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13 Things Every Startup Needs to Know About Raising Capital

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Raising Capital For Startups-Business
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Bluedot is a success story out of Melbourne that to date has raised a total of USD $3.1 million in the two years that they have existed. Their recent round of funding allowed them to raise USD $2.2 million and was lead by Jeffrey Katz who sold his company, Mercury Payment Systems, for USD $1.7 billion.

Filip Eldic and Emil Davityan founded the company and have managed to revolutionise location-based technology that has been previously been dominated by providers that have a significant drain on the smart phones battery. In short, if you’re building an app you can add their technology and be able to trigger actions to the user such as payments or advertisement’s based off a geographic location, without their privacy being breached and having any personal identifiers of that user.

The guys have had success in being able to engage large US mobile commerce applications and Big 4 Australian Banks. They also have successfully completed live trials of the world’s first mobile tolling platform on Melbourne roads as well as being able to present their technology to the likes of Microsoft and Samsung.

After having a chat with them, these are their top 13 tips that all startups need to know about raising capital.

 

1. Consider an incubator program before seeking serious investment

Before you go out trying to raise a large amount of money you should consider an incubator program first, where you will typically be given a sum of money that is less that $100k to test your idea. In the case of Bluedot, they saw this process as fundamental because they were trying to sell their technology to a large, slow moving industry in the early stages, which would have burned a lot of capital trying out the idea.

Being first-time entrepreneurs without the experience, the incubator was able to point out the deficiencies in their business model that then allowed them to pivot their idea very early on.

The only consideration, that startups need to be aware with these programs is that you usually have to give up a little bit of equity although Bluedot believe they wouldn’t be where they are without it.

 

2. Decide if the valuation investors are giving you is fair

Test the market and see what investors will be willing to pay you and expect investors to negotiate very hard with you. It’s also important to know what sort of equity they expect in return for that valuation of your business.

It’s not uncommon for investors to offer you half as much as your initial seed funding. Try and benchmark your startup against global averages that can be obtained from websites such as pitchbook. They produce quarterly reports about global raises and how companies perform in the Venture Capital context and then you can take their valuation, reduce it a little to be conservative and then put a valuation on your startup that is less than the average. The advantage of this is that you’re making it look attractive to investors at the same time.

 

3. Be prepared to say no to more investment opportunities than you say yes too

Often you will sit down with investors and everything will sound fine until you get into the term negotiations and then realise that their idea of what the companies worth is a lot less than yours.

In these circumstances, be prepared to walk away and to have to do this many times.

 

4. You will need to engage multiple sources of funding before you find one that will invest

For Bluedot, they contacted between 200-250 Venture Capital, private equity institutions, and individual investors before they found one that met their requirements – they did this on a global scale in Australia, USA and Asia.

“It’s a numbers, game like anything else. Get the word out and try as many different leads as you can until you convert to a successful one. “

 

5. Be methodical in what material you give out to potential investors

You need to have a pitch deck and a two pager for an initial approach. The most important thing is to have your pitch deck incredibly summarised and very much to the point. You also need your pitch deck to talk about what you do, where your market is, your traction so far and your unique selling point.

Bluedot found that in a lot of cases potential investors depended a lot on the covering email with the first couple of sentences. This must be good and to the point, otherwise you won’t get them to read your pitch deck or the supporting material.

As a second step, if the investor had gone through those two things then Bluedot would provide them with a complete due diligence pack which contained every possible, conceivable thing about the business such as employee agreements, insurance contracts, sales pipeline, product descriptions, business plan, information memorandum, shareholder resolutions, director resolutions etc. This would be provided to the potential investor via drop box so that it was very easy for them to digest the business in the due diligence phase.

 

6. Getting your staff to contribute their own capital is not necessary

This is important because some founders ask their own staff to assist in raising capital by investing their own money into the startup. Staff are an important factor to the startup but not when it comes to raising capital, the main investment you need from them is their time, although, before taking on new staff you should always get them to show some skin in the game first. This can be achieved by them working part-time, contracting to you or even working for free for a period of time. They need to show some sort of dedication.

All the people that put in the least and asked the most usually never have enough commitment to stay through the good times and the bad.

 

Blue Dot Group

The BlueDot Group

 

7. What you do with the money when you get an investment is important

The first thing you should do if you get an investment is put it into a high-interest account or term deposit and then crack a beer or two to celebrate after. Clear a lot of the liabilities and get up to date with your bills so you have clean books.

The obvious thing to note is that investors will usually put something in the term sheet to stop you withdrawing large amounts of cash without board approval.

 

8. There is not that much difference between raising the money locally or overseas

A lot of startups focus only overseas when raising money, but it’s worth looking locally as well. For Bluedot, they were firm believers in raising money locally as well and successfully raised $1.1 million before they went offshore. Be prepared though that if you attract overseas investment, you could be asked to move the company over there. Whilst it’s not a must to do that it’s worth being able to know how to answer the question if it does come up.

If you are looking to the popular USA to raise capital one difference that you will see is that because they are fairly experienced in the capital raising industry, compared with other countries, their questions about your startup will be very direct and a lot better thought through. This means that you need to think through the aspects of your business a bit more.

The biggest goal with these conversations is to get to the first meeting and then sell your heart out. If you have done this successfully then hopefully you will get someone who buys in on the vision of the business.

The raising landscape in each country can be very different though. For example, in Australia its very easy to get up to $1 million or $5 million plus if you have the right business metric’s but if you’re trying to raise money around the $1-5 million mark it can be very challenging, so your better off going overseas for this level of funding.

