Entrepreneurs Don't Plan To Fail, They Fail To Plan


 

Most businesses fail. I hate to be so blunt, but this is the truth. The only thing that varies is just how many businesses fail.

According to research from the University of Tennessee, 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. And within certain sectors, like information (which includes most technology companies), 63% fail within 3 years, or in Retail, 53% fail within 36 months.

On the other hand, according to research from Bradley University, 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year. Bradley University also found that half of those who survive the first year will fail within the next four years.

And the number one cause of this failure? According to Dun & Bradstreet, the primary cause is lack of business planning.

Yes, entrepreneurs and business owners don't plan to fail. Rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).

In my view, there are two types of business plans; (1) the one you develop when you start your business, and (2) the one you develop to grow your business.

When you start your company, the purpose of your business plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.

Among other things, this plan includes significant market research. It assesses your market size to ensure the opportunity is big enough. It analyzes customer segments to confirm that customer needs match your company's proposed product and/or service offerings. And it analyzes the competition to determine how your company will position itself and how you will most effectively compete.

From a strategic standpoint, the business plan must document your marketing plan (how you will secure customers), your human resources plan (who you will hire) and your operations plan (what key milestones you will accomplish and when).

When you're done, your business plan will confirm your market opportunity and give you a roadmap to follow. It will also be required should you wish to gain funding from investors and lenders.

Now, once your business is up-and-running, you still need a business plan in order to succeed. This is the second type of business plan, and I refer to this type of plan as a "strategic plan." I term it as such because this type of plan requires much less research (since you already know who your customers are, the market fundamentals, and lots of information about your competitors). Rather, the focus of this plan is strategy.

Specifically, this plan needs to identify precisely:

1. Where you want your company to be in five years


2. What you need to accomplish within the next year to progress you to that point, and


3. What your strategy is to complete your key milestones in the next 12 months

In determining the optimal strategies, you need to consider your company's strengths, and opportunities that can best leverage them. If you don't take time to do this, you become too tactical. That is, you continue to use the same tactics that have gotten you to the point you are at. And oftentimes, the strategy and tactics that got you where you are today are NOT the strategy and tactics that will get you to the next level.

So, spend time figuring out the best strategies to follow. The good news is that you've already proven you can execute on strategies (which is what got you to where you are now).

After you figure out the big picture opportunities to go after (which often fall into the categories of further penetrating your existing market, going after a new market, or creating new products/services for existing and/or new markets), you need to revisit the three core strategies you developed in your initial business plan.

To start, you need to modify your marketing plan. Importantly, your marketing plan should always be adding new marketing venues or channels (e.g., direct mail, print, radio, search engine optimization, etc.) as the more channels you have, the more customers you will get and the less risk you have of one channel losing effectiveness. For example, think about businesses who used to get all or the majority of their customers from the yellow pages; many of these companies have perished.

Next, consider your human resources strategy. What new people will you need to hire to accomplish your key goals in the coming years? In what areas will you need people, and what skill sets must they have?

And finally, you need to develop your operations strategy. Figure out what key tasks and milestones you need to accomplish over the next year and break them down into smaller projects that you and your team must accomplish. And then create a master schedule showing who, how and when these projects will be completed (I like using a Gantt chart to do this).

Creating a business plan when you start your company, and annually creating strategic plans to grow your company is absolutely essential to your success. Research proves it. So, if you want to avoid failure, and achieve maximum success, make sure you are continuously creating, updating and following your business and strategic plans.

 

Suggested Resource: You just learned the importance of choosing the right strategies to build your company. Including this information in your strategic plan is critical to growing an ultra-successful business. What else should you include in your current growth or strategic plan? Click here to find out.

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The Five Most Common Objections & How to Overcome Them


 

Whether you are trying to sell a prospective customer on buying your product, a prospective investor in funding you, or a prospective partner in doing business together, you will encounter and will have to overcome objections.

Importantly, you should plan for these objections beforehand. How? By expecting them, and trying to preempt them.

Here are the five universal objections for which you should be prepared.

