Creating a recognizable brand should be a top priority of any business, no matter your size or budget. The branding of your business will either attract customers or it will drive them away. It's that simple. Branding should be one of the very first considerations of a new (or existing) enterprise - yet it is shocking how little many entrepreneurs focus on the branding of their company and their products or services.
Nothing screams "small time"to me more than a business owner who hands me their business card which has neither a website to reference nor, more frequently, an email address tied to their domain name.
A serious entrepreneur should never have an email address that is tied to Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any one of the litany of free email accounts. I personally do not like to send or answer emails to these free email sites due to the obvious ease into which they can get hacked! (See the John Podesta hacked emails...)
Remember this always - "Entrepreneurs bring value to an idea."
One of the most common types of startup businesses is when someone decides they want to make their hobby into a business.
But let's be clear here. Not all hobbies translate well into a business that creates an income. I always advise fledgling entrepreneurs to follow their "interests", which may not exactly be a hobby.
For instance, if my hobby was collecting sewing thimbles or drink shot glasses from all over the world - that may make for an interesting hobby but it's doubtful I could get anyone to invest in it.
The great thing about business principals is that you can apply the same questions to a bootstrapped startup as you can a major startup funded by $10 million from a venture capitalist.
Ultimately, who is your customer? How do you acquire/market to those identified customers? What is your profit on each unit or service sold? Do you have enough capital to sustain the business? What makes your busines...
The emergence and popularity of the TV show "Shark Tank" has helped to crystalize the thought processes used by potential businesses to evaluate investment opportunities in early stage or start-up businesses.
I've received business plans on a napkin (really!) and business plans that are hundreds of pages.
It's really quite simple to grab an investor's attention with the right mix of quality information about your business or start-up.
First, we need to clearly understand what it is the business does? Can this be described in a few sentences? If not, work on it. Secondly, does the business have any revenue or profits yet? If it doesn't it certainly isn't a deal killer for me personally, but my focus is on startups whereas many investors focus on later stage funding. Revenue and profits help however, because it demonstrates there is at least "some" demand for the product or service and there is "some" evidence you can deliver it.
So, what is it that makes someone leave the security of a paycheck and a 401K plan to jump off the cliff into entrepreneurship? I can’t speak for others but I will give you my reasoning.
I worked for a very large consulting firm for many years and the thing I found most incredible was the environment where everyone gets a trophy. The end result in this culture is it breeds mediocrity. The person who planned a party might get the same recognition as someone who identified a huge cost savings and had the initiative to execute a solution. As a manager, we were told to “cycle” pay increases so the same people weren’t getting an increase each year. This meant I would be required to give a pay increase to someone who did absolutely nothing toward the business goals and give the slam/dunk, over-performing, stellar employee zero. Believe me, I would fight for the employee that delivered but would ultimately get shot down in the final “calibration”. Yes – all managers would sit in a room an...
Too often we will bring on a new hire that looked like a dream on paper but was actually a nightmare in disguise. I have more stories than I can count about hiring what seemed to be a mature, hardworking, level headed individual but in reality they had boiled bunnies in pots all over town! Why did I not find this out through an employment reference check? Because it is against the law for a previous employer to offer any information on a reference check other than the dates the person was employed by them and their salary. Therefore, it is imperative to have an accurate BS meter when interviewing people. Dig in, ask for examples if something doesn't sit right with you.
For my company I now require an applicant to go through several rounds of interviews. I even have people not connected with the role we are filling talk with the applicant to get a feel for the person. Still, people have slipped through the cracks.
One lady we hired, we'll call her Agnes, to support a top exec...
This is the time of year when I have to chuckle when people get excited they are getting their tax refund.
It's like a gift from heaven our benevolent federal government sends you a refund, just at the right time when you need it!
Few people realize if they are getting a refund they were paying too much in taxes all year long.
Our brilliant lawmakers have saddled the American public with a tax code that is over 55,000 pages in which even the most astute tax professionals can't agree how to interpret.
Over the years Congress has picked winners and losers using the tax code to reward cronies and punish enemies. It doesn't take those in a tin foil hat to realize the IRS can be weaponized - and is on a regular basis.
When you have a small business that is not incorporated, you file a Schedule C with your income taxes that details the profit and loss from your business. If you operated at a loss, it is a direct reduction of your taxable income. A family making $50,000 per year in taxab...
We remember growing our career in management with a large Fortune 500 company when our Executive Vice President told us something one day. He said, “Execution is the one thing that separates the good from the great. Let me put it to you this way. If you don’t execute, you’ll be executed.” We guess it’s hard to forget that, but it still rings true in our mind today. Some of the best leaders and managers in business don’t achieve peak results because they simply don’t execute the plan.
Here are three mistakes new entrepreneurs make when it comes to execution:
1. CHANGING THE PLAN TOO OFTEN
One of the sayings we love is that "focus beats brilliance" all the time. In your first year of business, it is very easy to get distracted by five more new money making ideas that you see as ventures that can put additional dollars in your pocket. The problem is that if you lose focus on the plan you put together when you started the business, this can confuse your employees, potential investors, and...
Bootstrapping a business startup is an art. It can be a lot of fun if approached the right way.
No matter how well-funded your business startup may be, the fundamentals of bootstrapping should never be forgotten - and should always be applied.
Bootstrapping is not the same thing as being "cheap". Cheap is penny-wise but dollar foolish. In my second venture in the air freight forwarding business I needed a cargo van to pickup client shipments, but to also use it as a rolling billboard for my business. I couldn't afford to go out and spend over $30,000 at the time for a new van. I searched and searched until I found a used cargo van for $1,200. It had a lot of miles on it but I had a mechanic check out and, with no immediate mechanical issues that he could find, I bought it.
Next I took it to body and paint shops for estimates where I found one willing to paint the exterior and put my logo on the van for $600. For less than $2,000, I got a cargo van, that...
9:00 AM comes especially early for kids or young teenagers. It is even more debilitating when your father is the alarm clock that has a snooze button you don’t want to press. Today by 9:00 AM I have run a mile, been at work for an hour, and had my first cup of coffee. But back then, not so much. There was always something to do around the house and my father made sure that we were up to do it. Of course, we were never in the best of moods in the morning and this reaction would be met with a rhetorical question from my father such as “do you think this is a resort?” He always had us doing something even if it was completely useless to keep us busy. I realize now, as a grown adult, it was all about using our time productively and that’s what I learned from my serial entrepreneurial father.
By no means did I have it bad as a kid growing up, although, my thirteen year old self might say otherwise, but in hindsight I was extremely fortunate. There are kids who...
Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask me for my opinion on their creative ideas, and there have been a few instances where I have been very impressed with the ingenuity and originality behind them. Too often is the case, however, when asked the following five questions, aspiring entrepreneurs are not prepared to answer the real rubber-meets-the-road questions about their business model, strategies and their target audience: the customer.
1. Who will be the customers that will use and buy this service or product? It is imperative to know who your target market is, or that a market even exists for your proposed idea. This can be tested through talking initially with trusted friends, family and professional peers, and further tested through market research and focus groups.
2. Who are the competitors of similar services or products? You need to know your competition; otherwise, you will be blindly entering into a business with insufficient knowledge of competitive threats. Your competition will...