If you want to raise capital,
then you need a professional
business plan. This video
shows you how to finish your
business plan in 1 day.
to watch the video.
"The TRUTH About
Most entrepreneurs fail to raise
venture capital because they
make a really BIG mistake when
approaching investors. And on
the other hand, the entrepreneurs
who get funding all have one thing
in common. What makes the difference?
to watch the video.
The Internet has created great
opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Most recently, a new online funding
phenomenon allows you to quickly
raise money to start your business.
to watch the video.
"Barking orders" and other forms of
intimidating followers to get things
done just doesn't work any more.
So how do you lead your company
to success in the 21st century?
to watch the video.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, July 9, 2010
Last weekend, friends of ours invited me and my family to their country club.
It was a beautiful club, and unlike other clubs in the area, had a big lake where everyone swam.
But immediately after gazing at the beauty of the lake, something else caught my eye.
An old high diving board. I mean a really high one.
I knew my kids saw it too, so I turned to see their reactions.
My 8-year old daughter had a very calm reaction; for there was no way in her mind that she was going to jump off the board.
My 10-year old son, on the other hand, looked excited and nervous at the same time. Since he was already contemplating his dilemma.....jumping off it would be fun...but really scary.
As entrepreneurs, jumping off the high diving board is something we must do quite often. Sure, we are not physically climbing up a ladder and jumping into a pool of water. But we must often do things that are out of our comfort zone if we want to succeed.
What are some of these entrepreneurial “high dive” moments?
1. Starting your business plan. The first step in starting a business is always the hardest. It’s committing to yourself that you’re really going to go out on your own. Most folks dream about having their own company. But the first real step is putting your business idea down on paper as a business plan. (Note: for help with your business plan, watch this video.)
2. Getting advisors. When I interviewed Dr. Basil Peters, he told me that getting mentors and advisors is an entrepreneur's most controllable success factor. Yet, many entrepreneurs are afraid to find and ask advisors for help. Maybe it’s the fear of uncovering what we don’t know, or the fear of people we respect disagreeing with some of our ideas or assumptions. But if you want to succeed, you need these expert opinions and guidance.
3. Talking to customers. Many entrepreneurs don’t speak to their customers early enough. They come up with ideas that they think will work. But they don’t ask prospective customers if they will buy the products. Likewise, even when entrepreneurs successfully sell to customers, they are often fearful of asking for referrals.
4. Meeting with investors. A final entrepreneurial “high dive” moment that I wanted to mention is meeting with investors. This legitimately can be very frightening…it’s scary when you’re telling others about your entrepreneurial baby who have the ability to make (by funding you) or break you (by not funding you). Worse yet is the potential of the investors to be totally under-whelmed by you and/or your idea to an extent that you have to go back to the drawing board. (Note: to make sure you make every investor meeting a success, watch this video.)
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” So jump off that high dive board, and achieve the success you deserve.
And as for my son….his first trip up the high dive ladder was slow and methodical. Then he stood at the edge of the board and thought for a while before his first jump.
After the jump, everything changed. When his head first emerged from the water, he had an enormous smile of joy, satisfaction and pride that he had faced his fears. And he must have gone off the diving board 20 more times after that!!!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, July 7, 2010
My 10 year old son and 8-year old daughter tend to get along pretty well.
But, there's still times where they're at each others' throats.
The other day was one of those days.
So, my wife and I used our usual plan - divide and conquer.
The divide and conquer plan is pretty simple. She takes one of the kids. And I take the other.
The fighting stops instantly as our kids are separated, and each of our kids gets one-on-one time with one of their parents.
Now, even though we prefer to do things as a whole family, the plan works great. And either later that day, or the next day, we'll regroup and do something as a complete family.
The divide and conquer plan can also be used in your business. For example, clearly there are times when your whole company should meet to form company-wide bonds.
But many other times, you, as the leader, should divide. For example, you should spend time just with your marketing team. That team will then feel special. They will not be jockeying for attention against other parts of the company.
And you can use this time to really focus on that one area. To improve it. To set metrics for the team to perform against.
The leaders of sports teams divide and conquer all the time. A typical professional football coach will do lots of drills with his complete team. And then, like a business, will separate into functional areas led by specific coaches; like the linebackers coach, the wide receivers coach, the quarterbacks coach, and so on.
And then the head coach will circulate among each of these functional areas to add value, support them, and make sure they are getting in position to help the entire organization perform the best it can.
Divide and conquer is also a great technique if your business faces multiple challenges. It is typically most effective to overcome one challenge at a time. While multi-tasking often makes us feel that we are being productive, it often backfires with key tasks not getting done as quickly as they should.
