Have you ever seen those “top books to read for cs” lists? It’s frustrating to see 50+ books that you have to finish reading before moving on with your startup. They make you feel like, if you don’t read them a disaster will happen.
Although that is somewhat true. I have good news for you. You don’t have to read them all! I’m going to give you 7 of the most powerful tips needed for a great start. But, am I giving you everything you have to know? Of course NOT, and that’s where the bad news comes in…
You will have to read them eventually, but just to buy you some time I’ve summarized the important starting points from all the books I’ve read, so you can get a well-informed head start. I’m doing this so you can start now and stop with the “I have to learn” excuses. Sound good? Then, get a pen and paper because you’re going to be starting sooner than you think.
Here are the seven bulletproof business fundamentals needed for success:
1. It’s all a test
You won’t get everything right the first time. Many entrepreneurs think they’ve failed whenever their product doesn’t work out. It feels terrible… I know. You work for months on a product and then no one buys it. In fact, that’s why they tell you to launch as soon as you can.
So, you can get feedback and update your product fast. Listen to feedback carefully, modify the product and then launch again. Keep repeating this process until you get better and better. You’ll never stop enhancing it since nothing will ever be perfect. Remember that a startup is an experiment lab and there’s always something to improve.
You just have to improve one thing at a time. Oh yeah, one more thing… Don’t just accept feedback. Rather you should demand it and reward for it!
2. Give them the fish
Customers don’t want to learn how it’s done. Let me give you an example, imagine you enter a barbershop and the barber gives you scissors and teaches you how to cut your own hair. I’m guessing, you wouldn’t be happy at all. All you wanted was to get a quick haircut and then get out of there. Right? You don’t want to learn how to cut hair. You want your haircut. That’s why you should never teach your customers how to fish. Instead, sell the fish to them!
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs
3. Target, Lock and engage
Be specific. Don’t try to do everything and don’t try to target everyone. If you think your product is too general then make it specific. I don’t care if you’re selling pizza or an online course.
Here’s an example, Would you rather be a bodybuilder’s pizza restaurant or just the next boring pizza restaurant? Obviously the first one because it stands out and it’s specific. Bodybuilders who love pizza will rush right through your doors because you told them that this place is for them, you focused on them and you welcomed them. Unlike the general pizza place that makes them feel like the next customer. When you specifically create something for someone they will feel special.
That’s not all. Have you ever considered how much it would cost to promote your products to everyone? Hint: A LOT! Selling to everyone isn’t logical either. I mean, you wouldn’t try to sell a car to a 10 year old or candy to a 70 year old, would you? Ok, you get the point.
4. Playing the monopoly game
If you really want to make it big in the business, you need to have an advantage. Not just a tiny advantage, but, a great one. You need to stand out and be different. Remember that bodybuilder’s pizza place I told you about? That stands out to bodybuilders like no other pizza place ever will.
Contrary to what you learnt at school, competition is actually a bad thing and you need to try your best to avoid it. Exactly like the bodybuilder’s pizza place did. They differentiated themselves from the competition and began operating in the bodybuilder’s pizza market. It is a pretty small niche market, but they now have a monopoly in it.
As long as no one starts competing with them early on and they scale fast, they’ll still be the dominant business in the market. So what’s so bad about competition?
The problem with competition is that it wastes people’s efforts and forces them to survive rather than innovate. Innovation is what keeps our economy moving forward. Look at all the huge companies out there that are taking lead in all the innovation, they all have some kind of monopoly.
For example, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Each of those companies have a monopoly:
- According to Smartinsights, Facebook owns 80% of the social network market.
- According to Theeword, Google owns just over 88% of the search engine market.
- According to Time, Microsoft owns just over 90% of the computer operating systems market (not for smartphones).
Although no company owns 100%, they do own the majority share and that’s what makes them super successful. However, these companies did not start big. They took over a small market and then scaled up from there (just like the pizza place). Facebook became popular in Harvard College then other colleges and then the whole world. It didn’t take over the whole world over night. The same with Google and the rest of the world’s largest companies. That’s exactly what you should do too.
5. How much will you get paid exactly?
Your income is proportional to the value you provide. First, let’s define value. Value simply put is answering the following question: How can I help people more? That means the more you help people the more you’ll get paid in return. It’s as simple as that. Whenever you want to create a product, always ask yourself, how can I help my target customer even more? Just make sure it’s something they really need help with.
