Author Archives: C. DAY

Common Sense (in Entrepreneurship) Podcast.

Years ago, at a session with the leadership team at Pearson, one of the participants showed a slide which read:

“It is not complicated. It is just hard.”

It is a good reminder that in many situations, common sense really ought to prevail. But as the saying goes, “common-sense ain’t common practice”, we often have a tendency to go for the complicated and/or complex. This might be due to our educational upbringing (“it can’t be right if it’s easy”), a sense of importance and value we get from devising something elaborate, or an insecurity around standing one’s ground based on a “simple” answer.

My invitation for you is to start with common sense. And only if you see it failing you, look for the more complex or complicated answer. You will be surprised who often the simplest explanation turns out to be the correct one.

Listen to the podcast –

Courtesy of the Heretic (Pascal Finette, co-founder of Singularity Univerity)

See, Do, Repeat: The Practice of Entrepreneurship

You can choose yourself. And you can say I am going to be successful, because I have decided I am going to be successful. – Jeff Civilico

This week is an exciting one for me.  My new book See, Do, Repeat: The Practice of Entrepreneurship, which will be available in early September, 2021, is now online for pre-sale purchase here!  Over the past year,  I decided to choose myself and work on a passion project that has been on my “to do” list for many years.  That is, to share what I have learned in more than 30+ years of teaching, researching and practicing entrepreneurship in a way that is accessible to everyone.  And here we are!  Getting within sight of the finish line!  This week and over the next month or so I will share a few excerpts from the book.  I hope you enjoy!

Entrepreneurship is empowering and transformative. It is also democratic. I fell in love with entrepreneurship education because I saw the power it has to transform lives and people on so many levels. As so many of the entrepreneurial stories shared in the book have shown, entrepreneurship can provide a pathway to income and wealth, for anyone who wants to invest in the practice.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t require a specific degree or experience, and it doesn’t discriminate by age or demographic. Entrepreneurship is available to anyone. It can be practiced on a very small and intimate scale, or it can be pursued as a change agent for the world. It can be practiced within an organizational environment or be a venue for creating a new organization. It can be applied in a not-for-profit environment, or it can provide extreme wealth. A single entrepreneurial effort can provide one job or thousands of jobs.

The practice of entrepreneurship is transformative to anyone who chooses to take the journey, and it is also a pathway to changing the world. Regardless of how it is applied, the principles of entrepreneurship remain the same. It is a learning and doing practice, that is skill-based. The goal is not mastery of every aspect, the goal is to keep learning and to execute past failure, to reach your definition of success.

When he was a young man, Jeff Civilico fell in love with juggling. It wasn’t so much the act of juggling that he enjoyed. He loved the way people who watched him seemed to feel. They were smiling and laughing. His performances seemed to bring joy to others. So, he would juggle anything he could pick up around his house, often much to the chagrin of his mother and grandmother!

Jeff continued to juggle for fun and the occasional performance while he went to Georgetown University. After school, while the rest of his friends went on to pursue professional careers as corporate lawyers, bankers, or doctors, Jeff decided to pursue a different path. With a lot of hard work, Jeff turned his passion for performance into a career and his highly acclaimed Vegas shows have been 3-time winners of the “Best of Las Vegas” awards and has been named one of the “Top 10 Things to Do in Vegas.”

But performing in one of the top show cities in the world wasn’t enough. Jeff is someone who practices the See, Do, Repeat model.  He also has created a thriving business doing corporate entertainment and a philanthropic performance business, Win Win Entertainment, a national nonprofit, that brings smiles to the faces of children, by arranging in-person and virtual visits from entertainers, athletes, and celebrities.

When I had the chance to interview Jeff on the En factor podcast about his entrepreneurial career as a performer, we talked about the challenges of this career. Performance can be anything but democratic. There are thousands of talented performers, who are finding ways to make money elsewhere because they have not been able to attain a coveted role as a performer. For many years performance meant you had to be discovered. But Jeff, and others like him, those with an entrepreneurial mindset, always find a way.

