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The bizarre events that have unfolded in recent days almost beggar belief: John McAfee, the tech entrepreneur who pioneered anti-virus software, has gone into hiding. He is a wanted man in Belize, the tiny Central American nation to which he retired in 2008.

McAfee, 67, had reportedly been tangling with Belizean authorities for months when his neighbor, fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull, was found murdered at home, shot once in the back of the head. Police immediately deemed McAfee a prime suspect and launched a manhunt for the eccentric fugitive.

A brief history of McAfee's unique life and career follows.

Related: The Most Bizarre and Dramatic Executive Blog You Might Ever Read

1987: McAfee, a former NASA programmer and private-sector software designer, founds McAfee Associates, a company designed to fix computer bugs. He decides to create the company after his computer is infected with the Pakistani Brain virus.

1989: McAfee leaves Lockheed, where he had been working, to focus full-time on his company.

He offers his VirusScan anti-virus program as shareware -- individuals and companies can download a free trial of the software, but must pay for licenses and continued use.

McAfee publishes a book, Computer Viruses, Worms, Data Diddlers, Killer Programs, and Other Threats to Your System.

August 1992: McAfee incorporates his company in Delaware, forming McAfee Associates Inc. At this time the company has 26 employees.

October 1992: The company goes public, selling 2.6 million shares and raising more than $40 million.

1994: McAfee resigns from his company, possibly due to continuing controversy over his statements about the Michelangelo virus, a computer bug that caused a scare in early 1992 after McAfee told reporters it could affect as many as 5 million machines.

He cashes out his company stock, making him a millionaire many times over. He relocates from Silicon Valley to Colorado, where he builds a house on a 400-acre forest.

Related: Jim Collins on Creative Discipline, Paranoia and Other Marks of a Great Leader

Later that year, he founds Tribal Voice, a company that develops PowWow, an Internet messaging program that pioneers many of the features found in later chat programs.

1999: Tribal Voice, which faced fierce competition from larger companies AOL and Yahoo, is acquired by incubator CMGI. McAfee's stake in the company is sold for an undisclosed amount.

2003: McAfee buys 1,000 acres in Hawaii on the island of Molokai for $1.25 million.

2005: Although he had insisted that he bought the Hawaii property for his family, he sells some of the land for development for $2.85 million, ignoring protests by locals.

2008: McAfee retires to Belize, settling on Ambergris Caye, a tiny island 36 miles off the coast. He builds a fenced compound and staffs it with armed guards.

2009: The New York Times reports than McAfee's personal fortune, much of which was tied up in real estate and stocks, has fallen to about $4 million from a high of $100 million. He is said to be selling a property in New Mexico that he bought for the purpose of flying open-cockpit planes.

He also sells his remaining property on the Hawaiian island of Molokai for $1.58 million, well below the $3.7 million asking price for the beachfront estate.

February 2010: QuorumEx, a new venture by McAfee headquartered in Belize, launches. Its purpose is to develop commercial antiobiotics.

August 2010: Intel agrees to acquire McAfee Inc., the computer security company which still bears its founder's name, for $7.68 billion. The sale is finalized in February of the following year.

2012: One of McAfee's properties is raided by the Belize police force's Gang Suppression Unit and he is arrested, but not charged, on suspicion of making crystal meth and possessing unlicensed firearms. In the raid, he is reportedly pulled from the bed of his 17-year-old girlfriend.

May 2012: Joshua Davis of Wired begins an in-depth investigation into McAfee, gaining exclusive access to his residence in Belize and conducting numerous interviews with the reclusive millionaire in person and by phone. Davis's investigation is later published as a 13-chapter ebook.

November 2012: McAfee's neighbor, Gregory Faull, is found shot to death in his home. McAfee goes into hiding, knowing he is wanted by police for questioning in connection with Faull's death.

He launches a website, The Hinterland, to post communications while on the lam, including an approximately USD$12,000 reward offer for anyone who can identify Faull's killer. The blog is administered by cartoonist Chad Essley, who is creating a graphic novel of the same name about his "unusual friendship" with McAfee.

At the time of writing, McAfee, who protests that he is innocent of all charges, is still at large. His exact whereabouts are unknown.

Related: Inside Richard Branson's Unconventional Business Approach

"I could go on, and will at later point, but I need to tell my story. I will have to tell it in short increments because I have limited and intermittent access to a computer and the Internet. I am on the run, remember. Consider this introduction the first chapter." 

This isn't an excerpt from a novel, but instead a paragraph from the blog of John McAfee, founder of McAfee Anti-Virus. In essence, it's an executive blog -- and unlike anything you've read (or ghost-written) for your boss. 

