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Why All Successful Entrepreneurs Have MBAs: Mentors, Believers, Advocates

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There’s no such thing as a “self-made” business owner. The mere notion of the self-made man — someone who came from nothing, had a big idea, exploited it entirely on his own, and now has it all — is mostly an American myth.

Sure, successful entrepreneurs and business owners are smart, opportunistic, perceptive, and adept at assimilating information. Yet in advising a number of them for over 40 years, and having been an entrepreneur myself for just as long, I can confidently say that none succeeded on their own. All, instead, had “MBAs” — mentors, believers, and advocates. 

So if you’re about to strike out on your own, know that you’ll need MBAs, too. Here’s why.

Mentors

I owe at least 80 percent of my success to two great mentors — my father and my older brother. My father was a lawyer and a judge. Before his untimely passing, at 60, when I was just a teenager, I had the good fortune to watch him at work. 

On the bench, my father never failed to dispense common-sense justice. Whether he was facing a nude sunbather or a shoplifting youngster, he meted out justice in equal proportion, always balancing the law with everyday reason. Similarly, in his legal practice, he was indefatigable in serving people, whether they were “paying clients” (as he called them) or not. I heard him say countless times that if a client asked him to push a nickel across town with his nose, then that’s what he’d do.

I learned many invaluable lessons from my father’s mentoring and lived example — most notably, the value of justice, fairness, common sense, service, and hard, tireless work. His morals and ideals, in fact, became part of my own DNA.

My brother, Mike, 13 years older and also an attorney, became my mentor after our father’s death. His mentoring style, while rooted in love, was heavy-handed, with a drill sergeant-like precision (and usually the salty language to match). When I was away at college, our phone calls often ended like this: “You want to get into law school? You better get your [expletive] grades up.” 

Mike was the managing partner of a large Cincinnati law firm. His adroit handling of his hard-nosed corporate clients, together with his adept maneuvering of his partners’ mercurial personalities, made his advice and mentorship incredibly valuable. 

I spoke to Mike almost daily, from the time I started my accounting practice in 1984 until his death, at 58, in 2001. And to this day, not a week goes by that I don’t find myself repeating his mantra: “Nothing in business defies logic.” 

So if you don’t already have a mentor in mind, start today to seek one out. Find a person, probably older, who is experienced and successful, and who you trust and respect. Also, look for a truth-teller. You want someone unafraid to give it to you straight.

“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” — Richard Bach

Believers

Being a successful entrepreneur requires taking your prospects and customers on a journey that, with time, steady relationship building, and earned trust, culminates in them becoming believers. But you can’t do that without first believing in yourself — your talent and abilities, your product or service, your value, and more.

This can be hard at the start, however, because you lack a tangible track record to point people to. This means that you’ve got to tell a story that suspends their doubt or unease. And to spin this yarn, here again, you have to actually buy it yourself. Otherwise, why should anyone else?

It may seem counterintuitive, but when I first started my accounting practice, I found it much easier than later on — when I’d built an appreciably more established firm — to tell my story. Albeit really brief and clunky, it worked. In fact, I went on to double my earnings in just my second year. 

So even if you’re not a natural-born salesperson, and few are, you must be able to tell your story and “sell” yourself in order to create believers. The good news is it’s easier than you might think, especially if you don’t overanalyze things, keep it real, and get out of your own way.  

Advocates

Believers may be great, but advocates are even better. What’s more, when you nurture and serve your believers well, they almost always become advocates. Given that their faith in you was rewarded, they enjoy converting others to believe, too. This kind of evangelism often turbocharges a new business, resulting in so-called hockey-stick growth, where revenue shoots up sharply in a curve shaped like a hockey stick.

Now, if all this talk about mentors, believers, and advocates sounds like too much work, that’s okay. Perhaps striking out on your own isn’t for you. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to learn that while some people may be great agents, they aren’t cut out to be principals. Likewise, the opposite is also true: Great principles generally make for poor agents. Consider a longtime client of mine, who I’ll call Tim.

A free-range entrepreneur

For background, Tim had run his own, successful advertising agency for almost 20 years. But due to a combination of challenges in the business and what he thought was a terrific outside opportunity, he was lured into taking an executive-level position at a big-time, publicly held company. 

