Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, November 4, 2012
In many franchise businesses you can see the same hamburger or service turn out the same carefully-designed way, regardless of location or the employees doing the work.
The reason why these often big businesses are able to perform an operation consistently and at a massive scale is because they use and follow systems and work processes. This means that they do the right things, in the right way.
Why Small Companies Can't Handle Growth
Unfortunately, most small businesses and entrepreneurs do the opposite. That is, they fail to create systems and business processes that coordinate routine work in a standardized way. Their style of small business management pretty much boils down to just asking their employees to come on time, and then to watch them and hope their products and services are promoted and fulfilled correctly.
Well, what does "correctly" even mean?
This is a mistake that happens all the time; most entrepreneurs think they don't need to set systems and work processes, or that it has to be done all at once in some monumental undertaking to make an employee handbook as thick as McDonald's.
Because the average small business operates with less than a few dozen employees, their managers generally believe (incorrectly) that since the business only has few people, creating and applying business systems would be a waste of time and money.
It's like saying that you don't need a system to organize your CD collection because you only have a few CDs at present. This might work in the beginning, but the problem comes when it's time for the business to grow. Then you may have 10 times the work going on, and things get chaotic. Quality goes down, morale goes down...it's a confusing mess!
Same goes for when your business has to change employees (even satisfied employees change jobs, move, or otherwise stop working for you). With no systems in place, the new employee will have a tough time doing the task correctly because "correctly" has not been defined for them or demonstrated.
The Process Determines the Results
Another reason why small businesses often lack proper processes is because their management only cares about results, rather than the processes that created them. They don't care how their employees get the job done, as long as the finished burger meets the standards.
Of course we should all be results-oriented. But sometimes having your team do something a specific way will lead to better results, higher quality, faster work, less waste, etc. In these cases, you definitely want to spell out the process for them.
When buying hamburgers from a franchise, for example, people expect it to be perfect or to at least be identical to the previous ones that the burger joint sold. If you didn't have a system or a process for making burgers (how long to freeze, how long to cook, what the toppings are and in what order to stack them, etc.) then keeping the quality up to your standards would be tough. One employee would do it one way; another employee would do it another. You would not get consistent results.
How a Systems-Run Business Looks
We've covered the disadvantages of not having small business management systems and processes, but now let's delve into what may actually happen when you do have them.
When talking about the advantages, we just have to reverse the scenarios we talked about earlier.
Imagine a business with only a handful of employees. But also imagine them following a system and doing what they were supposed to do, and doing it the right way. Costs would go down. Product and service quality would go up. Profits would soar. And your business would be simple to run. As a result, you would spend your time growing vs. simply operating your business. And tons of other businesses would want to purchase yours for a big premium.
Now imagine one employee quitting for whatever reason. The new employee wouldn't have a problem taking the old employee's place; because there would be a process to follow that everyone knows. It would have become the way you do it here.
Now that you know that systems and business processes are important, how do actually create them?
Make A Few Simple Systems Of Your Own
To create systems, it is best that you start looking at the business processes that take place in your business. Make a quick list of everything your business does, from accounting to sales.
Once you have a list, take one at a time (in order of impact to your business; the most potential impact first) and start writing down a simple checklist of actions that make it happen. Start with the beginning of the process (e.g., customer places order), then imagine the ideal outcome (customer receives perfect result), and then write down each step that should occur in between. Then write in who is responsible to do what, and estimate the costs of each step in hours and dollars. You should then have in one hand a brief write-up of how to perform the system and what it will take to do so.
Once you've designed your system, test it out once or twice before officially implementing it. Make sure your systems and processes do what they are supposed to do and nothing short of that. Perform the work yourself or watch someone closely, and pay attention to every step.
Whether it's from not knowing about systems or not making the time for it, most small business managers do not make and improve their business processes over time. But that's manager's main job -- to keep the right people running the right systems, so the company's desired results can be achieved.
If the system doesn't work...change it. If an employee will not or cannot work the system...change employees. Because once you systematize your business, it will run smoothly and it will run itself. You can then focus your efforts on growing the business, and reap the rewards of a fully systematized company.