6. What’s in it for me?
Who cares about features! People want to know what’s in it for them. What benefit do they get out of it? What problem does it solve for them? There are two types of benefits, logical and emotional (also known as the head and the heart benefits). People simultaneously weigh whether something fits well, is affordable, addresses a need – head part – and whether it makes them happy, look good and loved – heart part.
Features fall into the logical part. As an entrepreneur you should figure out what emotional needs you can fulfill along with the logical ones. You’ll stand out when you do that since a lot of entrepreneurs only focus on logical features. Remember, the power of emotions!
7. Are they talking about you?
You’ve probably heard of “word of mouth” or referral marketing and it’s greatness. That’s true, every business needs some sort of “word of mouth” marketing especially in the start.
Want to know how NOT to get it? Be boring! People don’t talk about boring. Have you ever talked to someone about what you had for breakfast last week? No, you wouldn’t even care to remember it, let alone talk about it. But, you can guess it was probably the same old boring breakfast.
Want to know how to get people to talk about you? By surprising customers. That’s because people talk about surprising out of the ordinary experiences. It usually sounds a bit like this:
“You can’t believe what happened yesterday! I ordered a Latte from the XYZ café and oh man, the interior design is just out of this world, I’ve never seen anything like it. I even got a free blueberry muffin and it was the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. You should really go and check it out.”
It doesn’t have to be something too big and expensive. In fact, it shouldn’t. Something as little as a hand written thank you card or tiny gift will go a long way. Whatever you do make sure you’re not boring, otherwise everyone will forget about you.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
So there you have it. The 7 business fundamentals needed to run a successful business. Nevertheless, knowing them won’t help. You need to act! You can read all the books you want, but it won’t mean anything if you’re not taking action.
Write them on a notepad and refer to them whenever you’re making your business decisions. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do that counts. If you don’t act now, someone else reading this post will.
Which tip do you think is the most important and why? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
8 Key Factors That Discourage Investors From Putting Money Into Your Startup
Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s winning businesses. Ideas executed brilliantly and with proper investment bring your business success. That is how the world of business got the likes of Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Amazon and so on.
But why in spite of the brilliant and promising ideas at the core of their business, many startups fail to attract investors? Why do investors hesitate to put their money into some startups? Well, investors have reasons and only by deciphering these reasons we could get hold of some deterrent factors that hold them back.
Let us explain some of the vital factors that prevent investors from putting their money in the startups below:
1. Inefficiency or Absence of Leadership Qualities
Inefficiency is the most significant deterrent factor for pulling the success of most startups. This can also be referred to as the lack of leadership qualities. Investors always want to make sure that they don’t lose their money through a company that has an extraordinary business model but no efficient and skilled business leader to make it successful. When fetching investment from investors, you need to offer a clear prospect and detailed plan of how you are going to achieve the goals.
2. Lack of Trustworthiness
An investor puts his money on a venture purely on the basis of the credibility and trustworthiness of the business. This is why besides having a sound business plan with clear objectives, you need to establish the integrity in terms of the security of the investor’s money and how the fund is going to be invested to give results as per business plan.
If an investor has a feeling that the startup may not have enough customers to fulfil its financial liabilities or if it finds that the business is hiding some information, it may further push the trust of the investors down. Total transparency and establishing the faith of the business brand are crucial for finding investors in favor.
3. Lacking Experience in Business Management
You have a great business idea backed up by a sound business plan and solid trustworthiness based on your background, but you have zero experience in managing a business. This is a serious reason for an investor to deny making any investment in your business. An investor cannot put his money just to allow you trying and learning your management skills the harder and riskier way. Uncertainty is the single biggest turn-off factor for any investor and lack of managerial experience is synonymous to that.
4. Business Model is Not Sound Enough
You have a business idea, some efficient, competent and experienced professionals as leaders, the great stamp of trust and pretty much everything that make a company look promising. But what about your business strategy and business model? Are they sound enough to take on the market competition and challenges for business growth? Well, this is what investors are most interested in.
In most cases, a business model is what makes an investor think twice and even take a backward step from investing in a startup. After all, your business model and strategy will decide how your business and products will be able to withstand competition and become victorious.
5. Taking Investors for Granted
This is a big mistake on the part of many startups. Just by becoming confident in the potential and the soundness of the business model and prospect, a business can consider getting investors on board requires just a little effort and time. But in reality, getting investors on board is the toughest thing a business can think of.
