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.
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...
The need to strike a balance in life between work and family is not lost on the entrepreneur.
The effort required to get a startup over the hump to profitability can take months or even years.
During this time, there is a very focused and intense effort to get the job done. But - it is also important that all affected family members are pulling in the same direction and know what the overall family objectives are. The "business" was always the "family business" even though Rose and the kids weren't materially involved in the day-to-day operations.
During my air freight forwarding days, we ran so lean that we couldn't get the billing done on a daily basis, therefore I would have to come in over the weekend to rate invoices and get them sent out to our customers. If I didn't get them out on time, it would effect our cash-flow - therefore it was imperative we billed timely and regularly.
Beside the long twelve to sixteen hour days during the week it was also not unusual for me to en...
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...
I started my career in the U.S. Secret Service in 1989 and worked for 25 years before becoming an entrepreneur. I was initially assigned to the White House and after several transfers, ended up in the training division a few years prior to retirement. I was one of those people, scratching my chin, wondering what I was going to do after retiring from such an exciting, think on your feet, and fast paced career. What could possibly top this?
In the U.S. Secret Service I protected Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I never realized how much my role in the U.S. Secret Service would prepare me to become a successful entrepreneur. PLANNING is key. When a President takes a trip, anywhere, there’s what is called “advance work” that is conducted prior to the trip. The Secret Service will send an Advance Team to scout every route and literally every step the President will take, down to his bathroom breaks. Everything is surveyed and researched then re...