If you want to learn more about systematizing your business, I will present a full session on this topic at the upcoming Business Blueprint Live event.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 29, 2012
Dave Allen, author of the great productivity best seller "Getting Things Done," has developed an almost cult-like following for his ideas, structures, and best practices around to-do list management, prioritization, and metrics and schematics that define what an effective work day should be.
Without question, there are great benefits to his methods, and I especially like his best practice of always ending a meeting, conversation, or work on an open-ended project with the simple question "What is the Next Action?"
This discipline alone can greatly improve daily and meeting productivity, and perhaps more importantly reduce that sometime suffocating sense of anxiety common to knowledge and entrepreneurial work that there is always way more that must be done than there are hours in the day.
But a focus on simple to do list management, in the modern world, is far from sufficient.
You see, the dirty little secret that all of the self-help masters, all of the highly paid management consultants fail to tell you is that in our incredibly fast-moving, changing, competition from everywhere modern economy it is virtually impossible to design a plan or strategy that is in any way close to being assured of success.
The reason why is simple. Plans and strategies, by their nature, are speculative and assumptive.
They require the planner to survey the current market and competitive landscape along with assessing the current strengths and assets of their enterprise.
And then, from those assessments, forecast how a course of specific decisions or investments will be received by the market, by current or perspective customers, and responded to by the competition.
When stated this way, it becomes obvious that there is a very high likelihood that a plan as designed will not work.
It really doesn't matter if that plan is to introduce a new product or service offering, a new marketing or advertising campaign, a website re-launch, or an internal re-organization.
So, does this mean that planning is worthless? Of course not!
But it does point to a pair of strategic best practices:
1. Before commencing any planning process, first reflect deeply and document extensively what is working now.
These could be the practices and habits of a top sales person, a pay-per-click advertising campaign with positive ROI, an invoice collections best practice, a particularly profitable partner or affiliate.
Or, on a personal level, an exercise or diet or spiritual regimen.
Now to do more of these things that work, productivity and accountability best practices as outlined by the Dave Allens of the world are incredibly valuable and should be incorporated aggressively into the daily work habits and disciplines of the modern professional.
2. But for everything else that falls outside of this realm, the right mindset is one of testing and exploration, of brainstorming, of speculation and possibility. Of open-ended questions.
AND it should be noted extremely well that it is usually in this mode that the big outlier, “black swan” ideas and strategies and relationships are usually discovered.
As for the question as to how much of #1, or playing more of the existing game better, versus #2, playing a new game, should be incorporated into your daily work flow and planning processes, well that is a decision that the best managers, the best consultants and the most renowned self-help masters are paid a lot of money to answer.
My answer is - no surprise here if you've ever met me at a party - is to have my cake and eat it too.
Strictly schedule times, deadlines, to-dos and accountabilities to accomplish more of the stuff that you know works and leave plenty of open space - on the calendar and in one's mind and spirit - to step out of the safe harbor and into the big sea and dream more than just a little bit.
And when you balance doing and dreaming like this - and sprinkle in a little luck, a little bit of being at the right place at the right time - your dirty little secret will soon be how much money you are making.
Or even better, how much difference for the better you are making in the world every day in every way.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Saturday, October 27, 2012
For over 15 years, I've been a serial entrepreneur. While not all of my ventures have been successful, the majority of them have been. Someone recently asked me what the keys to my success have been. Upon thinking about it, I identified the 7 strategies I religiously use, and which I attribute to my success.
Read them and use them yourself, and I'm confident the level of your success will increase dramatically.
1) Have a Clear Vision Of Where You Want To Go
If you don't have a clear picture of the company you want to build, there's no way you can build it.
Spend time figuring out the precise attributes of the business you would like to build. How much will your revenues be? What products and services will you be offering customers? How many employees will you have? And, by what date will you achieve all this?
2) Have a Written Strategic Plan
Your vision is your dream. And to attain the dream, you need a strategic plan that details how you will achieve it.
Among other things, it must document your product strategy, your marketing strategy and your human resource strategy. Your plan should detail your long-term vision, but focus more specifically on what you must accomplish in the next year.
3) Have Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, And Daily Goals
If you were able to draw a line from where you are now to where you want your company to be, that line would be known as a trajectory. Success is about getting on the right trajectory. That is, as long as what you accomplish today, this week, this month and this year progresses you farther and farther along the line (versus going below the line or stagnating) then you will eventually reach your long term goal.
