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- 07/16/15--09:07: _How I started a bus...
- 07/24/15--11:11: _The Iranian nuclear...
- 07/24/15--11:54: _The hidden costs of...
- 07/29/15--10:10: _A 29-year-old expla...
- 08/19/15--13:05: _7 TED Talks you sho...
- 08/19/15--13:38: _50 ways you can tel...
- 08/21/15--06:25: _8 tech skills you n...
- 08/23/15--07:00: _10 steps to startin...
- 08/24/15--09:02: _A couple who have b...
- 08/25/15--11:37: _5 surprising proble...
- 05/19/15--11:05: 7 hard truths that will make you a better entrepreneur
- 01/18/15--13:00: 30 Daily Habits Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs
- 06/02/15--13:18: Why I'll never run another startup
- 06/07/15--07:15: I turned down 3 offers on 'Shark Tank' — here's what I learned
- 06/26/15--09:32: 21 success tips for aspiring entrepreneurs
- 06/29/15--08:10: 9 successful entrepreneurs share their biggest regrets
- 07/24/15--11:54: The hidden costs of starting your own business
- 08/19/15--13:05: 7 TED Talks you should watch if you want to be an entrepreneur
- 08/19/15--13:38: 50 ways you can tell you were born to be an entrepreneur
- 08/21/15--06:25: 8 tech skills you need if you want be to an entrepreneur
- 08/23/15--07:00: 10 steps to starting a business while keeping your full-time job
- 08/25/15--11:37: 5 surprising problems I faced when I became my own boss
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In my first year as CEO, I was standing in the lobby of our flight school when a man in his eighties walked in after his first flight experience in the pilot seat of a small propeller aircraft.
The first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t smiling. He had a blank stare instead of the the toothy grin I'm used to seeing.
I asked him if something was wrong with the flight.
His somber response, "I just realized that I could have been doing this my whole life. All these years, I had built up this idea that this was something that was unattainable or unrealistic."
My heart sunk with his.
It was that moment that ultimately made me realize how often people don’t push to their edges. It also made me realize I was at risk of developing the same blind spots which could lead me to a point where I was left with wonder and regret.
I started monitoring my language and noticed how often I argued the reasons I couldn’t do things. From that point on whenever I’d catch myself about to respond with a “but”, "That won’t work”, or “That’s not possible”, I’d pause and ask myself, "If I had to try, how would I do it?"
How do you make a million dollars in aviation? Start with five million. Jokes like that and anecdotes about failed aviation companies underscored the unfortunate reality that many aviation businesses are losing money. For roughly 7 years at the helm of the company, I accepted that belief and ran the company at a loss feeling as if it was the best I could do.
Last year, one of my employees pointed out that the charter jet industry was shifting from a round trip model to a one-way model and he saw the opportunity for us to embrace the changes.
My initial reaction was the feeling that there was no point in doing so since that wouldn't work anyways. It felt like it would be too expensive, too time consuming and we didn’t have the expertise to pull it off.
I caught myself before the words came out and asked how we could explore the model without taking too much risk. Over the following 3 months, we tested and tweaked until we started to see some positive results. After 6 months, the results came in that we had increased margins by 33% and pushed ourselves healthily into profitability.
As I reflected back, it amazed me that a small shift in language opened up a massive growth opportunity in an industry that “you can’t make money in."
Nick Tarascio is the CEO of Ventura Air Services.
I'm not sure who originally shared the quote below, but it's one of the best summaries of business ownership I've ever come across:
"Entrepreneurship is crazy. One day you feel like you're on top of the world, and the next day you want to die."
These experiences are two sides of the same coin.
Fortunately, there are some simple — if harsh — truths that will help you as an entrepreneur.
You may not want to hear them, but these seven realities will make you a better business owner.
1. It's Not All About You
Depending on the day, this may be either a blow to your ego or a tremendous relief. Remember that the world doesn't revolve around you and your company. When you have your entire life wrapped up in a new venture, it's easy to get tunnel vision. This can make you alternately feel like you're the greatest person in the world, or like the world will end if your company goes under.
Neither one is true. It's simply not all about you. Relax. This is a great opportunity, but there are many others as well.
2. You Can't Do It All
Want to know one of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making? It isn't chasing competitors or marketing before product-market fit has been established (although both of those are major challenges many new entrepreneurs face). Instead, it's thinking that you — and you alone — are enough to drive your company to success.
Many entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea that they're sure they're the only ones who can do it right. While startup owners do have to wear a lot of hats at the beginning, delegation is an important part of success. If you try to do it all, you'll burn out and set your company up for failure.
Instead, focus on hiring people who are great in the areas you can't do so well. Don't hire clones of yourself — hire people who can fill in your gaps and help you succeed.
3. Your Customers Don't Care About Your Product
At least, they don't yet. Being the latest and greatest may make you feel good, but until you connect to your customers' needs and desires, they won't care at all. "Build it and they will come" only works in movies — you need to connect with the daily lives of your customers if you ever hope to have an impact.
To become successful as a business owner, focus on building customer personas and understanding the true daily lives of your potential customers. Focus your branding and promotion on them, not you, and you'll find that, eventually, you have all the attention you need.
4. You're Going to Fail — and it's OK
I'm not saying your company is destined to go under. I'm talking about smaller failures. A misstep that costs you funding. A mistake in marketing that sets back sales. Failure to have a good customer service department that responds to issues promptly and encourages client retention.
These things suck, but they happen all the time.
The good news is that these small failures aren't the end of the line. They're an important part of the growing process. If you can take them in stride, you'll be on your way to greater success.
5. You May Never Make Millions
It takes time to succeed in business. I've heard it said that there are years of work behind every "overnight success," and it's true. The media may start covering a business suddenly, and it seems as if the company came out of nowhere. It didn't. The owners toiled in obscurity for years before they hit the limelight.
It'll be that way for you too. And when your success does come, it may not be millions of dollars. While the entrepreneurial heroes are the ones that sell to Google or Facebook for a major payday, that's the exception — not the norm. Accept that your success may be smaller, but it's still valid and worthwhile.
6. You'll Be Lonely
Especially in the beginning, being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. When you haven't yet built your team, and all you have is an idea and a passion, it's hard to relate to others who don't feel the same passion. Those around you may actively discourage your pursuits, requiring you to pull away from the people you're closest to.
At the same time, the long hours will make it hard to maintain the social and family life you're used to. It will be an adjustment, but you still need to be sure to invest in your most important relationships—no matter how busy you are. Businesses will come and go, but family and friends aren't as easily replaceable.
7. Habits Beat Inspiration Every Day
Inspiration gets you started, but habits keep you going. If you're going to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to begin developing the right habits immediately. Fiscal responsibility, discipline, and hard work are important. But so are physical health, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills.
Being the right person is just as important as hiring the right person. Build your habits now, and they'll be there to take over for you when inspiration fades.
Nobody said being a successful entrepreneur is easy, but it is worth it. The earlier you get comfortable with these harsh truths of entrepreneurship, the sooner you'll be on the path to business success.
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.
Earlier this year, I closed my startup.
So now I get to reflect on what I’d have done differently. Hindsight is unfair and inaccurate, but I still enjoy its lessons.
This is one, a note to my future self: Don’t call your projects ‘startups.’ It’s a semantic trick, but a really important one. Here’s why.
‘Startups’ have become a commodity in an industry of startup conferences, websites, courses and competitions.
Lured by the lights, we spend valuable hours crafting slide decks, jumping on planes, giving presentations and filling out entry forms, almost always so that someone can sell tickets to the show. I worked it hard, and I didn’t see the return. I want that time back for my business.
Here are five new rules for myself.
1. No more startup events
I’ve been invited to four startup events just this week. Wait — checks email — that’s five. It’s a freakin’ craze. Startup seminars, breakfasts, retreats, showcases. Say no to all of them.
Startup events are supposedly ‘good for networking.’ I made an interesting connection at one or two, I think. For the most part they’ve sucked vast amounts of time I really should have put into working on my organisation.
Your next project may be in publishing, healthcare, engineering or another industry, but it’s probably not in the startup industry. At a startup-industry event, you’re only going to meet startup-industry people. They are not your customers. Only go to events packed full of potential customers in your industry.
Very occasionally, treat yourself to a dinner with a few entrepreneurs you like — it helps fight the loneliness. Otherwise, if you’re not out selling, get back to your office and work. Or go home and spend some down-time with your family.
2. No more startup competitions
Then there are the competitions. Innovation competitions, pitching competitions, business-plan competitions. Sometimes the prize is an investment in your company. (First prize, an investor! Second prize, two investors!)
Honestly, do you want an investor who comes shopping for startups at a cocktail function? Winning an investment is like your bank calling to say you’ve won an overdraft. Lucky you.
It can be worse. I got a call from a major international consulting firm to tell me we’d won a big innovation award. But I can’t tell you about it because I have to pay them a licence fee if I do. Seriously: they wanted 7500 euros just to let us tell people we’d won. Another time, I got interviewed on a startup-support radio show, only to be asked to sign a letter afterwards saying they’d given us R188000 in airtime. (I didn’t sign.)
You can also win ‘business support’, or well-meaning MBA students to ‘help you grow your business’ for their course project. I’ve spent days with teams who are new to my industry using my time to tell me things I already know. I want those days back.
If you’re certain that you have time to enter competitions, only enter the ones where they’re giving out loads of free money and you know you can win. Don’t be the product.
3. Beware the warm glow of startup media
The startup-industry press is so seductive. It’s pretty and says it loves you. Being a startup, especially based in Africa, is great for media coverage, more especially if you win a startup award.
At Paperight we kept a long list of posts and articles about us that came from startup-industry acclaim. We won startup and innovation awards in London, Frankfurt and New York, an Accenture Innovation Award, and public congratulations in South Africa’s national parliament.
We were featured in several ‘startups to watch’ articles and were profiled on the websites of CNN, Forbes and others. We were even featured in a book about open-business innovation. We’re fairly certain that the awards made this coverage happen.
But in not one case did we see a corresponding spike in sales (or calls from investors), and for a young business running out of runway, sales are all that really matters. For a while, the acclaim is great for motivating staff, and to help inspire an investor’s confidence, but the effect wanes after a few awards. Don’t chase coverage in the startup industry. Find your own industry’s media outlets (they’re harder to find and less sexy than the startup press) and focus only on them.
