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.
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.
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:
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:
This past Tuesday, Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs announced that they were donating $500 million to assist 10,000 small businesses in the U.S.
To begin, this is pretty cool. Any money invested in small businesses is sure to lead to more jobs and an improved economy. And even better when this money is not coming from taxpayer dollars.
However, what I found most interesting was where Buffet decided to invest the $500 million. I say "Buffett" and not Goldman Sachs, since Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest shareholder in Goldman Sachs, giving me the impression that he was calling the shots on this one.
According to Bloomberg.com, the moneys will be allocated as follows: "$200 million to local community colleges, universities and other institutions to provide small-business owners with practical business education.... $300 million through a combination of lending and philanthropic support to community development financial institutions."
$200 million to "practical business education" - that's what rang out the loudest to me. As one of the greatest investors ever, Buffett knows first hand that entrepreneurs that succeed are the ones who have the right business education and training.
Successful entrepreneurs realize that they themselves are one of their organization's greatest assets. As such, they constantly invest in themselves by taking courses, reading books, and upgrading all of their key skills.
Regarding the other $300 million, it is being provided to community development financial institutions (CDFIs). CDFIs generally provide financing and related services to individuals and small businesses in struggling or underserved communities. If you have or would like to start a business in one of these communities, go to CFDI Coalition website to find a list of certified CFDIs.
Finally, speaking of practical business training, I'm unveiling a brand-new version of Growthink University this week.
I got home for work the other day and sat down with my family for dinner.
"How was your day?" I asked my kids. My kids proceeded to tell me about how their days went. Everything seemed like it was going well.
So, I asked my son, "Did you get to practice lacrosse today?" As a bit of background, my son plays on a highly competitive lacrosse team, and if he doesn't practice enough, he risks losing his position.
"No dad. I didn't have time," he replied.
Now this, unfortunately, is NOT an acceptable answer. In fact, according to Napoleon Hill, author of the famed book, "Think And Grow Rich," what my son gave me was an alibi (or excuse) for not succeeding.
In his final chapter, Hill listed 57 alibis for not succeeding. The list started with the following:
IF I didn't have a wife and family . . .
IF I had enough "pull" . . .
IF I had money . . .
IF I had a good education . . .
IF I could get a job . . .
IF I had good health . . .
IF I only had time . . .
IF times were better . . .
IF other people understood me . . .
IF conditions around me were only different . . .
IF I could live my life over again . . .
IF I did not fear what "THEY" would say . . .
IF I had been given a chance . . .
IF I now had a chance . . .
IF other people didn't "have it in for me" . . .
IF nothing happens to stop me . . .
IF I were only younger . . .
IF I could only do what I want . . .
IF I had been born rich . . .
Since I had just finished listening to the book (I constantly listen to books on tape while driving), the alibi "IF I only had time" was fresh in my head.
So, the correct thing to say to my son would have been, "You didn't have time. That's not an excuse. If you really want to succeed at lacrosse, you would have made time."
But, I didn't say that for one simple reason. And that reason is that my son is just nine years old. He doesn't need that type of aggressive coaching, yet.
But you, each of you reading this today, to you, I will stand by giving you a hard time for making any of these alibis. And as importantly, I hold myself accountable for every time I say I don't have time or "if" this or "if" that.
These "ifs" are unacceptable. If each of us are going to achieve our true potential as entrepreneurs, we need to remove these alibis. We need to envision success, and create business and action plans to achieve it. And we must not stop there. Because our original business and action plans most like will NOT succeed.
Rather, we need to keep assessing our progress and modifying our plans until we achieve success. And never ever, along the way, can we get caught up in alibis. Since these alibis will kill our positive energy. They will take us down the wrong paths. And they will prevent us from achieving our goals.
For my son, I'll give him five more years until I get tougher on him and teach him to stop making alibis. For you and me, let's put our alibis behind us. And focus our energies on achieving massive success. And then, making sure the people we know and love also do the same.
One of the absolute keys to a successful business plan is to create the right business plan milestones. Doing so is essential to securing investors and making real progress towards achieving your goals.
The story below illustrates the importance of business plan milestones, after which is some guidance regarding how you can create the right business plan milestones for your company.
There are lots of things that all of us do, and do as well as we have to, without thinking.
Like pumping gas.
I just pumped gas this morning. And thought nothing of it. Until now.
The fact is that I didn't just pump gas. Sure, the entire process of what I did was called pumping gas. But I did a lot of things that made up that process.
1. I pulled into the gas station. 2. I pulled next to a pump. 3. I put the car in park. 4. I turned off my engine. 5. I got out of the car. 6. I popped open the gas flap. 7. I swiped my credit card into the machine. 8. I typed in my zip code. 9. I pressed the button for the type of gas I wanted. 10. I unscrewed the gas cap. 11. I took the gas nozzle out of the machine and stuck it into my gas tank. 12. I squeezed the lever. 13. I waited while the tank filled up. 14. I put the gas nozzle back into the machine. 15. I pressed "no" I don't want a receipt. 16. I screwed my gas cap back on. 17. I shut the gas flap. 18. I got back in my car. 19. I turned on the engine. 20. I put the car in drive. 21. I drove off.
Wow. I did 21 things just to pump gas?
So who cares? Well, investors care. And partners care. And the success of your business cares.
