Articles on this Page
- 12/02/14--13:58: _How To Succeed As ...
- 12/13/14--13:56: _Mark Zuckerberg: 'T...
- 01/08/15--08:33: _Why Chile And Colom...
- 01/14/15--10:26: _3 Business Myths Pe...
- 01/14/15--11:56: _5 Things You Need T...
- 01/18/15--13:00: _30 Daily Habits Of ...
- 01/21/15--11:30: _6 Marketing Skills ...
- 01/26/15--13:10: _How One Woman Paid ...
- 01/27/15--13:53: _How One Florida Fam...
- 02/03/15--10:22: _Here's the counteri...
- 02/11/15--14:53: _10 common mistakes ...
- 02/25/15--07:58: _Entrepreneurs and b...
- 02/26/15--09:25: _The 9 most successf...
- 02/26/15--10:38: _Foolproof signs tha...
- 03/02/15--08:58: _Peter Diamandis: Th...
- 03/12/15--12:27: _Here's why one entr...
- 04/05/15--09:20: _How I launched my f...
- 04/09/15--14:21: _5 traits that will ...
- 04/14/15--09:22: _I've gone from bein...
- 04/16/15--08:00: _An impulsive trip t...
- 12/02/14--13:58: How To Succeed As An Introverted Entrepreneur
- 12/13/14--13:56: Mark Zuckerberg: 'The Majority of What I've Done Has Been Mistakes'
- 01/08/15--08:33: Why Chile And Colombia Lead The World In Entrepreneurship
- 01/14/15--10:26: 3 Business Myths People Should Stop Believing
- 01/14/15--11:56: 5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Entrepreneur
- Choose your target audience: The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people and to be overly complex.
- Connect with the public: Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your products and brands.
- Inspire and influence your audience: A simple, inspirational product and brand message is far more influential than one that highlights many product features and functions.
- You can add new hires at the same productivity level as the entrepreneur or the sales leader.
- You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.
- You have a sales conversion rate and revenue that can be consistently forecasted.
- The cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.
- Customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.
- 01/18/15--13:00: 30 Daily Habits Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs
- 01/21/15--11:30: 6 Marketing Skills Every Business Owner Should Master
- "90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text."
- "188.2 million people in the US watched 52.4 billion online content videos in December 2013. The average American spent more than 19 hours watching online video."
- "Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product on an online retail site after watching a video."
- "When marketed through email, consumers spend 138% more than people who don't receive email offers."
- 01/27/15--13:53: How One Florida Family Opened Their Own Restaurant With $35,000
- 02/11/15--14:53: 10 common mistakes entrepreneurs make when they're pitching VCs
- First steps to building a tech company: learn how to recruit employees; deal with investors; choose a strong brand; market and publicize your business; and more.
- Coding for entrepreneurs: explore Python, Django, Twitter bootstrap frameworks; use APIs; learn how to accept payments over Stripe; learn basic HTML and CSS; and learn how to code an e-commerce website.
- Sales & Persuasion skills for startups: learn to develop a clear objective and sales pitch; learn how to understand and capitalize on client personalities.
- Project management course: break a project down: develop a strategy for it; learn how to evaluate risks.
- Startup sales course: learn to understand your customers' needs and create infinite sales cycles, develop strategies and an implementation plan.
- LinkedIn for entrepreneurs course: learn to generate highly-targeted sales leads using LinkedIn for Business.
- Startup marketing & public relations course: learn the marketing & PR skills necessary for launching a product.
- 02/26/15--09:25: The 9 most successful 'Shark Tank' businesses
- 02/26/15--10:38: Foolproof signs that you should give up on your business idea
- 03/02/15--08:58: Peter Diamandis: The first trillionaire is going to be made in space
- 04/09/15--14:21: 5 traits that will win over investors every time, according to a VC
For most people, the term introvert is synonymous with shy or quiet, but a shy nature is not indicative of introversion. An introvert does need quiet time to themselves, just as an extrovert needs at least occasional group events.
However, it may surprise you to learn that some of the best public speakers are introverts. What makes them so great is their ability to focus, their attention to detail, and their ability to speak on a subject that interests them at length. Introverts aren't fond of small-talk that doesn't accomplish a purpose, but that doesn't mean they don't like to talk.
Introverts make great CEOs for those same reasons. Their social interactions, if properly managed, will always work toward achieving a specific goal. They make great leaders because of their need to understand, and then respond to, employees. Just as charismatic extroverts have strengths, so do keenly intelligent introverts. Today's introverted entrepreneur will succeed in every endeavor when they learn to use their personality traits to their advantage.
Be an attentive leader.
Extroverted leaders tend to rise through the ranks by taking initiative, always craving the spotlight and reaching ever higher for recognition. An introverted leader has a unique, natural talent that offers them the opportunity to rise higher; their observation skills help them seem the best in their fellow workers. There is no better way to improve yourself and your business than to lift your employees up. Not only does this ensure you have top-notch workers, but they'll be more loyal for it.
When managing a small group of workers, an introvert will naturally learn as much as they can about each individual so that they can properly delegate tasks in a way that ensures the best results. This is an opportunity introverts can use to form stronger working relationships as they are ascertaining a person's level of skill. When an employee is particularly impressive, the introverted supervisor is not likely to forget.
Find a compatible extroverted partner.
To continue with the point above, introverted CEOs can further those business relationships with one-on-one business lunches. If said CEO happens to find a great employee with great people skills, a trait many extroverts possess, they would do well to team up with that person for future networking opportunities.
When the company requires outsourced work, it pays to have a charismatic partner go with you to meetings with contractors and such. Many introverts are upfront and won't waste their time trying to get a better deal. An extroverted partner who is willing to haggle on behalf of your business is an invaluable asset.
Extroverts often have a large network of acquaintances, and can find a better match or price for the job. The introverted businessperson will likely have a smaller circle of associates with which they are much more familiar. While the confidence you gain when working with someone you know is invaluable, you won't always know someone who can do the work you need.
Manage events to keep social interactions small.
Many introverts dread yearly company dinners, social events wherein everyone from every department mingles. When properly arranged, introverts can actually enjoy the time spent with their co-workers or employees. This is important for the introverted CEO because just as it's crucial to know your employees, they need to know you.
When making arrangements for a caterer or open bar, set up small areas that are spread apart from one another. If a table is only big enough to serve desserts, only two or three people can serve themselves at a time. This makes conversation easier for the introvert because you avoid over-stimulation.
Set tables with plenty of space to move between, and with no more than three or four chairs at each. Dining with only three others at your table also helps prevent social burn-out. And if you're an introvert, you'll know exactly what that term means for you. For those who don't know, it means an early exit and an awkward explanation. Avoid that by keeping social interactions small.
Enjoy the company of your employees.
Extroverts do well meeting workers for drinks on a Friday afternoon, but introverts tend to balk at the prospect of a small space filled with a lot of people. In most cases, that's exactly what drinks after work on a Friday night means. With a little planning ahead of time, that kind of social interaction doesn't have to be unpleasant for introverts. If you'd like to take part in social outings, initiate events on your own terms.
Just as you would with company events, keep the extracurricular activities small-scale. Invite one or two of your employees out to dinner or for drinks, and rotate those invitations to include them all at some point or other. Segment your workers into groups according to personal interests, especially those with whom you have something in common. You'll be much happier discussing a familiar topic with a small group.
Pencil in some "me time" daily.
The biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is how they "recharge" at the end of the day. Everyone needs some quiet from time to time, but introverts need it daily. Whether you're sequestered in a home office, curled up with a good book on the sofa, or taking a nap, make that downtime a priority.
When you allow yourself this time to recharge, not only are you better ready to face tomorrow because you're rested, but you also have that bit of peace to look forward to throughout the day. Even if you're having a particularly bad day at work, take solace in a half-hour of silence. Those few minutes can go a long way.
Being an introvert doesn't mean you can't be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, you have several qualities that can make you one of the best. Allow yourself to fully embrace your introversion, and use your strengths to your advantage.
Building the largest social network in the world came with its own set of challenges, and Mark Zuckerberg can attest to making a few mistakes along the way. But the Facebook founder doesn't spend too much time dwelling on them.
"Mistakes are how you learn," he said at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, during a Q&A session with Facebook employees that was livestreamed to the public.
"The majority of what I've done has been mistakes. You get to be successful by getting a few things right."
