Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Getting The Work-Life Balance Right

27 Aug

When I made the decision to work for myself again, the demands of getting a start-up off the ground and the unpredictability of my days really took a toll on my work-life balance.  My family and social life suffered and the home gym equipment became another convenient place to hang clothes.  Thankfully, things have since improved.  Whereas I still can’t log off my lap top at 7pm everyday (I’m working on this too), I’ve started working out again on mornings and I try to shut down on weekends and focus on family and friends.  This blog by Mike Figliuolo was therefore an interesting read and good advice for many of us.

How To Keep Your Life In Balance

by Mike Figliuolo 

Achieving personal balance is as important as achieving work balance and it is especially hard for people who love their work. If you love what you are working on, it is hard to step away from it. You must achieve a state where your energy is balanced between work and life. If you restrict your hours at the office by working at a furious pace that saps all your energy, you will have no energy left to live your life away from the office. That approach defeats the purpose of trying to achieve balance.

I know a fellow entrepreneur who struggled with the “life” part of work-life balance. He dedicated every last ounce of energy he had to building his business. He could not stop talking about all the fantastic things going on in his business but when I asked how things were at home his tone became more reserved. He explained how tired he was when he got home at night and how his son regularly said he missed him. The entrepreneur had not been sleeping well and he had put on about fifteen pounds because his physical fitness regimen had lapsed.

I asked if he had experienced similar challenges when he was a “corporate guy” and he said no. He had no problem making time for his family in the evenings. He would get in a solid workout every morning. He slept better and was generally happier despite not particularly enjoying his corporate job. I asked him what had changed since he went out on his own. He said he was much happier with the work he was doing but the variability in his schedule made it unpredictable and he found it difficult to establish a routine. He also felt a great deal of pressure to work on everything in front of him because he was solely responsible for the success of his business. He believed that if he did not drive hard and tackle every project, his business might fail.

“Why don’t you try shutting the computer at 7:00 PM every night for the next few weeks then let’s grab coffee and find out how things are going. You have to promise to hold yourself to that standard. Also, start your workouts again and don’t open your computer until after you have finished working out.”

Initially he looked at me like I was crazy when I offered him this guidance. But he reluctantly agreed to try the new approach. After several weeks we reconnected.

“I’m getting to spend time with my family now at least. I feel better too because I’m working out again. I even lost a few pounds in the past few weeks. At first I panicked at the thought of not getting all that former ‘evening’ work done but it’s been weird. All those things I used to do at night don’t seem to get done the next day. The odd part is it isn’t a big deal if they don’t get done.”

We discussed how the approach of walking away from the work at 7:00 PM was forcing him to prioritize. In the past he had no time constraints therefore he did not have to make a choice about what work got done. His choice was instead one of what time he would finish. His limiting factor was the work, not the time. By being rigorous about holding time as fixed he naturally began working on the most important things first to ensure he completed them by his self-imposed 7:00 PM deadline. Lower priority work automatically fell to the bottom of the list. His time with his family and his new workout regimen reduced his stress and helped him sleep better. The extra sleep made him more productive during the day and a virtuous circle ensued.

How do you keep yourself in balance? What reminder will you use to tell yourself it’s time to go home?

– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC



Ten Common Errors When Starting A New Business

7 Aug

Congrats on your new business.  This can be the beginning of the most amazing and fulfilling period of your career.   However there are some common errors you need to avoid.  In their blog “Ten Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A New Business”, wix.com provided this list of (10) most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make and should avoid:

1) Not Researching Your Target Market – You need to know their habits and behavior as consumers. The more you know about the people you want as your clients, the more focused and cost-effective your marketing plan will be.

2) Sketchy Business Plan – You must have some type of financial forecast for expenditures, an initial marketing plan, a breakdown of your target audience and your competition, and most importantly some idea of how you plan to be profitable.

3) Getting Loans from Friends and Family – If you have a great idea and a well-organized business plan, you should be able to receive loans from institutions that specialize in these matters. Do you want to risk the relationship with people that you love? Be smart and resist the temptation, even if they offer.

4) Expecting Immediate Profit – New businesses usually take two years to become profitable. Make sure you have enough capital to carry you through, because in the beginning you will mostly be spending money, not making it.

