It’s one of the most common questions I hear and one of the most challenging parts of any small business looking to take the next step. How to get funding?
Everyone is known for something. As much as you may wish that’s not the case at times. Similarly every business is known for something, be it a product, service, or character quality. What is your business brand and how does it affect what you’re known for?
Most small businesses also have small marketing budgets. And it’s pretty much a fact of life that there will always be bigger companies with bigger budgets working in the same space. How can the little guy get noticed?
The numbers are overwhelming. Small business make up the majority of revenues generated in the US. Statistics show this particular area continues to grow with each year. This series will explore a number of topics which matter to a small business. Because small business matters.
The life of an entrepreneur is a busy one. Here are 5 things every successful founder does. I’m not guaranteeing success by following these five steps. But if you look at a successful company more than likely you will find a founder who follows these 5 principles.
Principle #1: Time is Money
Serious founders understand the principle that their time is valuable. They don’t waste their time on ideas which distract them from their core mission. They plan their time for maximum efficiency and schedule their days. This does not mean they work overtime. In fact, smart founders work regular hours and take time away from work to recharge themselves. Taking personal time, time for exercise, time for family and hobbies helps them to spend their work time more effectively. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking to be a successful founder you should work 24/7. This will do far more harm than good. Your time is valuable, use it wisely.
“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.”
– Roger Babson
Principle #2: Do What Matters
Successful entrepreneurs focus on what’s important to their business. They set a plan for what makes their business unique and what their differentiating factors are. Once they have determined what is important for their business success they focus their time and talents on achieving those things. This is important. As I mentioned, an entrepreneur must wear so many hats and focus on so many different areas of the business it can be very easy to become distracted and lose time (and as we just saw, time is money). As a founder be sure you share responsibilities. Make sure you have a team you can trust and spend your time on those items which require your attention. Don’t get trapped doing tasks someone else should be doing. Do what matters.
“Those who occupy their minds with small matters, generally become incapable of greatness.”
– Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Principle #3: Don’t Give Up Easily
Some founders appear to have found overnight success. It looks as though they woke up one morning and instantly became “the next big thing.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In most cases the overnight sensations are in reality the product of years of hard work and innumerable failures. What makes the difference is how these founders handle failure. The goal is to fail early and fail often. By not giving up when met with failure these founders learn how to improve their idea, grow their product, and make those changes which will in time yield a successful business. Don’t be afraid to fail. And when you do fail, don’t give up.
“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success. “
– Biz Stone
Principle #4: Ignore the Doubters
Founders believe they have an idea which will change the world in some way. They have seen “the future”. As such often times they are met with doubters. Many people are unable to see this vision quite the same way. Either they can’t understand how it would be successful or they simply don’t want to step outside their comfort zone to accept change. Successful founders focus on their ideas with bulldog determination and don’t allow themselves to be swayed by the naysayers. Doubters are the people who play it safe; they fail to see the possibilities and aspirations you seek to attain. Don’t let them hold you back. Don’t allow your dreams to be limited by what someone else might think.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
– Steve Jobs
Principle #5: Set Realistic Goals
It’s easy to see an opportunity and start to make a plan for how you would improve a product. Every good business starts with an idea and a goal. Successful founders create realistic goals and then meet them. It’s not enough to simply dream big. To see success these entrepreneurs finish what they set out to do. The best way to ensure they meet their goals is by settings themselves up for success with goals they can reach. They seek out a minimum viable product which meets the need they have discovered and they launch. Don’t get so caught up in adding features and secondary ideas that you never launch your business. Set goals you are sure to attain, launch your product and then add features.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
– Zig Ziglar
Successful founders understand the importance of these 5 principles. They apply them to their business and their life. If you’re struggling as a founder or entrepreneur take a look at the list above and find one or two items where you can improve and then work on it. Don’t skim yet another article and miss the important take-away. You have to do more than read or hear. You have to apply them.
And of course – good luck! We’re all in this together.
It seems as though more and more people these days love to jump on Twitter and post whenever they’re annoyed, angry or frustrated with a company or service. Sharing only your grievances on Twitter will quickly alienate you from any potential followers. Here’s why you should tweet happy.
I’m certainly not against using Twitter for communication with corporations and if you look through my twitter history you’ll see several different examples of how I used Twitter to express frustration with a company or disappointment in a service. (Here’s an example and here’s another). But I also tweet when I’m happy with a service or a company. (please see Exhibit A and Exhibit B). So I would encourage you to be balanced in your tweeting because a balanced social media profile is a good thing.
Sprinkle equal amounts of praise and criticism in your posts, along with a healthy dose of information, anecdotes and more. Always focus on the purpose of your social media platforms. Are you seeking a place to simply talk, or are you looking for communication? Are you seeking connections or do you just want to shout at people through the twitter bullhorn?