Facebook holds such "town hall" meetings weekly, where employees can ask Zuckerberg anything about the company's vision and day-to-day strategy, and occasionally opens up the forum to questions from users via the web.
One recent mistake the Facebook founder mentioned during the session was this summer's controversial experiment in which users' News Feeds were intentionally tweaked to manipulate emotions. Critics found the experiment "unethical" and said that Facebook's data science team had gone too far.
It's not uncommon for Facebook to run surveys and beta tests to see how their users react to new features on the platform, but Zuckerberg admitted that some experiments require more careful internal evaluation.
"If someone is testing [sensitive information] internally, the right people inside the company need to oversee it and that's what we're going to do now," he said.
According to Zuckerberg, spending less time dwelling on past mistakes gives him the time to focus on being a proactive leader instead of a reactive one. "There are enough things that happen throughout the day that that I can spend all my time reacting, but I choose instead to proactively work on the things I want to see happen," he said.
One of Zuckerberg's recent proactive endeavors: teaching a local after-school program on entrepreneurship.
"I ended up learning more from these kids in middle school," he said.
Fernando Fischmann once had a dream of building a holiday resort around an artificial lagoon that many international experts considered “practically impossible”.
Today, 15 years later, Fischmann holds the Guinness World Record for the largest swimming pool in the world, and his dream is a global business with patented technology that has developed over 300 projects in 60 countries. Where is this lagoon? Dubai? Las Vegas? Shanghai? No – it is in a small coastal town near Santiago in Chile.
And Fischmann is not alone there. According to new research by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and Endeavor, Chile stands out from a sample of 44 countries for having avoided a common trap in entrepreneurial impact. It goes as follows: in informal and less competitive economies, relatively more businesses are started, but entrepreneurs are rarely innovative or create many jobs.
As economies grow more competitive, fewer entrepreneurs start businesses, but those who do are more frequently innovative or ambitious regarding job creation. In both cases, the countries in question have good traits, but lack other ones to achieve the full entrepreneurial potential.
Chile and Colombia are singled out as the only countries to have broken out of this trap and become entrepreneurial “all-rounders”: for the size of their economy, they have high levels of new businesses launched by high-impact entrepreneurs who frequently innovate and expect to create a large number of jobs. Fischmann is just the tip of the iceberg in one of the most dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world, where Chile, and specifically Santiago, is becoming a nexus for entrepreneurial ventures.
How did Chile get to where it is today? Given a long history in extractive industries, local businesses would frequently be low value-add. This changed radically during the last decade, when Chile launched a suite of public-private initiatives. Best known is Start-Up Chile, which aims to create one of the biggest start-up communities in the world (and was noticed by Beyondbrics).
Selected entrepreneurs from around the world receive a work visa and $40,000 seed capital from the government. In only four years, more than 1,000 entrepreneurs have heeded the call. Crucially, the government expects participants to take part in events promoting entrepreneurship awareness in local communities. The goal is not only to attract top global entrepreneurial talent, but to leverage this talent for a change in Chilean business culture to be more enterprising, growth-oriented and innovation-driven – a key ingredient in thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems.
But the government has also made structural changes that are less well known. A national online platform enables entrepreneurs to start a new business in one day with zero cost. A “re-entrepreneur law” makes bankruptcy proceedings straightforward and low-cost. Those adjustments help with the daily challenges of entrepreneurship, beyond the hype.
Yet to simply copy from Chile would be to miss its lesson. To see why, consider Colombia’s success – the second “all-rounder” in the study. Colombia faces very different challenges from Chile, including high levels of inequality and risks of political instability. While the Chilean approach has concentrated on its challenge of changing cultural norms, Colombia has focused on developing a strong institutional framework to grow the number and ambition of its businesses.
In the 1990s, the government re-examined its fundamental approach to entrepreneurship. It shifted from protective industrial policy towards supporting small- and medium-size businesses. At that time, the term política de desarrollo empresarial (entrepreneurship development policy) was coined. Since then, Sergio Zuluaga, former director of entrepreneurship and innovation in the ministry of commerce, industry and tourism has described the government’s approach as “try fast, learn fast, fail cheap”.
Alongside numerous initiatives to reduce regulatory barriers and increase capital available to business, two pieces of legislation are hallmarks of the Colombian approach. A 2006 legal framework galvanizes entrepreneurship across all industries, through a national and regional network for entrepreneurial development. In 2009 there followed the creation of a national initiative for science, technology and innovation, which focused on supporting high-tech, high-impact entrepreneurs.
Juan Andrés Fontaine, former Chilean minister of economy, argued that: “Instead of changing the world through revolution, we can change the world through innovation.” This insight applies to economies – but equally to governments, who can do a lot by innovating their own approaches and processes.
The pathways to thriving entrepreneurial economies are manifold. Copycats of the Chilean, Colombian or well-known Silicon Valley model may therefore be disappointed. But governments that pay attention to the balance of three ingredients – the number of entrepreneurs, their ability to innovate and their growth ambition – and address them in turn, have the best chance for success.
The study shows the positive impact of Europe’s recent policy focus on innovation, but equally it points to a lack of entrepreneurial numbers and ambition in many countries – arguably, those need to be next on policy-makers’ to-do list.
The lesson from “all-rounders” is that context is everything and each successful policy has a story of its own – which mirrors, as Fischmann would agree, the story of entrepreneurship.
For years we’ve been told by “experts” that there are certain all-encompassing principles that will get you through the bad times and make your business a success.
Well, just like you and unlike many of these experts, I’ve actually gotten my hands in the soil and started quite a few successful businesses, and I can tell you from long-term experience that many of those truisms are just outright wrong.
Here are a few:
1. Use The Power Of Positive Thinking
The Rev. Norman Vincent Peale took the country by storm in the 1950s with this idea that everything could be solved with optimism.
Many business experts and entrepreneurs all seem to have similar mantras: “I always stay positive!” “No matter what, I always see the glass half full.” “The birds are always chirping and the sun is always shining.”
It seems everything in their business is always perfect. They have absorbed the whole notion of the power of positive thinking — but they are getting it all wrong. If you want your business to succeed, don’t just be positive. Deal with reality.
Bad news doesn’t get better with age. If something is wrong, and I pretend that everything is great and do nothing about it, things will only get worse.
But the pundits insist that if only I believed everything was always rosy, I won’t ever have to face things getting worse. All those problems will somehow resolve themselves, as long as I remain upbeat and flick away bad news or rumblings of discontent.
Of course we should be positive — when it’s warranted — but not at the cost of hiding from hard truths that will only grow larger if ignored. If your sales have increased but your customer service department makes mistakes, are you on a path to success?
If your business is growing but your employees are unhappy and have low morale, are you going to be in business much longer? Staying positive all the time but ignoring the underlying cracks in your foundation is a recipe for failure.
2. The Newest Idea Is The Most Original
No one has an original idea. Not Steve Jobs, not Thomas Edison, not Mark Zuckerberg. Nobody. We get ideas from what we see, what we hear, and what we read. I read the NY Times cover to cover every day, then I turn around and read the Wall Street Journal. I read articles that friends send me in emails, and newsletters, and books, as many and as often as I can.
But most of all, I talk to people. Every successful idea I ever had — on the football field, in business, in my personal relationships — happened because I talked to people. I talk to people every day, from every business, every age, every walk of life, because that’s how I learn and that’s how I get better.
When I played football, I talked to coaches, I talked to my teammates. I talked to anyone who could tell me anything I didn’t know, or could put a new spin on something I thought I already knew, but really didn’t.
In business, the greatest ideas didn’t come from a bunch of MBAs sitting around a conference table. Innovation came from Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus talking to the customer in the parking lot about why he bought lumber, but no nails. It was because Home Depot’s nails weren’t very good! And nobody knew it—not the department buyer, not the manager, not the salespeople on the floor — until Bernie simply talked to people in the parking lot.
All ideas grow from other ideas, but you can only get to them if you put yourself out there and engage yourself.
3. The Mission Of Business Is To Create Profit
If you ask most business leaders what tools they use to drive their team, many will say financial incentive is high on the list.
Many think that bonuses, commissions, or prizes will incentivize people to work harder or think faster. Business owners think that if they just make enough profit, either for themselves if they’re a small business or for shareholders if they’re larger, then they’d be labeled a “success.”
