Growthink Blog

7 Secrets to Raising Capital


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If you're looking for funding to start or grow your business, then you should listen to this.

Below, I'm giving away 7 of my best capital raising tips as a 45-minute long MP3 file: "The 7 Secrets To Capital Raising Success"

Click here to download (right-click and "Save As..." MP3 to your computer), or click the blue triangle below in the player below to stream the MP3:


This MP3 is a preview of my brand-new, in-depth capital raising course, "The Secrets to Raising Capital."

If you want to learn how to successfully raise capital from more than 40 sources of funding, then click here to learn more about the full 14-part course.


Business Creativity: Key Creativity Lessons from Dr. Alan Robinson


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When I was younger, I had four full-time jobs before I started my first business.

Looking back, in none of these jobs did my managers ask for my ideas or suggestions. Nope - my business creativity and ideas simply didn't matter. Even though I had a lot of them. And many were ideas that could have really helped those companies.

So what did I do?

I left. I left those jobs until I found one where all of my ideas would receive the proper attention - running my own company.

But now that I'm running my company, I can't make the same mistake that my past employers made. That is, I must challenge my employees and encourage their ideas and suggestions.

Why? Well for numerous critical reasons according to award-winning author and professor Dr. Alan Robinson who I recently interviewed.

Specifically, according to Dr. Robinson's vast research, 85% of new ideas at companies come from front-line employees. Yes, the employees that are interfacing with customers and vendors, and employees that are manufacturing your products or cleaning your facilities come up with the vast majority of your best ideas.

Which is very interesting and dispels the myth that most great ideas are generated by CEOs and top managers. This makes sense though. Entrepreneurs and founders come up with ideas to form companies. But then they must eventually transform into managers of their organizations. In doing so, they move farther away from the front-line operations, making it harder for them to innovate themselves.

Which is why great entrepreneurs make innovation and business creativity a key part of their organizations.

According to Dr. Robinson, the first key to effectively integrating business creativity, idea generation, and innovation into organizations is "alignment." Alignment simply means that everyone in the organization knows the goals of the organization, and what goals new ideas should aim to solve. In an example of poor alignment, he mentioned the angry CEO who found a note in the suggestion box to "offer different flavors of peanut butter in the cafeteria." Clearly, this CEO, and not the employee, is at fault for not aligning his organization around its key objectives.

The second key to effective idea generation is to establish systems or processes. These systems do not have to be formal or costly. For example, giving employees 30 minutes/week to discuss new ideas is enough for them to 1) know that they should always be thinking of new ideas, 2) that their ideas are valued, and 3) that they have a formal opportunity to discuss their ideas.

Implementing idea generation programs not only results in great new ideas that allow companies to outperform competitors. But they result in dramatically higher employee satisfaction and morale.

In fact, one of the top reasons employees give for quitting a job is that management didn't take their ideas seriously. When employees are asked to submit ideas, given time and/or incentives to submit ideas, and see their ideas implemented, they become much more committed to their organizations and perform better.

So, as you grow your organization, be sure to implement formal processes for business creativity and idea generation. Fortunately these processes are easy to implement, and will have multiple benefits to your bottom line.

In the interview, Dr. Robinson gave some great advice for implementing formal processes for idea generation in your company. He also provided great ideas for assessing new ideas, making sure new ideas don't interrupt the process of implementing existing plans, and dealing with bad ideas, among many other key topics.

To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:



Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/379.cfm

Private Angel Investors: How to Find & Attract Them


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Not long ago, the sky seemed like it was falling. The Dow dropped to an annual low of 6,547 and the media was forecasting more and more gloom. And those familiar with the venture world were saying that funding was near impossible.

Fortunately, at that same time, the optimists were saying that it was a great time to start or grow a company. And even get funding.

And they were right!

In fact, according to the newest released study by the Center for Venture Research, in the first half of 2009, 140,200 private angel investors funded new and growing companies.

Now, I want to let you in on an extremely important fact -- well less than 1% of these private angel investors are on any sort of list of angel investors that anyone might be trying to sell you.