Tim began work at his new company at a corporate retreat at The Greenbrier, the famed luxury resort located in West Virginia. He even traveled to the event with the company’s CEO, just the two of them, in the CEO’s top-of-the-line Mercedes. 

According to Tim, the five-hour ride to The Greenbrier went swimmingly. The CEO repeatedly extolled Tim’s experience and entrepreneurial chops, remarking over and over again that he was the perfect person to lead the company’s marketing and advertising teams through some critical new initiatives. Suffice it to say, Tim was like a kid on a sugar rush. And — spoiler alert — that’s exactly what it turned out to be. His high was startlingly short-lived, with a “crash” in mere hours. 

After a brief afternoon session, the executive team gathered for dinner, followed by cocktails and cigars on a private patio. It was then that Tim saw a totally different side to the CEO, who was behaving more like a long-reigning monarch (Louis XIV came to mind) than a collegial corporate leader. Worse, the other execs were going along, acting like tools of the boss, without brains or backbone. The longer the evening went on, the more horrified Tim became. It was a gut punch if there ever was one.

Later, Tim told me that he effectively quit at that moment. He did, though, manage to show up and dutifully lead his team, which under the CEO would become a long and excruciating 18 months. 

Tim’s lesson, while painful, was that it was nearly impossible for him to execute someone else’s demands and directives, let alone operate at their whims. As he puts it, he is “a free-range entrepreneur.” Yes, he quit a seemingly ideal job, with a big title, lavish pay and perks, and the cachet of working for a renowned, NYSE-listed company. But the fact was he couldn’t force himself to perform on demand. 

To be clear, it’s neither good nor bad to be an agent or a principal. Yet one thing’s for sure, the membrane between the two is pretty much impermeable. Thus, before you take the leap into entrepreneurship, be sure to consider your personality, temperament, and optimal working style. 

All of this to say, if you’re feeling ready to be an entrepreneur or business owner, remember that you’ll need MBAs. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the “self-made” people who came before you. 

Patrick Burke is an author, CPA, attorney, business consultant, and entrepreneurship expert. The founder and managing partner of Burke & Schindler, he helps entrepreneurs launch, manage, and grow their businesses, having advised more than 200 successful start-ups. His new book is “The 10 Biggest Business Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” (Wellspring, 2021).

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Entrepreneurs

10 Lucrative Buy and Sell Businesses to Start in 2024

The buy-and-sell business model provides opportunities across many niches

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Businesses to start in 2024

In the dynamic landscape of 2024, starting a business that capitalizes on buy-and-sell models can be incredibly lucrative. This article explores ten different models that entrepreneurs can consider. These ventures range from real estate flipping to trading in domains and luxury items, providing a broad spectrum of opportunities regardless of your initial capital or interest area.

1. Car Flipping

Flipping cars can be a very lucrative business venture for an individual with business acumen, an eye for value, and mechanically adept at cars. It involves buying under-priced cars, restoring, and selling them for a profit. For deeper insights and opportunities in this market, refer to sca.auction.

2. Real Estate Flipping

Flipping real estate—be it houses, condos, or even commercial properties—remains pretty solid business, especially in markets where real estate values are on the way up. Investors buy properties relatively low, do rehab or renovation, then sell at a profit.

The success of the area is endowed with a huge potential spotlight, the ability to juggle various elements such as local real estate market knowledge, and efficient management of renovations.

3. Vintage E-commerce

With the advent of technology, it became easy to sell vintage or retro items over the online selling platform. Be it clothes, furniture, or even collectibles, consumers these days prefer something unique that is eco-friendly and which may have a nostalgia quotient in it. Hence, it brings the opportunity to open an e-commerce shop effectively.

4. Domain Flipping

If you have the skill to predict catchy phrases or business names that would be popular in the future, then buying and selling domain names would be a very profitable business. Register prices are available to purchase domains, which later can be sold at high prices to interested parties or businesses that wish to get an early online identity.

5. Luxury Items

One of the most promising buy-and-sell businesses is the luxury market, and what makes it very attractive is its less sensitivity towards economic downturns. Some of the common items in the luxury market include high-end watches, jewelry, and art, rare cars, all with high yields. Most times, items do appreciate, especially when they are limited editions.