Jeff looked for opportunities, took action, and persisted through many challenges, some that could have destroyed his career, had he let them. Even during the pandemic, which closed in-person performances, Jeff found a way to offer performances, corporate entertainment, and juggling lessons virtually. Jeff decided early on to pursue his passion, even though it was a far cry from what might have been expected of him, and he decided to choose himself and not wait to be chosen.

Courtesy of Dr. Rebecca J. White, Author   Rebecca J. White

‘The New Minimum Wage’: Access to Training, Reskilling

COVID-19’s impact on jobs and the economy has been profound and, quite honestly, confusing. On the one hand, stories of people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic – and are now starting to lose government benefits and eviction protection – have become both commonplace and gut-wrenching.

At the same time, there are signs and postings everywhere desperately looking to hire people, from large companies to small-town restaurants. Short-staffed organizations are being forced to delay orders, adjust their hours of operation, and make many other uncomfortable changes to keep their businesses alive.

While there is no simple reason these often-conflicting trends are occurring simultaneously, one undeniable fact is that we’re witnessing a significant and rapid-paced shift in the jobs environment. In short, there’s often a gap in the skills required for a given position versus the capabilities job seekers currently have.

Once seen solely as a place for a select set of highly educated individuals, the tech world’s profound and growing impact on society has made its importance and relevance reach into every sized town and every demographic group in the country.

Getting the tech industry workforce to accurately reflect the amazing diversity of the country, however, has not been an easy task, particularly when you dig into job categories requiring specialized skill sets.

Thankfully, numerous tech companies are deploying a wide range of different approaches to help overcome the diversity inequities that have plagued the tech industry for decades now, including several that I provide consulting services to. Leading chipmaker Intel, in conjunction with Dell Technologies, for example, recently announced a major expansion of its AI for Workforce program, which is designed to help community college students gain skills in the highly sought after and potentially very lucrative field of artificial intelligence.

Specifically, the program is working with 18 community college systems across 11 states (with plans to add another 50 schools in 2022) to create a curriculum built around classes in topics like data collection, computer vision, AI model training, coding, and the societal impacts and ethics of AI technology, all of which will lead to both associate degrees and certificate programs in AI.

►Amazon free college program:Amazon to pay college tuition, books and fees for U.S. employees starting in January 2022

►Work study:Target joins Walmart in paying for college for employees; free books also included

Who is benefiting from training

Intel is providing the class materials to these schools for free – which traditionally have had a much larger percentage of ethnic minorities and lower income levels than four-year colleges – and is working with local community college professors to customize the programs to meet the unique needs of a given community. Dell Technologies is providing guidance on how to best configure the AI labs for various types of teaching styles, including remote and hybrid, to make the materials available to as wide a range of students as possible.

Fresh off its impressive announcement last week of its plans to hire 55,000 new employees and to host a massive job fair on Wednesday , Amazon on Monday announced several new training and educational initiatives. First, the company will offer fully-funded college tuition, GED and ESL support for 750,000 of its operational employees, such as its warehouse workers, starting in January.

Courtesy 9/14/21 USA Today by Bob O’Donnell

The Reality of Entrepreneurship

At the forefront of ingenuity exists imagination. By nurturing the skill of creative thinking, we gain the tools necessary to create our own success, expand the bounds of our minds, and challenge the limits of systems set in place before us. This tool of creativity is not limited to traditionally artistic fields but is at the disposal of all professionals who dare to invent and create.

When entrepreneurs imagine, they hold the key to building a business where workers thrive, fulfilling their greatest potential. However, a visionary entrepreneur doesn’t stop at dreaming big. Instead, they push forward to execute smart ideas and identify opportunities for growth and innovation. Thinking outside of the box means seeing with clarity the possible evolution of a business into something that sparks positive change in our communities and inspiration in other people. In these ways, originality and resourcefulness are the fundamental building blocks of creation. In embracing these elements intrinsic to the invention, we can firmly seize our chance to sculpt the future of business.

As we enter a post-COVID-19 society, we must ask ourselves: “What does it mean to be an entrepreneur in 2021? What does the future of business look like?” As entrepreneurs wielding the keys of imagination, we have the power to decide. Demands for social equity and responsibility have deeply affected the world as we know it, and the worldwide pandemic has shifted how we think, navigate, and internalize our everyday lives. From pivoting to working from home to wearing masks and social distancing, our concept of the workplace and interpersonal relationships has been irrevocably altered.