 

9. Understand what investors are looking for in your startup

They are generally all fairly similar and are looking for where they can put their money and get the biggest return with very low risk. Things that can affect their decision are your team, current traction, the product, history and ability of the company, the size of the market and the competitive landscape.

You should never just rely on one of these and make sure you hit every aspect.

 

10. Give the investors a really good demonstration of your product

You absolutely must demonstrate your proposition and features in a simple way to investors so that they can relate to how it works and feels, without them having to go away and test it out for themselves. This is an important point because it can often be hard to demonstrate what your startup does and for Bluedot, their technology is not always easy to explain.

A great thing that the BlueDot team did was to use Webex instead of doing a Skype call with overseas investors so that you can share your desktop with them and really demonstrate the whole offering effectively.

 

11. The way you deliver your pitch to investors is important

Before you go the meeting you should spend some time, in the days leading up to the pitch, to read about the fund / investors / venture capital firm and where their focus has been. The focus of the fund is very important because your not just getting money you’re getting their expertise, their connections and their experience instilled into your business. On the day of the pitch you must make sure that your confident and fully prepared as winging it will most likely see you fail.

The first part of the meeting should be you asking them about where the focus is, what their previous successes have been and what they don’t like to see and then that immediately shapes what you’re going to tell them in your pitch that follows this conversation. The types of things that they might focus on could be customer acquisition metrics, intellectual property, servicing enterprise level clients or the market.

The first part of your pitch should be a short, concise, one-sentence summary of what your startup does and the benefit that you deliver. Then go into the rest of your presentation from there with demonstrations, etc.

 

12. Partnerships are important and will get you bonus points with investors

The partnerships are important because they provide you with extra revenue streams and eliminate some risk that investors might perceive by diversifying your fundamental business model.

A quality partnership with an established organisation can also show credibility and that someone else has confidence in your business so much so that they are willing to align their brand with you. Bluedot were able to demonstrate this to investors with companies like Braintree, who they had partnered with.

The only caveat around having this conversation with investors is that you must be able to clearly proof to them that they’re beneficial relationships and how the actual revenue streams work.

 

13. Demonstrate to potential investors the small wins early on

One thing that’s important to grasp when trying to raise capital, is that investors want to see a few wins early on. In the early stages, you need to run fast and try and win the business that is the low hanging fruit. This will allow you to raise the money so that you can chase the large, slow moving companies later on.

The typical sales cycle, to win a large business like a bank, is 1-2 years and so if you only have small amounts of capital, you can’t afford to waste time chasing these prospects early on. Investors will not be impressed if you tell them that you haven’t won any clients and that you are focusing on a few large sales that may or may not happen down the track.

 

Visit Bluedot’s services for more information about their company or follow them on Twitter @BluedotInnovate.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared hundreds of thousands of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around success, personal development, motivation, and entrepreneurship. During the day Tim works with the most iconic tech companies in the world, as an adviser, to assist them in expanding into Australia. By night, Tim coaches his students on the principles of personal development and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net or through his Facebook.

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The Best Way to Create a Six-figure Startup From Scratch

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how to create a six figure startup

Many solo entrepreneurs make good six-figure income living selling products and services online. If you’re a technical person, it’s even better, as you can create a highly-scalable cloud-based business. For non-technical founders, there are still many ways to make a six-figure or, even, seven-figure annual revenue.

Several years ago, I started an online publishing startup selling e-books written by myself and several co-authors. In one year, it started generating a six-figure income annually.

To me, that experience has been a determining factor for staying true as an entrepreneur. Today, I own several online ventures that sell both digital and physical products. Each of them uses a different business model.

During my journey to online success, I learned the following lessons related to running an online business:

1. Select products or services that you’re passionate about and the skills you’ve mastered

Only offer things that you’re already familiar with like the back of your hands. This provides you with the upper hand that other competitors might not have. You want your customers to be confident in your products by trusting you. This being said, don’t choose “the more trendy products” to sell. Don’t follow other people’s choices of products because what works for them might not work for you.

2. Find a proven business model that works for the specific product or service you’ll be offering

For instance, you want to sell women’s fashion, because you’ve had experiences in dressmaking or styling. Choosing women’s fashion products to sell is excellent, but you’d need to be more specific. You’d need a niche, because “women’s fashion” is such a huge category.

Let’s say you eventually choose to sell casual women’s apparel. Next, choose the business model carefully. Do you buy from a wholesaler in bulk and sell them? Do you accept consigned products from direct producers? Do you dropship products? Consider the pros and cons based on your strengths and weaknesses.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

3. Be familiar with the tools needed for each business model

Choose the most suitable e-commerce platform for the niche chosen. For instance, since you’ll be selling fashion, the images must include zooming capability, so customers can see the products in more detail. Each type of product requires different e-commerce platform. Selling e-books, for instance, requires a different approach, as it involves digital product download.

It takes time to choose the most appropriate platform for your business, yet it needs to be done properly. Take note of all the features you’d need. Get inspired by popular stores, so you can find some ideas that would work.

4. Optimize the online store with the most updated customer service tools

Today, customers want every service to be speedy and accurate. Make sure that you’re familiar with the most updated technologies, including CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and chatbots. Learn the benefits of each new plugin and how they can be adapted to your business.

