Monthly Archives: September, 2016

I Quit!

September 29th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “I Quit!”

Quit your jobWhen to Quit Your Day Job and Go Full-Time with Your Business

Whoever said winners never quit clearly wasn’t an entrepreneur. At some point, you have to quit many things to become a full-time entrepreneur. One of them is your job.

Unless you have a lot of money in the bank, your significant other makes a significant amount of cash, or you have some serious investment, you may very well need to work elsewhere to fund your dream. And assuming everything goes according to plan, you’ll then need to quit that job and run with your dream.

We touched on this briefly awhile back on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network (listen to BIA Episode #43 – Creative Juices) with my guest, author and entrepreneur, Mary McFarland, but it bears repeating. Sometimes you need to work elsewhere to fund your dream, and then you’ll need to quit that job to run your dream.

The question is….when do you quit the day job?

Quitting at the Right Time is Crucial

If you wait too long, you may be holding your business back, hurting progress, and burning yourself out. Quit too soon and you could fall into a nasty financial pit. But finding the right point to quit will act as a springboard to your future, positively affecting your mood, your energy, and your momentum.

It Starts with a Plan

Like so many things in business, it’s best to plan ahead. Begin by first planning out your business. I recommend doing two separate plans: a very simple strategic plan that looks out over no more than 3 years and a 1-year business plan. Start with the strategic plan because it forms the foundation for everything you will do going forward. Then move to a simple business plan. Neither of these plans should be lengthy or wordy.

It’s going to take some late nights and weekends to do this since you’re grinding away at your other job. Don’t get discouraged. Know that this is temporary.

Now, once you’ve made plans, a few things should become very clear:

  • That your idea is viable
  • When you should theoretically start making money
  • How much money you’ll be making
  • What your future growth looks like

This will then provide you with enough information to set a target date – that glorious, nerve-racking date that you turn in your resignation and jump in to the full-time entrepreneur waters. Remember, this is a target date. Aim for it. If you miss, take aim again.

From there, you’ll have to take one of the hardest looks at your personal finances that you’ve ever taken.

Accounting for Every Dollar

If you already track your personal finances and expenses, you’re a step ahead. You’ll want to know what you need to live. How much money do you and your family need to pay the bills and put food on the table? This doesn’t include the fun stuff. There will be sacrifices (not the animal kind).

If you’re not willing to sacrifice some personal comfort, you’re probably not serious enough to make your business work. That’s just the truth.

Once you have a rough idea of business growth and a list of your expenses, you should start to have an idea of when you can quit and survive.

There Should Also Be Some Emergency Savings in There

Because you don’t know exactly how your business is going to turn out, you’ll need to save up some money. Ideally, a few months’ worth of expenses. The more runway you can give yourself, the better off you’ll be.

Be Patient, but Not Too Patient

For most people, it’s going to be best to wait until your new business is making some amount of money before you quit. Going from no revenue to healthy revenue can be an unpredictable road.

However, going from some money to more money is much more achievable.

Ideally, you should go until your day job feels like a true pain point. Like it’s holding you back from taking your new business to that next level. When that moment comes, go for it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t say “well, let’s give it a couple more months to be safe.”

Give everything to your new business. You may be surprised by what happens next.

Starting a Business Might Not Be Easy, but It is Possible

..more possible than you might realize. With a viable idea, some planning, and a lot of hard work, that business you’ve always wanted can become a reality. And you can finally leave behind that job you don’t really care about.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

Increase your chances of success with the proven methods featured in Business is ART. Get the book today at Amazon! You can also sign up for my free webinar on strategic planning by clicking here. Finally, I now have online video training to walk through all of this. It’s an hour and 50 minutes worth of training packed in to 25 short videos where I’ll teach you how to set your vision, develop strategic and business plans, and identify and track the key performance indicators (metrics) most important to you. Check it out here.

Advice for Creating a Shark Tank Worthy Pitch

September 26th, 2016 Posted by Entrepreneur, Owner 0 thoughts on “Advice for Creating a Shark Tank Worthy Pitch”

Pitch your businessIf you can’t articulate the value of your business, it’s very hard for anyone else to see and understand the value of your business. They may just assume that your business holds no value. That’s one reason the savvy business owner likely has a 30-second elevator pitch on hand. This is great for chance encounters, small talk, meeting people at special events, and of course talking to someone in an elevator.

