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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

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!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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3 Lessons I Learned From the Failure of My First Startup

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You’re exhausted. You’ve put countless of hours into an idea that you believed in so much. Literally almost blood, sweat and tears were sacrificed for this vision to be accomplished. You had hoped and expected for a lot of things, and was excited to have plans for the future.

A few months ago, I wrote an article here titled, “What I Learned After Opening My First Business at 21.” My restaurant was doing well that time, and writing that article made me feel on top of the world. I thought that it was going to be that way for a long time, yet not so long after that, sales started to become stagnant and then declined.

As I write this today, my restaurant has already stopped operations. It stopped a few days ago, but a couple months back, I knew it was bound to happen. We couldn’t keep up with the bills we needed to pay, and they kept accumulating day by day. With a heavy heart and chaotic mind, we knew we had to close it down.

I couldn’t believe this was happening barely one year after starting operations. But if you were to ask me that if I had the chance to start over, would I do it again? I would still say yes. Despite its failure, there were still very important (also expensive) lessons that I learned that I would never have acquired otherwise if I didn’t start the business.

Here are a few lessons I learned after failing my first startup:

1. Entrepreneurship requires resilience

You cannot ever be successful if you haven’t developed resilience. Whether you like it or not, something will turn out wrong in your business. Maybe sometimes not to the point that it needs to be shut down, but something that could make your decisions critical to your organization goals.

You could give yourself time to grieve, but it shouldn’t stop there. Life goes on. And you need to get back on your feet if you still want to make a difference. The biggest companies that are successful right now all experienced a massive amount of failure.

But they never stopped trying. Because with every failure comes a lesson. Anyone with common sense would learn from that failure, and start again with more knowledge on what to do and what not to do.

Whenever I thought about the accumulated debts of my restaurant, I would have this sinking feeling in my chest and stomach. I knew that I would have to liquidate the assets. So I continued to search for buyers of the assets.

Instead of grieving for a much longer period, I knew I’d have to pick myself back up again so I could pay the debt. It might be hard at first, but if you call yourself an entrepreneur, quitting is not an option. We fail, we learn, then get back up.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

2. Learn to listen

Being a first-time founder, I had a very idealistic attitude. I had no experience in the food industry and established the business with only the belief that my partners and I would make it. I was wrong.

Aside from not being able to make it with that business, I realized what the naysayers had been telling me all along. But you have to be careful here. There are naysayers who have no credibility to back up what they say and want to bring you down. But there are also ones who speak from experience and are genuinely concerned for you. You must learn to discern the right voices to listen to if you want to succeed.

Taking risks is good, but make sure those risks are calculated and not reckless. We took a risk that wasn’t entirely reckless, but not all aspects of them were calculated. We were unsure of some parts of the business, and just “winged” it. Look at what happened to winging it!

Know when you need to jump with both feet or just one, but also listen to the voices who tell you when to put your feet in the water. Trust me, you never know when you will value their input.

3. Your failures do not define you

I never thought this would take a toll on my self-esteem, even when I knew I had to get back up. On the outside I looked normal. Going to school, work, and social settings looking like nothing had happened. But inside I was a wreck and didn’t want to admit it.

I would feel guilty whenever people would praise me about how “successful” I was at such a young age but that wasn’t true. For a while I thought that I was the failure. My insecurities started haunting me again and my browser history was filled with questions on what to do.

That was when I discovered that successful people failed more often than they succeeded. Even the ones with smaller businesses had their fair share of failures before finding an idea that worked for them.

But their failures never got to their heart. They weren’t the failures. The business failed, not them. So they tried again until they got it right. Maybe this business didn’t work out for me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never be successful. The sooner you believe your failures don’t define you, the more the weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

People fail every single day. The difference between the ones who succeed and those who don’t is persistence and the drive to continue even after failing. It’s much better to try and fail than never having to start and learn nothing.

“Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble.” – Shah Rukh Khan

Have you ever started a business that eventually failed? What did you learn from it? Please leave your experiences below!
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Want A Business Idea That’s Guaranteed To Make You Money? Here’s How You Should Start.

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Let’s first start off with the “why”. When you know why you’re doing something, it can create clarity in your tasks, and direct your efforts. So, grab a sheet of paper, or a notebook and let’s get started.

Answer this question: Why do I want to start a business? Here are some common answers.