McAfee, as you may have heard, is on the lam from authorities in Belize -- where the British-born American lives -- after the murder of the software entrepreneur's neighbor, American ex-patriot Gregory Viant Faull. No charges have been filed, but police want to speak with McAfee about the slaying. 

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Every year as winter holiday season rolls in, businesses large and small anticipate a nice bump in sales. But as technology advances, consumers are increasingly choosing to shop and make their purchases digitally -- online and over mobile devices. Businesses that don't have an ecommerce platform and strategy in place could miss out on the holiday rush.

Recent analysis from SMB DigitalScape, a division of Lyndhurst, N.J.-based ecommerce provider vSplash, points to a discouraging fact: most small- and medium-size businesses are simply not ready for online consumers. The overwhelming majority of companies analyzed have little to no presence on social media. And -- get this -- 98 percent of business websites haven't been optimized for shoppers using mobile devices

Are you ready for digital shoppers this holiday season? See the infographic below for more on areas that might need some improving.

Related: Is Your Website Ready for Cyber Monday?

 

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Are You Ready for the Digital Holiday Shopping Rush? (Infographic)

 

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When you own a small business, family and friends often expect free services -- a luxury you may not be able to offer, especially in this economy. Learning to set limits without hurting anyone’s feelings will keep your loved ones happy and protect your bottom line.

"When you rely on family and friends to support and promote your business, you’ve got to be careful not to set up a culture where everyone thinks everything is on the house," says Rachel Sussman, a relationship therapist in New York City. "This is a business, not a hobby."

Instead, you want to make family and friends feel appreciated by offering them perks that are within reasonable limits. “You can be generous without having it impact your business,” Sussman says.

Related: How to Get Your Loved Ones to Love Your Business

Here are three tips for setting limits with your friends and family when they expect freebies. 

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Small-business credit quality weakened in the third quarter, as the health of the loan market remains weak, and a speedy recovery isn't likely. Findings from the Experian/Moody's Analytics Small Business Credit Index released today showed many small businesses continue to have trouble paying off their loans and that demand for new loans remains weak.

While 30- and 60-day past-due balances have improved, those loans that are considered severely delinquent -- more than 90 days past due -- are increasing. What's more, the delinquency rate for these balances is the highest it has been since the firms began monitoring the data several years ago.

The Index slipped 1.6 points in the third quarter to 104.1, down from a revised 105.7 in the second quarter. "Appreciable improvements in small business credit quality are unlikely until mid-to late 2013," according to the report.

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Business accelerator programs offer start-ups low cost space, business services, talented employees, and contacts who can help find customers and partners in exchange for a small stake.
Unlike business incubators, business accelerators are highly selective. But like anything worth having, getting your start-up accepted by the best accelerators is a matter of winning a competition. But that is probably wise since most ventures fail.

As an investor in start-ups, I have heard the accepted wisdom that out of 10 portfolio companies, only one is likely to be a big success, the rest will either fail or barely return the investment -- "only" half of my investments failed.

And just to get into an investor's portfolio, a start-up must defy daunting odds. The venture capitalists I interviewed for my book Hungry Start-up Strategy: Creating New Ventures With Limited Resources and Unlimited Vision (Berrett-Koehler, 2012) made it clear that they talk to about 1,000 ventures a year and invest in one or two.

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You check your email as soon as you wake up, and send text messages from just about everywhere. But if you’re not taking a break every now and then, you could be hurting your effectiveness, says Joanne Cantor, founder of Your Mind on Media, a Madison, Wisconsin consulting firm that helps companies manage cyber-overload.

Research backs that claim: A 2012 study by the University of California, Irvine and U.S. Army researchers found that being cut off from work email periodically significantly reduces stress and increases focus.

We know: You own a business. People depend on you. You can’t disconnect. But Cantor says that’s not really true. Maybe you can’t turn off your smartphone entirely for a week, but here are five ways you can buy some tech-free time. 

Related: 6 Simple Solutions for Getting Rid of Stress

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. LinkedIn. Google+. The world of social media is expanding rapidly, and it's becoming an increasingly critical part of an online marketer's strategy. But from knowing the right times of day to post to dealing with complaints and finding time to do it all, social media can create as many headaches for business owners as it does opportunities.

That's why we've asked online marketing expert Jason Falls to join me in a Google Hangout, "Tap Into the Power of Social Media," to answer all your burning questions. It's happening today (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. EST. You can tune in here (via this post) or by signing in directly through Google+.

Sign up now, and make sure to tweet your questions using the #EntLive hashtag, on our Facebook Page or in the comments section below. We'll get to as many as we can. 

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As the holiday season approaches, you may be thinking about employee gifts. While everyone appreciates a holiday treat, Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition that Works (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009) says holiday gifts and bonuses are now considered an entitlement in many organizations rather than a reward for hard work. "People bank on [their holiday bonuses]," she says.

