Tag Archive | "success"

7 Steps for Successfully Running Your Day as an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs usually keep a densely packed schedule to try to fit as much work as possible into their waking hours, reports Entrepreneur. There’s always something else to be done and more you’d like to achieve, so how do you keep your day running efficiently without being overrun by the demands on your time?

There are some tricks I’ve learned over my entrepreneurial journey that have served me well in running my day successfully. If you commit to practicing these steps daily, you’ll get better at keeping them over time.

Here are seven steps I’ve learned for effectively running your day as an entrepreneur.

1. Start your day the night before.

The night before is really when your new day begins. I’ve found over the years that by approaching bedtime with a routine I can effectively start the next morning with all systems go.

Begin by ensuring you know what’s on the calendar for the following day. Go over appointments, calls and any other important deadlines in the day so you have an awareness of what’s on the agenda. Next, get anything you need in the morning set aside and ready at night. For example, if you bring lunch, have it made and ready to grab, set your gym bag, etc.

Finally, set yourself up for good sleep. Turn off all electronics that could beep, buzz or light up during the night and disrupt your sleep.

2. Move first thing.

Getting out of bed and making your body move is a great way to get the blood flowing and the brain synapses connecting again. If you aren’t in the habit of moving first thing when you get up, this may feel a little strange at first, but trust me, it works.

Even if you aren’t a morning person, grab your gym bag and hit the gym or put on your shoes and walk your dog for 30 minutes. Fresh air and movement start your body and your brain off right for the day and you’ll have more energy and a clearer head when you’re done.

3. Tame your brain.

Meditation or a mindfulness practice is an essential workout for your head. It only takes 10 to 20 minutes in the morning to practice and can really help you manage your day, and your life, effectively.

Meditation has been proven in study after study to help you deal better with stress and improve the adaptability of your mind. Work your head out every morning with some kind of mind-strengthening exercise. Try the Headspace app for a free introduction to what mindfulness and meditation can do for you.

4. Get help with staying organized.

If you aren’t an organized or punctual person, then get the help you need to become one. This can be with an organization app such asTrelloWorkFlowy or Evernote, or by hiring someone part time to assist you with task, time and calendar management. If you want to have efficient days then you need to be organized.

5. Remember to eat.

Your body and brain need fuel. Don’t forget that food is an important part of the day’s routine. This sounds simple but so many times entrepreneurs run themselves into the ground, skipping meals and forgetting to eat, only to grab the quickest (and often unhealthiest) thing they can. Don’t fall victim to this trap.

Snack frequently and remember to eat the right kind of healthy, fuel-providing food you need to stay energized all day. If you struggle, there are snack-delivery options such as Nature Box or home-delivery healthy-meal-prep options such as Blue Apron where literally everything you need for dinner is delivered to your door.

6. Batch your time.

Time batching is an efficient way to get the critical uninterrupted productivity time you need. Ensure that there’s at least one hour, preferably two, of batched time for you to problem-solve, think, brainstorm and otherwise handle the work you need to do without being disturbed. It’s a highly efficient way to get a lot done in small bursts.

7. Disconnect from work.

Last, but not least, when you leave work in the evening, disconnect from work. This may not be as crucial if you’re still young and single, but it becomes a crucial practice when you have a partner or a family. Your time outside of work greatly contributes to your time at work, so give your significant other and family the focus and attention they need and leave the work at the office.

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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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You Can Motivate Your Staff And Yourself at the Same Time

The intrinsic motivation to help or give is something we share as humans. Many times, even the most economically disadvantaged individual will offer what they have to help another person, reports Small Business Trends. So can an organization take advantage of this by adopting variations of it?

Pay it forward management, if you’re not familiar with the concept, goes a little something like this: I help you, and in return you help someone else. And if that chain continues in perpetuity, you can see the incredible impact it can have.

Imagine if this were to be applied in a business setting where everyone knows that, if you pay it forward, the business result can not only be incredible, but it can create incredible feelings experienced by all involved as well.

In an article by Gretchen Gavett of the Harvard Business Review, Gavett starts by asking, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. But if you scratch my back, am I any more likely to scratch someone else’s?” The answer is yes. Companies can greatly benefit from encouraging and adopting the principles that pay it forward management champions.