5) Not Focusing on the Customer – You need to focus on offering solutions.  That is where your real profit lies. If your business provides something of substantial value you will get loyal clients that happily recommend your services.

6) Disregarding Controlled Testing – The only way to find out exactly what works for your business is to plan, test and analyze.  Do this in a controlled fashion and on a small scale. Don’t blow all of your investment money on random advertising or mass marketing. Test out different strategies on a small group and obtain feedback before you make any major move.

7) Relying on Your Own Legal and Accounting Skills – Do not trust yourself with something so critical as your own business. Experts are considered experts for a reason

8) Trusting Verbal Agreements – When money is involved, you need to have a written agreement to secure your interests. Contracts are not just a formality. When you sign one, make sure you actually understand and agree with its content.

9) Trying to Do Everything Alone – There are so many things to look after with a new business. Even if you’re planning a small operation, you will find yourself in need of assistance – even on a part-time basis. Seek out people whose abilities balance out yours, so that you can focus on developing your ideas and making deals.

10) Sacrificing Personal Relationships for the Biz – Most entrepreneurial efforts require around the clock attention, and can strain family and close relationships if you allow them to. You need the support of your loved ones, so don’t neglect them. Maintaining a healthy private life is crucial for your well-being. If you don’t, eventually, your business will also be affected by it.

You may read wix.com’s full article here http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/07/common-business-mistakes/


Six Steps To Start Up Success

22 Jul

Achieving start up success is difficult and as a result many fail.  However following the below advice from Bob Diener is a great place to start.


Six Fundamentals Every Entrepreneur Needs to Succeed

by Bob Diener

As an entrepreneur who founded and runs a successful and growing business, Getaroom, I see many entrepreneurs with great ideas but no clue how the business will be profitable. For certain websites or apps, if the idea is good enough you can get lucky and sell the business after you get a spike in interest. However, most companies require considerable planning and need both a competitive advantage and a solid business plan in order to succeed. For my company, I focused on a big market and found a profitable and attractive niche.

If you’re thinking about starting your own company, here’s my advice:

Set realistic expectations.
While enthusiasm and faith are needed when planning out your business, you do want to temper those thoughts with realism. Your projections for the business should not be wildly optimistic so you can manage your expectations and those of any partners. Consider the type of business and industry. Are you selling a lower margin product that will take time to gain traction? Or are you taking a shot with an app that might be a dud or might attract 100,000 downloads a month? Plan for a realistic amount of sales and interest so you can conservatively manage your finances. Are you counting on advertising to bring in customers? Remember that most advertising simply does not work, and you’ll need to attract customers through other channels and the power of word-of-mouth referrals.

With Getaroom, I understood the lodging market is massive and knew a niche player could capture a large amount of revenue, but my initial projections were modest and I watched expenses closely.

Have a clear value proposition.
Your product or service should offer true value. The value assessment has to go beyond your own biased opinion. You’re invested in the business, so of course you’ll feel it has value for your customers. Gather some outside counsel to be sure the value is clear and easily explained to your targeted audience. Envision someone referring your service to a colleague, saying “You need to get Service X because it will help you do A, give you B, and offer you insights into C.” If the value proposition is unclear, then you’re likely setting up the business for failure. Getaroom.com’s value proposition is based upon superior pricing and service. In an environment with rate parity such as in lodging, companies that can offer consumers reduced prices and exemplary service are able to really stand out as valuable.

Offer unique attributes.
Does your intended service or product bring something new to the consumer? If they already possess what you are offering, can get it for free, or can an easily acquire it from myriad competitors, then how do you expect to stand out? Will customers be able to identify and discuss your competitive advantage? Getaroom stands out because it presents a new model for hotel room booking. It features an unpublished rate program which gives consumers typically 10 to 20% (but up to 70%) off standard rates at thousands of partner hotels who want to move room inventory. What is markedly different about the company is these rates are only available through the Getaroom.com call center. The model is also different because we tell the traveler the name of the hotel, but not the actual rate until they book, while other models offer the rate but not the hotel name. We serve a clear segment of travelers who are looking for deals, but who also want to control where they stay. That sets us apart from our competitors. What attributes would set your venture apart from the competition?