To bring on investors (or seek a business loan), however, you’ll need something a little meatier than a 30-second pitch.

The hit-show Shark Tank has its name for a reason. Investors devour weak pitches, leaving no remnants behind. While real-life, off-camera investor pitches (hopefully) look nothing like those on Shark Tank, the end-results are similar. Either you sufficiently show the investor there is value in your business or you don’t. To survive these dangerous waters, you’ll need a pretty fantastic pitch. In this post we give you a few tips on how to do that, but no matter what, keep this in mind – brevity is your friend.

Even if You Never Plan on Pitching to Investors, This Can Be a Great Exercise

Not planning on bringing in investments? It is still valuable to look at your business the way an investor would. It will push you to evaluate your true worth and growth potential. You might see weak points. You will be able to sell your services/products/etc. better.

So, how can you see if your business is Shark Tank worthy? Here are some tips:

Break it Down to the Most Basic Level

Many strong-willed entrepreneurs on Shark Tank leave both the Sharks and the viewers scratching their heads by asking for much more than they need or for being unwilling to accept what seemingly everyone else believes is a fair offer. When establishing your business, you need to start with the core concept. The basic idea. The minimum viable product. And you have to be brutally honest with yourself.

Now, once you have that, what’s the next growth point? Where could a shot of additional cash flow take you?

We all think we want explosive growth, but a natural, organic progression is generally much healthier, easier to manage, more attainable and more sustainable.

So press pause on a few of the crazier future ideas. Cut down on features/capabilities you don’t need. Simply put, remove the fat.

Ideas are Not Investable – Executed Plans Are

Want to get investors in on a business? You need an actual business. Everyone has ideas. The majority of those ideas will never become reality. That’s why investors generally only care about the concepts that have already been put into action.

That way, they can see that it works on some level. If something can’t work on a small scale, it can rarely work on a large scale.

Be an Expert About Your Business

You know who should know more about your business than you? No one. You should be the foremost expert about what your business is, what you do, where you’re going, how you react to situations, what you’re ultimately chasing after, and etc.

This means you’ll have to think through a lot of situations. You’ll need a great a business plan and key performance indicators (KPIs) to control and track progress.

It should go without saying that you should also care more about your business than anyone else.

Learn Humility

Though you may be an expert when it comes to your business, you can’t be an expert on everything. There will be people out there who know more about business in general. They may know more about your industry. They’ll be better at some things than you are.

As a business owner, you need to learn humility – especially if you’re seeking investors. If you were the best at everything and smarter than everyone else in any given room, you wouldn’t need to be pitching to investors. They’d just throw money at you.

Focus Less on the Past and More on the Future

It’s great if your business has a nice little story about how it got started, but that’s not going to get anyone to invest in your business. Anytime someone making a pitch gets too caught up in their history, you can see investors getting bored and antsy.

They generally don’t care about how you started. They want to know where you’re going. They want to see that there’s a future. That’s the only way your business holds value to anyone.

Share the Numbers

Most of the time, the Sharks want to know what kind of sales a business is generating before they even consider an offer. They want actual numbers not speculation. However, depending on your situation, you might not have much in the revenue department yet.

That doesn’t mean you’re completely down and out. After all, Facebook got hundreds of millions of dollars before they were making any revenue. Then Facebook would go on to buy Instagram for $1 billion when Instagram was making zero money.

But in both of these cases, the apps had huge, highly engaged user bases.

For your business, you need to find a metric or two that can act as your trump card.

It Starts with Starting Your Business

As we said before, most investors won’t be interested until you have a business going. How do you go about doing that? You can start by reading Business is ART, on sale now. Next, you can watch my video series “Odds Makers”, online training, based on the book, and designed to help you increase your odds by developing plans and identifying KPIs that will impress any investor.

With our guidance, you can create a healthy, investible business.