4. Don’t tell customers you’re a startup
Every office-bound exec wants to love a startup. Like a pet. But no one wants to buy from a startup. Especially big companies. Big companies want to buy from big, stable businesses. They want to trust that you’ll still be around in a few years. And their people need to feel you’re a familiar name.
At Paperight, we needed book publishers to trust us with their most valuable IP. It’s insane to think they’d give it to a ‘startup’. We could have put our whole business in a cupboard for ten years, then dusted it off and they’d be more likely to work with us, because we’d be too old to be called a startup.
5. Get real help
The startup industry appeals to a very real need for emotional, intellectual and financial support. But (except in very rare cases) it is going to distract you more than it delivers. It’s bad for focus. Instead, find experienced confidants from an industry like yours. If nothing else, their emotional support will mean more to you than a hundred hollow prizes.
I’ll be surprised if I stick to my new rules. So remind me, please, because I’ll probably forget: run a business, not a startup. You don’t have the time.
Arthur Attwell runs Electric Book Works, a hub for reimagining publishing for emerging markets. His projects include Bettercare learning, Book Dash children's books and, until recently, Paperight print-on-demand.
Daymond John, an investor on "Shark Tank," sat down with Behind the Brand's Bryan Elliott. John reveals his personal success metrics.
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Hundreds of businesses have now been featured on the hit reality show "Shark Tank." Some have survived the tank; others have been eaten.
The survivors either left with a deal or left confident in their decision to turn down any offers presented.
The businesses who get eaten often walk out without an offer or lose sleep at night after taking the wrong deal.
My company, The Home T, was recently featured on the show. The sharks were as intense as ever, and I ended up receiving offers from Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, and Daymond John.
It was great to receive offers, but I eventually declined all three because I felt that none of them appropriately valued my company. I walked out without a deal.
Turning down three individuals who have made enormous fortunes is no easy task, and the experience as a whole will challenge even the best small-business owner.
Here are three tips that helped us survive "Shark Tank" and not get eaten alive:
1. Know your numbers
The Sharks are masterful financial tacticians. They use their supreme command of business finances to either decide your company isn't worthy of an investment or try to get the best possible deal they can on a company they think has value.
The only way to go toe to toe with experienced predators in the tank is to know your numbers. You don't have to be an accountant or a financial adviser, but knowing the ins and outs of revenue, costs, customer acquisition, and other relevant metrics is the key to staying alive.
2. Manage (or at least try to manage) the sharks
When you see "Shark Tank" on TV it's nicely edited so viewers can digest what they are seeing and hearing. In reality, the entrepreneur is getting hit with questions left and right, and sometimes they get asked multiple questions at once. When this happens it is so easy to get thrown off track.
You have to listen to the questions and, in some cases, quickly select the questions that follow the story you want to convey. If you don't manage the Sharks, and their questions, you'll quickly find yourself off track and leaving out major parts of your story.
3. Don't be scared to push back
Confidence is important. No, I do not mean you should be overly rude, though my "you're not in the circle" comment to Kevin may have been right on the line. When someone says something you are certain isn't true or disagree with, it's OK to speak up for yourself.
For instance, John kept questioning whether I was truly there for a deal, and after several mentions I finally said: "I don't know how else to say it. I'm here for a deal." Sharks don't have feet, so don't let them walk all over you.
Ultimately, every business' experience in the tank will be unique and there isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy for staying alive on the show. But knowing your numbers, (trying to) manage the sharks, and being confident enough to push back when needed gave me a fighting chance.
Ryan Shell lives in New York City and is the CEO and founder of The Home T. He is an avid cycler, amateur photographer and is dedicated to raising money and awareness for multiple sclerosis research.
Hanging up his cleats in 2006 did not mean fully parting from competition for New York Giants star running back Tiki Barber.
He entered an equally competitive arena: that of business.
In 2012, Barber cofounded Thuzio, which provides businesses and professionals with an opportunity to celebrity talent through database, booking, and event services.
What began as a six-person company in the basement of a town house in New York City is now a thriving business. And much of Barber's entrepreneurial success can be attributed to the skills he picked up after 10 years in the NFL, he tells Business Insider.
Here are four key lessons he learned from professional football that he applies to business today:
"Collaboration, and not having pride or ownership when you're trying to accomplish a common goal, is critical for success in football and business," Barber says.
Just as each of his football teammates owned their specific role to create an efficient team, Barber looks to create a well-rounded and diversified business team, which is why he hires and collaborates with people who have a specific strength that he does not.
2. Fail hard and learn from it.
It's impossible to win every football game. A career in sports will inevitably be littered with losses and failures.
"The same thing happens in entrepreneurship," Barber says. " You have great ideas and grand designs to do exactly this, and then you realize that it's not quite right." When you reach a roadblock, you have to learn to pivot, change, and find the right path, he says. "You have to keep pounding the rock until you get success."
3. Jump on every opportunity.
"When you see an inefficiency — when you see something you can take advantage of — grab that opportunity and create something," Barber says.
In business and sports, all it takes is a fraction of a second for the tables to turn. The ability to capitalize on even the smallest of opportunities could determine whether you're successful, Barber says.
4. Establish a routine.
"In sports, there are so many variables — weather or an injury, for example — that can derail your focus," Barber says. "Creating a routine helps you limit the amount of things that can go awry. The same things can happen in business. Try to keep things as regular as possible so that the problems that arise don't completely knock the ship off course."
While Barber's routines have significantly changed since his playing days, he still has daily staples that give him structure and the feeling that he's always standing on solid ground.
Here's what a typical day for Barber looks like:
1. He reads The New York Times every morning on his commute. "As a radio host, current events and sports are always important."
2. He hydrates with at least two full cups of water and never skips breakfast.
3. The first thing he does upon arriving to his office is to check email and tag anything he needs to respond to.
4. Following his CBS Sports Radio show, which airs on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, he calls his wife to check on her and their daughter Brooklyn.
5. He responds to the tagged emails.
6. He finishes a workout, either a run or a lift. "I've been hooked on running lately. I'm in the middle of the NYC Borough Series, and have the NYC Marathon coming up in November."
7. After the workday, he rocks his daughter to sleep by singing "bad renditions of 'Fly Me To The Moon,' 'There's No Business Like Show Business,' and 'Rock-a-bye Baby.'"
8. He lays out his outfit for the next day to get a jump on the following morning.
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Being successful often means learning from those who have already achieved their goals. Having a mentor is an amazing blessing to an entrepreneur, but not everyone can find one in person.
If you haven't yet found your personal business guru, here are 21 tips for young or aspiring entrepreneurs to help get you started.
1. Challenge yourself.
Richard Branson says his biggest motivation is to keep challenging himself. He treats life like one long university education, where he can learn more every day. You can too!
2. Do work you care about.
There's no doubt that running a business take a lot of time. Steve Jobs noted that the only way to be satisfied in your life is to do work that you truly believe in.
3. Take the risk.
We never know the outcome of our efforts unless we actually do it. Jeff Bezos said it helped to know that he wouldn't regret failure, but he would regret not trying.
4. Believe in yourself.
As Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right." Believe that you can succeed, and you'll find ways through different obstacles. If you don't, you'll just find excuses.
5. Have a vision.
The founder and CEO of Tumblr, David Karp, notes that an entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for something and a desire to create it. Keep your vision clear at all times.
6. Find good people.
Who you're with is who you become. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, noted that the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.
7. Face your fears.
Overcoming fear isn't easy, but it must be done. Arianna Huffington once said that she found fearlessness was like a muscle — the more she exercised it, the stronger it became.
8. Take action.
The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action. Walt Disney once said that the easiest way to get started is to quit talking and start doing. That's true for your success as well.
9. Do the time.
No one succeeds immediately, and everyone was once a beginner. As Steve Jobs wisely noted, "if you look closely, most overnight successes took a long time." Don't be afraid to invest time in your company.
10. Manage energy, not time.
Your energy limits what you can do with your time, so manage it wisely.
11. Build a great team.
No one succeeds in business alone, and those who try will lose to a great team every time. Build your own great team to bolster your success.
12. Hire character.
As you build your team, hire for character and values. You can always train someone on skills, but you can't make someone's values fit your company after the fact.
13. Plan for raising capital.
Richard Harroch, a venture capitalist, has this advice for upcoming entrepreneurs: "It's almost always harder to raise capital than you thought it would be, and it always takes longer. So plan for that."
14. Know your goals.
Ryan Allis, co-founder of iContact, pointed out that having the end in mind every day ensures you're working toward it. Set goals and remind yourself of them each day.
15. Learn from mistakes.
Many entrepreneurs point to mistakes as being their best teacher. When you learn from your mistakes, you move closer to success — even though you initially failed.
16. Know your customer.
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's, cited knowing your customer as one of his three keys to success. Know those you serve better than anyone else, and you'll be able to deliver the solutions they need.
17. Learn from complaints.
Bill Gates once said that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Let unhappy customers teach you where the holes in your service are.
18. Ask for customers' input.
Assuming what customers want or need will never lead to success. You must ask them directly, and then carefully listen to what they say.
19. Spend wisely.
When you spend money on your business, be careful to spend it wisely. It's easy to spend too much on foolish things and run out of capital too soon.
20. Understand your industry.
Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, once said, "Don't play games you don't understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them." Truly understanding your industry is key to having success.
21. Deliver more than expected.
Google's Larry Page encourages entrepreneurs to deliver more than customers expect. It's a great way to get noticed in your industry and build a loyal following of advocates.
Being a successful entrepreneur takes a lot of work, a lot of vision and a lot of perseverance. These 21 tips, from entrepreneurs who have already found success, will help you navigate the path much more easily.
In 2004, many of us had the opportunity to become shareholders in Google for the very first time. Most of us passed on that offer. Had we decided to invest, by cashing out today, we would make more than $5 for every dollar we put in. To me, that's a regret.
And it's not my only one: We've all made decisions (or failed to make decisions) we wish we could take back. Even the most successful entrepreneurs are no different.
