Featured in Alltop StartUpRoar

Friday, August 30, 2013

7 short hints for startups and entrepreneurs

If you are not following our Facebook page, you may be missing the short topic advice segments along with photos.  The following are a few of the ones that attracted the most attention.  I hope you like them.

Business can be like being a dog in a dog sled race! If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes. Take charge of your business and ensure your view changes and the business grows.

It is OK to get help from friends and mentors. That is what mentorship is about. They assist you in building your business by providing advice and looking over your shoulder. And sometimes, they lend a helping HAND! Grow your business and engage your mentors to ensure you get it right the first time.

 Everyone has a dream of something better in life. It may be a place, a job, a family, or some other special thing. Some dreams come true while others remain dreams for a lifetime.  
 Some people dream of winning the lottery. Having the financial independence is important. The risks of buying a ticket turns lots of people away. So they never play and never win. 
 Entrepreneurs have dreams. They work hard to make the dreams reality. They do not always achieve their goals, but they try again and again. 
 The difference is that the entrepreneurs buy a ticket to play. They try hard. In the end, they may win or not. But they can never be confused as someone that never bought a ticket. In that respect, they always walk away winners ! 
 Maybe it is time for you to buy your ticket to win what you dream about. Trying is half the battle. If you do not try, you can never win !

Success in your business takes hard work and the correct attitude. If either is wrong, maybe you should determine how to adjust it. Especially the attitude!

Many times there is more than a single way to get a job done. It is your task to determine which works best for your company.
 Hint: Going against the traffic or walking in the wrong direction only works if you are willing to take the risks and expend the energy!

Successes and failures of businesses take place daily. You may be one of the successful or be down on your luck. It is important to keep your spirits up and remember all those that are not as lucky as you!

 Hint: What goes around comes round! Your next venture may not bring you good fortune. Hopefully, you will have made lots of friends and great contacts. Your next venture can benefit from what you do gain.

Planning any trip is important. The destination is one of the key parts of your plan as is the route. No destination or route may lead to wide variation in the trip and extended costs. It is also extremely important to know when you arrive at the destination.  

 Hint: Business has the same planning requirements. Being the leader means you were involved in the planning and understand the destination. Otherwise, you may end up taking your team on a trip that goes NO WHERE or worse!

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 Reasons entrepreneurs never get their big exit

Try to avoid going down the wrong roads!
I would ever suggest an entrepreneur not pursue a dream, but informing you of hazards, could help reduce future disasters.  Startups fail for many reasons.  There is no shame in failure, in fact, we learn from it; at least most of us!  Our ability to learn and adjust is critical to survival. 

Regardless of all the planning and preparation, we do not know what we do not know.  We cannot control all the external factors that influence our lives and businesses.  There are no road signs, but sometimes we can read the trends.  This is an essential part of growing the business successfully.

There are some entrepreneurs that may do better learning in another business first.  The ability to learn how a business is developed and products sold can be valuable.  I do see many inexperienced entrepreneurs that want to start a business and they were never exposed to any of the things they will encounter.  In fact, it is more common than one might think that a founder launches into an area with no prior knowledge or training.

Entering the wrong way on a one-way street is something you would be wise to avoid.  You may meet unexpected traffic and become involved in an accident.  Starting a business without learning everything you can about the area can be just as detrimental, especially if you are using your own money or expecting near term income.

The following are just a few areas you should consider before starting that new company.

1.      Funding:  Money usually takes time to obtain from investors.  Startups have no money and it may be a few years before any serious funds arrive.  This means NO SALARY in the near term.  Loans are sometimes possible, but it may end up being a personal loan.  If the business fails, any   debt guaranteed by personal assets leaves you responsible for repayment of the loan.  No founder ever believes their business will fail, yet many do.  So, do not plan on a near term salary and protect your personal assets the best you can!

2.      Business:  Founders must learn everything possible about their business.  They should be able to address all questions an investor may ask.  Investors see the CEO founders as the face of the company and they need to trust the CEO and believe the individual is skilled and knowledgeable.  Take your team on the road to help in presentations, but you must also demonstrate your skills.  If the team answers all questions and you answer none, investors may question your knowledge or consider whether they need you to be part of the company.  So, make sure you know your business and can address as much as possible.

3.      Investor trends: Investment trends change over time.  What was interesting a month ago might not be interesting in a few days.  IPO markets can open and close in the same month.  Investors may be enthusiastic while the markets are doing well and skittish when the markets turn bearish.  The trends are important and recognizing that they change rapidly suggests you must be willing to change with the trends.  So, watch reactions of the investors and evaluate their moods and interests; i.e., try to recognize when a strategy change is required.

4.      Skills: Some people have extensive skills while others require more training.  It is hard to pass yourself off as an expert when you have not spent time in training or learning.  Understanding where your skills are the strongest and hiring team members to supplement your weaker skills is a good strategy.  Your ability to demonstrate all key skills exist in the company will generate more confidence in tentative investors.  So, determine what you can do well and create a hiring plan to augment those skills.