We’ve all been in the room with the person that just won’t stop talking about themselves, their problems, and their situations. It’s not fun to listen to them. In fact, most people can’t take it for too long before they begin to tune the person out and eventually wander off completely. No one likes to be around that type of person. The same holds true for your online social media networks. Think about the other person. Is the information you share relevant to them? Are they interested in what you share and more importantly do you give them reason or opportunity to interact with you?
You shouldn’t always be talking. You should be engaging. I want my social communication to be a two-way street. As much as I want to share, I also want to listen. I want to make connections and I want to learn about the interests of others. By doing this I am making sure I demonstrate that I am not the most important person. Your social posts give you this opportunity. Take the following four tips when posting on social media.
1. Post About Your Business Sparingly
No one wants to hear 24/7 tweets about your business and your product offering (remember that guy in the room you can’t wait to get away from). I’m not saying don’t post about your business, but do it in moderation. Share your business successes (and failures), share about your services, but consider how often you do so. Also, give information and advice based on your business experience. This leads directly into the next tip.
Share Business Strategy
As your business has evolved and grown I am sure you have found ways in which you could have done things better. Or maybe you found something that works very well for your business. Share tips and insights which your followers will find interesting. This is a different way of sharing about your own business. It provides your followers with information about you and your business without making anyone feel like they’re being “sold” something.
Be A Channel
Don’t be afraid of posting or re-posting content from someone else. Now I’m not saying you claim it as your own, give them the credit and merely retweet or share their information. This will give others valuable information which you have in a sense curated for them. You’ve applied your knowledge and wisdom to pull out those articles and nuggets of value and shared it with them. You’ve made their life easy and they’ll appreciate you more for it. There is nothing wrong with sharing someone else’s content.
Don’t post too much of any one thing. Don’t share too much about your business, don’t share too much strategy, don’t be just a re-tweeter of someone else’s information. You must stay balanced. By offering a well-rounded online social profile you demonstrate your full character. You want people to know you, not just one facet of you. Just as if you were talking in person to someone – you should conduct your social posts in the same way.
It’s simple really and we can all do it. Take these four quick tips and improve your social media profile. Remember don’t just post when you’re dissatisfied with something (or someone) but offer a well-rounded and true representation of your business and ultimately you.
Everyone has those days, or those moments when things reach a boiling point and you just have to let off some steam. Here’s a few helpful tips on how to vent without regretting it later.
Write it down
Yep, go old school. The painstaking process of finding paper and pen, writing down your grievances, and putting your thoughts into something tangible often involves enough effort and time to help you think more rationally. I’m not saying you need to follow the old advice of writing a letter and not sending it (though there’s nothing wrong with doing that). I’m simply recommending you take the time involved with actually writing something down. Force yourself to use complete sentences and paragraphs. And don’t forget proper punctuation. I’m not interested in twitter style messages or posts. Write down in detail the situation, the way it unfolded, how it impacted you, and how you feel about it. Doing this helps you in several ways.
First, you will feel as though you are actually doing something about the stress. You’re taking action. The human brain thrives on problem-solving and the simple act of writing down a stressful situation gives you the feeling of problem solving.
Second, you will force yourself to think through the entire situation. Start to finish. You’ll have a good working knowledge of the details of the situation and you’ll remove any ambiguity. Often stress and frustration can come from the feeling of the unknown. The feeling of uncertainty will translate into stress or anger and you react to the emotion rather than reacting to the unknown information.
Third, you will find writing things down takes time. Twitter and other social outlets provide instant responses and short (sometimes thoughtless) replies which are more of a knee-jerk reaction then they are a true response to a situation. By writing things down you’ll find time to think through the emotions and formulate a fuller response.
Tell A Friend
So the second way to vent without regretting it later is to find a trusted friend you can talk to. This one is a bit scarier as it involves trusting someone. You’ll notice I say a “trusted friend”. This needs to be someone you know you can trust with your deepest darkest secrets. The type of person you know would never betray your trust, under the threat of death. Remember you are sharing your anger and frustrations with them knowing they will not share it with others.
You’re not seeking out someone you can vent to in hopes they will take up your cause and fight your battle. You will be best served if your friend knows little to nothing about the people or situation involved. You’re not looking for reassurance and someone encouraging you to “let them have it”. No recording. And your friend should keep you accountable. You’re only allowed to vent on this particular instance this one time. No coming back for seconds.
Go running, biking, walking, anything that forces you to get outside and get your heart rate increased. The physical exertion will help your mind and your body to focus on something other than the problem. You’ll be expending your energy (and getting in shape at the same time). It’s important to not sit and stew on a problem. Letting the anger and frustration grow inside you will only eat away at you until you snap. If you force yourself to walk away from the situation and the pressure you will be able to distance yourself from the problem.
