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How to Lead a Virtual Team: 6 Essential Tips You Need to Know

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The rules have changed. You don’t need an office. You don’t need investors. You DO NOT need permission!

Today, anyone with a good idea (and an addiction for success) can start their own business. Within a matter of months you can build a six-figure business. It takes dedication and commitment, as you already know, but another vital ingredient many forget about in the beginning (I know I did) is to involve others.

You cannot do ‘this’ on your own. You need a team, but once again the rules have changed. You don’t need an office. You don’t need local people you ‘see’ each day.  There’s a new kid in town.

Introducing Your Virtual Team:

Virtual assistants… freelancers… location independent workers… there’s an entire generation who don’t wish to play by yesterday’s rules. The likes of Buffer and Infinitus have built seven-figure companies with no headquaters. Big name entrepreneurs like Michael Hyatt are building teams with no boundaries. The opportunities for a go-getting success seeker like you are vast.

But, building your virtual team is dangerous. There are many pitfalls to building a virtual team. Lucky for you and me there are MANY people to learn from. People who have been there and done it, and who offer advice so you don’t have to make the same mistakes they have. I’ve asked a selection of experts who know all about the right and wrong way to build a successful virtual team. This is what they say:

1. Chris Ducker: Create your 3 lists to freedom

“To save yourself time and money, create a list of: things you hate doing everyday, things you can’t do yourself, and things you shouldn’t be doing. This creates a blueprint of what your virtual team should work on, and allows you to effectively manage it.”

As founder of ‘Virtual Staff Finder’, Chris Ducker has helped entrepreneurs lead a balanced lifestyle for many years. What his ‘3 lists to freedom’ offers is your starting point, because it forces you to consider all the tasks you do (and could do), and hone in on what you should do. From there you can ensure your virtual team grows in a way that will save you time and make you money.

2. Erlend Bakke: Insist on a daily update

“My best tip is the daily update. This is what I ask them to send me: enter date and hours worked in total. What they did today. Two challenges encountered. Three questions they have for me. I have my three CEOs send me this update on a daily basis. It has saved me many hours over the past six years.”

This tip from the founder Mr Outsource, Erlend Bakke, is gold. You build a team to save yourself time, so the last thing you want is to chase updates, or have your team inundate you with questions. Instead, insist they update you each day with these key details. This allows you to stay in the loop, make necessary changes, and to do so without wasting your precious time.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

3. Erin Blaskie: Create a solid backup plan

Create solid back up plans for if the worst case scenario were to happen. I had grown my own company to over 70 clients, and leaned on a few sub-contractors to help fill in the gaps. While this was great for clients to have that one-stop shop, it left me in a precarious situation when my lead web designer disappeared suddenly.”

As one of the early pioneers of virtual assistants, Erin Blaskie has seen the highs and lows of building a virtual team. A key component is to think how you can scale your operations at all times, and not rely on one (or a few) single person.

4. Kimanzi Constable: You shouldn’t let anyone have complete access to every part of your business

“Make sure you understand what you’ll give your virtual assistant access to and what you should give them access to. You shouldn’t let anyone have complete access to every part of your business.”

As a lifestyle entrepreneur and globetrotting consultant, Kimanzi Constable has built an ever-growing virtual team over the last few years. But he raises a good point, because you need to consider who has access to what in your business; and why. Failure here can have grand consequence, as Kimanzi found when one of his VA’s did the dirty.

5. Natalie Sisson: Share your business vision with your VA

Share your business vision with your VA, as it gets them on board with the bigger picture of why they do what they do. It also gives them ownership over their role, as they know what we’re trying to achieve as a team.”

After over a decade of travelling the world, Natalie Sisson built her Suitcase Entrepreneur community with the help of a virtual team. As she says, it’s important to help your team appreciate WHY they do what they do. Your aim isn’t to build a team, it’s to create a culture.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

6. Ari Meisel: Make the experience as rich as possible

Embrace asynchronous communication such as slack, and video messaging with Fika. Make the experience as rich as possible for people who are not in the same room as you.”

As an outsourcing advocate for many years, Ari Meisel built Get Leverage to provide his clients the virtual assistance they need. He appreciates the importance of communication, especially when you’re communicating with people in different rooms, countries, and continents.

