7 Things Standing in the Way of Your Entrepreneurial Success

If someone asked you where you see yourself 10 years from now, do you stare back blankly or do you have a plan for success?

1) Love your success?
Are you in love with being a success? Is success the only thing on your mind every day and every night? You say yes because you want the lifestyle of the successful. Are you willing to put in the work of the successful? If this isn’t what you breath and live, this isn’t what will make you successful. In turn, it is standing in the way of your success.

Take away: If you don’t love it, you will only put in 50% of the effort required to achieve 100% results. At 50% effort, you might be better off helping someone else build their dreams of success.

2) You don’t need other’s approval.
You stand in the way of your own success every time you make decisions that are aimed to please others.  I am reminded of the famous quote by Winston Churchill “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”.

Take away: Your decisions have to be based on your success. You will ultimately be the person to pay for your own decisions. The more you worry about what others will think of your decisions, the more you will delay the inevitable success you are going to enjoy.

3) Excuses, excuses.
Your success is halted by your excuses. Do any of these sound familiar?
“Sorry, I can’t today”
“I don’t have time”
“I am too tired”
“I don’t know what to do next”
“I don’t have the resources”
“I don’t know where to start”

Take away: If it is important to you, you will find a way. The secret here is to want it bad enough.

work-hard-to-success

4) Time, stop wasting it.
Everyone who chases success at one point or another has to stop wasting time. How guilty are you when it comes to these time hogs:
a) Needless drama around you.
b) Comparison between you and your next door neighbor with the new BMW.
c) Living in the past with mistakes made and water under the bridge.
d) By allowing others to use and manipulate you.
e) The perfect time will never come. Its now.
f) Lack of appreciation and gratitude towards you.

Take away: Most people value two things when it comes to their business lives: Time & Money. In the case of the startup, time is the one thing that will lead or break your success. Make sure you know exactly what you are spending your time on.

5) Private life vs. Work life.
Everyone always talks about balance and keeping a healthy distance between the two. They are not separate. The longer you try to keep them separate the longer you will prolong your success. Everything you do in your personal life should somehow fit into your goal for your business life. Success comes from the collection of the roles you play: Entrepreneur, husband, wife, friend, lover, client, boss, leader, mentor, etc.

Take away: I was recently at a Hall of Fame induction ceremony for a good friend of mine and was sitting at a table with a bunch of other people who were also friends of other inductees. The person next to me started talking to me about business and what I do…. Naturally, I asked him what he does. He had a very interesting business he had just started but was unable to provide me with a business card. So he took my phone, and added himself as a contact in my phone. You never know when or where you will meet the next person who will drive your success. Be prepared!

6) Write ’em down.
Do you have a place where you jot down your goals? Are they broken up into Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly, 5-Year Goals? If not, here is your chance. When you just think about a goal the chances of that thought disappearing is very high. Once on paper, it has a life of its own. You can re-visit it, re-read it, move it, re-write it, etc. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. It can be a compilation of goals put together over time to ultimately help you reach your level of success.

Take away: There is something special about seeing your own goals for success written down in your own handwriting. There is something even more special about putting a check-mark next to something that you wrote down 6 months ago and achieved today! Your success is counting on you writing it down!

7) Ask for help, sissy.
I love quotes. I feel like they do the thinking for me when I can’t put the right words in the right thoughts at the right time. Cesar Chavez said it best “You are never strong enough that you don’t need help”. Your success might be dependent on that one person… when you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

Take away: Ask for help. Don’t expect handouts or financial help, but help that will drive your success. It can be a friend, a co-worker, a parent, a mentor (Read about finding the right mentor HERE)

Mentorship: 8 Tips on Finding the Right Mentor

This mentorship post is a continuation of my series on young entrepreneurs.  If you haven’t read Part 1 & Part 2, click here:  Where to start as a young entrepreneur – Part 1 and 12 Startup tips for a young entrepreneur – Part 2

Mentorship is the oldest form of education.  As a young entrepreneur, you need a mentor to take you to the next level.

Why do you need a mentor?
Mentorship is the oldest form of education.  As a young entrepreneur, you need a mentor to take you to the next level. The mentor of your choosing has one thing that you still don’t. Experience. A good mentor can challenge you to think thoughts that might have never occurred to you before.

A good mentor has a network of professionals and friends who you might stand to benefit from. In the worst scenario, a mentor can act as your personal cheerleader and coach. They can provide praise and clap for you when nobody else will. The old quote servers true here: “Pay close attention to people who don’t clap when you win”

Common mistakes young entrepreneurs make when seeking mentorship:
1) The mentor will find me.
2) I have to ask him/her out to be my mentor.
3) My mentor will buy me lunch / coffee / food / gifts because they already made it.
4) Mentorship isn’t something you get; it’s something you do.
5) The first mentor I meet has to be my mentor!

