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7 Vital Business Lessons You Can Learn From The Hunger Games

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hunger games business lessons

Katniss Everdeen is in business—the business of staying alive. This is not an easy gig. You thought retaining clients or finding new customers was difficult, but at least it’s just your livelihood on the line instead of your life.

Yet, being a small business owner can feel like a life or death situation at times. When sales are slow and clients are sparse, it can feel like you’ve been thrown in with the wolves with a flimsy marketing book as your only weapon for defense. And who knows better about fighting your way back out of these types of sticky situations than our latest post-apocalyptic hero Katniss?

No matter how you slice it, the Girl on Fire has quite a few lesson’s she can teach us about staying alive in business when the going gets tough.

Here are 7 killer business lessons you can sink your teeth into from the Hunger Games…

 

Hunger Games Lesson #1: Team up with your competitors

In the dog-eat-dog arena that Katniss gets flung into, it would be understandable for her to go it alone. It would make perfect sense for her to have an every-woman-for-herself attitude and kill all her competitors on sight. Who can trust the competition when they’re sole intention is to see you lying dead in the water anyway?

As a business owner, it’s tempting to think that for you to succeed, that your competition has to fail. Yet, that’s not how it works. What did Katniss do to stay alive? She teamed up with her competition. She turned her enemies into allies and worked together with the other “tributes” in an effort to keep herself alive.

The most successful business owners work together to stay alive. A great example of this is when Bill Gates of Microsoft invested $150 million in his competition—Steve Jobs—to rebuild the Apple brand. Gates and Jobs were seen as “frenemies” at best, but instead of watching his competition fade away, Gates teamed up with him. Today, they are both thriving companies. Who can you team up with to skyrocket your success?

 

Hunger Games Lesson #2: Constantly be cultivating useful skills

When Katniss first learned how to hunt with a bow and arrow, she didn’t foresee that this skill would keep her alive in the Hunger Games arena years later. Instead, she was merely cultivating skills that helped her better her life in the moment. Yet, fast-forward in time and these everyday skills ended up being the difference between life and death for her.

As a business owner, if you wait to learn new skills until the time you need them, it’s too late. You need to be constantly cultivating useful skills on a daily basis. Seek out opportunities to learn new things and make an effort to broaden your knowledge and capabilities. Don’t take for granted any of your skills, no matter how insignificant they might seem in the moment. No skill is too minor that it can’t pay off in a major way down the road.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #3: Get a mentor

Chances are slim that Katniss would have made it out of the first movie alive if she didn’t have a mentor. Despite the fact that her mentor was a raging alcoholic (a quality that I wouldn’t recommend for a good mentor), the lessons and teachings that he imparted to her were invaluable. While she was in the middle of fighting for survival, he was able to see the entire situation from an outside perspective, which allowed him to give her the precise advice she needed to survive the Game.

Don’t try to go it alone. As a business owner, you are too close to your business to always see what needs to be done to ensure long-term success. Getting an outside, impartial perspective about your business from a qualified mentor—someone who’s been in business for a while—is extremely beneficial. Mentors can help fast-track your business by saving you from mistakes and providing useful insight based on past experiences.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #4: Know your “why”

As a business owner, you always have to know your “why” in order to make it through tough times. To ultimately succeed, you have to have a distinct purpose relentlessly pulling you forward and keeping you motivated. Without a purpose, chances are you will quit before you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Katniss’s “why” wasn’t just staying alive, it was keeping her loved-ones safe. That’s her sole motivator from the get-go. She originally volunteered for the Games to save her sister. She put her life on the line to help Peeta and Gale. She complied with the President’s wishes to protect her family. Without a clear purpose, she wouldn’t have made it very far.

Everyone’s “why” is going to be different, but it’s critical that you define yours. Why are you running your business? Why do you want to succeed? The answers to these questions are going to take you the distance when the going gets tough.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #5: Learn as you go

Successful business owners don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. As an entrepreneur, you have to jump in and start playing the game now if you want to end up victorious. And because you can’t keep delaying until you “know enough”, you have to learn as you go every step of the way.

