Tag: entrepreneurs

Become a Master of Change



Last Updated: Aug 1, 2013
Change – it’s constantly happening to us but rarely does anyone look forward to it. These five steps can help you master change.

changesWhen to change? – What to change? – How to change?

For most of us, the thought of change can send us into a panic attack.

For some of us, we might fear change because it disrupts our sense of security and consistency by challenging our perceptions.  As much as we crave stability and security, change is an inevitable part of life and we can either choose to embrace it or resist it.

From the minute we are born, our body remains in constant change and resisting it only makes it harder to get through it.  Resistance to change isn’t because we purposely want to go against the grain; we do it because we’re fearful of the unknown outcome.  We don’t know what’s on the other side and for no rational reason we resist it, thinking that will help us.

The fear of change comes from the fact that change challenges the perceptions and beliefs that our life is built upon.  When change challenges our perceptions, we are forced to step outside our comfort zone, and that’s uncomfortable.  Additionally, when our perceptions are challenged, so is the ground our life is built upon.  We are forced through change, to refine our perceptions and belief systems that we thought were true.  Let’s face it, when the very perceptions and belief system your life is built on is threatened, it can be uncomfortable.  But it can also be very rewarding and exciting.

Change is the inevitable constant refinement of our being.  Whether you want it or not, change is inevitable.  Inaction and resistance cannot completely stop change; it will only lessen your personal growth and add frustration to your life.  You will become stagnant and remain inside the boundaries of a very limited life while everyone and everything grows around you.  You aren’t reading this article to stay the same, and I don’t believe we were put on this earth to be stagnant – you want to grow and improve.  Wouldn’t you like to discover your potential?  What about becoming a better person for you, your family, and the world?

Life is really a series of changes and each change is a challenge.  It’s an opportunity for us to learn – to grow – to expand.  Some changes might be small while others may be large, but they each bring the opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the world around you.

With each new lesson you learn from the previous challenge, you become more adept at applying what you’ve learned to future growth and challenges.  Change actually becomes much easier to handle because when you come out the other side, you gain valuable skills and experiences that you can apply to the rest of your life.  Instead of being fearful, you may even have fun being more open to change because you know your life will be that much better.

With a constant refinement of perceptions and beliefs, change goes from sending us into a panic attack to being just another task we successfully complete.  It goes from being a major incident to a whole new exciting adventure.  With every change you make in your life, you become more adept at building solid ground no matter what the situation; and rationally dealing with your fear instead of allowing your perceptions to falsely magnify it.  Change becomes fun and exciting, and you learn to actually welcome it.

Inaction and Resistance Carries Bigger Consequences

There’s no way out and around it.  Choosing inaction or resistance to change carries bigger consequences than choosing to face the change head-on in the first place.  You are an ever changing person in an ever changing world and resistance just adds fear and frustration to every situation.  Learn to be open to creating new and exciting adventures that change will bring.

Focus on the Desired End Result

Worrying about what might happen will not help you deal with what’s at hand.  Focus on where you want to be when the change is complete.  The mind has an uncanny way of being a goal-achieving machine and will create your reality based on the thoughts you are focused upon.  You want to keep your desired end result in mind at all times, and only think about what you want to happen not what you don’t want to happen.  What got you to where you are today isn’t what will take you where you want to be.  Look at your long-range desired results and embark on a new journey to even greater outcomes.

Rationalize Your Fear

Fear is a natural response, but try to identify what it is you are afraid of.  Fear is usually the result of our mind creating hypothetical dramas that have no base in reality.  If you find yourself fearful of the outcome of an impending change, ask yourself what you’re afraid of.  There is a solution to everything and when you rationalize your fear, you can see that you are going to be just fine.  You can just suck it up, and as Nike says, “Just Do It.” Do what you are afraid of doing and reap the benefits.

You will quickly discover that the experience of change wasn’t worth all that anxiety over the unknown. Each time you rationalize the fear, you will have greater courage to ‘Just Do It’ in the future.

Break it into Manageable Pieces

For major changes, break it down into smaller manageable pieces.  It’s much easier to identify a solution when you can apply a strategy to deal with each step.  When you know what you’re going to do each step of the way, you can get to the end result with confidence and a rational strategy.

Last but not least, celebrate your victories.  Each time you felt the fear and did it anyway, you were victorious and reaped the benefits of showing that you are a champion! Little by little you’ll learn to trust your abilities more and to handle anything that comes your way.  When you rationalize the fear and create successful strategies, you come out a winner on the other side.  Look at change as a fun and exciting adventure.

Reap the many rewards!

You can resist change, but only temporarily.  When you resist the natural flow of the world, which is based on change, your life becomes a series of challenges that are amplified by your resistance.  Resist them and you become a victim – embrace them and you become a true master of change.

“I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened.” – Mark Twain, Celebrated American author

“Life and business are like the changing seasons. You can’t change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” – Jim Rohn

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4 Challenges (Still) Faced by Women Entrepreneurs — And How to Overcome Them



Last Updated: Jul 26, 2016
While it’s true that women have made great strides in business ownership equality, they still face challenges not as common among their male counterparts. Here are four of those challenges and the solutions for overcoming them. 

