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5 Harsh Realities You Need To Be Aware Of Before Starting a Business

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When people imagine starting their own business, everything seems perfect. They think about quitting their jobs, making a positive impact on the world, and living the lifestyle they always dreamed of.

I know, because I hear it all the time. It’s easy to feel amped up and ready to take on the world. But once the reality of needing to do the work sets in, a lot of people gradually let go of their dream and look for another shortcut to success.

Running a business is hard. Now, this isn’t meant to put you off from doing so. Not at all. Instead, think of it as a way of preparing yourself for the difficulties that lie ahead.

Starting and running your business is an incredible journey for those who are willing to walk that road. So if you think you have what it takes, learning about the harsh truths of running a business will help you to keep moving when you encounter obstacles.

Here are five things you should know before starting a business:

1. It’s a commitment

When people say that learning a skill or building anything requires a long-term approach, many of us just nod our heads. It’s as if we hear it all the time, but it doesn’t really register internally. As a result, many people get tired of working on their businesses and chase after something new because it feels fresh and exciting.

Starting and sticking to a business is like trying to master any skill. It takes patience and responsibility to nurture and grow a business. Sometimes working on it can feel boring, while other times it can be fun. The key is to be consistent in your actions.

“We only get to play this game one time…one life.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

2. There will be growing pains at every corner

“If I can just get this off the ground, then everything will be okay.” This is a common train of thought people have when they first start a business. They figure that if they can just get past the beginning, which they believe is the hard part, then it’ll be smooth sailing afterward.

While this may be a nice way to motivate yourself initially, the truth is that each stage of your business will have its difficulties. Once you’ve learned to grow your business past one step, then the next step will have a different set of challenges. You’ll have to continually think about how to get your business to grow, innovate, and sustain itself in a changing environment.

3. You’re not as good as you think

People, especially beginners, tend to overestimate their abilities. We think we can do anything we set our minds to. It’s only when we attempt something and fail that we realize our true skill level. That’s okay. It’s completely normal and just part of the process. You can keep improving by practicing and learning from those who are more advanced than you are.

4. You will learn a lot

Unlike most jobs, where you do the same things over and over again, starting a business requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades. You’ll have to manage many aspects of the business yourself, which will teach you a lot in the process. Sometimes you learn by trying things out, and other times you learn by making mistakes.

Outside of your business, you’ll also learn along the way by reading articles and books, attending seminars, or talking to other people.

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

5. You will feel like giving up

Do you ever hear successful people talk about those tough times they faced when they were starting out? That will be you. You will question your efforts. You will want to pull your hair out as you wonder what on Earth you are doing. You will want to quit. Everyone who tries something will have these thoughts going through their heads. The difference is whether you will give in, or whether you will keep pushing forward.

What are you struggling with at the moment? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Melissa Chu is the founder of Jumpstart Your Dream Life, where she helps people get productive and incorporate positive habits into their everyday lives. You can download the guide that shows you how to achieve your goals (without giving up). So get started today. Download the guide here.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Charlie

    Feb 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    This is a good list, I can closely relate to number 3, not only was I not as good as I thought but I also tried doing it all myself. One major caveat when first starting out is thinking and feeling like it all must be done by you. This only allowed me to be mediocre at best. I think there are probably several more points that can be covered here, one I would add is failure, the odds are stacked against you especially when you go into a well saturated niche. Dealing with failure properly is so important, otherwise there’s no restart. This is where that commitment point comes in handy. If we’re only doing this for money the motivation will run out faster than if we were doing it to change our own lives and increase our own happiness and satisfaction. That’s why failure needs to be addressed properly when going it alone.

  2. mpanga Lawrence

    Jan 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Hello Stephens
    Right from my childhood,i have been trying to start up different businesses but hardly come out.
    Seriously am innovative and creative but things are not working out I don’t know why.
    Am good at viewing opportunities when others don’t see them.
    From today am going to start using my weakness to achieve my success.
    When it comes out I will share with you.thanks brother

  3. Kurtis Stephens

    Nov 17, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Hi Melissa,

    I’m glad that I found this post! It is very insightful – I am going through these difficulties currently with my new startup.

    I definitely agree with all the points listed. In the beginning, it can be so exciting and so much fun; “Yeah, I’m starting my own business!”. But then quickly, as the work adds up, the long hours build up and progress is slow, it can become disheartening and tough. It’s definitely not a commitment to take lightly.

    I thought it was going to be a breeze when I first started, considering my knowledge on the topic. However, knowledge is just one aspect of the whole process. I find that progress is slow, but it’s still worth it. They say time is the only healer – I think that’s true for business too. You need to put the time in to nurture and progress, stay committed, stay motivated and keep having fun.

    The results will come.

    Thanks for the post!

    Kind regards,
    Kurtis Stephens/

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Definitely, Stephen! I’ve been there with the whole excitement and energetic thing in the beginning, and then the disheartening feelings that follow.

      Interesting you mention that time is the only healer – especially nowadays, we’re losing patience as a society and everything needs to be fast-paced or quick. Otherwise, our attention span goes off to somewhere else, which doesn’t help when commitment is required.

