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Written by Emily Burg on Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The U.S. Hispanic market, combined with the number of successful small businesses in Los Angeles, means that regardless of the fluctuations of the stock exchanges, opportunities continue to germinate on our doorstep.
Can you name one business that succeeded by ignoring one-quarter of its potential customers? Neither can we.
For Los Angeles businesses, Hispanic consumers present a rich opportunity for growth—and a vital shelter from the possibility of recession we’re seeing in the statistics and signals coming from Washington and Wall Street. Business cycles are a natural component of free markets. But so is opportunity. And the opportunities available to Los Angeles companies embracing the potential of the domestic U.S. Hispanic market will only grow stronger, more diverse and profitable.
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, February 19, 2008
From our experience consulting to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses over the past ten years, we've gained much exposure to the realities of starting and growing businesses. We thought it would be interesting -- and hopefully instructive -- to lay out some of the myths and assumptions of aspiring entrepreneurs.
7. It Is All Dependent on Hard Work. Hard work is an absolutely necessary, but not sufficient, condition for starting and growing a business. It is the given, but without a solid business plan and compelling value proposition for customers and partners, all of the hard work in the world will be for naught. The world is filled with over-worked, over-stressed, and not terrible successful small business people who struggle not because of lack of appropriate effort, but rather for lack of appropriate planning.
6. If Your Product or Service is Compelling Enough, Customers Will Beat a Path to your Door. Unless you are building a business based upon intellectual property and/or technology that provides and creates such a competitive advantage and compelling customer value proposition, the early success of your business will be based as much on your ability to market and sell your product and service as it will on the product or service offering itself. Remember: in a capitalistic marketplace there is NO distinction between value and perceived value.
5. If Your Product or Service is Compelling Enough, Investors Will Beat a Path to your Door. Those that identify themselves as prospective investors in earlier-stage, small companies are mostly INUNDATED with investment opportunities. As such, no matter how good and unique your business opportunity, there is always a strong, initial prejudice AGAINST investment that needs to be overcome.
4. It Is All About You. The myth of the charismatic, "do and be everything" entrepreneur is just that -- a myth. Any and all companies of value are great teams much more than they are the by-product of a highly talented individual. The best entrepreneurs and business leaders inspire the mission, values and philosophy of a company by their own example. This inspiration is then communicated to all of the business' stakeholders -- employees, customers, investors, partners, vendors, and its wider community.
3. The Government Is Your Friend. We are constantly astounded by the regulatory and paperwork maze that a startup company needs to negotiate and constantly monitor to both start and maintain a business. It is a significant time, money, and energy drain that detracts from the main value creation intent of a new business. Our best advice in this regard -- as resources are available -- is to find competent legal and accounting counsel, to both advise upon and outsource the regulatory burden, so you can focus on business-building.
2. The Government Is Your Enemy. Having said the above, in the mixed economy in which we live, government revenue opportunities, on a local, state, federal, and international level, have never been greater for small business. While slow, meandering, and confusing to approach, governments have much to recommend them as clients and customers, not the least of which is that once sold, government clients pay well and are not bad debt risks. A somewhat trite but very important credo to remember when selling to governments, even more so than in business, is that "it is not as much what you know but who you know."
1. It Is Only Worth Doing If You Become the Next Google. The vast majority of small businesses will always remain just that -- small businesses. The odds of starting a business and have it become the next Google or a publicly-traded company are very, very small. While we would never discourage entrepreneurs for aiming for the stars, it is also important to have success metrics grounded in probability. An expectation of a minimum of 2years of very, very hard work with little financial return but with a lot of learning (and some fun hopefully as well) involved is a good starting point. From this first milestone, then and only then should there start to be an expectation of significant wealth-building. Find that balance between the long term vision and the Monday morning action plan -- and success, while not guaranteed, is very likely.
Since 1999, Growthink's business plan experts have assisted
more than 1,500 clients in launching and growing their businesses, and raising
more than $1 billion in growth financing.
Need help with your business plan?