As a startup, the first year is always the hardest to go through. The following are proven ways that I’ve been practicing through the years in keeping my focus and enthusiasm as an entrepreneur intact:

1. Be extra aware of changes, no matter how small

Being aware begins even before you start the business. By following your passion, you’re supposed to be already extra aware of what’s going on within this scope of expertise. Competitors, technologies, consumer behaviors, business tools, references (books and other materials)

2. Stay focused and determined to grow the business

It’s easier said than done. Staying focused requires more than a wish. It needs the strongest will to make things happen at any cost. When you’ve decided to do something, stick with it. Give yourself deadlines to complete and finish them off in time with the highest quality possible.

While psychologists disagree with being a perfectionist, to be successful as an entrepreneur, it would require a dash of perfectionism. Your products must be perfect before they can be sold to the public. And there is no way around it than being a perfectionist.

3. Lead yourself well before you lead the team

If you begin the business as a solo entrepreneur, self-direction is key. Working by yourself doesn’t mean you can sleep late, awake at noon, and work only if you want to. Being a solo entrepreneur is a commitment, especially if you seriously want to grow the business and take it to the next level. By learning to lead yourself well, you’d be accustomed to thinking as a leader, which is useful when you’re leading a team.

“The first person you have to conquer is you. This is because when at last you win over million people, the first person to bring you down could be you. Discipline yourself!” – Israelmore Ayivor

4. Build a positive startup culture by staying relaxed and flexible as a leader

The best leader is someone who encourages positivity, adaptability, and flexibility with his or her relaxed demeanor. Remind yourself that your own and your team’s mental and physical health is much more important than anything else.

5. Only hire the right people with the right attitude that fits the culture

The right team comprises of people that get along with each other, who fit the culture, and have the right skills will determine the future of your business. Thus, never underestimate the power of cultural fit. You can always train people to be more skillful, but personality traits and characters can’t be taught.

At last, being successful as startup founder requires both understanding of the ins and outs of the business and how to maintain the soft skills needed to keep the enthusiasm running. Stay true to your choice as an entrepreneur and remain eager to continue progressing. You’re on your way to become a six-figure (or seven-figure) online entrepreneur.

Do you want to start a business? If so, how are you going to put into action these steps? Let us know by commenting below.

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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3 Effective Ways to Build a Disruptive Startup Company

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how to build a startup

You probably know of some startups in your country. Even if you know only a few things about business, you probably know how competitive all markets are. Yet some people are crazy enough to build an innovative business disrupting very competitive markets. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

Here are 3 tactics I learned reading their stories about building a disrupting startup from the ground up, personally and technically:

1. Disrupt Yourself

Entrepreneurship, at its core, is a big change, and every change—no matter its size or importance—begins inside of you. You have to initiate it. Successful people initiate proactively. Nobody can help you if you are not ambitious to change and grow.

It’s not an autonomous process. Change happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and it’s not supposed to be easy. In fact, facing uncertainty has always been the hardest part of every success story.

Therefore, to be successful, you have to disrupt yourself first. How?

Fortunately, it can be learned and practiced. According to Whitney Johnson, author and consultant, disrupting yourself involves seven steps:

  •         Taking the right risks.
  •         Playing to your distinctive strengths.
  •         Embracing constraints.
  •         Battling entitlement.
  •         Stepping back to move forward.
  •         Planning for failure.
  •         Letting your strategy emerge.

So to disrupt markets, you have to start with yourself.

“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.” – Conor McGregor

2. Identify “Jobs to Be Done”

Finding a smart idea is another challenging aspect. Watch and research interesting markets and industries carefully. Don’t focus on products and features. Look for everything that companies in an industry are not good enough at doing—the poorly performed jobs.

Look for the real reasons behind buying a product or service.

  •         Does that product/service satisfy customers?
  •         Why don’t some people use a product/service?
  •         What don’t they like about an industry?
  •         What experience do they expect?

Answering these questions helps you know your customers’ real needs and to identify what Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, calls “jobs to be done.” In other words, it helps you understand the real business you’re in.

This could be emotional or social, but it is less likely to be functional. Use your intuition. Talk to your target customers. Think about what jobs they might hire you to do for them. Pick an idea, create a business model, validate it, and run!

3. Change the customer process

The next challenge is crafting an innovative business model that accomplishes jobs for customers and solves their problems in the best way—and from a fresh perspective. To do this, you have to view the problems through the customer’s’ eyes.

Build a product that rocks and conquers the market. Then create an exceptional set of experiences along with your product/service. This will be possible by focusing not on touchpoints but on customers’ end-to-end journey.

A company’s processes should be aligned to support the journey. It may be easy to copy a business model, but it’s not easy to copy the process and customer experience, even in the most competitive markets.

“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” – Chinese Proverb

Remember that disrupting a market takes time. Learn to embrace the change and uncertainty that entrepreneurship entails and set yourself apart from others.

Do you want to start a business? Tell us what you have your heart set on so we can help you along the way!

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Your Competition Is Magnificent – Quit Being A Sook

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I’ve got this friend and he’s always crying about the competition. He spends a lot of time sooking about them and coming up with plans to take them down.

I’ve put up with it for a while, but now it’s driving me nuts. I started to think: how can we learn to love our competition in business?

Here are some thoughts I had about your competition:

 

Thought #1 – You say they’re lying. Good!

My friend says his competition is lying. Many businesses lie and that’s fantastic news for you. When a business lies, they are playing the short game.

“The long game in business is about being so vulnerable, authentic and real that it punches your ideal customer in the face every time they hear about your brand”

Trust in business, leads to incredible progress. All those marketing campaigns your competitor’s use are mostly to make them sound like something they are not. When your business is trustworthy, you don’t need to market as much.

Being honest cuts through the hype and because it’s so rare, your ideal customer runs towards you at 110km, with their arms wide open. Right behind them are all of their network who are begging to hear from a business that is a real – a business that is like you and me.