In fact, most of these 140,200 individuals didn't even consider themselves to be angel investors. But, when discovered and approached correctly, they have the means and ability to invest, and do! (the key is having the knowledge to find and contact them correctly)

So, never listen to the naysayers - that is your first job as an entrepreneur. And realize that if you need funding to achieve your goals, it IS out there.


What Are You Capable Of?


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Imagine for a moment that you were really great at something, but never acted on it.

How would your life, and the lives of others been impacted?

Let's take Michael Jordan. What would have happened if he never picked up a basketball?  What would he be doing today? (I would bet he wouldn't be retired.)  How much wealth would he and his family have lost out on?

Interestingly, a lot of people think that opportunities are lost or squandered when people are young. This is clearly not always the case.

Consider Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses loved painting as a child. But, she and her family didn't consider painting to be a real, paying job, so she spent decades earning a living doing embroidery work.

But, this all changed when Grandma Moses reached her seventies. Her arthritis worsened and she was unable to continue doing embroidery. So, Grandma Moses finally set out to do what she loved - painting.

She went to an Arts & Crafts store, purchased some supplies, and went to work. Within a few years, Grandma Moses would be creating two paintings a week. And each of these paintings would earn her more than she earned in a lifetime doing embroidery. In fact, in her eighties and nineties, she made paintings that would earn her over $300,000 each.

Now let's look at the impact of Grandma Moses' decision to start painting. Financially, she made millions. Money that would help her grandchildren get better educations, get better health coverage and live better lives. She also generated thousands in tax dollars which, among other things, would help fund essential projects. She generated jobs; she must have had assistants who helped her purchase supplies, arrange art showings, and handle her travel and financial affairs.

And then there are the millions of people that Grandma Moses touched by simply allowing them to look at her beautiful paintings.

Yes, even at an elderly age, Grandma Moses made an impact on millions of people.

But what about you and I?

The fact is that each of us have talents. And when we choose to reveal them, and nurture them, and fight to use them - essentially, when we choose to become true entrepreneurs - we positively impact many lives.

Because of this fact, I was not surprised by the Kauffman Foundation's recent study entitled "Where Will The Jobs Come From?" The study reveals clear evidence that "new and young companies and the entrepreneurs that create them are the engines of job creation and eventual economic recovery."

In fact, since 1977, net job creation in the American economy would have been negative in all but a handful of years if not for startups and young companies (defined as < 5 years of age). And even in good times, like in 2007, when 12 million new jobs were added, two-thirds of the new jobs were created by startups.

So, if you are debating starting a business, now's the time to do it. If you have an existing business and are thinking about new growth initiatives, now is the time to launch them.

Yes, now is the time. It's not just about your personal satisfaction. It's about the tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of lives that you can positively influence with your gift of entrepreneurship. It's time to really put that gift to use.

Gold is Great - But It is NOT an Investment


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As many of you I am sure are aware, there has been a major gold bull run since the start of the year. While pulling back slightly in the last few days, the price of an ounce of gold touched a record $1,227.50 on Thursday, December 3rd.

Most of the rally has been driven by widespread inflation fears, which in turn are driven by the massive and unprecedented deficits that most of the major industrial governments (save China, of course) seem committed to running for as far as the eye can see.

Gold - say the wise men - is the ideal inflation hedge, which of course is another way of saying that it is the ideal hedge against governments acting badly and confiscating the well-earned wealth of its productive citizens.

Now I would never begrudge anyone that likes betting against government as an investment strategy, but by golly if there ever was an investment that just outright appeals to the uninformed (and those who prey on them), it is gold.

Let's take a step back here, folks, and think a bit about the word "investing," defined by Webster's as "the active redirection of resources/assets to creating benefits in the future."

Now can someone please explain to me how an asset that doesn't yield or produce ANYTHING, and costs money to store, could possibly be considered an investment?

The answer, quite simply, is that gold isn't an investment. Gold, as jewelry or decoration, or accoutrement, is beautiful. Gold as investment is a cult.