So make sure that you constantly divide or separate your business challenges and functional areas, and conquer or devote the required time to nurture and solve them.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, July 2, 2010
Last week, Vringo, a video ringtone company raised $9.2 million.
That’s a lot of money, particularly considering that Vringo only generated $20,000 in revenues last year.
What’s most interesting is how Vringo raised the money.
It didn’t raise the money from venture capitalists, angel investors, or any of the usual suspects. Which is particularly surprising since Vringo’s CEO and co-founder, Jon Medved, was formerly a venture capitalist himself.
And it’s surprising since Vringo had previously raised $17 million in venture capital.
So what did Vringo do instead?
Vringo decided to go public on the New York Stock Exchange.
Vringo sold 2.4 million shares at $4.60 per share for a total of $11 million. (The stock price has since decreased to $3.80 per share.)
In an interview with the New York Times, Medved sited a couple of key advantages of being a public company, including:
1. It gives credibility. This credibility is key to a small company, particularly if it is selling to big customers who might be skeptical of their ability to stay around long-term.
2. It helps with recruiting top management talent, particularly since the value of/likelihood of exercising employee stock options appears greater.
The huge negatives of going public however were the massive amount of time required to do the pre-IPO roadshow and the $1.8 MILLION in estimated offering fees.
That is a lot of money -- and unfortunately precludes most other entrepreneurs from taking this route. But, I would imagine that with the right law firm, these fees could have been dramatically reduced, to half that amount or less. But which would still require an entrepreneur to raise an angel round to fund the expense of going public.
According to Medved in his NY Times interview, when asked about whether he would recommend going public to other smaller companies, he replied: “I would certainly tell them to think about it, and not to rule it out. It’s a mistake to rule it out from first moment. Most people don’t even think it’s possible. We proved it’s not only possible, but it works.”
Next week, I will be unveiling an even more creative funding source than taking your company public. With this brand new source, you’re not going to raise $9.2 million (it works for smaller amounts of money). But, you won’t need to spend a penny on fees, you can raise the money really quickly, it’s practically foolproof, and you don’t ever have to pay the money back….pretty exciting stuff.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, June 28, 2010
Last week I was finishing up the development of a new money raising product about Crowdfunding (an extremely exciting new way to fund any company).
I wanted to have a logo designed for the product, so on a friend’s advice, I decided to try Hatchwise.com.
Hatchwise.com is very cool. You go to the site and set up a “contest” to get your logo designed. It asks you a few basic questions (name on your logo, what the product/service is, who your target audience is, etc.) and then your contest begins.
The contest works like this: graphic designers from around the world read your design brief (the questions you answered) and submit logos to try and win your contest.
What's so cool is that you get to see the designs before you select the final designer and pay for it. So you know exactly what you are getting first. And you typically end up seeing lots of interesting designs.
You can see a sample of the logos that were submitted in my contest below. Click here or on the image to go to the full page on Hatchwise.com.
Now what I also really like about Hatchwise is that in addition to graphic design projects (which can include logos, websites, brochures, etc.), you can use it for NAMING new products.
Specifically, if you have an idea for a company name or a product/service name, you can submit the general idea to Hatchwise, and members will submit to you potential names and logos. And, they’ll even make sure the domain names are available for you.
This is really cool.
But, the last part (making sure the domain names are available for you) is something I want you to be aware of as this is where I got burned.
You see, if you look at my design contest again, you’ll see that the name of my Crowdfunding product WAS Crowdfunding Secrets.
Well, when I soon launch that product, it’s not going to be called Crowdfunding Secrets. That’s because, I didn’t decide to reserve the domain CrowdfundingSecrets.com until a few days AFTER my contest.
And what did I find? Someone who had seen my contest reserved that domain so I either had to pay them a premium to buy it or not use it.
Fortunately, the buyer/domain squatter probably didn’t even know what Crowdfunding was or realize that Crowdfunding is a brand new field.
So, there’s tons of Crowdfunding domains to choose from (so I just changed the product name to Crowdfunding Formula and the domain to CrowdfundingFormula.com).
But I want to make sure you understand this lesson – if you post anything about your future products or company online, make sure you have already reserved any domain names you may want. Because someone else could steal your name from you.
Not cool…but it happened to me…
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, June 24, 2010
Look at this picture:
Those are pretty big smiles don't ya think?
Well, those are my kids. And the reason they are smiling so much is that today is their last day of school.