I asked nine founders about their biggest regrets in business. And I learned a lot from what they shared. I hope you do, too:
1. Hiten Shah, KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg
Regret: Not looking for problems.
"Most of my early failures were a result of building things people didn't want. What I would have done differently is to find the right problem to solve for customers before writing a single line of code. It would have saved me a countless amount of time and resources."—Hiten Shah
2. David Hauser, Grasshopper
Regret: Not investing in culture.
"I wish I had focused more time, thought and money into the company culture from day one. I have since discovered this to be the most important factor in the success of scaling any business. Core values, core purpose and integrating these into everything will give the largest returns you will ever see as a founder."—David Hauser
3. Noah Kagan, AppSumo
Regret: Not connecting with a mentor.
"I would have gotten a mentor who's done the things I wanted to accomplish in the future. Why not learn from someone who's already done the things you want to do? People will read this and still not do anything. Instead, send one email to the person you respect in business the most, asking for a chat. You'll be surprised how much it energizes you and helps you succeed."—Noah Kagan
4. Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot
Regret: Not selling sooner.
"One of my bigger regrets in my first startup is hanging on to it too long. I ran that company for about 10 years. I had acquisition offers along the way, but the valuations never matched my growth projections. I probably held off on selling that company for three to four more years than I should have. I knew that I was no longer excited about the industry, and had aspirations to do something different — and hopefully bigger. Eventually, I did sell the company, which freed me up to go back to MIT for graduate school — and ultimately start HubSpot. If you're heart's not in it, be willing to make the sacrifice to let something go so you can free yourself up for whatever new things are ahead."—Dharmesh Shah
5. Andrew Warner, Mixergy
Regret: Not asking for feedback.
"When I got my first customers at Mixergy, I was embarrassed to ask them why they bought and what I could do to improve Mixergy for them. I thought they were going to tell me that there were too many things to improve because my site sucked. When I finally started calling them, I heard about a lot of things that needed improving, but my customers really liked me and my work, and many of them offered to help improve what wasn't working the way they wanted."—Andrew Warner
6. Wade Foster, Zapier
Regret: Not trying new things in school.
"I would have definitely experimented with more stuff in high school and college. Programming, science, selling: I was a bit too shy and nervous about my social image to try different things, and I ended up having some catching up to do."— Wade Foster
7. Adii Pienaar, WooThemes and Receiptful
Regret: Not living in the moment.
"I was obsessed about always moving from point A to B to C, which meant I was never really present in any given moment. This also meant that the highs on the rollercoaster ride were fleeting, and the lows, always brutally around-the-corner. I've since learned to enjoy the journey itself (more than the destination) and appreciate small victories and special moments much more."—Adii Pienaar
8. Mike McDerment, FreshBooks
Regret: Not being focused.
"In the early days of building FreshBooks, I struggled to find focus. As an entrepreneur, you see opportunity everywhere. It's in your DNA — your business becomes a hammer, and everything looks like a nail. I could see an infinite number of paths that the company could take. I was fortunate enough to have a good advisor who taught me an invaluable lesson before I managed to killed the company. He said, "Mike, there's a four-letter word in business: FOCUS. If you don't focus, you'll be drowning." He encouraged me to pick one thing and go as deep as possible … and [to do that] just when I thought it was deep enough, to push harder, because you can always go a hell of a lot further than you initially think." —Mike McDerment
9. Jason Lemkin, EchoSign
Regret: Not picking a committed co-founder.
"Never co-found a company with anyone, no matter how talented, that isn't committed for at least seven-to-ten years. It takes that long to build anything that really matters."—Jason Lemkin
Yes, summer is the perfect time to relax and recharge. But, it's also the perfect time to pick up a few new skills. Put that relaxed brain (and work schedule) to good use!
How accomplished would you feel if, when September rolls around, you could open up your résumé and add another skill to it? Very, we're guessing.
Before you start stressing, know that we're not asking you to sacrifice your summer nights to a droning professor. Instead, we're suggesting devoting a few hours every week to advancing your career with an online class. (Online equals your couch and your sweats and an optional glass of wine.)
To make the process easier for you, we did two things. One, we only chose classes you can complete in less than 10 weeks (with some that can be completed in an hour). Two, we hand-curated this list to ensure it's only courses that are valuable and interesting. The best part? All of them are free.
So, with no further ado, here are 43 classes you can sign up for today.
As of Fall 2014, the on-campus version of this course was the largest at Harvard. You'll learn how to think algorithmically, solve programming problems efficiently, and become familiar with a number of languages including CSS, HTML, and PHP. The class is free, but you can add a HarvardX Verified Certificate for $90.
Duration: 180 Hours / 9 Lessons
2. Introduction to Programming in Java, MIT OpenCourseWare
This course aims to help students develop high-quality, working software that solves real problems. Materials are designed for students with some programming experience, but if you have none and are motivated you will do fine.
Duration: 16 Hours / 7 Lectures, 7 Labs
No programming experience? No worries—"Programming for Everybody" is designed to be a first coding class and avoids all but the simplest mathematics. Anyone with moderate computer experience should be able to master the materials in this course.
Duration: 20-40 Hours / 10 Lessons
4. Dash, General Assembly
Duration: 4 Projects
5. Introduction to C and C++, MIT OpenCourseWare
This four-week course provides a fast-paced introduction to C and C++ programming languages. You'll learn the required background knowledge, including memory management, pointers, object-oriented programming, and how to find bugs when you inevitably use any of those incorrectly.
Duration: 16 Hours / 8 Lectures, 8 Labs
6. HTML and CSS, Codecademy
Join 4.5 million online students in creating websites by using HTML and CSS. No experience is necessary to master the basics of web development in an estimated seven hours.
Duration: 7 Hours / 12 Lessons
7. This Is How You Make iPhone Apps, Udemy
This course will teach you how to create apps and submit your first fully functional app to the App Store before the end of the day.
Duration: 5 Hours / 23 Lessons
8. Beginners Adobe Photoshop, Adobe KnowHow
This tutorial for beginners will teach you the fundamentals of Adobe Photoshop with easy-to-follow, practical examples. You'll learn how to set up your work environment and perform the various editing functions that the program offers.
Duration: 14 Hours / 26 Lessons
9. Learn Adobe Illustrator From Scratch, Udemy
Want to create amazing graphics? This course first teaches you basic Illustrator techniques, then progresses on to more advanced topics such as types and panels, colors and patterns, and perspective and automation.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 11 Hours / 41 Lessons
10. Adobe InDesign for Beginners, Adobe KnowHow
This course instructs you in how to use the powerful tools and techniques available in InDesign for creating high-quality layouts. You'll gain the necessary skills to work with graphics and tables, add color and effects, and even make your layout interactive.
Duration: 11 Hours / 21 Lessons
11. Introduction to Graphic Design, Udemy
Why is that logo appealing? Why does that poster stand out? In this course, you'll learn the theory behind creating attention-grabbing visuals and understand the basic principles and elements of design.
Duration: 1 Hour / 12 Lessons
12. Adobe Photoshop CS6 Essential Tools, ALISON
Master image manipulation and photographic re-touching with this course. You'll be guided through the Photoshop user interface and acquire the basic techniques for editing and enhancing your photographs.
Duration: 2 Hours / 8 Lessons
13. Social Media 101, Buffer
Learn the basics of social media in just two minutes a day with Buffer's week-long email class. You'll master everything from establishing a tone for your social media posts to understanding online marketing analytics.
Duration: 14 Minutes / 7 Lessons
14. Diploma in Social Media Marketing, ALISON
Want to hear about how email marketing, blogging, and Facebook can create a business page that gets noticed by customers? If so, then this course is for you. Upon completion, you'll understand the ins and outs of affiliate marketing and know the different methods that help increase traffic.
Duration: 15-20 Hours / 11 Lessons
15. Advanced SEO: Tactics and Strategy, Udemy
In this course, you'll learn a broad range of SEO subjects as well as gain an understanding of some of the deeper concepts and strategies. The content is digestible for all levels of knowledge.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 1 Hour / 7 Lessons
16. Internet Marketing for Smart People, Copyblogger
Copyblogger presents a systematic and simple approach to implementing effective online marketing with this email course. By registering, you'll also score instant access to 14 ebooks on content marketing, copywriting, keyword research, and many more topics.
Duration: 20 Lessons
17. Marketing in a Digital World, Coursera
Created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this course examines how digital tools—such as smartphones, the internet, and 3D printing—are revolutionizing the world of marketing. It'll teach you how to use these tools to persuade customers to buy, distribute, and set the right prices for your products.
Duration: 32 Hours / 24 Lessons
18. Getting Started With Google Analytics, Udemy
This training class will help you master the basics of Google Analytics and understand how to turbocharge your website performance. Apart from being able to interpret data, you'll learn to translate the raw data into actionable insights.
Duration: 4 Hours / 21 Lessons
19. Email Marketing Crash Course, HubSpot
If you're struggling to meet your email marketing goals, look no further than HubSpot's video series. The videos demonstrate everything from growing more effective organic email lists to achieving a higher open rate to strengthening your lead nurturing.
Duration: 5 Lessons
20. Become a Networking Master, The Muse
Think networking is more than a little intimidating? This email-based class could change your mind and turn you from a fearful networker to a fearless one. You'll gain the communication skills crucial to networking, from perfecting your elevator pitch to making (smart) small talk with anyone.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 7 Lessons
21. Introduction to Public Speaking, edX
Designed by the University of Washington, this course aims to help you become a more effective and confident public speaker. You'll learn to design and deliver basic arguments, informative presentations, and persuasive, complex arguments all within 10 weeks.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 30-50 Hours / 10 Lessons
22. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, Coursera
Negotiation is the key to business success—after all, no business can survive without profitable contracts. After you finish this University of Michigan course (complete with interactive videos and a free app), you'll know how to successfully negotiate.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 8.5 Hours / 6 Lessons
23. Communicating Strategically, edX
Far too frequently, the people who have the most to say have the hardest time saying it. Geared toward experts (scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals), this course will help you effectively communicate with non-scientists to inform organizational decision-making. The class is free, but you can add a PurdueX Verified Certificate for $50.