Let me explain.
Your business is currently at point A. Where you want to go is to point B. Now getting from point A to point B requires you to complete milestones.
And the most important milestones are what I call "risk mitigating milestones." These are the milestones the help eliminate the risk of your company failing.
Let me give you some examples. For Google in its early days, risk milestones included completing their initial result ranking algorithms, getting customer to start using its search engine, and generating revenues.
Obviously once Google was generating a lot of revenues, it was not a very risky investment. But before customers starting using Google.com, it was very risky. And before its initial algorithms were developed, it was even riskier.
Every business has risk mitigating milestones. Investors obviously prefer to back businesses where more risk milestones have been removed. I know I do.
Would you prefer to back a restauranteur who just has a vision for a new restaurant; or would you rather back that same restauranteur after the ideal location has been determined, the restaurant has been built, the staff has been hired and trained, the local newspapers have given it a great review, and the restaurant now has 250 loyal patrons and is booming every night?
It is your job as an entrepreneur to identify your risk mitigating milestones. And not only do you have to identify them, but you need to prioritize them. So that every day you are spending quality time working to accomplish them (and not spending time doing things like replying to emails that seem to be adding value; but which don't actually put you closer to accomplishing your risk milestones).
But, actually, you can't work on completing your risk mitigating milestones each day until you break up each of these milestones into much smaller projects. For example, Google creating its initial algorithm and a restauranteur finding an ideal location are great milestones, but way too large to accomplish on a daily basis.
Each milestone needs to be broken down into numerous chunks; chunks that can be completed every day, and progress made. It's like writing a book. If you write one page every day, by the end of the year, you'll have a 365 page book.
And it's like pumping gas. You need to do a ton of smaller things in order to accomplish the big thing. And like with pumping gas, when you spend the time breaking the task into pieces, you often see how easy each piece is to accomplish.
Developing risk mitigating milestones is an absolutely essential component of your business plan, and belongs in your Operations Plan section. Investors need to understand these milestones and your projected timeline for accomplishing them. You need to understand them to prioritize your time and hire the right people at the right time.
If you still need to complete your business plan, let me send you my CD with seven more essential business plan secrets. I explain why I'm doing this and how you can get it now, on this page right here: http://www.growthink.com/seven-secrets
This past Sunday, CIT Group Inc., the 101-year-old commercial lender, filed for bankruptcy.
This filing is NOT good for American businesses, as CIT Group funds, via providing loans and working capital, about 1 million businesses.
CIT's bankruptcy will not only prove difficult for the small and medium-sized businesses that rely on CIT's working capital loans. But, it hurts the thousands of startups who planned to approach CIT for startup business financing; with the bankruptcy, it is highly unlikely that CIT will be able to make the same number of new loans as before.
It is for reasons such as this, that I frequently preach that businesses leverage multiple forms of capital. In fact, you've probably heard me talk of companies like Google, who leveraged credit cards, angel capital, venture capital and bank loans in its early days.
One form of startup business financing is never enough. It's the classic "putting all of your eggs in one basket." In addition to the risk involved in this strategy, it is also typically less expensive to diversify your financing. For example, bank loans used for the purchasing of equipment is almost definitely less expensive than using equity financing for the same expenditure.
Personally, my favorite forms of capital are creative/alternative financing (since it is easy to raise if you know what to look for), angel financing (also easy to raise if you know how to do it) and bank financing (easy to raise if your business is a good fit for it).
I'm also a big fan of venture capital and grant financing, but these forms of capital take a little longer to raise and are more challenging (but the rewards are significant if you are successful).
Entrepreneurs must have many skills. They must be able to spot opportunities. They must be able to create plans to seize those opportunities. And they must execute on those plans.
And, for most opportunities, and clearly for those opportunities that are really big, execution involves hiring and managing employees. Because no single entrepreneur can do everything themselves.
But you just can't have any employees. Companies that succeed have employees that are highly motivated.
So how do you ensure that your employees are motivated to succeed?
Clearly, giving them fair salaries helps. And clearly, stock options that allow employees to benefit when the company benefits are good practice.
But, there is an even better way. In fact, authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in their book, The Carrot Principle, found a better way.
Where did they come up with this better way? Well, they conducted a study involving 200,000 people over a ten-year period.
Importantly, their study showed that the key characteristic of the most successful entrepreneurial managers is that they provide their employees with frequent and effective recognition.
That's right, significantly better business results were realized when managers offered recognition in the form of constructive praise and meaningful rewards (typically non-monetary).
The authors found that recognition is most effective when it is:
Positive (don't mention any negatives when giving praise)
Immediate (comes soon after the job well done)
Close (presented to employee(s) with their peers in attendance)
Specific (precisely recognizes why the task/job they performed merited recognition)
Shared (allows employee's peers to also comment during the recognition presentation)
Carrots are needed to motivate employees. But what I found most interesting about the author's findings was that recognition is more effective than monetary rewards. This is a critical finding for all managers, and particularly entrepreneurial managers who typically operate in cash-restrained environments.
Knowing how to motivate your employees will allow you to build a team that is as passionate about success as you are. And this will ultimately lead to your company achieving its goals. So, while it may not seem like a mission-critical focus today, it's definitely worth your time and effort. So don't delay...
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?