Do you remember how you used to feel on the last day of school. I do. I clearly remember how good it felt. Knowing that I was done with whatever grade I was in. And that I had the long, fun summer to look forward to.
So, why am I telling you this?
Because I want you to think about the last time you felt this way in your business.
When was the last time you were really excited after accomplishing a goal. Enough so that you really celebrated and relaxed for at least a day or two after accomplishing it.
As an entrepreneur, too many times it's go go go.
We must all slow down sometimes to enjoy life. We need to enjoy the journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
To do this, you need to constantly be setting goals for yourself. Annual goals, quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals and daily goals.
And for certain goals, after you achieve them, you should reward yourself.
Sometimes the reward might be as small as giving yourself a coffee break or a piece of candy.
At other times, a weekend away or a day off makes sense.
But you must achieve pre-set goals, and you must reward yourself. That makes the journey fun and enjoyable. And it ensures that you continue to make progress towards completing your journey and entering the land of the outrageously successful entrepreneur.
A fair portion of “Productivity Secrets for Entrepreneurs: How to Get More Done, Make More Money and Take More Time Off" discusses the importance of goal setting and rewards for you and your employees. It teaches you to set the right goals and achieve a whole lot more. Learn more here.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, June 21, 2010
We’ve all seen it on TV or in the movies.
Usually the plot includes a military or police agency.
And then some big event happens.
And what’s the first thing they do after the event?
They have a debriefing.
They get one or more of the witnesses in a room and ask them all sorts of questions about what happened.
Debriefings are a type of after action review (AAR). AARs, which were originally developed by the U.S. Army, are reviews that determine what happened, why it happened, and how performance could be improved the next time the same or similar event happens.
Does your business conduct debriefings?
If not, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity.
Why? Well there are a few reasons.
The first is that the easiest way to be more successful is to figure out what you’ve done that has been successful, and simply repeat it. So, when you debrief after a project, spend time determining what went right. And then make sure to repeat that in the future.
And with regards to what went wrong, this is an opportunity to improve performance in the future.
Importantly, conducting after action reviews discipline your organization to continually learn and improve.
They’re not just about what went wrong. Nor should they only focus on what went right. It’s about both. And once you determine both, you can repeat your successes, fix your mistakes, and make future projects much more successful.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, June 18, 2010
If raising money was easy, would it be a bad thing?
Well, according to Bob Johansen, in his book "Get There Early," the tension between people with ideas and people with money provides the energy for innovation.
He further states that if this dilemma were solved, that creative energy would dwindle.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with this, because the reason why entrepreneurs go into business is NOT to raise money.
Rather, that majority of entrepreneurs go into business for other reasons. For example, according to a recent survey by Grasshopper, 44% of entrepreneurs started their business since they “saw an opportunity to make something great.” Eighteen percent started their business “to fulfill my life dream.” And 7% started “to help others/give back.”
But, raising money is a necessary evil for most entrepreneurs.
And, I do agree that if it were too easy to raise money that it would be a bad thing. Why? Because there would be too much competition.
I often give my barber example to explain this. I grew up in a small town called Rockville Centre in Long Island, NY. The town had about 30,000 residents and two barber shops.
Well, what if raising money was too easy and 8 new aspiring barber shop owners each opened up stores. That would make 10 barber shops in one small town. Clearly the market couldn’t support that. And most likely virtually all the barber shops would go out of business (and the last one standing may not have been the best one, but the one with the most money in its coffers).
So, if raising money was too easy, there would be too much competition.
But, should raising money be as hard as it is? Clearly not.
And it isn’t if you invest in learning how to raise money. I see raising money as similar to someone passing the bar exam. Passing the bar exam is not about knowing what’s wrong and right (which is what the law should be about). It’s about doing your homework and understanding how things work. It’s the same thing with raising money.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, June 10, 2010
Have you ever seen a TV ad and found yourself really confused?
Like you just don’t get what they were trying to do. And what they did do certainly didn’t appeal to you?
For me, I saw tons of these ads in the late 1990s when I was living in California.
That’s when the West Coast fast food chain, Carl’s Jr. unveiled its “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face” ad campaign.
The ads featured teenagers eating Carl’s Jr. burgers with ketchup and juice dripping from the burger onto their clothes. It was pretty gross and did NOT want to make me go there.
But these ads were tremendously effective.
Why were they effective? Because they really appealed to their target customers – teenagers!
And because I wasn’t a teenager, the ads didn’t appeal to me at all.
The critical point is this – Not everyone has to get your story or message. The only one who must get it is your target customer.