There are an array of tools to communicate face-to-face these days, so don’t only speak to your virtual team over email. Involve them. Speak with them. Create an experience that leaves them feeling valued and part of a “real” team (not a virtual one).

The possibilities are endless for today’s success-seeking entrepreneur. A virtual team provides you the freedom you desire and the opportunity to grow. But there’s a right and wrong way to build one. After reading this post, I hope you understand how the best-of-the-best build theirs.

What are some of the ways you have built a great team for your business? Let us know by commenting below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Entrepreneurs

How to Work Without Working: 3 Lessons From Three Successful Entrepreneurs

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We want to build business empires, amass a huge amount of wealth, and become a worldwide sensation. Yet, we hate to work hard and show up every day to grind. We simply dread working, but we love the results that our work produces.

What if there’s a formula for working without getting bored with doing the work? In other words, you’re working but you’re not feeling the brunt of the process. Drawing from the experience and expertise of three successful entrepreneurs, below, I give you the three tips for working without actually feeling the stress of working.

1. Mark Zuckerberg: Get moving with the easiest tasks

For the average person, working is something huge—like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. Most amateur entrepreneurs and career people often spend weeks preparing for a simple task. And when it’s time to do that task, they’ll end up accomplishing only 30 percent of the work. The other 70 percent is buried in “preparation” or procrastination.

But it shouldn’t have to be so. Work should be fun. Mark Zuckerberg never spends 24 hours preparing for work. The young, smart founder of Facebook developed a simple formula for accomplishing any type of work without feeling its impact.

He always begins with the easiest tasks, as opposed to the difficult ones. “I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” That’s a smart philosophy for a Silicon Valley superstar.

If you start with that simple project, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You motivate yourself to get going. You won’t feel the burden of the work.

2. Sean Lourdes: Be generous

Making more money appears to be the first goal of most career and business people. But it shouldn’t be. That’s because “If you’re too much obsessed with amassing wealth, making more profit, selling all your inventories, that will make your entrepreneurial career boring, burdensome, and tedious”, Sean Lourdes, founder of The Lourdes Foundation, observes.

The better way to make your entrepreneurial career fun and exciting is to give more. Struggle to work hard and make more money, but don’t make the money as your end goal. You’re meant to serve your customers. That should be your end goal. And being generous will help you serve them better and, in turn, helps you make more money along the way.

Just begin to give more than you take—whether it’s delivering more value to your customers, giving more discounts than the buyer asks, or simply donating your personal wealth to charity organizations—and notice how you’ll find meaning in your work, career, and life in general.

3. Robin Sharma: See your work as a craft

It amazes me when I visit a hotel and the person at the front desk barely raises their head to look at me. I always ask myself: Why would anyone be in the hospitality industry when it’s obvious that they hate people?

If you’re not fit in an industry but insist on working in it, you’ll not only find peace in your work-life, but you’ll also be at war with your employer’s customers. Unfortunately, most people work at jobs they hate. In other words, they see their work as work, not as a craft—which they’ll passionately harness to satisfy their clients. The productivity guru Robin Sharma argues that “a job is only a job if you see it as a job.”

And if you see your job as a job, you can’t find value and meaning and passion in what you do. If you see your job as a job, you can’t provide that impeccable value to your clients. If you see your job as a job, you can’t deliver top-notch quality service to your customers. You have to shift your thinking.

See your work as another opportunity to practice your craft,” Robin Sharma says. “That will push you to love your craft and release magical products.”

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8 Challenges That Come From Being Married to an Entrepreneur

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A life of an entrepreneur’s wife or husband can be a lonely one. This doesn’t mean it will be, but there are certainly plenty of hurdles to overcome before finding that perfect balance between being a passionate worker and a passionate partner.

As many married entrepreneurs know, many times the business will come before all else. This can lead to an upheaval in the household. Bringing stress home, putting the family through consistent financial worry, and giving more time to the business than to their romantic partner are just some of the “joys” of being married to an entrepreneur.

Being married to an entrepreneur isn’t always fun and it isn’t always easy. Here are 8 reasons why it’s hard to be married to someone who works for themselves:

1. Money Becomes an Issue Fast

One of the worst parts about growing up is having to pay the bills. And when one spouse is an entrepreneur, paying the bills every month isn’t always a given. Money is a tricky issue in any relationship. One study published by an investing app, found that 68% of couples polled admitted they would rather reveal how much they weigh than talk about money with each other.