However, the pandemic has not left us powerless; the astute entrepreneur understands that now is the time to craft our new world with humanity and compassion. We need to reinvent and restructure the business world in a way that supports and empowers individual workers, as well as our communities as a whole. In this new, more inclusive society that we are building together, more doors lead to positive change available to us than ever before. With creative entrepreneurship, we have the unique ability to unlock these doors and pioneer forward-thinking businesses for an equitable world. We aim not only to adapt to this post-COVID-19 society but also to shape it actively.

In the spirit of innovation, this year at George Washington University, the 2021 GW October Entrepreneurship Week will focus on the theme of Imagine. In particular, on Friday of the week of this conference, we will host sessions that highlight and present new academic research exploring the imaginative nature of entrepreneurship. The event held at George Washington University from October 18th – 22nd, 2021.

Courtesy of ICSB, International Council for Small Business

5 Payroll Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Small businesses are often fined due to payroll-related issues. Paying your employees seems like it should be pretty easy. However, anyone who has actually managed a payroll knows that keeping track of all of the rules, regulations and deadlines can be a complex process. Many employers who try to manage payroll on their own end up making at least one of these five common mistakes. This guide offers payroll mishaps medical, dental, and other professionals make as well as how to address them.

  1. Classifying Employees Incorrectly

Some employers attempt to game the system by classifying employees as contractors to get out of paying benefits or erroneously categorizing overtime-eligible employees as exempt salaried staff to avoid paying overtime. According to The Grubb Law Group, classifying employees as contractors makes it so companies don’t have to pay for health coverage, but companies often get caught red-handed doing this. Not only is classifying your employees incorrectly unethical, but it could also lead to worse problems for your company. The Fair Labor Standards Act levies severe penalties for even accidentally misclassifying employees.

  1. Missing Federal Deposit Deadlines

The date your federal taxes are due depends in part on the total taxes you report on Form 941. While you can sometimes get an extension, the filing dates for federal taxes are not flexible. If you miss the deadline, you could end up paying substantial penalties. According to Ramsey Solutions, if you can’t file your taxes on time, you can get a six-month extension by filling out Form 4868. You will need to do this by the deadline of your tax return due date. This can be a hassle, though, so it’s best to pay on time.

  1. Keeping Inaccurate or Incomplete Records

Employers are required by the FLSA to keep their payroll records from the past three years. Additionally, many states have their own record-keeping requirements. Records that are missing, incomplete, or inaccurate can put you in violation of the law or get you in trouble at tax time.

  1. Not Reporting All Taxable Compensation

Federal and state payroll laws don’t just consider wages to be taxable compensation. Tips, stock options, employee discounts, and other non-monetary perks can also be considered taxable income if they are used to compensate employees. Wright Ford Young & Co. warns that even gifts can be considered taxable unless they are for something entirely unrelated to the business, like a birthday or wedding. Failing to report all taxable compensation to the IRS can result in severe penalties.

  1. Incorrectly Processing Wage Garnishments

Employee wages can be subject to garnishment due to fines, child support, taxes and other reasons. Different types of garnishments have different rules and violating these rules can result in fines. Additionally, if you make a payment that you weren’t supposed to, it is often very difficult to get it back.

What You Can Do About It

If your company is large enough, you can hire your own accounting department to process your payroll and handle your other accounting functions. However, for many businesses, it isn’t practical to pay skilled accounting professionals to be on staff full time.

An alternative is to utilize an online payroll service. These services are experts at what they do. It is their job to stay on top of changing regulations and make sure that your business is always in compliance.

Additionally, many online payroll services offer time-saving features, such as auto payroll. Once you set up auto payroll, you don’t have to deal with payroll every pay period, which can save you several hours per week. You may also be able to use these services to handle your other accounting functions. In addition, they may provide a GPS time clock app that holds employees accountable by logging their location and updates it as the workday progresses.