To stay on the right trajectory, you must set quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Each goal should be set with an understanding of the larger goal. For example, figure out what you need to accomplish this quarter in order to properly progress towards your annual goal. And then figure out what you need to accomplish this month to properly progress towards your quarterly goal. And so on.
By creating and achieving these smaller, periodic goals, you start to ride the trajectory to your ultimate vision.
4) Educate Yourself Continually
To succeed you need to continually invest in educating yourself.
You should be reading the right books. You should be attending the right seminars, conferences and trade shows. And you must read the right newspapers, magazines, newsletters and blogs.
Do not skimp on spending money on educating yourself. Investing in your education (and that of your key employees) will generally give you a larger return on investment than anything else in your business.
5) Satisfy Your Customers
Satisfied customers are the key to your success. If you can't satisfy customers, you will fail.
They say it takes one dissatisfied customer to undo the good that nine happy ones provide by spreading the word about their experience with you friend-to-friend or in online reviews.
You can satisfy your customers on the front end (at or immediately after the time of the first sale) by making the sales and delivery process smooth and seamless, by reducing the customer's participation or steps required to use the product, by managing their expectations so that what they get is exactly what they were promised, and of course with spectacular customer service and support.
In addition to providing a great experience as just specified, the product or service you deliver them should be high quality and fully satisfy them.
6) Market to Your Customers
This is a big one, particularly since most business owners don't do it enough. Most entrepreneurs and business owners are so focused on getting new customers that they neglect their current customers.
And, unlike prospective customers, current customers have a track record of buying from you...and are much more likely to buy from you again than prospective customers.
So spend time listening to and communicating with your current customers. Find out what that truly want and need, and stay top-of-mind so they buy from you again and again.
7) Be Laser-Focused in Your Work
This ties in with #3 (Have Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, And Daily Goals), but deserves its own mention. Which is this: be sure to focus on one aspect of your business at a time. Conversely, trying to do too many things at one will diffuse your focus and inevitably result in failure.
Limit the number of projects you're working on until they are finished. Remember, twenty projects that are 99% complete but not live yield less revenue that just one project that is 100% complete and live.
As we keep hearing in the presidential debates, you, the entrepreneurs and small business owners, are the backbone of our economy. Follow these strategies and you'll be more successful, and so will the economy!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, October 25, 2012
Accountability has been a buzzword in the business world for some time. Unfortunately, most of us have a negative association with the word. We often use it as if it means blame and punishment, as in "Who is accountable for this mistake?" So we unconsciously try to avoid it.
The truth is that accountability is unavoidable. In the workplace, everyone is accountable to someone. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you are accountable to your business' success, and to your customers, investors, and employees.
Now, what if being accountable was empowering for you and your employees? Research indicates that rather than a negative force, holding people accountable for their actions and results has very positive effects on morale and performance.
For your employees, an environment of accountability produces vigilant problem-solving, better decision-making, and greater job satisfaction. With an environment of accountability, employees can develop their skills and be their best. It means a higher likelihood of reaching goals, which we all want.
For yourself, accountability is also key. Most of us worked for someone else in the past to whom we were accountable. But when we struck out on our own, and became the boss, we lost that. While many entrepreneurs and business owners are able to be accountable to themselves, it's often challenging. And for tasks that take a lot of discipline (e.g., calling 25 prospective investors every day), sometimes more accountability is needed to make sure they get done.
Here are some ways to boost accountability in your company:
- Create accountability standards for yourself. What happens if you don't complete a task? Do you force yourself to stay late to do it? Or are there no immediate consequences? Figure out how to reward yourself for being fully accountable, and likewise give yourself some sort of penalty when you are not.
- Ambiguity is the enemy of accountability; so your first step as the manager of your employees is to make sure they have very clearly defined roles, job descriptions, and duties.
- Accountability is an attitude, so look at yourself as the role model. Are you being accountable to your employees, clients, and yourself? You as the leader will want to model this attitude, so focus on being accountable in addition to holding others accountable.
