Tag Archive | "small business"

Why There Aren’t More Entrepreneurs

Supply and demand is the fundamental principle behind free market capitalism, reports Entrepreneur. It’s the backbone of economic prosperity. It’s the very reason why civilization has advanced to the point where billions of people can read this in relative safety and comfort.

Without supply and demand, we would have no entrepreneurs and no small businesses. We would have no corporations and no jobs. We would all be living hand-to-mouth in conditions not unlike those of third-world countries. In short, life would not be pleasant.

Now here’s where things get interesting. Supply and demand also dictates the economic balance between small businesses, large enterprises and everything in between. And supply and demand dictates that, for the economy to be healthy and life to be pleasant, the vast majority of you will have to get real jobs working for others.

That may be hard news to take, but it’s the truth.

You may all want to be entrepreneurs, but that’s just the supply side of the equation. The demand side simply won’t let that happen. Sure, market demand can be elastic, but it’s not that elastic. And it’s certainly not infinitely elastic. That’s just utopian nonsense.

There’s a simple reason why self-employment and small business growth must be constrained. In business, size matters. Economies of scale matter. Size and scale matter because consumers and companies like to buy quality products they want at prices they can afford. So that’s what they do.

That’s why you probably use an Apple or a Samsung smartphone from Verizon or AT&T to buy products on Amazon.com using PayPal or a bank-issued credit card while drinking a Starbucks grande Frappuccino or maybe a Jamba Juice fruit smoothie.

We buy brand-name groceries at Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. We eat at McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Pizza Hut. We bank at B of A and Wells Fargo and charge goods and services on MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. We ship packages via FedEx and UPS.

Don’t even get me started on Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Google, and Facebook.

Granted, there are lots of small coffee shops and specialty grocers. There are franchise opportunities for individuals. There are small credit unions and boutique shops. There are independent film studios. There are tons of great restaurants. And everyone has an app.

That’s the balance I was referring to. Supply and demand maintains that balance.

The truth is, we can grow the ranks of small business owners and solopreneurs all day long, but that will not change our buying habits or the market dynamics one bit. What will happen is this: competition will increase and, on average, their income level and quality of life will decline.

Today, roughly a third of America’s workforce is made up of self-employed individuals and small business owners. That’s actually a very high percentage, owing mostly to the labor participation rate being near an all-time low. That’s one of the reasons why our productivity is so anemic and our economic growth so sluggish.

If that trend continues – with more and more people deciding they don’t want to work for others and dropping out of the workforce or joining the growing ranks of the self-employed and on-demand workers – economic growth will decline, so will consumer spending, and so will our prospects for going it alone.

We might decry the tyranny of corporate behemoths and vow to become entrepreneurs who rule our own destiny, but that alone will not dictate our prosperity. Our dreams and desires are but one factor on one side of the equation – the supply side.

That doesn’t mean you can’t create the next Starbucks or Whole Foods. After all, every corporate giant began life as a small business that some founder dreamed up. But if you want to be successful, you need a product or service that creates or captures demand more effectively than competitors. You need to be the best at something customers want.

And if you find this little glimpse of cold, hard reality to be discouraging, so be it. If there’s one thing all entrepreneurs need to be successful, it’s the courage to confront the many challenges that threaten to derail us and persevere.

Always remember that demand is finite. That’s not just common sense, it’s as fundamental to the business world as scientific laws are to the physical world. And if that inspires you to fight even harder to beat the odds and become the best at what you do, then your chances of pulling that off just went up.

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5 Tips for Finding and Keeping a Good Mentor

If you’re building any kind of business, you are going to need advice at some point down the line, reports Entrepreneur. For busy professionals, whether they’re experienced entrepreneurs or those about to embark on making their first business idea a reality, a guiding hand and some words of wisdom from a mentor are gifts worth their weight in gold.

Watching LinkedIn’s “The Mentor Who Shaped Me” series unfold, I’ve been thinking about the people who have shaped my career in digital marketing. I want to share four ways some of my digital industry peers and I have found for finding and keeping a great mentor relationship thriving.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you’ve identified someone you think would be a perfect mentor, don’t worry about whether he or she is too busy. There’s no point in recognizing the need for you to grow and be guided professionally if you don’t shoot for a mentor who is successful and probably stretched for time. Have the confidence that the reply will “yes,” and get your pitch together. What have you got to lose?

