Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
5 steps to starting a business
A: There is no doubt that starting your own business is one of the great, albeit challenging, experiences in life. Is it interesting, rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling? Indeed. But it is also frightening, exhausting, frustrating and tricky.
The problem for the new entrepreneur is that "you don't know what you don't know." But that need not be so. Just understanding the start-up process can make a big difference.
Here then are my five steps for starting a new business.
1. Assess your strengths. Not everyone is born to be a classical pianist, and, by the same token, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. An "entrepreneur" is, by my definition, a person willing to take a risk with money to make money. If that idea lights your fire, step right up, but if it frightens you, think twice. The fact is, entrepreneurship is a risk, and so, ironically, you have to be willing to lose some money to make some money.
Of course there are other attributes that are required to be an entrepreneur, including:
- Being a self-starter
- Having a willingness to work hard
- Possessing an ability to handle uncertainty
- Having self-discipline
2. Choose the right business. Once you have concluded that you have the temperament to start a business, the next obvious question is what sort of business? When it comes to choosing a business, there are two types of entrepreneurs.
The first type of entrepreneur: A person who loves something so much that he or she simply must do it for a career. It might be the weekend gardener who loves the idea of starting her own nursery or the computer geek who wants to open his own mobile repair business. As long as you conclude there is a market for your beloved business, this is a fine way to go.
The second type of entrepreneur: A person who is not in love with a particular idea per se, but in love with the idea of entrepreneurship itself. Frederik Wendelboe is a colleague of mine who is an entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay area. After analyzing several possible new business options a few years ago, he decided to start what became a very successful back support manufacturing business. Why back support? Because he had concluded that the market potential was too great to pass up.
So the bottom line is this: Whether you love a certain profession or just love an idea, pick a business that you will love.
3. Write a winning business plan: A pilot would never fly from Seattle to New York without a comprehensive flight plan that tells him what direction to head, how much fuel he will need, important markers to look for along the way, and so on.
Well, your business plan is your flight plan for your new startup. Before you even open your business, you need to thoroughly think through what the business will be, why it will be unique, how you will get customers, how you will handle the competition, and so on. That is your business plan. Not only will you use it to make sure you are on the right track, but investors will want to see it to determine whether your new business is a worthwhile investment.
As such, a big part of that plan will be your financial analysis: How much money will you need, how will you spend it, how much profit can you reasonably expect to make? Your financials will tell you. The best way to figure this out is by using the right software program.
4. Line up your funding: There are many places to find the money you need to get started. (Your business plan should spell them out.) It could come from your savings, credit cards, retirement accounts, a second mortgage, an advance on an inheritance, friends and family, or a combination of the above.
When Chris Haney and Scott Abbott had a kooky idea for a new board game, they pestered 40 friends, family and business associates into investing $1,000 each. The game they invented Trivial Pursuit made every one of their investors millionaires.
The important thing is that you find enough money to get started properly. There is nothing worse than starting out with a cash-crunch.
5. Open up shop: Armed with a great idea you love, an accurate business plan, and enough funding, it is time to get started. Find a location and outfit the office. Don't skimp on your computers and software since, for most businesses, these are the basic tools you will use to run the shop everyday. Hire staff. Have a grand opening party.
So you are a bit nervous on your first day? Welcome to the entrepreneurs' club!
It Takes Courage
Starting a business, facing the prospect of failure, making it through the tough times--it's all part and parcel of entrepreneurship. With courage, though, you can make it through anything.
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/52356#ixzz2Su7KR5Om
In 1994, Celita Schutz left a lucrative art director position to train for the 1996 Olympics and start her own graphic design business, Celita Schutz Designs, based in New York City. Six months before the 1996 Olympic trials, the judo Olympian broke her leg in two places while competing in Brazil. The doctors predicted a six-month recovery, which would have eliminated Schutz from the Olympics. "I could either sit back and accept my injury, feeling sorry for myself, or I could fight. Win or lose, I had to try," says Schutz, 34. She made it back onto the mat in three months, winning a spot on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams. All the while, her graphic design business provided a mental diversion during the painful rehabilitation.