- Do you have written expectations of your employees? Starting at the time of hire, if possible, create written expectations and standards of performance for each employee. You cannot expect something from someone who has not had the opportunity to buy into the expectation.
- Do your employees have a working plan - a project timeline, an economic model etc? This will help keep them accountable.
- Do your employees have training? You cannot hold someone accountable to something they are not been trained to do!
- Have you created a learning based environment? Is it okay to make a mistake or say, "I don't know?" Creating a safe environment for mistakes encourages accountability. Employees will be less afraid to share mistakes and other negative feedback with you that can be used to correct the root of the problem. The opposite of this would be a culture of "yes men" (which you clearly don't want).
- Are there real consequences for lack of accountability in your organization? Consequences work best when spelled out before actually needed, in expectations for example.
- Do your employees have the talent and ability needed for the task? Some people will not have the ability to do the job you are asking them to do regardless of having a well-defined role, a great manager and excellent training. Try to find this out when hiring, but keep an eye on employees throughout their working time with you to confirm it.
Without accountability, no one knows the goal or who is supposed to do what. There's no way of knowing what's going on, so things don't get done (surprise, surprise). Without the right accountability, you will create an environment of low productivity and high turnover.
Conversely, setting up the right accountability structures, as discussed above, will create a culture in which goals are constantly attained. So make a plan today to implement the tips above. After all, if you don't emphasize and demonstrate the important of reaching the goals you set, who will?
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 22, 2012
A great best practice for all companies of ambition is to establish and hold regular meetings - in person - of a well-qualified and experienced board of strategic advisors.
Let’s set aside for now some of the mechanisms of setting up a quality board (of which more can be read about here) and instead focus on some of the “tough love” feedback a board can offer executives on what they are doing right and far more importantly what they are doing wrong and how to fix it.
That Often It is Better to Receive than to Give: While advisory board members, unlike a formal board, do not have liability nor fiduciary responsibility, their time and energy requirements to participate are significant.
And for most smaller companies, the financial incentives it can offer advisory board members are relatively little compared to the value of a board members’ time.
A good if imperfect analogy is that for many senior executives their involvement with a smaller company advisory board is almost a philanthropic endeavor - where they give of themselves without expectation of direct reward - financial or otherwise.
Correspondingly, the owners and managers of the small company must approach the sage advice and good energy offered by their advisory board fully in “receiving” mode.
For businesspeople of the mindset of always trading value for value and reciprocal obligation, this is hard. But only by clearing this space can the board’s counsel be best received.
And somewhat counter-intuitively, often only by management fully accepting the “gifts” of its advisors will the board member’s experience be richest.
Begin with the End in Mind: For companies beyond the startup phase, its operating executives are naturally pulled to the shorter-term challenges and realities - this quarter’s revenue and profits, this month’s sales, the challenges and angst of a difficult employee decision, etc.
In contrast, an advisory board discussion - by both its nature and by the kinds of folks attracted to serve on it - naturally pulls to the long view, to the big questions that all businesses should be regularly asking themselves always but rarely do.
Or, as they say, the “why” and the “which.”
The "why" questions are hopefully embodied in the Company’s mission and its values, and need the regular attention of strategic planning sessions like advisory board meetings to keep them from existing only in “hot air.”
The “which” questions are in many ways the harder ones that an advisory board dynamic can help address.
You see, ambitious entrepreneurs and executives (especially after they taste a little success!) are naturally drawn to expanding their sense of their market opportunity, and correspondingly their list of products and service offerings.
This naturally leads to a diffusion of focus, of trying to be all things to all people.
A thoughtful advisory board will challenge management to more clearly define where they are aiming to be 1 year, 3 years hence and beyond, and from this vision where resources and attention should be focused today.
Speak Little, Listen Much: Managers and owners of emerging companies are often also the lead salespeople, the lead “evangelists” for their companies.
As a result, their default mode is to always be selling, always be pied-pipering their incredibly bright futures.
Even if, especially if, so doing is buzz-killing and / or depressing.
Why? Because it is often only in the “low negative” energy state that a certain kind of reflective creativity can flourish and completely new approaches to solving vexing problems can be discovered.
Brevity is Next to Godliness: Strategic planning sessions in a modern business context should be tightly scheduled to last not more than 2 hours. After this length of time, diminishing returns starts setting in fast.