Find your niche in a sizable market.
Knowing your clear value proposition and your unique attributes will help you determine where you fit in the market. We don’t offer every possible hotel, but we do offer unpublished rates for tens of thousands of the very best. Lodging is a $500 billion annual business, so for Getaroom, we don’t require too much of a share of that market sum to reap considerable rewards. Travel is a good market for entrepreneurs, but it’s not the place for copycats. You can’t compete with big booking sites unless you have an angle. Several of the large online travel agencies have a model of offering access to all hotels in every location; their angle is the sheer breadth of coverage. Others travel sites outsource their call centers overseas and really push all interactions to be electronic.

At Getaroom.com, we are a deal and value site, where we use pricing and a well-trained call center to stand out. We built a U.S.-based call center staffed with highly trained agents so they can offer enhanced services and act more like a travel agent than just a process person.

In large and expanding markets, there is always a value proposition to be found with niche players who can provide a compelling service. In travel, there is always someone looking to help research it, track it, or provide services for certain areas or class of travel. As long as the niche service has a true value proposition and a reasonable market audience, it can pull in profits.

Design a sound business model.
An entrepreneur can have the most unique product offering, one that offers tremendous value, but if her underlying business plan is not sound she has nothing. A quality plan is the key “how” of a business: how you are going to move forward with your service while keeping costs down? How do you ensure there will be demand for your product that can be reasonably sustained over the long term? How will you market your product or service to the intended audience on a reasonable budget? You need to be a hawk on the bottom line and ruthlessly manage top line expenses. The hard truth is that most businesses fail, and not always because the idea itself was not sound. A well-constructed economic plan does not of course guarantee success, but it is necessary and can turn a failure into a learning experience instead of a catalyst for personal financial ruin.

A sound model doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the model and innovate when it is the right call. For instance, we instituted flash sales, where travelers have a limited amount of time to book, typically up to 24 hours. We usually offer these sales at 10 to 60% off, which creates an incentive for immediate action. This model is also a great driver for traffic to the site, as these sales are not pre-announced, but just pop up whenever the timing is right.

Pull in customers cost-effectively
Once you have the product or service and a solid plan lined up, you need to drive customers to make purchases. As I mentioned before, advertising typically does not work. Look at inexpensive promotions or contests and your social media strategy as cost-effective ways to attract consumers. Encourage conversations about your brand by asking for reviews or finding a way for consumer-created content that shows off your product’s unique features.

While none of this advice may seem particularly surprising, I’m always amazed by how many entrepreneurs have neglected to do this homework before they launch. If you want to beat the odds, make sure you’ve carefully thought through these non-negotiables before you start your business.

You may read the original blog here: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/07/as_an_entrepreneur_who_founded.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+harvardbusiness+%28HBR.org%29&cm_ite=DailyAlert-072213+%281%29&cm_lm=sp%3Afranciscajordan%40gmail.com&cm_ven=Spop-Email

Your Start Up Not Performing As Well As You Planned? Focus On Success!

14 Jun

Working for yourself isn’t easy.  It takes a lot of perseverance and self talk to keep going and keep believing in yourself and your company.  It is also important to put aside time at planned intervals to reflect on where you’re at and determine what if anything needs tweaking.  I therefore found this blog by Ellie Cachette to be inspirational as she recaps the various professional and personal challenges she faced since starting her company.  It’s a reminder to all entrepreneurs, that even when things aren’t going as well as you wish, “the greatest thing a founder can do, is make sure his start-up doesn’t die”….that is….. Focus On Success!

.What To Do When Your Start Up Doesn’t Fail, But Also Doesn’t Succeed

By Ellie Cachette, June 11 2013:

There were so many times our start-up almost failed, we joked it was a cockroach, a life form in its own right that, simply put, would never die.  There were times when we barely could pay our Rackspace bill, and one time I distinctly remember our blog being down because we forgot to pay that bill. There was also the time one of our investors cut our credit line in half, unexpectedly, right as we made a huge payment. And then the time our lead customer, two days before integration, committed suicide. Then the time a few weeks after that when our CTOs wife committed suicide.

