Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneur’


5 Steps to Building a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

4-22 Crowdfunding smallIt seems like nearly every day, there’s a new crowdfunding campaign or request for support that comes up. There’s a good reason for this, and that is: crowdfunding has become an exciting way for small businesses to build capital to launch a new business venture. If you’re not familiar with crowdfunding, it is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people through the Internet. If you think crowdfunding may be a viable option for you to raise money, let’s look at how it works and what you need for your campaign to be successful.

There are more than 500 active crowdfunding websites, with the biggest five being Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Go Fund Me, Crowdrise, and RocketHub. While each site has different features and capabilities, they all function basically in the same way. The sites take a commission fee from what you raise (typically 5 – 9 percent). Before you select your platform, you need to decide on your fundraising goal and the time frame. Make sure you research the platforms and their policy on whether you get any funds if your campaign doesn’t meet its goal. Some sites (like Kickstarter) require you return the money to donors if you don’t meet the fundraising goal. This means if your goal is $5,000 and you get $4,999 in pledges and donations, you get nothing.

How to Build a Successful Campaign

Once you decide on the right crowdfunding site, follow these five steps to build your campaign.

1. Work your network first. The worst mistake you can make is starting your campaign and then start using social media as your go-to place to reach prospects. You should be active on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at least six months before the launch of your campaign. Your first 30% of pledges will come from your personal network, and if you can’t get people who you know to invest in your idea, no one else will.

2. Tell a good story. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to make a sale. If you have a strong idea, tell a compelling story about it. Then write engaging copy that focuses on the story, and create a short video that explains your idea. These will become the basis for your crowdfunding website profile.

3. Do not exaggerate. It’s important to be enthusiastic about your business idea. After all, how can you convince a customer to buy unless you also believe in what you’re selling? But make sure you don’t overhype your project either. If you promise things you cannot deliver, it will turn into a public relations (and possibly legal) train wreck.

4. Have great rewards. People love to get something, even if it’s small, for their donation. Create a list of rewards you are willing to give in exchange for a donation. The rewards should range in significance from the lowest amount to the highest. For example, if you’re crowdfunding to publish a book, perhaps the smallest donation receives a credit in the book as a reward. The highest donation may receive a signed copy and book cover poster.

5. Donor relations are critical. A successful crowdfunding venture does not stop the minute your campaign ends. Have a plan in place to communicate with your network and donors after the funding campaign is over. These people helped you raise the money you need to build your business. Make sure you keep them informed about what’s going on, and thank them whenever you can. You never know when you may need them to raise more capital in the future.

Crowdfunding is a great way to fund a business venture from the ground up. Start researching successful fundraising campaigns, look and your network, and decide whether this is the right medium for you.


Why Wanting to Be Mark Zuckerberg is Hurting Your Business

Dream Mind MapMany entrepreneurs dream of being Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs or Barbara Corcoran. They want their company to be the next Google, Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Unfortunately, this goal is actually hurting their business.

I understand the romance of wanting to “be them”. I admire what these people and companies have achieved and how they shine in the spotlight. I see how the media adores their every move. But their amazing results actually hurt entrepreneurs everywhere because their kind of success is an outlier. It’s almost a mirage. With seven billion people on earth, 99.999999 percent of us will never be them. Measuring any one person’s business success against what these superstars have achieved will only end one way: disappointment.

This is the problem with dreams. Aim too high and you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Aim to low and your business will never accomplish anything. Dan Ralphs, Dream Manager at Infusionsoft, http://www.infusionsoft.com an Arizona based company that provides sales and marketing automation software for small businesses, says that there are two types of people: those with imagination and those that are doers. The perfect dreamer in all of us blends both of these together. In fact, sometimes in business they don’t exist in a single person, but in a collaborative management team.

The best way to approach a dream is to define your own brand of business success. For every entrepreneur, it must include a financial component (since that is how the business world keeps score) and other elements that are personally defined. I don’t need to be Mark Zuckerberg to feel accomplished. I define success as being able to support my family at helping others while doing something I love.

The key is to set a big well-articulated goal, but then set mini milestones that can be celebrated along the way. Think of the any business journey as a series of linked successful dreams.

How much does luck play in the success of achieving a goal? Every dreamer has to admit the role that luck plays in their business. But as late movie mogul, Samuel Goldwyn says “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Forget Mark Zuckerberg. Find your own dream and go out an achieve it.