A tight frame also requires all participants to come to the meeting prepared. And, in turn, that the meeting organizers select the right meeting homework and then plan and moderate the agenda with the proper balance of structure and free-flowing dialogue.
Doing all of the above requires work – a good guide is that for every hour of strategic meeting time there should be 5 hours of planning time by the meeting organizer and at least 2 hours of preparation time by each participant.
Conclusion: Given that the only way to increase the value of a business is to either a) increase its bottom line financials and/or b) to improve its strategic positioning and growth probability, creative planning sessions like advisory board meetings should be a FIRST priority of any responsible manager.
They are classic Steven Covey, “non-urgent and extremely important” activities.
Ignore them at your peril, and benefit from them in ways well beyond predictable expectation.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, October 21, 2012
Luke Fishback is a bright guy. Upon graduating college with a degree in engineering, he got a job at Lockheed Martin. However, within a few years, he had had enough.
Well, Luke realized he was an entrepreneur at heart. And that he needed to start his own company. In fact, earlier in his life, Luke had been an entrepreneur. When he was 14 years old, he started Luke's Garbage Service, a waste disposal and recycling service for a rural community in Georgia.
So Luke started a company called PlotWatt.
PlotWatt creates technology (cloud-based algorithms that analyze smart meter data) that helps people reduce their energy bills by providing customized money-saving recommendations.
But there was one thing Luke didn't have, but desperately needed: money. Luke needed money to build his team, develop his technology, and start marketing his company, and so on.
The good news is this: Luke didn't follow the failed path that most entrepreneurs take; which is to try to secure millions of dollars in venture capital right away.
Rather, Luke understood Growthink's Funding Pyramid -- the fact that:
1) Some sources of funding are much easier to get than others, and
2) Once you get the easier sources of money and progress your business, it's MUCH easier to raise the harder (and bigger) sources.
So, Luke entered PlotWatt in GE's Ecomagination Challenge competition last year. And he won!
Now while the Ecomagination prize was only $100,000 (that's still a sizable sum, but not as much as Luke needed), it was just what he needed.
Luke used the $100,000 to make progress in building his technology and team, and the press from the award elevated his company's profile.
As a result of this, Luke and PlotWatt were quickly able to assemble a $1 million additional round of funding. And now Luke and PlotWatt are starting to really grow.
Importantly, Luke's story illustrates 5 keys to raising money for your company today:
1. Understand that funding is a progression. No matter how unique your company or idea, you're generally not going to receive a $10 million check from the start. Rather, you will more likely raise several "rounds" of funding. You start with smaller amounts, and then as your business makes progress (and your valuation increases), you are eligible for larger rounds of capital.
2. Find the right sources of funding for now. As I stated above, some forms of funding are much easier to raise than others. And based on your company's current stage of development (e.g., startup vs. established business ready to scale), different forms of funding are more relevant. The key is to go after the right sources. No matter how amazing your company is or could be, if you go after the wrong funding sources, you'll fail. Like when Google initially failed when it targeted venture capitalists (Google then successfully raised funding from angel investors, and went back to venture capitalists thereafter).
3. Cultivate relationships early. Even though you won't get the $10 million venture capital check today (if you haven't raised money before), you CAN start forming relationships with venture capitalists now who can write you a $10 million check tomorrow. According to Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, "The perfect entrepreneur/VC relationship is one where each has established respect and trust with the other well before an investment transaction is broached."
4. Create your business plan today and keep it up-to-date. Your business is always changing. And as your business changes, different forms of funding become available, and you'll come across different types of lenders and investors. Importantly, when you meet a lender or investor, you must be able to give them your business plan. So finish your plan now, and keep it up-to-date, so you can send it off at a moment's notice.
5. Always be a marketer. In raising money, the best company doesn't always win (in fact, while seemingly unfair, it often doesn't win). Rather, the best marketers win. That is, the entrepreneurs that are best able to market their companies to lenders and investors are the ones who raise the money. In Luke and PlotWatt's case, their marketing efforts were aided by the PR they received from winning GE's Ecomagination Challenge. In many other cases, it's the entrepreneur marketing themselves via networking at events, sending emails, making telephone calls, getting and leveraging Advisors, etc.
