1871 http://www.1871.com Where digital startups get their start Tue, 28 Jun 2016 15:28:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Last Week on Instagram http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-12/ http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-12/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:53:16 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14725 » Continue]]>

A fun day of volunteering for team #1871Chicago! #ChicagoCares #upshow

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Tullman: Startup Wisdom From J.B. Pritzker http://www.1871.com/tullman-startup-wisdom-from-j-b-pritzker/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-startup-wisdom-from-j-b-pritzker/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 15:06:51 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14718 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/startup-wisdom-from-jb-pritzker466519308.html

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/startup-wisdom-from-jb-pritzker466519308.html

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his firm, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, I hosted a fireside chat with J.B. Pritzker at 1871. It was J.B. who led the group that founded 1871 in 2012. The event drew an enthusiastic crowd of entrepreneurs, investors, and several hundred others interested in hearing the gospel straight from one of venture capital’s leading apostles. When you have more than 20 years’ venture experience and roughly 160 investments behind you, there’s a whole lot to impart–and well worth listening very carefully to. It was especially refreshing to be able to steer away from the clichés and get into some very practical tips about what he and his team look for in considering a deal and how that differs from many other venture firms, which are constrained by the requirements of their limited partnership agreements and other considerations like IRR (as opposed to ultimate return on capital) as well.

We discussed a wide range of topics–while trying to stay as far away from politics as possible. He spoke specifically about some of his more recent deals as well as his firm’s particular investment criteria and objectives. For an audience like this, the value is less about the novelty of the information we hear and more about the need to be continually reminded about the pretty basic basics of the business of raising money.

Among the very first things we covered was the necessity of “warm” introductions. Unsolicited business plans tossed over the transom are just as quickly tossed in the trash. I was reminded as we spoke of a great old piece of Chicago advice for patronage jobseekers, attributed to various politicians, that goes: “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent.” It’s the same story for your pitch and your proposal. If no one cares enough to vouch for you and your idea and make the right introductions, you’ll never get to first base. And these aren’t courtesy intros from the guy next door or someone’s brother’s brother-in-law– they’re from highly-regarded business professionals whose time is precious and whose advice and opinions are always being sought. It’s a small club and getting in the door is the first step to getting anything done.

Next on the short list was the need to temper your confidence with a little humility and a fair amount of listening. This, of course, is a life skill-;not merely a fundraising tool. (See Leaders Learn Best by Listening.) J.B. said that no one knows the answers to every question and, even if you think you do, there’s more to the investor- courting process than simply demonstrating that you are right all the time. Investors want to be wanted, needed, and heard (as we all do) and they want to feel that their input, guidance and assistance will be invited, appreciated, and even listened to from time to time. They’re looking for a long-term partner, not a game show contestant, or the best college debater. Building a big business is a long, painful process and, while speed and skill are important, so are collaboration and team-building and building that team is as important with your investors and in the board room as it is with your partners and employees.

Without any question, the largest single cause for startup failures (more than 40% of the cases) is the lack of a market for the product. J.B. noted that it’s absolutely critical that your pitch: (a) identifies a deep, existing and acknowledged pain point; (b) demonstrates that the “sufferers” are willing to pay serious money to have the pain addressed and remedied; and (c) shows that you have a viable and deliverable solution to the problem. No one wants to pay anyone to develop the cure for no known disease or try to fund and launch a solution in search of a problem. And while you’re at it, you need to show that there’s a lot of these folks and that the market (and reasonable add-ons and extensions to it) is big enough to support the expected growth of your business and, more importantly, to include a couple of bigger players as well as potential buyers for the business. SMS Assist (the newest Chicago unicorn) was cited as an example of a business that started out serving 3 basic service-and-maintenance needs of retailers (floor care, lawn maintenance, and snow removal) that – even at scale – wouldn’t have amounted to a very large and interesting opportunity until you added in the revenues associated with the 45 other kinds of needs and requirements these customers also had, which SMS could grow to address.

Almost 25% of startups fail because they don’t assemble the right team and – in our technology-drenched world today-; J.B. noted that it is crucial that your E suite (engineering, design and programming talent) be at least as robust as your C suite. VCs bet on the jockey, not the horse, but increasingly they’re betting on the whole team and not just the boy or girl wonder. Things today are so complex that it’s rarely if ever a one-person show and– as often as not– the real meat of the new business is not the smiles and the sizzle and the showmanship of the CEO; it’s the steak and the substance of the people in the pit making the programs sing that makes the difference in the long run. As I like to say, you can’t win a race with your mouth. Nothing speaks louder than code. J.B. said that his ultimate decision to make an investment in Signal (which topped Crain’s Chicago Business 2016 Fast 50 list) was largely based on his confidence in the experience, talent and prior successes of the CTO recruited to the founding team. It’s almost always a good bet to go with the people who’ve been there before and are looking to do it again rather than the folks who say they can get you there.