1) Find someone you look up to.
Mentorship is always about the person and not about the money or the lifestyle. I know so many people who try to leech on to take advantage of “perks” that the mentor has worked a lifetime to achieve. Your mentor should have qualities as a person that you feel are valuable to you and you can learn from. Ask questions of yourself that you feel your mentor should guide you with. Here are a few samples:
a) What do I need to learn from my mentor?
b) How often would I like to meet with my mentor?
c) What are my weakest points that my mentor can work with me on?
d) What am I really good at that my mentor can benefit from?

2) Study your new mentor.
Take the time to study your mentor. Ask questions that will help you with understanding how they do things. Understand everything you can about how they conduct business and the process they use for business transactions. By transaction, it could be a phone call, an actual sale, a networking event, a new agreement, etc. If they have a blog, or a website that they journal in, make sure you read it and understand everything before you meet with them and ask questions.  Nothing shows your preparedness level more than asking a question that your mentor just recently wrote a blog about.  Do your homework to avoid the embarrassment.

Mentorship Quote

3) Lifeguard.
Your mentor is not your lifeguard. Don’t go swimming into $120,000 in debt then call your mentor for advice. If they weren’t a part of getting you in the hole, the expectation can’t be for them to get you out of the hole. Go ahead, ask for advice, but keep the expectation at advice and not a life line.  The value of a mentor will keep you out of the dangers of rising waters; granted, you want to be kept out.

4) Let the relationship grow.
Look for someone who you feel comfortable with and can relate to. You want a mentor who can easily answer an e-mail or answer a text message without treating you like an interruption of their time. Your comfort level should include the ability to sit at a coffee shop or at a lunch date with your mentor and not feel intimidated or belittled. Your ability to get comfortable with your mentor will actually take the pressure off the mentor to be open and candid with you.  Keep watering the relationship with your mentor.  The closer you become to your mentor the more likely they are to bring you into their circle.

5) Feedback.
Your expectation should be for your mentor to be brutally honest with you. Most mentors are successful entrepreneurs who run their own network of businesses. They don’t have the time to sit back and sugar coat every piece of advice they give you. I recently had a mentor of mine look at a new pricing structure I have been working on for my company; his response to my e-mail was “work harder…” – I don’t need anything more from him than to send me back to my drawing board to make it better. Of course, when we do our meeting, he will give me more feedback but the expectation is for me to work harder to be ready for that meeting so I don’t waste his time.

6) Take. Give, Give, Give.
Most mentors will be “repaid” for their mentorship by your success. They want nothing more than to see you make it. Just because mentors know how to be humble doesn’t mean you are off the hook! Find ways to give. Find ways to add value.  Sometimes you can spring for lunch, sometimes you can buy coffee. If you actually spend the time to get to know your mentor (read tip #2), you should have a good idea of how or what you can do to provide value. Gratitude is key.

7) Commitment.
Be mentor worthy. If you pickup nothing more, pickup that one piece.  Be mentor worthy.  Anyone willing to help you and spend time with you wants to make sure they spend their time wisely. I have been stuck in situations before where I give advice to someone and they clearly go the opposite direction, no problem.  However, don’t come back and ask for more advice for the road that you traveled and expect me to change my advice up to fit into your decision. Don’t waste anyone’s time if you aren’t ready to be mentored.

8) There can be only one.
Once you land that all important mentor, what do you do? Now get another one! You aren’t limited to any number of mentors. If you do your homework and are really honest with yourself, this portion becomes easier. If you know your shortcomings, it is easy to utilize mentors in every aspect of what you are trying to achieve. Look at the big picture… a “Board of Directors” is actually a board of mentors for the organization they serve.

There is no right or wrong time to get a mentor.  My advice to you, is to get one now.  It is the single most important thing you can do to help your business grow.

This is a good read when it comes to making mentors work for you:

12 Startup Tips for a Young Entrepreneur – Part 2

This is a continuation of my series on young entrepreneurs.  If you haven’t read Part 1, click here:  Where to start as a young entrepreneur – Part 1

Entrepreneur

Founding a startup as a young entrepreneur gets difficult if you don’t know where you are going.  This guide will help you get started.

In the last week, I have had several people ask me for a list of requirements that I felt were important.  I complied a list, and here it is in no particular order:  

1. Focus.  Refocus.  Focus again.  
When building your entrepreneur empire, your thoughts are always to jump at every opportunity that comes your way.  Every opportunity you hear about, you see dollar signs.  Don’t let false hope and false dollar signs derail you from your business goal.  The more time you spend investigating each opportunity, the more time you have to spend to get the train back on track, the more time you lost focusing on your business.  Do one thing and do it well.  Its better to be 100% proficient on one thing vs. being 10% proficient on 10 things.  Most failed startups are the direct result of spreading too thin and being greedy when it comes to opportunities.