Objection #1: I'm too busy


This makes it hard to even get your foot in the door in the first place. At the advertisement level, people will skim over your ad and never commit to focusing on and reading it. You've got to show prospects fast that what you're offering is worth their time.

The solution is to get their attention. Tease them with something, promise something, use memorable messages, and/or give prospects value up front.

Importantly, the better you understand who your customer is and can speak to their specific needs, the better you will do in getting their attention and getting them to spend time considering your offer.

Objection #2: Why do I need you?


Particularly if prospects are not actively seeking the product or service you offer, you must show them why they need it. Show them what life can be like with your solution - how it solves a key need or pain.

Sometimes you even need to put them in pain, if they don't know or think they are in pain. For example, while your prospects may be happy with their CPA firm, a message that stated "learn the 3 ways your CPA firm is probably costing you thousands of dollars each year" will make them think they do have a pain/problem and get their attention.

Objection #3: I don't have the money/the price is too high


This objection comes up earlier than you'd think. It's partly because people and companies are both more cost-conscious these days, and partly from people's aversion to spending more money on something at all. So "I don't have the money" is their excuse to bail before getting too invested in the decision-making process.

The solution here is to show prospects the value of what they are getting. Will your product or service enhance their lives, save them money in the future, position them to be more successful, etc.? Let them know the answer to this question!

Likewise, if the prospect is considering an alternative solution to your company which is less expensive, you need to show why the best decision is to go with you.

Objection #4: I'm not sure I believe you

People are skeptical, and don't believe everything you advertise or say. They want to know you're for real and they want to see proof that your product or service does what you say.

Show them you're legitimate by letting them know your credentials, seeing your work, knowing your clientele or how long you've been in business, and also that you're honest, have integrity, and really care.

One of the best ways to prove you can get results is showing testimonials from other customers. This is why "before and after" pictures are used in most weight loss commercials. This can be done with many products.

Other things you can do to overcome skepticism include offering money back guarantees and simple return policies.

Objection #5: Let me think about it/I need to speak with my partner/manager/etc.

Sometimes prospects legitimately need to think about a decision. Or they need to discuss it with someone else. With regards to the latter, ask questions from the beginning to determine if there's another decision-maker. And if so, bring that other decision-maker into the conversation earlier so you can "sell" both decision-makers at once (rather than having to do it twice).

With regards to the prospect requiring time to consider the decision, make sure to follow-up with them while their making that decision. That doesn't mean calling or emailing every hour. But rather periodically checking in on them. Importantly, find reasons to check in. For example, maybe you read about something in the news that you think they'd find interesting. If so, call or email them with the piece of news. When you do, there's no need to even bring up the sale you want to close. Rather, focus on helping them and staying in touch, and each time you do, you'll move closer to securing the sale.

Getting new customers is one of the hardest things a business must do. By considering the objections prospective customer have, and preparing for them (via adjusting your marketing materials and training your sales team), you will more successfully attract new customers. This can and will give you a competitive advantage, and allow you to grow a successful company.

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4 Step System for Rapidly Training New Hires


 

In my last essay, I discussed the three benefits of using outsourced workers (cost savings, reducing overhead, getting work done while you sleep). And then I gave you tips for finding and selecting the right outsourced provides.

In this essay, I'll lay out my system for rapidly training these new hires (it also works for new in-house and/or full-time hires).

Before you start the training


Before you begin their training, take a few minutes to break down the work to be completed into a list of steps, or even a process map (a simple, visual flow chart of how the process will go). As a manager, your job is to create these processes and coach your team to implement them and report the results back to you.

If something goes wrong, it's either because they did not follow the process correctly as you spelled it out -- or there is something less effective about your process to correct. Listing all the steps and putting them in the right order will also clarify your thoughts and give you a guide or agenda to follow when training them.

The simple system for rapid training

Step #1: Explain


This is where you take the time to describe the work to your virtual assistant or outsourced person. Show them the list of action items or an overview of the process. A written summary coupled with a verbal explanation is usually the most thorough way to do this.