Female entrepreneurs have made great strides in a domain traditionally dominated by men. That shouldn’t be a big surprise though — a 2015 study published by the Centre of Entrepreneurs shows that women are better at taking calculated risks, less prone to overconfidence, and more ambitious overall on the climb up the corporate ladder.

Despite these favorable qualities, female entrepreneurs still face significant challenges that their male equivalents tend not to face. Although the United States ranks as the top country for women entrepreneurs according to the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index, the country still received a score of only 71 out of 100 on the Dell Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard — meaning women continue to be undercapitalized. Women in the U.S. may hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, but they make up only 14.6 percent of executive officers and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Here are four challenges female entrepreneurs commonly face and how they can be overcome.

Challenge: Funding and Training Gaps

Studies consistently find that women-led businesses receive less outside funding than businesses led by men. Between 1997 and 2000, only 6% of total venture capital funds were invested into women-led businesses in the United States. In addition, only 1.3% of U.S. venture-backed companies between 1997 and 2011 have a female founder.

Solution: Before pitching to venture capitalists, know that VCs look for a look for products and services that will produce a big return on their investments. Typically they invest large sums of money, want to invest in businesses with a very large market opportunity (think a $ billion or more); products and services that fill a critical  marketplace need; and companies that have a management team that can meet the challenge of growing the business. that hav and be sure your product or service fits their requirements. While ensuring that your business provides value to investors, it is important that those investing in your business will provide value , such as industry expertise, to you and not just capital.

If venture capital is still unavailable, women entrepreneurs can fund their business through bootstrapping, applying for grantsusing credit cards if a loan is unavailable (but be sure you’ll be able to pay the credit card bills on time), asking family and friends to help funding, or by locating other angel investors.  Microlending is another potential source of funding. A microloan is simply a small loan, available to some businesses that cannot get a traditional business loan from a bank. There are a variety of funding sources that provide microloans, and a list of organizations that offer them can be found here.

Challenge: Government Contracts

In 1994, the federal government set a goal to spend 5% of its contracting dollars on women-owned businesses. In March 2016 — after more than 20 years — it finally met its target. According to Ann Sullivan, the head of government relations for Women Impacting Public Policy (WIIP), the government was able to meet its goal after adopting new rules in 2011 that would allow agencies to set aside specific contracts for bidding by women-owned businesses only. Despite this milestone, women-owned businesses still have a 21% lower chance of procuring a federal contract than men-owned businesses of a similar nature.

Solution: While the numbers are still disappointing, women entrepreneurs can take strategic steps to earn more of the government contracts currently available, including state and local contracts, which can be more friendly to small businesses. WIPP runs the ChallengeHER program to educate women entrepreneurs on contracting and networking, for example, and the Give Me 5 program offers free resources for women entrepreneurs. You can also sign up for FedBizOpps to receive automatic bid notifications.

Women entrepreneurs should also get their business certified as woman-owned. This is necessary to do business with both public and private corporations, in addition to local, state, and federal government agencies that have opportunities that have been set aside for woman-owned businesses. Organizations such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and The National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) can provide national certification, as can several state and local agencies.

Challenge: Work-Life Balance

While work-life balance is a challenge for both men and women, women can often feel more conflicted between work and family life due to social and cultural norms. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, mothers with children are three times as likely as fathers to say that being a parent made it difficult for them to advance in their career. Fortunately for women entrepreneurs, there are several ways to balance out the burden of owning a business and maintaining family and social life. 

Solution: The concept of work-life blend has been gaining traction — and for good reason. For many entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to fully shut off from work, and creating a work-life blend means that there is no “ideal” balance between the two to strive for. Instead, entrepreneurs should work for a blend of priorities, which can be regularly shifted, to achieve balance rather than perfection. To find the best work-life blend, women entrepreneurs may need to learn to be comfortable delegating tasks and asking for help when necessary.

Challenge: Gender Discrimination

Women entrepreneurs often face both overt and subtle gender discrimination — for instance, small-business loans for women-owned businesses dropped 70 percent between 2007 and 2013. Anecdotal evidence shows that women may not be taken seriously by investors and that they may not be seen as hard workers, due to socially reinforced expectations that women are the primary caregivers at home. Furthermore, gender signals may impact entrepreneurial success due to perceptions of “entrepreneurial competence, quality or investment worthiness,” according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

Solution: Being a woman doesn’t have to hold you back as an entrepreneur, but you may need to work harder and get creative to earn the respect of your male colleagues and contemporaries. Georgene Huang, founder of the female-centric company review site Fairygodboss, agrees. “I generally don’t think gender inhibits or holds me back as an entrepreneur in any way,” she says. “The main thing is that sometimes it’s hard to explain to men how important and useful Fairygodboss is … [which] can be a challenge when we need men to support us (whether they are male advisors, prospective customers, or investors).”

The Future Is Bright

The future of female entrepreneurialism is certainly bright — there are more successful female entrepreneurs than ever and, according to the CEO of Ellevest, a “growing ecosystem supporting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.”

