Growthink Blog

Lessons from Two Married Shrinks on a Bus


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I just read this really interesting story about Dr. Doreen Orion in Psychology Today and wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Doreen Orion is a psychologist, as is her husband, Tim.

That's why she truly thought her husband was insane when he proposed that they give up everything and travel the country in a converted bus for a year.

But after two years of being nudged to do it, Dr. Orion finally gave in.

So, off they went around the country in their bus. And, during that time, they experienced it all... from a fire, a flood, an armed robbery and finding themselves in a nudist RV park.

Was it worth it?

According to Dr. Orion the answer is a whopping YES. In fact, enough so that she and her husband have decided to sell their home and live on their bus full-time.

So, what did she find? What did she learn?

Dr. Orion learned that "being comfortable" is not all that great. She said, "I hadn't understood how important it is to keep stretching myself, to keep trying new things. A certain spark I hadn't even known was missing suddenly came back into our lives."

The key for me is this -- it is the process of making yourself uncomfortable and stretching yourself when real personal growth and progress is made. As an entrepreneur, you MUST do things that make you uncomfortable. You can not let fear get the best of you.

Consider Johnny Carson who is well known for his severe stage fright. Fortunately that didn't stop him.

And consider the millions of great entrepreneurs who had the courage to develop their business plans and launch their business to the world.

Now, if you haven't truly launched your business, that is, if you haven't developed your business plan and raised capital (if needed for your business), then now is the time to do it.

And, to "make you an offer you can't refuse" (to borrow the line from the great mafia movies), until this Thursday at 5PM EST, I have a really special offer for you.

The offer is this:

For just $1, you can instantly download Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template and get a 14-day trial to GrowthinkUniversity.com

To learn more, and take us up on this $1 special offer, click the link below to watch a video that explains it all:

http://www.growthink.com/products/template-special-offer

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Business Insurance Information for Emerging Growth Companies


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The other day I was given a badly-needed, private webinar by John Moccia, Technology & Venture Capital Practice Leader at Rollins Insurance, which is a member of TechAssure.

John has been working with venture capital firms and emerging ventures for many years to make sure they are properly protected. And he was gracious enough to give me a private presentation (which we recorded as a video) regarding the insurance needs at the four key stages of an emerging company's lifecycle:

Stage 1 - Formation/R&D
Stage 2 - Growth Phase
Stage 3 - Mature Company/IPO
Stage 4 - Public/Fully Developed Company

I think all of you will find tons of value in this presentation, particularly as it relates to Stage 1 and Stage 2, where most of you currently are.

John went through each of the key types of insurance that entrepreneurs need during these phases. He discussed numerous types of insurance that you must be aware of, including:

• General Liability
• Property Coverage
• Business Interruption Coverage
• Workers Compensation & Disability
• Errors & Omissions
• Directors and Officers Liability
• Crime Coverage
• Global Companion Policy
• Employee Benefits including medical, dental, 401k, life and disability coverages
• Key Man Life Insurance

Importantly, John not only talked about what each of these insurance policies are, but he explained when you need them and when you don't, and gave great tips regarding finding the right insurance policies for your company (and what to look out for).

Now, I'll be the first to admit that buying insurance for your company is not the most important part of being an entrepreneur. But getting the right insurance is part of being a sophisticated entrepreneur.

And in fact, several types of insurance are required when reaching key milestones such as getting your first office, raising capital, and expanding geographically. So, it's important to understand the key insurance issues and plan accordingly.

You can watch the video below:



If you need to contact John or Rollins, his contact information is on the last slide of the video.

An Entrepreneur's Most Controllable Success Factor: An Interview with Dr. Basil Peters


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The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing someone who I really admire - Dr. Basil Peters.

What I really like about Basil is that he's had success in so many positions. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded Nexus Engineering, which he grew to over 300 employees and sold to Scientific Atlanta.

He's also had success as a venture capitalist as CEO of the venture capital fund, BC Advantage Funds. And he is a successful angel investor, and co-founder and CEO of an angel fund called Fundamental Technologies II.