This is why without proper and meticulous preparation, it would be foolish to approach investors for your business. Most investors receive hundreds of such emails and a similar number of approaches through other means and they coldly just let them pass. This is why you need to send them very detailed proposals backed by strong recommendations and referrals.
6. Targeting the Wrong Investor
Every business has a target customer base, right? Not all customers are interested in every product in the market. Similarly, not all investors are interested in your business. Investors based on their prior experience and industry exposure, put their money in businesses that they know like their own palm of their hand.
So, targeting an investor who has no interest in your business will only drain your energy and bring you unnecessary frustration. When you are seeking investors for your software startup, don’t approach someone investing in real estate business.
7. Non-Realistic Proposal for Funds
Investors normally come with huge experience of your industry and so they have a clear idea about the fund requirements for your business startup. Moreover, they already have invested in other ventures or have gone through many proposals. Naturally, they have every bit of estimate already in their mind. So, any proposal claiming a lofty and unrealistic amount will only face rejection.
This is why it would be wise to become meticulous about your estimation of the required fund and calculation of various cost factors. Have meticulous details about every facet of investment backed up by breakup of the costs. Only when you can convince them with correct estimation, investors can take interest in discussing the matter further.
8. Make Sure Your Product Solves a Customer Problem
Will any investor put money in building a simple calendar app now? No, simply because such an app idea has no value for the end users now. Will an investor put money in a product that has already been outdated and has no use? No, no investor has to even go through such a proposal for dismissing them.
Well, to fetch investment, your product must be thoroughly customer-centric. It not only has to solve a problem but has to deliver some competitive value in comparison to similar products in the market.
Obviously, finding an investor for a new business is not an easy task, considering the huge competition that businesses need to deal with. But, if your business idea is unique and you fill all those requirements correctly as mentioned above, finding investors may not be as tough as it sounds.
5 Must Have Branding Tools for Your Startup
Your brand is more than just the colors on your website. And for startups, it’s important to create a strong and memorable brand from the beginning if you want to stand out from the competition, scale your company, and find your ideal customers faster.
Here are 5 simple tools that will help your company avoid branding mistakes, take charge of your visual identity, and set a solid foundation for future growth:
1. Graphic Design Software
The word “design” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before deciding on your startup’s logo, colors, designs, and overall tone, consider working with a brand strategist who can translate the core ingredients of your startup into a visual identity that speaks to your target market.
Brand strategists have expertise in the psychology of colors, shapes, textures, and words, and they will work with you to make sure that your branding appeals to your target audience. Once you have those basics of your brand established, there are several tools that can help your company refresh and maintain your visual identity.
The absolute best graphic design tool for non-designers is Canva. While the free version has a lot of functionality, the paid plans offer more customization such as the ability to import your exact brand fonts and colors.
But if your company handles all of your design in-house, you will need something more advanced than Canva. In that situation, I would recommend Adobe Creative Cloud to startups who work on their designs in-house, as it includes top-notch design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, InDesign, and more.
“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room – Jeff Bezos
2. Visuals & Creative Imagery
Have you ever wondered where your competitors get those beautiful branded photographs that end up on their website? While it’s possible that they worked with a photographer, it’s also likely that much of their imagery comes from stock photos.
Here are my recommendations on the exact places to purchase stock imagery to improve your company’s branding:
- Creative Market – A treasure trove of quality visual imagery where you can buy anything from stock photos, to branding mockups, to social media templates (Facebook cover photo, anyone?), to custom fonts… the options are nearly endless.
- Adobe Stock – Beloved by designers, and the platform offers tiered pricing plans based on your image needs and download quantity.
- Pixels – If you’re on a tight budget and just need to grab an image or two for a blog post, you may be able to find what you need on Pixels – which is great because all of the photos and videos on Pixels are free!
3. Social Media Scheduler
You’re a leader. You’re an entrepreneur. Your staff, board, funders, and admirers depend on you to make big decisions, lead the ship, and plot the vision towards your company’s future. You don’t have time to stare at a blank screen every day wondering what to post on Facebook.
By using a social media scheduling tool, you can sit down for a few hours, schedule batches of content, and schedule the dates and times when it will post to your accounts over the next couple of months. Then, once the content is posted, you only need to worry about responding to comments and engaging with your customers. 21st century efficiency at its finest.