While women may face unique challenges along their entrepreneurial journey, the rewards are worth the effort.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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6 Lessons “Shark Tank” Can Teach You about Business



Last Updated: Feb 9, 2015
Shark Tank isn’t just good entertainment – there are business lessons you can learn from it too. Even if you aren’t seeking investors, these six lessons are worth studying.

Shark Tank is a reality TV show that airs on ABC once a week. Contestants are entrepreneurs seeking funding for their ideas and to help them grow their businesses to the next great milestone. The sharks are multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire angel investors who have made their marks and achieved their own brand celebrity. They include:

Even if you are not looking for venture capital, you can learn important business principles from the sharks and from watching contestants on Shark Tank. Here are 6 takeaway lessons any business owner can gain from the show.

 

Always Think Like a Shark

In the world of business, it can be eat or be eaten. You may not be a predator, but if you don’t think like one, you’ll become the next predator’s meal. If you think like a shark, you’ll avoid these six mistakes and survive to conduct business another day. Small or large, your business deserves good judgment. No matter what sector you do business in, you’ll survive much longer if you sharpen your teeth (and your wits).

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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10 Website Design Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make



Last Updated: Jan 19, 2018
Designing a website for your business? If you aren’t a professional web designer, there are several common website mistakes you could be making. 

There are plenty of items on your to-do list when you’re starting a business. You need a name, a location—cyber or physical, and of course, money. The “book of shoulds” also says that you need a website. If you don’t have the money to hire a designer, you probably set out to do it yourself.

Here’s the good news: In the beginning stages of your business you can certainly design your own website but before you dive in, here’s what to avoid.

For many, if not most business, a website is a must, but you can have an online presence without a website. You’ve likely seen business listings online that don’t have websites attached to them. If you can’t afford to have a website set up, at the very least make sure your name and phone number can be found through online business association member listings, online Yellow Pages, and social media sites.  As soon as your income allows, do plan to get at least a simple, but professional-looking website set up. The reason: you don’t own or control outside resources, but you do own and control what goes on your own website.

Some people will start the process of building a website without first knowing what they want to get out of it. Like finding a solution before identifying a problem, not having a goal with your website will lead to online failure.

Are you trying to gain exposure for your business? Maybe you’re planning to sell products online. Each of these goals require a different type of website. Your website is a tool that serves your business, but you need the right tool for the right job.

Do a quick Google search of websites that have won a prestigious award and you’re going to see some seriously amazing eye candy. The websites are beautiful—like a magical piece of art in the finest museum. If you’re a web design studio or advertising agency, an award-winning look is important, but for most businesses, it’s not necessary.

First, unless you’re a skilled visual designer, you probably can’t pull off a design of that magnitude so don’t try. Second, your customers care more about the information than the design.

Yes, strive for polished and professional, but there’s no need for cutting-edge design.

How many websites have you visited that made design more important than navigation? Simply put, it was pretty, but you had no idea how to find anything. When your customers come to your site, they won’t put time into figuring out your website.

If you’re selling products, make the link to your products page big and noticeable. Read and understand the F Pattern, which says that people read online content in an F pattern—down the left side and across but only at the top and part of the middle.

Bottom line: They’re annoying! You’re reading a page, click on a link, and impatiently wait for the PDF viewer to open. Then, the text looks different than what you were just reading, you have to scroll through the document, and if you want to save it, good luck finding that command. Anything that causes your users stress will prompt them to click away from your site.

Want to see your customers click away from your site at a blistering pace? Place a giant block of text on your website. If you’re reading a book, endless lines of text are fine, but in the online world, it’s bad…really bad. For more information on writing for online, click here.

Your business website likely has the goal of gaining customers. That’s fine, but if you get the idea of including Google ads or something of the like, push that out of your thoughts. Nothings says annoying like a website that has a thin band of content in the middle and banner ads along the sides.

Where do most people spend the bulk of their time? On websites OTHER than yours. Clicking on the logo of a page will take you to the homepage. Clicking a link will make it change color so you know you’ve been there. “About” and “Contact” are pages they can go to learn the important points of your business and contact you if they would like.

Make your website function like most other sites on the web. People like comfort.

You know your business better than anybody. That alone makes you biased when it comes to your website. You’re judging your site based on the knowledge you already have. What you need is a group of people who know nothing about your business to offer feedback. Did they find what you wanted them to find?

Can they tell you what sets your business apart from others after less than a minute of reading? Were they able to find the information they were looking for? If they don’t understand your business after a minute two, you’ll need to make some changes.

Designing a site that looks good on a computer is fine, but many people will look at it on a phone or tablet. Be sure your site looks good on both mobile and desktop platforms.

Bottom Line

A simple website will land you more business than one that is stuffed with pages and information. Make sure there’s a lot of white space (no content) on your pages, the navigation is clear, and your most important points catch their eye the second they arrive. That’s the recipe for website success.

Find More Website Tips and Hints

Need more ideas for building or improving your website? Read the articles in these two sections of Business Know-How:

Web Design, Usabilitiy and Navigation

Website Results and Profitability

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© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®.  May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.