Duration: 20-30 Hours / 5 Lessons
24. Speechwriting 101, Global Speechwriter
Professional speechwriter Brent Kerrigan has crafted 10 articles designed to help beginners write better speeches. Some of the articles include, "How to Write for the Ear (Not the Eye)" and "One Speech Structure to Rule Them All." Sign up and you'll receive one new article each week.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 10 Lessons
25. How to Start a Startup, Sam Altman at Stanford University
Initially given at Stanford in Fall 2014, this lecture designed by Y Combinator's president Sam Altman features exceptional entrepreneurs like PayPal's Peter Thiel, LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, and Airbnb's Brian Chesky. You'll learn the basics of user growth, fundraising, operations and management, and much more.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 20 Hours / 20 Lessons
26. New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs, Coursera
This University of Maryland course is created for aspiring and active entrepreneurs who want to understand how to secure funding for their company. Key questions answered within the four-week course include: "What kind of investors invest by stage and where to find them?" and "What are your fundraising options?"
Duration: 12-20 Hours / 4 Lessons
27. How to Build a Startup, Udacity
Join almost 280,000 online students in learning the basics of the Customer Development Process. Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur Steve Blank provides insight into the key steps to building a successful startup, ranging from gathering and evaluating customer feedback to calculating the direct and indirect costs for delivering your product.
Duration: 24 Hours / 8 Lessons
28. Law for the Entrepreneur and Manager, MIT OpenCourseWare
This course provides a basic understanding of legal issues that corporations face during their existence. "Law for the Entrepreneur and Manager" starts by providing the basic building blocks of business law. The second half of the course examines issues that include: intellectual property, international trade, business disputes, and bankruptcy and reorganization.
Duration: 32 Hours / 21 Lessons
29. Competitive Strategy, Coursera
Taught in Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, this class teaches students how businesses behave when strategic decisions are interdependent. Using the basic tools of game theory, you'll analyze how organizations choose strategies to attain competitive advantages.
Duration: 10 Hours / 6 Lessons
Built by Google, this course aims to help you materialize your game-changing idea and transform it into a product that you can build a business around. The class blends theory and practice to teach you product validation, UI/UX practices, Google's Design Sprint, and the process for setting and tracking actionable metrics.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 48 Hours / 4 Lessons
31. How to Finally Start Your Side Project, The Muse
New businesses often start as side projects. But starting side projects is difficult in itself. This three-day, email-based class created by career experts from The Muse and Squarespace walks you through the steps needed to hone in on your idea and get the project out to the world.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 3 Lessons
32. Academic and Business Writing, edX
Originally given at the University of California Berkeley, this course focuses on writing in different disciplines—in science and technology, in literature, and in the social sciences. You'll learn to craft statements of purpose and develop a professional writing style.
Duration: 20-30 Hours / 5 Lessons
33. Writing for the Web, OPEN2STUDY
Understanding the difference between writing for print and writing for the web starts with reading up on how readers behave differently online. This course teaches you how to accommodate the needs of online readers through web design, writing style, structure, and search engine optimization.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 16 Hours / 4 Lessons
34. High-Impact Business Writing, Coursera
Effective writing is a powerful tool in the business environment. Learn to articulate your thoughts in a clear and concise manner that'll allow your ideas to be better understood by readers. This course will also teach you to notice, correct, and avoid the most common writing pitfalls.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 4-8 Hours / 4 Lessons
35. Secret Sauce of Great Writing, Udemy
With more than 20,000 students and over 120 five-star reviews, the "Secret Sauce" course teaches you to superpower your business writing—whether it's for cover letters, press releases, or sales emails—and make your blogs appear a thousand times more professional. This course is meant for professionals hoping to upgrade their writing skills, as well as businesses hoping to improve their corporate communications.
Duration: 2 Hours / 10 Lessons
36. Writing on Contemporary Issues: Culture Shock! Writing, Editing, and Publishing in Cyberspace, MIT OpenCourseWare
An introduction to writing prose for an online audience, this class teaches you to write essays that critically engage elements and aspects of contemporary American popular culture—and do so with a vivid personal voice.
Duration: 32 Hours / 21 Lessons
37. Cleaning Your Copy, News University
This class helps journalists and others understand the basics of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and AP style. Upon completing the course, you'll be able to identify and solve grammatical problems in your copy, pick the right word when choosing between tricky pairs (is it "who" or "whom?"), and use the correct AP style for addresses, money, and numbers.
Level: All Levels
Duration: 4 Lessons
38. Becoming Digital: Writing About Media Change, MIT OpenCourseWare
"Becoming Digital" traces the change in practice, theory, and possibility as mechanical and chemical media are augmented or supplanted by digital media. Students will work through and write about the ethical, aesthetic, technical, and cultural problems raised by primary and secondary readings.
Duration: 32 Hours / 21 Lessons
39. Basic French Language Skills for Everyday Life, ALISON
ALISON's free online course is a series of engaging video lessons that introduces beginners to various aspects of the French language. After taking this course, you'll be able to use a range of French vocabulary, understand past, present, and future verb tenses, and become skilled in conversational French.
Duration: 6-10 Hours / 6 Lessons
Are you planning a trip to a Mandarin-speaking country, or have you always wanted to understand some common Mandarin phrases? Basic Mandarin is a great skill to add to your resume, as many of today's global business meetings are conducted in Mandarin Chinese. In this class, you'll learn basic phrases for everyday life as well as the proper "tones" in Mandarin. The course is free, but you can add a MandarinX Verified Certificate for $50.
Duration: 24 Hours / 6 Lessons
41. Spanish I, MIT OpenCourseWare
By watching these video episodes, you'll learn Spanish (and experience its cultural diversity) through a quality drama-filled story. In addition, you'll listen to an audio program integrated with the text and workbook.
Duration: 13 Hours / 26 Lessons
42. German Course for Beginners, Deutsch-Lernen.com
The lessons in this course build up an overview of basic German grammar rules by using concise grammar tables. You'll learn the basic verb forms and syntax in a simple and understandable way.
Duration: 10 Lessons
43. Talk Italian, BBC
BBC's language lesson includes nine short sections on everyday topics like ordering a meal, asking for directions, saying where you're from, and checking in at a hotel. You can watch and listen to the clips and have a look at the transcripts for extra practice.
Duration: 9 Lessons
In 2011, at age 29, I left my job as managing editor of a book publisher in New York.
My boyfriend, who was working as a trader, covered everything while I figured out my next step: the apartment, living expenses, healthcare. (A $50,000 publishing salary in New York doesn't allow for much in savings.)
I ended up wasting a lot of time. I interviewed for jobs I didn't want, studied for the GMAT halfheartedly, and built my first start-up in the children's entertainment industry — which failed in five months.
By January 2013, our finances weren't pretty. We didn't have debt, but to stay afloat, I needed to start making $2,500 per month.
I decided to focus on an industry I knew well: book publishing. I thought, if self-publishing is the future, what will independent authors need? Marketing and editing. I didn't know anything about marketing, but I knew everything about editing.
There was an opportunity in the space. Tons of freelance editors are available online, but only a small percentage of them have any real experience. Most authors pay thousands of dollars for an edit, only to end up unhappy with the results.
Through my old job, I was connected to some of the best editors in the industry, veterans who could actually make a difference to authors. NY Book Editors was going to give authors the same editing experience they could get from a Penguin Random House or any of the big publishers.
To work with the right editors, I needed to convince some of the most well-respected people in the industry to join a start-up they'd never heard of.
Every time I met an editor at a coffee shop, I expected them to laugh at the idea of freelancing for this dinky new website. These were established editors who had worked on the big books of our time, the NY Times bestsellers and award-winners. Why would they associate themselves with this new site?
To my surprise, virtually all the editors wanted to work with us. They weren't strangers to freelancing — they freelanced occasionally for friends of agents or publishers. And that was the problem. Only authors with connections to the literary world had access to these editors.
NY Book Editors was proposing a more democratic approach. Through us, all authors could submit their work to the most sought-after editors. Editors would then decide which projects were the best fit.
For an editor, the greatest joy and the best results come from working on projects they love.
Once the editors were on board, finding authors became another issue.
Starting NY Book Editors cost about $80. I built the site, paid $20 per month to Squarespace for hosting, and took an SEO class for $60. Thanks to that class, I designed a map to get out of writer's block, which went viral, got 46,000 notes on Tumblr, and helped clients find us.
Three months later, the site had a profit of $8,000. It was less than I'd earned in publishing, and I was working harder than ever before. The fact was, I didn't know how to prioritize, what to focus on.
In the mad rush of those early days, I did the craziest thing you can imagine. I spent every dollar I'd earned on one course: Ramit Sethi's $100,000 Summit, a two-day summit in New York which taught entrepreneurs how to set up and grow their business. We all know how to make a resume and apply for jobs, but how on earth do you grow a business? Figuring out how to find the right clients and deliver the most value to them required a practical education from someone who had done it.
NY Book Editors is now a business that runs smoothly by focusing on editing services which help authors progress. We have a network of experienced editors and copyeditors who freelance on projects they love.
Some of our authors have had six-figure publishing deals, two have received seven-figure movie deals, others go on to self-publish. All of our authors have one thing in common: They hold their books to a high standard.
It costs between $1,000 and $7,000 to get an edit, depending on the length of the book and the type of edit it needs. Only authors who have completed a draft of their manuscript are ready for an edit.
Our clients are professionals from diverse fields who know they have a book in them, from lawyers to real estate agents. Many of our clients wake up at 5 a.m., before their workday, to write for an hour or two. I'm in awe of them. They have busy schedules and they manage to write books in their spare time. We've had 215 clients, many of whom come back for another edit.
In 2015, NY Book Editors' revenue is up to $55,000 per month.
I have a normal workweek — 40 hours. It's surprising how much you can accomplish when you don't have many meetings and office chats.
My role is to improve our systems, from how we communicate with clients to what kind of services we provide, to our marketing, publicity, affiliate partnerships, and I continue to meet with editors to seek out the leaders in the industry.
What's different these days? I'm happier now, more at ease with myself, and confident. I can go to a restaurant and order without calculating the bill in advance. My boyfriend is also free to pursue his ideas. These days, I'm supporting him as he starts his own business.