Finally, right behind market fit and team problems, in terms of fatal startup failings, comes the substantial risks associated with strong competition (existing or emerging), which drives about 20% of the new companies out of business. J.B. noted that competition is a complicated conversation to have with any entrepreneur. On the one hand, it’s obvious that your new business is always going to be replacing or enhancing or improving upon something that is going on now because nothing exists in a vacuum. In addition, if no one else in the world was doing something similar or interested in what you were hoping to do, you might have to ask yourself why. And finally, those potential competitors (large and small) may also turn out to be very helpful in determining and demonstrating the size of the opportunities and the markets you’re looking at taking on. In fact, they may also be potential channel partners, strategic investors and, ultimately, acquirers as well. The point is that they can’t be ignored and your pitch and your plans have to have plenty of provisions for how you expect to deal with them. And, by the way, it’s perfectly okay to argue – as the guys from Netflix often say – that you’re not trying to do things differently, you’re just going to do them well.

The final thought that J.B. left us with was pretty simple. He said that it was critical to know what you don’t know and–having acknowledged and accepted that– to get busy every day figuring out how to fill those gaps. (See This Common Communication Mistake Destroys Productivity.)

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#Repost @imblackintech ・・・ [LIVE EVENT] RSVP for Imblackintech :: The Corporate Series | vol.3 @1871chicago. Learn the career amplification blueprint to set your compass for senior level and director level positions and pay, with Pat Perkins and her distinguished panel. #TCSvol3 #TheCorporateSeries RSVP for the event or to watch the live stream at http://TCSvol3.eventbrite.com _____________________________ #ImBlackInTech #BlackInTech #BlackFounders #BlacksInTech #Entrepreneur #Tech #Technology #TechDiversity #DiversifyTech #UPShow @1871chicago #1871Chicago #Code2040 @code2040 #Googleforentrepreneurs

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Tullman: Why Viral Isn’t Always Virtuous http://www.1871.com/tullman-why-viral-isnt-always-virtuous/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-why-viral-isnt-always-virtuous/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 18:34:00 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14700 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/1465913643.html.

As regular INC.com readers know, I’m a diehard ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/1465913643.html.

As regular INC.com readers know, I’m a diehard blogger. INC. is one of the great business communication platforms and an important channel for us to regularly get the word out about our member companies, track the expanding tech scene in Chicago, and channel information about startups and disruptive innovators nationally. It’s an important resource for entrepreneurs and a quick way for us to share what we’re learning every day at 1871 from the hundreds of companies and thousands of people who are going through the very same (and sometimes scary) process of starting and building businesses.

And although the media world continues to change radically, I don’t plan to give up my seat at the table any time soon, even as time frames shrink, production pressures grow, and the desire to have everything be bite-sized continues to mount. As hard as it may be for most people (and even for some curmudgeonly editors) to understand, certain things worth saying simply can’t be said in a sentence or two. Sound bites and snippets basically suck– whether we’re talking about the nightly news or the newest nasty politician–and they don’t add anything important to the meat of the conversations that really matter.

Now I realize that we’re all short on bandwidth and attention these days, but that’s no real excuse to stop learning or to settle for fictions and factoids instead of facts and real substance. And I also understand that reading and/or listening does take some time, a little work, and patience as well. And it’s abundantly clear that all of these important parts of the puzzle appear to be in increasingly short supply. But it’s not just that we’re all busy or even the onset of the “right now” economy that’s pushing this movement forward. The largest villains in this story are the dreams of “viral” videos and the cameras embedded in every cell phone. It’s just become too easy to make a message and a mess that masquerades as something meaningful. Every clown is now a cinematographer and we’re all stuck in their circus.

We’re smack in the midst of a “tidbit takeover” that’s making it increasingly difficult to find a place, a home, or an appreciation for the long form of just about anything. Velocity is all that matters now. We’re turning the classics into CliffsNotes. Novels into nuggets. And broadsides into listicles and bullet points. And this is why I’m afraid that the blog business is basically busted for anyone who’s trying to make a buck from it. (On the other hand, the alliteration industry is alive and well.)