Should I Borrow Money from Friends or Family for My Business?

3-15 loaning friend money smallGetting your business started requires money, and while there are many sources for finding this funding, one often overlooked source is friends and family. On the one hand, a friend or family member may be able to offer you an interest-free loan that you wouldn’t qualify for at the bank, but on the other hand, money and the people you’re close to don’t always mix well. Family and friendship dynamics are delicate, so carefully evaluate your relationship with possible creditors before opting for this financing source. Use these five steps to ensure a successful outcome.

Assess the risks from the outset

Begin by having a blunt conversation with your future financier. Talk to her about the risks and pitfalls of this transaction. The idea is not to spoil her enthusiasm in investing in your business, but rather to confront the harsh realities that small businesses sometimes face. If, after this conversation, your benefactor is still ready to loan you money, you have done your part to let her know of the risks she’s taking.

Decide if it’s an investment or loan

Continue the discussion by assessing whether or not your creditor would like to come aboard as a partner and take equity in your company or simply loan you the money and stay out of operations. Be comfortable with the terms and the equity you give, and consider whether this person would be an asset as an advisor to the company or not.

Have a formal agreement

Even if you trust one another implicitly, having a formal contract for the loan or investment is still a good idea. You may not need a lawyer to work out the details, but if the amount of money is substantial, you’ll definitely need an accountant. If your benefactor wants to forego a formal agreement, it may still be necessary to discuss more precise procedures such as what to do in the event of default or bankruptcy. Never promise something that you cannot deliver.

Keep it professional

Treat your private creditor like you treat your bank. Pay on time or early if that’s part of your agreement, and keep track of every transaction. Don’t take advantage of your personal relationship to pay late or not at all. Being formal and professional ensures that you don’t blur lines between business and personal relationships.

Put everything out on the table

Create the habit of communicating with your friend or family member. Let her know regularly how business is progressing. Never make her pursue you for updates. Whether you have challenges or successes, keep her in the loop in the way you would other partners or investors. She will appreciate this and feel more vested in the success of your company.

Deciding to borrow money from someone you’re close to is a decision you need to spend time reflecting on. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize your personal relationship with that person, and money has a funny way of doing that sometimes. Keep the lines of communication open and make sure you properly manage your investor’s expectations.


Mondays with Mike: How Ripple Innovation Can Invigorate Your Business

4-13 Ripple effectIt always hits me the same time every year.  I don’t know whether it’s a craving for warmer weather, or the realization that it’s time to dig deep and get started making the year a successful one, but the end of the first quarter is always a tough time for me.  I’m tired of winter in New Jersey, and my summer vacation is too far off to lift my spirits.

 Whatever the reason, by the end of March, I feel like I’m in a slump.  My strategy to shake off the winter doldrums, though, works every time.  I find a problem in my business – something I simply haven’t tackled yet, and I set out to make things better.  One of the most effective ways I’ve found to fix something that’s broken, and brighten my spirits at the same time, is to use ripple innovation.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Ripple 1:  Find the solution within your own company.  Far too often we can’t see a solution because we’re stuck in our own head – blinded by our compartmentalized approach to problem solving.  So you’re looking for ways to improve your IT support?  Ask your sales force.  Not only will they have situational awareness your IT guys and gals don’t, but you never know – they might also have more tech skills than you realize.  Look outside the department you’re trying to revitalize.
  2. Ripple 2:  Find the solution inside your industry.  Look to your competitors (who typically face the same challenges you do,) and see how they do business.  Maybe your competitor’s Facebook page brings in tons of new business.  Maybe the guy down the street has found a sharper price on office supplies.  Look around to find best practices among your competition.
  3. Ripple 3:  Find the solution in any industry.  You may think your business is industry specific, but you’ll be surprised what you can learn from broadening your perspective.  The food truck that moves around town, yet always manages to have a line when they pull in?  They might be using Twitter in a way you can imitate.  The jewelry store with a reputation for the best customer service in the world?  You can learn something about consumer loyalty that will translate to your company, too.
  4. Ripple 4:  Find the solution in nature.  If you’re really stuck, try zooming out even further, to look at the way the natural world works.  Say you’re having trouble retaining employees, even though you pay great wages.  You might need to look at animals who spend a little longer nurturing their young before sending them off into the world.  After all, animals who hatch and have to fend for themselves right away often have rather high mortality rates.  Try implementing a longer training period, so when you turn your employees loose, they’re able to thrive on their own.