  • to do something I love
  • to create financial freedom so I can, “fill in the blank” (travel, pay off debts, buy expensive things, etc.)
  • to have the freedom to set my hours, choose when I work and what I work on
  • to help others, using my skills
  • I hate my job

Once you know why you’re doing it, you’ll have a better idea of what your goals are.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.” – Mark Twain

Start With Your Skills

At the heart of every business, and profession is the solution to a problem. If you can identify a problem that a group of people are having and solve it for them, you have the makings of a successful business.

Start with your current skill set. Everyone has skills, passions and talents in one area or another. What we fail to sometimes see is the ability for those skills to solve a problem for others in a meaningful way.

You can also ask family and friends to help you identify your skills. They may point out strengths you never considered. Keep in mind you don’t need to have mastered that skill yet, you can continue to learn and develop it as you go along. Ray Higdon a successful business man says to “Invest, learn then teach”.

Invest in yourself and improving your skills, learn more about your niche, and creating solutions to their problems, then teach others what you’ve learned.

Once you’ve got that down, the next step is doing some research. What problems are people having that you could use your current skill set to help solve? This is where picking a niche comes in handy. A niche refers to a small specialized portion of the population.

Let’s say, you’re a stay at home parent, and one of your skills is cooking healthy family meals that your kids enjoy. Your niche will likely be stay at home parents. You can then narrow down your search by checking forums and website or magazines that target stay at home parents.

“If you do what you love, it is the best way to relax.” – Christian Louboutin

What To Look For in Your Research?

Look for pain points and problems, especially those that are recurring. You may find that cooking healthy meals is not necessarily where parents are struggling, maybe it’s with purchasing healthy foods or the cost (money and time) of healthy meals. You want to look at the questions people are asking, and take note of the language they use to describe their problems. Nutritious vs. healthy. Quick vs. easy.

Finally, take note of products that offer solutions to those problems. These offer ideas to you about ways in which you can present your solution; Youtube channels, specialized cookbooks, how-to guides, online courses, etc.

By the time you’ve followed all these steps, you would have established 3 things:

  1. A monetizable skill set — You know what your skills are and how you can use them
  2. Proof of a Need — People have a problem that you can solve, and now you know who they are.
  3. A Profitable Market — If people are buying said cookbooks, or paying for products, this shows you that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

This is the beginning of any business. Fast Food restaurants offer quick meals on the go, Walmart puts everything in one place so people don’t have to travel to different stores, books entertain or instruct, cars transport and save time. At the heart of every product and business is a need, and you are now on your way to creating a solution that people are already looking for!

What is a business you want to start? Share your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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7 Essential Email Marketing Tips You Need to Implement Into Your Business Today

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While Email might seem like a fading beauty, this technological dinosaur continues to be the preferred method of communication for the digital age. The rise of smartphones and mobile devices has only added to emails popularity by putting constant communication right in the palm of our hands.

In fact, According to Custora, Email marketing was the biggest driver of Black Friday transactions last fall, with 25.1% of sales originating from email promotions.

With that in mind, here are some tips that are guaranteed to take your Email Marketing to a whole new level:

1. One Element, One Job

Most people try and do way too much with their emails, and you may be guilty of this as well. Follow the simple rule of making each element of your email do just one job, and your emails will become much more effective. The subject line of your email, for example, exists for one reason only: To get your email opened. Your subject line doesn’t need to explain what’s in the email. It doesn’t need to sell, or get clicks. It JUST needs to get your email opened.

That’s it’s job. The body copy of your email exists just for the purposes of getting clicks. That’s it. Each element has its proper place, and if you just make sure they do their job, you’ll see great results.

2. Keep It Short And Sweet

People are busy, and their attention span is limited…So always remember that you’re writing an email, not Homer’s Odyssey. Remember, the body of your email has one job: To get the reader to click. So say what you have to say, keep it short and sweet, and get them to click away from the inbox, and moving along the path towards where you want them.

“Good content is a commodity, great content is a scarcity.”

3. Train Your Subscribers To Click

Every email you write – Every single one – Should have a link in it that your readers can click on, and a call to action encouraging them to do so. If you’re selling something, obviously you would include a link, but if you are sharing content, or telling a story (which is fine, because people love stories) make sure to tell SOME of the story, then offer a link to read the conclusion on a web page or blog.

Link to videos, or other things the reader might find inspiring. Link to your help desk! Whatever it is, you want to train your readers to see your emails, open them, read them, and then CLICK.