The study went on to reveal that 42% of those couples reported feeling depressed and anxious regarding their financial future. Being married to an entrepreneur can leave the other partner feeling drained and fraught with financial worry. It takes a lot of money to start a business as an entrepreneur especially if they choose to not rely on investors. This can make money a sore subject around the house.

2. Often Feels Like Living Alone

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t allow for a conventional 9-5 schedule. An entrepreneur may allow themselves to be on call at all times. This can lead to many consistent distractions. With the simple buzz of a cellphone, family time suddenly turns back into work. Partners may be left feeling frustrated with the amount of help they are getting in raising children or providing financially for the household.

3. Taking Risks Stops Being Charming

As previously mentioned, supporting a spouse as they take a dive into the terrifying world of entrepreneurship can be a challenge – to say the least! Being stripped of a regular, reliable paycheck can take away a certain level of security (and sanity) from the relationship.

What at first seemed like a spouse’s brave venture into the unknown has stopped seeming like a charming adventure. Instead, it starts to feel more like an anxious knot in the stomach that just won’t go away.

“Spouses should spend at least one full hour each day talking together about subjects that have nothing to do with their work or business. Children need at least ten minutes of face-to-face contact with their parents each day.” – Brian Tracy

4. Sharing Worries

Just because someone becomes an entrepreneur doesn’t mean they will become a successful entrepreneur. The worry of whether or not the business will fail can creep into an otherwise happy marriage.

On top of the non-entrepreneur’s everyday worries of raising children, working, and maintaining close relationships, the anxiety of their partner’s business can be overwhelming. Worrying about whether the business will take off and how the family will be affected until it does can send stress levels through the roof.

5. Putting Business Before Family

This is one area of married entrepreneurship that hurts the most. When married to an entrepreneur, one may often feel neglected or alone. It may feel like the entrepreneur is so enamored with starting their business that there is little time left for family or socializing with friends. And date night? Forget about it.

A spouse may understand why their partner devotes so much time and energy into building their business. However, it can be painful to realize their spouse may prioritize a business meeting or answering emails over anniversary dinners or their child’s school events.

6. Constant Arguments

In a study on why couples get divorces, conflict and arguing was one of the biggest reasons, right alongside extramarital affairs and growing apart. When one spouse is working an 80-hour work week and the other is feeling like they’re going it alone, it can lead to some intense arguments.

The more drained a partner is, the more irritable they become. One spouse believes they are doing all this work for their marriage, while the other believes the other is looking after their own interests.

7. Lack of Communication

Communication, they say, is the key to happiness in marriage. However, those who are married to an entrepreneur know that it can be difficult to communicate with someone who is always busy.

One of the biggest challenges for couples in a relationship with an entrepreneur is to have frequent and honest conversations about how the marriage is going. Couples need to be completely open with one another about what they need in order for the marriage to survive.

“The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.” – B. R. Ambedkar

8. When True Colors Come Out to Play

Being married to an entrepreneur is the time when couples will see each other’s true colors. They will see each other at their best and worst, and one may often outshine the other. Anxiety, sexual frustrations, lack of emotional intimacy, money woes, and overall entrepreneur-related terror can truly test a couple’s comfort zone.

Studies show that partners who have sex regularly experience a surge of the “love hormone” oxytocin. This hormone is shown to relieve stress that can be common in entrepreneur relationships. It also acts as a mood elevator and bonds couples closer together.

If a marriage can survive married entrepreneurship, (and it can!) partners must learn to be patient with one another. They must spend time strengthening their emotional and physical connection on a weekly basis.

Being married to an entrepreneur comes with rich blessings and a host of potential problems. Mixing business with pleasure is no easy path for any married entrepreneurs to take. Money becomes a point of contention and work distractions may make one partner feel ignored. Having patience will strengthen a marriage during these trying times.

What is the best piece of advice you have for a married couple to continuously love one another? Share your thoughts below!

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The 5 Best Cities in the USA for Startups and Entrepreneurs

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You’re an entrepreneur? That’s awesome! Want to start a new business? That’s great. Want to know where to start it? That’s a bit of a tall order for an answer in just a few words. Choosing the right city can be just as important for entrepreneurs as choosing the right business model.

