By: Dave Merrill & Yvette Romero November 10, 2016
By: Dave Merrill & Yvette Romero November 10, 2016
By: Michael Glauser November 9, 2016
“I want to start a business but I don’t have any money.” I hear this statement over and over again as I work with aspiring entrepreneurs. Many of them have sound ideas, but feel they need a lengthy business plan and a large amount of cash to get started. The reality is, most successful entrepreneurs end up bootstrapping their business. If you are passionate about what you are doing, there are always ways to get things done with limited resources. Here are five keys successful entrepreneurs use to build thriving companies.
Nicole DeBoom was a professional triathlete for 11 years. She knew a lot about women’s sports clothing, but very little about the apparel industry. Her solution was to find a group of advisors who could teach her what she needed to know and introduce her to other contacts. Nicole explains: “When I started out I had coffee meetings ten times a week. I just started picking people’s brains.” The end result: Nicole found the resources she needed, launched her company, and has now sold over $25 million in women’s running skirts. Her advisors have been a huge key to her success.
One of the goals of building your brain trust is to find potential partners who want to get involved in your company. Jeff Wester is a great example. Jeff wanted to build an old-fashion Black Smith shop in Sisters, Oregon. He found a wealthy mentor who had built a blacksmith shop earlier in his career. He gave Jeff a piece of ground and funded his new shop. He then created a promissory note so Jeff could pay him back over time, which he was able to do.
Justin Gold was making the best nut butters on the planet with a food processor in his kitchen and selling his creations at farmers’ markets. When he was ready to scale his company, he talked with several large peanut butter manufacturers. They told him they couldn’t add honey, maple syrup, and other ingredients because it would burn out their large industrial grinders. Justin wondered why he could do it in his kitchen, but they couldn’t do it in their multimillion-dollar plants. So he went out and found some old used industrial food processing equipment for almost nothing. Justin recently sold his business to Hormel for $286 million.
Allen Lim spent his early career in the cycling industry. He created several all-natural hydration drinks that some of the top cyclists in the country loved. He wanted to turn his hobby into a business but had not money. He found an old used funnel cake cart and converted it into a burrito kitchen. He sold burritos at running and cycling events around the country to pay the costs of marketing his new products. With the revenue from burrito sales, his total cost to launch his new products nationwide was $800. Today, Skratch Labs is a major supplier of healthy products to both professional and amateur athletes.
The ultimate validation of a business model is to have customers buy your products. In many cases, you can sell products before you even produce them. I sold a half million dollars of frozen dessert products before I created my new brand. David Cann sold a million dollars of his “Double Robots” before he built them. And the founders of Power Practical raised $1.5 million for their energy generating products on Kickstarter before they built these products. Crowd funding is a fantastic way to test products before you spend a lot of time and money on your business.
In sum, there are always ways to get things done with limited resources. Find a group of mentors who will advise you for free, get to know potential angel investors, start with used equipment, find something to sell to raise funds, and sell your product before you
By: Rieva Lesonsky September 28, 2016
Do you ever feel like you get more work done when you’re at home than when you’re at your business? You’re not the only one. A new survey asked employees when they’re most and least productive, and found most are less productive in the office than when working at home. In fact, more than three-fourths of employees surveyed say that if they have something really important to work on, they wouldn’t do it at the office. Slightly more than half (51 percent) would choose to work at home; 8 percent would pick a co-working space, coffeehouse or other outside location; and 8 percent would go to the office — but outside of regular business hours, so they could get some peace and quiet.
Clearly, the majority of people believe they get more done working at home, making remote work the ideal solution for maximizing productivity. But since it’s not practical for every small business to offer the option to work remotely, here are some ideas for helping to eliminate the most common issues that hinder productivity in the office.
How to boost employee productivity.
Nearly 7 out of 10 employees in the survey cite “less frequent meetings” as a benefit of working from home. Assess the meetings that you regularly hold at your business and decide which ones are really necessary and which aren’t. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of holding a weekly all-hands meeting just because you’ve always done so — even if it’s not really that beneficial. For those essential meetings, using an agenda, setting a time limit or even holding meetings standing up are ways to keep them brief. You can also hold meetings at times when they’re less likely to interrupt employees just as they’ve gotten into the groove on a project. For example, try holding meetings first thing in the morning or right after lunch.
Three-fourths of employees say distractions are a problem when working at the office. People who work in an open office environment are especially prone to distractions. Setting up your office with cubicles or partitions, or allowing employees to use headphones to tune out office noise, can be good solutions to limiting distractions. Hold meetings in enclosed office space so others around you aren’t disturbed by loud discussions. Set some ground rules for courtesy to help create a workplace where others can focus. For example, you might ask workers to limit conversations on speakerphones or not to play music at their desks without using a headset.
Being interrupted by colleagues hinders productivity for more than three-fourths of people in the survey. Simple tricks such as closing an office door or hanging up “Do not disturb” signs can help prevent in-person interruptions, but digital interruptions are harder to prevent. If your company culture encourages employees to be “always on” and constantly checking their emails, texts and IMs, consider making some changes. For example, you can let employees know that it’s all right to focus on work for an hour or two and check messages only periodically. Choose one type of communication, such as IM, to be used only for urgent communications — that way, no one has to worry about missing an emergency message.