But profit isn’t and shouldn’t be the mission of business. The mission of business is to help people. To help your customers, your co-workers, your employees, and your partners. Success is not a number — it’s not X dollars or Y customers — it’s a measurement of VALUE.
Have you brought value to your customers and the people who surround you? If you can answer, “yes,” to that question, then the inevitable by-product will almost certainly be profit. Value is your mission, but once you offer it, then the profit will always come.
I start every day with a single drive — the drive to help people. Obsessing over my customers and the quality of my product is what keeps me going.
So I wake up every morning with a sense of desperation. How can I make my customers happy? How can I increase our value to them? Am I making my employees happy and challenged and energized? Those questions fuel my every waking moment, and they keep me from getting complacent or making careless mistakes.
I have a positive attitude because I’m doing positive things. I come up with better ideas because I’m always reading and listening and learning about other people’s great ideas. And I’m creating profit and increasing sales because I’m trying to help people.
I’ve always stayed focused on my customers and my associates, and I assure you that doing that has made me a passionate, enthusiastic, and more productive person, and so will you.
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to jump into the deep end. And that takes courage.
But courage is just the beginning. At a fundamental level, most entrepreneurs need to repeatedly overcome adversity and pursue opportunities with very limited resources.
My path as an entrepreneur has been marked by the adversity I've experienced in my own life and the struggles I've witnessed in the lives of others.
Here are the five essential things that I believe are must-haves for any successful entrepreneurial journey:
1. A companion
Nobody succeeds in a silo. The majority of life's travels include a partner or two or many. Be it a significant other, friend, or business colleague, you are most likely to have some company. If I've learned anything from my entrepreneurial journey, it's that your choice of partners — be it a life partner, cofounder, management team, investors, or board members — can make or break a venture.
The people you surround yourself with are the difference between failure and success. It's also how you interact with them that makes the difference. It's important to be reminded of the people who believe in and support you and to cultivate those relationships. Spending time with people who make you stronger requires intentional effort and is a key component in being able to move forward.
Equally important is to avoid people who bring you down, waste your time, take you backward, and have no interest in your suffering. A close friend constantly reminds me to "get rid of toxic people from your daily life." While you cannot always avoid them, at a minimum you can choose not to allow them to weaken you.
Your job, then, is to continuously search for those right companions at each new stage. It is only when the right person shows up that you see why it has never worked out with anyone else.
2. Good timing
The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. If the market isn't ready and you are way ahead of the market, then you must possess the drive and the willingness to sacrifice in order to make that product or service work.
You will need to choose to either wait for the market to catch up (requiring the resources to survive during that period, and accepting the risk of emerging competition), or you'll need to adjust your offering to something more palatable to the market's current readiness.
Smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations. You need to anticipate your market and customers' needs and constantly innovate to stay ahead. This requires leadership with agility, resilience, and a willingness to fail — and to recognize that failure quickly enough to adapt and move forward.
3. Connection with your audience
Today's innovative "social economy" requires entrepreneurs to create positive memories for customers and partners, or customers will turn to a competitor in search of a better experience. If you want to create a scalable business, you have to understand just how crucial it is to build products and services with brand equity and emotional connections. The emotional attachment that links customers to your products, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth.
Here are some basic rules to connect, shape, influence, and lead with your products and brands:
Here's more on the topic of audience connection and value creation:
Creating a unique product and a unique brand isn't enough. It takes repeatable sales processes to create a scalable business. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design, and implement repeatable sales and customer-delivery processes. You have created a repeatable and scalable sales model when:
A repeatable sales model builds the platform to scale. Like the search for product and market fit, it can take major experimentation and R&D to find a repeatable and scalable sales model.
5. Ways to de-stress
Most entrepreneurs consider managing the ongoing success of their business to be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing their personal finances.
The stressors can be relentless. But if you're not happy, healthy, and motivated, you can't create a business model that provides a positive market experience. You set the tone for everyone who works with you. Nobody wants to do business with a grouchy, bitter, and exhausted entrepreneur. Therefore, investing the time and effort to adequately take care of your physical and mental well-being will further increase your chances for long-term success.
Mental health is not just about going to the gym to let off steam. It's about achieving a state of mental calmness to see you though the relentless challenges — but that's another topic in itself!
Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is "Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability" (McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). Copyright (c)2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.
Like a runner who has to count calories, miles, and how often they hit the pavement, a good leader has to stay on top of the business, make wise decisions, and practice healthy habits. Here's how.
1. You count the numbers each day
Wait, isn’t this like Ebenezer Scrooge at Christmas? Not really. Everyone at your company wants you to be a money person and keep the business afloat. They are not in your employ for fun and the free food. Track your finances and monitor cash flow every day.
2. You never get angry
Good leaders know how to control their emotions. Anger never accomplishes anything, it just creates fearful employees who do not want to work hard and achieve greatness.
3. You praise one person each day
The best entrepreneurs practice the art of the daily praise. This motivates employees and builds their morale. Without praise, no one will really own the work.
4. You are not afraid to rebuke and correct
Praising too often is also not a good approach, because there are times when you do need to correct. Don’t shirk that responsibility. Correct quickly and move on.
5. You never feed your own ego
Building a company is not an exercise in feeding your own ego. Avoid making matters so personal that the success or failure of the company is about your own achievements.
6. You look for minor improvements
As a daily practice, look for ways to improve performance not only in your own daily work but also in the work of others. The small changes you make will lead to major success.
7. You listen to feedback from staff
Good leaders seek out feedback. Why? Because that’s how you improve and lead more effectively, which leads to more growth and success.
8. You workout daily
Without a daily regime to tune your body and soul, you will start winging it and running on adrenaline. That never lasts. You just can’t lead a successful company unless you learn the discipline of daily exercise. If you don't, it will catch up with you eventually.
9. You are unoffendable
Offense takes time. You create thought patterns through dwelling o how you’ve been offended, and then think about how that person is on your list. Don’t even keep a list. Operate without ever being offended and you will be free to lead more effectively.
10. You defend your employees
Ironically, while you shouldn’t take offense when someone makes a sarcastic jab, you should jump in and defend your employees. This is particularly important in a small company, since a negative comment or criticism can lead to poor work performance.
11. You seek out mentoring
No company has ever been built without the main leader seeking advice. It just doesn’t happen. No one can be all-knowing on every topic. Seek out a good mentor. Grow in knowledge, and you will learn how to grow your company.
12. You seek out someone to mentor
When you pour out what you know, you essentially educate someone and motivate that person to excel. You are spreading the knowledge. That creates bigger, better companies in the long run because you won’t be doing all of the hard work on your own.
13. You use data to make decisions
Data is there to help you. Use it to excel in your job and grow the company. You can make better decisions, and it will catch on with everyone around you. Snap judgments can kill growth.
14. You gather data, but sometimes go with your hunch
At the same time, don’t let yourself get too bogged down with information. There are times when it's OK to collect the data, analyze the findings, and then make a decision based on what you think is the best course of action. Call it a hunch — or an educated spur-of-the-moment decision.
15. You’re always open to press coverage
Few companies besides Apple can thrive without press coverage. There may be times when you have to keep things quiet, but find a way to get your company more known in the marketplace. Good press coverage is one way to seek legitimacy.
16. You have patience about product development
Product development takes time. It’s important to build the best product possible, whether it's software, hardware, or some other gizmo. Don’t take shortcuts. When the product is ready and up to your high standards, get it to market quickly.
17. You don’t ignore the competition
Like a swimmer who is focused on winning a race, be sure to keep your eye on the goal. At the same time, it’s OK to be aware of who is sneaking up on you.
18. You smile at adversity
When problems arise in your company, make sure you are prepared for setbacks, and even welcome them. Embrace them. Use adversity as a motivator and a way to push forward.
19. You see failure as a lesson
Speaking of adversity, it’s also OK to embrace failure. There are some amazing lessons to learn, and no company grows to become a great organization unless they learn from failure and then keep changing, developing, and growing.
20. You wake up each morning asking how YOU can change
A great leader knows how to look in the mirror and make changes. If you want to lead a company to greatness, you have to adapt and change.
21. You set work aside in the evening
We were not designed to work 14 to 16 hours per day. We all need breaks. It’s OK to set the phone down after 5 p.m. and start fresh in the morning. Work can wait until you are rested.