Tell them what the task is called (for easy reference later on), what it accomplishes, why it is
important, who will need to do it and when, and how it is to be done, step by step. The
more details you can give, the better, because they will grow to understand you and
your company goals and will be able to handle more things for you later on without
having to ask a ton of questions.

Also, understanding your business model, your customers, and your purpose will help them make more informed decisions along the way -- subtle differences that can turn good work into greatness.

Step #2: Demonstrate


People learn better by seeing an example of how something is supposed to be done. This will teach them better than the longest explanation. Demonstrations can be done in different ways:

1. In person. Example: Demonstrating how to fold and stuff envelopes.

2. On the phone, via webinar. Via phone or webinar you can tell or show a virtual person how to do something.

3. Via video. if you show someone something via a webinar, record the webinar. That way, the next time you need to train someone, they can simply watch the video rather than requiring your time to train them.

4. Hypotheticals. In this case, you would give a few "if-then" scenarios to your hire and tell them what to do or say depending on what happens.

For example, you might write in an email to your hire, "Call Joe Contractor and ask him if the work is about 2/3rds of the way done. If it is, ask him for a range of days and times for me to meet him to do a walkthrough. If not, ask him when he expects it to be and call him back that day."

Step #3: Practice


After learning how to do a task, the hire must then attempt it on their own under your supervision. It's important that you monitor their work for a while until you are certain that it is being done correctly. Otherwise, neither of you will know if it needs improvement.

Find a way to watch them in action or to see the results of their actions. This might be hard for some of you, but let them fail. It is least distracting and demotivating for you to observe the entire process and save your comments for the end.

The whole point of training is for them to get used to the whole process on their own. NOW is the time for them to make mistakes. Hopefully you budgeted enough time for them to practice things a few times and get it right before crunch time.

The way to monitor them could be watching them in person, listening on the phone, or reviewing a finished product of some sort, like a design or written work.

Step #4: Feedback (Positive and Negative)

This is the part of training where you help them to improve at their job by pointing out things that could be done differently or better. I prefer to use the "Feedback Sandwich" approach, in which you tell them what they could do better in between two compliments so it's not harsh or overly negative.

For example, you could say:

    (Compliment) "Julie, this mail looks really good. You somehow found a way to fold the
    letters in just the right places so that they fit inside an envelope perfectly."

    (Critique) "You know, I read once that the better lined up the stamp is on the front of the envelope, the more people respond. Would you mind making sure they are all put on
    straight from now on?"

    (Compliment) "Thank you so much. That, plus the handwritten address, which looks so
    personalized I'd think it was coming from my mother, makes these mailers perfect."


Once you have given your feedback, the training cycle begins all over again. Your feedback
is their new explanation (Step #1). You may demonstrate it again if you feel you need to (Step #2), and have them practice it again (Step #3), until you decide that the results are good enough.

A Trained Assassin

When you have decided that your hire is capable of performing the task consistently on their own, they are now officially trained. Be sure to congratulate them on learning the task, and thank them for making your life easier.

And lastly, this rapid training system is not just something to use when they are first hired.

If at any time their performance falls behind, or you want to help them take one of their skill sets to the next level, or you think of something new for them to do, just follow these 4 simple steps again.

 

Suggested Resource: If you don't outsource, you can't compete. The math is simple...if your competitors are outsourcing and only pay $X to complete a task, and you pay $3X, $5X or $10X, your competitors will eat your lunch. You simply must outsource to stay competitive. Outsource the right way using Growthink's Outsourcing Formula. Learn more by clicking here.

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A great time to review your 2016 business plan


 

As we are now near the half-way point of 2016, it is a great time to review your 2016 business plan, decide on your key goals for the second part of the year, and start thinking about your 2017 business plan.

This article will explain precisely how to accomplish these key tasks. Importantly, what you’ll learn today is far different than what you would have learned just a few years ago. That’s because markets and customer needs shift far more quickly today than they ever have. And the goals you set often don’t stay relevant as long.

Let’s start with reviewing your 2016 business plan. Specifically, think about the goals you set for the year. Have you accomplished half of them at this point? Are you on track to completing them by the end of the year?