Making sure your employees get paid correctly and on time is important to you, your employees, and the government. Utilizing an online payroll service can provide you with peace of mind and free up your time and energy to focus on your business instead of keeping up with the latest payroll regulations.

If you have any questions about entrepreneurship, lean startup, design sprint, veteran/disciplined entrepreneurship, or the student success program, contact the editor via top border. This article is courtesy of Marissa Perez of Business Pop –

From High School Dropout to Successful Entrepreneur

New Podcast Episode – Ryann Halo: How A High School Dropout Became A Successful Entrepreneur

Ryann Halo joins us to talk about her entrepreneurial journey. Hear her dig into surviving tragedy and trauma, overcoming it all to become the successful business owner of Salon Halo in Florida. Salon Halo’s success is largely attributed to the deep community ties that have been developed over the years. Through giving back to the community where ever possible and a strong commitment to education, Salon Halo is celebrating 2 locations & 8 years in business.

Story Courtesy of ERI, Ice House Entrepreneurship

Studies Prove Benefits of a Mentor -How Do You Find Them?

Mentorship might seem like a quaint idea reserved for young, fledgling professionals just starting to spread their wings. Studies have found, however, that mentors predict a greater chance of success even for entrepreneurs who already have considerable experience of their own. Successful startups are more likely to be led by entrepreneurs that have been taken under the wing by a more experienced mentor.

These findings beg the question: How does one find a mentor? Finding a mentor seems particularly problematic for more experienced entrepreneurs and executives. We are no longer rookies or interns who can learn on the job from our superiors. We are the superiors. Fortunately, the growth of mentorship among entrepreneurs and the C-suite provides some guidance on finding a mentor right for you.

Check your egoFirst, check your ego at the door, even if that door opens to your exclusive corner office. In my experience, many executives and entrepreneurs consider a mentorship to be a sign of weakness. This bias is positively correlated to the more experience, and success, they have achieved. Why seek guidance from another when you have already succeeded? My only answer to this is consider Bill Gates. Gates has publicly acknowledged his continuing mentee/mentor relationship with Warren Buffet. Gates knows that, no matter how much success he has achieved, he can always learn more. Setting your ego aside is the first step to finding a mentor who can expand your knowledge.

3 Types of Mentors All Entrepreneurs Need to Be Successful

“Strong opinions, loosely held.” It’s a phrase my co-founder, Lucas Dickey, says regularly. It’s not his saying, but rather a framework developed by futurist Paul Saffo at Stanford for making decisions with incomplete information. And if anything defines the life of an entrepreneur, it is incomplete information. One way that I have continually found helpful in closing this information gap is through a strong network of mentors, which in my experience come in three varieties: 1. external mentors, 2. internal mentors, and 3. customers.

1. External mentors

External mentors are what people typically think of when you describe “mentors.” They can be family, friends, investors, advisors, executive coaches and so on. They take an active role in shaping you and your business from the outside in by providing perspectives across a vast array of experiences. This can be a huge value-add to us as entrepreneurs given we are fairly localized experts in a specific market, software, or solution. Recruiting a strong network of external mentors takes significant time and energy — and it also requires humility, a high degree of self-awareness, and strong listening skills. You need to convince the most relevant individuals you can find that you are eager to absorb and apply their knowledge to challenges your business faces. I “recruited” two of my closest external mentors — Stuart Epstein (former CFO at NBCUniversal) and Sean Atkins (former President at MTV) — early on in my career with a mix of networking and persistence. They provided excellent initial advice around managing my transition out of a career in finance into an early stage startup, and have both continued to provide valuable perspective as I’ve gone on to found and build my own company.

Startup accelerators like Techstars are actually built around external mentors, and Techstars embodies this in its mission statement of “Give First.” Fernish, the furniture-as-a-service company I co-founded, participated in a Techstars Accelerator in our first year of business. The program not only jump-started our company’s external mentor network but also helped me refine the skills around active listening and self-awareness that ultimately made me a better mentee and business person. After being featured on Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch, our company landed a $30 million round led by RET Ventures and involved Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke, Intuit Founder Scott Cook and TechStars.

But even when you have a great network of external mentors at your back, the complexity of being the entrepreneur is sifting through the various opinions of an incredibly smart group and determining the right path for your specific business.