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How to Use Meetups to Grow Your Business



Last Updated: Sep 28, 2016
There is tons of advice telling entrepreneurs to use in-person networking to build their businesses. But, in many cases, owners make a hash of it. This article shares a surprising and effective networking technique used by 7-figure entrepreneur and co-founder of Examine.com, Sol Orwell.

Networking.
 
The word alone makes some people uncomfortable. You attend events, meet people, exchange business cards, diligently follow up… and then the disappointing fizzle. Rarely does anything come from your efforts.
 
The problem is that most people think networking mean selling. Unfortunately, that puts everyone involved on the defensive. Fortunately, there’s a better way to network. It involves changing your approach to networking and taking part in meetups to build business relationships.

Free Yourself from the Pressure of Networking Events

You may wonder why so many business owners struggle with networking.

Ordinary networking fails because so many people attend networking events for the wrong reasons. They want to sell something or ask for a favor.

Think about it. A lot of people who are only interested in promoting their own businesses approach you. A few of them may turn into legitimate leads, but you never get much out of it for the time invested.

But, you’re going at this from the wrong angle…

Meetups as an Alternative to Traditional Groups

Sol Orwell is a 7-figure entrepreneur and the co-founder of Examine.com. Even though he’s an online entrepreneur, he takes a personal approach to building businesses. Sol has a great approach to building a professional network of meaningful relationships.

Easy as 1-2-3.

In case you’re wondering “What’s a Meetup?”, Meetup is the largest network of local groups in the world. With more than 9,000 groups of like-minded people getting together every day, Meetups are one of the easiest ways to find other people who share a common interest or cause.

For example, when I searched for “small business” Meetups within 50 miles of where I live, I found 103 events…on the first page of results alone!

Of course, when you attend these events you want to do much more than just hand out business cards and toot your own horn. The goal is to make genuine connections with other attendees and find out how you can add value to their situation. Can you introduce them to a valuable connection? Is there a way you can help improve their business? When you approach a new business relationship from a giving perspective, you become a valuable part of the other person’s network. This is a far cry from how your typical meet and greet works.

Why This Works

The first reason is that most people are terrible at building relationships. Taking the effort to use this three-step technique will put you ahead of the pack.

Secondly, it’s face-to-face. According to Harvard Business Review research, 95% of people said that face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships. 79% said that in-person meetings are the best way to meet new clients to sell business. 89% agreed that face-to-face meetings are essential for “sealing the deal.”

Finally, there are always Meetups taking place. So you’re in control of how often you connect with potential prospects.

If you can’t find a suitable Meetup, start your own.

The truth is, most things people consider “networking” are really just a waste of time. Attending large events, handing out your business card, and pitching yourself to everyone in sight won’t get the job done. Small business owners can get better results using Meetups to grow their professional network.

Think of how much more enjoyable and productive your networking time can be if instead of always hunting for new business (often the proverbial “needle in the haystack”), you focus on how to become more valuable and indispensable to your business connections.

Using Sol Orwell’s strategy could save you hours of learning by trial and error and speed up your path to more effective networking.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Anthony Sills is a direct-response copywriter and content strategist on a mission to eliminate boring marketing. He’s written copy for eBay, SEMrush, IBM, American Express, InfusionSoft and many exciting startups. You can always reach Anthony via social media or email.

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Small Business Growth with a New Idea



Last Updated: Aug 27, 2013
Launching a new product or a new marketing initiative can raise the awareness of your company. Here are steps to take to help ensure the success of the launch.  

One common goal many small businesses and entrepreneurs share is that of growth – the desire to grow, grow, grow. One way to expand your business is by introducing a new idea. Launching a new idea can raise public awareness of your company, which may result in new customers and higher profits.

Before you decide to launch a new idea for your small business, there are a few very critical steps to consider. Great ideas that best position a company to grow are launched following careful, in-depth planning and research. It’s pertinent not to develop an idea simply for the sake of putting out a new company idea. Take a close look at your desired goal for an idea, identify the results which you would like to see, and develop a strategy to help you achieve this goal and result.  

A few important tips for growing your business by launching a new idea include:

Research helps you think things through thoroughly. Studying and research are important steps to take in order to best shape your idea to achieve maximum company growth. Research can reveal if your idea is already commercially available or how you can learn from the mistakes and successes of your predecessors to differentiate your product and ideas. An idea that is not properly thought through all the way could be detrimental and costly to your company.

Test your idea with other people, especially potential customers. Consumers of your product or idea can offer valuable insights that you may not have already considered. Take the time to ask questions and listen to those around you to develop a better understanding of your customers’ needs and preferences to best position your idea for optimal growth.

Time your launch appropriately. The timing of your launch can drastically influence the success or failure of your idea. Ensure you are not rushing your product or service to market. Dedicate the appropriate amount of thought and research to the development of your idea in order to avoid potential pitfalls. With many fast-paced industries, it is also essential not to wait too long to launch an idea or product. Technologies are changing and growing daily, and if you launch an outdated idea, you may miss your opportunity to expand.