Last year, Luke Fishback was bootstrapping PlotWatt. The company was making progress, but funding was holding back its potential. Today, the company has a million dollars in the bank and is poised for phenomenal growth. Funding can do that for you; so go out and get it.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Every business has a break-even point, which represents the minimum amount of cash to bring into the business on a given month in order to at least be able to cover your cash expenses for the month, or larger profit goals. The reason the media call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday is that many businesses do not reach their break-even point for the whole year until that day, due to the tremendous volume of sales.
Determining your break-even point involves a similar process to thinking through your business plan, wherein you not only gain better understanding of your business but also learn which areas offer ways to cut expenses and boost profits.
In this article, I will share with you how to calculate your own break-even point, and share 3 tips for lowering it.
Calculating Your Personal Black Friday
The first step I recommend is to establish your own break-even point. You reach your personal Black Friday when your fixed costs plus variable costs equal your income.
After hitting this point, all further sales become profit, less any additional variable costs for manufacturing and sales expenses.
- Fixed costs include rent, salaries, maintenance, licenses, equipment, and other overhead expenses.
- Variable expenses include the cost of wholesale goods, manufacturing, sales commissions, advertising, utilities, and other expenses needed to produce the number of goods or services you sell.
- These expenses also apply to intangible products that require software developers, consultants, website managers, pay-per-click advertising, and other expenses associated with creating intangible products or services.
- Income includes the gross sales prices of the number of goods or services sold, whether wholesale or retail. The higher the number of goods, the higher the variable expenses will grow.
Consider all the expenses you might overlook in your specific line of business. Having more salaried employees or too expensive an office space are two examples that might lead to this. You might be paying too much in advertising to produce the same number of leads. There could be a number of expenses you could lower.
You can change your break-even point by cutting overhead expenses and other fixed costs, reducing variable expenses, increasing sales transactions, or charging higher prices.
Below are three proven ways to change your break-even point:
Cut Manufacturing Costs or Raise Prices
The price of your goods must be high enough to cover manufacturing (or service delivery) costs, fixed expenses, and returns on investment. If your analysis shows a high break-even point, you should consider raising prices. You can also try to find ways of cutting expenses by finding cheaper suppliers, buying in bulk to get discounts, lowering advertising costs by targeting customers more efficiently, or lowering the raw materials' quality that you use to make products.
- Niche-type companies can usually raise their prices 3 to 5 percent without causing too much backlash from customers.
- Increasing productivity will lower your costs of goods.
- Inventory control can often find sources of waste, theft, or inefficient production techniques.
- Telephones, energy costs, worker wages, and commissions also add to variable costs. You might convince salespeople to take greater risks for higher future commissions, reducing expenses until you reach your break-even point.
Lowering Fixed Costs
Fixed expenses prove difficult to change. You might have to move to a smaller office space, cut services, lower administrative salaries, or cut staff and outsource some services to more efficient organizations that can get the same results for less money.
Don't cut these expenses so much that your ability to function gets hampered, but do watch fixed costs like a hawk to keep them low and lean.
Make Sales More Efficient
You make your sales more efficient by cross-selling, upselling, and getting referrals and sales leads from customers.
- Offer service or product bundles to convince customers to spend more money.
- Create attractive accessory options to increase sales volume.
- Ask customers to recommend you to friends and associates. You might offer product discounts for referrals.
- Try to motivate your sales force by giving bonuses for meeting certain sales targets.
Your Break-Even Point Will Change with Evolving Market Conditions
I recommend that you periodically review your figures and adjust your break-even point to reflect changes in prices, the economy, competitors' responses, and other factors. Update your figures to stay on top of market changes and make adjustments as needed.
Knowing and managing your break-even point is an ongoing job you perform in your role as manager of your business. It goes hand-in-hand with budgeting and cash flow management. Handle it well and stay on top. Neglect it and you could end up underwater. Hopefully these tips and insights will help you grow your business through ever-changing times and markets.
Suggested Resource: Would you like to know more ways to maximize profits and the value of your business. And specifically to turn it into one that exceeds $10 million in revenues? Then check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 15, 2012
Probably the worst way for an entrepreneur to begin his or her day is to read the newspaper.