6. Sports Memorabilia

While the sports memorabilia trading business can at times seem lucrative, especially when one focuses on big personae or big events, authenticity and rarity can definitely help items fetch top dollar. Provenance and limited supply both go towards inflating their values.

7. Sneaker Reselling

In recent years, the sneaker resale market has exploded, fueled by a commodity of scarce releases and athletic brand collaborations with a list of celebrities. Today, with operations such as StockX and GOAT, it’s really that easy to break into the worldwide market. It’s pretty easy to find your buyers and make a very good profit if you’re targeting the right trend and releases.

8. Book Flipping

Flipping rare and first editions can become a really meaningful, and yes, one more profitable, business for a book lover. Sometimes the signed ones, rare manuscripts, or those early editions of famous novels could sell for thousands of dollars, usually done by collectors or academic institutions.

9. Furniture Upcycling

Upcycling furniture consists of restoring and using second-hand furniture to sell it at a higher price. For the environmentally aware consumer, this business model has great appeal. It could be pretty profitable if done with good taste and talent in design and restoration.

10. Electronics Flipping

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops resell at values significantly high; hence, business ensues. Buy, refurbish, and sell in better condition to appeal to budget-minded consumers looking for technology at more affordable price points. 

Overall, The buy-and-sell business model provides opportunities across many niches. Be it real estate flipping or vintage item upcycling, you can succeed in both models with market understanding and trend application. That, with careful planning and strategic investment, will throw huge financial returns for these business models in 2024.

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Entrepreneurs

How Your Business Can Outmaneuver Your Competitors by 85%

Did you know that companies that master big data can outmaneuver competitors by 85% in sales

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big data strategy

Did you know that companies that master big data can outmaneuver competitors by 85% in sales and more than 25% in gross margins? Sounds inspiring, right? But the thing is that data alone isn’t enough. Rather, it’s the strategy behind it that unlocks these enviable boosts. So, this article explores how to make the most out of your big data and build a strategy that’s functional and competitive. (more…)

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Most Entrepreneurs Fail to Do This and It’s Killing Their Success

Celebrating progress also provides entrepreneurs with the psychological sustenance needed to endure the marathon of building a business

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celebrate your milestones

The journey from a mere concept to a tangible reality is one of the most exhilarating yet challenging paths an entrepreneur can navigate. This odyssey is punctuated by milestones that stand as testaments to perseverance, innovation, and relentless hard work.  (more…)

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Entrepreneurs

9 Ways Augmented Reality Gives Your Business a Competitive Edge

By embracing AR technology, companies can unlock new opportunities for growth, innovation, and success

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augmented reality in business

Leveraging Augmented Reality for Business Advancement: Exploring Applications

In the ever-evolving landscape of business innovation, Augmented Reality in business emerges as a transformative force, reshaping traditional paradigms and unlocking new opportunities for growth and advancement.

Through a comprehensive examination of AR’s capabilities, applications, and business benefits, this article serves as a roadmap for enterprises seeking to harness the full potential of augmented reality to propel their success in the digital age.

UNI.Agency as a forefront developmental agency tailors unmatched digital products and immersive experiences. They help companies outperform their competitors and customers’ expectations. And now, there is time to delve deep into the AR realm.

Gaining Insight into Augmented Reality

From revolutionizing customer experiences to optimizing operational efficiency, AR in retail is poised to drive significant advancements in how businesses operate and engage with their stakeholders.

Augmented Reality (AR) seamlessly integrates digital information and virtual objects into the real-world environment, offering users an immersive and interactive experience through devices like smartphones or AR glasses.

It revolutionizes various industries, from entertainment to healthcare, by enhancing perception and creating innovative opportunities for engagement and exploration in the digital era. AR not only enriches our understanding of reality but also opens up new possibilities for creativity, communication, and problem-solving, making it a powerful tool for businesses seeking to enhance customer experiences and streamline operations in an increasingly digital world.