Some cities are so expensive that they become unaffordable for a fledgling business. Others may not be as expensive but may lack the resources you need to work your magic. Some cities don’t have enough capital to spare to invest in your business. Others lack the skilled human resources you need to succeed. Still others, like Silicone Valley and the East Coast, are saturated with businesses. So how does one pick the right city to do business in? The answer is simple. You make a list and go with the option that suits you.

Top Cities in the U.S. for Entrepreneurs

There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to the best cities to start businesses in. Some of the factors considered when compiling such lists include information on:

  • Living costs
  • Projected job growth
  • Entrepreneurial resources
  • The Kauffman Index

These factors, along with some number crunching, help narrow down your list of options. We have selected 5 of the best cities in this respect. They are:

  1. San Diego, California
  2. Los Angeles, California
  3. Dallas, Texas
  4. Miami, Florida
  5. Austin, Texas

Let’s have a closer look at each city and what makes it ideal for business.

1. San Diego, California

This city has a higher per-capita density of entrepreneurs than even San Francisco and San Jose. There are also a ton of business-based events and resources you can take advantage of. A good example is StartUp San Diego. The service provides support to new businesses and connects business owners with peers. It also hosts a week-long entrepreneurship event in June.

StartUp San Diego isn’t the only support you get in the city. Others like Seed San Diego connect businesses with local venture capitalists. San Diego is by no means a cheap city, but it is still one of the least expensive in California. There is also a concentration of diverse talent in the city. From biotech to the military to school, the talent you’re looking for is likely just around the corner.

2. Los Angeles, California

L.A. may be known for the Hollywood lifestyle, but it’s also one of the most populous cities in America. It has one of the highest numbers of business owners per capita in the country. The “Silicon Beach” crowd makes L.A. a great city for startups and business owners. Silicon Beach is technically just Westside but the term is used loosely.

It generally refers to the startup culture currently growing in L.A. Plus the fast-paced, energetic L.A. lifestyle attracts tons of skilled talent from across the country. If nothing else, you’ll be catching glimpses of celebrities more often than anywhere else.

3. Dallas, Texas

Dallas stays true to traditional Texan hospitality, especially towards businesses and business owners. Dallas does not have as many businesses as other cities in Texas, but it goes out of its way to be friendly to them. It’s also much more supportive of its entrepreneurial citizens. The Dallas Entrepreneurship Center is one of the biggest attractions for business owners in the city.

It offers support to new businesses and even provides co-shared spaces for you to work. There are also a number of accelerators that can really help your business take off. Tech Wildcatters is one of the most well-known accelerators in the city and is popular with local fledging businesses.

4. Miami, Florida

Miami has come a long way from being a tourist attraction and a place for people to retire comfortably. You’d be surprised to know that Miami is actually one of the best cities in America to start your business. The city has a very impressive startup density. Around 107 out of every 1,000 businesses are a new business.

That’s more than a whopping 10% of all businesses in the locality. It also has the most number of business owners per capita on this list. Miami is swimming in skilled talent that can help propel your business to success. And when you’re looking for a break from the office, there’s always the beach and great food to distract you.

5. Austin, Texas

Austin or “Silicone Hills” is the number one city to start a new business in, according to experts. The startup density is second only to Miami, standing at around 104 new businesses for every 1,000 businesses. There’s also a huge entrepreneurial population. 1 out of every 200 people you meet there is a business owner. In terms of living costs, Austin is much more inexpensive than other cities in the USA. It’s even currently the best city in the US for Millennials to buy their first homes.

Entrepreneurship is not without its glamor and allure. But people tend to ignore the grit, determination, and hard work that get successful entrepreneurs to where they are. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. As Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

You’re not just responsible for yourself, but also for your employees as well. People depend on your decisions to make a living. So make sure you put thought into your choices, including the city you decide to start your business in.

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8 Business Challenges and Solutions for the New Age Entrepreneur

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Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about hiring a team or giving orders to them. Every business comes with its unique challenges and addressing them appropriately is what contributes to the learning curve of any entrepreneur. A very big challenge for most entrepreneurs is to find out what these painful problems are and then to solve them using the best resources available.

Being the founder of your business goes a long way if you identify and solve your employees, customers, partners and companies problems. A successful entrepreneur solves problems in a unique way and that is what separates him from the rest.