2. Internal mentors (aka your team!)

I am a strong believer in building a team of the most impressive people you can find, people you would proudly work for under different circumstances. If you are successful at this, your team becomes a group of high-touch, day-to-day mentors from whom you can absorb some highly relevant skills and knowledge. At Fernish, the first hire I made was my co-founder, Lucas. I regularly describe Lucas as the smartest person I know given his deep understanding of technology, organizational management, and a proven ability to methodically build and scale a business. Lucas and I had worked together at a previous startup, Atom Tickets, where we built an excellent working relationship — but it was still a months-long recruiting process to get him to join me and start Fernish. I could have chosen another co-founder and might have got the business off the ground earlier, but the uncertainty around working relationship and skill set would have just added to the already risky nature of starting a business.

We’ve focused on hiring a group of overqualified, fairly senior individuals who are happy to be individual contributors while getting our company into a position to scale. Similar to external mentors, the way to find and convince a team of bar-raising individuals to join you is through a combination of storytelling and humility. And, like in the case of my co-founder, it can take a while. But having strict discipline in hiring that is rooted in rigorous recruiting and screening processes will yield a group that will accelerate both your business trajectory and your entire teams’ learning curve.

3. Customers

While external mentors provide a breadth of applicable perspective and internal mentors propel growth and learnings day-to-day, your customers are actually the most important mentors you can have. Customer development and understanding isn’t just critical to your business, it is your business! How are you speaking to your customers? How often are you doing so? How do you synthesize that information and act upon it? What do your customers value? What motivates them? What hesitations do they have about using your product or service? How do you get them over the hump to do so? These are not easy questions to answer. At Fernish, we have a methodical approach to customer development — for both active customers and those who don’t quite make it to the bottom of our funnel. It involves a combination of surveys and interviews across a refined list of questions with measurable inputs and actionable outputs. For instance, we’ve found out there is actually a lot to be learned from how much customers are willing to spend on a latte (correlations rather than causations, but who would have thought!). The concept of “customers as mentors” can lead to some tough decisions that go against internal theses and legacy product development. However, these decisions will both align you more closely with your customer and start to fill some of the gaps in information asymmetry.

Building a network of mentors in each of the above varieties is a challenging, time-intensive, and intentional process. But it will provide you with an essential perspective when making decisions with incomplete information. And as you go through this process, I think you will find that engaging with a robust, interdisciplinary mentor network is one of the most rewarding parts of entrepreneurship.

3 Types Courtesy of Fernish CEO Michael Barlow and How to Find Them Courtesy of Stav Vaisman, both Leadership Network Contributors.


Basics of Paying Yourself as an Entrepreneur

Owner’s Draw or Salary?

The method you use to take funds out of your business depends, in large part, on your entity type. 

If you’re a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, or a member of a standard LLC, you’ll likely pay yourself with an owner’s draw. This is the most flexible payment method, allowing you to withdraw cash from your company’s equity account (your business earnings plus any capital you’ve invested in the business) at any time.

If you’re the owner of a business taxed as an S-corp or a C-corp—and you’re actively involved in running the company—the rules are bit more rigid. The IRS requires employee-shareholders of corporations to be paid reasonable compensation for their work, in the form of W-2 wages. 

In the process of starting a new venture? You’ll want to reflect on your preferred method of taking funds out of the business before you settle on an entity type.

  • If you need the flexibility of any-time cash withdrawals, operating as a sole proprietor, a partnership, or an LLC with default taxation will allow you to use the owner’s draw method.
  • If you prefer the stability of a regular paycheck (and would rather pay taxes on your earnings up front rather than later on), forming a corporation or an LLC taxed as an S-corp or C-corp will make it possible for you to pay yourself as a salaried employee.

Business owners looking for a middle ground should note that there is a little leeway when it comes to S-corps. In a business taxed as an S-corp, owners have the option to supplement their regular salary with an owner’s draw.

Guidelines for Sole Proprietors, Partnerships & LLCs

As noted earlier, being a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, or the owner of an LLC means using an owner’s draw to pay yourself—at least in most cases. While this may be the simplest way to take money out of your business, you should be aware of a few guidelines and best practices for each business type.