What often happens is life and business “get in the way” of us accomplishing our annual goals. That is, things come up that distract us (sometimes rightfully so) from focusing on and achieving our big objectives. Other times, you try tactics (e.g., a new online marketing strategy) to achieve certain goals and they simply don’t work as expected. The bottom line is that you mustn’t get discouraged if you’re not on pace to achieve your 2016 goals. Rather, it’s time to modify them. Specifically, it’s time to create new goals for the second half of 2016 and an action plan to achieve them.

In deciding what goals to accomplish in the second half of 2016 think about your long-term goals. For example, is your ultimate goal to sell your company, grow revenues to $100 million, etc.? Whatever your long-term goals, think about what your business would have to look like at the point you achieved it. For instance, how many customers will you have? How many employees? How many office locations? What type of systems will you have in place then?

Next, work backwards. That is, answer this question: What does your business have to look like at the end of 2016 for it to be on the right trajectory to achieve your long-term goals? This same question should guide you to start thinking about your 2017 goals. Specifically, what do you need to accomplish in 2017 to put you on the right trajectory to achieve your long-term goals?

Importantly, in planning out the remainder of 2016, think about how you can get a “running start” into 2017. For example, if it takes 4 months to hire and train a new salesperson, maybe you should start the process now, so come January you’re in a position to grow more rapidly.

Business plans are critical documents to small and large companies alike as they force executives to think through what they’d like to achieve and how they will achieve it. But, in today’s world, flexibility is also important as environments change. That’s why it’s so important to review your annual goals now, reset goals as needed for the remainder of this year, and start thinking about how to start 2017 on a great note. This will put your company on the path to achieving the long-term success you desire.

Check out this Growthink Business Plan Slideshare for additional information.

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In Business, Your Destination Is Your Reality


 

The last time you needed to drive to a place you had never been before, what did you do? 

Did you the load the specific address of your destination into your GPS, determine the best route, and then follow the directions?

Or, did you print out and follow your directions?

Or, did you do the opposite, that is, did you aimlessly follow random roads hoping that eventually you would arrive at your destination?

Sounds crazy, right that someone would consider this?  But, that is exactly what millions of business owners do every year and it is the reason that less than 20% of businesses succeed long-term. 

Building a successful business is not a collection of random acts of guess work and blind decisions.  To realize your dream of a successful business you have your make your destination a part of your current reality.

Know Your Destination

When Alice was in Wonderland she asked the Cheshire Cat which road she should take.  He asked her where she was going.  Alice replied that she didn't know.  Then came the much quoted Cheshire Cat reply of, "Then it doesn't matter which way you go".  

That may work very well in fiction or for a day of exploring a new hiking trail.  But it doesn't work that well in business.  Most business owners don't start a business thinking "Okay, I'm going to sink all my money, time, and effort into this venture, play it by ear, and if I lose all my money that is perfectly okay." 

Businesses are typically born out of a goal or a dream, such as "to be the best Italian Restaurant in the Tri-County area and be booked 3 months in advance" or "to grow my consulting business to $2M in revenue by my fifth year in business."

These aspirations and reasons for even starting are also the destination -- and they cannot be forgotten or buried in the frenzy of daily operations.  

Your destination must be known and visible every day.  It must be at the core of every decision you make. 

Large corporations don't have a vision and a mission just as a fad.  They have these plastered all over the walls because knowing your destination helps assure you will get there. 

The same way you would enter the precise address of your destination on your GPS, so it is in running your business.  Know your goals and keep them front and center to make sure you are in route to achieve them.

Importantly, take time to review your business plan or your 5 year strategic plan.  What were the main objectives of your business?  How do you describe your end-game?

Have Milestones

When planning a long road trip, you typically break it down into small pieces.   You study the map and learn the paces you will drive through.  For example, when going to New York to Las Vegas, you may map stops in Ohio, Missouri, and Colorado.  Because you prepared, and know what to expect along the way, and you know that if you see a sign that says "Welcome to North Carolina," you have veered off course.

