Tag Archive | "small business"

5 Superpowers of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are superheroes. They strive to solve the world’s problems, inspire social change and improve quality of life, reports Entrepreneur. They perform heroic feats with scarce time, limited resources and against all odds. Yet, most entrepreneurs toil away in obscurity and often shy away from media. Young people grow up idolizing the figureheads of mainstream media, which today is limited to musicians, athletes and movie stars. I want my children to know there is another class of superheroes in our midst, entrepreneurs. So, I dedicated my two years as a Kauffman Fellow to identifying the patterns of these amazing role models.

I have been a venture capital investor since 2007 and I have worked with incredible entrepreneurs and investors almost every day since. Over the past two years, I have interviewed CEOs and investors of the most successful startups to determine the character traits most highly correlated with entrepreneurial success. At some point it hit me — these entrepreneurs are truly heroic archetypes, and that the results of my research should be expressed in the form of a graphic novel. So today, I am unveiling the entrepreneurial superpowers that matter most along with the announcement of my graphic novel, Silicon Heroes, which launches today on Indiegogo. My goal for Silicon Heroes is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs with the characteristics and skills that power startup success. All profits from the Indiegogo campaign will be donated to Girls Who Code and Code.org.

1. Passion

Startups are emotional roller coasters that test the mental fortitude of founders. Every day brings new and unexpected challenges — and entrepreneurs can hide under a rock or they can rise to meet them. Successful entrepreneurs have a fire inside of them that motivates them to push farther and faster than normal. Passion is not just love for your product, team or market. It is the intensity, work ethic and determination that enables sustained effort over a long period of time. Lastly, passion is infectious. Passion can be the glue that brings a group of strangers together and galvanizes them to success on their startup journey.

2. Charisma

Great entrepreneurs are always recruiting. They are recruiting talented people to their team, recruiting investors to fund their dream and recruiting customers to their product vision. Charisma comes in many forms but ultimately, it is the ability of an entrepreneur to motivate people to align with his vision of the future. At the earliest stages of a company, this involves recruiting founders, finding seed capital and signing up the initial beta customers. At later stages, this can mean leading acquisitions, securing partnerships or evangelizing the vision at a conference.

3. Speed

Speed is one of the only advantages a startup has over a large incumbent. The lean startup framework centers around the mantra of “build, measure, learn” — build a prototype quickly, measure how users engage, learn from the experiment and then iterate quickly. Cycle time is a critical component for how fast a startup can move through these steps.  As a result, the best entrepreneurs set up their company’s organizational structure and decision-making processes to maximize speed. Another critical aspect of speed is coordination — once a decision is made, an entrepreneur needs to make sure everyone is on board and rowing in the same direction.

4. Focus

Startups are constrained by resources and time. The best entrepreneurs manage these two limited resources through intense prioritization. Founders need to focus the majority of their energy on the most impactful levers that can drive their business forward at any given time. There are simply too many non-essential activities that will take time but not ultimately make a difference. Focus is required to constrain resources into the highest priorities and execute.

5. Flight

Entrepreneurs are constantly encountering new challenges. The best founders exhibit a type of mental agility that allows them to fly through constant adversity with ease. These founders actively seek out advice from mentors, help from their networks and new ideas from books. These founders have an insatiable appetite for learning and are never defensive when given outside counsel. Furthermore, these successful entrepreneurs are able to synthesize new information quickly and creatively apply it to their business. This mental agility is particularly critical for first-time entrepreneurs, as they are constantly on the verge of ineptitude as their businesses scale quickly. Entrepreneurs who have achieved this level of intellectual agility reach new heights by standing on the shoulders of their network until they can fly.

Strengthen these superpowers to achieve your aspirations.

Successful entrepreneurs will possess some or all of these superpowers. These elements of character should excite future entrepreneurs, because all of these traits and skills can be learned, fostered and developed. The key is the self-awareness to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and invest in developing the superpowers you need to achieve your aspirations. Anyone has the potential to be a successful entrepreneur with the right role models and help along the way.

Are you the next superhero?

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The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Will Be

A few years back, I had pleasure of working on a transaction with Stan Shuman, then a managing director at Allen & Co, the investment bank at the center of the tech ecosystem, reports Entrepreneur.

On this transaction that Stan and I worked together, there was an analyst from Allen & Co who was straight out of school and absolutely brilliant. His speed, clarity and certainty in dealing with things was unlike any other grad I’ve encountered. He appeared to be super human.

After one of the meetings, I complimented the associate to Stan and said that Allen & Co is lucky to have him. Stan turned to me and said: “Alex, we didn’t get lucky, we picked him.”

That moment really stuck with me.