The basic idea of ripple innovation is that you have a whole world to learn from.  Broadening your perspective to include other departments, companies, industries, and even other creatures can only benefit you and help inspire a new period of growth. 


Ten Phrases Successful People Use Daily

Man Holding a Sign with an Optimist Message"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world."- Buddha

The hit book, "The Secret" had one central message; we become what we think about. This same thing was said by Earl Nightingale years earlier in his classic "The Strangest Secret".

I am not suggesting to only think positive thoughts and block out any negativity. I am not talking about surrounding yourself with daily positive aphorisms. The key is what you focus your daily thoughts on. A golfer that thinks they will hit the ball in the sand trap inevitably will most of the time. A team playing not to lose will ultimately lose.

People who are successful say the following phrases that spur them to take action: 

1. I can do this.

It all starts with believing in yourself. People are successful because they are confident in their own abilities. This confidence comes from inside out. When faced with something scary or challenging, this is what they say. This gets them to start which is typically the most difficult part.

2. Ill do it!

People stand out by taking on a challenge no one else is willing to do. It can be small and simple like staying late or taking out the company trash. It can be volunteering on the weekend. While everyone else is asking “why?”, ask “why not?”  Be open to always saying "yes" rather than immediately "no".

3. Thats an awesome job.

Make others feel admired and appreciated by recognizing their success. People will enjoy being around you and that will make you feel good about yourself.

4. I can take at least one small step forward today

Running a small business is overwhelming and achieving goals can be a long term journey. Uncertainty on this path stops many people from even trying. All great success is a series of small steps. Learn the result of your single action and then take an additional step; and then take another.

5. “I’m really listening.”

Successful people know when to say these words. Stephen R. Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'', writes “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Successful people listen to understand and in that moment, do not worry about how they will sound when they reply.

6. “I was wrong.”

Successful people always admit this. When they are wrong, they say so. Surprisingly in this process, you will not lose respect or credibility, but gain it.

7. “Done is better than perfect.”

Tech giants Google and Microsoft release beta versions of their products to consumers knowing the products aren’t perfect, and that’s ok. What matters to them is getting the products out in the world so they can learn what needs to be improved.

9. “Can you show me?”

Successful people know that they don’t know everything. That’s why they surround themselves with people who are smarter than them. Successful people can be a follower and a leader in the business world.

10. “I don’t have to be the smartest; I just need to work the hardest.”

Successful people know that if they work hard, they increase their chances of success. They realize that the key to being successful is not just skill, but the willingness to do whatever is necessary to be the best.

Which ones do you use to keep you on the path of success?


How Stepping Backwards Can Help Your Business Move Forward

4-2 Step backwards smallMost successful entrepreneurs have lofty end goals and they want to sprint over the goal line right now. This forward vision is essential, but success rarely comes in the form of a perfectly straight upward trajectory.

I use the analogy of physically jumping forward.  If you stand where you are today and just try to jump forward, you may be able to move your body forward by a half a foot or so.  But if you are trying to jump over a small waterway, you move backwards so that you can get a running start and leap forward a great distance.

You need to take the same approach in business.

When your objective seems so close, yet always out-of-reach, try to take a step back. Here are a few suggestions that can help you decide how many steps back you need to take to leap forward toward success.

Do a Partial Re-boot

Sometimes, your business may not be working because you have some of the wrong elements in place.  It could be the wrong product or service mix for your customer base, it could be the wrong staff, or it could be the wrong processes and procedures.  However, you can never fix what’s wrong if you keep doing what you are doing.

Consider shutting down your business for a week or two (or shortening your hours) to formulate a new strategy for your business.  You may have to reduce your SKUs, reduce staff, shut some locations or even go smaller first in order to get to the next level.  Doing what’s not working won’t allow you to grow, so allow yourself to get smaller to have the right foundation to get bigger.

Go Back to School

You may have worked in your field for 20 years, but how much do you really know about running a business? Maybe a lack of business knowledge is stifling your business growth. Or maybe you need to update your skills in particular areas to keep pace with the changes in technology and your industry.

Consider going back to your school days and take a few courses at your local community college. Or consider free training offered by various organizations, such as the Small Business Administration or your local Chamber of Commerce.