The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to start a business is to stop thinking about yourself. Think about the person you're trying to help, whether it's an author, a dog owner, or an ACT student. Take the time to really understand their problems — then solve them. Not only will you end up with a healthy business, you'll be blown away by the support and gratitude of your customers.
Natasa Lekic is the founder of NY Book Editors, a book editing service where authors are matched with experienced editors from the Big-5 publishers. Natasa believes every author has a unique story that can inform, inspire, and entertain readers. Follow her on Twitter @nybookeditors.
TEHRAN, IRAN — The Iranian video begins low-key, the camera panning silently as dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs click away at their computers, lost in thought.
The video, produced by Avatech, a technology incubator company in Tehran, portrays a world of ideas, of white boards and post-it notes, of coffee cups and creativity.
Then the music starts: the distinctive rock-n-roll anthem, “We will rock you,” by Queen. Tables are pounded to the beat, a singer belts out lyrics in Persian, and the energy release shows how much ambition and hope these young Iranians have in their tech start-up future – and how much greater it can be, now that a landmark nuclear deal is opening up Iran for business.
“There will come a day when everybody knows your name,” cries the singer in the video, giving encouragement to the budding entrepreneurs as a poster shows a drawing of the world. “You will see that day, when there’s no one left who can tell you that you can’t [succeed].”
While critics of the Iran nuclear deal hold forth in Washington and Tehran, at least one group is engaging with renewed aspirations: the business leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists who want to cash in on Iran’s post-sanctions prospects.
Choked by years of sanctions that cut Iran off from financial markets, trade, and much of its primary source of income – oil exports – businesses are looking forward to eased restrictions that will bring 80 million Iranians back into the global economic fold.
From aircraft builders, automakers, and energy giants to telecoms and tech companies, Western firms and investors are jockeying to be ready for when sanctions ease under the July 14 nuclear deal. On Thursday, top Iranian officials in Vienna outlined plans for $185 billion in new projects by 2020, most in oil and gas, and said already $2 billion in deals have been approved with European companies.
But even more optimism is found among the sophisticated, Western-world-aware crop of Iranian graduates engaged in start-ups, high-tech, nano- and bio-technology, and other high-end scientific pursuits.
“The [Queen] video came out of the whole vibe here; we wanted to visualize the start-up culture in Iran,” says Mohsen Malayeri, a founder of Avatech, which arranges finance and professional mentoring for start-ups.
“Iran is a very young country. You see they want to take their own destiny, take their dreams in their hands,” Mr. Malayari says at an event to bring angel investors together with start-up teams. The psychological impact of the deal can’t be ignored, he says, because sanctions were “even limiting the amount of vision you have. Now it is: ‘Why can’t I think regionally? Why can’t I think globally?’ ”
The race to invest is on: Germany’s vice chancellor and economic minister, Sigmar Gabriel, led a business delegation to Iran last weekend – the highest ranking German visit in 12 years – just days after the nuclear deal concluded in Vienna.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius – who has trade ties in his portfolio – is visiting Iran next week, hoping that France’s hard line at the nuclear talks does not prevent a restoration of Franco-Iranian business ties that dropped from 1.66 billion euros in 2011 to just 62 million euros in 2013.
Sanctions promoted self-sufficiency
By one count, more than 100 European business delegations – and some American ones – have arrived in Iran since late 2013, when an interim nuclear deal provided the first crack in the sanctions regime.
“I’ve been waiting really for 12 years for this moment … because the synergies are simply unbelievably big,” says Cyrus Razzaghi, president of Ara Enterprises in Tehran, which does market research and business matchmaking.
“What people don’t know about Iran is this human capital,” says Mr. Razzaghi, noting that Iranian students’ score high globally in subjects like electrical engineering, which means Iran can be a natural hub for research and development.
Another little known factor is a consequence of years of sanctions: Self-sufficiency and a diverse industrial base that forced the creation of entire supply chains at home.
“Now we can produce many things from scratch, from A to Z, not the highest quality with the most modern technology, but the value chain is there, the know-how is there,” says Razzaghi.
Support from Rouhani
Iran could therefore also become a manufacturing hub, he says, and the scene of industrial-scale projects estimated to be worth $500 billion to $1 trillion in sectors ranging from oil, gas and petrochemicals to luxury hotel construction.
“These two things make Iranian potential huge; the unlocked potential is just tremendous,” says Razzaghi. “We are under no illusion. It will take time, and will take big support of the government.”
That support has come since the June 2013 election of centrist President Hassan Rouhani. His economy minister last week created a new working group to speed the influx of foreign capital, and to expand Iran’s $100 billion stock market.
“Rouhani has quietly caused some revolutionary changes,” says Shahrzad Saderi, a Dubai-based Iranian consultant, noting reduced bureaucracy and more support for start-ups. “What they have done is recognize that if you are going to develop the country, you need investment in these ideas.”
“That’s the change: How we work with companies,” says Ms. Saderi. “We are not corporate America, but now we say: ‘Oh wow, maybe we can do this.’ This is new energy.”
Investing in tech
That impressed an American delegation of CEOs that visited Iran in the spring. Among them was Christopher Schroeder, a venture capitalist on his second trip to the Islamic Republic and author of “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Remaking of the Middle East.”
The budding entrepreneurs he found “aren’t just replicating the tech start-up successes they see elsewhere; they’re improvising on them and making them their very own,” Mr. Schroeder wrote in Politico. “What may have began as workarounds until sanctions were lifted is laying groundwork – tech infrastructure, tolerance for failure, start-ups as a ‘real’ job – for the next generation of companies and entrepreneurs.”
Even while expectations grow, as Iran becomes the biggest economy to rejoin global trade and financial networks since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the most enthusiastic pockets of hope are found in places like the Pardis Technology Park, 15 miles east of Tehran through barren desert hills.
A government project first built more than a decade ago, the carefully laid out avenues – “1st Innovation Street” and so on, and even a “Scientists’ Garden” – have surged with new enterprise from dozens of bio-tech, medical, and IT companies.
Bulldozers are now expanding the site. Officials told the American delegation that Iran spent $4 billion on tech infrastructure last year alone, and plans to spend $25 billion more in the next three years.
It is at places like Sarava, a local venture capital firm with a mission to invest in start-ups, where Iran’s young tech elite – some of them returned to Iran after getting their educations despite lucrative prospects in the US or Canada – are applying the Midas touch.
In well-lit, color-coordinated rooms with leather seats and open floor plans – in just one of scores of corporate headquarters here – they absorb presentations on personal branding; study American how-to guides on their smart phones; and follow on-line courses at US universities – when they are not brainstorming or playing foosball in the basement cafeteria.
One of the most successful companies Sarava works with is Digikala, Iran’s version of Amazon. It has grown from a staff of 25 to more than 800 in three years and become a $300 million company that daily ships thousands of orders across Iran.
Sarava began “start-up weekends” nearly three years ago, and in the last year – with official support – conducted 39 such weekends in 16 cities, engaging thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs.
The nuclear deal “opens up and strengthens the tie between Iran and the rest of the world … and it creates an environment of bigger hopes, where dreams can materialize,” says Said Rahmani, the founder of Sarava.
“What I have difficulty imagining is how it could go even faster.… We are working day and night,” says Mr. Rahmani. “With this rate of change, it is going to be mind-boggling what will happen after sanctions.”
Many people start a business because it's a lifelong dream, or a passion; some do it because they're desperate to make money.
Whatever your reasons for becoming your own boss, just remember the old saying that it takes money to make money, and that's never been truer than when you're starting your own business. It sounds romantic to think of yourself going from rags to riches, but most businesses need to start off with a little of the green stuff.
In other words, when you're drafting your business plan, don't forget about these hidden costs (and probably a million more that aren't listed). Knowing what expenses are coming could help you not only start your business but ensure you stay in business.
Business insurance. If you're just starting out, you may well not need business insurance. But it's something you'll want to consider early on. For instance, if you have a lot of inventory in your garage, and a fire taking it out before you sell it would financially devastate you, there's a good reason to get property insurance. If there's any risk of being sued by a customer, you probably want liability insurance.
But you'll want to consult an insurance expert because there are a lot of different types of business insurance, and not all policies will be practical or necessary for many startups.
Rob Marsh, a Salt Lake City resident who started his business, Logomaker.com, in 2010, knew before he started his website, which allows people to design their own logos, that he would buy business insurance.
He wasn't concerned about that, but Marsh says, "because my business runs online, I also had to secure insurance to protect against data breaches and online security issues."
Marsh planned to spend $1,000, and he says that was pretty accurate. "The cost of worker’s comp and basic business insurance was just under $900 a year. But coverage for the risks associated with a data breach were far more expensive than I thought. That was a surprise."
He ended up spending $5,000 a year for what's sometimes called cyber insurance. "Given the expense, I wouldn’t surprise me if many online business owners skip this kind of protection and simply hope nothing bad happens," he says.
Taxes. This can be an unpleasant surprise for a lot of new entrepreneurs, especially if the money isn't rolling in, because you figure that if you aren't making much, there isn't much to tax.
Still, odds are you're going to pay Uncle Sam something, and that can be jolting — especially when you aren't bringing in much money.
"The first year I was self-employed, I discovered I had to pay self-employment tax. It's not a small number — over 8 percent of my adjusted gross income. Yikes. Nasty surprise," says Mike Scanlin, CEO of borntosell.com, a website for covered call investors.
And Scanlin, who lives in Long Beach, California, set up his company as a limited liability company, or an LLC. He says he has to pay additional taxes of $800 a year, "no matter if I have revenue or not."
He says that $800 tax hurt him the first two years, when he wasn't making money but instead writing the software his company now sells. Then once he finally did get revenue, he had an LLC fee of $900.
"Note, they call it a fee, not a tax. What a scam," says Scanlin, who isn't too pleased with how his home state handles LLC taxes.
Professional fees, permits, licenses, etc. You may well need to hire a tax professional or lawyer to help you set up an LLC (yet another cost), and of course, you may need a professional to help you apply for a permit or license. Those, too, cost money.
Mark Aselstine, who lives in El Cerrito, California, and his brother-in-law Matt Krause, who lives in San Mateo, California, started their wine club and gifts website, UncorkedVentures.com, in 2010. They were taken aback at how much they wound up paying in licenses and permits.