2. Purpose, not money.  
Simple answer?  Add value.  Find ways to give and to add value to peoples lives.  The money will come once you become a value to someone.  Sit down and truly evaluate your ability to add value and what you can offer to clients that others can’t.  If you are a personal trainer, what sets you apart from the other 102,302 trainers living in your area?  What do you do better?  Put yourself in the client’s shoe… why would I hire myself to train me?  Find the value… Warren Buffet says “You should focus on building a customer base, reputation, recognition, and loyalty.  Money follows after.” 

3. Be frugal. 

Remember that $600 chair you saw at Office Depot?  With the lumbar support and mesh backing so you don’t sweat on a hot summer day… Yeah, that one.  DON’T BUY IT!  You don’t need office space, you don’t need a brand new laptop, you don’t need a fancy chair.  All of the above can be accomplished at a Starbucks with a pair of earphones.  You want your cash to be in your account for as long as possible.  Watch every dollar and triple check every expense.  Will this expense help your business get to the next level?  If the answer is maybe, the answer is no.

4. Pitch.
Sometimes known as an “elevator pitch” – logic:  If you were an entrepreneur in an elevator, and a high level CEO walks in, you have until he gets off the elevator to convince him/her to purchase your product or to convert to your services.  What would you tell him/her?  You have about 25-30 seconds to give them your pitch and convince them that you are IT!  Work on this, practice this, try it in front of a mirror, work on it some more.  Yours took 31 seconds?  That took too long.  Work again.

I have looked around for some time and found this website to be the most detailed with helping examples to help put your entrepreneur pitch together: Creating an Elevator Pitch

5. Don’t flatter yourself.
Make sure you can deliver what you promise.  Don’t fall victim to your own false promises.  Don’t exaggerate the truth or your previous accomplishments.  There is always a way for people to find out.  More times than not, they find out and your reputation goes down the drain.  Your reputation is so much more important than the cash in your wallet.  Guard it with everything you have!

6. Hold yourself true to your brand.
Remember the old commercial for FedEx?  Absolutely, positively by 11am.  11:01am would be unacceptable.  Whatever you promise, you have to work day and night to make sure you deliver on time.  Your brand reputation is riding on your ability to make promises and deliver promises.

 

Entrepreneur 12 tips

7. Build relationships.
You have to do the foot work.  Sitting behind your Social media persona and posting about how wonderful you are will only get you so far.  If you want people to buy your product, or buy into your services you need to go to them and preach to them.  The more relationships you build, the more people you have out there who are vouching for you.  The more people who vouch for you, the more opportunities will arise from your relationships.   The trick here is to build your network of relationships before you actually need it.

You can read more on building relationships here:  Secrets to Business Relationships


8. 3’s a crowd in the kitchen.
A lot of entrepreneur sites recommend finding a co-founder to start a business with.  There are many benefits to this theory including splitting responsibilities and costs.  With 2 or 3 of you, it is easier to grow and reach more people in less time.  My rule of thumb is that if you have 3 cooks in the kitchen, somewhere, sometime, the food isn’t going to be perfect.  Also, remember $100 profit, split into 3 pockets is $33 per person.  

9. Make sure it makes cents.

I spoke to someone this morning who spent $300 a month marketing his brand on Facebook.  He has a small business in Pasadena, Ca; he budgeted $300 / month using Facebook ads.  The problem?  He marketed his company to a nationwide audience. 

He has a small family owned coffee shop.  Why would anyone drive from Washington to drink coffee in Pasadena?  What if you are driving through town?  Then your radius marketing of 5 miles will nail them!  Free advertising from yelp! is more valuable in this case than $300 a month from Facebook.  Make sure you know where you are spending your money and what the return on your money is.  If you spend $300 a month on advertising, how many cups of coffee do you need to sell to break even?  Is your goal to break even or just bring people in the doors and hope they become lifelong friends?

10. Take advice, but not that advice.
The old saying “Are you the smartest guy in the room?  If so, you are in the wrong room” comes true again.  While you are new, you have to surround yourself with people who have been there and done that before.  You need people to give you advice, to bounce ideas off of, to help proofread information, to help plan next step goals, etc.  You need people.  As you start to get better, you will realize that the more you do, the more success you find, the more people line up to give you free advice.  I like to listen to all advice because I never know what I’m going to love.  I take everything with a grain of salt and perform my own analysis on the advice.  Sometimes, it’s brilliant!  Other times, it’s trash!  My brain does the processing, but my gut is what leads me. 