Basil also writes a blog on best practices for angel investors and entrepreneurs at www.AngelBlog.net and he is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Simon Fraser University where he spent 15 years as an Adjunct Professor of Engineering Sciences.

And finally, Basil is the author of a great book on exit strategies called Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors.

So, with this wealth of experience, I knew that I would learn a ton from the interview, and more importantly, be able to pass on several nuggets of wisdom to other entrepreneurs.

And he delivered.

In fact, Basil made one statement during the interview that I've thought about nearly every day since we spoke. Here's what he said:

"...So I've come to believe that it's a law. I believe that successful entrepreneurs have mentors, and I also believe that it's the most controllable success factor - it's the single thing entrepreneurs can do that would dramatically improve their chances of success that they can control."

An entrepreneur's most controllable success factor. Those are pretty strong and pretty wise words. Let's think about this. From the perspective of a proven entrepreneur and investor, having a mentor is one of the smartest thing an entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.

And Basil told me that virtually every successful entrepreneur that he has met has had either a formal or informal mentor.

So, why wouldn't every entrepreneur have a mentor?

Let's start with me. I don't have a formal person that I call my mentor and who considers me their mentee.  But I have had several informal mentors. An uncle who's a successful business man. Mega successful Growthink clients (I define "mega successful" as having exited companies for $100 million or more) who I've worked very closely with for years. And professors who have taught me and answered my numerous questions over time.

Now for those of you entrepreneurs who do not have mentors, I'm going to give you a hard time....Let's go over some excuses you might have:

  • I don't have enough time
  • I'm afraid to ask a potential mentor for fear I might get rejected
  • I don't know who to ask to be a mentor

Unfortunately, none of these excuses are valid.

Finding a mentor shouldn't take all that much time, and this time will possibly have the greatest ROI of all your time investments.

Regarding fear of getting rejected, you'll simply have to overcome this. The fact is that you probably will get rejected by some potential mentors. That's ok. But you can't be afraid to ask. And to persevere until you find a great mentor.

Like everything else in entrepreneurship, rarely does your first effort work as planned. You need to persevere and keep trying.

Now finally, with regards to not knowing who to ask, I believe that any business person who has achieved success and who you respect and admire can make a great mentor.

Wow, 500 words so far, and I've only touched on one of Basil's great points. To get many other great insights from Dr. Basil Peters, listen to the interview.

Click below to hear excerpts from the interview:



To download the full interview and/or transcript click here.

The Greatest Stock Market Rally in History


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Did you know that the current stock market rally, which has seen the S&P 500 rise over 54% from its low of 676 on March 9th, is the greatest in history

Lazlo Birinyi, founder of Birinyi Associates, notes that since March the S & P has risen 0.31%/day on average.

This is three times faster than the previous fastest recovery in 1982, which averaged an increase of 0.12% per day.

He calls it the "Usain Bolt of markets. We just blew through the records."

Tracking the uptick in the market has been rising consumer and economic confidence.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was up in August to its highest level since December 2007.

And the Discover Business Watch Small Business Confidence measure jumped last month to its highest level since February 2008.  

 

How to Take Advantage?

The problem is, of course, first determining if you've missed the rally, and then how to translate this improving business sentiment into opportunity for you.

For those of us that aren't Washington politicians or C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies, the best pathway to do so is via entrepreneurship and via involvement in private companies

But, and it is a very key but, you have to know what you're doing.  As the famous saying goes, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." 

Quite simply, when it comes to investing in private companies you must "do it right or don't do it at all." 

 

Best regards, and look forward to connecting.
--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc

Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn

  P.S. There are 50% and more rallies every year in various private equity sectors. You just need to know where to look.

And before you start looking, you need to know what to look for.


 


Creative Business Financing: CNN Money Identifies Creative Financing Loophole


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As a reader of my blog, I'm sure you're aware of my "Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources."  The Guide presents 28 unique ways to raise money to start or grow your business.