Differentiating Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) overlays digital elements onto the real world, enhancing the user’s perception of their environment. Virtual Reality (VR), however, immerses users in entirely virtual environments, blocking out the real world. There are some core differences between these two technologies in gear and display approaches:

  • AR enriches reality with digital information, while VR creates entirely immersive virtual experiences.
  • AR typically requires less specialized hardware, like smartphones or AR glasses, while VR often involves dedicated headsets.
  • AR is commonly used for enhancing real-world experiences, such as in gaming, retail, and navigation, encouraging augmented reality shopping. Whereas VR is primarily employed for immersive simulations, training, and entertainment in fully virtual environments.

The Influence of AR on the Customer Experience Journey

As of 2024, Augmented Reality (AR) has evolved into an indispensable tool across various sectors, offering immersive and interactive experiences that seamlessly blend digital elements with the real world.

Stimulating Interest

Augmented Reality (AR) captivates customers by offering visually engaging experiences that spark curiosity and intrigue, enticing them to explore products or services further.

AR’s ability to overlay digital content onto the real world creates an immersive and attention-grabbing experience, drawing customers in and igniting their interest.

Educating and Empowering Users

AR in business empowers users by providing interactive and informative experiences that educate them about products, services, or concepts in a visually compelling manner.

Through AR, customers can interact with virtual models, animations, or informational overlays, gaining a deeper understanding of the features, benefits, or use cases of the offerings.

Exploring Further Depths

AR encourages customers to delve deeper into products or services by offering immersive and interactive experiences that go beyond traditional marketing materials.

By allowing users to explore virtual representations of products in real-world contexts, AR in retail provides a unique opportunity for customers to visualize how offerings fit into their lives, fostering deeper engagement and understanding.

Business Benefits of Augmented Reality

Businesses utilize AR for diverse applications, including product visualization, virtual try-ons, and enhanced customer engagement. In education, AR transforms learning experiences by providing interactive simulations and visualizations.

Additionally, AR has become integral to industries such as healthcare, where it facilitates surgical training and patient education. With advancements in AR technology and widespread adoption, it continues to shape how we perceive and interact with our environment, ushering in a new era of innovation and connectivity.

Let’s look at why AR has become so indispensable as a business tool nowadays.

Revolutionizing Training Methods

AR in business transforms training by offering immersive, interactive simulations that replicate real-world scenarios, enhancing employee learning and skill development.

It’s lucrative for hands-on training experiences. Since there’s no need for physical equipment or environments, reducing costs and logistical constraints while improving knowledge retention and performance.

Boosting Productivity Levels

Augmented Reality in business boosts productivity by providing real-time access to information and guidance, allowing employees to complete tasks more efficiently and accurately.

Through AR-powered tools and applications, workers can streamline workflows, troubleshoot issues, and collaborate effectively, resulting in increased output and operational efficiency.

Implementing Dynamic Marketing Approaches

AR enables businesses to implement dynamic marketing strategies that captivate and engage audiences in unique ways.

By integrating AR into marketing campaigns, companies can create interactive experiences that drive brand awareness, customer engagement, and sales conversions, setting themselves apart in a crowded marketplace.

Fostering Product Development

Augmented reality and marketing foster innovation in product development by facilitating virtual prototyping, design iterations, and collaborative decision-making.

With AR, teams can visualize and test product concepts in 3D, gather feedback from stakeholders, and make informed design decisions faster, leading to faster time-to-market and more successful product launches.

Creating Tailored Customer Experiences

AR creates personalized customer experiences by allowing users to interact with products and services in customized ways.

Through AR-enhanced applications and experiences, businesses can tailor content, recommendations, and promotions to individual preferences and behaviors, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Amplifying Brand Recognition

Augmented Reality shopping amplifies brand recognition by providing memorable and shareable experiences that leave a lasting impression on customers.

By incorporating AR into branding initiatives, companies can create immersive brand experiences that spark conversations, increase social media engagement, and strengthen brand loyalty, ultimately driving business growth and success.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Augmented Reality in business stands as a transformative force, offering a multitude of benefits across various aspects of operations. From revolutionizing training methods to boosting productivity levels, AR empowers businesses to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.

By embracing AR technology, companies can unlock new opportunities for growth, innovation, and success, while delivering immersive and engaging experiences that resonate with customers and stakeholders alike.

As AR continues to evolve and integrate into everyday business practices, Uni will incorporate the best practices to promote business advancement and drive meaningful change for the clients. We’re to shape the future of commerce to your benefit.

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