22. You put family first
Family is incredibly important to your success. Otherwise, you become a moneymaking machine with no soul and no real motivation. Make sure you put your family first. That creates a richness to life and a purpose beyond anything a huge yacht could ever provide.
23. You pick one thing per day to help with stress
In the midst of massive growth, there will be stress. Figure out how to deal with that mental state early on. Is it taking a quick run around the building or playing a video game? Taking a drive to burn off steam? Do it.
24. You finish one task each morning
A company grows one step at a time. Start each morning by completing one of those steps. Is it an expense report or a new person you have to interview? Get it done right away to help you develop a pattern for the day.
25. You don’t finish every task on your list
Here’s the irony of tasks lists: You should never complete every item because that’s often not a sign of good productivity. It’s just a sign that you don’t understand how to prioritize. Some tasks can definitely wait for another day.
26. You invest in relationships
Every good salesperson knows the key to selling a product is building a relationship. That way, you learn the needs of the customer. The same is true in leading a startup. You have to get to know your employees, hang out with them, learn their likes and dislikes. You can’t lead strangers.
27. You know when to be a shark
There are times when you will need to jump on a problem, attack it, and lead the company with pure conviction and perseverance. That’s OK for a time, but don’t be the angry shark who attacks everyone and anyone. Leave that to the guys on television.
28. You have down time
The most amazing leaders in history knew how to get down time. They perfected the art of relaxation, and then pushed forward to achieve great things. If you are constantly running low on steam, you won’t be able to build a great, long-lasting business.
29. You spend company money like it's your money
It’s a simple lesson, but you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t practice this basic idea. Think of every dollar you spend as a way to either deplete resources or advance the company. That might sound familiar, since it’s also the best way to manage personal accounts.
30. You don’t judge
Judging others is an easy way to kill momentum in a company. No one likes to work with someone who is constantly criticizing others. Be intentional about praising, give feedback as precisely and quickly as possible, but otherwise have an attitude of empowerment.
Business owners can't afford to ignore marketing in 2015.
As competition for the attention of online consumers heats up, it's essential that you take time to learn new strategies and skills that can help you continue to strengthen brand loyalty, engage with customers, and connect with new prospects.
Here are six marketing skills you'll want to take the time to master in order to take your business to the next level in 2015:
Skill 1: How To Make Videos That Actually Bring You More Business
If you're not yet quite convinced of the value and potential ROI of making and sharing videos for your business, consider the following statistics:
In 2015, video marketing is going to be bigger than ever. If you haven't taken the time to start experimenting with video, now is the time. You can start by watching this Video Marketing Success Webinar from Kissmetrics, which will teach you how to set the right goals and follow the right processes in order to accelerate your video marketing success.
Skill 2: How To Acquire Customers Using Email
Email marketing is another area that is sure to be big for businesses in 2015. Last year, more businesses than ever spent resources developing and implementing marketing strategies in an effort to connect with and retain more customers. For many businesses, the investment has been paying off. In a recent Capterra blog post about email marketing, author Caroline Malamut included the following statistic:
Email marketing can seem a bit intimidating if you've never used it as a tool to connect and communicate with customers in the past, but it doesn't have to be. There are a lot of great resources being published every day that can help you learn how to get the most out of email marketing. Start by reading through this Acquiring Customers with Email Guide from Help Scout. It's packed full of helpful examples and tips that can put you on the right track.
Skill 3: How To Automate Marketing
If you want to become a more efficient marketer, you have to be willing to invest in tools that can help automate your efforts.
Last year, more businesses than ever adopted and implemented marketing automation tools in an effort to streamline processes, understand their customers better, and make more money. In fact, according to Salesforce, "a quarter of all B2B Fortune 500 companies are already using marketing automation, along with 76% of the world's largest SaaS companies."
If you're not sure what marketing automation is, how it can help your business, or where to start, spend some time listening to this four-part series on The Future of Marketing and Sales Automation from Sugar CRM. In it, you'll hear from a few industry experts as they discuss a handful of examples, best practices, and upcoming trends in relation to marketing automation.
Skill 4: How To Become a Better Copywriter
In the last few years, content marketing has become one of the primary strategies that companies use to connect with more people online. If you want to make waves online as a business, you have to take the time to regularly write and publish blog posts on your website. But publishing regularly week after week won't do you any good unless you also take time to ensure that the content you include in every post is thoughtful, original, and helpful.
In 2015, your ability to write and share high-quality content with your prospects, customers, and followers is going to be more important than ever. If you don't consider yourself much of a writer, start by reading through this Copywriting Guide from Quick Sprout. It'll teach you everything you need to know about writing compelling copy for the web.
Skill 5: How To Use SEO The Right Way When Developing Content
Despite what some may tell you, SEO is still important when it comes to building online awareness for your brand, boosting traffic to your website, and landing new customers. That being said, SEO isn't what it used to be. In recent years, Google has been seriously cracking down on and penalizing companies that implement what they feel are shady tactics in an effort to "work the system." As a result, companies can't use the SEO strategies they used five years ago.
But that doesn't mean SEO is dead. It has just evolved. Now it's much more content-focused. To gain more understanding on how SEO is changing in 2015, spend a few minutes reading through this SEO Driven Approach To Content Marketing Guide from CoSchedule. It will give you insight on the steps, processes, and tools you need to use to get the most out of SEO this year.
Skill 6: How To Develop and Implement a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Along with content marketing, social media marketing is another major opportunity that you'll want to take advantage of this year. Like SEO, content marketing is constantly evolving, so it's important that you stay up-to-date on trends, strategies, and best practices.
If you want to be more strategic and intentional when it comes to implementing social media marketing strategies in 2015, make use of this Social Media Marketing Resource Kit from Buffer. It will help with deciding which social media sites you should be participating in, when you should be sharing updates with your followers, how to track ROI, and more.
Stephanie Halligan had just graduated from Boston University with $30,000 in student debt and no clear plan to manage her payments.
A degree from a top tier university like her alma mater is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but it was even more so for Halligan, who was the first in her family to graduate from college.
Despite her top notch degree, Halligan had difficulty with her job search. (It was 2009, after all, one of the worst years of the recession, and jobs were scarce.)
Halligan had landed a $1,000 per month internship and was living in downtown Boston, where rents are notoriously high.
"What had seemed like an insignificant amount to borrow while I was in school was actually a lot," she says. "After graduation, I didn't really know what I had gotten myself into. I didn't know how I was going to add up the dollars and cents to cover everything."
Learning the money ropes
Halligan knew something had to change if she was going to make ends meet. Coincidentally, as part of her internship, Halligan was offered the opportunity to teach personal finance classes to refugees new to the U.S.
"I taught them about the banking system in this country and about how credit cards work," she recalls. "Ironically, I was earning minimum wage and was starting to rack up credit card debt because I couldn't pay my monthly bills."
Halligan realized she was learning marketable skills through her internship, which she could likely parlay into a new career. "I realized the only way I was going to work my way out of this [debt] was to find higher paying work," she says. "I knew I had to be creative about how I found my next job, so I started taking more responsibility at my internship and started my job search in earnest."
Halligan's tenacity paid off and she was soon able to leverage her new experience into a full-time offer at a nonprofit in Washington DC. Her starting salary was $47,000 per year, a nice boost from what she was bringing home as an intern. "I felt like I was making more, but D.C. is also expensive," she says. "But, once I had a salary, I had something to work with and was able to start getting aggressive with my student loan payments."
Negotiation and debt repayment
Halligan's overall debt now totaled $34,000, and she knew she wanted to pay it off as fast as possible. She'd grown up with parents who'd almost lost their home to foreclosure because of their own debt struggles. It was a cycle she didn't want to repeat.
At first, Halligan worked to keep her living costs as low as she could. Her frugal life choices allowed her to chip away at her balances, paying a little extra here and there. After her first performance review and salary increase, she realized she'd need to make more money if she was going to make a significant impact on her hefty student loans.
"I started doing research about how to negotiate my salary and started taking on side work." Halligan admits the side work didn't amount to much at first, but that her negotiation research yielded almost immediate returns as she learned to articulate her worth to her boss. Over the next two years, Halligan's net negotiation gain was $13,000. (Here's how she did it.)