A cult of negativity and pessimism, to be more precise. And one in which it would be funny if it is wasn't so sad how many of the older generation in this great country of ours are caught up.

Spend a little time amongst the retired set talking about both investing and the future of America and the amount of fear, negativity, and of an all-consuming mindset of concern for one's own hide and to heck with everyone else falls somewhere between depressing and appalling.

And as for the hucksters that play on these fears - convincing Grandma and Grandpa that Obama is leading us down the path of Communism so better to take all of your money and not just buy gold but also bury it in your backyard - well there is a special corner reserved down under for these folks.

A particularly galling trick of the gold huckster industry (coming to a talk radio or billboard ad near you) is to first promote with great fury their "sky is falling" shtick, then suggest that the only solution is not to just buy gold (that would be bad enough), but to buy gold COINS versus the bullion itself (or far more efficiently, a gold ETF like State Street's Gold Spider (NYSE: GLD)).

What they don't tell you is that they mark these coins up as much as 30% - making almost as much money for themselves as the Pirates of old. And oh yes, if gold bullion and coins were regulated investment assets as they should be, they would call that amount of markup a crime.

How About Actually Investing?

Now let's look at the polar opposite of investing in gold - namely investing in the most productive, most effective, most wealth-building sector of our economy.

I am talking of course about investing in the modern-day action heroes that are the world's entrepreneurs. The men and women who right now are starting and building the Googles, the LinkedIns, the Facebooks, the Twitters, the Apples, the Microsofts, the Amazons, of the next 20 years.

They are passionately at work at the new and young companies where the ideas are freshest, where the work ethic is most profound, and where the innovation breakthroughs are most world-changing.

And unlike investors in gold, who have gotten a negative long-term return since 1980 (on an inflation adjusted-basis, gold's $599/ounce price peak in 1981 price translates in today's $ to $1,417/ounce, investors in entrepreneurial and small companies have killed it - earning a whopping 21.4% annually during that same time frame.

So this holiday season, buy that special someone a gold necklace, or earrings, or bracelet, or gold-plated watch, for sure.

But if you want to give yourself a gift, hang up on the gold hucksters and instead find and back the entrepreneurs in your midst.

They will TRULY be the gift that keeps on giving.

Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc.
800-506-5728
Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn

 


You're Invited to Pitch Silicon Valley This February


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Many of you might recall that I interviewed Bambi Francisco, founder of Vator.tv, months ago.   

If you’re not familiar, Vator.tv is an online community that allows entrepreneurs to showcase their ventures and communicate with customers, partners, and investors.  I fully recommend that you check out Vator.tv.  

But that’s actually NOT why I’m writing today…

Today I wanted to tell you about Vator’s upcoming “Splash” competition, which will showcase 10 promising startups, and the hottest companies in social gaming and iPhone app development. Plus, you can meet and network with elite venture capitalists. 

Best of all, I’m excited to announce that I’ve secured you a 25% discount to this event.

Here are some more details:

On the evening of February 4th, 2010, ten seed- to early-stage companies (selected by their peers) will have the opportunity to pitch the Silicon Valley elite. These 10 companies will also have a high quality video of their presentation produced.  

In addition, Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, will talk about how he built the leading social gaming company in a few years, and Jeff Smith, CEO of Smule, will talk about how he built some of the hottest iPhone apps.  

Additionally, venture capitalists from Google Ventures, August Capital, Greycroft Partners and Norwest Venture Partners will also be present.   

To submit an early stage company to pitch, click here:

http://vator.tv/competition/show/vator-splash-competition  

If you’d like to attend the event, you can reserve your 25% discounted ticket or pitch table below by using discount code: Vatorgrowthink, here:

http://vatorsplash.eventbrite.com/    

Note: This special 25% discount ends December 11th. 

Consumer Behavior Marketing: Dr. Neale Martin Explains Why You Should Leverage Consumer Habits


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Have you ever driven somewhere, gotten there, and forgot about the last minutes of the drive? You know that you were driving. But your mind must have been somewhere else, since you can't really remember the turns you made, the lights you stopped at, etc.

