The Wharton Club of New York is running a business plan competition now, and here is all the information you need to enter as a participant.  I highly encourage you to participate if you can.

Also, you might find the following NY Times article interesting.  "Beyond Grades: Business Students Put Their Start-up Ideas to the Test" does a nice job of covering the ins and outs of business school business plan competitions.

Have fun, and good luck!