I knew the Guide was really good (since it took me so long to create and since buyers have continually praised it), but I didn't know just how impactful it would be.

Well, a month ago, CNN found out about the Guide, and a CNN Money Reporter contacted me.

What resulted was a full story on ONE of my creative and alternative financing sources: customer financing.

You can read the article here: http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/08/smallbusiness/barnraising_a_business.fsb/

What I liked most about the article is that Helaine (the reporter) gave numerous examples of customer financings. This will hopefully give you more ideas on how customer financing might be right for your business.

If customer financing is not right for you, or if you want to tap 27 more unique and proven alternative and creative financing sources, download Growthink's "Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources."


Who Will be the Next Billion Dollar Medical Device Company?


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Medtronic. Cardinal Health. Guidant. Becton, Dickinson. St. Jude Medical. Hospira. Fresenius. Varian Medical.

All of these medical device manufacturers had greater than ONE BILLION DOLLARS in sales last year. 

Who Will be Next?

The great thing about this sector is that while the overall venture business is way down, medical device funding is BOOMING.

Firms poured $1.5 billion in 160 deals in the second quarter, up 47% over the prior quarter.  In fact, investments in life sciences companies made up 41% of all private venture funding last quarter.

 

Why Should You Care?

Is there money being made in the sector now - even in this tough economy? You bet your life there is. 

America's spending on healthcare will top $2.5 trillion this year alone, accounting for more than 17% of the nation's spending, and may double in the next decade. 

Medical devices account for more than $100 billion of this. 

Think of companies like device maker Vnus Medical, which Covidien just bought for $470 million - 4 times 2008 sales. 

And Danaher, the industrial conglomerate, made big moves in the sector by buying MDS's analytical-technologies business for $650 million.

Best regards, and look forward to connecting.

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc

Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn

  P.S. Medical devices is a bright and hot sector in the midst of a mostly dismal technology investment climate.

Stop crying in your soup about how tough it is out there and do something about it.  


Raising Capital Through Lobbying: An Interview with Jack Burkman


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I recently had the opportunity to interview Jack Burkman, the founder and president of Burkman Associates LLC.

You may have heard of Burkman since he appears frequently on ABC, CNBC, MSNBC, ESPN, and many other networks. He was also a former FOX News political analyst.

Jack Burkman has been raising capital for companies using an extremely rare technique - government lobbying.

According to Burkman, money for many types of companies can be raised from congress and government agencies (e.g., Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, etc.).

An Interview with Renaud Laplanche, Founder & CEO, Lending Club


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I recently had the opportunity to speak with expert entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Lending Club, Renaud Laplanche.

Renaud is an expert in raising capital, as he has successfully raised multiple rounds of venture and other capital -- totaling over $50 million for both Lending Club and Triple Hop Technologies, of which he was also the founder.

So I was excited to ask him questions about raising capital for one's business and how LendingClub can help individuals and entrepreneurs. In the interview we covered:

  • How LendingClub works
  • The importance of your FICO score in getting a peer to peer loan
  • How your track record of success factors into a successful capital raise
  • That factor matters the most in selecting a VC
  • Renaud's single most important tip for those looking to raise funding


Click below to hear excerpts from the interview:

 

 

To download the full interview and/or transcript click here.


Keys To Hiring & Retaining The Best Employees


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If you are managing an early stage or growing company, it typically means that you are cash restrained.

And, as a result, you are often unable to pay employees salaries commensurate with what they would earn at larger organizations.

So, how do you manage this and hire and retain the best staff?

In order to do this, you need to understand and manage the four core factors that effect an employee's satisfaction and thus willingness to join your company and/or stay with you.

The first key factor is financial compensation, which includes the employee's salary plus benefits such as healthcare, and any significant perks. For the most part, early stage companies can't compete with larger entities when it comes to these salaries.

However, with stock options and/or profit sharing, smaller companies can better motivate employees and give them the potential to earn even more money then their large organization counterparts should the company succeed.