Marking key places in your road map to business success is equally important. If you determine that for your business to thrive, you need to have 100 new clients by December, then reasonable milestones would be 25 by March, 50 by June, and 75 by the end of September. 

By planning milestones in advance, you know whether or not you are on track to meet your goals.  If by July you only have 30 new clients, you know you are off track, and need to reconfigure.  On the other hand, if you have 80 new clients by August, then you know you are ahead and can consider revising your goal upward.

So review your strategic plan, and then break down your goals into shorter term objectives.  Identify specific, objective measurements that you can take at precise intervals and map them out.  These milestones can take many forms such as sales, revenue, profit, clients, etc.  The important part is that you use quantifiable data that will tell you clearly if you are on track. 

Institute Scalable Systems


People, especially business owners, dream of success.  They have very vivid visions of the day they will "make it big," but so many are not really prepared for success.   Very often a business owner will successfully pitch their product only to have to turn down a lucrative deal because they don't have the production capabilities.

Take the "Wal-Mart Catch."  Inventors of new products salivate to have their product on the shelves of every Wal-Mart in the country.  However, when Wal-Mart puts in an order, it's not for 100 units.  It's for tens of thousands of units.  Inventor after inventor has lost their distribution contract because they did not have the systems in place to allow them to quickly scale up their business.  They did not have the manufacturing support to produce so many units. 

They knew the destination, but were unprepared to arrive. 

What is your end state? Do you have the systems in place to support having your dream come true tomorrow?  Be prepared.  Know exactly what it will take to run your business such as it will be at the end of your 5 year plan, and have all the partnerships, alliances, agreements, channels, support staff, and raw materials identified and ready to access when needed.  

If you want outrageous success, you have to be outrageously prepared for it.  

Your Destination is Your Reality

Your everyday business operations need to be focused on your destination.  When you are driving to the mall, you are driving to the mall.  Every turn you take, every road you choose has one purpose, to get you to the mall.  The same applies in your business.  Every product you manufacture, every service you provide, every relationship you cultivate must align to your target end-state. 

Avoid falling into auto-pilot.  Actively work toward your "end" every single day. Be conscious of how every sale gets you close to hitting your next milestone. 

Carefully measure your progress.  If you are off track, don't wallow.  Make adjustments and keep moving forward.  If you are ahead, pin-point the actions that are giving you an advantage, and do more of that! 
Keeping your destination alive and visible in your daily functions will keep it as your current reality and help you prepare for the success that comes with arriving!

And make sure you have a written strategic plan that maps out your end-vision and your periodic goals and milestones. If it's not written down, you can't achieve it. My strategic plan template allows you to quickly and easily get your plan down on paper.

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Never Say This to a Child or Entrepreneur


 

When my kids were younger, I recall one night when we were eating dinner. My kids were saying "I want this" and "I want that."

And then I said something that I immediately realized I should never tell my kids, or any entrepreneur for that matter.

What I said was this: "you know, money doesn't grow on trees."

Now, you may not think saying this is so bad. So, let me explain.

The reason why I said this was to show my kids the value of money. And that we have to work to make money to spend on the things we want.

But here's the negative: saying this paints the wrong picture. It paints the picture that we can't always get what we want. Which is the exact opposite of the attitude I want my kids, and all entrepreneurs, to have.

What my kids and all entrepreneurs MUST be thinking is YES, I CAN get whatever I want. Yes, it won't just come to me, but with hard work and ingenuity, I can and I will get what I want.

Fortunately, right after I said that to my kids, I caught myself.

One of the reasons I caught myself was from the interview I did a while back with Ken Lodi, the author of "The Bamboo Principle."

In the interview, Ken explained that timber bamboo shoots grow very little for four years while their extensive root system is growing and taking hold. But once the roots are firmly in place, the bamboo can grow a shocking 80 feet in just six weeks.

This story made me realize that money does in fact grow on trees. The key is to work on the tree's roots. To build such a strong foundation that generating money becomes easy.

Every great company has a strong foundation. They create a brand name, sales systems, delivery systems, etc. And then, they can generate cash and profits each and every day.