11. Get another job.
Welcome to entrepreneurship!  As a young entrepreneur you should sit back, relax, and wait for the money to come rolling in!  WRONG!  You have expenses… business expenses, personal expenses, etc.  The money has to come from somewhere to help ends meet until your startup matures.  You need a job to help pay for your startup.  I’m not telling you to go work somewhere just to waste some time and bring home a paycheck.  I want you to strategically go work somewhere that will help your startup grow:
1.  Learn how others are marketing in your industry.
2.  Learn how much they charge.
3.  Learn how they maintain relationships.
4.  Learn what types of relationships they abandon.
 

The more you can learn, the less mistakes you will make on your own dime.  The best part about this model is that someone else is paying you to learn these lessons through their business.  

The downside:  Make sure you don’t get so focused on your job that you forget to focus on your business.  You need to find a happy balance between the two for this to work.  At the end of the day, you are making a honest wage and must pull your weight to keep your job.

12. Feedback.
The customer is NOT always right, and neither are you!  I recently had one of my top 5 clients decide to leave us and join a partnership with another IT company who was open 24/7/365.  In my last call with them, we went over all the access passwords and server locations.

In order to turn a negative into a positive, I asked them to send me a list of things that they felt we fell short on.  The immediate response I received was that they didn’t want to throw mud back and forth between us.  I lost my cool a little bit and replied with a harsh “I understand, but I would love to know what ways I can take care of my existing clients better” – the next morning, I had a list of 12 things they felt we could have done better in our time together.  Some of them were absurd, but others were so on point that we changed our internal procedure the very next day.  Sometimes feedback is brutal, but it’s the only way to get better.

Want more tips?  How about 6 tools every entrepreneur should use in their business?  

Where to Start as a Young Entrepreneur – Part 1

I got a random text message from someone I had crossed paths with a few years back… It was so random that I had to pull the “Sorry, new phone.. who’s this?” – introductions aside, he got straight to the point and asked if I would be willing to listen to him and his business ideas.  Me listening turned into a 3 hour conversation on launching his business. 

In the next 3 days, two more people called me for similar type conversations.  

I figure if I get 3 calls in a matter of 3 days, there has to be more people looking for this information, (aha! moment) I will document this journey with my 3 new entrepreneurs so everyone can benefit from our conversations.  

We spoke about:  

1. Passion.
How in love are you with your business idea?  How much time do you spend thinking about it?  How much true passion do you have for that line of work?  (Queue Confucius)  “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” 

Picture this:  You’ve had a very rough week but a very productive week.  You busted your ass all week and closed some major sales and made some nice money.  It’s now Friday afternoon at 2pm, are you exhausted from your work week?  Are you tired and ready to go to a bar to drink with the guys?  Did you just post TGIF on your Facebook page?  Or do you keep chugging along to finish the week off even stronger?  I know it’s very superficial, but understand the concept and not the example.  

So if I have Passion, I can make it as an entrepreneur?  No.  You need more.  Keep reading.  

2.  Work.
We are all lazy.  I’ll say it again.  We are all lazy.  Give us all a way to do the least amount of work, while earning as much money as possible…. This model will ensure your failure as an entrepreneur.  Every day, every time.  

Let’s break it down a little more.  How much work is enough?  How much do I need to work?  Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that if you aren’t hitting the 60 hours a week mark, you aren’t working hard enough. One of my favorite bloggers, Neil Patel openly states that he works 60 to 80 hours a week.

We talk about putting in the work; everyone is always game.  Everyone always says I am willing to put in the work… Nobody imagines how much work 60 to 80 hours a week is until they do it for a week.  Still wondering why entrepreneurs are such a special breed of people? 

Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week. -Lori Greiner


3.  Brainstorm.

Grab your notebook and jot down all of your thoughts on your new business.  Jot down ideas, opportunities, strengths, weaknesses, threats, competition, everything.  

Sketch visuals of your website.  How will it look?  Where will the information go?  How will it flow?  What type of content will you have on the front page?  How will people contact you?  What do you want them to know about you?  

This should be long; it should be a work in progress.  I keep a notebook by my bed incase I have a brilliant moment at 3am while I am feeding milk to my 1-year-old.  

The secret to writing notes down is that there is no right or wrong.  Just write, jot, draw, and sketch.  When you review later, you can always cross things out or move things to new sections.  The rule is, there are no rules.  Develop a system that works for you.  

4.  Website.
You need a .com for your business.  I know you can buy a .net, .tv, .rocks, etc.  You need a .com.  Instant credibility.  

Lately, I have been recommending to everyone to go look through thousands of WordPress Templates online and find one that fits the model they liked during the Brainstorm stage.  Find one that flows like you had envisioned.  Can’t find one that works?  That means you lied during the Work stage.  Put in the work, you’ll find it.