Below are 8 challenges you can come across during your entrepreneurship journey with solutions that can help you overcome these problems tactfully:

1. Self-Doubt

The Challenge: Self-Doubt personates itself in other forms and negatively impacts business growth. Below are some questions that likely pop up in your mind as a result of self-doubt:

  • What if the idea fails?
  • Is it the right decision to leave the comfort of the monthly paycheck?
  • What if I don’t get the right team?

The Solution: You will feel like giving up initially but look towards your goal list and keep moving on. Know that working on daily tasks will contribute towards your lifetime goals and every day you’ll be one more step closer to them.

2. Time Management

The Challenge: The biggest challenge that an entrepreneur faces is time management. While working on a new venture, there are a number of things that need to be completed in a limited time period. Managing the time properly is an invaluable skill and can be rewarding in the long haul.

The Solution: Be smart when allocating your time to different tasks. It’s essential for you to know what is worth your time and what isn’t. Make goal lists that can further be deconstructed into monthly and weekly goals. If there are tasks that don’t require your attention, make sure you either delegate or eliminate them.

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. Gathering Capital

The Challenge: If you’re a freshly minted entrepreneur, lenders will hesitate in providing you the required funds as you may lack collateral to secure the loan and also you don’t have an established business. Without a reasonable probability of return, no one will take a risk by investing in your idea.

The Solution: There are government operated banks that are specifically designed for entrepreneurs. You can pitch your business idea and if feasible, they will provide you the required capital. Some NGOs also help new entrepreneurs in guiding them to reliable sources of capital generation.

4. Hiring Staff for the First Time

The Challenge: Hiring and keeping good employees is one of the most difficult tasks of an entrepreneur. If the business is small, each person becomes more critical. Remember, as you have just started the business, your company is in its most volatile position.

The Solution: When interviewing potential candidates, make sure to ask them questions related to their experience, long-term goals and expectations. Make candidates feel that your company seeks a partner to grow business with rather than a minion who takes orders from superiors.

For any candidates that you select, make sure you seek genuine references that can vouch for their work ethic and potential. Hire people that fit your criteria and be sure to clear everything before appointing an employee so as to maintain a healthy working relationship in the future.

5. Choosing What to Sell

The Challenge: Choosing what product to sell is the most difficult decision you will need to make while starting a business. Of course, the choices are limitless, but finalizing something is complex as your business success is totally depended on it.

The Solution: Market research can help you find the right product to invest in. Once you’ve shortlisted a few products, it’s good to analyze profit margins, strengths, weaknesses and threats that come along with each product. This will not only save your time and effort but will save your business at some point.

6. Choosing An Appropriate Marketing Strategy

The Challenge: As a new entrepreneur, you probably don’t know the best way/medium/channel to reach the target audience. It won’t matter how beneficial your product is, if your customers aren’t aware of it.

The Solution: If you want to maximize your ROI, then be sure to invest in target marketing as that will definitely lead you in the right direction. If you haven’t hired marketers to work with you then it’s best to outsource a team that can strategize a great marketing plan for you. Be precise with your budget and marketing goals so that they can craft a plan that works like magic for you.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

7. Cash Flow

The Challenge: Sufficient cash flow is essential to keep the business suspended as you have to bear all your business related expenses such as employee’s salary, infrastructural cost, and so forth. Temporary cash infusions don’t solve the problem, you need to make changes in the supply chain to get some positive gains.

The Solution: Planning for a budget in advance can help you work around cash flow problems. In addition to this, you can also request your clients to clear the invoice payments quickly. You can also convince your vendors to send you the bill after 40-45 days, which gives you enough time to receive your payments.

8. Business Growth

The Challenge: From financial management to keeping up with the market, growing businesses face multiple challenges. What worked a year ago might not be the right approach now.

The Solution: It’s very important for an entrepreneur to know the strengths of his teams and employees. This can help you distribute tasks to employees who can handle them most effectively while giving you a window to get out of production and management issues. This way you can focus on growing your business.

Conclusion

There are volumes written on how entrepreneurs can overcome business challenges, use them to their advantage, and ensure that you’re putting your customers first. On the other hand, it’s okay to feel that you’re going off track because only then can you drive yourself to overcome obstacles and do better.

How do you handle business challenges? Share your advice with everyone below!

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