So, focus on building an extremely strong foundation. Think through your business model. Learn the best practices for each of the key business disciplines - marketing, HR, finance, sales, etc. And then, put your thinking into a strategic plan.

Your strategic plan is your roadmap to success. It is the tool that turns your ideas into reality. For example, the great marketing idea in your head isn't going to become reality unless it's documented in your plan and a team member(s) knows to execute on it. Likewise, your new products and services won't be built or fulfilled unless they are documented and your team knows what to do. Get your ideas in your strategic plan and then you build the tree from which money does grow.

So, never let anyone tell you that "money doesn't grow on trees" or that you can't have everything you want. Because money does grow on firmly-rooted trees and you CAN achieve and get everything you want out of life if you resolve to do so. They key is to build your plan -- your foundation -- and then grow systematically from there.

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How to Get More Sales Without Selling


 

"The point of marketing is to make selling superfluous."

This is a great quote from management guru Peter Drucker. What it means is that if you do a great job in marketing, sales will be easy. Likewise, there are other things you can do to improve your sales without having to resort to aggressive sales tactics.

This article details such strategies.

1. Create a Stronger USP

Your USP or unique selling proposition is what distinguishes your company from others.

Here are some famous USPs:

  • The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine. (Nyquil)

  • Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it's free. (Dominos Pizza)

  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (Federal Express)

  • 15 minutes or less can save you 15% (GEICO)

Each of these USPs does a great job in distinguishing these companies and getting customers to choose them over competitors.

2. Provide Clear Benefits

In addition to a strong USP, make sure you detail the benefits of your products and/or services to your customers.

For example, do your products:

  • Remove their pain
  • Save them time
  • Improve their success
  • Make them feel better
  • Etc.

You generally want to provide a list of features associated with your products/services, but lead with the benefits.


3. Use Many Different Marketing Channels

After you create the best USP you can, and identify your key benefits, you want to convey your message to as many of your prospective customers as possible.

But realize this: not all of your customers are in one place or read/view/listen to one media source. So, use multiple means of reaching them.

For example, you can reach customers through each of the following marketing channels among others:

  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Event Marketing
  • Networking
  • Partnerships
  • Press Releases/PR
  • Print Ads
  • Radio Ads
  • TV Ads
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

 

4. Understand and Improve Your KPIs

Key Performance Indicators or "KPIs" are the metrics that judge your business' performance.

And, as you might know, you can't improve what you can't measure.

So the key is to 1) identify the most important KPIs in your business, and 2) measure/track them over time so you can judge your progress in improving them.

While there are hundreds of potential KPIs to track, here's a small sample of KPIs that most companies must measure:

  • Net Profit
  • Sales
  • Sales by product/service line
  • Cost to acquire new customers
  • Lifetime customer value

Importantly, as you understand and improve your KPIs, your revenues and profits will grow. In fact, identifying and managing your KPIs is one of the pillars of an 8-figure business.
 


5. Make It Simple to Purchase from Your Company


When you make it easy to buy from your company, you'll get more sales.

For example, not accepting credit cards will dramatically hurt the sales of many businesses.

Similarly, making customers complete tedious paperwork (that may not really be necessary) may frighten off some customers.

Conversely, having your product for sale not only on your website, but on Amazon, eBay and others, could make it easier for some customers to purchase from you and prompt more sales.

So, think about ways to make it easier for current and prospective customers to buy from you.

Start using these five strategies today, and watch your sales and profits grow.

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Utilizing the Power of Publicity and Unpaid Media to Grow Your Business


 

Publicity is an extremely powerful form of marketing. Not only is it free, but it gives you and your business great credibility. Specifically, when potential customers hear about you in the media sources they read/watch/listen to, it gives you incredible legitimacy in their eyes.

And perhaps most importantly, it gets customers to find you and purchase your products and/or services.

There are many ways of getting publicity. And when you do get it, there are several varieties. For example, a journalist may give you a simple quote in their article. Or, they may quote you several times or attribute the entire theme of their article to you. Or, in the best case, they write an article solely about you, your company and/or your products or services.

The key point to note, even though it may be obvious, is that the more the article talks about you, the more likely the reader will seek you out after reading it.