Themes are fairly inexpensive and are great for keeping costs down while creating a presence online.  Why is an online presence necessary?  Read this:  6 Reasons Why Your Small Business NEEDS a Website

5.  Brand-Awareness.
Everyone’s favorite section.  Go create your social media pages.  Go! 

Which platform works for your business? 

Google+: 2,500 Million users
Facebook:  1,590 Million users
Tumblr:  555 Million users
Instagram:  400 Million users
Twitter:  320 Million users
Snapchat:  200 Million users
Pinterest:  100 Million users
LinkedIn:  100 Million users 

Protip:  Don’t use one of those account linkage things that allows you to post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at the same time.  If a client is looking at your social media pages to validate you as a business, seeing the same post across all platforms looks lazy and unplanned.  

Reminder:  Be passionate about your work, but not putting in the work will turn your passion into your work.  

Related Article:  6 Must Have Tools to Start Your Startup

4 Ways to Make a Good Logo a GREAT Logo

What makes a great logo? If I had to answer this question in one word, my answer would be: Simplicity, and you will notice how many times that word comes up today. However, just that one word is an extremely vague answer, so let’s go into some detail to clarify exactly what goes into a great logo.

1. Simple.

Let’s continue off with the idea of simplicity. A logo should be easy to recognize and also appealing to the eyes. If your logo has crazy artwork and designs, whether it be in many different colors or not, it becomes hard to look at. Even more so, it becomes hard to recognize if you were to see it a few weeks later. A simple logo is not only pleasing to look at but will also be easy to remember as well. Just remember, when designing a logo memorability and simplicity go hand-in-hand.

Here is a great example of a company moving towards a simpler logo design.

Starbucks 1971

1971

Starbucks 2015

2015

2. Timeless.

Another aspect of making a good logo should be its effectiveness to last through the years. That being said, this does not mean that there should never be changes or updates made to your logo. Times change after all, what was appealing to the people in the 1950’s is not the same as what appeals to people now. When I was first getting into design, I saw numerous blogs with the same idea of timelessness and all the blogs I read had a picture of the Pepsi logo throughout the years next to ONE Coca-Cola logo that supposedly hadn’t changed since 1985. This is simply untrue. Both companies made changes towards simplicity and memorability, which resulted in the effectiveness of their logos throughout the years. The actual chart comparing Coca-Cola and Pepsi can be found here.

3. Functional.

In order for your logo to be functional in any aspect you choose to use it in, then it must be SIMPLE. Yes, that word again. Adding shadow or gradient effects may look great on the background you are working on, but how will it work once moved to a different setting? Your logo should have the ability to swap between white and black backgrounds, be printed on T-shirts or made into stickers with no extra hassle. A functional logo should be one that is capable of being promoted in any which way you choose.

4. Communication.

Your logo should be a representation of your company. However, do not confuse that statement as an invitation to be cliché. Being able to differentiate the two will help you create an effective logo. Lastly, your logo should be marketable not in just one area or targeted audience but everywhere, while still being appropriate.

Understanding the difference between these four things while still being able to incorporate them into your design will be the deciding factor between a good logo and a GREAT logo.

Google’s Inbox Takes the “Ail” Out of Email

Inbox

Can you remember the feeling of what it’s like to have ZERO unread emails?

Neither can I. I want to say it’s a cross between relief and triumph, but we’ll never really know. Why? Because emails are no different from the zombie apocalypse in Woodbury, Georgia—they just never stop coming.

However, unlike our friends Rick and Daryl, we have the almighty Google to help us manage the madness. (Sorry, guys. Maybe a self-driving, anti-zombie combat vehicle equipped with unlimited ammo will disrupt the market soon.)

Enter Inbox. This past Wednesday, the Googs (is it OK if I called you that?) unveiled their innovative solution to help manage and organize users’ emails more effectively.

Too busy to read emails? Inbox does the dirty work for you.  
Available on iOS, Android, as well as on desktop Web browsers, Inbox analyzes the contents within each email and categorizes them into seven basic categories: Travel, Finance, Purchases, Updates, Promos, and Social. No need anymore to search through hundreds of emails to find that one promo code to your favorite store you received eight months ago, or that cute picture of your baby niece your sister sent you last year. All your similar emails are now bundled up into one place for simple and time-efficient reference.

Staying true to its roots – a more sophisticated Search function
Email search just got better. For instance, you forgot to save your client, Adam’s, phone number when he emailed it to you a few months ago. By doing a quick search for “Adam’s Number,” Inbox pulls up any 7-digit number attributed to the name “Adam,” even if the word “phone” was never mentioned in the email.

You can also create quick reminders or pull up recent contacts with a tap of a button, making composing a message easier than ever.