There are so many things privately and publicly known about ConsumerBell that its nearly a miracle that we’ve made it where we are today. Any person close to us will say we have had no shortage of miracles and most startups that really make it far have similar stories; years where founders did contract work, or full teams were let go. We even moved my full apartment into the office hallway for a day while I was 24 hours between a lease, and experienced two hurricane blackouts in NYC and an earthquake that rocked our Park Ave office one summer.

Many of these things happened in our first year as a startup when our sole focus should be product. I remember after a trip to D.C, a water pipe exploded above our printers. We just went around the corner to a cafe. There’s always a wifi spot, a cup of coffee or an employees apartment to stakeout. ConsumerBell just would not die.

Similarly to a recently engaged couple and the way grandparents always ask, “When are you having kids?” there reaches a point where for a startup people are wondering, when you are going to IPO or raise the next round? Or have rocket ship growth? And sometimes it just never happens or even worse, sometimes like with Pandora or Tumblr it takes a while. There is this correlation between staying alive and rocketship growth. To get there the first part is staying alive and many other variables added to rocketship growth. Simply put just breath.

Yet at some point something changes: the founder gets bored, the company starts making money in a pivot that wasn’t part of the original vision or even funds run low but not low enough to justify shutting the doors – especially when there’s revenue involved. Sometimes a startup is well funded but just can’t seem to see a path of success like it thought and returns its money to investors, sometimes the market changes or the industry changes and now what was a “big” idea is only a feature but something need and so is true for the opposite when what was once a feature in time becomes a company.. Not every startup becomes a huge success like Facebook but not every startup fails either. There are plenty of startups in the middle, in purgatory of success waiting for the right VC or new CEO or market environment to change.

In the meantime what is a team or founder to do?

1. Sabbatical

From what I have heard, founders who take sabbaticals or vacations actually come back refreshed and with a new sense of balance. There’s a couple reasons for this: after massive sleep deprivation and zero separation between work and personal life, taking a step back often reminds a founder of the things that they want in their personal life and gives motivation to the work life and while in a lull this can upset investors or look like avoidance, its in almost every case helped the company and lets be honest, if a company is going to die it isn’t going to die in one week but be surprised at how much sleep a founder might need and you probably wouldn’t want many friends around. Stories of founders sleeping for days straight are not uncommon.

2. Reflect and Document

Having a lull or time for reflection can also be inspiring, its a good time to document all HR files, product road maps, organize digital assets, clean up email boxes and media content accounts like YouTube, upload missing content, re-share content on twitter. In many cases potential acquirers will be want to know many of these things like how many digital assets (files and images) to taxes and press lists. It never fails that when the acquisition opportunity arises founders are usually too busy with other things so doing it when possible is not only therapeutic but efficient. Also in the process you might find a gem or two of inspiration.

3. Help Other Startups

Dedicate a portion of time to help other startups in different phases. This will be refreshing to transfer knowledge and also help spread the word of what you are working on in a way that could spark new ideas or allies. When all seems lost helping others often reminds a founder of the world outside its own startup and can give perspective.

4. Do Something Different

One thing founders certainly give up is their personal lives and can albeit even forget what a personal life is making decision one sided. Take a class, do something random, spend a week with family somewhere far. Do something totally different and step out of the founders role.

5. Don’t shut down

airBnb had to sell cereal at one point to keep their company alive, in the early days of FedEx their CEO gambled his money at blackjack to win and make payroll. Evernote the night before closing its doors received a $500k investment from a user in Sweden and Blogger (which sold for rumors between $20MM and $50MM) to Google had to lay off every single employee before finally getting acquired. That founder, Evan Williams went off to start what is now Twitter today, so the greatest thing a founder can do when their startup isn’t failing is to make sure it doesn’t die. Timing is everything.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-to-do-when-your-startup-doesnt-fail-but-also-doesnt-suceed-2013-6#ixzz2WBzIJkw6

So How Is Your Business Going?

9 May


This is a question I am often asked, but how do I answer without sounding cocky or boring my audience?  Another common scenario is while I’m out relaxing.  I’m asked this question and my first impulse is to just say “great!” to avoid having to launch into another bit of lengthy shop talk.  I found this blog by Kathryn Minshew to be helpful in providing guidance in answering this question in both situations:  How to provide an effective response that engages, as well as a reminder that opportunities for improvement or new business exist everywhere and a skillful response could lead me to both.