Soon after, she left the nonprofit for a higher-paying startup, where her incoming salary was $70,000. Halligan was living frugally and had been incrementally increasing her monthly student loan payment. "I started with $300 per month, which was my minimum," she says. "I started adding to that in $100 increments. I'd also earmark half of all unplanned income like my tax return, job bonus, and even a $20 birthday gift and used it pay down my loan balance." (See also: How One College Grad Paid Off $28,000 in Three Years On a $30K Salary)
Around this time, Halligan realized that it was within her reach to pay her remaining $10,000 student loan balance within a year. In addition to the salary increases she'd negotiated, she was running a successful personal finance blog and freelancing on the side.
As Halligan started to see the light at the end of her debt tunnel, she got increasingly aggressive with her payments. "I didn't want lifestyle increases to creep in when I received salary bumps," she says. "I knew I'd have more life options if I had the loan paid off." She increased her monthly payment to between $800 and $900 per month. "I had set a goal to pay them off by the end of 2013 and I did. I made my last payment in October of that year. It was a little less than four years from when I'd started repayment," she says.
As her final payment date approached, Halligan realized she wasn't happy with her job. She was designing online financial games for students, which she loved. It was the requirements outside of that work that were off putting. "I was looking for a new job, but as I got close to paying off my debt, I started to realize it was possible to start my own business," she says. "I'd been saving, I had the expertise, and I realized my skills were in demand." (See also: Starting Your Dream Business Is Easier Than You Think: Here's How)
A week after she made her last loan payment, Halligan left her job. She's been debt-free and working for herself since — now a little over a year. Today she is a financial education consultant, program designer, and marketer at her company, Empowered Dollar. Halligan currently earns less than she did at the startup but, she says, "I measure my career differently now. I feel like I bought time and freedom."
Halligan works flexible hours, can work while traveling, and even recently returned from a five week trip through South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania. "Even though I'm not richer income-wise, I don't have any debt to pay off. That makes my life feel richer," she says.
SEE ALSO: 15 Money Rules You Should Be Breaking
Pinki Goolsby was laid off in 2010 from her job as a purchasing agent, and worried that, at 63, her age would prevent her from ever being employed again.
Her son Shane Keinz, 41, a former business owner and talented chef, was newly relocated in Florida, and looking for work.
Her other son, Matt Holt, 35, is an MBA who was selling health insurance but wasn't thrilled with the corporate world; earlier in his career he had been the co-owner of a restaurant in West Palm Beach.
All three knew that Shane's culinary skills — and his conviction that stuffed burgers were the next big foodie thing — could somehow be the solution to their collective employment issues.
Together they launched Full Belly Stuffed Burgers in Bradenton, Florida, where their mission was to elevate the humble burger to a gourmet experience.
Americans will never stop eating burgers, but the market is saturated, the trio knew.
Their value proposition: "Put a new spin on a classic and make it better than anybody else. And make sure that something truly differentiates you — in our case, that every burger is hand-crafted every morning, and that the flavors are inspired," Shane explained.
Stuffings include sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, peppers, and various cheeses. Two of the more popular menu items are the Matty Melt, which is stuffed, however unlikely, with maple-cured bacon and peanut butter, and the Jalapeño Popper Burger.
The trio started modestly, selling stuffed burgers at three farmers markets in Sarasota and Tampa — cooked on a grill at the market, and also available packaged for customers to grill at home. They also catered special events.
After three years, they had developed solid experience not just with sourcing but with direct interactions with customers. When people kept asking about a restaurant where they could get a stuffed burger whenever they wanted, the family knew it had a marketable idea.
"I'm a firm believer in going where the market takes you," Matt said.
The venture was completely self-financed. The three owners cashed in 401(k)s, earmarked a small inheritance from Pinki's mother, and pooled their savings ("every dime," Matt said) to scrape together the $35,000 they needed to launch the restaurant.
In the two years they've been open, they've spent little on marketing and advertising, relying mostly on a devoted customer base and word of mouth to keep the restaurant full. They're also beginning to partner with other like-minded small businesses in the area.
In July, Full Belly teamed up with a craft brewery, Big Top Brewing Company, for a prix-fixe beer pairing dinner, and later in the year did a "tap-takeover" with the Darwin Brewing company, featuring four of its craft beers at the restaurant.
Full Belly has been a solid performer since it opened, with 4.5 stars on both Yelp and Trip Advisor. The family is considering a move to a bigger, better location when the current lease, in a strip mall that lost its anchor right before the restaurant's grand opening, is up in three years. Another future plan is to grow through franchising, according to Matt, which would bring in more revenue more quickly than growing organically.
In the restaurant business, margins are tight, hours are long, and customers are fickle. You have to be satisfied with slow growth. This isn't the kind of business that will get you rich overnight, Matt said.
Working with family is a bit of a "faith walk," he added. Personalities can and do conflict. But at Full Belly, there's a clear division of labor and little overlapping of functions, which helps avoid friction.
Shane is the creative force, both with décor and menu; Matt the business expert; Pinki the operations head. (Or, as the sons put it, Shane's the talent, Matt's the brains, and Pinki's the muscle.) All will give feedback and support to the other, but otherwise each person runs his or her own wheelhouse.
From Shane: Involve your customers. "We're always trying out new recipes, and we test them with a few trusted people before we put anything new on the menu," Shane said. But it's not just about new flavors and combinations, he pointed out. "We also have to consider the cost of the raw ingredients and how well any stuffing works in production. Pinki is already making 1,000 burgers a week by hand, so I don't want anything that's too complicated or time consuming for her." The owners also engage their customers with a monthly specialty burger selected from customer recommendations. That keeps people thinking about stuffed burgers, and the novelty is something that really appeals to regulars hungry (literally) for different burger choices.
From Matt: Understand what you don't know as much as what you do know. In other words, when you do your research, keep asking about what you need to consider that you haven't yet addressed. You don't want to get blindsided because you weren't completely informed, or were naïve about something.
From Pinki: If you want to be an entrepreneur, know that what you're getting yourself into is not just a puddle of water, it's a swimming pool — and you are going to have to swim around and know where the sides are. Also, if you're going to put in 12-hour days, you'd better be passionate about what you do and who you work with.
More from Credit.com
I recently read an article about "The Babadook," an independent horror movie that received rave reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes).
The writer and director is a woman, Jennifer Kent, and the movie features a psychological treatment of various family anxieties.
It’s so good and revolutionary that one movie critic exclaimed in response, “From now on, all horror movies should be directed by women.”
Hundreds of horror movies have come out over the years that were kind of similar to each other.
And yes, they were probably all directed by guys.
Then a woman comes along and delivers a different kind of horror flick that goes to different places and is a commercial hit.
It struck me that the same thing applies to companies.
Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, a blood diagnostics business, eleven years ago when she was only 19 years old.
Theranos developed technology that enables blood tests with only a drop of blood, eliminating pain, discomfort and costs.
Theranos today is valued at $9 billion, and Holmes, now 30 years old, is a multi-billionaire.
Sara Blakely had the idea for hosiery that was slimming and firming while she was selling faxes door-to-door.
She started Spanx with $5,000 16 years ago — she was originally turned down by every hosiery manufacturing mill before one operator, who had 2 daughters, agreed to work with her.
Today, Spanx is a billion dollar company and Blakely is another self-made billionaire.
Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Tobey noticed that meals offered in public school cafeterias were high on calories but low on nutrition. They started Revolution Foods in 2005 to provide healthier alternatives. Today, Revolution Foods provides over 1 million healthy meals per week in schools and grocery stores around the country.
Pain-free blood tests, slimming hosiery, better food for children — these are problems that women started companies to solve. Each of these companies is thriving, employing hundreds of people and touching lives each day. And the world is a much better place for it.
Of course, women are free to start any kind of company they want. But women sometimes identify different problems than men do and start different sorts of companies as a result.
The organizations they run are run differently too. We need more women solving different problems, starting companies, and creating jobs to drive our economy and society forward.
It is already happening. But not at the levels it could be.
More women start companies than men — women started over 400,000 businesses in the U.S. in 2011-2012, about twice as many as men.
But 88% of women-owned businesses were sole proprietorships that didn’t have employees, and only 2% reached $1 million in revenue. Women start more companies but they have a hard time growing.
If a woman is successful in getting investment, she’s likely to be successful. Women-led private technology companies achieve 35% higher return on investment than male-led tech companies.
But there are a number of structural impediments for women starting bigger companies.
1. Women start with less money.
As one female investor put it, “if you make 77 cents on the dollar and you compound that over a lifetime, you end up with women having a lot less free cash flow.”