Don’t hate your dishonest competition: learn to love them from the bottom of your heart. See the love in your competition.

 

Thought #2 – There’s enough room for everyone

This scarcity mindset that you have to own 100% of the market in your first three years of operations is bulldust. There’s room for you and your competitors. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon to reach the unicorn status that is success/world domination.

Feeling like you’re drowning in competition is exactly that. Focusing on your competition 24/7 makes you feel like absolute garbage after a while. It stops you from having a good night sleep full of dreams that contain growth, prosperity, optimism and triumph towards your businesses mission.

I used to be that guy that couldn’t sleep because of competition. Every time someone brought out the same product that was cheaper than mine, I cracked it. I thought that business was so hard because there were so many people that wanted to cut my lunch.

What I forgot is that despite all the competition, people were still buying. Even if we weren’t the cheapest, it didn’t matter. Some people would find us and buy, and others wouldn’t.

The competition can only cut your lunch for so long. If you stick at it and not let the thoughts of their horrible shadows upset you, you’ll be soon making the lunches and cutting theirs.

 

Thought #3 – It’s ugly

Sooking like a pissed off brown bear with a crown on its head is ugly. You’re showing everyone you work with that you are a sore loser. Winners worry about their own business first.

“Winners know that their business isn’t an immaculate diamond on day one”

Every time my friend complained about his competitors; it made his business seem ugly. I stopped becoming drawn to it as I did at the start. The conversations became more about his competitors than his own business. The focus was lost on competitors which he couldn’t control.

 

Thought #4 – You can’t win every deal

No business wins 100% of the opportunities that are presented. There’s this lie that you have to be always winning to be successful. There’s this belief that some people have that says their business is unique and therefore it’s only normal that when they pitch, they will always win.

Again, this is total BS. Your business might have some unique strengths, but there’s always competition. Some deals you’ll win and some deals you won’t. You don’t need to win all the time to put food on the table and be successful.

I’m also competitive by nature and I’ve had to settle sometimes for the simple fact that I won’t win all the time. Sometimes losing a deal is only the beginning. The opportunities you lose are where all the lessons are.

“Your lost opportunities are what strengthen your entire value proposition to the market”

 

Thought #5 – Seeing your competitors suck is inspiring

When a competitor of yours has a major failure, you should be inspired. What I mean is that you should never want your own client base to suffer the same gunshot to the head. Instead of trash talking your competitors for their mistakes, use them as inspiration to not be like them.

Your competitors should form part of the reason why you exist. You should exist not to make the same dumb mistakes they do. You should exist so your customers have a better alternative. Having horrendous companies within the same industry has inspired many businesses like Uber and Airbnb.

Being a business full of inspiring people is easier when everyone else sucks.

 

Thought #6 – Complaining shows insecurity

By my friend complaining about his competition, what he revealed to me was his insecurity. He was showing me that he lacked the confidence in his own product and so it made sense for him to talk down everyone else’s.

The thing is when you love your product and genuinely believe it’s the best in its field, you forget about everyone else’s. Believing in your product offering comes from the confidence that as a business you believe in yourselves.

If you believe, your ideal customer will believe. Bagging your competition may make you feel better in the short term, but it will never make your business grow.

Thought #7 – You only have so much thinking space

Don’t waste it thinking about your competitors. Use your thinking space to come up with new ideas, to innovate and to WOW your customers. These habits will stop you from living in the scarcity that comes with being obsessed by your competition.

Thinking about your competitors is not going to make them go away. Complaining about them will not improve your product or service. To have a good business, you have to operate from a place of creativity. Being creative is hard work and so you don’t want throw away your thinking space.

Dreaming about your competitors puts you in a spiral of negative thoughts. These thoughts start to overtake the positive ones and pretty soon you can’t be relentlessly optimistic anymore. It’s this optimism that helps you come up with ideas that will change the world.

Much like we compare ourselves to the lives we live through looking at other people’s social media, focusing on your competitor’s forces you to always believe you don’t have enough.

I’m here to say you are good enough. Your business is good enough. Your business can be one of the great’s.

 

Thought #8 – You can actually do business with your competitors

Here’s the really stupid thing: You can actually do business with your competitors. See, your business can’t fulfill every customer need. Instead of saying “We don’t do that,” use your competitors as referral partners.

I can remember in a business that I was a part of, where we used our competitors over the road to supply us with stock when we ran out and had items on back order. We would do the same thing for them when they ran out of stock. As a result, we always had stock.

“Our competitors over the road taught us lots of things we would have never known if we tried to play the solo game. Business is a team sport”

 

***Final thought***

Your competition is not the problem. They’re not the reason why you are losing sales. The real reason you are focused on your competition is because something is wrong with the way you are thinking. Your competitors can force you to sabotage your own success if you don’t stop focusing on them.

Complaining about your competitors never get’s you anywhere. The way to fast-track your success is to get intimate with your competitors and find a way to be uniquely you. Find a way to be bold, authentic, real, sexy and unwavering in your businesses values. Be the honest, cool company that is friends with everybody. That’s how you go from being a sook to being the best in your field.

I want you to use your competition to be world-class. You deserve it.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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5 Ways to Avoid Burning Out While Building Your Business

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how to avoid burnout

Isn’t it strange how mundane things can bring back really vivid memories? As the burnt toast hit the trash, I remembered how burn out meant my first online business ended up on the scrapheap (nearly taking me with it). 