Snooze, and don’t lose
It wouldn’t be a Google product if they didn’t introduce something new and innovative to the world, right? You can now snooze, pin, or sweep away messages, depending on how you feel at the moment and the urgency of the email. By snoozing a message, Inbox will notify you of your email at a more convenient time—putting an end to “buried items” that get pushed down below the influx of daily emails until you finally get around to reading it four months later.

Pinning allows you to revisit an email even after you have read it, because sometimes you just need to read it again. And again. Because it’s important that you read it again.

But when its time has come, and you’re finished reading an email, sweep right and it’s gone.

Caution: “Tech-tolerance” required! (Made that up. Hehe.)
As with any new technology product, things can get a bit overwhelming at first. If you’re thinking about giving Inbox a try, I recommend approaching it with an open mind (but first get your hands on one of those invites). After playing around with it, you may find it to be a pretty awesome and helpful app that makes checking your email cool again. Happy Inboxing!

Patrick Tanahan is a guest blogger for fred.tips. Patrick is a student at the USC Marshall School of Business, President of the USC Entrepreneur Club, and interested in all things tech, music, sports, or global innovation. You can contact him at @patricktanahan.

6 Reasons Why Your Small Business NEEDS a Website

We are in the digital age. (Like I needed to tell you that) Everything is on the internet. You want to go on vacation? Internet. You need to book a flight? Internet. You need to book a hotel room? Internet. You need a rental car? Internet. You want to know what movies are showing? Internet. You want to buy movie tickets? Internet. And so on, and on, and on, and on.

Everything happens on the Internet. Why would your business be different?

1.  Credibility.
Most consumers shop online and do research online before making purchases. A well designed website is a great way of promoting customer confidence for your company. A website will give your company the competitive online advantage it needs to drive more business.

2.  Information.
Your small business needs a quick and efficient way to communicate with your customers and potential customers. Think of your website as your online tri-fold brochure. It is far more cost effective to update information about your products and services on the internet than it would be to re-print all of your marketing materials.

3.  Accessibility.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (366 days on leap year) – Your website doesn’t take breaks or vacations. When your office is closed, your website will continue to provide your clients and potential clients with the information they might need to really nail that sale home! The reach is limitless.

4.  References.
No matter what type of business you are in, your website will be your showcase of work. Pictures, galleries, videos, testimonials, etc. What better way to build credibility and trustworthiness than by providing previous projects and quotes from previous happy clients. Remember the old “references available upon request” tag line? No more. References available on our website!

5.  Customer Service.
A website is the perfect avenue to improve and engage the customer service aspect of your business. By providing answers to common questions, customer requests can be more streamlined. Your customer gets the answers he or she is looking for, meanwhile, freeing up valuable time of your employees to deal with other aspects of the business.

6.  Growth.
You need to hire new talent for your company. Why pay a company to advertise the position for you when you can do it on your own site, for free! You can use your website to post job opportunities and create forms for potential employees to submit their resume online. No more wasted fax paper printing countless resumes.

TIP: Shop around. Many online do-it-yourself web companies start you off at a low and attractive price but then upsell you on additional services you may or may not need. Get a few quotes from a few web design firms. Don’t be shy about sharing the quote with other design firms to get the best possible deal (Of course, hide the price…) – Make sure you compare apples to apples and don’t invest your life savings into a design firm that promises you the world. Your new website should be simple yet attractive and should complement your business. If the price is too high, or the timeline is too long, look for alternatives.

Related Topic:  Why Instagram is Essential for Your Business Marketing Strategy

The 8 DON’T’s of Resigning from Your Job

Before you decide to resign from your current place of employment, there are a few things you should think about and consider.  (Two weeks notice would be really nice and professional) 

WARNING: If you are leaving to start your own business, my hat is off to you and I wish you nothing but the absolute best as you enter entrepreneurship. As a word of warning, read my post about Double Employment. Still ready to start your business? Let’s go!

1. No venting allowed.
I know. You hate your boss. You hate your job. You hate that company. Quitting is the best thing that ever happened to you. Keep it gracious and professional. Your resignation letter will be in your employment file and it can always peek its head when you least expect it. Don’t write about how much your boss was terrible. Don’t write about how much you did and nobody ever appreciated you. Gracefully submit your resignation and wait out your time.  

Side Tip:  If they ask for an exit interview, grant it.  Be positive.  Maintain the bridge.  

2. Don’t steal that pen!
A pen, who cares right? You don’t want to be known as that former employee who walked away with the pen, the stapler, the hole puncher, the wireless keyboard & mouse, and the box of free folders. I know, this one might be out of line. It is just a friendly reminder to keep you honest and thinking about the big picture.