Or watch the news.
Or, for that matter, to surf the net or even check in on the latest and greatest on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.
It is not to say that keeping up with events is necessarily a bad thing, and of course for many types of businesses and professions, it is part of the job description to do so.
But for the busy and ambitious entrepreneur, doing so first thing in the morning at best is highly distracting, and at its worst misdirects one's mind and energy in the absolute wrong direction.
Well, unfortunately the overwhelming majority for what passes as “news” these days is a downbeat recital of the things that either have, are, or are about to go bad the world over.
War. Economic crisis. National disasters. Scandal.
All usually presented in that oh-so depressing of "yes this is bad, but just wait because it's only going to get worse" tone.
Not the best “stimulus” with which to start one’s day to get out and conquer the world, now is it?
Yes we should be informed.
But really, it is not the “informed” that change the world for the better.
Rather, it is the men and women of action, purpose, and zest that do.
And these energized and effective souls don’t start their day with the “news.”
Rather, they feed their spirit, minds, and bodies wholesome fare.
They meditate. They read inspirational literature. They exercise vigorously.
They set their day's goals and get right after the most important ones first thing.
They recognize that the first hour is the rudder of the day and so they tack their daily ship in the best direction right from the day’s get go.
And once they are good and going…
…well, then they take a peek at a few tweets, they accept a few friends requests, and they indulge themselves in a little of the “news.”
But not too much.
This blog post is a reprint of an article written by Jay Turo in this month’s Vistaprint Small Business Blog.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, October 14, 2012
I watched the movie The Avengers recently, and it got me thinking. There are many ways to put together a team, and not all of them last. Sometimes you have clashing personalities. Sometimes you end up with distractions that only serve to diffuse the effectiveness of the team as a whole. Sometimes you simply chose the wrong people and ended up with a sub-par team.
Samuel L. Jackson's character, Nick Fury, did a lot of research before putting his team together, and it shows when they to work together in the end for a common goal. Everyone plays to their strengths and the superheroes save the day. So how can you assemble your own business super-team?
Avengers Assemble: How to Find your Team Members
Nick Fury left no stone unturned when he searched for (or tracked down) his team. Unfortunately for us, we don't have the vast resources of a secret government organization at our disposal.
In most cases, our ideal team members aren't green giants either, so it takes a bit more digging around to find potential members from among the pool of candidates. Here are a few places to look for freelance team members (who could eventually become full-time too after they prove themselves):
- Scan general freelance job sites, like Elance, Guru, and Odesk
- Scan industry-specific job sites, like Scriptlance for programming, or Coroflot for design work
- Ask your social circle if they know any freelancers, especially business peers
- Write guest posts and invite people to contact you
- Join freelancer forums to meet potential team members from the discussion
Choosing your Superteam Roster
Once again, Nick Fury shows us the path to take when picking our initial team roster. Of course, with the magic of the silver screen, we didn't see if he had any team members who didn't quite work out. In the world of freelance workers, however, you most likely will have some turnover.
Be picky with your choices to reduce turnover later from hiring the wrong person. You can afford to wait for a better candidate to come along, but you can't afford to miss your Tony Stark because you hired an intern too soon.
You also need to trust your instincts. Nick Fury stuck to his guns in the face of his superiors' naysaying, and he knew his team would work out. If you meet a freelancer who just doesn't mesh well enough, trust your instincts and pass them over.
Finally, once you've put together a large enough list of potential team members, start inviting them to see if they're interested. You don't want to be talking to a crowd. It's better to approach them individually.
Set the Bar: Having Clear Expectations
The Avengers had a goal: form a team of heroes capable of defending the planet against attack. This was Nick Fury's expectation of his team. Your expectations for your team won't be as high and mighty, but that doesn't mean they're unimportant. As you build your team, bring each new member into the loop with your expectations for them.
Let them know what it means to be a part of your team. Each time you bring in a new member, you can take the opportunity to remind all of your current members of your expectations, so the group doesn't morph into something you don't want.
Structuring Your Meetings
Pulling your team together for regular meetings is important. In The Avengers, we don't see much of the daily grind of meetings, but what we do see displays a lot of what not to do. When Thor and Iron Man meet, there's a lot of butting heads. And The Hulk clashes with everyone when he's in his moods.