If we want things to get better, the first step is to clearly understand the problems and then to start thinking about what we can do to shut down the click-bait con artists, viral vultures, and other BS hucksters who are clogging up the critical arteries of the Internet with their cheap tricks and phony features. (See The Trouble with Social Media.) We all need to be a lot smarter about how we’re each spending our own time online because, if we don’t object, these time-wasting clowns will never have any real incentive to stop.

This isn’t a cathartic, philosophical diatribe on my part. It’s ultimately about your business’s bottom line. If you’re concerned about cost-effectively getting your company’s message out to the right prospects, consumers and customers, you need to make sure that you’re not spending your scarce resources in passé places and on cluttered channels that are getting you nowhere.

Take it from me that your ad agencies, social sharing “experts”, and/or marketing companies aren’t gonna be the ones to give you the straight scoop. They’re all in the same bag with the media and the publishers and they’re a big part of the problem. No one wants to mention the Emperor’s new clothes or admit that no one’s seeing or hearing your story as long as you’re foolish enough to keep footing the bills. (See 3 Things You Need to Know About Advertising .)

So, as you try to make some business sense of what’s going on, here are a few critical considerations to keep in mind:

Video isn’t a virtue by itself. It’s quick, it’s visual, and it’s immediate, but none of these attributes necessarily makes it better, more informative, or even more effective in delivering your message. In fact, it’s harder and much more time consuming and costly to create and edit a good video than it is to write a great blog post. Stream of consciousness vlogs are just as often instances of verbal diarrhea as they are cases of memorable communication and unedited webcast videos of events and panels are even worse. (See Your Streaming Video Sucks.) Claims of immediacy, rawness and authority aside, random rants are rarely relevant and juvenile junk is still just junk.

Not every shooter is Scorsese or Spielberg. We’re in the mist of this crazy democratization of content where the distinctions between creators and consumers are blurring, and often, disappearing entirely. Speed and quantity — not care and quality — is the name of the game. Technology may keep improving, and the capture process gets easier and easier, but talent, creativity, preparation and production values are still essential to turning out something that matters. Just because you made and shared it doesn’t make it interesting or important to me. UGC (user-generated content) is all the rage because it’s plentiful, cheap and created for free by third parties. And who are the publishers to complain? After all, they’re under enormous pressure every day to feed the ravenous beast and they’ll sell their ads against whatever garbage anyone wants to watch. And frankly, even what passes for “professional” creative sets a painfully low bar, so it’s not like they’re offering a host of better alternatives.

It’s All About Affirmation, Not Education or Information. Media and political success (if you can call it success) is too much about telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to learn or know. It’s unlikely to get better any time soon because you don’t see much of the world around you when you’re staring into the mirror or watching some slanted cable news show. Today, it’s no longer an aspirational “be like Mike” world — it’s all about being free “to be just like me.” YouTube users aren’t looking for instruction or excellence; they’re looking for confirmation that they’re just as capable of creating crap as the people whose videos they’re so faithfully watching and they can’t wait for their turn to generate box office numbers working out of their bedrooms and basements. Surprisingly, it took YouTube itself quite a while (and $300 million) to figure out this distinction. (See Three Lessons from YouTube’s Programming Disaster.)

None of this is remotely encouraging. And it certainly doesn’t bode well for businesses with real products and services to sell, and a real message to get out. But it’s not like you can take your ball and go home either. So when it’s up to you to make the call on how to swim in this swamp, you’ll find that there’s no rule book or roadmap. The best advice I can give you is: (a) to make small, consistent bets with people who can give you real-time feedback on exactly what’s working. Remember that engagement and execution are the key metrics, as opposed to eyeballs and bots. Have someone stay constantly on top of the situation so that you can kill off the bad spends and double down quickly on what’s driving actual results and purchases; and (b) use these channels and your content to drive traffic from the big guys to sites you own and control so that all your efforts and all your dollars aren’t wasted just working to make money for Zuck.

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1871 Partners With Member Company Get20 To Provide On-Demand Mentoring For 1871 Membership http://www.1871.com/1871-partners-with-member-company-get20-to-provide-on-demand-mentoring-for-1871-membership/ http://www.1871.com/1871-partners-with-member-company-get20-to-provide-on-demand-mentoring-for-1871-membership/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 21:35:01 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14697 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2016


Melissa Wooten

Dan DiGangi
June 14, 2016


Melissa Wooten

Dan DiGangi



1871 Members Now Able To Access New and High-Demand Mentors At Mutually Convenient Times Via Get20 App; Partnership Expands Already Extensive Educational Opportunities Available To 1871 Members; Mentor-of-the-Week Program Being Launched

CHICAGO (JUNE 14, 2016) – 1871 joined member company Get20 today to announce a new on-demand mentoring resource that will be available exclusively to 1871 companies. Get20, an app that connects mentors and entrepreneurs over the phone at mutually convenient times, will facilitate additional office hours and mentorship opportunities between 1871 entrepreneurs and industry experts in Chicago and beyond.