4. Be Consistent

Consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds comfort and trust. And comfortable, trusting people buy stuff! Try opening and closing all your emails with the same introduction and the same sign off. Create a mailing calendar and try emailing the same days every week, or mailing at the same time everyday.

Much like bars offer a happy hour at the same time everyday, maybe you can send a “daily deal” email every afternoon or a weekly summary email. Whatever it is you decide to do, once you decide to do it, be CONSISTENT.

5. Personalize, {name}

Personalization fields are extremely powerful. Multiple studies have shown that the single most powerful word in any language is someone’s OWN name. And so of course, personalization fields that allow you to address your reader by name are incredibly effective. Campaign Monitor has reported that Marketers who use personalization in their subject lines see 26% more opens.

You can also use personalization fields to mention what time it is (no matter where someone is) what city or country someone is in. Even what they’ve bought in previous transactions!

“Email Acquisition is like cutting hair, must happen regularly, can be done well, but one bad experience can scar forever.” – David Baker

6. Segment Your Lists

Modern autoresponders are a miracle of analytical data and automation opportunities. You now have the ability to easily segment your lists, and you should. Separate your prospects from your buyers. Separate buyers by product or category, so you can follow up with smart emails that sell upgrades or related products! You can even separate people who opened and read previous emails from those who haven’t, so you can follow up with people who opened your emails, read them, and clicked, from those who didn’t.

7. Tell Stories

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication known to man. Stories have been used throughout time to pass lore and culture down from generation to generation. And from a marketing standpoint, stories offer a glimpse into who you are, or what your business stands for and how it works.

This information might seem mundane to you, but an outsider will find it fascinating. And as a result, the ability to tell stories will dramatically improve your marketing. If you’re new to storytelling, start by finding friends or co-workers who are particularly fun or engaging. Pay attention to how they command a room through stories and anecdotes. Look for local storytelling events so you can attend, and listen in as master storytellers share their craft.

These 7 tips should drastically improve your email marketing. Start implementing them and be sure to share your results.

What other email marketing strategies would you add to this list? Leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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5 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Commit to Lifelong Learning

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Education is commonly equated to an experience for children and young adults, but the reality is that lifelong learning can benefit you in many ways. The world is constantly changing, and this means that you must be open to absorbing and actively seeking new information to stay up-to-date. This, of course, expands far beyond education in your area of professional expertise. (more…)

Helen Eagleton, a freelance blogger from Boston, follows topics in the realm of education, technology, digital marketing, and business in general. When she’s not researching for her next article, she enjoys watching documentaries and exploring the nature. Reach her @eagleton_helen.

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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

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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3 Lessons I Learned From the Failure of My First Startup

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You’re exhausted. You’ve put countless of hours into an idea that you believed in so much. Literally almost blood, sweat and tears were sacrificed for this vision to be accomplished. You had hoped and expected for a lot of things, and was excited to have plans for the future.

A few months ago, I wrote an article here titled, “What I Learned After Opening My First Business at 21.” My restaurant was doing well that time, and writing that article made me feel on top of the world. I thought that it was going to be that way for a long time, yet not so long after that, sales started to become stagnant and then declined.

As I write this today, my restaurant has already stopped operations. It stopped a few days ago, but a couple months back, I knew it was bound to happen. We couldn’t keep up with the bills we needed to pay, and they kept accumulating day by day. With a heavy heart and chaotic mind, we knew we had to close it down.

I couldn’t believe this was happening barely one year after starting operations. But if you were to ask me that if I had the chance to start over, would I do it again? I would still say yes. Despite its failure, there were still very important (also expensive) lessons that I learned that I would never have acquired otherwise if I didn’t start the business.

Here are a few lessons I learned after failing my first startup:

1. Entrepreneurship requires resilience

You cannot ever be successful if you haven’t developed resilience. Whether you like it or not, something will turn out wrong in your business. Maybe sometimes not to the point that it needs to be shut down, but something that could make your decisions critical to your organization goals.

You could give yourself time to grieve, but it shouldn’t stop there. Life goes on. And you need to get back on your feet if you still want to make a difference. The biggest companies that are successful right now all experienced a massive amount of failure.

But they never stopped trying. Because with every failure comes a lesson. Anyone with common sense would learn from that failure, and start again with more knowledge on what to do and what not to do.

Whenever I thought about the accumulated debts of my restaurant, I would have this sinking feeling in my chest and stomach. I knew that I would have to liquidate the assets. So I continued to search for buyers of the assets.