2. Ask right, and be mentor-worthy.

“Anyone giving up their time to help you with your professional life and career is going to want to make sure their time is being spent wisely,” says digital strategist Lisa Williams. If you don’t know the person you’re targeting, explain who you are and what you are about.

Tell this person why you’ve identified him or her and be thorough about what you want from the relationship and what you envision as the time commitment. Most busy people like order, so being explicit with timing and desired outcomes is more likely to elicit a positive response than a woolly request for a coffee and a chat.

Also: Ask questions. Lots of questions.

3. Choose someone with a different perspective.

“You won’t learn or grow much unless you face your flaws and ignorance of some of the world around you,” suggests Cedric Chambaz, a marketing manager at Bing Ads. So, try to find a mentor who will challenge your thinking and show you there might be a different way to approach a problem, or an additional potential one you never knew existed.

Having empathy with others is a huge part of being successful in your career, so even if you don’t agree with someone on any given subject, you’ll find that at least understanding another’s point of view will greatly help your personal brand and also your decision-making process.

4. Seek out more than one.

In my book Pioneers of Digital, Carolyn Everson — global head of marketing solutions at Facebook — recommends you take on a “board of advisors” to help with multiple aspects of your career. No one person will have all the answers, so choose a number of different mentors with different backgrounds and experiences to shape your goals and outcomes in a more wholesome way.

5. Try to reciprocate.

A mentor/mentee relationship should never just be a one-way affair. Try to make it useful for your mentor by asking what he or she might like in return. Many will say that giving of their time is a way to give back and help to shape someaone’s future. But never assume. It’s a relationship, so there must be something you can do in return to make the union more fruitful and a “career positive” for you.

Having a mentor early on in my career was very valuable as I sought to define in what direction and how far I wanted to go. For some people, a formal process of seeking out a mentor is the best way to go, but as creative director Joy Archer says, “One significant thing about mentor relationships is that the best ones seem to grow organically, rather than being an ‘arranged marriage.’”

The point is: Take a look around you right now at some of your peers and colleagues. Some of them might be acting as your mentors already.

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8 Things Entrepreneurial People Do Differently

Entrepreneurship goes beyond Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Garrett Camp, and it embodies something bigger than Twitter and WhatsApp. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, an attitude, and a lifestyle adopted by people who aren’t satisfied with the status quo, reports the Huffington Post.

It’s an approach to life that favors creativity over conformity and action over inaction. Bestselling author, investor, and entrepreneur James Altucher says that for him, “Being an ‘entrepreneur’ doesn’t mean starting the next Facebook. Or even starting any business at all. It means finding the challenges you have in your life, and determining creative ways to overcome those challenges.”

So, even if you’re not tinkering away at the next world-changing invention or looking to set up shop in Silicon Valley, there are aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset that will enrich your work and life. Here are 8 things entrepreneurial people do differently.

They’re brave enough to commit to their dreams.

Entrepreneurs choose to forego the security and familiarity of a ‘regular job’ to live an uncertain and insecure lifestyle. It takes a lot of bravery to make that tradeoff, but for icons like Walt Disney, the potential reward is worth it.

They think of their customers more than themselves.

Entrepreneurs are rarely out to seek fame for themselves. Instead, they’re more concerned with the people they want to help or the problem they want to solve. This infuses their task with a layer of meaning that can be the difference between success and failure when things get tough. In his book, APE – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, former Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki writes, “In your darkest, most frustrated hours, remember the value you are trying to add to peoples’ lives, the satisfaction you’ll feel, or the cause that you’ll further.”

They never stop learning.

Since they’re in the business of creating new products and inventing new ways of doing things, much of what entrepreneurs do can’t be taught in a classroom. They know that the most important lessons are learned through living, so throughout their lives, they remain open, flexible, and curious in order to absorb as much as possible.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, started off with a small student magazine, before eventually growing a string of record stores, a music label, an airline, and now even a commercial spaceflight company. Rather than becoming an expert in one area, he continued to learn and adapt throughout his life.

They never give up.

Rarely does an inventor or entrepreneur succeed on the first try. To create something lasting and worthwhile, it usually takes years of hard work, focus, and dedication; an idea is just a starting point. Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, a spoken word poet and the founder of a production company, believes this level of persistence is a critical element of entrepreneurship. “That’s what it means to be an entrepreneur: to really focus on that one thing that does not exist yet and keep working towards it until it becomes real,” she says.