5.      Attention to detail:  Some people will review everything you do and say with a keen eye.  Attention to detail by external people requires that you develop a high degree of attention to detail in house.  You and your products are being scrutinized to the highest levels.  Sometimes a single slip-up or error can cause investors, customers, or partners to stay away for long periods.  So, always be careful with everything you and your business do.
  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Develop better filters and your sales efforts will improve

Go away! We do not care what you want, we are busy playing.
Cold calls can range from going well to horribly.  At my office, they tend to go horribly, especially when the call is to ME!  Take for example the auto dealership that called my cell phone 8 times over two weeks to see if I wanted to buy a car.  Politeness went out the window on the last call when I informed the caller I only do business over my cell phone.  The caller said “it is business.”  My response, “not for me it isn’t, all you are doing is driving me away!”

Some sales calls must be cold calls and there is little way to change that.  The ability to filter the call list to those most likely to be interested improves your success rate.  Developing a relationship with the potential customer further improves the chances.  Eventually, it is possible to go beyond the relationship development and become annoying.  That happened in the above case.

Sales drives earnings and earnings allow businesses grow.  It is important that you feel strongly about what you are selling.  This is especially true when building a startup business and raising capital.  Entrepreneurs are excited about their technology and often feel everyone will become excited if they just hear the story.  The real issue is that people see different things when reviewing your business.  Some will be excited about the technology, others may be interested because of family history (example, a relative died of cancer), while others may be attracted to earning prospects. 

Your ability to identify the factors that may influence the intended customer, investor, or prospective partner may help you tailor the pitch to that individual or group.  The mechanisms you use to filter and identify those willing to buy what you are selling can save you lots of time and trouble.  Seeking ways to obtain a personal introduction may help break the ice as well. 

Regardless of what you are promoting, there will be uninterested people!  The reasons for lack of interest are very diverse.  Rapidly filtering and elimination of the people that do not care saves time and effort.  There is little need in pursuing an investor or customer that has zero interest in you or what you sell.  Likewise, a partially interested party could turn away if you badger them; the number of times you connect before they become annoyed varies from person to person. 

Keep your positive attitude and be polite in your contacts.  Try to develop filters that help you focus on those most likely to buy what you sell.  Watch and listen for signals the party is becoming annoyed.  Your ability to develop the correct filtering mechanisms will help you achieve your goals more efficiently.
  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The beast can kill your startup if you are not persistent

Get back up and try again!
Large organizations have rules and regulations that can be infuriating at times.  Trying to find someone to help you when you have a problem only makes things seem worse.  It does not matter whether you are interacting with the organization, working for it, or accidently are affected by it, the anger and frustration that arises can make you want to just give up.

As an example, over the last few weeks I have been helping a young entrepreneur develop a startup business in the fashion area.  Part of the planned activity is a web based blog showcasing women’s fashion; see MadisonLeft.  Accounts created on Facebook, Pinerest, Twitter, and Instagram were to promote the business and alert viewers of the blog.  The starting activities were simple,” Right?: not so fast! A little known problem occurred with promotion on Facebook.  The issue arose after posting several images along with links to the blog site.  Apparently, one of the security measures in Facebook identifies repeat postings of the same link and considers that they may be SPAM sites. 

This seems like a simple misunderstanding that brief phone call or email should resolve.  Try finding an email address, contact person, phone number or other means of communicating with a company handling close to a billion accounts.  The help section does have a few ways to send recommendations, suggestions, and report a problem but they openly say not to expect a response.  The large database of help questions does not provide any means of resolving this problem.  A Google search turns up many users having faced a similar issue.  This is where the frustration grew worse. 

Frustration sets in for young entrepreneurs and the mentors when seemingly faced with unsolvable problems.  It is easy for someone with less experience to consider giving up and even the most educated and experienced people find such issues complex and troublesome.  The advantage in this case was that the mentor had extensive experience having worked for the US Government and recognized the Catch-22 of large organizations.  Solutions often arise by being persistent and continuing with polite contact via many channels and multiple forms.  Yes, it took lots of time and countless reports thought nearly every identifiable channel but it did result in resolution of the problem.  At least it seems the effort lead to the fix!  It is hard to be certain since no return communication from Facebook ever indicated they addressed the problem.  It was an accidental click on the link a few days later that demonstrated the problem was resolved.

The issue is a great example of how large organizations can generate problems for your small business.  The problems can be intentional or unintentional.  They tend to be frustrating and confusing to handle.  Persistence is your best and sometimes only avenue to a successful resolution.  Rules and regulations in large organizations are rampant and the individual you interact with can use them for good or bad.  Often, finding a person with a helpful attitude can enhance your chances especially when you approach them in a polite and kind manner.   The key is not giving up; where have you heard that before?  How about in the article:  The One Word Entrepreneurs Do Not Say.”  So remember that when the beast knocks you down, you must get back up and find a way to connect and solve the problem; i.e., do not give up.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon