Growthink Blog

Big Media, Big Government, Big Business, Big Problems


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Depending on how you slice it, this is either a golden or a leaden business age.

It is a golden age, as never before in human history has there been so much access to great opportunities as there are right now.

Crowdfunding, private equity and debt secondary markets like Second Market and SharesPost, peer-to-peer lending sites like Prosper.com and Lending Club, and the Big Three social networking giants - Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter - have made information and intelligence on, and access to opportunities better and greater than ever before.

Yet, the overall spirit and mindset of business is anything but golden.

Huge and historically unprecedented public sector debt and social safety net obligations in the United States and Europe - layered on an overlapping and inter-connected global banking system cast a pale “macro” of systemic risk over the markets.

Compounding matters, never before has the drumbeat of news and information been louder, mostly shrilling that the financial sky could fall at a moment’s notice.

The overall effect of this both real and perceived angst is a “crowding out” of all of the good stuff that is happening out there.  

So what should the growth-seeking, yet sober executive and / or investor do?

Well, first and foremost, get one’s mind and spirit right

And the best way to accomplish that is to focus on what author Matt Ridley so eloquently describes as what has been since the dawn of Man the guidepost to our better future.

Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship lives and grows in the “micro” - in sectors and niches within the overall economy either protected from or aided by the larger current.

And entrepreneurship is the antithesis of sclerotic, bureaucratic, and beyond human scale organizations (see Big Media, Big Government, Big Business) of such complexity and inertia that the application of individual motive force them to far more often than not is ineffective, no matter how good the intention.

Rather, entrepreneurship is undertaken via that finest form of collaboration known to history - small, impassioned teams driving toward an idealistic vision and mission.

To sell some thing or some service of a type, or in a way, or at a price that has never been done before.

And to make money doing it.

And the really good news is that there are more entrepreneurs - far, far more - hundreds of millions worldwide striving to have their brilliance and creations expressed and realized, and to make their futures their own.

And in their multitude, in their collective uniqueness, they are the hope and the light of the world.

Back them.

Even better, be one of them.

In mindset, in spirit, and in appetite for change and risk and daring.

You’ll feel a lot better. 


The Secret to Highly Effective Marketing


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In this article, I'm going to give you the secret to highly effective marketing.

Let me start with an example.

Let's say your competitor runs an advertisement that reaches 10,000 target customers and gets these results.

  • 1 percent response rate (response rate means that prospective customer visited competitor's website, went into their store, called them, etc.)
  • 35 percent conversion rate (conversion rate means the responding customer then purchases)
  • $500 price per widget (widget being the item sold by your competitor)
  • 1.5 widgets per buyer (average buyer purchases 1.5 widgets in initial order)
  • 30 percent profit margin
  • 10 percent repurchase rate (10% of customers buy from your competitor again)

Assuming the ad reached 10,000 target customers, your competitor's gross profit from the ad would have been $8,662.50 (minus the cost of the ad).

Now let's assume that your company did a 20 percent better job on each of these factors. Your results would be as follows:

  • 1.2 percent response rate
  • 42 percent conversion rate
  • $500 price per widget
  • 1.8 widgets per buyer
  • 36 percent profit margin
  • 12 percent repurchase rate

Now let's look at the results.

If your ad reached the same 10,000 target customers, your gross profit would be $19,596.

That's 2.3 times greater than your competitor's.

Now, what would happen if you generated 2.3 times greater profits than your competitors every time you ran an ad?

The answer is that you would absolutely dominate them.

Now, the key marketing secret that I'm sharing with you here is that you don't have to revolutionize your marketing system. Rather, small, 20% improvements in each part of your system lead to revolutionary results.

So, here are some ways in which you can improve each part of your marketing system:

Response Rate

The more you know about your customers' wants and needs, the more easily you can design advertisements that appeals to them.

And the more you know about them, the better you could craft a unique selling proposition (USP) to attract them.

For example, if you are local hardware company and you know your typical buyer is a busy male with a wife, kids, and dog, you could easily craft ads with a higher response rate.

You could also boost response rates by developing better offers that attract customers, such as an offer for a 90-day money-back guarantee.

Conversion Rate

Remember, conversion rates are the percentage of prospective customers that you converted into actual customers.

A few ways you could increase conversion rates include having a better process in place for training your staff and sales team, providing better employee incentives (e.g., commissions or bonuses for closing sales), or by developing and testing sales scripts that boost results.

Number of Widgets Per Buyer

To increase the number of units purchased per transition (including purchasing more widgets or related items), you can rely on similar tactics to increasing conversion rates such as better hiring, training, sales scripts and so on.

Remember McDonalds doubled its profits when it started asking "would you like fries with that?" and increased them again when it starting asking "would you like to supersize that?"

Profit Margins

Better systematizing your business and implementing the right processes and procedures will allow you to generate higher profits per sale than your competitors.

Repurchase Rate

Finally, to increase repurchase rates, do a better job of communicating with your clients and showing them how special they are. For example, send them emails, call them, or send them letters in the mail to educate them and remind them that you have products and services that can help them.

As you just witnessed, making small improvements to each part of your marketing system is incredible powerful and massively increases your profits. If you want to learn more, check out our "Double Your Profits" program which provides detailed training on how to make these improvements in your business.


3 Little Known Reasons Why Angel Investors Fund Entrepreneurs


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When most entrepreneurs start out and realized they need funding, they are typically presented with three options.

The first is debt financing, which is typically in the form of a loan from a bank.

The other two funding options are typically in the form of equity, and they are 1) equity from individual or "angel" investors and 2) equity from venture capitalists.

Importantly, when considering these two sources of funding it is important to understand that most venture capitalists will not invest in companies that have not achieved "proof of concept" (which generally means a working prototype and/or revenues). Also, venture capitalists generally only invest in companies that have the potential to be valued at over $100 million within five years.

These criteria make venture capital inaccessible to most entrepreneurs. Furthermore, angel funding is often a better option since it is much easier to attain.

Consider these statistics:

  • In an average year (according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire), 250,000 angel investors will fund 60,000 companies, giving them $20 Billion in total.

  • Conversely, in and average year (according to the National Venture Capital Association), there are only 800 active venture capital firms, who fund only 4,000 companies, also giving them $20 Billion in total.


So while venture capitalists write much larger checks, 15 times more entrepreneurs raise funding from angels.

So why do angel investors fund entrepreneurs?  The common answer is that they hope to get a solid return on their investment. Obviously, investing at the earliest stages for a company that eventually goes big can earn the investor 100X their money back or more.

However, there are three lesser known, but equally important reasons, why angel investors fund entrepreneurs:

1. They know, like and trust the entrepreneur. Like with friends and family investments, sometimes angels know and trust the entrepreneurs and want to help them succeed.

2. They feel they can add real value. Many angels have lots of relevant experience that can help the companies they fund, from experience hiring staff to connections with key potential customers or suppliers. If angels can see their involvement adding a lot of value to the company, they might be very interested in investing.

3. Sometimes the angel wants or likes the action. Simply put, angel investing is exciting. It is generally a higher risk/higher reward version of the public stock markets requiring a more entrepreneurial analysis which is highly intriguing. This is particularly the case when the angel investor is a retired entrepreneur or executive.

So, if you are an entrepreneur seeking funding, keep these motivations in mind when you identify, approach and speak with angels.

Because understanding them is often the difference between whether you will raise money or not. Finding angel investors is also easy if you know where to look.


Getting the Important Work Done Well


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Every business needs a vision - a clear definition of what its leadership seeks the business to become.

And every business needs a strategy - a roadmap of how the business will reach its vision.

Once the vision and the strategy are clear, the next step is action planning – the day-by-day mapping of how all of this good but sometimes theoretical “stuff” will actually get done.

This involves determining which projects will be completed (and as importantly, which ones will NOT), by whom and when, and how many resources - work hours, money, and assets - will be required.

Now, this is lovely for the whiteboard but what business more often than not looks like is…

Unclear, Unshared Vision. With all the time most management teams spend talking to each other, it's surprising how often they have different pictures of what everyone is supposed to be doing and in what direction they are supposed to be heading.

It's the hard and repetitive job of leadership to repeatedly communicate the plan (i.e. the vision, the strategy, and the day-to-day roadmap) until all are on the same page.

And then rinse and repeat.

Planning Once Per Year, Out Of Routine
. So many of us, in January, think about our personal goals for the year ahead.

Similarly, many businesses work on their yearly plan during the same month of every year.

And then they forget about it.

The best businesses, in contrast, create, refine, and live their business plans in real time, every day.
Yes, this is far, far easier said than done, now more than ever because of…

The Tyranny of the Urgent. In my humble view, the greatest challenge to businesses attaining greatness is how difficult it is, because of technology, to not let those “urgent, but NOT important" activities dominate our days.

More than ever, we must fight for the time and attention to do the important work, and block out those insidious distractions everywhere and always around us.

No Process or Methodology For Strategic Planning
. A best practice is to focus on vision and strategy in one set of sessions, and then on the day-to-day action planning in another.

In discussing vision and strategy, we are in creative mode, exploring any and all options and ideas.

In contrast, figuring out the best day-to-day action plans is best suited for separate, more analytical-type meetings.

With appropriate time set aside for vision, for strategy, and for action planning, a business can experience the collective joy that comes from knowing exactly what it is striving toward and how it will get there.

Everyone at the business will feel more grounded, balanced, and centered.

Being so, all will come to work with greater purpose and passion.

And, at the end of the year, will have far more to show for their efforts.


Is This The Secret to Entrepreneurial Success?


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Today's article was written by my son, Max.  Max is 12 years old. I did not edit the article at all. He wrote it for his seventh grade English class.

I personally was inspired by his article. And it made me think about you and all the other entrepreneurs I strive to help succeed. As entrepreneurs, we will experience countless ups and downs. And throughout this process, we need to stay optimistic and have a positive attitude. And we need to enjoy the journey as much as the destination we hope to achieve. Maybe Max has the answer to this.

Enjoy!

Dave

"This I Believe"

by Max Lavinsky

 

"LIVE FROM NEW YORK... ITS SATURDAY NIGHT!" The jazz music starts blaring, and I'm in New York City surrounded by mobs of people, walking briskly to where they need to go. I see the faces of hilarious comedians like Bill Hader and Jay Pharaoh. I feel like I'm living in a carefree world. I believe in Saturday Night Live. It can teach us more meaningful lessons than you would expect.

As a young child I had always heard from my parents about this hilarious show called "Saturday Night Live." I can remember being shown little clips of skits from time to time. I instantly fell in love with them. I dreamed of the day when I could watch a full episode, or go into New York City to see a show live. This first time I was able to fulfill this dream, I was in the fifth grade. I had a fever, and I was home from school. I was going in and out of sleep when my mom came in and told me that I could watch something. I turned on the TV and came across Saturday Night Live. Without any hesitation, I turned it on and started watching. Jim Carey was hosting, and in my opinion he is one of the funniest actors ever. In the next hour, I laughed more than I normally would in a month. I forgot about all of my pain. It was crude and offensive, but I couldn't seem to wipe the smile off of my face. After the show ended, I wanted to keep watching.. I had to turn it off of course, but I knew I had just found something I loved.

After having watched Saturday Night Live, I look at everything a little bit differently. The glass is always half full. There is always a little bit of sun peeking out between the clouds. Now, I tend to laugh more. It has also taught me deeper and more important lessons, though. Saturday Night Live can be racist, bias, use terrible stereotypes, and just be flat out horrible. While this is certainly a bad thing, there is some good. It teaches us to laugh at ourselves, and to be able to deal with getting made fun of. This is a skill that many people lack, and it makes them uptight, and without a full sense of humor. If everyone was able to laugh at themselves, maybe nobody would fight. Maybe, we could all live in peace. Maybe, if we could just do something as simple as laugh at ourselves, our world could be perfect. To think that Saturday Night Live could make a perfect world may sound outrageous, but it is not. Things as little as a TV show can change us. To some people that seems irrelevant, and it did to me once. But that of course, was before I watched Saturday Night Live.

So Saturday Night Live definitely has its cons. But while it embarrasses and offends us, it teaches us how laugh at ourselves. Will Ferrell once called Saturday Night Live a "comedy boot camp" because it teaches us how to have a sense of humor and appreciate comedy. So try something new. Watch Saturday Night Live and laugh.


4 Emails That Get An Investor's Attention


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If you were raising funding 25 years ago, you probably called prospective investors on the phone and sent them your business plan via fax or overnight delivery.

As you can imagine, things are very different today. And email is the number one way to communicate with prospective investors, particularly professional investors like venture capitalist.

The challenge, as you can imagine, is getting their attention. As most venture capitalists receive tons and tons of unsolicited email each day. So, the key is having a great subject line on your email to get them to open it.

Before giving you some subject lines that do work, let me tell you ones that don't. Subject lines such as "Unique Investment Opportunity," "Please Invest in our company," and "Great Investment Opportunity" don't catch investors' attention and turn them off.

So, don't use these. Here are some you can use:

1. Your Involvement in XYZ Company

Where XYZ company is a company that the investor has funded and which is in your general space. You would start the email with something such as "based on your investment in XYZ company, I think you will be interested in what we are doing..."

2. New in the "XYZ Space"


Where XYZ is the "space" in which you are operating in (e.g., the financial software space). The first line would tie the subject line to what you are doing.

3. Referred by XYZ


Where XYZ is a referral source that knows both you and the investor. This works extremely well, but clearly you must first get the referral.

Because referrals are so powerful, go on LinkedIn and/or other networks to see if you already have someone in your network that can refer you to the investor.

4. Comment on Your Post About XYZ


Where XYZ is a blog post that the investor recently wrote about a subject. In your opening line you explain what you agree with in their post and then tie it to your company.

Importantly, after your subject line and introductory line that ties your company with the subject line, you should NOT tell the investor everything about your company.

Rather, this first email should be a "teaser" email. A "teaser" email is an email that "teases" the investor by giving them a bite-sized amount of compelling information about your company.

The goal of the email is to see if they are interested. If they are, you will follow up with more information (maybe your Executive Summary and/or full business plan) with the goal of getting a face-to-face meeting with the investor.

There are two reasons you shouldn't send your business plan in your initial email. First, you don't want to "over-shop" your deal. Over-shopping is letting too many investors know about your company. If too many investors know about you, the law of numbers states that many investors will pass on investing in you (remember, most investors passed on the opportunity to invest in Google years ago).

So, if an investor isn't even interested in your market space or teaser email, they certainly won't invest in your company. And here's what can happen -- an interested investor asks this investor (the one who isn't interested in your space) if they've heard of your company. That investor says "yes" (since you unwittingly sent them your plan) and that they weren't interested. And then their disinterest dissuades the once interest investor from investing in you.

The second reason you don't want to send out your business plan in your initial email is for confidentiality reasons. You just don't want your business plan out there for everyone to see. Rather, wait until the investor shows that they are at least somewhat interested in your venture before sending it.

So, now that you know that you should start by sending investors a "teaser" email, the question is what to include in the teaser.

Here's the answer: the teaser email should include 5 to 6 bullets about your company and should be very short (200 words or less).  The goal, once again is simply to create a general interest in your venture so the investor commits time and energy to learning more about it (by requesting additional documents or setting up a meeting).

Your bullets should describe what space your company is in and credentials that make you uniquely qualified to succeed (e.g., credentials of management team, customers serving already or showing interest, etc.).


To summarize, send investors a teaser email instead of your business plan to start. And realizing that they receive hundreds of emails every day asking for funding, make sure your subject line stands out and seems like you're offering them value.


The 5 Most Common Funding Sources


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If you want to be successful in business, it is crucial to determine when, where, and how to obtain the funds you need. Whether you need $1,000 or $1 million to start or expand your business, if you can't raise this money, you can't build the business you want.

Before You Look For Funding

Before you look for funding, you need to create your business plan. In addition to explaining your business and your strategy for success, your plan must determine how much money you need and for what it will be used.

Also, it's very important for you to understand the timing of the funding. For example, do you need all the funding now (e.g., to build out a location), or can you receive your funding in stages or "tranches."

The amount of funding you seek will effect the source of funding you approach. For example, if you require $250,000 in funding, angel investors are more applicable then venture capitalists. If you need $5 million, the opposite is true.

While I have identified 41 sources of funding for your business, below are the 5 most common.

The 5 Most Common Types of Funding

1. Funding from Personal Savings

 
Funding from personal savings is the most common type of funding for businesses. The two issues with this type of funding are 1) how much personal savings you have and 2) how much personal savings are you willing to risk.

In many cases, entrepreneurs and business owners prefer OPM, or "other people's money." The four funding sources below are all OPM sources.

2. Debt Financing

Debt financing is a fancy way of saying "loan." In debt financing, the lender (often a bank) gives you funding that you must repay over time with interest.

You must prove to the lender that the likelihood of you paying back the loan is high, and meet any requirements they have (e.g., having collateral in some cases).  With debt financing, you do not need to give up equity. However, once again, you will have to pay back the principal and interest.

3. Friends & Family

A big source of funding for entrepreneurs is friends and family. Friends and family members can provide funding in the form of debt (you must pay it back), equity (they get shares in your company), or even a hybrid (e.g., a royalty whereby they get paid back via a percentage of your sales).

Friends and family are a great source of funding since they generally trust you and are easier to convince than strangers. However, there is the risk of losing their money. And you must consider how your relationship with them might suffer if this happens.

4. Angel Investors

Angel Investors are individuals like friends and family members; you just don't know them (yet).  At present, there are about 250,000 private angel investors in the United States that fund more than 30,000 small businesses each year.

Most of these angel investors are not members of angel groups. Rather they are business owners, executives and/or other successful individuals that have the means and ability to fund deals that are presented to them and which they find interesting.

Networking is a great way to find these angel investors.

5. Venture Capitalists (VCs)


VC funding is a suitable option for businesses that are beyond the startup period, as well as those who need a larger amount of capital for expansion and increasing market share. Venture capitalists are usually more involved with business management, and they play a significant role in setting milestones, targets, and giving advice on how to ensure greater success.

Venture capitalists invest in companies and businesses they believe are likely to go public or be sold for a massive profit in the future. Specifically, they want to fund companies that have the ability to be valued at $100 million or more within five years. They also go through an expensive and lengthy process of deciding on the best business to invest their money. Hence, the approval process usually takes several months.

Bottom Line

As you search for the best funding source for your business, you will discover that some financing options are complicated while others may offer a very small amount.

Choosing an inappropriate type of funding can lead to unfavorable outcomes such as feuds between the lender and business owner, shift of control, waste of resources and other negative consequences.

With this in mind, you should study the benefits and drawbacks of each financing option and select the ideal one that will help you meet your business goals. Because with the right source(s) of money, the sky is the limit for your business.


Education from the Inside Out


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When it comes to education, this 21st century of ours is truly both the best and the worst of times.

It is the best of times as never before in human history has more information, more ways of learning, more access to best practices, been available to more people -- regardless of socio-economic condition and geography -- than it is today.

And, with 3 billion more people in the next 10 years coming online and joining the global information exchange, this remarkable and so very inspirational trend will only accelerate and grow.

Now, as anyone that has ever despaired over a never emptying e-mail inbox, over ever distracting and focus eroding text messages, over the always-growing mountain of things to read, listen, and watch, it can quite often feel like the worst of times too.

Yes, it is fair to say that the net sum of human information has grown far faster than that of human wisdom, satisfaction, and even happiness.

Now, the first and obvious point here is that this very well could be simply a distortion of relative versus absolute perception. 

For these days, NOTHING grows like information - with every three weeks the aggregate total added to it being greater than that accumulated from the beginning of recorded time through the year 2000

So, of course, the growth of everything/anything else will pale in comparison.

Now, once we recognize this, we should also see that as this mountain of information has grown, so has grown access to and consumption of the world's greatest art, literature, and music.

Which does make us, collectively, far wiser than ever.

And with the percentage of the world's population living in poverty at its lowest level in human history, our collective satisfaction, as measured by freedom from hunger, from premature death, and by access to choice as to one's work, one's mate, one's place to live, is both very good and increasing as well.

And with being wiser and more satisfied, yes we are collectively much happier, too.

This is all well and good, but far more exciting is that we have only begun to scratch the surface of how this “always-on” Internet world of ours might transform for the better our inner lives as it has our external ones.

How this might come to be came into focus for me through a conversation with the President of one of California's most admired colleges of graduate education.

In the process of helping to develop a five year strategic plan for the school, the President and I were discussing the relative merit of enrollment growth of online versus traditional on-campus enrollment.

As we were getting pretty granular into the various modeling approaches and ways to assign value to a “virtual” versus an in-person student, I stopped and noticed a certain pause and quiet in the room.

I looked up, and in the President’s eyes was a faraway look.

He paused, and then quietly said, “values-based education cannot be measured, it just is.”

He then took a sip of water, and more loudly added, “and it is only from this place do we measure our outcomes, not the other way around.”

This inside out approach is where technology can and will lead us. 

It will be a slow and bumpy, but very much an upwardly sloping road, towards all of us being truly well educated - online.


Why Your Worst Enemy Can Raise More Money Than You


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The word "crux" is an interesting word. It's a noun that can be defined as: (1) the decisive or most important point at issue, or (2) a particular point of difficulty.

In either case, the word aptly applies to raising funding for your business, because in doing so, most entrepreneurs and business owners encounter difficulties.

I believe the crux to successfully raising money for your business lies initially in understanding that investors are essentially professional risk managers.

Let me explain. Most sources of money, like banks and institutional equity investors (defined as institutions like venture capital firms, private equity firms and corporations that invest), are essentially professional risk managers. That is, they successfully invest or lend money by managing the risk that the money will be repaid or not.

So, your job as the entrepreneur seeking capital is to reduce your investor or lender's risk.

Let me give you a simple example. Let's say that both you and your worst enemy both wished to open a new restaurant.

In this scenario, which is the riskier investment?

  • You have put together a business plan for the new restaurant.

  • Your worst enemy has also put together a business plan for the restaurant...and he/she has also put together the menu, secured a deal for leasing space, received a detailed contract with a design/build firm, signed an employment agreement with the head chef, etc.


Clearly investing in your worst enemy is less risky, because they have already accomplished some of their "risk mitigating milestones."

Establishing Your Risk Mitigating Milestones


A "risk mitigating milestone" is an event that when completed, makes your company more likely to succeed. For example, for a restaurant, some of the "risk mitigating milestones" would include:

  • Finding the location
  • Getting the permits and licenses
  • Building out the restaurant
  • Hiring and training the staff
  • Opening the restaurant
  • Reaching $20,000 in monthly sales
  • Reaching $50,000 in monthly sales

 

As you can see, each time the restaurant achieves a milestone, the risk to the investor or lender decreases significantly. There are fewer things that can go wrong. And by the time the business reaches its last milestone, it has virtually no risk of failure.

Let me give you another example. For a new software company the risk mitigating milestones might be:

  • Designing a prototype
  • Getting successful beta testing results
  • Getting the product to a point where it is market-ready
  • Getting customers to purchase the product
  • Securing distribution partnerships
  • Reaching monthly revenue milestones


The key point when it comes to raising money is this: you generally do NOT raise ALL the money you need for your venture upfront. You merely raise enough money to achieve your initial milestones. Then, you raise
more money later to accomplish more milestones.

Yes, you are always raising money to get your company to the next level. Even Fortune 100 companies do this - they raise money by issuing more stock in order to launch new initiatives. It's an ongoing process-not something you do just once.

Creating Your Milestone Chart & Funding Requirements


The key is to first create your detailed risk mitigating milestone chart. Not only is this helpful for funding, but it will serve as a great "To Do" list for you and make sure you continue to achieve goals each day, week and month that progress your business.