They love failing.

For most of us, the fear of failure is entirely paralyzing, but for entrepreneurs, failure is something to embrace. It’s an indication of pushing the limits, and inevitable when one is constantly trying new things.

They find and fill a need of the world.

Entrepreneurs want to do more than indulge their own interests — they want to solve a problem or create a product that satisfies a need.

Some started businesses because of frustration with an inefficient or defective system. Others were moved by a personal encounter with poverty or misfortune. Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, started his business after traveling to Argentina and seeing kids who didn’t have shoes: “An absence that didn’t just complicate every aspect of their lives — including essentials like attending school and getting water from the local well — but also exposed them to a wide range of diseases,” he writes in Start Something That Matters.

They take old ideas and make them way, way better.

While one might think that entrepreneurs are focused mainly on never-seen-before ideas, they often revamp an existing model or upgrade an outdated product. Sometimes, these reinvented ideas change the way we exercise, read, or eat.

And once in a while, they revolutionize ice cream.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, started out in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, before growing a globally recognized brand that features unusual flavors like ‘Cherry Garcia’ and ‘Hazed & Confused.’ They’re also pioneers in the socially responsible business movement, speaking often about how business can give back to the community and earning Ben & Jerry’s a B-Corporation certification.

Above all, they act.

Entrepreneurs execute when for many others, an idea simply fades into the past. They are masters of turning the abstract into the concrete. This seemingly simple action is one of the great challenges of life and in the end, it’s what defines an entrepreneur.

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Tips for Small Businesses: How to Turn Downtime Into Opportunity

The dog days of summer can be trying on any business. It’s the season to stick-handle around staff vacations, supplier vacations and – in some cases – customer vacations.

It can be especially hard trying to keep a business running if it’s a small business with fewer human resources and less flexibility.

Nearly half of the Canadian workforce is employed by businesses with fewer than 100 employees. RBC has compiled a list of tips for small business owners who want to turn downtime into opportunity, reports the Business News Network.

Conduct a mid-year goal review

As you approach the half-way mark for the year, taking stock of your goals will give you a better picture of how the business is doing. Are your goals still realistic? If not, what are the next steps you need to take?

Refresh the business plan

This doesn’t have to be a lot of work, but it does require thoughtful consideration. Ask yourself – are you spending time where it’s most important? Are you doing the kind of work that you want to do?

A time for teambuilding

The summer slowdown also offers the opportunity to talk to employees about their career goals or even train people on new tasks to make the workforce more flexible.

Get social

Summer is a more casual time of year when connecting with new customers, looking for new partnerships and strengthening relationships is easier. It’s an opportune time to grow your network, so host that golf tournament and book those patio lunches.

Reward your staff

Summer could be the time to reward your hardworking staff or build a more cohesive team by taking them out of the workplace to an informal setting – maybe a barbeque.

Get away from it all

Other than declining sales, your number one enemy is burnout. As a business owner, you are your greatest asset, so take some time off to rest and recharge and return with more energy.

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10 Tips to Start a Small Business from Nothing

Hiscox, the small business insurer, recently released a new digital docu-series, Courageous Leaders, in partnership with Vox Media.

The series features video interviews with successful entrepreneurs who provide insight into how they found the courage to succeed in business.

The series features entrepreneurs like Foursquare’s Co-founder/CEO Dennis Crowley, Thrillist Co-founder/CEO Ben Lerer and Interior Designer/TV personality Ross Cassidy.

A common denominator of many of these entrepreneurs was that they started their small business, quite literally, from nothing but a dream. Hunter Hoffmann, head of communications for Hiscox, recently spoke with Small Business Trends to outline tips on how to start a small business with limited resources, reports Small Business Trends.

Dont Quit Your Day Job … Yet

One way to start a small business and get it off the ground while minimizing financial risks is to keep your day job until your business is large and steady enough.

While there’s certainly a romance to the story of the daring entrepreneur who goes it alone, there’s also much to be said for continuing to receive a paycheck, especially if you are married and have children. This means you will be burning the candle at both ends, but it can be done with good time management.

For example, if you work at the office from 9 to 5, you will need to block out time each day. Maybe 8-10 p.m. every night is the best time for you. Or, if you are a morning person, getting up at dawn and working for a few years is the way to go. It is all about managing time and keeping your stress level low.