Popular social media schedulers include Buffer and Hootsuite, both of which include free and paid plans. Not sure what exactly to post? Check out these social media ideas from influential businesses. And if the idea of writing and planning months of content still overwhelms you, our next tool will help you stay organized and on-brand.
4. Editorial Calendar
When it comes to your content, it’s time to step it up a notch and start thinking like a media outlet. Every piece of content that you put out as a company, whether it’s an e-mail blast, blog post, social media post, podcast, or video, needs to be aligned with your brand.
Each major magazine maintains an editorial calendar which outlines the overarching theme for each of the upcoming 12+ months. By establishing a monthly content theme in advance, they create a framework to generate and organize their ideas.
Consider creating an internal editorial calendar that will guide your startup’s content over the next 6-12 months. The software tool you use to maintain your editorial calendar isn’t that important — I like to use Trello, but you can also create a simple numbered list in Google Docs or Microsoft Excel. You may be surprised at how quickly the creative juices flow once you have an editorial calendar in place.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand
5. In-Person Networking
Offline efforts count towards your branding too! And if you run your entire startup from behind your laptop screen, you miss out on ample opportunities to build your business offline and gain local referral partners.
If you’re new to in-person networking, start by visiting Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com where you can browse for events in your area. Think outside the box when it comes to selecting events to attend. For example: If you’re a chiropractor, it makes sense to attend local holistic health meetups. But you could also attend a travel event and meet digital nomads who don’t yet realize that a chiropractor can help them recover after long plane rides.
Remember that you’re not at the networking event to make instant sales, you’re looking for referral partners and connections. Don’t be the person who tries to shove your sales pitch down everyone’s throat upon meeting them.
As you can see, there are many simple online and offline resources that can help you spruce up your branding, reach new customers, and pique the interest of your target market. If you take branding one step at a time and start with the tools above, you will be well on your way to creating a brand that your customers will cherish and remember.
Have you used any of these branding tools before? Are there any additional tools that have helped your startup’s branding shine? Share your thoughts below!
5 Ways to Deal With Startup Uncertainty
Starting your own company may sound like a dream come true in your mind, on social media, and to all the people looking on in envy from their office jobs. But when the fantasy fades, you realize how much uncertainty you now have in your life. The inherent risk in any startup is that you are trading the certainty of a normal job for real growth and freedom. What people get from office jobs is much more than a steady pay check and free coffee. It’s a sense of certainty that their lives, work, and finances are in order.
You will have to give up certainty to fully take on the risks of this lifestyle. It will be roller-coaster and something you need to prepare for. Logically, it’s easy to know that. But emotionally, there are so many ups and downs in an entrepreneur’s life. Stress, frustration, and decreased motivation are inevitable.
Here are 5 ways you can deal with startup uncertainty:
1. Stick to a morning routine
There’s many ways to start a morning routine. What’s important is to have a stable, predictable routine. This centers your mind and gives you some order to your day. You manage your business and you can do whatever you want. No boss and no one telling you what to do, it can be mix of productive to outright messy days. By giving yourself some stability, you start the day off in a predictable way so that you can jump into work each day.
It’s as easy as taking your dog to the park, having a cup of coffee, and listening to a motivating audiobook for 20 minutes. You may need meditation to get into the state. Whatever it is that you need to get from a sleepy/hungover mindset to that of taking on the day.
“If you win the morning, you win the day.” – Tim Ferriss
2. Make time for high performance books
Speaking of audiobooks, everyone – especially entrepreneurs, need motivation. Get a few motivating books from other business leaders. This will do incredible things for your mindset and the way you think. Most of them help by keeping you excited for bigger goals. Look for classics from Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins. Or the newer motivational personalities like David Goggins and Rachel Hollis. You’ll be surprised at how much hearing someone’s hardships on their journey will help you on your own.
It’s easy to get a packed calendar working an office job. Everyone else in the company seems to be demanding your time for one meeting or another. Pointless meetings are even the reason some people leave their jobs in the first place. The issue with having your own startup is that while the pointless meetings are gone, so too is any semblance of structure from a filled up calendar.
Spend one evening and fill the upcoming week as much as possible. I recommend Sunday afternoons to think about your goals. Plan big tasks every day throughout the week. That way you always know what you should be working on and stay on track.