There was no luck. There was deliberate process. It was methodical. From hundreds of candidates, one was selected, and he was truly exceptional. He was the best.

Fast forward to now, I am the managing director at Techstars in New York City. Every day I am surrounded by all these incredibly talented founders.

I often hear founders say how lucky they are to be in Techstars. It is true, they are lucky, but it was anything but luck that got them into the program. The founders in Techstars worked incredibly hard, started businesses with high potential, and passed five rounds of interviews to become part of 0.8 percent that got offers.

These founders didn’t get lucky. We picked them.

Without a doubt, luck has its place in the universe. It is fun and magical. But it is also crazy and unpredictable.

Luck isn’t a characteristic of great founders. Great founders are defined by incredibly hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Great founders don’t rely on chance. They think through every single aspect of the business, from the product, user acquisition, marketing automation to fundraising.

Great founders do not rely on luck. They rely on their abilities to compute and create the future.

As Louis Pasteur put it: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

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7 Secrets to Making PR Work for You

Do you do public relations for your business? Many small business owners neglect PR because they think it takes too much time or requires hiring a PR person or agency, reports the Small Business Administration. Others think their businesses just aren’t newsworthy or that they can’t write a good press release – so why bother?

The truth: PR is a great way for any business to get noticed – for free. “Earned” publicity – publicity that comes from a blog, newspaper, or magazine writing about your business – is far more valuable than “paid” publicity (that is, advertising). Prospective customers trust earned publicity more, and it has long-lasting results in terms of building your brand and your credibility.

The nuts and bolts of PR have changed a bit in recent years, with the advent of social media and the rise of the Internet, but the basic rules of PR still hold true. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Get to know your target. Just as in any type of marketing, understanding what your target market wants and needs is key to success. In this case, your target market is the media – journalists, bloggers, TV and radio reporters, etc. To find out what they need, pay attention to what they already write about. A local reporter who covers the retail industry is the perfect person to pitch your new store to, while the reporter who reviews restaurants won’t care.

2. Craft your pitch and press release. There are many websites that provide templates for pitches and press releases. PRLog.org is one my company uses, but PRNewswire and PRWeb.com offer useful tools, too. Following a template helps by suggesting how and when to use hyperlinks, photos, and other elements to add interest to your pitch or press release. Of course, format isn’t the only thing that matters when writing a pitch or press release. You need to find a “hook” – something timely, interesting, or newsworthy to the media person you’re pitching. If your retail store sells children’s toys, for example, a pitch about the “10 Hottest Holiday Toys for 2015” will get parenting magazines or mom bloggers intrigued.

3. Hit the target. Send your pitch and press release to your target media members. Email is the generally accepted method today; you can find most media members’ emails on their publications’ websites. Use an attention-getting subject line that clearly states what you’re offering without being boring.

4. Follow up. Develop a spreadsheet of media contacts with contact information to help you manage your PR efforts. After your first pitch, follow up if you don’t hear back – but don’t be a pest. I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency of PR people emailing me the day after (or even later the same day) I get their pitches to follow up. Give people some time to get through their emails before you hit them with a second attempt – but do follow up; emails often fall through the cracks.

5. Make an offer. Spell out what’s in it for the media if they take you up on your press release. Provide some useful data (such as statistics from a survey you’ve done), an interesting or compelling quote, an offer to serve as an interview source, or an invitation to your grand opening or other event.

6. Be active. If your business targets local customers, getting out into your community is a great way to get PR. Become an active member of local networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, and other business organizations in your area. Local media often reach out to these groups when they need quotes or interview subjects, so being involved gives you a better chance of getting press.

7. Make the most of it. Once you do get publicity, make the most of the attention by posting the article on your website, framing it in your store, and generally spreading the news about your 15 minutes of fame. Also be sure to thank the journalist or blogger for the attention – that helps build relationships and leads to more publicity.

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Do Genes Determine Entrepreneurial Success?

The impact of genes on our life choices and outcomes is controversial – but that doesn’t stop it being fascinating. If it turned out that our genes contributed heavily to entrepreneurial success I, for one, would really want to know. The public policy implications for how to encourage entrepreneurship and even whether to redistribute more through taxation would be enormous. Although I would prefer a world in which entrepreneurs were made, not born, it’s better to know how the world works rather than how we want it to work, reports Forbes.

Luckily, for idealists like me, current research suggests the role of genetics in likelihood and success for entrepreneurship isn’t too strong. I don’t know this by trawling through the academic literature, but by going to the source of much of that thinking: Nicos Nicolaou, Professor and the GE Capital Chair of Mid-Market Economics at Warwick Business School, who is a world-leading expert on this subject.

Philip Salter: What’s the state of the academic literature on genetics and entrepreneurship?