One concern many entrepreneurs and business owners have when first considering publicity is what the journalist will write about you. However, you really shouldn't worry about this. The journalist will nearly always position your company in a positive light. But even if they don't, the saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is generally true.

Importantly, there's one way to accomplish both the goals mentioned above: getting publicity (particularly articles) that fully discusses you and your company AND gaining 100% control of what the article says about you.

This way is to write the article yourself.

Why articles?


Articles are a great way to spread the word about your company. And there's no advertising cost; just the cost of writing the article which is minimal.

What should you write about in your article?


The best articles are often short "how-to" articles teaching customers something they want or should know about.

Where should you send your article?


Send your articles to relevant newspapers, magazines, trade journals and bloggers.

Importantly, add a "bio box" at the end of your article. Your "bio box" includes your name and contact information (e.g., website address and possibly email address, phone number, etc.) so readers can easily contact you.

How to get started


The fastest way to get an article published is to submit it to an online article directory like www.goarticles.com and www.ezinearticles.com. On these websites, online searchers will find your article, and many will click on the links in your bio box that link back to your website.

Here are two important notes for using article directory websites like GoArticles and EzineArticles.

First, search through the sites to see the types of articles already written. Doing so will give you new ideas and show you topics that have already been covered too much.

Second, bigger media sources (e.g., magazines, newspapers) want original content. So, if you have a great idea for an article, pitch it to the more prominent media sources first. Since, once you publish it elsewhere, they won't be interested (although you could then pitch them on another article).

Getting your articles printed in media sources is a simple and great way to get your company in front of lots of potential customers.  And, you control the message, and build lots of credibility.

And here's a tip to make this technique even more efficient - don't start by writing the article. Instead, start by simply creating an interesting article title. Then pitch the title to the editors of relevant newspapers and magazines to see if they're interested. You can call them and/or email them to find out. They may say your article title is right on, or they might suggest something a bit different. By following this advice, you'll save time since you'll only write articles you know they'll publish.

One final tip: if you don't like to write or aren't a good writer, don't worry. As long as you're an expert on the subject matter, simple dictate the article. There are tons of apps which allow you to record voice memos directly on your mobile phone. Then, upload and send your audio file to a professional writer on a site like odesk.com or guru.com who can turn your dictation into a well written article for less than $20.

Click here for more tips on publishing articles and getting tons of free publicity for your business.

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The 5 Most Important Entrepreneurial Skills


 

It’s been 17 years now since I started working with entrepreneurs. Over this time, I’ve seen lots of successes, and unfortunately lots of failures.

So, I started thinking, “what is it about those entrepreneurs who have achieved the most success? What are their common attributes and skills?”

While the initial list was pretty large, when I boiled it down, there were 5 common attributes or skills that the successful entrepreneurs all had. I’ve listed them below.

1. Vision & Leadership: Entrepreneurs must have a vision of where the company will be in the future.  In addition, you must be able to communicate your vision so you can motivate employees, investors, and partners to help you achieve that vision.

You must be able to identify staffing needs, expertly fill them, and lead your team to success. Rarely (actually never) do entrepreneurs build successful companies all by themselves.

2. Focus & Execution: Entrepreneurs must focus to make sure that goals are achieved, customers are satisfied, and employees are motivated.

For most entrepreneurs, staying focused is harder than it sounds. Be careful not to be seduced by the next exciting opportunity without executing on the priorities at hand.  And don't let perfectionism prevent you from taking action, either; at the end of the day, a product on the market is better than a product shelved due to lack of focus, execution, or perfectionism.  Get to market and get feedback from your customers as soon as possible.

3. Persistence & Passion:  As an entrepreneur, you must be passionate about what you are trying to accomplish. In addition, you must be willing to commit whatever is needed of them, whether it's time, energy, money, or other resources. 

You must persist through trying times (which will be frequent), and fight as much as needed to achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your team. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who didn’t struggle through hard times on their path to success. So, don’t give up when hard times hit you.