Juggling a full-time job, family, volunteering and running an online business left me physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Just like toast, the burn creeps in slowly and when complete, you’re left unable to nourish yourself or anything else.

You may have already heard run-of-the-mill advice like taking regular breaks to prevent burn out. But what’s the point of stepping away from work only to be stressed that things will fall apart?

Here are five not-so-obvious ways to become burn out proof:

1. Create the right systems

Having no systems (or the wrong systems) is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, systems get a bad rap because they can be seen as snooze fests. Who’s ever heard of a sexy system? I sure haven’t!

To make matters worse, traditional systems have a sterile and stuffy image that can make some entrepreneurs feel boxed into something that’s unsuitable for their needs.

The key to making systems work for your business is to design them with flexibility, so your creativity isn’t stifled. Systems that curb burn out are those that account for the ‘secret sauce’ of how you do business. This ensures authenticity, even when your business grows. I call these flexible and personalized systems ‘productivity recipes.’ Because, just like normal recipes, you have the core ingredients and you can make tweaks to suit your business taste.

We’re all different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all business system. Productivity recipes focus on the human side of systems. They bring order to repetitive tasks while taking into account the quirks that make your business unique.

Productivity recipes stop burn out by preventing you from biting off more than you can chew, especially when your business is growing.

2. Get apps ‘talking’ to each other

Automation is another way to hand over repetitive and stressful work. Services like IFTTT and Zapier connect the apps you use to automate your workflow. In other words, they get rid of the biggest time sucks in your business.

Part of creating productivity recipes is to spot tasks you can automate. This will help your business run like a well-oiled machine and save you money when outsourcing.

Start out automating everyday tasks, like social media and email management, by finding out how the apps can ‘talk’ to each other.

Do yourself (and your health) a favour and start to create productivity recipes to see what you can automate. The aim is to drop repetitive tasks like a hot potato to reduce the risk of burnt out. Get your apps communicating to free up time to chat with friends and family.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

3. Outsource

Outsourcing should be done when you already have productivity recipes in place. It’s tempting to hand over parts of your business to a VA or freelancer and forget about it, but this approach could land you in hot water.

With productivity recipes, anyone you hire will have the blueprint of how you expect things to be done. You’ll also save time getting new hires up to speed. Most importantly, your clients won’t get any nasty surprises or unwelcome changes when you grow your team.

You’ll be able to take time out to recharge your batteries, having all the confidence that your business will continue to function properly in your absence.

4. Find some cheerleaders

Being part of a supportive group is crucial to making yourself burn out proof. Informal groups, like Facebook communities, are helpful networks that can prevent you going down the burn out road.

If you’ve been working non-stop and your brain feels as limp as the lettuce in the sandwich you’ve been too busy to eat, connect with people who can identify with where you are and encourage you to take a step back.

The best groups are those that aren’t strictly business. Look for a group with dedicated days for sharing things like inspirational quotes and jokes to lighten things up a little.

Feeling like you’re the only one who experiences overwhelm can be a lonely place. Being part of a community where people share their struggles helps to provide perspective that you can achieve your goals without compromising your health.

“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” – Misty Copeland

5. Inject your personality into your passion

When you’re passionate about your work, it seems like you can work day and night without ever feeling tired. Of course, it’s advisable to make time for proper rest. I’ve found that, the more I enjoy work, the more I look after myself to reduce the risks of becoming ill. I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive to avoid burn out. I’m also a huge foodie. That’s why I incorporate food and drink analogies in my work because being fed and watered is something we can all relate to.

Injecting your personality into your work makes everything easier. It’s very draining pretending to be someone you’re not. If you’re already pursuing your passion, add a splash of your personality to reduce the chance of burn out.

Suffering from burn out is a serious setback to your health and business. It’s a relief to know that, unlike the burnt toast that ends up in the trash, you can make a full recovery from burn out. But why take the risk in the first place? Put in place practical measures to avoid getting burnt when the heat is turned up in your business.

It’s good to share. What do you put in place to make sure you don’t burn out? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

How do you avoid burning out when things get tough? Let us know by commenting below!

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Change Your Life Forever With These 30 Strategies

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There are strategies which bring together all happy and successful people who can also use them to improve the quality of your life. Usually when you want to change your life, you don’t know where to start and you risk losing the motivation because you don’t know the best strategies to apply. To change your life forever you have to change yourself. If you want to achieve extraordinary results, you must become an extraordinary person. (more…)

Danilo Maruca is a mental coach and personal growth expert. It accompanies people in achieving their goals by teaching them how to overcome anxiety and fears, give the best of themselves and get results quickly with mental training. He also manages the website www.drittoallameta.it.

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Startups

The Best Way to Create a Six-figure Startup From Scratch

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how to create a six figure startup

Many solo entrepreneurs make good six-figure income living selling products and services online. If you’re a technical person, it’s even better, as you can create a highly-scalable cloud-based business. For non-technical founders, there are still many ways to make a six-figure or, even, seven-figure annual revenue.

Several years ago, I started an online publishing startup selling e-books written by myself and several co-authors. In one year, it started generating a six-figure income annually.

To me, that experience has been a determining factor for staying true as an entrepreneur. Today, I own several online ventures that sell both digital and physical products. Each of them uses a different business model.

During my journey to online success, I learned the following lessons related to running an online business:

1. Select products or services that you’re passionate about and the skills you’ve mastered

Only offer things that you’re already familiar with like the back of your hands. This provides you with the upper hand that other competitors might not have. You want your customers to be confident in your products by trusting you. This being said, don’t choose “the more trendy products” to sell. Don’t follow other people’s choices of products because what works for them might not work for you.