One of the companies Gavett highlights is Google. The company has a bonus system that uses token payments for employees that have exhibited helpful behavior with a pay it forward stipulation attached to it. The additional funds that the company gives from the peer-to-peer bonus must be paid forward to recognize a third employee.

This is just one example of a company implementing a pay it forward management system to reap the benefits of the philosophy. In terms of monetary value, Gavett shows how ConocoPhillips has reaped more than $100 million since implementing an online knowledge sharing information community where solutions are offered by members.

As University of Kansas psychologist Dan Batson, PhD, said, “We, as humans, are capable of a motive that has another’s welfare as the ultimate goal.” And that capability can be used by organizations to create a community in which this innate quality can be fostered by incentivizing the behavior.

This is a top down proposition, because whatever the current culture of the company is, the change must come from its leader and management. And as such, it also must take into consideration the voluntary aspect of the pay it forward management model. Because if employees feel they have to do it, the likelihood of it succeeding will be very low.

Below are some steps you can start taking to implement a pay it forward management system in your business to get the ball rolling.

Employee Engagement

A study (PDF) by PwC revealed, “Employees most committed to their organizations put in 57 percent more effort on the job — and are 87 percent less likely to resign — than employees who consider themselves disengaged.” This is a great point to remember, because it has a positive outcome for everyone involved. Engaging employees by helping each other is a sure fire way of ensuring the long-term viability of a pay it forward management policy.

Define Objectives Clearly

The devil is in the details, and having objectives that are clearly defined before you initiate the program lets everyone involved know what is expected of them. From the get-go, they will know if this is for them or not. It’s as simple as that.

Manage Expectations

Management and everyone else in leadership should not expect more of their employees than they do themselves. After all, this is paying it forward, and if leaders are not taken to task — they will be responsible for breaking the chain of continuity.

Recognize Talents and Passions

An organization is made up of individuals, and they all have talents and passions that need to be recognized in order to more effectively bring everyone together. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report (PDF) states, “More than half or 53 percent of respondents said having their passions and talents recognized and addressed is their top reason for remaining at their current company.”
By recognizing these talents, companies can bring groups together that have similar interests so they can build relationships on their commonalities while addressing the overall concept as it applies to the organization.

Monetize the Program

If having a more engaged workforce results in increased productivity, it means the revenue stream will be larger for the company. By monetizing the program, the organization lets its employees know it’s willing to reward participants for helping their fellow employees.

Be Flexible

Whether the program is being carried out in the confines of the company or elsewhere, your employees have a life. Acknowledging their personal lives and finding out the types of commitments they can make, along with their level of availability, will increase participation.

Make Resources Available

This will be different for each organization, but if the resources and tools employees need to help each other are readily available, it will make the process that much easier.
Arizona State University psychology professor Robert Cialdini, PhD said, “What we argue is that taking the perspective of another person can indeed lead to increased helping.”
Establishing a pay it forward management principle as part of an organization’s vision is a win-win for both the employee and employer. It gives employees a sense of purpose within the organization by building connections and relationships with each other. And an engaged workforce always produces more than one that is disengaged.

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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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4 Reasons To Invest In People, Not Companies

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the entrepreneur who famously got a $2 million investment after showing a presentation about nothing. Now, the same entrepreneur, Itay Adam, has created a new model for investors that builds on the ideas he used to secure funding. The gist of it is to invest in a team — not a product, reports Forbes.

It’s a well-known practice that if you invest in a talented team and give them the freedom to create, they will be able to test, experiment and build something successful. However, Adam’s theory leverages another concept. By investing in a team and giving them the freedom to experiment with multiple concepts for a company, instead of focusing on just one, you can hedge your bets and spread the risk beyond one make-or-break idea.

Adam calls this model the StartLab.

The StartLab model focuses on angels and VCs investing in key teams of creative entrepreneurs that have the capability to produce multiple ideas for a company. To understand the benefits of investing in people over companies, you need to first understand the core components of the StartLab model:

Test to Cater vs. Test to Build: “Test to Cater” teams will take multiple ideas and test them out before building a team to support one winning idea. “Test to Build” will produce a more detailed working pilot of an idea and look to grow it into a successful company.