"They plan their vacations, their gift giving, some plan it right into their income in terms of paying their bills. So, there is no appreciation element in many cases. They’re not seeing it as the reward. They see it as a piece of their compensation," says Ventrice.

While Ventrice is clear that companies shouldn’t do away with the holiday bonus, she argues that true recognition is not given through a one-time bonus check. Here are four things to consider when deciding how to thank your employees.

Related: How Praising Employees Can Help Your Business Thrive

image credit: Shark Tank

Editor’s Note: This series examining the deals presented on the popular ABC television show Shark Tank through the eyes of a venture-capital investor.

The stand-out pitch from week ten of this season’s Shark Tank was for Nearly NewlyWed, an online retailer of used wedding dresses. The founder, Jackie Courtney, sells used, high-end wedding dresses on consignment, like a Marchsea Bridal dress that retails for $11,000 at $3,800, and guarantees to buy it back for $1,900. The site promises to make dresses available to brides for around 20% less than the retail price if she sells it back after the wedding. Nearly NewlyWed targets a 30-40% margin on the dress sale.

Courtney was previously a fashion publicist. Press coverage generated her initial traffic and sales, but social referral via Facebook is now her biggest traffic driver. The business has only been open for 30 days and has sold four of their first 30 dresses in inventory. They just added another 60 dresses to inventory, sourcing them from brides and stylists. They are working on distribution deals with retailers who are seeing a surge in women trying to sell their dress back after their wedding day. 

Courtney sought $35,000 for 10% of the company. Four of the sharks passed. One said it was too early, two didn't think that there was a big market for used wedding gowns, and one thought that there was no scalability to the PR driven approach. Only Kevin O'Leary made an offer to invest. He said that it was a bet on the entrepreneur, but for that bet, he needed to see 40% of the company for $35,000 to invest -- Courtney declined. 

image credit: Jasinski

One of my readers asked a powerful question the other day…. “How do I get started making lasting change…?” What a brave soul to put that question forward as many wonder but few inquire. So here are my suggestions about how to make change last:

1. Look at what you are doing now.
2. Make a decision to change one thing.
3. Monitor how you are doing with that one change.
4. Repeat.

image credit: Olioboard

Hundreds of businesses have turned to social photo-sharing site Pinterest as a new way to promote their products and share ideas. Last week, Pinterest even announced several new tools to help businesses share more content on the site.

But as popular as Pinterest is, using it to convert followers into customers isn't always easy. Photos by individual users don't always lead back to a retail source. Even when they do, there's no clear path for potential buyers. There are no "buy" buttons and no indication that two clicks will take you to the photo source.

That's not the case will all photo-sharing sites. These three sites shorten the distance between you and your customers by combining the pinning action of Pinterest with the functionality of an online store.

Retailers may enjoy a big sales boon from deal-seeking Black Friday shoppers. But Thanksgiving week can be a slow time for catering businesses whose usual office clients close for the holiday.

At least one restaurant franchise -- Moe's Southwest Grill, a 475-restaurant chain -- has found a way to make a quiet catering week more profitable by serving retail employees who are hard at work ringing up Black Friday purchases.

"Most retailers, as you know, are working in overdrive on Thanksgiving weekend," with employees barely having time for a lunch break, says Jamie Schlef, director of catering for Atlanta-based Moe's.

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In this special feature of 'Ask Entrepreneur,' Facebook fan Robert Oliveira from Newport, R.I., asks: What is the ROI of social media? If it exists, how can you track it? Instead, consultants will talk about "building your brand." It feels like snake oil.

Be sure to tune into our Google Hangout with Jason Falls tomorrow at 2 p.m. EST. We'll be discussing all things social media and business.

Return on investment (ROI) is something every businessperson should ask about the various aspects of their business, from accounting to legal and customer service to marketing. Marketing consultants or agencies should be prepared to answer the question, even if the actual, numerical answer is not easily predictable.

When your consultant is instead talking about "building your brand" and seems to avoid the ROI question -- remember, you may have to ask -- he or she likely doesn't have the requisite experience in working with businesses and brands that are bottom-line focused. Social media offers volumes of intangible or intrinsic value such as brand building, reputation protection and strong customer service. When used strategically and with business goals in mind it can be used for extrinsic value, too.

image credit: Green Eagles

Getting rid of stress may be easier than you think. Try one of the following solutions or employ all six to enjoy stress-free, or at least less-stressed, living.

1. Don't take things so personally. Part of what creates stress is thinking that what other people do is something that is being done to us, or is a reflection of us or our actions.

2. Change your expectations. If you expect a co-worker to always be nice and they continue to be cranky, you'll be disappointed. You are choosing to be disappointed when you expect others to do something even when you have evidence to suggest that the behavior is highly unlikely.

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