Every Entrepreneur’s Least Favorite Question

by Kathryn Minshew


It’s happened to every founding CEO. You’re in a meeting — with fellow founders, potential partners, VCs, or even just friends — and you’re asked that simple question that often feels like the hardest one:

“How are things going?”

“Great!” you respond

Cue, awkward pause. Where do you go from there? As a CEO, I have to answer a lot of tough questions: What’s our 5- and 10-year vision? Where do we hire next? Should we focus on existing products, or launch our next one? But for the open-ended “How are things going?” there’s no perfect answer.

The best response obviously depends on your audience, but I’ve found there are four different ways you can tackle this question that will most likely to lead to a productive conversation.

Highlight two recent accomplishments.

In most conversations, you want to communicate that things are going well — not abstractly “well,” but that your team has been accomplishing awesome, concrete things. To convey this, I find it’s most helpful to highlight a few (usually two) specific recent accomplishments. For example: “Things are great! We just crossed 900,000 monthly active users and brought Facebook on as a hiring partner.”

Why two? Because if you name more, you sound like you’re listing off a memorized litany of accomplishments, and that’s annoying. And if you only name one, it comes off like you want your audience to be impressed by that one achievement. Whereas when you name two successes, they can choose which one they want to react to, and you come off less like you’re baiting them to compliment any specific aspect of your business.

Talk about one problem you’re working on.

An alternate strategy, especially useful with people who are familiar with your accomplishments, is talk about what you’re working on next. For example: “Things are great! Right now we’re building out the ability for applicants to upload a resume and cover letter to our site, so they can apply to a job without ever having to leave.”

Bonus points: Slip in a good ask. For example, “We’re considering whether to integrate with applicant tracking systems like Resumator and JobScore. I’d love to talk to the teams over there at some point.” Here, you’ve given the other person an opportunity to be helpful, and if he recognizes a useful introduction he could make he’ll often be more than happy to offer. And don’t judge too quickly whether the person you’re talking to can help: When it comes to networking, you’ll often be surprisedby who’s able to help out.

Talk about what’s different than 3 or 6 months ago.

This is a great approach for people who you haven’t seen in a while and want to catch up on your progress, and is essentially a variation on the “two recent accomplishments” approach. But instead of highlighting the great deals you closed last week, take a step back and think about how your company has evolved since you last spoke to this person.

For example, “Things have been moving very quickly for us! When we first launched our product, we had a one-size-fits-all model, but we now have a really great tiered offering — we launched a lower-price-point ‘simple’ version aimed at small businesses, and we’re also building out a premium product designed for larger enterprise clients.” This tactic is very useful in guiding your audience to reshape their perception of you and catch up on where you’ve grown, as well as to shake off any stereotypes you suspect you and your company got pigeon-holed into earlier on.

Ask for advice.

Finally, when you’re speaking with someone who has expertise you could use, “How are things going?” is the perfect segue into asking for it. Start by sharing a relevant update, then transition to your question. “Things are great! We’ve been selling quite a bit and are growing our sales team, which is exciting. I know you guys did a fantastic job with expanding sales last year — can I actually ask your advice sometime on the best way to interview and hire sales people?”

To avoid putting people on the spot, you can smooth the conversation by suggesting you’d like to talk “sometime” about your question. In many cases, that “sometime” will turn into now, and your conversation partner will dive into giving you advice. But, by giving her the option to say, “Sure, shoot me an email and we can talk about it,” you avoid putting anyone on the spot (and can set yourself up for a better and more in-depth conversation than you could have at the post-conference happy hour you’re standing at).

When you run a business, summarizing “how things are going” is more or less impossible. But the secret to answering this question is realizing that your goal isn’t to summarize — it’s to set the conversation in motion along a productive path that generally relates to how you’re doing and what you’re working on. Have a couple good answers prepared (and update them regularly), and when someone asks how things are going, you’ll find yourself ready and poised to guide the conversation down the path you want it to go.


Kathryn Minshew is founder and CEO of The Muse and The Daily Muse. Follow her on Twitter at @kmin.

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