Instead of grieving for a much longer period, I knew I’d have to pick myself back up again so I could pay the debt. It might be hard at first, but if you call yourself an entrepreneur, quitting is not an option. We fail, we learn, then get back up.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

2. Learn to listen

Being a first-time founder, I had a very idealistic attitude. I had no experience in the food industry and established the business with only the belief that my partners and I would make it. I was wrong.

Aside from not being able to make it with that business, I realized what the naysayers had been telling me all along. But you have to be careful here. There are naysayers who have no credibility to back up what they say and want to bring you down. But there are also ones who speak from experience and are genuinely concerned for you. You must learn to discern the right voices to listen to if you want to succeed.

Taking risks is good, but make sure those risks are calculated and not reckless. We took a risk that wasn’t entirely reckless, but not all aspects of them were calculated. We were unsure of some parts of the business, and just “winged” it. Look at what happened to winging it!

Know when you need to jump with both feet or just one, but also listen to the voices who tell you when to put your feet in the water. Trust me, you never know when you will value their input.

3. Your failures do not define you

I never thought this would take a toll on my self-esteem, even when I knew I had to get back up. On the outside I looked normal. Going to school, work, and social settings looking like nothing had happened. But inside I was a wreck and didn’t want to admit it.

I would feel guilty whenever people would praise me about how “successful” I was at such a young age but that wasn’t true. For a while I thought that I was the failure. My insecurities started haunting me again and my browser history was filled with questions on what to do.

That was when I discovered that successful people failed more often than they succeeded. Even the ones with smaller businesses had their fair share of failures before finding an idea that worked for them.

But their failures never got to their heart. They weren’t the failures. The business failed, not them. So they tried again until they got it right. Maybe this business didn’t work out for me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never be successful. The sooner you believe your failures don’t define you, the more the weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

People fail every single day. The difference between the ones who succeed and those who don’t is persistence and the drive to continue even after failing. It’s much better to try and fail than never having to start and learn nothing.

“Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble.” – Shah Rukh Khan

Have you ever started a business that eventually failed? What did you learn from it? Please leave your experiences below!
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Want A Business Idea That’s Guaranteed To Make You Money? Here’s How You Should Start.

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Let’s first start off with the “why”. When you know why you’re doing something, it can create clarity in your tasks, and direct your efforts. So, grab a sheet of paper, or a notebook and let’s get started.

Answer this question: Why do I want to start a business? Here are some common answers.

  • to do something I love
  • to create financial freedom so I can, “fill in the blank” (travel, pay off debts, buy expensive things, etc.)
  • to have the freedom to set my hours, choose when I work and what I work on
  • to help others, using my skills
  • I hate my job

Once you know why you’re doing it, you’ll have a better idea of what your goals are.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.” – Mark Twain

Start With Your Skills

At the heart of every business, and profession is the solution to a problem. If you can identify a problem that a group of people are having and solve it for them, you have the makings of a successful business.

Start with your current skill set. Everyone has skills, passions and talents in one area or another. What we fail to sometimes see is the ability for those skills to solve a problem for others in a meaningful way.

You can also ask family and friends to help you identify your skills. They may point out strengths you never considered. Keep in mind you don’t need to have mastered that skill yet, you can continue to learn and develop it as you go along. Ray Higdon a successful business man says to “Invest, learn then teach”.

Invest in yourself and improving your skills, learn more about your niche, and creating solutions to their problems, then teach others what you’ve learned.

Once you’ve got that down, the next step is doing some research. What problems are people having that you could use your current skill set to help solve? This is where picking a niche comes in handy. A niche refers to a small specialized portion of the population.

Let’s say, you’re a stay at home parent, and one of your skills is cooking healthy family meals that your kids enjoy. Your niche will likely be stay at home parents. You can then narrow down your search by checking forums and website or magazines that target stay at home parents.

“If you do what you love, it is the best way to relax.” – Christian Louboutin

What To Look For in Your Research?

Look for pain points and problems, especially those that are recurring. You may find that cooking healthy meals is not necessarily where parents are struggling, maybe it’s with purchasing healthy foods or the cost (money and time) of healthy meals. You want to look at the questions people are asking, and take note of the language they use to describe their problems. Nutritious vs. healthy. Quick vs. easy.

Finally, take note of products that offer solutions to those problems. These offer ideas to you about ways in which you can present your solution; Youtube channels, specialized cookbooks, how-to guides, online courses, etc.