“1871 has been committed to educating Chicago’s entrepreneurs since its founding,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “By partnering with Get20 to harness the power of the now economy in mentorship, we are able to expand our offerings and make the process more convenient for both busy entrepreneurs and those who volunteer their time to educate Chicago’s entrepreneurs.”

Get20’s on-demand office hours allow members to request calls with mentors and be notified via text when the mentors are available. Mentors can choose times when they are free during the day to directly connect with 1871 members using the app, which reduces the time commitment for mentors and avoids the hassles of scheduling. Through an anonymous rating system, the app gives information on the success of the interactions and the demand for education on various topics.

“Get20 makes mentoring more seamless and accessible to provide valuable educational opportunities to Chicago’s entrepreneurs,” said Get20 Founder Suvro Goswami. “As an 1871 member company, we are thrilled to work with 1871 to provide this resource to our community.”

1871 and Get20 will facilitate a Mentor-of-the-Week program, which makes particularly popular mentors available throughout a set week on the Get20 app. To kick off the Mentor-of-the-Week program, 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman and Fieldglass founder Jai Shekhawat are giving individual office hours via Get20.

Education is fundamental to the technology ecosystem in Chicago and an important part of 1871’s mission as a nonprofit. Over 350 individuals currently offer office hours and workshops, representing leading VC, accounting, law, marketing, consulting, strategy, and communications firms from the entire Chicago area. These mentors are experts in their fields, and give their time and expertise on a volunteer basis at no cost to members. By facilitating over 7500 hours of mentoring annually, 1871’s educational programming provides a critical resource to its members and further differentiates it from other incubators and traditional co-working spaces. Get20’s on-demand office hours add an additional set of resources to 1871’s robust educational offerings.

“The mentorship I’ve been able to access through 1871 has been an incredible resource for me and my company,” said 1871 member and Proxfinity Co-founder Lisa Carrel. “We’ve not only been able to learn from industry experts and develop our business, but have also built relationships with companies that have become partners and customers.”

The partnership between 1871 and Get20 provides access to new and consistently in-demand mentors. Get20 is also working with local organizations like the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in order to expand the pool of mentors and maximize the time spent mentoring. Get20 has also partnered with The Cambridge Group, which has donated consulting services to advise the company on its growth.

“As a firm with deep Chicago roots, we at The Cambridge Group are extremely pleased to work with the Get20 team and to contribute to 1871,” said Jason Green, CEO of The Cambridge Group. “The entire Chicago business community benefits from the support and counsel 1871 provides to Chicago-based startups, and we look forward to helping Get20 develop its growth strategy.”

In addition to its substantial educational programming, 1871 facilitates numerous opportunities and resources that make entrepreneurship more accessible to everyone. 1871 offers its members plans for health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, identity theft protection, telehealth services, pet insurance, and student loan repayment. By providing access to these resources, 1871 seeks to expand the viability of entrepreneurship and working for new businesses as successful and sustainable career paths.

About 1871

1871 is the home of more than 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 120,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators Techstars Chicago and the Good Food Business Accelerator; impact investing fund Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Fullstack Academy, Anyone Can Learn to Code, Future Founders, Designation and the Startup Institute), and the state’s leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

About Get20

Get20 is a flexible, on-demand platform that can be customized for many types of groups and organizations. The primary product is focused on providing subscription access for startups and small businesses to on-demand attorneys. Subscribing companies have access to document reviews, document creation services, and unlimited on-demand consultations with attorneys, starting at just $49 a month. Subscribers are able to choose their attorney, and even rate the quality of the service, similar to an Uber Ride.



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Last Week on Instagram http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-10/ http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-10/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 21:03:26 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14693 » Continue]]>

Courage is what separates the good from #TheGreatest. #QOTD

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Tullman: Use a Mirror to Mind Your Own Business First http://www.1871.com/tullman-use-a-mirror-to-mind-your-own-business-first/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-use-a-mirror-to-mind-your-own-business-first/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 18:42:34 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14661 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/use-a-mirror-to-mind-your-own-business-first.html

It’s rare that a week goes by without ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/use-a-mirror-to-mind-your-own-business-first.html

It’s rare that a week goes by without my having an intense and well-intentioned conversation about someone’s fear of baby-faced disruptors crashing into their business.  Most of these talks are initiated by mid-level and middle-aged managers at large firms whose businesses are usually comfortable incumbents, for the moment, in various large and complicated marketplaces. But they’re running a little scared because they know that new levels of competition and new kinds of competitors are clearly on the horizon.