The Team: There are three core members of a StartLab: a full stack developer capable of building products out across platforms, a designer to create and put all the pieces together, and a director to guide and lead the entire project.

Kill or Nurture: This is a predetermined time period for development and a test rollout to see if the idea can take. After that, the idea should be killed or nurtured with more development.

Budget and Timeline: Adam says that an efficient StartLab can produce a test “app” in three months for a budget of $120,000.

Now that you understand the various components of Adam’s StartLab model, here are four reasons to adopt it and start investing in people over companies:

1. It adds diversity.

It’s not a new idea or concept really: diversified investments are one of the keys to successfully making money in what can be a risky and chaotic industry.

Of course, there are different ways to apply this concept to the world of business. Whether it’s spreading your marketing budget across multiple channels or markets, or focusing on different models and SKUs of your product, it’s important to apply the idea of diversification to all areas of business beyond investment.

Oddly enough, one industry that features a surprising lack of diversity in strategy is the startup space. Tech startups, in general, tend to put all of their eggs in one basket. This is revealed by the fact that, for many startups and tech companies, the product and company name are one in the same.

Whether it’s apps like Pandora or Uber, or even devices such as Fitbit or Roku, these companies are often synonymous with their leading product, regardless of whether they offer anything else.

2. It gives teams a chance to learn.

Adam says the StartLab model can greatly increase the chance of investing in a successful company, since it gives teams the freedom to learn:

The key issue here is experience. Every time an entrepreneur runs a pilot, he gains experience. When he fails, he learns how to climb better. The industry is losing a lot of money by overlooking this and not monetizing it. The current model invests in companies and ideas, this is wrong. The right model should be to invest in a team.

When you have two to three people that are funded by, say, $6 million and have run-rate to launch at least 50 concepts, there’s no launch pressures, no panic, no BS. There’s only two to three people, working their ass off with zero distractions and inner conversations like, ‘I’ll keep this to my next startup.’ No. You don’t need to. You have creative space.

3. It reduces risk.

There is of course an inherent risk in this model, or at least it may feel that way to an investor who is looking for a company working on a specific solution. But, Adam argues that the StartLab model actually reduces risk by giving teams the needed space to learn and innovate:

Take a child to the fair. Hand him an air gun and tell him he only has one chance to win the huge brown teddy bear. He will surely miss. Now, you’ll start with the accusations and cripple his soul turning him to the sort of kid who will never try this again. Both of you lose.

Take another kid, hand him the gun and tell him he has 50 attempts. He will probably nail something on the fourth attempt. But, on the twelfth attempt he will start aiming for the very center of the target, and by 40 he will get bored and create a new gun. That’s life. Create an empowering surrounding and you, too, will get empowered.

4. It’s tried and true.

We already see companies — that may have been laser-focused when they were in the startup phase — looking to expand and diversify in dramatic ways now that they have grown to be tech giants.

The two best examples of this are Google and Facebook. While they may not have been StartLabs from the beginning, they have developed into “TechLabs,” in their own right. Both companies have expanded into new markets and industries that take them outside of their core comfort zone.

This is most clearly demonstrated in Google’s recent transition into Alphabet (still odd to say that). What was once a very focused web company has now expanded into multiple markets and industries. With acquisitions like Nest and investments in projects like Google Life Sciences and self-driving cars, the company has shown a willingness to expand far outside of its traditional strength.

Facebook has also expanded to new markets. The company has become something of a social media conglomerate after snapping up companies like WhatsApp and Instagram and purportedly looking to acquire SnapChat, as well. It seems like Facebook doesn’t care what social media platform you use, as long as it happens to be one that it owns.

Beyond that, Facebook has taken interesting steps outside of the social realm. The most notable example is the company’s acquisition of Oculus VR. While Facebook may be looking at ways to incorporate VR into Facebook, the simpler explanation may simply be that the company sees this as valuable, innovative technology and a way for it to enter the consumer technology market in a whole new way.

What’s clear from the actions of both of these giants is that they are expanding their capabilities, diversifying and hedging their bets.

These companies have tremendous resources that allow them to acquire companies that are already successful, so their situation differs from that of an investor looking for a team that fits the StartLab model. But, if the result is that a company will produce multiple concepts and products, isn’t it worth it to find a team capable of doing so from the very beginning?

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