But, I'll bet that never happens to you when you're lost. When lost, your brain is working overtime to figure out what to do next.

When I recently interviewed Dr. Neale Martin, he explained that the difference in the two situations has to do with which part of your brain you were mostly using. When going on a routine drive, perhaps from home to work or vice-versa, you primarily use your subconscious or habitual mind. But when you are lost, or on the phone while driving, you primarily use your conscious or executive mind.

Importantly, as Dr. Martin lays out in his book "Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore," your subconscious or habitual mind controls the vast majority of human behavior.

For example, when you reach for a carton of milk from the supermarket, do you really think that much about it? Do you compare the different brands of milk and think "maybe today I'll try something new?" Or do you simply pick the same carton of milk you chose last time, and the time before, and the time before. Most of us do the latter.

Understanding these habits is critical to entrepreneurs who want to effectively market their products and services. For instance, once you sell a product or service, you should focus on ways to get the customer to buy again and again from you. According to Dr. Martin, once they buy seven times from you, buying from you becomes habit.

And so they buy again, and again and again. Until you do something like raise your prices or interrupt their service, which causes their executive mind to kick in and consider alternatives.

Likewise, when marketing a new product, you must leverage consumer behavior marketing techniques. Specifically, you need to make sure that your new product jives with people's habits. For example, if people are used to doing something one way, asking them to do it another way, even if that way is better, is oftentimes difficult. Entrepreneurs must make adopting their products and services as easy as possible and ensure that they don't contrast sharply to consumers' habits.

So, the next time you are driving and forget where you are or what you are doing, know that you don't have a Swiss cheese brain. Rather, you are so used to what you are doing that you're relying on your habitual mind. And remember, as a marketer, you must realize that your customers are also frequently using their habitual minds when making buying decisions. So, figure out ways to make buying your company's products and services their habit.

Dr. Martin made tons of great additional points that entrepreneurs can use immediately to become more effective marketers. Specifically, Dr. Martin revealed some great marketing insight and ideas including:

* The key link between emotions and decision-making, and how to leverage this
* How to dislodge customer habits
* The reason why Word of Mouth marketing is so successful
* The importance of getting feedback and the best place to get it

To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:

 

Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/378.cfm


Why Entrepreneurs Are Real Life, Modern Day Action Heroes


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A very, important study of U.S. Economic Census Data conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, was published last week that statistically demonstrates who really creates jobs in the American economy.

Improving Your Business Hiring Practices: An Interview with Dr. Geoff Smart


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When Jay Turo and I founded Growthink a decade ago, we each had a ton of responsibilities.

We had to find new clients, serve clients, develop our website, answer incoming phone calls, manage the books, pay receivables, negotiate partnerships, and so on and so on.

Like other successful entrepreneurs, as we grew our company, we knew we had to hire great people. There is no way that Jay and I could have possibly managed everything the company had to accomplish.

In fact, according to management guru Peter Drucker, an entrepreneur must narrow their role as they grow their organizations. The entrepreneur must focus on the areas that provide the most value to the organization, and delegate the rest.

Yes, your ability to determine what to delegate and to delegate to the right people is the only way to grow a successful company. As author Jim Collins states, "the most important decisions that business people make are not 'what' decisions, but 'who' decisions." That is, determining "who" should do the work is absolutely essential to the work getting done right, and the company being successful.

As a result, it's no coincidence that new ventures succeed, or fail, based on the quality of people they hire. It's no coincidence that Apple was so successful with a key early employee like Guy Kawasaki. Or that PayPal was so successful with Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim as key early employees? (Steve, Chad and Jawed would later found YouTube.)

Simply put, your ability to hire the right people is absolutely critical to your success as an entrepreneur.

In order to teach you how to hire like an expert, I interviewed Dr. Geoff Smart. Dr. Smart is the Chairman & CEO of ghSMART, which helps companies and investors identify the right people to hire to ensure that they can achieve success. He is also the co-author of the current New York Times Bestseller "Who: The A Method for Hiring."