Humble Beginnings

September 21st, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan 0 thoughts on “Humble Beginnings”

Tech companies with humble beginningsLet’s say you want to start a business, but you’re struggling to see it become successful. How can you ever reach the goals you have for your dream business?

As Steve Jobs once said, “Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” Often, those same people weren’t any better off financially than you either.

Earlier this week, Dan Lyons, author of the New York Times best selling book Disrupted (My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble), was my guest on the Business is ART podcast #45 (on the TrueChat Network). In Disrupted, Dan writes about his experience at tech start-up Hubspot. Prior to that he was the senior tech writer for Newsweek, so it seems appropriate here to talk about 4 huge tech companies with surprisingly humble beginnings.

Apple Computer

Since we already mentioned Steve Jobs, we might as well start with Apple. As most know, Apple Computer, the most valuable company in the world, began in a garage just 40 years ago. It was just two guys, one of whom could not code or engineer computers. Neither of whom had college degrees.

But with Steve Wozniak’s technical prowess and Steve Jobs’ relentless drive and perfectionist bent, they were able to turn the computer industry upside-down and pave the way for computers to be in every household.

That said, while Apple is credited for bringing computers to the home/personal market, it was another company that’s generally credited for actually putting a computer in every home.

Microsoft

Similar to Apple, Microsoft was also founded by two college dropouts. While they came from respectable families, the success of Bill Gates and Paul Allen was entirely their own. After bonding in high school over their love of computers, they began writing programs in their spare time.

They briefly went their separate ways for college, only to reunite when Allen convinced Gates they could develop software for a microcomputer he had seen in a magazine. They pitched their software to the manufacturers of the microcomputer…despite the fact that they hadn’t actually created the software yet.

The company agreed to meet with them, and so the two set out to build an idea they had implied was nearly complete for a microcomputer they didn’t actually own. And they didn’t have much time to do it.

Yet, somehow, they pulled it off, their software was purchased, and Microsoft (then spelled Micro-Soft) soon became the biggest name in computer software.

Dell Computers

Michael Dell, the son of a stockbroker and an orthodontist, was a freshman pre-med student at the University of Texas when he decided to start a part-time gig. Having always loved computers, he began assembling and selling IBM-compatible computers from his dorm room.

Seeing a larger opportunity in front of him, Michael borrowed $1000 from friends and family, dropped out of college, and launched his own branded computer: the Turbo PC. These PCs could be customized and were sold directly to customers through ads in computer magazines.

By 1986, after a year in operation, the company had $73 million in sales. Over the next two decades, they would grow to a multi-billion dollar company and outlast dozens of their competitors thanks in part to some hugely successful marketing campaigns.

Hewlett Packard (HP)

About 40 years before Apple made garage startups “cool”, William Hewlett and David Packard began a business in a glorified shed in Palo Alto with $538 (the equivalent of about $9300 today). To decide whose name would be placed first, they flipped a coin.

Of course, they weren’t building computers quite yet. Instead, they made audio oscillators. It was an area in which they found quick success, with Disney becoming their first major client a year later. HP’s equipment was used for the theatrical showings of Fantastia released in 1940, and the rest was history.

This tiny little company would grow into one of the founding forces of Silicon Valley. It makes you wonder what you could do with $10,000, a friend, and an empty garage – other than throw one heckuva tailgate party.

The Opportunities for Starting a Business Have Never Been Greater

When all of these companies began, technology was expensive, clunky, and confusing. It was niche, and there wasn’t any internet to assist.

Today, starting a business has never been easier thanks to the abundance of tools, communities, and affordable tech out there. And once you start the business, you’re able to connect with over a billion people thanks to the internet.

It doesn’t take a couple million dollars to create a multi-million (or billion) dollar company. It just takes a dream, some skill, a lot of hard work, and a plan. I can help with that last part. I’ve taken businesses from humble beginnings to huge success, so I know it’s possible.

And I know how to do it.

Check out my book Business is ART here or contact me for additional services.

4 Types of Entrepreneurs

September 19th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “4 Types of Entrepreneurs”
Entrepreneur

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

There are 4 types of entrepreneurs.