Shoot for listing approximately six big milestones to achieve in the next year, five milestones to achieve next year, and so on for up to 5 years (so include two milestones to achieve in year 5). And alongside the milestones, include the time (expected completion date) and the amount of funding you will need to attain them.

After you create your milestone chart, you need to prioritize. Determine the milestones that you absolutely must accomplish with the initial funding. Ideally, these milestones will get you to point where you are generating revenues (if you are not already generating revenues). This is because the ability to generate revenues significantly reduces the risk of your venture; as it proves to lenders and investors that customers want what you are offering.

By setting up your milestones, you will figure out what you can accomplish for less money. And the fact is, the less money you need to raise, the easier it generally is to raise it (mainly because the easiest to raise money sources offer lower dollar amounts).

The other good news is that if you raise less money now, you will give up less equity and incur less debt, which will eventually lead to more dollars in your pocket.

Finally, when you eventually raise more money later (in a future funding round), because you have already achieved numerous milestones, you will raise it easier and secure better terms (e.g., higher valuation, lower interest rate, etc.).

It might surprise you what you can accomplish with less money! So write up your list of risk mitigating milestones and determine which must be done now and which can wait for later, focusing first on what is most likely to generate revenues.

 

Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.

 


The Difference Between Mo Ibrahim and Mo Gaddafi


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Last week I flagged the shocking and even depressing statistics that most entrepreneurs -  holding constant for socioeconomic factors - make less money, work more hours and suffer more work-related stress - than their employed counterparts.

And when we combine these statistics with those that show a very incredibly low percentage of startups and small businesses ever attaining meaningful profitability, it is remarkable that people ever dream to be entrepreneurs and start businesses at all.

But start them they do!

Quite possibly the most amazing and inspiring number in all of American business is 550,000.

That is the approximate number of new businesses that are started in American each and every month, or more than 6 million per year, or close to 3% of the U.S. adult population.

Now these opposing statistics beg the question, “Why?

Why would 550,000 people - who statistically are far better educated and wealthier than the population as a whole - engage in behavior that on the surface clearly seems contrary to their self-interest, irrational, and dare I say, delusional?

Well, on the cynical side, many of these brave folks probably think the odds of economic success are greater than they really are. And even if they know the odds, they think that they don’t apply to them. 

On the slightly less cynical but still not totally inspiring side, one could argue that businesses are started out of boredom – out of the need for that “action rush” that in the realm of business only an entrepreneurial endeavor can truly provide.

Inspirationally, many believe like I do that entrepreneurship is the greatest force for positive change in the world today, and they start and grow businesses to be positive change agents, on levels big and small.

They start restaurants to create and share beautiful food, service, and atmosphere.

They open day care facilities to provide quality, spirited child care for working families.

They start creative agencies – graphic design, public relation, web development firms, and the like to leverage their business and creative talent to its most effective end.

And they start drug development and medical device companies to help people live longer, healthier lives.

And thousands of types and forms and sizes of business in between, led by entrepreneurs with aspirations big and small, driven by motivations both pedestrian and soaring.

But at the heart of all of their reasons for starting businesses, at least of the ones that survive, is that often begrudged but really most inspiring motivation of them all.

They start businesses to make a lot of money.

Now the key word in that sentence is make – as in bringing into existence through creativity, effort, and as often as not more than a little serendipity and luck, something that did not exist beforehand.

Making money is the difference between Mo Ibrahim becoming a billionaire through bringing inexpensive mobile telecommunications to millions in Africa and Mo Gaddafi stealing billions of his people’s money at the point of a gun.

It is the difference between Steve Jobs and Apple creating $325 billion in market capitalization (and untold additional hundreds of billions in economic and multiplier effect), and governmental “who you know” redistribution and inefficient waste of this created wealth.

Now often, for the entrepreneur and those that back them, the touching of this money often takes many years, even decades, of under-paid, hard, and often thankless work, before a cash windfall in the form of a business sale or a public offering.

But that is a story for another day. 

For now, find those that can truly make money, encourage and back them, and you and the world will get to a better place.


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