"Granted, alcohol is worse than most [permits]," Aseltine says. But, still, he says, "It adds up pretty quickly when bootstrapped."
He and Krause each need a license for their home office. That costs them each $100, which they have to renew and pay for every year.
"Our warehouse is licensed, also [at] about $100," Aseltine says. "Price wise, these aren't an issue, just more of a hassle and yet another thing to keep track of."
But the permits were expensive, in part because they took so long to get.
"We had to sign our warehouse lease, before applying for our permit. Alcohol Beverage Control needs you to be in control of the space and they do come out and check before issuing permits for the location," Aseltine explains.
Aseltine and Krause paid $800 a month in rent to the warehouse while waiting nine months for their permits to be approved. That was $7,200 in costs they hadn't planned for.
Once they actually had the alcohol permits approved, Aseltine and Krause had to pay $2,000 for two permits, one for off-site sales, so they can ship wine to a customer's front door, and the other allows them to buy wine directly from wineries.
"Each of those two permits have to exist separately at both our home office address, as well as our warehouse address, so it really functions like four separate permits," Aseltine says. In permits alone, that's over $15,000 spent in their first year of business, much of that year without customers.
Time. It's easy to think this doesn't belong here. You're starting a business. You expect to spend time on the business. No surprise there.
But what's easy to miss is how much time will be spent working on the parts of the business that don't excite you.
"The largest cost for me starting a video production business was my time doing administrative responsibilities and being compliant with the government," says Tim Ryan, founder of TAR Productions, a digital video production company based in San Diego. "I've been able to automate a lot of these tasks, such as utilities and payroll taxes, but setting it up was a disaster … When starting my business I was excited about putting my name out there, marketing and meeting prospective clients, not thinking about the legalities and tax requirements."
Eric Allen agrees that time is a casualty of starting a business, and it can do more than eat up the hours you'd rather be doing cool work stuff. It can also spill into your personal life.
Allen, based in the District of Columbia, is a co-founder of Admit Advantage, an admissions consulting company and president of Admit.me, a website that helps college applicants connect with college students and alumni for support through the admissions process.
Allen says his largest expense in starting and running his business has been in opportunity cost.
"Opportunity cost is the cost that you're giving up while choosing to do something else. I learned the concept in business school, but I didn't realize it would include disappointed children, angry wives and annoyed business partners," Allen says. "There is a significant physical and emotional cost of starting a business. It's hard. That's why most people fail."
In 2012, Michael Tunney was living in Chicago, earning about $140,000 a year as a robotics engineer for a car company.
He was living the life he says people expect you to live when you're earning six figures, in a nice apartment with top-of-the-line appliances and comforts.
But something didn't feel right. "I was making great money, but I realized I was spending way too much on stuff that wasn't improving the quality of my life," he says.
"There was one moment where I was late for an outing because I was cleaning my stainless steel paper towel holder and I remember being like, 'What an obnoxious waste of time. I'm literally not socializing because I'm cleaning a paper towel holder,'" the now 29-year-old remembers.
A few weeks later, Tunney quit his job, moved out of his apartment, and sold most of his belongings, keeping only two suitcases' worth of clothes. He spent a year traveling around North America, couch surfing and staying in hostels to skydive and base jump around the US while running a business based on the key-organizing tool he invented, KeySmart, for which he raised nearly $330,000 on Kickstarter.
That first six months, he remembers, he didn't earn any money and was "running on fumes," but "my quality of life just skyrocketed." He started paying himself $40,000 a year in 2013, a figure he's stuck with even though his business has taken off. He works 80-90 hours a week, and says that his hourly pay works out to about minimum wage.
Tunney still lives out of his two suitcases.
"I love business and entrepreneurship and traveling. Why reverse old habits when I've had probably the best year of my life living off the least amount of money I've ever made?"
"Usually what people assume you do is you make good money and get a nice apartment, a nicer car, but you're still kind of poor," he continues. He now approaches his personal life and his business with the same mindset: "With a business, you try to increase revenue and decrease cost," he explains. "Most people assume [that with your personal finances] you increase revenue and increase cost, but that's counterproductive because that margin gives you freedom. If you're shrinking that margin, you're decreasing the quality of life. I did a lot of introspection and flip-flopped that. I tried to increase earnings as a whole, but decrease my income, because that margin gives you freedom to do whatever you want and that's what I focused on."
He's currently back in Chicago, setting up the KeySmart offices and planning to start working from Europe.
"It forces you to be creative and resourceful," Tunney says of decreasing his income. "That's the drive most entrepreneurs have in that first year of business — they do whatever it takes. I love staying hungry, basically, and it makes me happy. I think it's just a great way to live, it keeps you very motivated. I do a lot of consulting on the side and tell people, 'Go to any city in the world and stay at the nicest hotel for one night, and a hostel the next. Tell me where you wake up more inspired and more life-changed.'"
Have you walked away from a steady, high-paying job to create your own path? Email yourmoney[at]businessinsider[dot]com.
“Share seamlessly, steal shamelessly.”
Four simple words that sum up the value of TED Talks.
We love these quick, easy-to-digest videos with just the right amount of important information to entertain and educate in just a few minutes.
It’s free, high-quality wisdom from industry leaders — what’s not to love?
Below are the top seven videos that every hopeful, driven, focused entrepreneur needs to watch before diving into the American Dream.
Take notes, assess your ideas and business model, consider what your strengths and weaknesses are, then when you’re done watching and thinking — watch all of them over again.
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action
Simon Sinek explains what he calls "The Golden Circle," which illustrates the "why, how and what" of an organization.
According to Sinek, it’s not the product, service, or plan that’s most important — it’s why you, as the entrepreneur, think the product, service, or plan is important. Once you can identify your true motivation (and it better go beyond just making money), you can inspire those around you — including your team and your customers.
Once they’re on board and aligned with your why, they’ll work toward the how and what, or the processes and products, of your organization.
If you skip the important step of clearly identifying and articulating this point, you can only hope to inspire temporarily, which doesn’t make for a great business model in the long run.
People respond to a cause, a purpose, a passion, a mission — not a plan.
Sarah Lewis: Embrace the near win
Sarah Lewis distinguishes mastery from success as being able to reproduce a victory again and again.
Mastery is a constant pursuit. It’s a race with no finish line. It’s like a mosquito bite between your shoulder blades that you can’t quite reach. It’s exhausting and elusive, but also the driving force behind competitive entrepreneurs.
The pursuit of mastery is what drives you forward when you just barely missed out on first place, when your product is not quite right, or when you can’t seem to replicate perfection.
Lewis describes, in those moments of “near win,” that once you accept the silver medal you can allow that near win to motivate you as you pursue your next race.
Near wins allow us to see our future victories with a new sense of clarity and precision.
“We thrive not when we have done it all, but when we still have more to do.” — Sarah Lewis
Masters realize there is no end. As an entrepreneur, you’ll probably never be completely satisfied. There will always be more to improve, more to grow, more to offer.
If you’re OK never reaching that finish line, you may be ready to begin the race.
Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread
Seth Godin is a marketing genius. He offers those rare gems of simplicity that make us all think, “Well duh! Why have I not thought of that?”
Godin explains how incredibly underwhelmed your audience is. Inboxes are full of static and spam, and your messages are just another fish in that overpopulated sea.
So how do you successfully reach your clients?
You must choose the correct audience, and you must stand out. You have to say or do something “remarkable.”
No, he means this literally: You must offer them something to remark about.
So what about choosing the right audience? Don’t we want to reach as many people as possible? Seth challenges that presumption. He challenges us to initiate the radicals—those way to the left (including innovators and early adopters) and those way to the right (who are considered laggers).
It’s on those two ends of the spectrum that you find your Chatty Cathys.
It’s those talkers who will essentially act as your marketing team. They’ll be the voice for your product, spreading the word and reputation for you. With them on your side, you can win over the middle, larger moderate group.
When you have something remarkable, tell the radicals and let them go to work spreading the word.
Are you worth talking about? Are you worth a status update, a tweet, a mention? Is your product or service worth stopping for? Are you worth water cooler talk?
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Most aspiring entrepreneurs feel it in their bones — they were born to be an entrepreneur, to the point where nothing else in life could satisfy them.
They’re dissatisfied as employees, followers or consumers.
They want to create, build and grow their own enterprises, and they’re filled with the passion of their own ingenuity.
Here are 50 habits that born-to-be entrepreneurs can’t help but show. How many do you possess?
1. You can’t sit still. You’re always itching to come up with something, and do something great.
2. You’re always coming up with ideas. Good or bad, the flow of ideas never stops.
3. You can pinpoint flaws in other ideas. It comes naturally to you.
4. You marvel at successful business owners. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are just a few of your heroes.
5. You get excited when you see a successful business in action.Whether it’s a local bar or a supermarket franchise, you can’t help but smile when you see a good business.
6. You constantly think of ways to improve your employer’s business. When you’re at work, you only think about how it could be better.