  1. Those who have started a company for the primary purpose of going public – getting to an IPO and getting rich “overnight”
  2. Those who have a passion for something or just don’t want to work for anyone else and start a business with little to no thought of ever going public
  3. Those who find themselves unemployed or under-employed and simply have no choice
  4. Those whose primary mission is to help solve social ills or create social opportunity and change – social entrepreneurs

Every kind of people

As a business consultant, I tend to work with the latter 3 types and not the IPO seeker. None of the above types are better or more special than the other. Diversity among entrepreneur types, as defined above, is as important as diversity among business types and actual diversity as we generally refer to it – race, religion, gender, etc.

The old Robert Palmer song says, “It Takes Every Kind of People [to make the world go ‘round]”, and the same is true in terms of entrepreneurs.

Some Differences

But there are some significant differences in how businesses for each type of entrepreneur may be managed. What makes sense for one type, may not make sense for another. It may even seem to defy logic at times.

For example, when building a business with the express intent of going public (Type 1), little things like, ohhhh, say profit, product quality and even whether a product actually exists yet may not matter. What matters is how the company is valued, which is entirely in the eyes of the investor or potential investor.

A business built out of passion (Type 2) may not be concerned with growth and the bottom line, particularly at startup. This type of entrepreneur may be more prone to investing heavily upfront and may not feel bigger is necessarily better.

A business built out of necessity (Type 3) probably needs to make money right away because the entrepreneur has no other (or limited) source of income and may not have planned ahead of time to start a business. Entrepreneurs in this scenario are under tremendous pressure to make sales almost immediately.

A business created to address social issues (Type 4) is a lot like the one built out of passion with one major exception. The bigger the business can grow, the more it can tackle its social mission.

You Can Do This

One of the common things across these diverse types of businesses and entrepreneurs is that good, meaningful and actionable business planning increases the likelihood of success. The challenge is doing it in a way that is simple, yet effective and doesn’t dominate the entrepreneur’s time.

Business is ART does just that. Check out my online training videos to find out how. To sit down with a consultant to learn what these videos teach you would easily cost $300 to $500. For just $45 you get 1 hour and 50 minutes of training divided into 25 short, easy to follow videos, as well as the simplified templates you’ll need to succeed.

It’s all based on the Business is ART book, available at Amazon.

Fixing What Isn’t Broken

September 14th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur, Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Fixing What Isn’t Broken”
camera

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Practical advice? Or famous last words?

Many have argued for a long time that if something is working the way it is, you shouldn’t mess with it. The reasoning is that you might make it worse, rather than better. By experimenting, pushing through boundaries, or trying something new, it’s possible that you will break the very thing you were trying to make better.

But visionary entrepreneurs have shown time and again that great ideas don’t just come from fixing broken things. They come from making an existing idea even better.

That’s great for them, but not so good for the current businesses in the industry. If you’re not evolving and trying to make your current system better, you are increasingly at risk of losing ground to a competitor.

Trust me, someone is out there, looking at what you’re doing and trying improve on it. It’s only a matter of time before they succeed. Unless, of course, you keep ahead of them. To do that…

You Need to Fix What’s Not Broken

Hopefully, you’re utilizing proper metrics and tracking KPIs. If you’re not, you definitely should be.

Typically, that information is used to find what’s not working so well and adjust accordingly. But you shouldn’t just focus on the weak areas. You need to improve your strengths as well. If a quarterback is great at long passes, but weak on shorter passes, would they put a bigger emphasis on practicing their short game?

Your initial inclination may be to say, “Yes! Of course,” but I would disagree. Sure, work to improve weaknesses, play to your strengths. Develop your strengths even further. Use those strengths to create whole new skills or opportunities.

There’s Opportunity in Improving the Areas No One Else is Focusing On

In any industry, especially saturated or competitive ones, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of the niche. A lot of businesses focus on the big-ticket items and pain points. Improvements tend to be incremental and similar to what everyone else is doing.

By targeting an area everyone has taken for granted, you just might be able give your customers something they didn’t even know they wanted. You truly fix something that wasn’t broken.

That’s a little confusing, so let’s look at an example in the tech industry.