The Avengers found unity, but for a team of freelancers it can quickly grow out of hand and tear a group apart.
So meet frequently but no more than needed. Keep your meetings on track and don't waste time with small talk. Don't structure everything too rigidly, or you miss the chance for inspiration and brainstorming. Encourage a variety of ideas and to withhold criticism of ideas until it's time. You built your team to work together, now let them work together!
Make Sure to Set Goals, not Tasks
The distinction here can be tricky. The Avengers had one major goal: stop the alien invasion. To do this, they had sub-goals, like cutting off the machine allowing them through, defeating Loki, and clearing out the remaining aliens. These are distinct from tasks.
No one was telling Hawkeye to shoot specific aliens; he simply did it as part of his goal. For your team, your goals are what you need to accomplish to build your business-not the immediate tasks necessary to keep it running. So talk about your goals often.
Plan for Growth
For this one, finally, The Avengers don't have advice to offer. The Avengers are established, they don't need to take on extra hands. After all, seven or eight people is about the most that one manager can handle without reducing results. Your team might not be so all encompassing.
However, before you start taking on new people, put it to a vote with current members. If they approve, take a new person on as a temporary member, to get a feel for how they will mesh with the team. Avoid bringing in people who compete with current members unless the task is larger than what one person can handle-overlapping roles lead to clashes.
And finally, don't grow too large. There's a limit to where your team stops being effective and starts being too bureaucratic. If you keep your team at the right size, and full of the right people, your business can do nothing but grow.
Suggested Resource: Would you like to know more ways to maximize the value of your business. And specifically to turn it into one that exceeds $10 million in revenues? Then check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, October 9, 2012
The influence of the crowd is a major factor in Crowdfunding, as psychology often plays a role in the failure or success of a Crowdfunding campaign.
Crowd psychology is a form of social psychology. Regular people are generally able to gain power by acting as a group. It has been shown through history that big groups of people have brought about sudden and dramatic social changes in a way that sidesteps traditional due process.
Social scientists have come up with a number of different theories to explain crowd psychology. In addition, scientists have also come up with several different theories regarding the way that crowd psychology is different from the psychology of the individual within that crowd.
Freud on Crowd Behavior
First, Sigmund Freud had a crowd behavior theory. He believed that people in a crowd act differently than individuals. His theory was that the minds of everyone in the group merged to form a new way of thinking. The enthusiasm of each member of the group would increase, and he or she would become less aware of the nature of their actions.
What this means for your Crowdfunding raise: Create a community around those who provide Crowdfunding to you. Use the community to make these people zealots. Encourage them to spread the word about your company so more and more people support you.
One amazing social phenomenon that happens within a crowd is communal reinforcement, in which an idea or concept is asserted repeatedly, even when there is limited evidence to support it.
As time goes by, the idea or concept becomes reinforced into becoming a stern belief in the minds of many people and can often be regarded as fact by members of the group. Imagine how persuasive you could be by actually showing them the evidence to support your promises (and you should)!
What this means for your Crowdfunding raise: When setting up your Crowdfunding platform and profile, choose a main message and repeat it over and over-in your headline, in the description, in your video, and in your comments. Repetition sells!
Online crowds come together virtually. They act and behave collectively, producing effects that would not otherwise be possible if they were approached by themselves.
But they need to see social proof. No one wants to be the first one to donate (except your mom), but if they see that others are doing it, they'll perceive it as more legitimate and will be more likely to fund you.
What this means for your Crowdfunding raise: Don't tell the masses about your Crowdfunding raise at first. Rather, start with your friends and family members. Then, when folks who don't know you come to your Crowdfunding page later, they'll already see a lot of others who've pledged their money to you.
Likewise show as much activity on your Crowdfunding page as possible. Let people see your comments as you answer questions and repeat your message. And make sure to publicly thank those who made donations and make sure people see the progress of your funding as you receive it.
When you raise money from sophisticated angel investors and venture capitalists, there is a lot of psychology involved. When raising Crowdfunding, it's even more so. So, keep this in mind and leverage it. And you will be able to raise Crowdfunding to start and/or grow your business.
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