7. You hate being told what to do. You’re resentful of taking orders.
8. You love to learn new things. How tos and tutorials are what you’re all about.
9. You take things apart to see how they work. Remotes, toasters, phones — you love to see the inner workings.
10. You dream of wealth. Money isn’t everything, but you can’t help but have it on your mind.
11. You don’t give up easily. You face tough challenges but keep going.
12. You’re disciplined in your habits. You have set routines that don’t get broken easily.
13. You aren’t afraid of hard work. You give everything in your life 100%.
14. You have a high threshold for risk. You don’t take blind risks, but you don’t stay complacent either.
15. You meet as many people as you can. You aren’t afraid to branch out and meet new people.
16. You talk to everyone you meet. Strangers aren’t intimidating to you.
17. You bounce back from failure. You’ve experienced crushing failure, but it’s never stopped you from coming back.
18. You like calling the shots. You like the sound of being a director.
19. You set goals for yourself. Big or small, goals fill your life.
20. You help people whenever you can. You’re interested in the greater good.
21. You find challenges in everything you do. You seek out opportunities to challenge yourself.
22. You find ways to inspire people. You’re inspired by inspiration.
23. You plan everything down to the little details. Plans are a prerequisite for any activity.
24. You’re proud of yourself. You like who you are.
25. You help your friends solve their problems. You’re great at problem analysis.
26. You effectively delegate tasks and assign resources. In household chores and business operations alike.
27. You set deadlines for yourself. No excuses.
28. You like telling stories. You love to tell people about your experiences.
29. You’re hyper competitive. You can’t even play a board game without flipping that switch.
30. You get involved with things. If you see a car on the side of the road, you get out and ask if you can help.
31. You cut out things in your life that don’t work for you. If it’s inefficient or bothersome, it’s gone.
32. You negotiate whatever you can. Flea markets and salaries are just the beginning.
33. You see the potential in people. You don’t see people for who they are. You see them for who they could be.
34. You’re calm in a crisis. When stuff hits the fan, you still think logically.
35. You follow up with people when you want something. You don’t let opportunities go.
36. You avoid things that waste your time. You’re immune to mobile games and idle social-media time.
37. You persuade people to your side. You’re a natural rhetorician.
38. You make rational decisions, not emotional ones. For the most part, you trust your logic over your emotions.
39. You don’t forget people’s emotions. Still, there’s great sympathy in you.
40. You lose track of time when pursuing passion projects. Time seems to fly when you’re heads-down working on something.
41. You frequently start new passion projects. Every week, a new idea is transformed into a hobby.
42. You constantly upgrade your house (or car or anything). There’s always something to tinker with, replace or improve.
43. You’re crazy about new technology. You’re addicted to learning how new technologies can improve your life.
44. You read the news every day. It’s an ingrained habit.
45. You read books voraciously. Every book offers something new.
46. You listen to that internal voice. You trust your instincts.
47. You listen to others’ advice. You make your own decisions, but listen to others’ opinions too.
48. You don’t dwell in the past. When bad things happen, you keep moving forward.
49. You make sacrifices for what you want. You know you have to give things up to see greater success.
50. You never write off your dreams. You take your aspirations seriously. They’re a part of you.
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There’s no denying, entrepreneurs — or those aspiring to be — must retain as much knowledge as they possibly can and they must also continue to grow it.
That’s because, in order to be successful in any market, you’ll need to hone your skills, knowledge and be vigilant in your work.
That’s why, in addition to knowing your business, employees and various strategies for success, you must also know how to use all the tools at your disposal.
These days, those tools are mostly composed of modern tech and software.
You don’t have to be a techie at heart to be a successful entrepreneur, but there are several forms of technology that you will need to understand — and know how to use appropriately — to stay afloat. This rule can also apply to many job-seekers and business professionals looking to enter a high-profile market. At the very least, adding these particular skills to your resume will improve your personal branding, making it more likely you’ll land a position.
Without these skills, you might not fail, but you certainly won’t rise above your peers and that’s important. To make an impact for your business or brand, you’ll need to know a lot more – and have a lot more tools at your disposal – than just the field you’re entering. Simple skills like Web design techniques, working with social media and communication tools, and even marketing will greatly affect your success.
Ultimately, you’ll need to know a lot more than what’s listed here, but these are some of the most important tech skills required if you want to reach the top of your field.
1. Social media
Social media isn’t just for personal use, it’s a remarkably effective communication and marketing platform for businesses too. If you don’t have a business, it’s also a great place to improve your personal branding. You can always hire a team to handle this process, but successful entrepreneurs always knows how to do the work themselves.
It’s not just about using the big networks like Facebook and Twitter, either. You’ll also need to know how to make a splash on new networks, and how to market across all of them – even some smaller ones that might crop up later. Understanding how to communicate with your audience and manage customer support is just as important. The social media space is always evolving and changing and you need to be ready for it.
It’s a bonus if you have experience or know your way around social media tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, too.
This is one of the first skills you should focus on if you don’t already have experience.
2. Know how to wireframe
Knowing how to wireframe a page is more technical in nature than it is technology-based, but it’s still just as important. Once you know how to complete a wireframe, you’ll have a better understanding for how Web pages, apps, software and various projects are designed. At first, you may wonder why this is important, especially since you’ll likely have a development, tech or product team to handle this.
It’s because, once again, knowing how to do the work yourself means you can communicate more effectively and more openly. In addition, if and when you run into problems, understanding the process will allow you to better visualize a solution.
3. Working with the cloud
Local storage has taken a backseat lately, and now everything is being stored in the cloud. Cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Salesforce and many others are ideal for sharing large files and hosting community-based file systems. This is especially important if you’re working on an app, piece of software or similar tech-related platform.
A solid understanding of the cloud – including what it is and how to use it – will make you a more efficient collaborator, improving your competitive skillset
4. Basic HTML and CSS coding
HTML and CSS are integral to website design and administration. In fact, HTML is one of the most widely used languages in Web development. At the least, you should have a basic understanding of these core technologies so that you can better understand websites and the Internet as a whole.
From the onset, it’s tough to pinpoint times where you would absolutely need this skill; but when you’re in the thick of it, HTML and CSS knowledge will definitely come in handy. Consider the times when you’ll need to generate a Web page for your business, or your professional portfolio, and when you’ll have to customize said portal. You can hire a Web developer to handle the heavy loads, but you’ll still need to understand the basics to shape the website to your liking.
Plus, it will help you better understand and communicate with your team of Web developers when the time comes.
5. SEO marketing
SEO – or search engine optimization – is not as impactful as it once was. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important in the world of marketing. You simply cannot hope to survive if you don’t understand the basics of SEO, and how to use it to your advantage. It’s still a considerable factor in the visibility of a website, and it’s especially important for small to medium businesses.
A small company like United Yacht Sales – which has done an excellent job with its website SEO – can hope to remain visible in search results much longer. This in turn drives more traffic to its website, bringing in more potential business and ultimately resulting in higher profits. Naturally, you can see why this is an important skill for budding entrepreneurs.
6. Online accounting and bookkeeping
In the long term you may have a team or group who handles the accounting and bookkeeping for your business. In the meantime, it would be beneficial if you understood the process and could complete it yourself. Since managing your books and finances is largely software and online-based these days, that’s where you’d need to focus your attention.
There is a long list of accounting software you can use to aid with this task, but you’ll still need to understand the software package you choose and that includes knowing your way around it.
7. Graphic design and image editing
At some point, you may need to dive in and help design or edit various images on your website. In other cases, you may need to assist in creating solid advertisements, fliers or promotional materials for your brand. Whatever the case may be, understanding the fundamentals of graphic design and knowing how to edit and manipulate images is a crucial skill in today’s market.
Knowing how to use design software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva will greatly increase your skillset and make you a more valuable asset. Expect this to be one of the personal branding skills that modern companies and marketing firms look for.
8. Email marketing and communication
As an entrepreneur, you have to be a go-getter. It’s not enough to leave outreach and communication solely up to your customer support and sales teams. In fact, for your business or brand to succeed, you’ll need to invest time marketing and communicating via email too.
There’s more to it than just sending out blanket emails, of course. Understanding when, how and who to email are all parts of the equation. However, once you grasp the core ideas behind email marketing and can confidently reach out to potential clients yourself, you are well on your way to success.
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A few years ago, I published a post on starting a business while keeping your full-time job.
I listed a number of reasons why this makes sense. I even included some practical steps.
But I didn’t go far enough.
So here’s a guest post from Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and marketer who teaches people how to create meaningful self-employed careers.
Never before have we experienced such a rapid growth in the number of young entrepreneurs who have begun working for themselves. From app developers to freelance content marketers, business consultants, writers, and startup founders, there's no shortage of people willing to take large, calculated risks in the name of creating their own self-employed dream careers.
What's more, many of these solopreneurs are very quickly growing their small businesses into the millions.
In a recent study at Bentley University, over 66% of Millennials said they have a desire to start their own businesses. Yet, as of 2013, only 3.6% of businesses in the U.S. were owned by people under the age of 30.
Clearly, there's a large disparity between the number of young people wanting to be their own bosses and those who are actually managing to pull it off.
It's not for lack of education. Global access to free and inexpensive online education resources on platforms such as CreativeLive, Lynda.com, General Assembly, and others, have helped drastically cut the learning curves and barriers to entry in many industries.
With valuable online learning opportunities as readily available as an internet connection, there's no excuse for not picking up new concepts and building powerful skills, if you're motivated enough.
Through my work, I've found the three most common reasons people don't follow through on starting their own businesses: a lack of confidence in themselves, a perceived lack of necessary resources, and, most of all, a lack of motivation.
Starting and growing a successful business is very difficult. Pulling it off while you're still employed full-time and bringing in an income for yourself is even more trying. (I should know; I've done it four times.)
Starting a business while you're still working full-time can also afford you many luxuries and securities that go straight out the window when you quit your job to pursue a business idea. From the obvious advantage of having a steady income to fund your new venture to additional benefits, such as being forced to focus only on what delivers the highest impact and lessening the pressure on yourself, I've personally experienced positive benefits from launching while working.
But to do that you need a plan. Here are my 10 steps to starting your own business while you keep your full-time job.
1. Ask yourself how badly you want it.
Starting a business will be difficult, will strain your relationships, and will continually force you to make tough decisions.
Write down a list of all the activities and commitments you have in your life, with the amounts of time you devote to each during a week. Take note of the ones you can afford to lessen your involvement with, and let people know you are stepping back a bit to focus on a new project that means a lot to you. Think of the easy stuff first: time spent watching TV, playing video games, or surfing Facebook and Instagram.
The more time you can free up, the quicker you’ll be able to start seeing results.
2. Inventory your skills, abilities, and weaknesses.
Which skill sets does your new business idea require? You likely possess at least some of the necessary skills to make your business happen, but if you don’t, you’re faced with a tough decision. Spend time learning a new skill or outsource to someone else who can help.
In this Skill Assessment, you’ll list out every asset and skill your business idea requires and map those needs to what you can or cannot do for yourself right now.
3. Validate your business idea.
Fortune magazine recently conducted an intensive study of 101 failed startups, looking at the question of why startups fail according to their founders. The No. 1 reason most businesses fail, Fortune found, is a lack of market need for their product (this was cited by over 42 percent of the failed companies).