And it’s often times OK to have multiple target customers, but in your marketing efforts you must speak to each individually. Or your efforts will achieve mediocre results at best.
For example, imagine your target customer was single men aged 40 to 50 living in Omaha, Nebraska living in 2 bedroom apartments who like to watch American Idol. I bet you could craft a message to this highly defined market that makes them salivate to learn more about or buy your product or service.
Creating tight messages that appeal to your target customer is not only critical in generating sales. It is also critical in raising money for your business.
Unbeknownst to most (and particularly those that fail to raise money), your business plan and investor presentation materials are marketing documents. They market your company to investors and lenders and try to convince them to back your company.
In your business plan, you absolutely must speak to your target customer – the investor or lender you hope to back you. You need to understand THEIR needs (e.g., to get a solid return, get their interest and principle back, stroke their ego, etc.) and position your company as the one to meet their needs if you want to be successful!
So, whether you are creating an advertisement or business funding request, make sure to think about who are target customer is; and tell them a story that appeals to them (even if it doesn’t appeal to or even turns off others).
(If you haven’t yet completed your business plan, and need a plan that makes investors salivate, my 2 recommended options are: 1) check out Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template for creating the plan yourself using our proven template, or 2) Growthink’s business plan consulting service whereby we will create your full, investor-ready business plan for you.)
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, June 8, 2010
As an athlete for all of my youth, I was always a huge fan of John Wooden.
Wooden, as you may recall, was the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period. No other college basketball coach has come close to achieving this feat.
Wooden also wrote a powerful book called "The Pyramid of Success." The book showed his 15 building blocks for winning at basketball and in life. Not only have Wooden's teachings been adopted by coaches and athletes, but many, including me, found his lessons to be completely applicable in the business world.
Click the image below to download Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success:
A few months ago, I watched a documentary on John Wooden. One of the most interesting things I learned was that he started every basketball season with the same lesson. Specifically, he taught his players how to tie their shoes properly.
Some of his former players joked about this. Imagine, having some of the best 18-22 year old college basketball players learning how to tie their shoes properly. To most, that would seem unnecessary. But Wooden always believed that you need to get the basics right before you can do anything else (e.g., if a player developed blisters on their feet, they couldn't play their best even if they were perfectly coached in every other aspect of the game).
Last June, Coach Wooden died at the age of 99. He leaves behind a legacy and amazing principles of success for us all to follow.
I hope that I will do my part in helping Coach Wooden's legacy live on -- I included Wooden in my Leadership Blueprint program teaching entrepreneurs to become better leaders. So they, like Wooden, can lead organizations that win consistently, year after year after year. Check out my Leadership Blueprint video here.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 7, 2010
When I started Growthink over a decade ago, I thought I knew more about management then I did.
One of the things I clearly did wrong was running meetings. Looking back, it pains me to think of the literally hundreds of hours lost on inefficient meetings.
Fortunately, over the years, my team and I have read and tried pretty much every technique for making meetings more efficient, and boiled it down to just 8 essential rules.
Following them will make you and your team MUCH more productive. Here's my list of the 8 rules:
1. Start on time. If 3 people wait an average of 2 minutes per meeting for the fourth to arrive, that adds up to hours of lost productivity over the year. It's also extremely frustrating, and starting a meeting in a state of frustration kills creativity.
2. Have a written agenda. Ideally circulate your agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting so that you and all the participants are as prepared as possible.
3. Everyone must participate. In meetings you want to encourage all viewpoints so you can make the best decisions. So get everyone involved.
4. Stick to a schedule. The entire meeting and each agenda item must have a time limit. If an individual agenda item goes long, revisit it at the end of the meeting (if there's time), or schedule another meeting to discuss it. The discussion for each agenda item should end only when specific action item(s) have been determined, written down, and assigned.
5. Stay on topic. While it's ok to go off on an occasional tangent, you must guide the discussion back on topic. The agenda and time limits will help with this.
6. Don't hold unnecessary meetings. If you have trouble creating the agenda (in that there's nothing too important to discuss), it might mean that you shouldn't hold the meeting in the first place.
7. End meetings with complete clarity regarding the key action items and who will complete them. This is key. Coming up with great ideas during a meeting is meaningless, unless those ideas are documented and assigned to individuals to execute on.
8. Improve. Every five or ten meetings, get feedback from your group regarding ways to improve how your meetings are run.
These 8 rules will make your meetings more productive, and you and your team will accomplish much more and be much more successful!
For tons of other productivity tips and tactics, check out my Productivity Secrets for Entrepreneurs here.