4. Technical skills:  As the owner of your firm, you may not need to be the most skilled technician on your team.  But you need to have necessary foundational knowledge to be able to lead your technical team and make informed decisions.

For instance, in my dashboard business, I can’t technically build most dashboard charts myself. But I know the metrics that must be plotted. And I understand the basic framework with which charts are built. As a result, I know whether a certain chart is feasible and approximately how long it should take to create. This is the information I need to effectively lead the organization.

5. Flexibility: Successful entrepreneurs understand that the world and the environment in which they operate are constantly changing. While you must focus on the end game, you also must adapt your strategies and offerings to meet changing market conditions.

Remember that many successful companies resulted from flexibility, particularly when their first idea didn’t pan out. Such as PayPal, which radically changed its business concept when its core technology of allowing one PalmPilot to pay another wasn’t gaining enough traction.

So, be persistent to a point when something’s not working. But realize that change and flexibility might be required.

The good news is that each of the above traits and skills can be acquired. You can teach or force yourself to be more flexible. You can set goals and give them laser focus. And so on. Make each of these attributes a habit, and you will have no choice but to achieve the success you desire.

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Entrepreneurs Should Do It Anyway


 

The other day, my wife came home from a meditation class with a sheet of paper. On it was a verse written by Mother Teresa. Supposedly, these same words were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. They were as follows:
 

    Do It Anyway
    By Mother Teresa
     
    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.
     
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.
     
    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
     
    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
     
    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
    Build anyway.
     
    If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.
     
    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
     
    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
    Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
    It was never between you and them anyway.
     

While I believe these words to be true for all people, I find them especially relevant for entrepreneurs.
 
As entrepreneurs, we have elected to take on a challenging life, and a business life that is clearly harder than that of the average worker. We must constantly take risks, and success is never guaranteed.
 
As a result, to succeed as an entrepreneur takes a special mindset and commitment. Thinking and acting like an ordinary individual will get you ordinary results. And ordinary results just don’t cut it as an entrepreneur. Unless you act extraordinary, you can’t possibly achieve the success you desire.
 
This being said, below are my entrepreneurial comments and thoughts to Mother Teresa’s writings.
 
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
 
These people may be your customers, your employees, your investors and/or your family (who I will hereafter call your “constituents”). Forgive such actions when you come across them. And try to surround yourself with people who don’t do them.

 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
 
Be kind to your constituents. If not, they will not follow you.

 
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
 
Some of your current constituents will not want to see you succeed. Succeed anyway. And create a new group of constituents as needed (perhaps a peer group or Board of Advisors) of successful people you want to emulate and who DO want you to succeed.

 
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
 
Be honest in all your dealings with your constituents. Entrepreneurs who cheat never win; it always catches up with them. If someone does cheat you, learn from it and don’t let it happen again (yet still be frank and honest).

 
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
 
As an entrepreneur, your job is to build, build, build. Build a great company. But while building, think about ways that others will NOT be able to “destroy” you. For example, a business model in which you have customers on a subscription plan (think mobile phone service providers) is very hard to destroy. Always think about ways in which you can “lock up” customers, employees and other constituents. How can you make it so that they’ll never want to leave you?

 
If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
 
Yes, when you achieve success as an entrepreneur, many others will be jealous. And many will call you “lucky.” Yes, you’re “lucky” because you have the right attitude and mindset that allowed you to work hard and persevere. And you’re “lucky” because you invested your time reading articles (like this one) and learning the skills you needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

 
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
 
Keep doing good to your constituents. Doing good once is not enough. Continue to astound your customers, employees and others so they follow you to the finish line.
 
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
 
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to give 100%, and keep giving it. Never surrender. Never back down. Rather, persevere and make it happen. And if the best you have isn’t enough, then get others (advisors, peers, employees) who can give alongside you so collectively you ARE able to give enough.

 
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
 
Succeeding as an entrepreneur is more about you succeeding within yourself and less about you beating out a competitor. If you are thinking and acting the right way, you will naturally surpass your competition and achieve great success.

 
Right now is the time for you to “do it anyway” and become the successful entrepreneur you’re capable of becoming!

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