More than half (51 percent) of respondents in the survey say they get more done working at home because the environment is more comfortable. Providing flexible spaces where employees can relax while working, such as a lounge area with sofas or comfortable chairs, can be conducive to focus. Many people (I’m one of them) are a lot more productive using a laptop on a couch than sitting in a straight-backed office chair. You can also provide employees with a set budget and allow them to choose their own office chairs for maximum comfort, or even give them a certain budget to purchase their own desk accessories and decor. When people feel at home in a space, they’re more energetic and creative.
By: Paula Davis-Laack October 21, 2016
Ambition can have a negative connotation for people in business, especially for women, but it’s a necessary quality for success in the modern day workplace. The key is to harness your ambition into something sustainable that builds your success rather than undercuts it. Ambition run amok undercuts your resilience, can cause you to miss burnout warning signs and may even interfere with your ability to recognize good professional risks. Harvard Business School professor, Dr. Thomas DeLong, describes 10 traits that can cause driven professionals to stall and hit a wall. They are as follows:
By: Richard Feloni & Skye Gould October 10, 2016
By: Sudhir Narang October , 2016
By: Doug and Polly White October 18, 2016
PowerPoint presentations are an ingrained part of the business experience: A 2015 survey by OutsidetheSlide.com found that more than 25 percent of workers surveyed said they see at least one presentation every workday. And that may be a problem, considering the less-than-optimal way in which today’s organizations communicate through these presentations. In short, from our observations, many of these presentations fail to deliver. One of the major reasons for this is poor structure. As MindTools reminds us, without a logical, clear and well-structured presentation, your audience is unlikely to follow and remember your message. We ourselves have written thousands of presentations and business documents in our careers. And, in our experience, the most important step is what we call “hanging the document.” In simple terms, you need an outline. However, this can’t be just a list of random points. The document has to have a structure. It has to hang together in a way that makes your point as clearly as possible.
Doug learned to structure presentations when he worked with McKinsey & Company. McKinsey used a method called the Pyramid Principal. Barbara Minto, McKinsey’s first female consultant, developed this methodology for structuring business documents, which we believe is the best in the business. Below is a simple illustration of this powerful method. Imagine you are making a business presentation during which you hope to persuade the decision-maker to take specific action. In such situations, use what we call the “situation-complication-resolution” approach. Each of its three steps is discussed below.
This is a statement of the current state of affairs. It should be fact based (e.g., “Since its founding 15 years ago, the company has grown from a startup with no revenue and one employee to a robust enterprise with $15 million in revenue and 60 employees”). Because it is fact based, this “Situation” step should be something with which no one can reasonably disagree. We often use this section to highlight positives. If possible, give the person to whom you are presenting credit for his or her accomplishments.
This is a statement of the problem — the issue you are addressing (e.g., “Over the past three years, revenue growth has stalled”). It lays out why the company should take action. Without the “Complication,” the company wouldn’t need to do anything; There would be no reason for change. People who are resisting the change you are suggesting may well try to take issue with the complication. After all, if it isn’t valid, there is no need to change. Therefore, if possible, you as presenter should base this section on objective facts that are irrefutable (“Sales three years ago were $15.1 million, while sales last year were $14.9 million”). People may not like hearing this, but they can’t argue that it isn’t true.
This is your recommendation; it resolves the complication. It should be a single point. For example, “We should launch a sales growth program.” Each document should have only one main point. If you can’t boil your recommendation down to a single point, you should have more than one document. Once you have identified you primary recommendation, you should support it with a series of what we call MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive) sub points. Mutually exclusive means that the points do not overlap; there is no duplication among them. “Collectively exhaustive” means that there is nothing left out. Taken together, the sub points cover all possible ways to achieve the point above it in the structure.
For example, consider that the main point is, “We should launch a program to grow sales significantly.” The supporting points then might be:
These are clearly mutually exclusive points; there is no overlap between new customers and existing customers. They are also collectively exhaustive; every sale will be to a new customer or an existing customer. There are no other possibilities.
You will then support each of the sub points with another set of MECE points. For example, you might support cultivating new customers with: 1) Cultivate new customers in existing sales territories; and 2) Cultivate new customers in new sales territories. Again, the sub points at this level are MECE. If you diagram the structure of your document keeping all points at the same level in the document on the same line of your paper, you will begin to see a triangle or a pyramid emerge. The pyramid continues to grow until your recommendations are at a sufficiently granular level to make it crystal clear how you propose to accomplish your main objective.
By: Peter Diamond August 26, 2016
There’s nothing more motivating than working on a team that’s firing on all cylinders. Everything is in sync. The business is moving forward. Tangible success is achieved. People are in a groove and working hard isn’t hard work. It’s seemingly effortless, with no wasted energy. When everyone feels good about the work they’re doing together, even those outside the team can feel a palpable difference. Something special is happening. It’s contagious, and people want to be part of it. What’s their secret sauce? And how can you get it for your team? Over the past three years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of marketing professionals to discern how teams operate and why some are higher-functioning than others. During these interviews, people freely share how they feel about teams and their leaders. Surprisingly, people’s candor always points optimistically toward improving performance — even if the team is struggling. High-octane leaders possess and consistently exhibit six attributes that bolster team performance.
Teams live or die on a leader’s ability exemplify these six attributes. Not only did I strive to put these into practice when I was leading teams for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed marked differences among leaders who employ these behaviors and those who don’t. Ineffective leadership ultimately has a direct impact on business results, morale, turnover, growth and innovation.