Spend Less

Find ways to cut costs wherever you can. Many small business founders mix their fledgling business effort into their daily life, so they often seek to cut corners in terms of both household and business expenses. But a lot of entrepreneurs save a lot of money using new online DIY solutions, such as Wix.com, as well as by using sites such as Crowdsource and Elance to find supplementary talent you can virtually hire at competitive rates.

One way to help you determine where you should find outsourced support is by following this maxim: Focus on doing what you know how to do and let others handle the other stuff.

Also, don’t forget to attend the right networking events, ones somehow related to your business. You should attend as many of these events as you possibly can. You will meet people who may turn out to be instrumental to your success, all while enjoying the free food and drink offered at these occasions.

Find Angels

Praying and a belief in a higher power certainly won’t hurt your efforts to debut your business. However, here we refer not to winged seraphs, but rather investors looking for projects to fund. Utilize your connections to help get funding from angel investors, affluent individuals who seek to provide capital specifically for business start-ups. Many times you will find investors who were once in your shoes and can also offer advice in addition to funding.

As with so much else in life, to realize success here is like playing a numbers game: The more people you talk to the better your chances of finding someone who can help or introduce you to someone who can help.

In preparing for meetings with these potential investors, it’s important to know your business inside and out. One good method of doing this is to have a friend poke holes in your business plan. This will help you to better weather the storm, meaning you’ll be able to better handle difficult questions under pressure, an ability true leaders need to have.

Look to the Masses

Crowdfunding has grown increasingly popular. It’s also a great solution for entrepreneurs who need to fund their dream.

The rule of thumb here tends to be: the quirkier ideas perform the best. (Remember, one successful Kickstarter project had to do with the perfect egg salad sandwich recipe.)

If your business involves a novel product or an online service, you should definitely look into this.

The main caveat to keep in mind regarding crowdfunding when you start a small business is: always remember, there’s the potential for you to commit faux pas that make you obligated to return the money.

Go to the Bank When You Don’t Need To

Going to the bank when you are penniless puts you in a vulnerable position; it’s better to get the paperwork done early so you can commence building important relationships well in advance of when you’ll need to leverage them.

Also, don’t climb out on a financial limb until you have to. Monthly payments will always be due and they won’t change based on how much revenue your business earns, or fails to earn, for that month.

Make Your Business Your Baby

You’re the one who is ultimately responsible for making sure everything about your business is taken care of. No one else can do it. Just as new parents quickly realize that their newborn baby is in charge of the household, so too should new business owners realize the same about their business.

You wouldn’t trust someone else to care and feed your baby — consider your business in the same light. If there’s a problem, don’t complain because no one else cares. Just focus on figuring out how to fix the problem.

Schedule Some Off Time to Avoid Burning Out 

When you start a small business, it usually proves to be an all-encompassing endeavor. You won’t punch out at 5 p.m. as do those holding corporate positions. Instead, you will find yourself working all hours in the day and night. You certainly won’t have a wealth of spare time anymore.

That is why it is so important that you schedule some off time — to avoid burning yourself out. Whether it’s an afternoon at the beach or a whole weekend away, you need to have breaks in your work cycle. Time away will let you recharge and often gives you a renewed perspective on the big picture that you won’t get while stuck in the weeds and grinding away.

Dot Your Is and Cross Your Ts

Watching your concept come to life is one of the most exciting things about starting a new business. But you need to take care of some basics, too.

For example, make sure you’re withholding the correct taxes for your business and your employees, and always sign on for the necessary insurance. Small businesses should look into both professional liability and general liability insurance and, if you have employees, workers comp is required everywhere but Texas.

Make Your Startup Official 

When you start a small business, you must make sure you protect yourself by making your business a registered legal entity.

Creating a separation between yourself and your business helps limit your liability in case anything goes wrong. You may want to seek out your accountant’s or lawyer’s advice regarding what type of entity would be best for your situation.

Follow the Money 

Every business starts out with what is considered to be a great concept, either of a product or a service that, the small business owner believes, people will die to purchase.

But the market quickly tells you what works and what doesn’t, and you need to be able to pivot quickly to follow the money, not wait at a place where you think it is going to show up. Remember, many of the world’s biggest companies evolved in quite radical ways — with some no longer even slightly resembling what they originally debuted as. Twitter, for example, started out as a podcasting service.