Sole Proprietors

For business owners operating as sole proprietors, the owner’s draw is the only legally-allowed payment method.

You can take funds out of your business at regular intervals (or anytime they’re needed) by writing yourself a check, making a cash withdrawal at the bank, or transferring a sum from your business account to your personal one.

Careful record-keeping is critical: each time you withdraw cash from your business for personal use, be sure to note the amount on your company’s balance sheet. Maintaining a clear separation between your business and personal finances will give you a clearer picture of your company’s profitability and remaining equity.

Planning ahead for tax time is also key. Any money you receive from your business in the form of owner’s draws will be taxed on your personal income tax return, at the self-employment rate of 15.3 percent. This means that for each cash withdrawal, you’ll need to set aside this percentage for your annual or quarterly tax payments to the IRS (most business owners pay their taxes quarterly).


Partnerships are pass-through entities—each partner’s share of the business profits flows through to their personal income tax return. As with a sole-proprietorship, you’ll use an owner’s draw to pay yourself, and will owe self-employment taxes on these funds come tax time.

Where partners differ from sole proprietors is that each partner’s equity is distinct. You can only withdraw funds up to the amount of the capital that you, as an individual, have contributed to the business.

In addition to taking an owner’s draw, partners have the option of being compensated through guaranteed payments. These are regular payments made to an individual partner for their services or investment in the partnership, made regardless of whether or not the company is successful. Unlike an owner’s draw, a guaranteed payment is considered a deductible business expense and reduces the net profit of the business. 


By default, LLCs are generally treated like partnerships in terms of taxation, and owners (called members) cannot be compensated with W-2 wages. As an owner of an LLC, you’ll pay yourself with an owner’s draw.

To safeguard your liability protection, you’ll need to do your best to keep personal and business accounts separate. This means carefully recording every owner’s draw you take.

If you’d prefer to pay yourself a salary or wages as an LLC owner, this option is available to you. However, you would first need to apply for S-corp or C-corp tax treatment—which may have other tax implications for your business.

There’s more to paying yourself with an LLC than meets the eye, and you’ll want to sit down with your accountant or tax professional to determine the method that will result in the greatest tax savings and business growth.

Guidelines for S-Corps and C-Corps  

If your business is taxed as a corporation, you’re required to pay yourself W-2 wages, and these wages will be subject to tax withholding.

Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t provide a clear-cut definition of what constitutes “reasonable compensation,” so it will be up to you (and perhaps your accountant or tax professional) to determine a reasonable wage based on what other companies are paying their officers.

Keep in mind that reasonable compensation is based on the value of services provided, not the company’s profitability.

Outsourcing your payroll to a third-party provider can help to take some of the guesswork out of paying yourself (and any other employees) and set you up for an easier tax season.


In addition to paying themselves a reasonable wage, owners of S-corps can supplement their income with an owner’s draw (referred to as a distribution, in this case).

However, things can get tricky if an S-corp has multiple shareholder-employees, and if distributions between all shareholders aren’t equal. This is because S-corps are legally required to have only one class of stock, and the IRS views disproportionate distributions as evidence that a corporation has a second class of stock.

If the IRS believes this is the case with your company, you could be taxed as a C-corp (at the rate of 21 percent).


As the owner of a C-corp, your salary needs to meet the IRS guidelines on reasonable compensation mentioned above. If you need to withdraw money from the company (above your salary) it must be paid out as a dividend, as the owner’s draw method is not legally allowed.

Another option available to you is supplementing your income in the form of bonuses. A bonus, like your salary, is a tax-deductible expense and will lower your corporation’s total taxable income.

Just be careful to not pay yourself “unreasonably high” compensation (via your salary or bonuses), as the IRS views excessive compensation as disguised dividends, which are not tax-deductible.

Tax rules for corporations are complex—once you’ve mapped out your personal expenses and have an idea of what you want to pay yourself (and how you want to do so), work with your CPA or tax professional to ensure your corporation is tax-compliant.

Courtesy of SCORE Newsletter by Drake Forester, Legal Strategy Officer