Running and other physical activities cause your body to stop thinking about mental challenges and focus blood supply and energy to your extremities and fueling your muscles. Plus it will only help you stay in better physical condition.
The next time you’re feeling angry and like you’re about to explode try one of the above ideas. See if it helps you control your emotions and put things in proper perspective. I am not saying righteous indignation is wrong. And there is certainly a time and place for sharing your thoughts. I just encourage you to not do it in the heat of the moment. And with that I’ll leave you with a quote from Warren Buffet.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
It’s that one weekend where my wife and I follow along in the amusing and pointless hiding of plastic spheres filled with candy so our children can run around giggling, laughing, and shouting as they hunt for their ‘treasure’.
Yes, it’s Easter weekend and culture has deemed this a time for a bunny to place eggs (makes no sense to me) in obscure locations for young children (and I admit, some older children) to go sleuthing in a total safari, big-game hunt. The result?
Approximately 80% of all hidden gems are found with 20% hidden so well, even the person responsible is unable to remember where it was placed.
No doubt it will be found months later when weeds are being pulled or the lawn is being mowed. The last plastic egg, faded by the weeks in the sun, with some candy wrapper remnant inside (the chocolate long-since melted).
Even as I watch these excited kids bounding with enthusiasm around the yard I can’t help but think to myself how much this relates to marketing. As a marketer we hide ‘eggs’ all over the backyard of the internet. We carefully tuck them away in the form of well-placed articles, neatly packaged comments, a tweet, or other social media post. All types of little ‘easter egg’ marketing nuggets.
Sometimes we take great care in placing one, and other times we almost casually toss them around and hope they land in a good spot. But we always have a goal in mind. We’re leaving them for someone else to find. Sure, we may leave some out in the open, easy to retrieve, easy to consume. But we also plant some slightly beneath the surface, a reward for those who dig, for those who look a little deeper. Then we watch, and we wait.
We watch as eager, excited customers bounce around from place to place looking for the products they need.
We hope they find the items we’ve left and we hope, just as my kids do when they find a new goodie, they come running towards us to show us what they’ve found. We want our customers, finding the treats we’ve left for them and running to us for more.
Hide them well
I’d encourage you to keep the analogy in mind the next time you’re working on a piece of marketing. Remember the 80/20 rule I jokingly referred to above. It may very well be that 20% of your hard-work is never found or uncovered. Or maybe it will remain hidden, lying in wait for just the right person to come along and find it, days or even weeks later. Be a thoughtful marketer. Take the time to carefully consider your ‘easter eggs’, plant them where your customers will look, but don’t overload them either. If the backyard were to be covered in easter eggs then the game would be no fun. It would become a mundane, almost tedious experience and no kid in the world would enjoy it. The fun is in more than just collecting tidbits, the fun is deeper, the experience, the feeling of accomplishment its as much the journey as it is the reward at the end.
I love marketing, I love the feeling of sharing the excitement with others. The joy which comes from planting the treats, writing the posts, and making the game. All for the hunters out there. Because there’s nothing better than preparing for, and watching others’ enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
I have seen the quotes, the tattoos, and the posters shouting “No Regrets!” Unfortunately it’s simply not a reality – at least in my life I’ve not found that to be true. Instead as the title suggests I find myself often thinking, “If only I had…”
I’m going to be perfectly honest. I have and will continue to have regrets. Not because I wish there were things I hadn’t done, but rather regret that they didn’t work. Does that make sense? Yes, I learned from my mistakes and I am very glad to have made them. But that does not mean I am glad they didn’t work they way I wanted. And I regret that. As I look back on those times I will most certainly say If only I had done this or that.
It’s simple really. There are two ways to look at the phrase, If only I had.
1. If only I had done something differently.
That means I attempted something. I tried. I may have failed but I tried. I am looking back on an experience and learning from my failure. There is benefit in questioning your choices and determining if you could have done something better. I like this option.
2. The second option is not so good. If I didn’t attempt an idea.
If I quit before even trying and look back and say, If only I had tried. I consider that a failure. Because I didn’t try. This is the option where I should have been better. I should have tried. I don’t like living with this regret. It says I was too scared to try. I let my fear dictate my actions or the opinions of another keep me from doing what I thought would have worked. Could it still have been an epic failure? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t be wondering what if…
So it’s quite simple to me. I don’t have a problem with saying “If only I had.” I have a problem with not trying. Next time you’re looking back on decisions you made and times you’ve failed I encourage you – it’s ok to analyze and learn from your mistakes. Question yourself. But don’t give up before you start. Don’t regret that you didn’t try.