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, January 1, 2008
The tradition of making a New Year's Resolution dates back to ancient Babylonian culture, when the most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. Today, many are still using New Year's Resolutions as their way of setting business goals.
If you're an entrepreneur -- or even if you aren't -- here are eight New Year's Resolutions that could lead to success in 2008.
#1) Don't be afraid of new things.
In 2008, you will see a lot of new websites, new software, new companies, and old companies offering new products and services. Get rid of the mentality that some of these new offerings don't affect you. Rather, try as many new products and services as you can. Make predictions on which you think will work. Watch to see which ones DO work and refine your strategic thinking accordingly.
#2) Find someone you hate, or someone you love, and follow them.
Many people are motivated more by hate than by love. Find someone who is really successful that you don't like and use them as a benchmark. If that scoundrel can be successful, so can you. Follow that person, and when they succeed, force yourself to succeed as well. Or, if you prefer, follow the career of someone you admire, and each time they succeed at something, emulate them by working harder in order to succeed yourself.
#3) Develop a NEW To-Do list.
Look at your To-Do list, and you'll find that it probably has things on it from a year ago. Delete those things. Create a new list of only the things that MUST be done in order to be successful in 2008. Create a plan to achieve those things.
#4) Talk with your current and prospective customers.
Entrepreneurs often develop the mindset that their ideas are great and will work. They often don't like getting feedback from customers and prospective customers, because it might be negative and burst their bubble. Go out and talk with customers. Even if they HATE your idea, they may spark you to come up with another idea that they LOVE.
Organization sucks. But once you do it, you'll save time each and every day. Organize your email inbox and your filing cabinet so that you have easily accessible folders and can find everything quickly and easily. This will save you many, many hours in the coming year; hours that could be used to create new products/services and better fulfill on existing ones.
#6) Make sense of something that doesn't currently make sense.
For some people, words from a Shakespearean play seem like gibberish. For others, a world renowned painting looks like paint that a child could have splattered on a canvas. Find one thing that you have avoided for years, or something that you have discarded as unimportant, or that just doesn't make sense to you. Analyze it. And make it make sense to you. Even if you end up interpreting it in a different way than others, that's OK. What's important is that the process will train your brain to look at problems and situations differently, and give you an improved ability to overcome obstacles.
#7) Keep a blog, diary or other method of tracking your progress.
We've all heard the saying that you can't improve what you can't measure. Measure your progress in 2008. Our lives today are so incredibly busy, and every day, each of us is working on numerous projects. Track your progress on each important project. This will allow you to see what you've accomplished, come up with ways to ensure that your goals are completed on time, and help you to forego the non-critical tasks that eat up your time.
#8) Do it and do it on time.
How many ideas did you have in 2007 that you never found time to execute on? How many phone calls or emails did you want to make (or send), but you didn't find the time? I just did the math; there are 525,600 minutes in a year. That should be enough to accomplish the key things!
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Amidst the daily deluge of negative news regarding current business and economic conditions, it is important to look at the big picture: namely the very bright, long-term outlook for business and entrepreneurship in our global, Internet age. A recent interview with Ted Leonsis – the current Chairman of Revolution Money - a new Web 2.0 payment platform and credit-card service and Vice Chairman Emeritus of AOL (and one of the key executives that fueled AOL's Internet rise in the 1990's), drives this point home.
"It's the greatest time to be an entrepreneur," was Ted's core theme at a recent Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference. Leonsis also made a number of prescient points regarding our current "three-screen world" – a world in which entertainment and commerce play out on computer screens, TVs, and mobile phones:
Just as significant, Leonsis says, is the "happiness business," which involves "getting out of the I, I and I, and really seeing where you want to fit into the bigger world."
At Growthink, we echo Ted Leonis' sentiments that business and entrepreneurship are and can be the best drivers of positive transformation in the world, and that Internet technologies and the global economy are and will accelerate this transformation to dizzying speed.
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Entrepreneurs and small companies often overlook two ripe sources for capital: federal grants and loan financing.