3. Turn the negatives into positives.
Surly, you have to tell a few of your co-workers about your resignation. Don’t get into the gossip trap of talking bad about the company, your boss, or your co-workers. Nothing good can come out of you bad-mouthing the entire family tree of the company. Instead, tell your co-workers what a rewarding experience it has been for you to work there. You never know when one of these co-workers will leave and call on you to join their new company. Leaving on good terms is critical.

4. Nobody cares about your new job.
I know. You went from the absolute worst job in the world to the absolute best job in the world. Nobody cares. Count your blessings and move on. No need to rub it into others faces or gloat about your new found luck. Maintain relationships as you leave.  

5. Mind your manners. Say goodbye.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to send a goodbye e-mail message to all of your co-workers letting them know you are moving on. Remember to include contact information so they can stay in touch. You never know where your next big opportunity will come from. (It might even come from your former company, since you left on such positive vibes)

6. Keep working. For two more weeks.
You hand in your two weeks’ notice – translation: I can now sit here for the next two weeks and wait. WRONG. Do not be that employee who forgot that down the road, you might actually need a letter of recommendation from these people. Your willingness to train your replacement or tie up loose ends before you leave a company will go a long way in helping you maintain that bridge between you and the company.

7. Don’t tell Facebook or Twitter too soon.
Make sure your manager or your boss is aware of your resigning before going public with it. There is nothing worse than having to explain a leaked social media story about your resignation before the powers that be actually know about it.

8. Don’t resign unless you mean it.
Weak threats to get what you want. If you threaten to resign, do it. Don’t be the guy who talks big and doesn’t act on words. Have a plan. Make sure you have money in the bank. Make sure you have a solid written offer from your new company. Make sure you have the support of your friends who are starting your new company with you. Just make sure. And make sure again. Now resign.

Related Articles: 
The Top 7 Tips for Starting Your Own Business
4 Secrets to Building Better Business Relationships

6 Must Have Tools to Start Your Startup

 

Business Startups

So you want to start a startup. You have been thinking about all the logistics and all the everyday challenges that you might face in your new endeavor.

There are certain tools out there that will make your life as a startup entrepreneur much more manageable. All of these are all tools that we have used at some point in our startup lives. Some have withstood the pressure of growth and others were just a stepping stone to move onto better things.

Here is our list, in no particular order:

1.  Stripe (www.stripe.com)
In today’s market, every customer wants to pay by using a credit card. Some accounting firms will actually go out on a limb and say that you might lose up to 60% of potential business if you are not accepting credit cards. Enter Stripe. Stripe is an online payment collection portal that directly competes with PayPal. It boasts features such as: Invoicing, refunds, coupon codes, prorated charges, monthly re-occurring charges, etc.

Unlike PayPal, they don’t hold on to your money. You charge a credit card and the money is transferred to your bank account within 2 days. The online portal to charge cards is super easy to use. If you are a website developer you can integrate Stripe into your website as your payment portal.

Cost? 2.9% of the total amount plus .30 per successful charge.

2.  Google Apps for Work (www.google.com/Business)
E-Mail perception is everything. If you are already this deep into your startup then you need to forego the free e-mail address and get professional. You know that one friend of yours who is a plumber and his email address is perfectplumber@yahoo.com or thebestplumber@gmail.com – don’t be that business.

Google Apps for Work allows you to have your professional e-mail address: mike@perfectplumber.com – see the difference? Professional. Credible. Trustworthy.
With your professional email account, you also receive: 30GB of storage, freedom to work from anywhere utilizing the gmail interface, business grade security and spam filtering, and many more features.

Cost? $5 per month. Totally worth the investment.

3.  Asana (www.asana.com)
The tagline here is “Teamwork without email”. We use Asana for projects that we have going on and need more than one person to collaborate with. This web based project management tool allows you to create multiple projects and invite multiple team members to join specific projects. Easily allows you to create, assign, and comment on tasks. Now you always know who is doing what and at what stage of the project.

You don’t always have your laptop with you. Sometimes, ideas or tasks strike in the middle of a ball-game or in the middle of dinner. Asana has developed mobile apps for all of your devices that sync seamlessly with the cloud to always give you and your team the knowledge edge you need to stay working.

Cost? Less than 14 team members? Free!

4.  Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)
Think of it as your server on the cloud. It’s a perfect spot for you to put your photos, docs, videos, and files. Dropbox syncs across all computers and mobile devices. I start off working on a document at the office and save it to Dropbox. I continue working on it from home and save it back to Dropbox. On my way to work, I remember I forgot to send it – log in and send it via iPhone. (I know, what a fantastic scenario … right?)

Additionally, Dropbox allows you to share specific folders with specific friends, clients, or co-workers. Example: My business partner and I have an Excel sheet that tracks new unforeseen expenses. We share an Excel sheet in the Dropbox folder that we both have access to; which allows either one of us to make changes and edits. Once we save, it is almost like we saved it on each other’s computers.