4. Hit the gym
This one is actually part of my morning routine and it’s benefits can’t be overstated. Exercise helps fight off anxiety and stress. There’s no better way to funnel your business frustrations more than into the weights. By the time you’re done, your body and mind will be much more relaxed. A necessity when it comes to the tension of being an entrepreneur. Whether that’s staring at your laptop or making sales calls.
“Daily exercise is an insurance policy for future illness.” – Robin Sharma
5. Be grateful
Gratitude was one of the feel good things that I always used to skip whenever it was mentioned. I wanted cold, calculated strategy or tools I could use to build a business as fast as possible. Many brilliant minds in not only self help but also in business, speak about the need for gratitude.
Here’s why it helps me when the business is going through growing pains or everything seems like it is going wrong. I get filled with doubt and uncertainty and gratitude is the quickest way to relief.
Yes, starting your own business is a massive effort, but there is always some job out there. You decided to launch something of your own because you don’t want a baseline existence. You want to grow and build with the freedom someone can only give themselves.
That alone is enough to be grateful. But if you need more, how about that most people are too scared to do what you’re doing. Or that you are taking the time to believe in yourself and live a life of taking chances.
That speaks to your character and self-worth. Much more than the life of quiet misery so many people in the world allow to decide their entire lifestyle. Be grateful you have this opportunity and make the most of it.
The Best Side Hustle You Can Start Today In Just 15 Minutes
The best side hustle you can start in 15 minutes is blogging.
It can be writing, making videos or speaking about topics you love through a regular podcast show. All of these acts are a form of blogging.
15 minutes is not long
That’s why blogging is a good choice.
A video that’s less than 15 minutes is easy to make and will work well.
A short piece of writing can be written in under 15 minutes.
A 10-minute audio conversation on one single question will give people heaps of value and detail in one particular area.
Starting is not where the power lies. Doing this side hustle every single day is how you get what you’re really looking for.
Many successful people are doing this
Whether it’s Hollywood actors like Will Smith or writers like Tim Ferriss or musicians like Ariana Grande — everyone is doing it.
Why is everyone doing the side hustle of blogging?
- It’s how we connect with each other.
- It actually works.
- It’s a way to create an audience which can become a business.
I didn’t invent this side hustle
I just tried it for myself and saw how powerful it was.
It got me:
- New clients for my 9–5
- A new 4 day a week day job
- Clients to coach via Skype
- Features in major publications like CNBC
- The opportunity to meet amazing human beings like LinkedIn influencer Michael Chapman
The side hustle of blogging gave me meaning for my life
Before this side hustle, I was washed up, uninspired, negative and pissed off with the world.
Spending 15 minutes to start the habit of blogging got me out of my head. It forced me to search all over the internet and find things to talk about. Pretty soon I was spending 2+ hours a night researching personal development and figuring out what I wanted to blog about.
Blogging led me to want to help the homeless, share my very private battle with mental illness, come to grips with my startup failures and share the lessons, and even overcome my fear of public speaking in the process.
Now I have a meaning for my life thanks to the side hustle of blogging. I reckon it can do the same to help you grow and get you to the next level. You can blog about whatever you want and then watch it grow from there.
Why is blogging the best side hustle?
It’s how you be creative.
It’s how you express yourself.
It’s how you grow.
It’s how you attract the right people into your life.
There are many side hustles you could choose. Blogging is one of many. In my opinion and based on my experience, it’s the best. There are so many avenues you can go down.
“Attracting what you want in your life has a lot to do with what you’re putting out into the world”
Blogging is a fantastic way to put out more of what’s important to you, into the world. Like a magnet, blogging attracts more of what you put out into your life.
Oh and don’t forget the income
Investing, giving back and making an income are all possible through blogging too. Part of my monthly income comes from blogging.
This allows me to back causes that help those in need, invest in stocks that provide me with a passive income and have money to spend on the occasional treat such as dinner dates and drinks with my co-workers.
That money comes from:
- Ghostwriting for other people
- Posting on Medium.com
- Coaching clients via Skype
- Consulting to businesses on how they can create content that aligns with their brand
There aren’t too many side hustles that can do that for you
Seriously, blogging is a game-changer. It’s a habit you can start in 15 minutes and repeat daily without much effort. Choose your poison — writing, video or audio — and then get started.
Do it for around twelve months and then send me an email with what you experience. I already know, having challenged lots of people already to start this side hustle, that it will work. It just requires patience and the habit of doing it daily.
15 minutes to start today.
And then 15 minutes every day for the rest of your life.
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