The first money into a business is typically your own. Women make approximately 23% less than men in terms of salary, which gives them less risk capital to start a big business.
2. Investors are generally dudes.
The proportion of angel investors who are women is higher than it’s ever been, at about 20%. This is up from only 5% in 2004. But 1 out of 5 is still pretty bad.
It gets much worse in the venture capital context, where only about 4% of partners, who typically make investment decisions, are women.
Most male investors don’t consciously exclude women; they just want to make money. But venture-backed women-led companies bring in 12 percent more revenue than male-led companies — and yet only 3% of venture capital between 2011 and 2013 went to companies with a female CEO.
This suggests that there’s some bias at work — that women have to be better than their male counterparts to get venture backing.
3. Women have fewer role models.
There are fewer female entrepreneurs and CEOs to look up to as role models and mentors. For example, only 5% of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women.
If you try to engage a male mentor, the odds of him going creepy on you are non-zero. The images of entrepreneurs still tend to be brash, male, iconoclasts.
I’ve met hundreds of young women who have the makings of an entrepreneur but are still hesitant to see themselves in that light, in part because they don’t have as many role models that they see themselves in.
4. Women sometimes have children (and stay home to nurture them).
I became a parent a couple of years ago so I’m sensitive to this. Thank god that some women want kids or else none of us would exist! But mothers face a choice that most fathers don’t.
Women sometimes take a step back from work for a few years to take care of children — the labor force participation rate for women with infants drops to 57% before rising back to 75% for women with children 6 years or older. Women are the primary caregivers to children in 70% of married households as well.
In my experience, entrepreneurship tends to be kind of cumulative, like a layer cake. Taking some time away can make it hard to rev up. Women face this challenge more often than men.
5. Women can be more conservative
I spoke to a woman entrepreneur who’s married to another entrepreneur.
She related how tough it was to get her women friends to invest in her new company, contrasting it with her husband whose friends had been lending each other money or investing for years. Studies have shown evidence that women are more risk-averse (and, on a related note, better performing) investors than men.
Men are often kind of slobs. We’re like, “Eh, we’ll figure it out.” Women, perhaps less so.
Today most of the brainpower that our colleges are producing are women (57% of college graduates are women, 62% of Master’s degrees, etc.). I started an organization to encourage entrepreneurship in the U.S. To me, we need to get more women entrepreneurs starting significant companies REALLY badly, or else we’re taking the majority of our talent off the field.
Happily, there are promising signs. The National Venture Capital Association is trying to get women into positions at firms in the worst way. The tech community is becoming increasingly sensitive to gender issues.
One friend who’s a female investor, Kimmy Scotti, commented that she thought women come back to entrepreneurship after they’re a little bit older and more confident. She’s also optimistic about the future.
But there’s a lot of work to do.
We can all do more. Here at Venture for America, our class of fellows this year is currently about 40% women, not ideal but getting better.
We’re enlisting female mentors and looking to partner with more companies with women leaders. We’ve set up a task force to focus on empowering women internally. Our team is 50% women and we want to achieve the same ratio among our fellows and companies in the next few years.
The process starts early. Tell young girls they can be anything, including entrepreneurs and self-made billionaires.
Encourage your friends/daughters/female students/yourself to take a shot. Lend a hand. Invest. Women can make it happen — remember that you’re probably as smart (or smarter) than the guy who’s trying anyway.
Women will start companies that will be distinctive, operate differently, and solve different problems in different ways. It will lead to a much better world. We need more "Babadooks," fewer "Friday the 13th's."
Watching entrepreneurs pitch venture capitalists, after a while, you tend to notice some consistent behavior patterns.
Here are ten common mistakes that you might want to avoid, and tips for how to increase your chances of a successful meeting.
1. Failing to understand how VCs work
Prior to your pitch meeting, be very clear about what VCs do in general — make equity investments in startups — and what they’re looking for — equity returns through liquidity events (IPO or sale of the company) within 2-5 years.
They don’t lend money that you can pay back with interest; so once you’ve raised VC financing, you are on a path to be sold.
2. Not doing your homework on the specific VC
Do some research on the firm prior to your meeting; most VC’s websites are excellent and clear about explaining what they do and where they invest. Make sure you’re targeting VCs who invest in your geography, your industry, your stage of growth, and your size of deal. And make sure they’ve got investable funds.
3. Showing up too early
If your project still requires years of university lab research, you’re too early for VCs — they don’t like to invest in science projects. And if it’s just your shining faces and a pitch deck, you’re too early for VCs — they expect to see a product, and ideally customer traction.
4. Displaying symptoms of founder’s disease
VCs will be scared away if you come across as uncoachable, inflexible, unwilling to share control, and unwilling to consider bringing in new executives at the right time. They can be great to work with when they find a great idea, led by a team that’s coachable and puts the company first.
5. Lacking customer input
How much customer discovery have you engaged in? Do you have a first-hand understanding of their pain (their unmet need)? How are they addressing that need today, however poorly? Have you developed a sense, through customer interaction, that they would switch to your solution were it to become available? Can you document input from customers? Better yet, can you show customer traction (read: actual sales)?
6. Dismissing your competition
Don’t get caught claiming, “We don’t have any competition,” because it belies a real lack of business and market savvy. Granted, your solution may be better/faster/cheaper/cooler than the customers’ current way to doing things, but make no mistake: all new market entries — even truly disruptive innovations — have competition, and it’s the way things were being done before they showed up.
7. Failing to articulate a compelling value proposition
Is the customer problem you’re addressing an urgent issue (a shark bite) or a minor issue (a mosquito bite)? VCs invest in startups that solve shark bite issues.
8. Lacking a clear business model
Do you have a clear plan for how your business is going to generate revenue? Too many entrepreneurs, particularly in the Internet and mobile spaces, when asked how they plan to make money, respond, “By selling to Facebook or Google.” That’s not a business model, it’s an exit strategy — and probably an unrealistic one if you don’t have a realistic revenue-generating approach in the first place.
9. Having a weak (or non-existent) go-to-market plan
“If we build it, they will come” screams naivety, as does, “If we capture only one percent of the market, we’ll still be successful …” VCs want a grounded go-to-market plan, including a clear operational roadmap detailing headcount, geography, product introductions, and promotional tactics.
If you adhere to the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) with your marketing execution, you can’t go too far wrong.
10. Pitching financials that lack credibility
Are your revenue forecasts realistic? Use logic checks such as: Are year 4 and 5 sales a reasonable share of the total addressable market? Are you accounting for competition? Do you allow for sufficient lead-time for to launch the product and the marketing campaign, and to reflect reasonable sales cycles. Are your profit projections realistic?
Use comparable companies’ financial ratios as a reality-check — for instance, expenses for R&D, marketing, sales, etc. as a percentage of revenue; and gross profit and operating profit and a percentage of revenue.
Finally, remember that as VCs listen to your pitch, they’re not looking for some magical “right answer” (for there is none), but rather the thought process by which you arrived at your plan, and to engage you in a conversation.
VCs tend to be thoughtful, flexible, logical, evidence-driven and fast on their feet. They like investing in teams with the same traits — along with passion and strong execution bones. So come prepared, and then relax and let the intellectual sparks fly.
Jim Price is a serial entrepreneur and business educator. He’s launched and led several tech-enabled businesses, and achieved successful exits through multiple company sales and an IPO. For the past decade, Jim has also held a faculty position at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
This post originally appeared on VC-List.
When it comes to building a company or managing a group, it's probably not a good idea to wing it.
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Check out: The best of the best Insider Picks
Entrepreneurs who land a spot on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” get the chance of a lifetime: to showcase their products to more than 7 million viewers and pitch their businesses to a panel of potential investors.
And if an investor, or Shark, likes their ideas, they try to negotiate offers and seal the deals with golden handshakes.
More than 500 businesses have been pitched on the show over five seasons (“Shark Tank” is currently in its sixth season), but more than 50% of the ideas that are given the green light on the air don’t end up closing the deal when the cameras turn off, according to The Richest.com.
The lucky few who have landed a coveted handshake from Sharks, such as Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran or Lori Greiner, form invaluable business partnerships and gain exposure that hopefully leads to a big boost in sales.
If you’re a fan of the show and have ever wondered what resulted from some of the more successful “Shark Tank” pitches, then read on.