But instead of trading equity positions in their companies for thenecessary capital, entrepreneurs and small companies who pursue fundingfrom the Small Business Administration (SBA) and from Small BusinessInvestment Companies (SBICs) donít have to deal with an equitycomponent to their transactions. However, similar to individual ìangelîinvestor and VC financing, companies seeking SBA and SBIC financingneed a strong management team and value proposition, and a credible andexciting business plan to consummate a financing transaction.
That's because an SBA loan, regardless of whether it is a directloan from the SBA, or, more commonly, a bank loan guaranteed by theSBA, is essentially a bank loan. The benefits of it versus atraditional bank loan are that it offers a lower borrowing rate and asomewhat greater ease of attainment for startups and smaller businesses.
In most cases, the SBA will guarantee that 90 percent of the loanwill be repaid to the bank. As such, banks are taking on less risk andcorrespondingly are more flexible with approvals. The SBA does usuallyrequire that the founders of the company personally guarantee the loans.
Alternatively, Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) areprivately organized corporations that are licensed and regulated by theSBA. Small or emerging businesses which qualify for assistance from theSBIC program can receive equity capital and/or long-term loans fromthese companies. Essentially, these companies provide their owncapital, which is then supplemented by federal funds, to the companiesthey fund.
In a testament to the great "multiplier" value of small businessinvestment, U.S. taxpayers benefit from the SBIC program as taxrevenues generated from successful SBIC investments have more thancovered the cost of the program. Equally impressive, over the last 20years, small businesses have created roughly three out of four net newprivate non-farm U.S. jobs, with a significant percentage of thesebusinesses initially seeded/funded by these government loan programs.
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The tremendous clutter of 21st Century communication creates unique challenges in being heard above the noise when attempting to gather market research data. This is especially true when attempting to gather data via telephone surveying and/or email surveying on a stand-alone basis. For traditional telephone surveying, advanced voicemail and caller ID technologies have significantly reduced the percentage of connected market survey calls.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 5, 2007
In our experience of assisting with their business plans more than 1000 startups, small businesses, middle market and Fortune 500 companies, we have noted the following common business plan pitfalls:
Pitfall #9: Not Including Successful Companies in the Competitive Discussion.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 29, 2007
Does anyone do "early-stage investing" anymore? When we present deals to "early-stage" investors, we find their criteria to be more in line with the milestones of more established companies, and it sometimes seems like early stage is a non-entity.
I was encouraged by the news of Battelle Ventures and Allied Minds Inc., posted in The Deal here. The author mentions how both firms operate under unique structures which allow them to do true early stage investing in "pre-seed" technologies sourced straight out of research institutions and universities. Battelle only has one LP, the Battelle Memorial Institute, while Allied Minds raises money from shareholders in exchange for future equity with no specified time horizon. Perhaps these "special" circumstances allow them to take on more "risky" investments without having to answer to large numbers of LP's.
It makes me wonder if the traditional VC model actually works. What if traditional VC's could take the handcuffs off and get dirty with raw technologies and mad-scientists out of some futuristic research lab? What sort of companies would we start to see hit the marketplace and how frequent? What about timing issues and market relevancy?
"The greater the level of involvement and business expertise focused on early stage innovation, the more and higher quality of innovation we will see coming out in the marketplace" - Lesa Mitchell- VP for advancing innovation, Kauffman Foundation.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 29, 2007
In 1995, Paul Graham co-developed the web-based application, Viaweb, which was subsequently acquired by Yahoo in 1998. Later, in 2002, he conceived a spam filter that inspired most current filters. Paul is currently a partner at Y Combinator, a venture firm that specializes in funding early stage startups.
In a recent article that Graham wrote entitled "The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn," Graham offers many insights and lessons that virtually all entrepreneurs can use.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, October 22, 2007
The best entrepreneurs and executives at fast-growing companies have the ability to move efficiently and profitably from ideation to execution, and then from execution back to ideation and then back to re-focused execution. And they do so regarding all aspects of their businesses -- marketing and sales, operations and finance.