When considering the timing of a launch, be sure you are keeping tabs on the current news of your industry. It can be hard to break through the clutter of constantly shifting news.

Utilize the appropriate outlets to parlay your idea to position yourself for success. Make sure you are reaching your audience by understanding their interactions with industry news and preferred outlets. If your company operates social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, take advantage of these free means of communication by posting and interacting with your social media customers while growing your customer base.

When developing and launching an idea to grow your business, make sure you invest the appropriate amount of time and effort into your strategy to set yourself up for success. Oftentimes the difference between a successful idea and a poor one is all in the approach.

Connie Certusi is executive vice president and the general manager of Sage’s Small Business Solutions (SBS) business unit, which includes the Sage 50 US and Canada Edition, as well as the Sage Accountants Network.

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Start a Virtual Assistant Business



Last Updated: Nov 24, 2014
Want to work from home? If you’ve got administrative skills, a virtual assistant business might be right for you. Here’s what you need to know to start your own business as a VA.

All over the U.S. there are businesses, entrepreneurs, and start up companies in need of extra help. The kind of help they need is typically provided by another type of professional that is known as the virtual assistant.

What Does A Virtual Assistant Do?

A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who manages routine tasks, usually online or through electronic communications with the client. The tasks vary in complexity and skills needed, but what they have in common is that they are needed by businesses, but don’t have to be performed on site at the business location. Depending on the virtual assistant’s skills and interests, among the services she or he may offer are:

How Much Will You Make?

The amount of money you can make as a virtual assistant will depend on your skills and experience, the number of billable hours a week you work, and to some extent on the geographic area you focus on. Many virtual assistants in the US start out billing $20 to $35 an hour and then raise their rates as demand for their services grows. 

How Two Professional Virtual Assistants Started Their Businesses

Like a lot of things, there isn’t just one way to start a virtual assistant business. However, there are some first steps you should take no matter the ultimate path you follow. The first thing is to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What skills do you have? This is a good place to start because you need to know what services to provide to potential clientele before you start marketing yourself.

Kathy Goughenour has been a virtual assistant since 2001. In 2008, she started a ExpertVATraining, a virtual assistant training and coaching business. She recommends first identifying the types of businesses you want to service and the services you want to provide them. “Then do some research to determine if the target market you’ve chosen needs, wants, and has the money to pay for those services,” she adds.

The second step she recommends is to create a website. And the third step is to partner with other businesses who have the same target market as you.

Virtual assistant Candice VanWye, owner of Social Creative Studios in San Diego, offers different advice. Her suggestion is to start locally.

“Most VAs try to get clients online, but I believe it’s easier to target people who are in the same area (as you) because you seem more tangible,” she said, “especially if you don’t have much experience.”

After establishing yourself locally, VanWye recommends establishing a blog and using it to attract more clients from a distance. After working as a virtual assistant for one year at the local level, she said she grew her business enough to hire employees and expand her business reach.

Finding Customers

The key to succeeding in this, as in any business, will be your ability to find customers. Networking both in person at local events and online will be important ways to get known. There are many other low-cost ways to promote your new business, too.

Should You Use Bidding Sites Like Elance?

Bid sites are controversial among virtual assistants. Some VAs like them and some don’t. One problem with bidding sites like Elance is that many business people using these services are looking for the lowest bidder. You could be competing with VAs in India and China, in which case you’ll have to offer low prices to get some business.

The upside is you can hone your skills working for low pay and then bump up to the higher end markets when you’re ready.

You might find it less competitive, and more lucrative, to start with a service like HireMyMom.com, which is run by a professional mom who works from home. If you fall into the same category, you have a built in affinity group with such services.

A Third Path to Establishing Your Own VA Service

A longer way around to being an independent virtual assistant is to establish your skills working for someone else first. By working with an established virtual assistant company that provides the clients, you can gain some experience in the field working remotely. However your earnings are likely to be lower than if you work on your own, and the virtual assistant company you work with is likely to restrict you from soliciting business from their customers once you go out on your own.  Read any document you have to sign very carefully, and avoid any non-compete clauses that might limit or attempt to limit your ability to start your own business in the future.

There are several virtual assistant companies you can work for before going out on your own. Here are two:

You can Google “virtual assistant company” to find more.

Trade Organizations

As in any other industry, there are several trade organizations that offer virtual assistants industry information, networking with their peers, and other benefits, including access to fee-based certification programs. Two of the better known organizations for VAs are:

International Virtual Assistants Association ( IVAA)

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)

© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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6 Ways to Find a $100 Million Idea



Last Updated: May 15, 2018
Successful entrepreneurs don’t just stumble on their million-dollar business ideas. In this adaptation from the new book “How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America,” author Robert Jordan shares six things he learned from the founders of some of America’s most successful businesses.

Ever wonder how entrepreneurs come up with brilliant business ideas that turn into successful companies? I interviewed 45 company founders, each of whom started, grew, and sold a company for $100 million or more, or took their company public for $300 million or more. Here are some of their secrets.