Creator: Aaron Krause
Shark: Lori Greiner
Deal: $200,000 for 20% of the business
Concept: Scrub Daddy is a smiley face-shaped sponge that can outlast many average sponges. It also comes in a lemon scent and multiple colors. Scrub Daddy products can be used to clean household or outdoor items, as well as cars and boats. Its unique design tackles hard-to reach-places, like the bottom of a mug or shower corners, and won’t scratch delicate surfaces.
Where are they now: After Greiner made the deal with Krause for 20%, Scrub Daddy became the biggest “Shark Tank” success to date, reports Business Insider. When Krause landed a spot on “Shark Tank,” his company was struggling, reaching only $100,000 in sales in 18 months.
Since its television debut, Scrub Daddy has raked in more than $18 million. Consumers can buy the product on QVC and in retail stores such as Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Krause is on a mission to “reinvent the sponge,” and the Scrub Daddy line has expanded to include various sizes.
In an interview with GOBankingRates, Krause shared a few tips on how other entrepreneurs can perfect their pitches. “Proper planning prevents poor performance,” he said. “Before I went on ‘Shark Tank,’ I watched every episode twice and created a flow chart of potential questions based off each Shark’s personality. There wasn’t a single question I wasn’t prepared for.”
Krause gave another important piece of advice for when it’s time to present the pitch: “It’s important to come across as confident, not arrogant though. You want to act like a person someone wants to do business with.”
Hold Your Haunches
Creator: Erin Bickley & Jenny Greer
Shark: Barbara Corcoran & Lori Greiner
Deal: $75,000 (plus a $100,000 credit line) for 40% of the business
Concept: Defining itself as “shapewear redefined,” Hold Your Haunches is a fashion trouser that has an extendable waistband and integrated compression shell that extends from the waist down to the calf. This two-layer shapewear system shapes and smooths the customer’s figure on the inside while remaining hidden by an outer layer of pants.
Where are they now: In the year leading up to its “Shark Tank” appearance, the company only had $165,000 in sales, reports the Daily Mail. Just six months after the episode aired, Hold Your Haunches saw more than $1.5 million in profits.
When asked about the product’s surprising success, Greiner told GOBankingRates, “The Hold Your Haunches product helps women feel better about their bodies in leggings. Who doesn’t want to look and feel better in their clothes? Plus, [Bickley and Greer] are real hustlers at getting the job at task done. That combination wins.”
Creator: Travis Perry
Shark: Robert Herjavec
Deal: $175,000 for 20% of the business
Concept: Music teacher Travis Perry created ChordBuddy for his daughter, a novice guitar player. The device attaches to the neck of an acoustic or electric guitar and has colored tabs that help beginners learn the chords. Perry’s daughter learned how to play so quickly that he knew he had a hit product on his hands.
Where are they now: ChordBuddy started with $150,000 in sales during its first month before “Shark Tank.” In late 2014, Business Insider reported the company was on track to bring in $2 million in sales and had even secured John Rich, from the popular country duo Big and Rich, as a company spokesperson.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
C.C. Chapman is an entrepreneur, brand consultant and author of "Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business."
Chapman sat down with Bryan Elliot from Behind the Brand and told us how long you give a good idea before you give up on it.
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Mason Wartman was 25 when he quit what he calls "the best job I ever had."
It's been two years since he left Wall Street to start his $1-a-slice pizzeria, and he revisited this decision in a recent LinkedIn post.
Quitting was far from impulsive. Sensing that he had plateaued as a stock researcher, he asked, and deliberately answered, two questions: "'Why should I leave?' and – when I had developed the reasoning – 'When should I leave?'" writes Wartman.
He had also been toying with the idea of opening Rosa's Fresh Pizza for several months while still employed. "To leave my comfortable existence, I had to outline basic goals for myself," he says. "I had always wanted to own my own business and I thought I had developed the foundation for a successful concept in Rosa’s."
The calculated gamble paid off.
The young entrepreneur enjoyed nearly instantaneous success, making a large enough splash with his innovative business model — which earned him profits and provided pizza to the homeless — to land him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Wartman worries that people will equate what he did with Rosa's to winning the lottery — a nearly unattainable feat — but anyone can enjoy this entrepreneurial success, he argues: "It is easily replicable."
Rosa's all began with Wartman's decision to leave Wall Street.
Quitting does not always mean failing, and in many cases it opens up opportunities. "If you find yourself in a similar position as I did; if you find you have reached a plateau; if you see your peers struggling in their jobs, foreshadowing difficulties you will likely face; I encourage you to quit," Wartman says. "Start something new for yourself. Focus and persist. You’ll be glad you did."
Read the full LinkedIn article here.
There's a saying in business that a company is often a reflection of its leader, which is to say that a leader who excels in finance but has no marketing experience will likely find his company with well thought-out cash flow projections but an underutilized social media presence.
Having spent 15 years in a strictly sales capacity before founding Brooklyn Bicycle Company, my own strengths were pretty narrow.
I did understand my customers — I was able to grasp their underlying business issues and propose viable solutions to add value to their businesses — and my insatiable curiosity didn't hurt.
While people often associate success in sales with smooth talkers, my experience was exactly the opposite — the most successful salespeople are tremendous listeners, enthusiastic about their company's offerings, and genuinely interested in solving problems.
As such, I would study my customers' businesses — their histories, growth strategies, and the specific technological solutions they had employed in the past. My drive to learn more about the business world as it pertained to my little niche had served me well — but it was only a starting point.
Fast forward to 2012 when I found myself at the helm of a fledgling bicycle brand playing in an incredibly competitive space.
This was my first time heading a company, and while my sales experience was of course a boon, it represented a mere fraction of the skills I would need to be successful in my new role. I lacked extensive financial experience, marketing experience, industry experience, and so on — which is to say that with the exception of sales, I lacked experience in nearly every area critical to our survival.
Rather than discourage me, this woefully inadequate skillset spurred my quest for self-improvement both personally and professionally, for though I was content enough at the time, to rest on my laurels — and eventually to allow my team to rest on its laurels — would have been a big mistake.
To address the gaps in my business expertise, I began reading everything I could about entrepreneurship, about the various facets of business with which I was unfamiliar, and perhaps most importantly about those individuals who had successfully made similar transitions.
Now armed with a basic understanding of the challenges I would face, I enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program to achieve a higher level of business education than I could ever have acquired on my own.
Eventually, the confidence of my newfound understanding propelled me to align myself with industry experts like Grant Petersen, whose extensive experience in the cycling industry, combined with my now concrete business sense, resulted in a successful product design and compelling story.
Today, I continue my quest for knowledge. Books are still my go-to resources — a book like Jack Welch's Winning, for example, lets me see firsthand how one man grew GE to be so successful — but I have also joined the Brooklyn chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization, a group that not only puts me shoulder to shoulder with some of Brooklyn's most successful individuals, but affords me invaluable opportunities to network with entrepreneurs around the globe.
In my experience, it's important to learn both independently and as a part of a group; the former allows you to follow a more tailored course of study, while the latter affords you the benefit of others' expertise and serves as a way to measure your own progress.
Starting your own business will never be easy, but you can help yourself by being an enthusiastic learner, so that you're absorbing skills even before you need them; by taking advantage of all the resources available to you, whether those be books, podcasts, seminars, or classes; and by forming positive relationships with people in your own community and elsewhere — people from whom you can learn, with whom you can partner, and against whom you can measure your progress.
Resources abound. You just have to be tenacious enough to find them and humble enough to learn all you can from them.
Ryan Zagata is the President of Brooklyn Bicycle Company, a manufacturer of recreational bicycles and bicycle accessories in Brooklyn, NY.
Investors are inundated with appeals to fund new companies. After a while, all the faces and pitches start to blend together.
Yet I vividly remember my first investment meeting with Leura Spielman, CEO of interior design company Laurel & Wolf.
One of the first things Leura said to me was, “I have been an interior designer for a long time. I know design, but I don’t know much about running a startup. If you’re going to invest, I look forward to the opportunity to look to you for help along the way and I promise you, in the meantime, that I am going to do everything in my power to succeed.”
I was sold.
As a VC, I know what makes a successful company: a group of highly talented people who buy into the startup’s vision. But the founder is the linchpin that determines whether a startup has the potential to go the distance.
For me, that meeting crystallized the five traits that are vital to strong leadership:
The best leaders know what they’re good at — and what their limitations are. They’re never afraid to ask for help or delegate responsibilities to team members who are better suited for the task.