The lesson here is: Focus on what works and don’t be too proud to shelve ideas that fall flat.

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7 Ways to Be Popular at Work Without Sucking Up to Anybody

We spend most of our daily waking hours working, whether we’re meeting with colleagues or sitting in our offices. Over the course of all those hours, we’ll inevitably encounter the occasional difficult co-worker or overbearing boss. But if we allow friction to develop, we could permanently damage the very relationships we need to do our jobs, reports Entrepreneur.

By learning to cultivate productive work relationships, you can accomplish more while also enjoying a more professional office environment. Here are seven tips to help your form better relationships with superiors, colleagues, subordinates, and clients.

1. Respect Others’ Time. 

One way to become extremely unpopular is to be “that” person who insists on popping into offices unannounced. Your appearance is met with dread because people know you have yet another useless question or comment. If you constantly interrupt people’s work or stretch a 30-second question into a 10-minute tirade, you may be at the top of the list of your office’s most annoying co-workers.

This respect also extends to your office. If you’re in an environment where others can hear what you say, respect your neighbors by keeping conversations at a low volume and refraining from speaking to them if you see they’re working on something.

2. Play Nice in Email.

Email leaves a lasting impression. An inflammatory email you send one employee about another can make its way around the office before you know it, eventually ending up in the hands of the person being written about. One bad email can permanently damage your relationship with a co-worker, in addition to threatening your own professional reputation in the workplace.

If you feel the need to vent about a co-worker, do so away from the office, preferably with a spouse or trusted friend. Even if you must let off steam to someone who works with you, make sure you never put it in writing.

3. Don’t Be a Snitch.

One way to make an enemy quickly is to go to his or her supervisor and complain. This includes copying that supervisor on an email complaining about that employee, whether directly to that worker or to someone else. Even if the employee isn’t included in the complaint, it will likely make its way back around and you’ll have alienated a colleague.

If you have an issue with a fellow employee, have a conversation directly with that person. If you’ve found that repeated attempts fall flat, you may have to find another way to get the work done. If you feel the employee’s behavior is somehow putting the company at risk, turn it over to your own supervisor to handle.

4. Have a Positive Attitude. 

My friend John Rampton always says “People are drawn to positive people, seeking to feel motivated and inspired by their great attitudes. Supervisors also tend to trust positive people with projects more, since they show a support for the organization and its work.”

Be careful not to go too far with your positivity, though. An overly sunny attitude can become annoying, especially when those around you are pressured by deadlines or dealing with issues. If you can maintain your positive attitude no matter what happens, you’ll be much more likely to be able to handle the many stresses you’ll face each day.

5. Find a Common Interest. 

Whether you’re meeting a client for the first time or killing time between meetings with a stranger from accounting, you’ll stand a better chance of making a connection if you can find a common interest. Start by asking if they had a great weekend or mentioning a big televised event like a football game.

Once you’ve established this common bond, you’ll have something to talk about the next time you see the person. If it’s a client, you’ll not only be memorable, your meetings are more likely to have positive outcomes if you share a personal bond.

6. Listen.

As corporate training expert Dale Carnegie pointed out, the most important communication skill is also the easiest: listen. People are actually drawn to those who take an interest in what they have to say without interrupting or drifting away. Instead of thinking about the next thing you’ll say, actually listen to what the other person is telling you and, if relevant, show that you remember it in a later conversation.

Listening skills are especially important in supervisory relationships. Employees want to know that their complaints and concerns are being heard. Leaders can significantly increase employee satisfaction by simply listening and taking interest in what employees have to say.

7. Be Supportive.

Whether professionals are asking for a re-tweet or seeking investment dollars, favors are an important part of doing business. Speaker Neil Fogarty recommends offering something yourself before asking for a favor from someone. Support others on social media before asking for that guest blog post or capital investment.

When others see you as a supportive, giving entrepreneur, they’ll naturally be drawn to you. This extends to the office environment, as well, where co-workers must frequently pitch in on projects. Instead of always asking for favors, be the person to offer to help when you see a co-worker is overwhelmed.

Strong, positive work connections can make each project more productive and enjoyable. By working each day to interact with your fellow employees, you’ll find people are more willing to help you when you need it. Many of these same principles can be applied to your dealings with family members, friends, and strangers you encounter throughout the course of your day.

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