Going back to get business basics and new information can allow you to get past your current business roadblocks so that you can grow.

Do a Full Re-boot

Sometimes, business owners have to squarely face reality and shut the business down… for now. If you cannot see any path forward from where you are, maybe you need to consider starting fresh on a smaller scale. Or, it may be time to work for someone else for a while, so that you can learn from the best- and worst- practices of another business without having that financial risk.

When you’re ready to start your business again, you will have fresh knowledge and ideas that can help you move forward successfully.

When your best efforts don’t seem enough to move your business to your ultimate goals, you need to step back. That step may be small or it may be moving back a mile. If that sounds discouraging, Steve Jobs may have said it best: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”


7 Lies About Starting a Business You Shouldn’t Believe

4-1 Lies about starting a biz smallWhen it comes to becoming your own boss, there are often some misconceptions floating around. Let’s banish a few of the ones that you might be told so that you’ve got the right picture of what to expect as you launch your own business.

Lie #1: You Don’t Need to Be an Expert in Your Field

Yes, you do. Don't start a restaurant because you like to eat, make sure you know how to run a food establishment. Being well-versed in your industry is important, otherwise you will learn many expensive newbie lessons. You must be eager to learn, no one can know everything, so invest time in learning the business before diving in.

Lie #2: You Don’t Need Tons of Money to Start a Business

The money to start your business will come from your personal resources. You need a solid financial base to start a business. The average start-up requires roughly $25,000. Start by creating a budget for both your business and personal expenses for the first year. Make sure you have an emergency savings account too. It takes on average 12-18 months to breakeven in a small business, so err on the safe side, set aside enough money to cover both for a year or two.

Lie #3: There is a Perfect Time to Start a Business

The fact is: there’s no perfect time. You will always have an excuse about why now isn’t the right time. Ignore the naysayer in your head and just do it! You can work out the kinks (and there will be some) later.

Lie #4: Your Need to Quit Your Job to Start a Business

You don't need to quit your job and dive into entrepreneurship, there is another way. 

Become a side hustler. You can start your business on the side while you continue to earn a paycheck. Then, once your company is financially viable, you can cut the cord from Corporate America and devote yourself to your company full time.

Lie #5: All You Need is Passion

If all you need is a dream or the passion to start a business, then everyone would do it. Passion is overrated. Yes, it’s important that you do something you enjoy, but you need to make your passion has a profit center. Your success will depend on your business plan and ability to identify a niche customer, and repeat business.

Lie #6: Marketing is Expensive

So many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not marketing their businesses because they think that it’s too complicated or costly. The truth is, there are a lot of marketing tactics you can do yourself, like blogging, using social media, or sending email marketing campaigns. A little effort goes a long way, and many of these tools are even free.

Lie #7: There’s Nothing Left to Learn

Once you launch your business, you’ve likely read every book, blog, and magazine on starting a business known to man. So you’re done, right? Wrong. You will need to continue to learn, as there’s always new information coming in, especially as technology changes your industry. Staying sharp means staying competitive.

There are a lot of opinions out there about what you need to start a business. Others will tell you what starting a business is like, but the truth is: you have to find out for yourself. Everyone’s journey is different, just remember you must grow yourself to grow your business.


Mondays with Mike: 5 Stellar Tips For Landing Great Customers

3-30 Landing New Customers smallAssuming you’re delivering a great product at a fair price, and assuming you’re making sure your customers get outstanding service, one of the simplest ways to generate more revenue is to land new customers.  But you don’t want just any customer.  You want the big fish – the ones who generate the best revenue.  Here are my top tips for finding those clients, sometimes where you least expect them.