Their companies typically have yet to be roiled or wholly upended by new entrants wielding the latest cloud-based SAAS solutions to address long-standing and often glaringly obvious industry shortcomings and inefficiencies. It turns out that not every industry is as toxic and easy to topple as taxis. (See Not Every Industry Can Be Uberized.)  But they have nonetheless been charged by their own managers and bosses with anticipating the problem and conducting recon on their looming competitors. The mission is to identify the most likely candidates, track their progress, and carefully watch their latest actions.

As a result, the incumbents spend great gobs of time and energy pouring over product portfolios and new releases of these maybe foes; they try to analyze every article and media mention as well as all available tea leaves; and they obsess over alleged lost opportunities even when these are often modest at best and largely immaterial, given their scale. But we’ve all read about the innovator’s dilemma and know that the most devastating types of disruption start at the bottom of the food chain and slowly work their way upwards–often before the incumbents even take notice of their presence.

So it’s always smart to be on the lookout. But I would argue that even the most conscientious scrutiny is much more effective when you’re looking in the right places. And, as often as not, those places are as likely to be inside your business as they are outside its four walls. You might really need a proctoscope to look deeply inside rather than a periscope to look out over the top trying to see what you can see. Focusing your attention and efforts on emerging external threats that you basically have little or no control over ignores the much more obvious internal areas of your business where (assuming that you can overcome the inertial resistance to change) you can make changes that can quickly and cost-effectively anticipate new threats and blunt or entirely eliminate them. You can do it to your organization before someone does it to you.

Looking hard in the mirror offers a much clearer view than staring out the window and wondering when the sky will start falling. Keep in mind that this is exactly what the little people looking to eat your lunch are doing every day anyway. They are scrutinizing every aspect of your operations looking for weaknesses, gaps, shortcomings, etc. that they can address and exploit. But in this particular examination, you have a huge edge.

Unlike your prospective competitors and other outsiders, you have the advantage in the analysis of having all the facts and figures about your business at your fingertips. The guys on the outside have a fist full of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and not much else. But to make this approach really work, you have to act like an outsider yourself to get the right perspective. It’s absolutely critical to avoid taking too many things for granted, which can quickly get you into trouble. Everything needs to be on the table and up for grabs or you won’t get anywhere. The good news is that it’s a lot easier than you would think to start with a blank slate and take stock of your business.

The first step is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself: first, how you can materially improve the customer’s experience across each of the following dimensions, and, second, which improvement will have the biggest impact without regard to the cost of implementation. Cost is ultimately important, but in the real world, things that make a great deal of sense tend to pay for themselves pretty quickly.

The basic dimensions are these:

1) Simplicity and absence of transactional friction

2) Speed

3) Convenience

4) Accessibility

5) Affordability

Keep in mind that these are the exact same attributes of your business that competitors are looking at as well and they’re asking exactly the same questions as you. I’m sorry if this seems pretty simple and straightforward. But the reality is that it’s just that easy and yet, very few of us take the time to step back and– starting from scratch– see clearly what we can do better.

There’s very little magic to this process. As I tell all our big corporate partners and sponsors, apart from a willingness to do the work and to accept and implement the results of the investigation, there’s absolutely no reason why any company — large or small, new or old– can’t do precisely the same thing.

In addition to the “defensive” ammunition which this analysis will help you develop along with identifying the actions you will need to take, there’s another upside to the discovery process. It’s the prospect of a great deal of new revenue from changes, channels, customers and other low-hanging fruit and opportunities that were sitting there — unappreciated, undervalued and unexploited–right before your eyes. (See Five Reasons Your Market is Bigger Than You Think.) It’s a double-edged benefit:  adding to the upside and protecting against the downside risks as well.

You’ll note one other important feature of my list. There’s really no reference to new products, services, etc.  That’s not an oversight. You don’t have to invent anything new to pull this off –you just have to figure out how to do what you’re doing a lot better.

And it always starts with taking a hard look at your business. As Michael Jackson once said: it’s all about the man in the mirror.

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Last Week on Instagram http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-8/ http://www.1871.com/last-week-on-instagram-8/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 15:56:06 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14639 On ... » Continue]]>

Be intentional about your path to #success. #1871Chicago

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“Not in my house!” -Dikembe Mutombo and his famous finger-wag. @dofficialmutombo

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