As an entrepreneur, you ride a roller-coaster of emotion every day-from the exhilarating highs of making a sale to the deep lows of lying awake at 3 a.m., wondering if your company will survive. As the economy sputters through recession, you count dwindling cash reserves. Months of massive layoffs have torn gaping holes in the corporate safety net-there are fewer jobs to catch you if you fall. How can you find the courage to face your fears and make your business successful? How do you push past discouragement and the darkness of self-doubt?
Return to the Reason You Started
Entrepreneurs work for a purpose far beyond a paycheck. Staying focused on your company's original mission will give you the stamina to last through the tough times. Dust off your earliest business plan and re-read it. Why did you start the business? Did you have a vision of great service or an innovative product to meet an unmatched need? Were you going to make the world a better place in some small way? Recommit to your company mission, and rewrite your vision to match the urgency of the moment.
For Kimberly Ogilvie, keeping her company's original mission top-of-mind is all she needs to forge ahead. The 31-year-old started Transcending Concepts, a disability and accommodation consulting firm in Kansas City, Missouri, out of frustration: As she watched a friend with muscular dystrophy go from walking, to relying on a walker, to being wheelchair-bound, Ogilvie felt called to make a difference. Today, she works with employers to make their companies more accessible to disabled individuals. She has learned from her disabled clients to never give up, to never take no for an answer-a lesson every entrepreneur could use these days.
Face Down Your Fears
For Wendy Tarzian, president of Tarzian Search Consultants Inc., a Chicago-based recruiting company, facing her fears motivates her to put in the long hours necessary to make her recruiting firm a success. "I'm putting everything I have into this business. That is a little bit terrifying at times," admits Tarzian, 34. " I don't want to end up knocking on the door of the homeless shelter, asking if they can spare a cot, [so] I have to bear down and work through the fear."
Realistically facing the worst scenario for your business and preparing a contingency plan can build courage. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen? Laying off your employees? Bankruptcy? Losing your home? Losing your family? Facing down your fear at the faintest death rattle can help you plan to avoid financial and familial ruin.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
LinkedIn Tips: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Network
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226583#ixzz2ScIRcsou
Ten years ago, entrepreneur Reid Hoffman had a vision for a website that could help create and foster important business connections among professionals. He co-founded a site called LinkedIn with the tag line "Relationships matter."
The social media giant, with 225 million members in 200 countries, celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday. "Our vision at LinkedIn is to create economic opportunity for every professional in the world," Hoffman wrote in a blog post noting the company's anniversary.
1. Communicate the important details of your business right away.
When filling out your company's profile, be sure to say exactly what your company is, who your clients are and how you help them. The idea is to make it as quick and easy for customers to know -- right up front -- what you offer and why they should contact you. And be sure that your profile headline and photo reflect your company and project professionalism.
More: 7 Tips For Building a 'Power Network' on LinkedIn
2. Share interesting, engaging information.
One way to boost engagement among your connections is to get them talking about relevant and timely news in your industry. You can do this by sharing links to interesting stories and asking questions about the posts you share.
More: What You Can Learn From Disney, CNBC and Adobe About Creating a Great LinkedIn Page
3. Include a call to action.
An important goal with online networking is to convert connections into paying customers. One way to do this on LinkedIn is to create a unique "call to action." Instead of simply filling in LinkedIn's generic "my website" or "my blog" links on your profile page, take the extra step and tell visitors to click on your links. For instance, write: "Click here to (insert your product or service here)."
More: 7 Ways LinkedIn Can Drive More Traffic to Your Website
4. Create and participate in groups.
Not only can creating and managing a group of your own provide you with a level of credibility, it can allow you to expand your network to reach targeted and influential individuals in your field. Research topics of interest within your industry and choose the top two or three as the basis for your group.