Early-stage companies operate on limited resources, and leaders who are honest about their capabilities mitigate the potential for suboptimal resource allocation.
Strong leaders are like the architects of their companies: They transform vague concepts into a detailed blueprint of what their business will be. They don’t just know what their company could look like in the next five to 10 years; they also know what needs to happen for them to get there. These leaders possess the confidence and clarity of thought to execute.
Elon Musk is one of the greatest tech visionaries in the world, yet people still laughed at him when he proposed colonizing Mars. But Musk is clear on the steps needed to get there, and his company, SpaceX, is the first private corporation to put a space shuttle in orbit. Good leaders are confident in their ideas and undeterred by criticism.
Even the most brilliant startups face an uphill battle breaking into their markets and competing with industry heavyweights. If the company is going to succeed, it needs a leader who can sell prospective employees on the vision and motivate them to go all-in — even when it’s floundering.
Riot Games’ founders, Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, employ nearly 1,000 people, but they make a point to meet with each one on an individual basis. This makes everyone feel valued and inspires dedication, which is crucial when everyone is working overtime.
Leaders often draw on past experiences to predict future success, but startup founders usually can’t do that. They’re operating in uncharted territory, and they need to have good instincts to make smart decisions about products, launches, and finances. They also need to be able to adjust quickly if they make a mistake. Winning founders have a track record of good decision-making and an ability to pivot when necessary.
Most startups don’t see real traction for three to five years. Achieving profitability can take five to 10. A good leader is in it for the long haul and 100 percent committed to seeing the company through.
Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, was dedicated enough to pay himself less than any other employee. Four years after starting the company, he was living in the same one-bedroom apartment, and his only piece of furniture was the mattress he slept on. Employees who noticed began to respect and emulate his commitment to the company.
Real dedication is essential for earning employees’ loyalty and respect, and startups whose employees would follow their leader into the fire have a much better shot at making it long term.
VCs want to back winners, and no startup can win without an exceptional leader. They’re the ones who uphold their companies’ mission, and they have to be unwavering in their passion, honesty, and commitment to driving the company forward.
When the recession hit, so did reality: I knew a lot about my occupation (physical therapist), but very little about how to run a business.
The income dried up just as quickly as my debt grew. I started to cut out everything I could and even sold my car, books and anything else I could think of just to pay my tax bill. Eventually there was nothing left to sell …
And then someone invested in me.
To close my business would have cost around $20,000 in personal guarantees, so I literally couldn't afford for it to go under.
My family had nothing and lived hundreds of miles away, so asking them for help or even a sofa to sleep on was pointless. Ashamed and embarrassed, I moved into my office with one bag and a blow up bed that I then called home.
I always had an interest in real estate and knew that if I could just figure out what all of those investors seemed to know I could be successful — no matter what position I was starting from!
And then, someone invested in me.
In that first year, I managed to raise $1 million to buy $2 million worth of real estate. Within two years, my annual rent roll was $460,000 from 100 tenants, and three years later, I'm in the middle of two $5 million developments and am on target to double the portfolio.
There is only one secret to creating wealth in real estate, and that is this:
Use other people's money!
Regardless of how much you have, you will run out at some point, so the sooner you master joint ventures, the quicker your business will grow.
Here's how to do exactly that.
Build your network before you need it.
Have you ever bought something from a salesman that you had absolutely no need for? I recently popped into an electrical store and walked out with a whole bunch of other stuff I didn't even need! Why? Because I knew, liked and trusted the salesman. He knew his products, he was able to match me to something I liked, and eventually, I wanted it. Ultimately, I bought into him.
It's no different for you. If you're likeable, knowledgeable and can make an appropriate, ethical, and profitable investment opportunity people will buy into you. By building your network before you need it you have the opportunity to build genuine relationships with people interested in you and what you do.
Specialize in one strategy.
One of real estate investing's greatest aspects can also be one of it's biggest downfalls, as well. There are so many individual strategies and ways to make cash it's incredible, but with every strategy there are things to learn and inevitably mistakes to make. If you keep switching not only do you never become a true expert, you also don't allow yourself to become the 'go to' person for anything.
When I first started investing I made a name buying cheaper houses. Even though I eventually moved away from that to much bigger developments, whenever anyone mentioned a lower value property my name always came up in conversation. When potential investors are looking for where to put their money, being the person whose name constantly comes up is so powerful.
Make money … and a difference.
The reality is no matter how great your offering is, there are 100 places for investors to put their money. By being ethical in everything you do you will automatically stand out above the crowd. It creates an awesome selling point if you can show investors that not only will they be doing great business by working with you, they get to make a difference, as well.
While you're not looking for the next Mother Theresa, you are looking to work with a decent, honest person whom you can trust and work with for the long-term.
Give first, ask second.
When looking for a JV partner it's easy to go out and look for everyone that has what you need. The really powerful way to find JV partners and demonstrate your professionalism and knowledge is to flip that over and go looking for people you can add value to.
Join conversations aiming to help, support and encourage others. Join groups and forums where you can add value because you never know who is listening, and you're automatically on high ground when investors come to you rather than the other way around.
Sell through … not to.
Asking for money can be uncomfortable, especially in the your early days. When you're nervous, try this: In conversation with a potential investor ask them what brought them to the event and what they're hoping to gain from it. When they reciprocate the question, reply with "I have a fantastic business proposal and the experience to deliver the project. I'm looking for a JV partner who might want to invest. If you know anyone who would like 'X' percent return on their money over a year, please feel free to connect us."
How awesome is that? You have completely taken the heat out of the situation while still fully explaining what you have to offer. If they are interested (which they often are), they'll let you know.
When I started investing I had no money, no confidence and no home. Just a few short years later, we have a multi-million dollar portfolio and successful businesses by following these simple steps. Wherever you are now in your life, just know this: It's absolutely 100% possible for you, as well.
Kemi Egan is co-founder of Freedom Academies, Freedom Investments & Freedom Homes. She is a real estate investor, mentor, wealth strategist, and author of the #1 bestseller "The Power of Real Estate Investing."
Andrew Yang is the CEO and founder of Venture for America. He is the author of "Smart People Should Build Things," published by Harper Collins. Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewyangvfa.
In late 2010, I was telling people about my plan to recruit top college graduates to join and start early-stage companies around the country to generate U.S. job growth. I wanted to start in Detroit.
I discussed this with an accomplished entrepreneur and fellow Brown alum, Liz Hamburg.
Liz said to me, “If you’re interested in Detroit, I should introduce you to Bernie Sucher.”
She explained that Bernie was a Detroit native and entrepreneur who now lived in Moscow, but had a lot of affection for his hometown.
Bernie was friendly over email. We traded a few messages. In one of them he mentioned, “I’m actually heading to Detroit in a couple of weeks.”
I had no plans to be in Detroit; I actually had never been there before. But I responded, “I’ll be there too that week — we should meet up.” I wanted to meet Bernie and figured a plane ticket, rental car, and a couple of nights in a hotel would cost about $1,000.
Bernie and I met at the airport and hit it off. He insisted on driving us around while pointing out Detroit landmarks.
We spent two days together visiting Detroit-based companies and pitching Venture for America to CEOs and investors. By the end of the second day, we were finishing each other’s sentences.
During these meetings, I would give people my Venture for America business card, which I’d printed up a few weeks earlier. Bernie would offer his card as well, printed in Russian with a Moscow address on it.
This, plus Bernie’s 6-foot, 5-inch frame, shaved head, suit, and overcoat made him quite an imposing figure. At least one entrepreneur later confessed to me that he was like, “Who the heck were those guys?” and Googled Bernie as soon as we left to make sure he wasn’t in any danger.
Bernie became one of the first members of Venture for America’s board of directors and a tremendous champion. It was through his contacts that Venture for America established a major partnership with UBS, started working with Bank of America, and enlisted our current chairman, Sy Jacobs.
The $1,000 I spent traveling to Detroit to meet up with Bernie ended up generating over $1.5 million in resources for Venture for America over the next few years.
Bernie became the trunk of the VFA tree, the branches of which continue to grow leaves and throw off shade to this day.
Sometimes, you have to just get on the plane.
The Success Series is a collection of the best advice from some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and leaders. This week, we asked: "What is the best money you've ever spent?" See other articles in the series here.