Fulfill their need, not your passion.

It’s a myth that successful businesspeople got into their field because they cared deeply about it. Success doesn’t follow passion, it follows need. Find something that no one’s doing that somebody should do. That’s what Dick Costolo, founder of Feedburner, did when he saw that publishers had content but no way to distribute it online to subscribers and syndicators.

Identify your customer’s big problem.

Where there’s a meaningful problem, there’s a reason to solve it. Cardiologist Donald C. Harrison came up with the idea for his medical device company AtriCure after asking himself how he could make a novel contribution that would help his heart patients in a major way.

Get it from your hands, not your head.

How did a guy with a degree in supercomputing end up in the trucking biz? Internet Explorer billionaire Tim Krauskopf got the idea for a transportation technologies startup, FreightZone, after he learned to drive a semi and began to experience what was involved in the trucking industry.

Put your heads together.

Often, $100 million ideas come from collaboration. Rock Mackie knew Tomotherapy was a viable concept only after three of his graduate students each made separate and important discoveries. Put together, his team’s ideas resulted in a new and remarkably better CT scanning technology for treating disease.

Make it sellable and fixable.

Do you think you have a great idea for a new product? It’s not a great idea until you’ve gotten involved in selling it. Jim Dolan of the Dolan Company advises that selling is the quickest way to find out what’s wrong with your product idea so you can fix it quickly and move on. If you can’t sell it, don’t make it.

Get help developing it.

Serial entrepreneur Mahendra Vora, who’s launched more than a dozen highly successful tech companies, warns would-be entrepreneurs not to be narcissistic about their idea. Instead, develop 60 percent of your vision, put it into the hands of trusted customers, and let them help with the remaining 40 percent of the idea.

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Robert Jordan has been launching and growing companies and helping other entrepreneurs do the same for the past 20 years. He is author of How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America(RedFlash Press), a collection of interviews from 45 leading founders who created $41 billion from scratch. His newest endeavors are RedFlash project implementation team, and interimCEOinterimCFO, a worldwide network of interim, contract, and project executives.

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Market Reserach Is Key To Developing A New Business

Often times, entrepreneurs may have a great business idea; however, many people
may not be interested in the particular product or may not be willing to pay for
the product(s) or service(s) offered. Small business owners simply cannot assume
that their business ideas are what people want without knowing who their target
audience is, the amount of money people are willing to spend for their product(s),
and who their competitors are. This is the very reason why market research is important
for a new business.

Questions every entrepreneur should ask themselves
The
entrepreneur

who is planning to introduce their new concept into the market needs to determine
the reasons for starting their new business. They should ask themselves the following
questions: What technical skills do I have that will contribute to my new business?
What do others believe are my strengths and weaknesses? Will I have the finances
to fully support my family when I decide to leave my job and start the new business?
How much available time do I have to invest in my
business idea
?


Entrepreneurs
planning to set up niche or highly specialized new businesses need
to answer the following: What new concepts or ideas will I be bringing forth? What
services or products will I sell? Is my idea practical, and will it fill a need
in the industry? Who are my competitors? What is my business’ advantage over existing
enterprises? Can I deliver better quality service over major competitors? How can
I create a demand for my business? Once an entrepreneur can successfully answer
these questions, they will discover that staring a new business takes much more
than talent or motivation; it takes ample research and preparation.

Benefits of market research
By conducting thorough market research,
entrepreneurs will be able to obtain valuable information about starting their new
businesses. First, market research will enable the business owner to learn of industry
trends and which products/services will be in demand. Second, they will be able
to see how the general public responds to their business ideas. This step is extremely
important because if a business manager cannot show investors (venture capitalists
or angel investors) that his/her great business idea(s) has/have potential, they
may not be able to secure proper funding for their venture.

Another advantage of market research is customer feedback. Through surveys, literature,
and questionnaires, business owners will be able to determine the overall satisfaction
of customers, and based on customer response, they can hone any imperfections to
make the product more marketable. Thorough market research can also be beneficial
in devising a viable business plan. Many investors will not even consider investing
in a company without a well-prepared business plan. These detailed business plans
are often flexible and can change throughout the development of a business. There
are also several formats of business proposals, which can range from mini-plans
to full length presentations. The latter type of business plan outlines the business
proposals
as well as the financial outcome of the company. This is the format that
investors and financial institutions prefer the most.

In order for any great business idea to succeed in the market, business developers
need to learn about their leading competitors. By keeping track of market behavior
and the competition at hand, the business owner can develop great business ideas
targeted towards winning over new customers and increasing their profitability.

Types of market research
There are two distinct types of market
research.

A. In secondary research, the business owner meticulously gathers already
published data, which is easily accessible and nearly free to obtain. Information
such as consumer demographics, major competitors, and general usage of products
is often collected by government agencies and organizations, and made available
online and in books and publications. One disadvantage of this type of market research
is that the data collected may be difficult to validate and may even contain biased
information.