Since the release of the iPhone and the waves of similar styled Android and Windows phones that followed, the smartphone industry became a game of numbers and style. How much power does it have? How sleek and thin is it? How long does the battery last?

Everyone was trying to cram more into less.

Enter Samsung in 2011 where they introduced a phone called the Galaxy Note. In many ways, it felt like it was going the opposite direction of other smartphones.

First off, it wasn’t small and sleek. It was huge. But the craziest thing was it brought back the stylus, something that Steve Jobs had unofficially “killed” when he introduced the first iPhone four years earlier.

If there was one area where the smartphone didn’t need to be “fixed”, it was its touch screen capabilities, right?

Apparently not. Though initially mocked by many, the Note was a surprise success, and the product line would end up becoming one of the most popular in all of smartphones. Every major company would eventually release large screen devices (known as phablets) to compete. Even Apple.

The stylus also came back in a big way afterwards, appearing in other phones and major tablets. Even Apple now has a stylus for their iPad Pro.

Who Knew?

It turned out, people actually wanted bigger screens and the ability to write on those screens. But no one knew that until Samsung tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. Samsung is officially the most popular phone manufacturer now in both the US and the world.

Will they remain #1 or will someone leapfrog their position? That may very well depend on who has the best camera capability. Who knew that we all had to (repeat…had to) have high quality cameras on our person at all times? Another great example of fixing what was not broken.

When you reexamine the areas that appear to be working just fine, you might be surprised what ideas you’ll come up with. And those ideas just might be the game changer your business needs.

Web Related Must-Haves for Businesses

September 11th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “Web Related Must-Haves for Businesses”
web

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

The internet has truly changed the game for young businesses. On one hand, the bar of entry is much lower as far as getting your message in front of people goes. On the other hand, the competition is much more prevalent because of this.

There’s a lot of noise on the internet, and to stand out, you’re going to have to do things correctly.

Obviously You’ll Want a Website

That should be a given this day in age, but just in case there was any doubt, make sure you have a website. This is how people will find you, where they’ll learn what you have to offer, and who you are, and likely, it’s where they’ll contact you.

So make sure you have a good one.

That said, here are a few other things you should make sure you’re doing right on the internet.

Have a Professional Email

One of the easiest ways to spot an illegitimate or inexperienced business is their email address. The time has long past where it’s acceptable to use yourbusinessname@hotmail.com or yahoo.com or even gmail.com. Instead, your email should be at your website address.

There’s good reason for this.

For starters, a professional email just looks better. Compare Fred@microsoft.com vs microsoftfred@hotmail.com. Which of those two are you going to trust more?

You’re going to trust the first one because that second email could be from anyone. Literally anyone could have gone out and snagged that email address. And when you receive scam emails, where do they come from?

They come from generic email addresses like Live, Outlook, Yahoo, and Gmail. We’ve subconsciously trained ourselves to ignore these emails. Yours will be ignored too if you go that route.

Make Sure Your Listing Info is Accurate. Especially in Google.

There was a time when online directories (unfortunately) ruled the internet. There were hundreds of them that you’d go to and place your business in to make sure you’d be found, and people would end up on your website.

Now, there are only a handful of directories that matter, but they are very important. The major search engines keep their own directory of business information to place into their search results. It’s up to you to make sure this info is correct.

Especially in Google where 64% of searches happen. Often times, businesses will have outdated, contradictory, or incomplete information in their listing, making it difficult to impossible for consumers to find them. This is a simple thing to correct, so make sure you do.

Social Media Presence. Have One.

Social media can be a little confusing and overwhelming. Many businesses wonder if there’s a place for them on it at all.

There most definitely is.

Believe it or not, customers will look to find you on social media. A social media presence is another sign of legitimacy. Even having a professional profile image and cover photo on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn will leave people trusting you more.

Posting regularly will let them know that you’re alive and active.

And responding to customers’ posts and comments will show that you care.

Of course, You Still Need a Good Business

If your business is no good, you could do all of the internet things perfectly and still fail. Having a great business should always be your first priority. I can help with that. Check out my book Business is ART or enroll in BIA University, and set yourself up for success in the real world and the digital one.

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