Interestingly, part of his research in conducting his book was interviewing more than 20 billionaires and 60 CEOs, investors, and other thought leaders, so Dr. Smart was able to learn real-world methodologies that allow entrepreneurs like you to hire with precision.

During our interview, Dr. Smart gave tons of actionable information. Some of the highlights included:

1) Tap referrals when seeking new employees: 77% of successful hires come through referrals. That is, by asking your employees and advisors/friends/colleagues who they know that could be "rock stars" in the open position, you can find great talent.

2) Don't just create a job description. Rather than simply creating a job description for your open position, create a "scorecard." Among other things, this scorecard should focus on the desired outcome of the employee. For example, rather than saying that the employee will be responsible for calling on prospects in Indiana, the scorecard must include numeric sales and prospecting goals (e.g., must make 10 to 15 sales calls/day and close $250,000 worth of sales each quarter). Importantly, entrepreneurs should also use the scorecard to judge employee performance after hiring them.

3) Probe in your interviews. Most interviews don't unmask the real information and insight you need to make quality hiring decisions. For example, if a salesperson said they generated $2 million in sales in their last job, it might seem very impressive. But, only by asking the three "P" questions can you really tell if it was. These questions include how the $2 million compared to the Previous year's sales in that territory, how the $2 million compared to the Planned amount of sales, and how the $2 million compared to sales by the individual's Peers.

Dr. Smart made tons of great additional points that entrepreneurs can use immediately to start building stronger teams and achieve more success. In fact, we are in the process of hiring more customer support staff for Growthink University, and will be employing his techniques immediately.

To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:




Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/376.cfm



Thanksgiving: The Spirit of America


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Thanksgiving is thequintessential American holiday.  It acknowledges the best qualities ofour blessed land - rewards for hard work, diversity as strength, andthe "attitude of gratitude" toward which all of us strive.

Asevery school boy and girl knows (or, in our 21st century world of videogames and politically correct education, should know), Thanksgivingtraces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate a successfulgrowing season and survival after an extremely difficult first winterin the New World.

And at that harvest feast these Pilgrims from England and the original inhabitants of the area - the Wampanoag Indians - sat down and ate together in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Indians, whohad taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliarNew England (now) soil and seas.

What a story. If it doesn't get you going, then you aren't even trying.  Let me help:

First, let's reflecton the incredible guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and justunbelievable hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims. It beyonddefies our modern, cushy-soft sensibilities.  Let's channel thetoughness of the Pilgrims when tackling the challenges of our modernday - health care, deficits, China, et al

Next, while thehistory of the white man's treatment of the native peoples of Americain the last 500 years has been mostly shameful, let's reflect onthat happy day of brotherhood.

Let's all be proud of thehistorically unique diversity of modern America.  Doubt me?  Spend theday as I did yesterday with my 2 and 3 - year old boys at LegoLandin Carlsbad.

As we sat building towers and cars and the kinds ofplanes that only fly in little boy's imaginations, I looked to my leftand I saw an intent Indian boy and his father hard at work. 

To myright, an African-American girl directing her Daddy how she we wantedit done.  Behind me, a family with Asiatic features happily building.

As for language, only me with my thick Massachusetts accent spokeanything but perfect English.

There is NOWHERE on Earth this scenerepeats itself as often and as peaceably and as productively as it doesin America.  Japan?  China? The Middle East? Europe?  Hah!Still mostly medieval in their perspectives on these matters, and inour information age America has a MASSIVE leg-up because of it.

And finally, let's give thanks. Iam not proud of it, but I am still addicted to reading the Sunday NewYork Times. And what a tale of woe it is. And while I know the #1 ruleof modern media - "if it bleeds, it leads," please just stop.

Betweenthe dire talk of global warming, global terrorism, and global finance,if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for not justyou, but for all of humanity. 

It is 99% bunk. The world has NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of us tolive affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and tobe amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology and entertainment than it does right now.Be grateful for all that and more. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  May your holiday be blessed withthe rewards of hard work, of breaking bread with family and friends newand old, and with an attitude of gratitude for the bounties the futurewill most definitely hold.

Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc.
800-506-5728

Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn

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