For Katniss, each time she is thrown into the arena, she has no clue what to expect or what to do. The moment the game begins, she has two options: freeze up or figure it out. No amount of time spent strategizing or training in advance is going to help her negotiate all the curve balls thrown at her. She learns everything step-by-step as she goes along, and sometimes being naïve is one of her biggest assets because she’s able to make decisions without second-guessing herself.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is getting stuck in various planning phases of their businesses. If you’re trying to learn everything you need to know before you start taking action, you’re wasting valuable time. Take the plunge, be willing to make mistakes and learn as you go.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #6: Win today

Katniss Everdeen’s ability to live in the moment is one of the major keys to her survival. She doesn’t get caught up in worrying about the future—her primary goal in the arena is to stay alive today. In the end, when she focuses on the doing the best she can to survive each and every day, then the future will take care of itself.

In your business, focus on winning today. Don’t spend time worrying what slings and arrows the future might bring. You can’t reach your long-term goals unless you successful execute your series of short-term goals starting now. When you consistently focus on winning today—doing your best to accomplish what needs to be done in the next 24 hours—then the future will take care of itself.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #7: Play your game

The people of Panem love Katniss because she’s the heroic rebel that doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules. Even though she can’t escape her fate to participate in the Hunger Games, she intentionally ignores the Game’s guidelines (e.g. honoring dead tributes and snubbing the “one winner” rule) while all the other tributes stick to the rulebook. In turn, she beats the system, becomes a celebrity of sorts and most importantly, manages to stay alive.

In business, you have to play your own game and make your own rules. If you follow the safe, worn path that everyone else has traveled down, there’s little hope that your business will stand out from the crowd and become a giant success. If there’s something unique about yourself or your business, don’t hide it—highlight it. To play your own game—take a stand, choose a side, pave your own trail and for God sake, don’t settle for mediocrity.

If you want to survive in the business arena, follow Katniss’s lead. Despite being a teenager and a fictional character (we won’t hold those things against her), she really knows something about working hard, not giving up, and following her heart even when the going gets tough.

Laurel Staples runs a popular blog & podcast called Go Fire Yourself that gives you the insider secrets to successfully escape your day job, grow your own business and live life on your terms. Connect with Laurel and download her free ebook: Income Switch: How to Replace Your 9-to-5 Income by Building a Profitable (& Unstoppable) Online Platform by visiting her website: www.gofireyourself.com

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Sebastian

    Jan 5, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Knowing your why is HUGE… This what keeps you going. About the teaming up with your competition… What if they don’t want to team up with you?

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:28 am

      Thanks for the comment Sebastian! Of course, not everyone will want to team up with you (some might just want to see your business die), but I think it’s important to find allies in the crowd. Keep in mind that “team up” might just mean you Tweet some of their content and they Tweet yours. It doesn’t have to mean any sort of official business relationship. But if another business doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, move on to find a better one and don’t sweat it. Good luck!

  2. maxwell ivey

    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Joel; What a truly awesome post. You captured the character perfectly. when i first started i kind of hid the fact that i was a blind business owner. Now, I openly mention it and reference how it effects my progress in some blog posts. I tell people on the phone and let them know that it really doesn’t effect my ability to help them sell their amusement equipment. The only time i even notice is when someone sends me lots of photos or videos because i have to get help sorting them out. You are right about knowing your why. for me it was originally to use the commissions to purchase newer equipment for my family’s carnival. after the carnival went out of business it became supporting my family. now the business has become my passion and I do it for love. I would like to touch on your comment about working with other businesses. i am open to it and have done it but you have to be careful and get everything spelled out in writing. Otherwise you may be setting yourself up for disappointment if not financial difficulty. thanks again for the great post and have a blessed new year, max

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Thanks for your comment Max! Knowing your why is vital when you’re a business owner and it sounds like you’ve found yours. Thanks for sharing some of your story. 🙂

  3. Naomi@BusinessBuilding

    Dec 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Laurel,

    Really good post and important to apply if you want to succeed in business.