2. Find a proven business model that works for the specific product or service you’ll be offering

For instance, you want to sell women’s fashion, because you’ve had experiences in dressmaking or styling. Choosing women’s fashion products to sell is excellent, but you’d need to be more specific. You’d need a niche, because “women’s fashion” is such a huge category.

Let’s say you eventually choose to sell casual women’s apparel. Next, choose the business model carefully. Do you buy from a wholesaler in bulk and sell them? Do you accept consigned products from direct producers? Do you dropship products? Consider the pros and cons based on your strengths and weaknesses.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

3. Be familiar with the tools needed for each business model

Choose the most suitable e-commerce platform for the niche chosen. For instance, since you’ll be selling fashion, the images must include zooming capability, so customers can see the products in more detail. Each type of product requires different e-commerce platform. Selling e-books, for instance, requires a different approach, as it involves digital product download.

It takes time to choose the most appropriate platform for your business, yet it needs to be done properly. Take note of all the features you’d need. Get inspired by popular stores, so you can find some ideas that would work.

4. Optimize the online store with the most updated customer service tools

Today, customers want every service to be speedy and accurate. Make sure that you’re familiar with the most updated technologies, including CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and chatbots. Learn the benefits of each new plugin and how they can be adapted to your business.

As a startup, the first year is always the hardest to go through. The following are proven ways that I’ve been practicing through the years in keeping my focus and enthusiasm as an entrepreneur intact:

1. Be extra aware of changes, no matter how small

Being aware begins even before you start the business. By following your passion, you’re supposed to be already extra aware of what’s going on within this scope of expertise. Competitors, technologies, consumer behaviors, business tools, references (books and other materials)

2. Stay focused and determined to grow the business

It’s easier said than done. Staying focused requires more than a wish. It needs the strongest will to make things happen at any cost. When you’ve decided to do something, stick with it. Give yourself deadlines to complete and finish them off in time with the highest quality possible.

While psychologists disagree with being a perfectionist, to be successful as an entrepreneur, it would require a dash of perfectionism. Your products must be perfect before they can be sold to the public. And there is no way around it than being a perfectionist.

3. Lead yourself well before you lead the team

If you begin the business as a solo entrepreneur, self-direction is key. Working by yourself doesn’t mean you can sleep late, awake at noon, and work only if you want to. Being a solo entrepreneur is a commitment, especially if you seriously want to grow the business and take it to the next level. By learning to lead yourself well, you’d be accustomed to thinking as a leader, which is useful when you’re leading a team.

“The first person you have to conquer is you. This is because when at last you win over million people, the first person to bring you down could be you. Discipline yourself!” – Israelmore Ayivor

4. Build a positive startup culture by staying relaxed and flexible as a leader

The best leader is someone who encourages positivity, adaptability, and flexibility with his or her relaxed demeanor. Remind yourself that your own and your team’s mental and physical health is much more important than anything else.

5. Only hire the right people with the right attitude that fits the culture

The right team comprises of people that get along with each other, who fit the culture, and have the right skills will determine the future of your business. Thus, never underestimate the power of cultural fit. You can always train people to be more skillful, but personality traits and characters can’t be taught.

At last, being successful as startup founder requires both understanding of the ins and outs of the business and how to maintain the soft skills needed to keep the enthusiasm running. Stay true to your choice as an entrepreneur and remain eager to continue progressing. You’re on your way to become a six-figure (or seven-figure) online entrepreneur.

Do you want to start a business? If so, how are you going to put into action these steps? Let us know by commenting below.

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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3 Effective Ways to Build a Disruptive Startup Company

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You probably know of some startups in your country. Even if you know only a few things about business, you probably know how competitive all markets are. Yet some people are crazy enough to build an innovative business disrupting very competitive markets. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

Here are 3 tactics I learned reading their stories about building a disrupting startup from the ground up, personally and technically:

1. Disrupt Yourself

Entrepreneurship, at its core, is a big change, and every change—no matter its size or importance—begins inside of you. You have to initiate it. Successful people initiate proactively. Nobody can help you if you are not ambitious to change and grow.

It’s not an autonomous process. Change happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and it’s not supposed to be easy. In fact, facing uncertainty has always been the hardest part of every success story.

Therefore, to be successful, you have to disrupt yourself first. How?

Fortunately, it can be learned and practiced. According to Whitney Johnson, author and consultant, disrupting yourself involves seven steps:

  •         Taking the right risks.
  •         Playing to your distinctive strengths.
  •         Embracing constraints.
  •         Battling entitlement.
  •         Stepping back to move forward.
  •         Planning for failure.
  •         Letting your strategy emerge.

So to disrupt markets, you have to start with yourself.

“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.” – Conor McGregor

2. Identify “Jobs to Be Done”

Finding a smart idea is another challenging aspect. Watch and research interesting markets and industries carefully. Don’t focus on products and features. Look for everything that companies in an industry are not good enough at doing—the poorly performed jobs.

Look for the real reasons behind buying a product or service.

  •         Does that product/service satisfy customers?
  •         Why don’t some people use a product/service?
  •         What don’t they like about an industry?
  •         What experience do they expect?

Answering these questions helps you know your customers’ real needs and to identify what Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, calls “jobs to be done.” In other words, it helps you understand the real business you’re in.

This could be emotional or social, but it is less likely to be functional. Use your intuition. Talk to your target customers. Think about what jobs they might hire you to do for them. Pick an idea, create a business model, validate it, and run!