Computer meltdown? Phone went for a swim? Latte all over laptop? Don’t worry – everything is on the cloud!

Cost? 2GB of storage… Free!

5.  Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics/)
Running a new business means keeping tabs on the numbers. Does your new website generate enough traffic? Where does the majority of the traffic come from? What are the demographics of your visitors? These are all questions that you, as the new business owner, must be able to answer.

Google Analytics uses all sorts of reporting and charting features to give you the power to make decisions based on your results.

Cost? Free!

6.  MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com)
Email marketing. Without the marketing budget. Any business you start will require you to get the word out and get it out fast! MailChimp allows you to email the right person at the right time. You can send automated emails based on your clients and their preferences. MailChimp even recommends the best send time within 24 hours of your selected delivery date, determined by your specific list’s engagement data.

Busy on the go? No problem! MailChimp is available on your mobile devices. Now you can send anytime, anywhere, to anyone. No more e-mail marketing excuses. Get those newsletters out!

Cost? 12,000 e-mails to 2,000 subscribers …. Free!

Related Business Startup Articles: 
Why Instagram is Essential for Your Business Marketing Strategy
The Top 7 Tips for Starting Your Own Business

9 Ways to Save Your FAILING Social Media Marketing Campaign

Social Media Marketing
Here is what you did:
You either hired a “Social Media Expert” or you did it yourself. You created a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Linked-IN page, a Pinterest board, a Google+ page, and an Instagram page. Your trusty expert, or you, scheduled a bunch of messages to auto-post every 120 minutes; mostly useless quotes and quirky sayings. Now you are sitting back and trying to figure out why your Social Media Marketing Strategy failed.

Here is what you should fix:

1.  Pick your brand.
Which Social Media platform is right for you? All of them? Pick the platform that would reach your potential market with the highest numbers. I know the temptation is to utilize all of them. Pick your priority. For example, my author friend uses Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-IN; in that order, without thinking about the other platforms. Prioritize which is your best avenue and spend the majority of your time building that community first.

2.  Trust & Credibility.
Your Social Media Marketing campaign should put you in a position of expertise. Your community and followers should consider you the expert when it comes to your profession. Sometimes, this means that you teach, you tutor, or you advise. Once you establish yourself as an expert in your field, then it becomes easy to start converting visitors into prospects.

3.  Sales Process.
The biggest misconception about Social Media is that business owners attempt to build awareness and a following to their brand. Did you know that in 2014 only 29% of all Social Media Traffic follows a Brand? The purpose of your Social Media Marketing is about turning prospects and leads into customers.

4.  Engage.
Don’t just post because that is what you are supposed to do. Provide value to those who follow your brand. Also, remember to share their content that might be relevant to your community. They will recognize your efforts and will most likely return the favor. Remember, your fans and followers don’t want commercialized content, they want conversation.

5.  Automation.
Social Media automation is quickly becoming the frown of the market. Ever follow someone on Twitter and you receive an instant message directing you to their Facebook page for an additional Like? Your community will fast recognize this lazy behavior and drop you like yesterday’s garbage. Sincerity and interaction will go a lot farther than automation.

6.  Commitment.
You spend 10 minutes a day on Social Media. Now you ask why your Social Media Marketing is failing. Social Media is like a marriage. It takes time to nurture and grow. Spend as much time as necessary to engage and converse with as many people as possible about your expertise. Be prepared to do this a few times per day, including weekends. Don’t expect your list of fans, followers, and subscribers to grow overnight. This is a slow process.

7.  Content.
Your goal is quality not quantity. If your Twitter account has 100 followers but every post gets 8 “Favorites” and some Re-Tweets, you are in better shape than a page with 2,000 followers and zero Favorites and zero Re-Tweets. Remember the buzz word “conversation & engagement” the more of this you can promote the more your content will appeal.

8.  Follow your follower count.
A watched pot never boils, right? If this number isn’t increasing with time, you should take a good long look in the mirror and attempt to identify why they are leaving you. Is your content irrelevant? Is your content controversial? Is your content a poor indication of your industry? Can your community relate to your content? Tackle these hard self-defining questions and come up with changes that will bring your followers back to you.

9.  Safety.
Nobody has ever done it this way, why should you? You make your Social Media follow the norm because that’s how they all do it. Is this how you want to run your campaign? Stop playing it safe and take risks. There are 150,000 ways of utilizing Social Media Marketing. All of them were stumbled upon by people taking risks.

“If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted.” – Sir Francis Bacon

What Social Media Marketing mistakes have you made that have made the world of difference? 

Related Topic:  Why Instagram is Essential for Your Business Marketing Strategy