B. Primary market research is more specific in nature. It contains information
regarding a specific product that is brought forth by a company. Focus groups, field
studies, and simple observations of customer behavior are some ways in which companies
obtain primary market research. Many businesses that are planning to launch new
products rely on this form of research since they produce more specific results.
However, primary market research can be quite costly. Using both types of research
can certainly allow business owners to have accurate information regarding the market
and in making wise investment decisions.

Types of customers
There are three main types of customers
that every business will encounter. Depending on the product, its cost, and position
within the sales cycle, they may or may not be influenced to purchase a particular
product or service. It is up to the sales person or business owner to understand
their customers’ thinking in order to successfully win them over and make a sale.

A. The financier or “purchaser” is primarily concerned with the cost of
a product, not how effective a particular product may be. These types of customers
are aware of all the prices offered by major competitors and will often purchase
a product if they believe it is a good bargain. To target this type of customer,
the business owners should show how their prices are competitive. If the product
offered costs more than that of the major competitors, it is always good to reason
with the customer, show how the cost will be less throughout the life of the product,
or even how they will eventually break even.

B. The expert or “influencer” is not concerned by the cost of a product
but rather if the product being offered will be considered a good purchase. They
tend to be very knowledgeable about every characteristic of a product, including
technical features that the product offers. Their level of expertise may even influence
the buying behavior of others, especially if they believe the product is exceptional.
To target this type of customer, the business owners should be aware of every aspect
of their product and present to potential buyers what the product can do for them.

C. The end-user will not only be glad to purchase the product but s/he will
actually use the product bought. When enticing this type of customer, it is always
a
good idea
to relate to them with their frustrations on their current situation
and convey how their new product will alleviate many of the limitations that they
may have encountered.

Conclusion
Overall, market research tests the customer response
to a product. When developing a great business idea, business owners first need
to think how their great business ideas will benefit customers. Shortly after developing
great business ideas, entrepreneurs are encouraged to analyze the market in order
to determine if their product is similar to what they are considering to develop
and if it is already available on the market. If there is already a similar product,
business developers then need to determine how they will place their new product
to differentiate it from the product already available on the market. The placement
of products born out of great new business ideas need to be carefully chosen to
attract the maximum attention of customers. In addition, it is product placement
that will differentiate this product from other similar products on the market.

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Some Facts About Women Entrepreneurs

Today, more women are breaking free from the traditional, gender-specific roles
and venturing into the business world. Not only are they holding high corporate
positions but they are also successful women entrepreneurs who own almost half of
all businesses in the United States. The steady rise in female entrepreneurs can
be due to many different reasons, most of which share the same rational as their
male counterparts—passion for their ideas, the desire to become their own boss,
and the need to address philanthropic causes. A recent study indicated that 1 out
of every 11 adult women is an entrepreneur in the United States. Women business
owners contribute to the overall employment of 18 million workers and generate anywhere
from $2 to $3 trillion in U.S. economy revenues. Many of the important facts that
follow will support these findings.

1. Demographic characteristics
Studies have shown that successful Women entrepreneurs start their businesses as
a second or third profession. Many of them have experienced a considerable amount
of dissatisfaction with their previous careers and in working for others. Often
times, these innate desires to be their own boss are the driving forces that motivated
them to pursue entrepreneurship.

As a business owner, these once unhappy individuals are now more satisfied and content
with their personal and professional life. In addition, because of their previous
careers, women entrepreneurs enter the business world later on in life, around 40-60
years old. Many of them have higher education degrees, a significant characteristic
that many successful female entrepreneurs have in common. Women entrepreneurs also
tend to offer better health care benefit packages, on the job training and education,
more tuition reimbursement for students and continuing education employees, and
provide more vacation and paid leave options to their staff.

2. International implications
From a large-scale perspective, female entrepreneurs encompass approximately 1/3
of all entrepreneurs worldwide. A recent international study found that women from
low to middle income countries (such as Russia and the Philippines) were more likely
to enter early stage entrepreneurship when compared to those of higher income countries
(such as Belgium and Sweden). A significant factor that may play a role in this
disparity can be contributed to the fact that women from low income countries often
seek an additional means of income to support themselves and their families. As
a result, many of them often resort to entrepreneurship in addition to their current
jobs. However, women entrepreneurs from higher income countries were more successful
at establishing their businesses and exuded more confidence than those of poorer
nations, perhaps because of the availability of resources and financial backing
from families and friends.

In addition, women who had higher education experience were more likely to transform
their existing businesses into successful ones, proving that learning and work familiarity
is universal across all cultures and greatly contributes to the overall success
of any business venture.

3. Strategy
Recent studies also indicate that women entrepreneurs are assembling themselves
into groups or confederacies. The reasons behind this trend have to do with the
desire to establish solid women business networks, where members can collectively
pool resources and expertise together.

Women business networks have also been found to be more generous in their philanthropic
contributions. At least seven out of ten women entrepreneurs of a new business volunteer
their time at least once per month to community-related causes. In addition, 31%
of them contribute $5,000 or more to various charities annually.

Even though many female entrepreneurs have home-based and service-related businesses,
they are unafraid of technology and have recently entered many industries that were
once male-dominated, such as construction, design, manufacturing, and architecture.
In addition, the retail industry still makes up the largest share of women-owned
firms.