3. Change the customer process

The next challenge is crafting an innovative business model that accomplishes jobs for customers and solves their problems in the best way—and from a fresh perspective. To do this, you have to view the problems through the customer’s’ eyes.

Build a product that rocks and conquers the market. Then create an exceptional set of experiences along with your product/service. This will be possible by focusing not on touchpoints but on customers’ end-to-end journey.

A company’s processes should be aligned to support the journey. It may be easy to copy a business model, but it’s not easy to copy the process and customer experience, even in the most competitive markets.

“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” – Chinese Proverb

Remember that disrupting a market takes time. Learn to embrace the change and uncertainty that entrepreneurship entails and set yourself apart from others.

Do you want to start a business? Tell us what you have your heart set on so we can help you along the way!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Your Competition Is Magnificent – Quit Being A Sook

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I’ve got this friend and he’s always crying about the competition. He spends a lot of time sooking about them and coming up with plans to take them down.

I’ve put up with it for a while, but now it’s driving me nuts. I started to think: how can we learn to love our competition in business?

Here are some thoughts I had about your competition:

 

Thought #1 – You say they’re lying. Good!

My friend says his competition is lying. Many businesses lie and that’s fantastic news for you. When a business lies, they are playing the short game.

“The long game in business is about being so vulnerable, authentic and real that it punches your ideal customer in the face every time they hear about your brand”

Trust in business, leads to incredible progress. All those marketing campaigns your competitor’s use are mostly to make them sound like something they are not. When your business is trustworthy, you don’t need to market as much.

Being honest cuts through the hype and because it’s so rare, your ideal customer runs towards you at 110km, with their arms wide open. Right behind them are all of their network who are begging to hear from a business that is a real – a business that is like you and me.

Don’t hate your dishonest competition: learn to love them from the bottom of your heart. See the love in your competition.

 

Thought #2 – There’s enough room for everyone

This scarcity mindset that you have to own 100% of the market in your first three years of operations is bulldust. There’s room for you and your competitors. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon to reach the unicorn status that is success/world domination.

Feeling like you’re drowning in competition is exactly that. Focusing on your competition 24/7 makes you feel like absolute garbage after a while. It stops you from having a good night sleep full of dreams that contain growth, prosperity, optimism and triumph towards your businesses mission.

I used to be that guy that couldn’t sleep because of competition. Every time someone brought out the same product that was cheaper than mine, I cracked it. I thought that business was so hard because there were so many people that wanted to cut my lunch.

What I forgot is that despite all the competition, people were still buying. Even if we weren’t the cheapest, it didn’t matter. Some people would find us and buy, and others wouldn’t.

The competition can only cut your lunch for so long. If you stick at it and not let the thoughts of their horrible shadows upset you, you’ll be soon making the lunches and cutting theirs.

 

Thought #3 – It’s ugly

Sooking like a pissed off brown bear with a crown on its head is ugly. You’re showing everyone you work with that you are a sore loser. Winners worry about their own business first.

“Winners know that their business isn’t an immaculate diamond on day one”

Every time my friend complained about his competitors; it made his business seem ugly. I stopped becoming drawn to it as I did at the start. The conversations became more about his competitors than his own business. The focus was lost on competitors which he couldn’t control.

 

Thought #4 – You can’t win every deal

No business wins 100% of the opportunities that are presented. There’s this lie that you have to be always winning to be successful. There’s this belief that some people have that says their business is unique and therefore it’s only normal that when they pitch, they will always win.

Again, this is total BS. Your business might have some unique strengths, but there’s always competition. Some deals you’ll win and some deals you won’t. You don’t need to win all the time to put food on the table and be successful.

I’m also competitive by nature and I’ve had to settle sometimes for the simple fact that I won’t win all the time. Sometimes losing a deal is only the beginning. The opportunities you lose are where all the lessons are.

“Your lost opportunities are what strengthen your entire value proposition to the market”

 

Thought #5 – Seeing your competitors suck is inspiring

When a competitor of yours has a major failure, you should be inspired. What I mean is that you should never want your own client base to suffer the same gunshot to the head. Instead of trash talking your competitors for their mistakes, use them as inspiration to not be like them.

Your competitors should form part of the reason why you exist. You should exist not to make the same dumb mistakes they do. You should exist so your customers have a better alternative. Having horrendous companies within the same industry has inspired many businesses like Uber and Airbnb.

Being a business full of inspiring people is easier when everyone else sucks.

 

Thought #6 – Complaining shows insecurity

By my friend complaining about his competition, what he revealed to me was his insecurity. He was showing me that he lacked the confidence in his own product and so it made sense for him to talk down everyone else’s.

The thing is when you love your product and genuinely believe it’s the best in its field, you forget about everyone else’s. Believing in your product offering comes from the confidence that as a business you believe in yourselves.

If you believe, your ideal customer will believe. Bagging your competition may make you feel better in the short term, but it will never make your business grow.

Thought #7 – You only have so much thinking space

Don’t waste it thinking about your competitors. Use your thinking space to come up with new ideas, to innovate and to WOW your customers. These habits will stop you from living in the scarcity that comes with being obsessed by your competition.

Thinking about your competitors is not going to make them go away. Complaining about them will not improve your product or service. To have a good business, you have to operate from a place of creativity. Being creative is hard work and so you don’t want throw away your thinking space.

Dreaming about your competitors puts you in a spiral of negative thoughts. These thoughts start to overtake the positive ones and pretty soon you can’t be relentlessly optimistic anymore. It’s this optimism that helps you come up with ideas that will change the world.

Much like we compare ourselves to the lives we live through looking at other people’s social media, focusing on your competitor’s forces you to always believe you don’t have enough.