By the time you’ve followed all these steps, you would have established 3 things:

  1. A monetizable skill set — You know what your skills are and how you can use them
  2. Proof of a Need — People have a problem that you can solve, and now you know who they are.
  3. A Profitable Market — If people are buying said cookbooks, or paying for products, this shows you that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

This is the beginning of any business. Fast Food restaurants offer quick meals on the go, Walmart puts everything in one place so people don’t have to travel to different stores, books entertain or instruct, cars transport and save time. At the heart of every product and business is a need, and you are now on your way to creating a solution that people are already looking for!

What is a business you want to start? Share your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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7 Essential Email Marketing Tips You Need to Implement Into Your Business Today

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While Email might seem like a fading beauty, this technological dinosaur continues to be the preferred method of communication for the digital age. The rise of smartphones and mobile devices has only added to emails popularity by putting constant communication right in the palm of our hands.

In fact, According to Custora, Email marketing was the biggest driver of Black Friday transactions last fall, with 25.1% of sales originating from email promotions.

With that in mind, here are some tips that are guaranteed to take your Email Marketing to a whole new level:

1. One Element, One Job

Most people try and do way too much with their emails, and you may be guilty of this as well. Follow the simple rule of making each element of your email do just one job, and your emails will become much more effective. The subject line of your email, for example, exists for one reason only: To get your email opened. Your subject line doesn’t need to explain what’s in the email. It doesn’t need to sell, or get clicks. It JUST needs to get your email opened.

That’s it’s job. The body copy of your email exists just for the purposes of getting clicks. That’s it. Each element has its proper place, and if you just make sure they do their job, you’ll see great results.

2. Keep It Short And Sweet

People are busy, and their attention span is limited…So always remember that you’re writing an email, not Homer’s Odyssey. Remember, the body of your email has one job: To get the reader to click. So say what you have to say, keep it short and sweet, and get them to click away from the inbox, and moving along the path towards where you want them.

“Good content is a commodity, great content is a scarcity.”

3. Train Your Subscribers To Click

Every email you write – Every single one – Should have a link in it that your readers can click on, and a call to action encouraging them to do so. If you’re selling something, obviously you would include a link, but if you are sharing content, or telling a story (which is fine, because people love stories) make sure to tell SOME of the story, then offer a link to read the conclusion on a web page or blog.

Link to videos, or other things the reader might find inspiring. Link to your help desk! Whatever it is, you want to train your readers to see your emails, open them, read them, and then CLICK.

4. Be Consistent

Consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds comfort and trust. And comfortable, trusting people buy stuff! Try opening and closing all your emails with the same introduction and the same sign off. Create a mailing calendar and try emailing the same days every week, or mailing at the same time everyday.

Much like bars offer a happy hour at the same time everyday, maybe you can send a “daily deal” email every afternoon or a weekly summary email. Whatever it is you decide to do, once you decide to do it, be CONSISTENT.

5. Personalize, {name}

Personalization fields are extremely powerful. Multiple studies have shown that the single most powerful word in any language is someone’s OWN name. And so of course, personalization fields that allow you to address your reader by name are incredibly effective. Campaign Monitor has reported that Marketers who use personalization in their subject lines see 26% more opens.

You can also use personalization fields to mention what time it is (no matter where someone is) what city or country someone is in. Even what they’ve bought in previous transactions!

“Email Acquisition is like cutting hair, must happen regularly, can be done well, but one bad experience can scar forever.” – David Baker

6. Segment Your Lists

Modern autoresponders are a miracle of analytical data and automation opportunities. You now have the ability to easily segment your lists, and you should. Separate your prospects from your buyers. Separate buyers by product or category, so you can follow up with smart emails that sell upgrades or related products! You can even separate people who opened and read previous emails from those who haven’t, so you can follow up with people who opened your emails, read them, and clicked, from those who didn’t.

7. Tell Stories

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication known to man. Stories have been used throughout time to pass lore and culture down from generation to generation. And from a marketing standpoint, stories offer a glimpse into who you are, or what your business stands for and how it works.

This information might seem mundane to you, but an outsider will find it fascinating. And as a result, the ability to tell stories will dramatically improve your marketing. If you’re new to storytelling, start by finding friends or co-workers who are particularly fun or engaging. Pay attention to how they command a room through stories and anecdotes. Look for local storytelling events so you can attend, and listen in as master storytellers share their craft.

These 7 tips should drastically improve your email marketing. Start implementing them and be sure to share your results.

What other email marketing strategies would you add to this list? Leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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