The second key factor effecting employee satisfaction is lifestyle. Specifically, how does your organization accommodate the employee's lifestyle? Do you offer daycare? Flexible schedules? For some employees, the ability of the employer to accommodate their lifestyle is of critical importance.

The third key factor that employees consider when assessing whether to stay with a company is how much they enjoy their jobs and coming to work every day. Clearly there are millions of workers that hate their jobs. But, for the most part, these aren't the best workers. If they were, they would have lots of other job opportunities.

It is up to the small business owner to create an environment whereby employees enjoy their work. They must enjoy working with the other members of the company, the types of work they are doing, and their work conditions. They must feel that they are a part of the overall company culture. They must get along with their co-workers, and feel their boss appreciates them and treats all employees equally and fairly. And they must receive adequate communications as to company policies and decision-making.

The final factor with regards to satisfying your employees is to ensure that they are learning and developing skills that will further their careers, whether or not their futures lie with your organization or with another organization (preferably they see advancement opportunities within your organization).

Employees need to be continuously trained and have the ability to continually learn so that they become more valuable assets. This training can be formal, and/or it can include learning from trying new tasks and projects.

It is up to the business owner to ensure that employees are given training and projects that expand and improve their skills.

As an entrepreneur and/or business owner, it is your duty to hire and retain the best staff. Since, no one person has the ability to grow a massive empire with the help of others. In building your teams, consider and constantly revisit these four key factors and make sure you create and foster and environment that gives your firm a competitive advantage in each of these areas. In doing so, you will maximize your chances of building a truly superstar company.

How Seeking Out Failure Can Lead to Your Success


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I read a very interesting blog post the other day about "survivor bias," an important statistical principle that could greatly affect your future success.

In brief, survivor bias occurs when an analysis excludes information since that information no longer exists.

Let me give you an example...

The English forces, during World War II, sent planes each day to bomb the Germans. As you might expect, several of these planes were shot down. And, the ones that did come back typically returned with multiple bullet holes.

Now, the English obviously wanted to maximize the chances of its planes and soldiers returning home. So English engineers studied the planes that returned. In doing so, they found patterns among the bullet holes. Specifically they found lots of holes on the wings and tail of the plan, but few in the cockpit or fuel tanks.

As a result, the English added armored plating to the wings and tail.

As you might have already concluded, this was the wrong thing to do. The better decision would have been to add armored plating to the cockpit and fuel tanks. For, the planes that were shot in those places were the planes that were shot down and never returned.

The English engineers' analysis missed this data because these were the planes that they were unable to examine. This is "survivor bias"-- their inability to include this critical data in their analysis since it was unavailable or didn't "survive."

So why does this matter to you?

It matters because as you start and/or grow your businesses, you will have to hire service providers and staff. And naturally, you will want to hire those with a track record of success.

But, when you hire staff who have only worked at successful companies, you may fall victim to survivor bias. That is, they have not learned many of the lessons that individuals and companies learn when they fail.

Likewise, when you hire a service provider that claims that every one of their clients has been successful, maybe they haven't learned from client failures.

They say that you learn more from failure than from success.

While that can be debated, from personal experience I can say that I've learned a ton from both failure and success. From successes, I have learned principles and formulas that worked. The ones I strive to replicate on a daily basis.

And from failures, I have learned things to avoid. I have learned flaws in my thinking. But importantly, many of my successes have come out of failure. From tinkering ideas and plans that weren't quite working. And making them work. And, these new ideas would never have come to me had I not failed first.

Now, clearly my advice is not to hire failures or those with a habit of failure. But, likewise, it's not to hire staff or service providers who claim to always succeed. Since a balance between success and failure often provides that winning combination of wisdom.

So, the next time you are interviewing a key hire or service provider, make sure to ask about their failures. Ask about tasks and jobs that they or their companies failed at. And find out what they learned from that failure.

Ideally they are the types of candidates that learned a lot from their failures and were able to overcome them. This is because the vast majority of growing companies fail at things over and over again. It is their ability to constantly modify and improve their businesses that enables them to excel. Surround yourself with people that have this ability.

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