  1. Look for year-end opportunities.  Whether it’s the end of a calendar or a fiscal year, many companies find themselves in the position of scrambling to spend funds so they don’t lose them for the following year.  While other companies coast from mid-December to New Year’s, if you hustle and look for those year-end dollars, you’ll be surprised what you can land.  Even if you get a trial period agreement, you’re setting yourself up to over deliver and score the longer contract when the short-term funds have been exhausted.  Check in with clients who have upcoming fiscal year ends as well, and you’ll often find the same opportunities.
  2. Leverage tax savings for small businesses.  Particularly useful both at the end of the calendar year and around tax time, pitching your product to a client can be even more compelling if you include not just the initial investment cost, but also highlight the potential tax savings that investment can create.  So while your product is certainly a good value on its own, a business who purchases it is also reducing – through the expense – their tax liability.  It’s just going the extra step to think it through for your clients.
  3. Video Sales Page.  I can’t believe how few companies use this tactic, especially given how cost effective it is.  Say you’re making a pitch – could be virtual or in person.  You’re moving through a slide show presentation that highlights all the benefits you can provide.  If you add a slide with a brief video, customized with your prospect’s name and details that matter to her business, you’re taking your pitch from the abstract to the very concrete – and that’s a good thing!  Making a video costs you nothing but a little time, and it’s a personal touch that will separate your company from the crowd.
  4. Build the vendor well.  This tip sounds counterintuitive at first, but it really works.  Instead of asking a great client for referrals to other clients, ask for referrals to their vendors.  The idea is to work with other suppliers to find efficiencies, share customers, and ultimately deliver better service.  You’re broadening your network, while focusing on what matters to your existing clients – great service!
  5. Throw a party.  Take the time to invite your very best clients – along with top new prospects – to a huge celebration.  Whether you grill out for a summer bash or pour champagne at the end of the year, putting your happy clients in contact with prospects lets everyone see how much you value your relationships.  You’ll bring in new customers, and you’ll be able to thank your existing ones.  It’s a win-win.

While generating new business is only part of what we do in a given day or week, it’s important to focus our efforts on those customers who will bring the best returns.


How to Make Your Business Appealing to Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

3-11 funding for SB smallSmall businesses and investors can go together like ice cream and apple pie. It is definitely a vote of confidence when someone provides funding that can take your business to the next level, yet there are trade-offs that come with accepting investor funding. If your idea is so big that you know the only way to bring it to success is with the support of outside resources, then angel investors or venture capitalists might be the right fit for your company. However, remember that this class of investor is looking for a good investment. They weight talent first and ideas second, so make sure you understand how to position yourself for this level of funding.

What’s The Difference Between Angels and VCs?

Keep in mind that angel investors and venture capitalists are very different types of investors. Angel investors are usually private individuals who have some money and are keen to use it to get a return, but they may want very little to do with the day-to-day running of your small business. They may fund businesses with lower growth rate projections and be more interested in firms that create value in the community in ways other than high profits.

Venture capitalists, who usually work as a collective firm rather than individuals, have deeper pockets, but desire larger and faster returns. They usually will require a much larger stake of your business to entice them to partner with you and may even take over management of your business as active backers. However both types of investors will become your partners and require a piece of equity in return.

There are many ways to appeal to angel investors and venture capitalists. The main thing to keep in mind is that you will have to work very hard to interest them and have conclusive evidence that your organization brings substantial value to the table. Here are five ways to make sure that you’ve got what it takes to encourage this level of investor.

1. Build your business (and your personal brand)

There is no way to avoid it: building your business takes hard work. One great way to make sure you succeed in this task is to become an expert in your field. Dig deep to build those skills. You may want to look for a mentor or networking group to ensure you continue to grow in areas like public speaking, marketing, or management. Consider this an investment in both you and your company.

2. Solve a problem

Make sure that your business solves a problem for which your customers need a solution. You need to be able to convey to an investor that you understand this problem, as well as how and the why your company is the best solution for this problem. There is no room for feebleness here. You must be on point. Rewrite your business plan if you have not yet fine-tuned this aspect of your business.

3. Have an amazing team

In short, your team must work together effortlessly and complement one another’s skills. Trust me, venture capitalists will go through your roster with a fine-tooth comb. They want to see your team in action and know that you can withstand whatever challenge comes your way. Always hire candidates who bring a variety of hard and soft skills to the table so that you can create a culture of success from the outset.

4. Have a phenomenal pitch

Your pitch must be persuasive, thoughtful, and farsighted. It will go hand and hand with your business plan, but you must be able to convey in confident and concise speech the essence of that plan. There is an art to delivering a pitch, so make sure the right person delivers it.

5. Always have the big picture in mind

If you have your eye on the big picture, you are guaranteed to keep things in perspective. Be honest with yourself about your venture and its challenges, so that you anticipate market changes that affect your industry before they arise.

Investors want humble founders who know the industry, the competition, the technology, the business climate, and regulatory issues. In short, they want to see someone who has their feet in reality, but is reaching for the stars. If you can be that person, you’ll find the right investor to help your business grow.




 
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