I’m here to say you are good enough. Your business is good enough. Your business can be one of the great’s.

 

Thought #8 – You can actually do business with your competitors

Here’s the really stupid thing: You can actually do business with your competitors. See, your business can’t fulfill every customer need. Instead of saying “We don’t do that,” use your competitors as referral partners.

I can remember in a business that I was a part of, where we used our competitors over the road to supply us with stock when we ran out and had items on back order. We would do the same thing for them when they ran out of stock. As a result, we always had stock.

“Our competitors over the road taught us lots of things we would have never known if we tried to play the solo game. Business is a team sport”

 

***Final thought***

Your competition is not the problem. They’re not the reason why you are losing sales. The real reason you are focused on your competition is because something is wrong with the way you are thinking. Your competitors can force you to sabotage your own success if you don’t stop focusing on them.

Complaining about your competitors never get’s you anywhere. The way to fast-track your success is to get intimate with your competitors and find a way to be uniquely you. Find a way to be bold, authentic, real, sexy and unwavering in your businesses values. Be the honest, cool company that is friends with everybody. That’s how you go from being a sook to being the best in your field.

I want you to use your competition to be world-class. You deserve it.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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5 Ways to Avoid Burning Out While Building Your Business

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Isn’t it strange how mundane things can bring back really vivid memories? As the burnt toast hit the trash, I remembered how burn out meant my first online business ended up on the scrapheap (nearly taking me with it). 

Juggling a full-time job, family, volunteering and running an online business left me physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Just like toast, the burn creeps in slowly and when complete, you’re left unable to nourish yourself or anything else.

You may have already heard run-of-the-mill advice like taking regular breaks to prevent burn out. But what’s the point of stepping away from work only to be stressed that things will fall apart?

Here are five not-so-obvious ways to become burn out proof:

1. Create the right systems

Having no systems (or the wrong systems) is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, systems get a bad rap because they can be seen as snooze fests. Who’s ever heard of a sexy system? I sure haven’t!

To make matters worse, traditional systems have a sterile and stuffy image that can make some entrepreneurs feel boxed into something that’s unsuitable for their needs.

The key to making systems work for your business is to design them with flexibility, so your creativity isn’t stifled. Systems that curb burn out are those that account for the ‘secret sauce’ of how you do business. This ensures authenticity, even when your business grows. I call these flexible and personalized systems ‘productivity recipes.’ Because, just like normal recipes, you have the core ingredients and you can make tweaks to suit your business taste.

We’re all different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all business system. Productivity recipes focus on the human side of systems. They bring order to repetitive tasks while taking into account the quirks that make your business unique.

Productivity recipes stop burn out by preventing you from biting off more than you can chew, especially when your business is growing.

2. Get apps ‘talking’ to each other

Automation is another way to hand over repetitive and stressful work. Services like IFTTT and Zapier connect the apps you use to automate your workflow. In other words, they get rid of the biggest time sucks in your business.

Part of creating productivity recipes is to spot tasks you can automate. This will help your business run like a well-oiled machine and save you money when outsourcing.

Start out automating everyday tasks, like social media and email management, by finding out how the apps can ‘talk’ to each other.

Do yourself (and your health) a favour and start to create productivity recipes to see what you can automate. The aim is to drop repetitive tasks like a hot potato to reduce the risk of burnt out. Get your apps communicating to free up time to chat with friends and family.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

3. Outsource

Outsourcing should be done when you already have productivity recipes in place. It’s tempting to hand over parts of your business to a VA or freelancer and forget about it, but this approach could land you in hot water.

With productivity recipes, anyone you hire will have the blueprint of how you expect things to be done. You’ll also save time getting new hires up to speed. Most importantly, your clients won’t get any nasty surprises or unwelcome changes when you grow your team.

You’ll be able to take time out to recharge your batteries, having all the confidence that your business will continue to function properly in your absence.

4. Find some cheerleaders

Being part of a supportive group is crucial to making yourself burn out proof. Informal groups, like Facebook communities, are helpful networks that can prevent you going down the burn out road.

If you’ve been working non-stop and your brain feels as limp as the lettuce in the sandwich you’ve been too busy to eat, connect with people who can identify with where you are and encourage you to take a step back.

The best groups are those that aren’t strictly business. Look for a group with dedicated days for sharing things like inspirational quotes and jokes to lighten things up a little.

Feeling like you’re the only one who experiences overwhelm can be a lonely place. Being part of a community where people share their struggles helps to provide perspective that you can achieve your goals without compromising your health.

“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” – Misty Copeland

5. Inject your personality into your passion

When you’re passionate about your work, it seems like you can work day and night without ever feeling tired. Of course, it’s advisable to make time for proper rest. I’ve found that, the more I enjoy work, the more I look after myself to reduce the risks of becoming ill. I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive to avoid burn out. I’m also a huge foodie. That’s why I incorporate food and drink analogies in my work because being fed and watered is something we can all relate to.

Injecting your personality into your work makes everything easier. It’s very draining pretending to be someone you’re not. If you’re already pursuing your passion, add a splash of your personality to reduce the chance of burn out.

Suffering from burn out is a serious setback to your health and business. It’s a relief to know that, unlike the burnt toast that ends up in the trash, you can make a full recovery from burn out. But why take the risk in the first place? Put in place practical measures to avoid getting burnt when the heat is turned up in your business.

It’s good to share. What do you put in place to make sure you don’t burn out? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

How do you avoid burning out when things get tough? Let us know by commenting below!

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