One of the advantages of working in a women-owned new business is that the workforce
is more diverse. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to employ a staff that is more
gender-balanced, comprising of 52% women and 48% men on average. On the other hand,
most male-owned businesses have a workforce that is often more than 65% men.

4. Sources of capital
The fact that more women entrepreneurs have risen in the past few years has been
made possible in part by the easy availability of business capital. Women entrepreneurs
tend to fund their startups with different sources of funding, including “bootstrap”
finances (personal money from savings and credit cards) and commercial loans. Today,
not only are there more grants and bank loans made available to women entrepreneurs,
but there are also more diversity programs that specialize in providing seed funding
to female business owners.

However, despite the recent achievements, research shows that it still remains difficult
for women of color to get access to seed funding. According to one recent study
on women entrepreneurs, approximately 60% of Caucasian women business owners were
able to obtain bank credit, compared to 50% of Hispanic, 45% of Asian, 42 % of Native
American, and 38% of African-American women entrepreneurs.

5. Motivation
Much of a business woman’s drive to pursue entrepreneurship is due to the immense
passion she has for her work. Many women entrepreneurs are not afraid of taking
risks and are two times more likely to make above average risks than their male
equivalent, making monetary gain a less likely factor in their business pursuits.
Instead, they possess very strong business ideas and seek any and all means to share
their business ideas with others who may benefit from their discoveries.

Another motivating factor behind women entrepreneurs is the desire for control.
Many successful female business owners are provoked by the opportunity to be their
own boss and run their own company, a prospect that would never occur if they had
worked for someone else. Women entrepreneurs are also motivated by philanthropic
commitment to society. Their new businesses will greatly stimulate economic development
in their community and create new jobs for many people.

Another inspiring component that many successful women entrepreneurs share is the
fact they have the tendency to balance family life and career. Many people may have
had doubt in this ability when these women first entered the field because of the
long work hours, but these reservations have often been proven wrong. It is no wonder
that many successful women entrepreneurs have an amazing ability to multitask, properly
balancing both personal and professional life with their goal-oriented approach.

6. Present challenges
Even though female entrepreneurship and the formation of women business networks
is steadily rising, there are still many prospective women entrepreneurs who do
not follow through with their great business ideas. This is widely due to the fact
that many challenges exist for them to overcome. First and foremost, many prospective
women entrepreneurs may fear the debt associated with their startup. They may not
have the resources available to make educated decisions about properly raising capital
or may even have been discouraged by family and friends. As mentioned earlier, if
an entrepreneur truly believes in their business ideas, then they will seek any
means to move forward and commercialize their concepts.

A second challenge may be their lack of knowledge in information technology and
business skills. Even though many successful business ventures are IT-related, there
are many other thriving industries that do exist. Experience is always an advantage;
however, one just has to conduct ample research on their industry, their consumer
base and competitors, and speak to entrepreneurs who have already gone through the
process. Entrepreneurship is a learning experience and even the most successful
business owners have had to learn new things throughout the development of their
company.

Another major challenge that many women entrepreneurs may face is the traditional
gender-roles society may still have on women. Entrepreneurship is still a male-dominated
field, and it may be difficult to surpass these conventional views. However, it
is very important to be aware that despite the negativity that may exist, over 9
million women own their own businesses in the U.S. In fact, of all U.S. enterprises
that exist, over 40% comprise of women-owned businesses. The United States Census
Bureau predicts that by the year 2025, the percentage of women entrepreneurship
will increase to over 55%. Many women feel a great deal of empowerment by the opportunity
to own their own company and may now be motivated by such high statistics.

7. Future prospects
There are many promising predictions for women
entrepreneurs
in the near future.
More coalitions will be formed among female associates, enabling the establishment
of female business networks to flourish in the business world. In addition, the
U.S. Census envisions that women entrepreneurs and female business networks will
both remain dominant, comprising of over 50% of all business in the United States
in the next several years. Many women
entrepreneurs
with home-based and service-related
businesses will eventually shift to the information technology industry, making
this once male-dominated commerce to be one of equal gender appeal.

With progressive changes, the United States economy will refine itself to a financial
system that will rely heavily on the internet and e-commerce for their business
practices. Enterprises will also focus more on women-related issues and principles.

Conclusion
Women entrepreneurs have become a strong driving force in today’s corporate world.
Not only are they able to equalize their duties of both motherhood and entrepreneurship
but they also comprise of almost half of all businesses owned today. Many women
entrepreneurs have an average age of 40-60 years old because they have had previous
careers in other areas. Their primary goal is not monetary reward but rather personal
satisfaction and community involvement. Many of them are educated and assemble into
groups in order to pool business ideas and resources together.

Women entrepreneurs also have more access to business capital and seed funding than
ever before. Yet despite the many opportunities, many prospective women entrepreneurs
are intimidated to move forward. Overall, there are many promising forthcoming predictions
for women business owners. They will continue to form female business networks,
transition towards information technology, and rely strongly on e-commerce as their
form of trade.

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