      I find that picking up fun hobbies outside of your long-term commitment can give you renewed energy. Also, there isn’t that same pressure to keep going if you get bored or tired of your hobby, which is refreshing.

      thanks for reading!
      Melissa

  4. Cor the Coach

    Nov 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Things that can be added:

    – Refocus on what your REAL goals are
    – Kill a lot of your ideas/darlings
    – Expect unexpected, possibilities, people and support
    – You are not alone, but you are not always surrounded with the like minded people.

    The moment you do not believe in yourself, you will lose a lot more than business.
    So find the people who do believe in you, or at least to whom you can talk about. A coach, mentor or a very good friend helps definitely.

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 14, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Great points Cor, especially about surrounding yourself with the right people. There will be a lot of people who don’t support what you do, whether well-intentioned or not.

      thanks for reading!
      Melissa

  5. Lawrence Berry

    Nov 13, 2016 at 4:43 am

    These are truly some harsh realities that people have to become accustomed to if they want to be successful in the business world. They have to know what they are getting themselves into because starting a business can be a very hard endeavor, especially if you have too many expectations in the beginning. You have to know that you will learn a lot, and that there will be challenges. But never giving up is the only surefire way that you will not fail.

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      So true how people can have too many expectations, Lawrence. I think it’s also made worse by the fact that all this hype is made about the rewards, but not enough about the world involved.

      Thanks for reading!
      Melissa

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Startups

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

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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.

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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!

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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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Startups

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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Entrepreneurs

7 Days to Success: a Weekly Ritual to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

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We’ve often said there is no exact formula for success. While that’s true, there are some definite steps you can take to move your business in the right direction. If we could put this into some orderly sequence and create a system to follow every day, wouldn’t it be nice? (more…)

Zac Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in the world of online marketing and has helped millions of people discover new and exciting ways to make money online. See all of this and more in action through his How to Start a Blog resource site, while also following Zac on his personal blog.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Charlie

    Feb 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    This is a good list, I can closely relate to number 3, not only was I not as good as I thought but I also tried doing it all myself. One major caveat when first starting out is thinking and feeling like it all must be done by you. This only allowed me to be mediocre at best. I think there are probably several more points that can be covered here, one I would add is failure, the odds are stacked against you especially when you go into a well saturated niche. Dealing with failure properly is so important, otherwise there’s no restart. This is where that commitment point comes in handy. If we’re only doing this for money the motivation will run out faster than if we were doing it to change our own lives and increase our own happiness and satisfaction. That’s why failure needs to be addressed properly when going it alone.

  2. mpanga Lawrence

    Jan 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Hello Stephens
    Right from my childhood,i have been trying to start up different businesses but hardly come out.
    Seriously am innovative and creative but things are not working out I don’t know why.
    Am good at viewing opportunities when others don’t see them.
    From today am going to start using my weakness to achieve my success.
    When it comes out I will share with you.thanks brother

  3. Kurtis Stephens

    Nov 17, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Hi Melissa,

    I’m glad that I found this post! It is very insightful – I am going through these difficulties currently with my new startup.

    I definitely agree with all the points listed. In the beginning, it can be so exciting and so much fun; “Yeah, I’m starting my own business!”. But then quickly, as the work adds up, the long hours build up and progress is slow, it can become disheartening and tough. It’s definitely not a commitment to take lightly.

    I thought it was going to be a breeze when I first started, considering my knowledge on the topic. However, knowledge is just one aspect of the whole process. I find that progress is slow, but it’s still worth it. They say time is the only healer – I think that’s true for business too. You need to put the time in to nurture and progress, stay committed, stay motivated and keep having fun.

    The results will come.

    Thanks for the post!

    Kind regards,
    Kurtis Stephens/

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Definitely, Stephen! I’ve been there with the whole excitement and energetic thing in the beginning, and then the disheartening feelings that follow.

      Interesting you mention that time is the only healer – especially nowadays, we’re losing patience as a society and everything needs to be fast-paced or quick. Otherwise, our attention span goes off to somewhere else, which doesn’t help when commitment is required.

      I find that picking up fun hobbies outside of your long-term commitment can give you renewed energy. Also, there isn’t that same pressure to keep going if you get bored or tired of your hobby, which is refreshing.

      thanks for reading!
      Melissa

  4. Cor the Coach

    Nov 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Things that can be added:

    – Refocus on what your REAL goals are
    – Kill a lot of your ideas/darlings
    – Expect unexpected, possibilities, people and support
    – You are not alone, but you are not always surrounded with the like minded people.

    The moment you do not believe in yourself, you will lose a lot more than business.
    So find the people who do believe in you, or at least to whom you can talk about. A coach, mentor or a very good friend helps definitely.

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 14, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Great points Cor, especially about surrounding yourself with the right people. There will be a lot of people who don’t support what you do, whether well-intentioned or not.

      thanks for reading!
      Melissa

  5. Lawrence Berry

    Nov 13, 2016 at 4:43 am

    These are truly some harsh realities that people have to become accustomed to if they want to be successful in the business world. They have to know what they are getting themselves into because starting a business can be a very hard endeavor, especially if you have too many expectations in the beginning. You have to know that you will learn a lot, and that there will be challenges. But never giving up is the only surefire way that you will not fail.

    • Melissa Chu

      Nov 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      So true how people can have too many expectations, Lawrence. I think it’s also made worse by the fact that all this hype is made about the rewards, but not enough about the world involved.

      Thanks for reading!
      Melissa

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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.

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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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