    My favorite is #7 Play Your Game. Finding the balance between learning from competitors but still being your own brand that stands out as different, is what most new business owners never master.

    I always keep one on my competition but I’m ALWAYS striving to be different and offer something unique!

    Thanks for great read

    Naomi

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Hi Naomi! Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you. You have to stand out in this extremely noisy world by playing your game because no one else can do exactly what you do!

  4. JALAL KHAN

    Dec 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    very good article.

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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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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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Social Media Is Killing Your Success: 3 Ways You Can Use it to Your Advantage

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Social media success

I love social media. It can help you make friends, share your life, build a network, and even build a business. In the same token, social media can easily become an enemy of success as a hindrance and consumer of attention. (more…)

I used to be homeless and now run a six figure business with my partner and travel the world. My journey to help those in need has taken me from non-profit director to supporting holistic entrepreneurs have a life of freedom. I run the Thriving Launch Podcast, which features the most influential leaders in the areas of love, spirituality, business, and success. It's my mission to help heart-centered entrepreneurs get their message heard. Learn more on at my website ThrivingLaunch.com (http://www.thrivinglaunch.com/)

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Sebastian

    Jan 5, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Knowing your why is HUGE… This what keeps you going. About the teaming up with your competition… What if they don’t want to team up with you?

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:28 am

      Thanks for the comment Sebastian! Of course, not everyone will want to team up with you (some might just want to see your business die), but I think it’s important to find allies in the crowd. Keep in mind that “team up” might just mean you Tweet some of their content and they Tweet yours. It doesn’t have to mean any sort of official business relationship. But if another business doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, move on to find a better one and don’t sweat it. Good luck!

  2. maxwell ivey

    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Joel; What a truly awesome post. You captured the character perfectly. when i first started i kind of hid the fact that i was a blind business owner. Now, I openly mention it and reference how it effects my progress in some blog posts. I tell people on the phone and let them know that it really doesn’t effect my ability to help them sell their amusement equipment. The only time i even notice is when someone sends me lots of photos or videos because i have to get help sorting them out. You are right about knowing your why. for me it was originally to use the commissions to purchase newer equipment for my family’s carnival. after the carnival went out of business it became supporting my family. now the business has become my passion and I do it for love. I would like to touch on your comment about working with other businesses. i am open to it and have done it but you have to be careful and get everything spelled out in writing. Otherwise you may be setting yourself up for disappointment if not financial difficulty. thanks again for the great post and have a blessed new year, max

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Thanks for your comment Max! Knowing your why is vital when you’re a business owner and it sounds like you’ve found yours. Thanks for sharing some of your story. 🙂

  3. Naomi@BusinessBuilding

    Dec 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Laurel,

    Really good post and important to apply if you want to succeed in business.

    My favorite is #7 Play Your Game. Finding the balance between learning from competitors but still being your own brand that stands out as different, is what most new business owners never master.

    I always keep one on my competition but I’m ALWAYS striving to be different and offer something unique!

    Thanks for great read

    Naomi

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Hi Naomi! Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you. You have to stand out in this extremely noisy world by playing your game because no one else can do exactly what you do!

  4. JALAL KHAN

    Dec 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    very good article.

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Startups

Your Competition Is Magnificent – Quit Being A Sook

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

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

Here are some thoughts I had about your competition:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thought #2 – There’s enough room for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thought #3 – It’s ugly

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

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

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

 

Thought #4 – You can’t win every deal

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

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

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

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

 

Thought #5 – Seeing your competitors suck is inspiring

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

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

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

 

Thought #6 – Complaining shows insecurity

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

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

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

Thought #7 – You only have so much thinking space

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

***Final thought***

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

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

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

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

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5 Ways to Avoid Burning Out While Building Your Business

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

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

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

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

1. Create the right systems

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

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

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

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

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

2. Get apps ‘talking’ to each other

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

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

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

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

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

3. Outsource

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

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

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

4. Find some cheerleaders

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

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

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

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

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

5. Inject your personality into your passion

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

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

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

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

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

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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business ideas

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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