This really highlights the need to fully validate your idea and get honest feedback from potential customers before you start building, creating, and spending money. It’s human nature to think that we’re right and that our ideas are always amazing.
Unfortunately, our business concepts and product ideas are often not fully thought out, useful, or even properly researched.
4. Write down your competitive advantage.
A competitive advantage is defined as a unique advantage that allows you, as a business, to generate greater sales or margins and/or acquire and retain more customers than competitors. It’s what makes your business your business.
This can be in the form of your cost structure, product offering, distribution network, customer support, or elsewhere in the business.
5. Set detailed, measurable, and realistic goals.
Without setting attainable goals and realistic deadlines for yourself, you’re going to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. It’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. In my experience, it works best to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals for myself. It helps me to stick with both the short-term and long-term objectives.
In the beginning, your daily goals are most likely small wins or to-do list type of items, then you'll gradually start hitting milestones as you get closer to launching your business.
6. Map your gameplan to launch date and beyond.
It’s one thing to set your goals and an entirely different activity to map out exactly how you’re going to get to point B, C, D, and beyond. You need to be particularly proactive with this step. Nobody can do this for you, but you won’t be able to do it all on your own, either.
Your ability to problem-solve and navigate around your obstacles will determine the level of success of your business.
7. Outsource everything you can.
This is all about focus. Look for opportunities to outsource every possible part of your business creation that you can.
Obviously, you don’t want someone else planning your goals, roadmap, or telling you 100 percent what your product or service should look like. The real point here is that you need to be doing only what you do best. While it would be great if you could code your own website to test out your online service idea, if you don’t already command a knowledge of developing, you’re looking at a few months of dedicated learning time just to get to the point where you’ll be able to understand the basics.
8. Actively seek feedback.
Your goal is to build a product or service that provides value to people. It does no good to build something that nobody wants. It’s important that you seek unbiased, outside feedback to make sure you’re building something that’s actually marketable.
Do this from day one and never stop. To find your early feedback group, you want to target people you know will give you only an honest opinion. Reach out to them personally. My go-to group consists of a handful of close entrepreneurial friends and a few mentors I regularly keep in touch with.
9. Don't blur the lines between personal projects and work.
It may seem tempting to create a “better version of Company You Work At,” but unless your employer missed some major lessons along the way, your contract probably clearly stipulates that you’ve agreed not to do just that. Plus, that’s just bad practice and it can (will) destroy a lot of relationships that could instead be very helpful for you one day.
If you’re under any non-compete clauses, assignment of invention clauses, or non-disclosure agreements, then it’s best to consult your attorney for personalized advice on this matter.
It may seem obvious, but don’t work on your project during company time.
You’ll also need to refrain from using company resources on your personal project, no matter how tempting that may be. This includes not using your work computer or any online tools, software, subscriptions, or notebooks, as well as not seeking the assistance of other employees.
10. Reach critical mass before quitting your day job.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate of only doing things that I’m passionate about, and doing those things with 100 percent of my energy. That said, I’m willing to take my time in fully vetting an idea, discovering my target market, and testing that idea with them, before making the solo decision that “this must be great!”
Having the time to continue thinking things through and seeking the advice of others will greatly benefit your new business.
Even more importantly, unless you’re working on a high-growth startup and can secure investor funding (or you’re able to self-fund), you’re realistically going to need some form of sustainable income before your new project is able to be that sole source of sustenance for you.
Starting your business while working a full-time job will undoubtedly be difficult, but it’s doable. There are as many paths to entrepreneurship as there are entrepreneurs in this world. Take these steps into account, and you’ll be well on your way to being your own boss.
Imagine that awesome feeling.
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Kach Medina and Jonathan Howe met in Luang Prabang, Laos, in 2013.
Medina, 27, originally from the Philippines, and Howe, 31, originally from the UK, have been traveling together ever since.
"People are curious about how we fund our travels," says Medina. "If you're Asian traveling the world, it's not very common. If you go abroad, it's to work and not to travel — that's the mentality. But now some people assume that Jonathan has a pot of gold hiding somewhere, or a trust fund or something."
Howe has neither. Instead, the pair makes a point of continually developing skills that help them find work wherever they land next.
Here, they explain how they afford it.
Medina and Howe started their nomadic lifestyle together in Hanoi, Vietnam, teaching English for about $3,500 a month.
"I only knew what I was doing as far as teaching English," says Howe. "I didn't have a long-term plan. I didn't know what would happen."
Next, they headed to India to get certified in Ayurveda massage and Tantra Yoga, a process that took about three months.
Holi Festival and beach yoga!!:)
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
There’s a reason why so many people stay happily ensconced in their desk jobs and don’t venture out to start the businesses they’re dreaming about or the freelance career they’ve contemplated.
Venturing out on your own can be scary and filled with uncertainty.
Whether you’ve been planning the transition for years or suddenly pulled the trigger, one thing is certain: You’ll encounter challenges that you weren’t anticipating.
Recently, my boyfriend Gio and I started a business together importing and selling fitness and beauty products on Amazon. Both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs, so you might think that somewhere along the line I would have picked up some of the basic principles of starting and running your own business.
Unfortunately, I find myself bumbling through the process like most other first-time business owners.
Here are a few things that might surprise you.
1. Cash flow problems
It turns out it takes time to get paid. Whether you’re a freelancer waiting weeks or months for payment on your invoice or a business owner dealing with companies that pay invoices every 30, 60 or even 90 days, there’s likely going to be a significant lag between when you do the work or sell your product or services and when you can expect to receive cold hard cash in return.
That can present a problem since you still need to pay your own bills on time. Your landlord or your product manufacturer probably won’t be sympathetic about the fact that you’re waiting for payment.
In our business, Gio and I had to put in a new order for products before we had gotten any of the proceeds from the first one. Our solution? Put it on my credit card and take on enough freelance work to help us pay it off at the end of the month. It worked for us, but we felt it would have been better to have squirreled away that money beforehand.
If you’re starting a company, try to have a float of working capital to help you get by as you’re waiting to get paid. If you’re a freelancer, working capital is also important since far too many freelancers bridge the time between payments by relying on credit cards and having to pay the interest fees when a client pays late.
If you don’t have enough capital to help you get through these gaps between payments, consider getting a line of credit which will charge you significantly less interest than a credit card. Also, be sure to structure longer contracts with a number of different milestones and smaller payments rather than with just one payment at the end.
2. Problems getting credit
People who work for themselves face difficulties accessing credit for a number of reasons. If you don’t have a long history of self-employed income, you’re likely to have a harder time qualifying for credit cards, lines of credit and mortgages.
Another problem that entrepreneurs face is if lenders won’t provide a line of credit to the company without someone co-signing it. If you don’t qualify because you don’t have income, it makes it harder to get any sort of credit.
There are a few ways to get around this, including applying for a personal line of credit or credit increase before you quit your day job. Another strategy is to spend some time building up your freelancing career or business before quitting so that you can show proof of income.
Also be sure to work on building or maintaining your good credit, which is also typically a big factor in getting approved. (There are many ways to check your scores for free, including through Credit.com, to get an idea of your credit standing.)
Luckily, for our business we only need one person working on it full time. That means that I’ve kept my job and my ability to access credit. In fact, we just applied for our first business credit card the other day. My income was a major factor for why our bank was willing to consider our application.
3. Success always takes longer than you expect
Another thing that people starting to work for themselves don’t often consider is how long it takes to be successful. From startup costs to learning curves, you’ll likely face a number of obstacles before you’re successful.
In fact, I would suggest you be overly pessimistic in your financial projections. This can be helpful as you build up your financial reserves before making the leap to start working for yourself. You might also consider keeping your job until you get enough traction and generate enough income to justify quitting.
No matter how much you’ve spent modeling the growth of your business, there will inevitably be delays and setbacks. For example, Gio and I were excited when we received an email from our manufacturer with our first product packaged and ready to ship. Our joy soon turned to horror when we realized that they had packaged the wrong product. It took another two weeks for them to fix it and ship the right product. In business, time is money.
Freelancers also encounter these kinds of delays. Finding clients and getting them to formalize their contracts and start work will always take longer than you expect. By being prepared, you can plan better.
4. Unexpected Costs
Another thing you might not expect or plan for is the significant increase in health care or other costs that your employer was previously paying. While you probably anticipate that there will be health care costs, most people don’t appreciate how expensive insurance and co-pays are.
If you’re starting a business with a spouse or partner, it might make sense for one of you to keep working and the other to devote their time to the business. That way, you’ll still be able to get benefits.
Other potentially unanticipated costs are the costs of registering and incorporating your business, accountant fees and bookkeeping expenses. Sure, you might think you can handle all the administrative work yourself but you might soon find it overwhelming and decide to outsource it like we did.
It’s better to build these costs into your budget since you’ll be able to build these costs into your prices or hourly rates to ensure that they’re covered. You also shouldn’t forget about planning for retirement. You need to replace the 401(k) that your employer used to provide so that you’ll have enough to retire.
5. When to Give Up
Finally, the last thing that people don’t anticipate when they’re starting to work for themselves is the moment when they might have to decide to cut their losses and start looking for a job. We don’t want to think about our businesses or freelancing careers failing at the moment when we’re trying to get them started, but it’s important that we do.
There is something called the Sunk Cost Fallacy that makes us less likely to give up on something when we’re more physically, emotionally and financially invested in it. As we put more and more time and energy into our freelancing careers or businesses, we begin to fear losing that investment and be more willing to invest too much and be less likely to walk away even when that’s the smart thing to do.
That’s why it’s important to decide ahead of time what would make you return to traditional employment. Some people give themselves a certain period of time, or a certain amount of money to invest. Others decide that if they can’t meet an income threshold by a certain date then they will give up their dream.
By setting up a framework from which to make these decisions, you’ll be more likely to make a decision that’s in your best interest.
Gio and I have a limit on how much we’re willing to invest in the business and we know that if we run out of money or lose our original investment, then we’re going to call it quits. Knowing this going in gives us clarity and will stop us from throwing good money after bad, as the saying goes.
Whether you’re starting an online business like Gio and I or becoming a freelance business consultant, it’s important that you’re prepared for whatever challenges comes your way. I hope that these tips and cautions will help you create a more successful business or freelancing career.
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