Nicos Nicolaou: Research has shown that genetic factors affect both the tendency to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities and the tendency to start businesses. Studies have used large samples of identical and fraternal twins to disentangle the role of genes and environment in entrepreneurship. Identical twins share all of their genes while fraternal twins share, on average, half of their segregating genes. As a result, greater twin concordances – the probability that a twin is an entrepreneur given that its co-twin is also an entrepreneur – for entrepreneurship between pairs of identical than between pairs of fraternal twins can only be attributed to genetic factors.

The heritability estimates for entrepreneurship are around 30-35%. This actually means that environmental factors are actually much more important than genetic factors in recognizing entrepreneurial opportunities and starting new businesses.

Salter: To what extent is the decision to become an entrepreneur impacted by an individual’s genetics?

Nicolaou: Although genetic factors account for some of the variance in entrepreneurship it is only through interaction with environmental factors that any genetic influence is manifested.

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4 Important Keys That Will Unlock Your Fast Track to Success

There may not be any shortcuts in life, but there are certainly ways you can work smarter instead of harder, reports Entrepreneur. When you utilize some specific tools and systems, you can accelerate your journey to success exponentially.

Some of these tools are abstract and more mental in nature, while others are concrete and tangible, but all will help you in various ways. The best part about using these tools is that they will help you fast track your way to success in every aspect of your life, not just in business.

1. Embrace servant leadership.

Servant leadership is a timeless concept and one that many of the most influential figures in history have embraced. Great leaders are those who put the well-being of their staffs and communities above their own needs. Simon Sinek tapped into this idea with his popular book, Leaders Eat Last, but it was Robert K. Greenleaf who formally defined the term in his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader.

“The servant-leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

All ships rise with the tide, and embracing a servant-leadership mindset that puts your community’s good above your individual desires will unlock unlimited possibilities for you.

As Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

2. Focus exclusively on value.

Value is of the utmost importance. This key to success is reminiscent of the famous John F. Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

In many ways value shares the attributes of servant leadership, but the idea with this key is that you provide value to a larger, less tangible audience.

Millions have been influenced, helped and inspired by Sinek’s “Start With Why” TED Talk, yet most have never met him. They received tremendous value from the effort and preparation Sinek put into that talk, and while he’ll never be a servant leader to most of those individuals, he is still able to create a tremendous impact on people’s lives.

Value is you focusing on how much you can give and how big you can serve your market and the world.

3. Automate everything possible.

Automation is something that can help you grow your business exponentially. With all the tools on the market today, you could automate huge chunks of your life by simply taking the time to set them up. Automation will likely be the entrepreneurial tool that revolutionizes today’s business climate.

Think of what Henry Ford’s assembly-line production model did to change industrialism in his time. Automation is that mass-scale production model for today, but it’s about your productivity instead. The more you can automate aspects of your business, the faster your business can grow.

There are highly automated CMS solutions such as Infusionsoft, easily set-up sales-funnel programs such as Click Funnel and other semi-automated online storefronts such as Shopify that can revolutionize your business. The list goes on depending on the solution you require, but automation software is there to make your life more efficient and to free up your time. Use it!

4. Get help.

Last but not least, get the help you need. This final key to fast-tracking your success is perhaps the most difficult for entrepreneurs because it requires capital. However, when you get the right staff, agencies or freelance help on your side, you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your productivity.

The growth will come fast and furious when you get the right resources for your business. People are certainly an invaluable and essential growth tool.

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Women and Minority-Owned Small Businesses Still Struggle, Report Shows

They’ve made inroads, but revenues still show inequalities, reports TIME Magazine.

Women and minorities may own a growing number of small businesses, but the news isn’t so rosy on the revenue side, the Pew Research Center reported on Tuesday.

The report, which is based on preliminary results from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, shows that of the more than $14 trillion in revenues from sales reported in 2012, only $1.6 trillion, or 11.3%, went to female-owned businesses. Businesses owned by men took in 79% of sales.

As of 2012, the report shows men still owned more than half of the United States’ 27.6 million firms. Women, by comparison, only owned about 36% of businesses, up from 29% in 2007. But even in sectors with with many female business leaders, women haven’t always been as successful as their numbers suggest. In the heavily female educational market, women took in only about a quarter of revenues.

The report shows similar inequality exists for businesses owned by members of minority groups: 29% of all small businesses were owned by blacks or Asians in 2012 (roughly 12% were owned by Hispanics, who Pew notes can be of any race), but just over 10% of total sales revenue went to minority-owned businesses. Lower revenues of companies owned by women and minorities means that there’s fewer dollars left to pay employees, which can keep those businesses from advancing and growing.

The Census Bureau will release the full Survey of Business Owners in December.

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