More: Starting a LinkedIn Group to Grow Your Network
5. Showcase your products.
Be sure to fill out the "Products and Services" section of your company page. Not only is this your opportunity to explain what you offer in a compelling way, individuals can recommend and share the products you list, becoming ambassadors for your brand.
More: What You Can Learn From Disney, CNBC and Adobe About Creating a Great LinkedIn Page
6. Send targeted messages.
Accessible from a LinkedIn Company Page, targeted status updates can be an effective way for business owners to tailor the content in their status updates to specific types of company followers. This helps ensure the right people are reading the most relevant messages from you at the right time.
More: 5 Underutilized LinkedIn Marketing Tools
7. Encourage employees to be on LinkedIn, too.
One easy way to expand your company's networking base is to encourage your employees to create and actively use LinkedIn profiles of their own. By connecting with your employees, you open your own network to their pool of second-degree connections -- who can be valuable customers and clients you weren't connected with before.
More: 10 Mistakes Your Business Might Be Making on LinkedIn
8. Optimize your profile for search.
With hundreds of millions of people searching LinkedIn, you want your company's profile to stand out. When crafting your profile language, be sure to include keywords that are related to your business and industry to help improve the chances of your name appearing in LinkedIn's internal search results. Think of these keywords as the words a potential client would type in when searching LinkedIn.
More: LinkedIn SEO: How to Increase the Visibility of Your Business Profile
9. Avoid buzzwords.
If you've described your startup as "creative," "effective" or "innovative," you might want to consider using a different adjective. Clichés won't help your profile stand out and might not accurately convey your professional identity on the site.
More: The 10 Most Overused Buzzwords on LinkedIn
10. Get endorsements and recommendations.
These are your customer testimonials on LinkedIn. You can ask customers to give you written recommendations or to simply endorse your company for its skills or expertise. It's important to endorse others first and avoid sending a mass email to everyone in your network asking for an endorsement, which can be a turn off. Instead, try segmenting your network into different lists and writing a more personal note to a specific group.
More: 3 Tips for Using LinkedIn's New 'Endorsements'
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Mobile Marketing on FacebookBy Lauren Simonds
Want to grow your business? Embrace mobile marketing and tap in to the legions of smartphone-wielding Facebook fans.
As important as it is to growing your business, an entrepreneur can allocate only so many hours a week to marketing. You need to be strategic about how – and where – you spend that time. And unless you’re simply not paying attention, you know that Facebook is one of the most effective platforms a small business can use to reach a wider audience.
Still, unless you’ve tapped into mobile marketing, you’re missing out on the most active pool of Facebook fans. A study by the Web.com Group shows that of the small businesses who embrace mobile marketing, more than 80 percent have seen an increase in new business as a result.
Pedro Hernandez at Small Business Computing reports on an IDC study of smartphone owners that shows just how popular Facebook is with the mobile crowd. According to the study, Facebook ranks as one of the top-three things people do on a smartphone. Seventy percent of those people surveyed use Facebook, with the average person checking the service 14 times a day.
These results are both surprising and an indication that this group of Facebook aficionados provides a huge growth opportunity for small business owners who are savvy enough to focus their marketing efforts on this demographic.
How can you take advantage of the opportunity? The social media platform offers several mobile marketing tools to help small businesses expand their Facebook reach.
- A feature called Nearby offers recommendations based on a person’s Facebook likes, check-ins and tags. Hernandez rightly notes that people tend to rely on recommendations from their friends. Simply keep the information on your Facebook page up-to-date – your business address and hours of operation – to take advantage of this mobile-friendly feature.
- Another option to consider, especially if you want to increase foot traffic: Facebook Offers. Three types of virtual coupons – in-store only, in-store and online, and online only. Who doesn’t enjoy a deal, especially when you can redeem the coupon by simply flashing your smartphone?
- Facebook’s Promoted Posts turn your posts into ads that then appear in other people’s Facebook news streams. This can help you get your message out in front of more people faster – a handy tactic especially if your Facebook page is new and hasn’t developed any traction yet. Just be sure to follow Facebook’s advertising guidelines.