9 tips to make your e-commerce business wildly successful (Entrepreneur)

By Sam Edwards

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246223 May 15, 2015

In 2015 and for years to come, the ecommerce economy is expected to continue its upward trajectory and rapid growth. As an entrepreneur, this opportunity for success and sustainability is exciting, promising and intriguing. Whether you’ve already been involved with the launch of an ecommerce business in the past or are looking to get involved with your first venture, now is the time to get your foot in the door. Indeed, from 2010 to 2013, total U.S. retail ecommerce sales increased from $167.3 billion to $263.3 billion. Last year, that number jumped up to $304.1 billion, and trends suggest 2015 will top off somewhere around $347.3 billion. For perspective, total estimated retail sales in the U.S. came in around $3.19 trillion for 2014. That means ecommerce sales made up approximately 9.5 percent of total U.S. sales — and that share is expected to grow.

However, those numbers pale in comparison to the predictions financial analysts and industry experts are suggesting for the next three years. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, sources say the total projected U.S. retail ecommerce sales will come in around $392.5, $440.4, and $491.5 billion, respectively. If those numbers hold true, that will be more than a 41 percent growth from this year to the end of 2018. While the ecommerce economy is poised for significant growth in the coming months and years, you can only expect to see results if you approach it in the right way. That means focusing on the following critical tips for ecommerce success.

  1. Don’t rush the launch.

One of the biggest mistakes unsuccessful ecommerce entrepreneurs make is forcing or rushing the launch of a website. You only get one shot at launching your website and you can’t mess this up. While it’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up some sort of “Coming Soon” page, you should avoid the big reveal until you’ve laid some substantial ground work (SEO, content marketing, social media, paid advertising, etc.).

  1. Put the focus on the user.

It’s no secret that the biggest shortcoming of ecommerce businesses is the inability to let their customers touch, feel, smell, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision. While there’s currently no solution for solving this problem, you can compensate for this deficiency in other areas of the business. Some of the best tips include offering appropriate pricing, giving free shipping and making the checkout process easy with simplified shopping carts.

  1. Test absolutely everything.

Before, during and after you launch any ecommerce business, you should invest in testing and analytics. Think like the customer and figure out what’s working, what’s not, and the why behind those answers. Here’s a look at some of the best A/B testing tools.

  1. Work closely with social.

Any ecommerce entrepreneur that tells you he outsources social media or delegates it to other team members is crazy. Social media is the heartbeat of your business, as it gives you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers. While it’s perfectly fine to have a social-media manager, it’s pertinent that you’re involved with it, too.

  1. Incorporate social elements.

Going along with the previous tip, it’s a great idea to include social elements on your ecommerce sites. Things like product reviews and testimonials follow buttons and even social login options all help the conversion funnel.

  1. Go mobile.

Bill Siwicki of Internet Retailer references Goldman Sachs, saying, “Tablets will play an increasingly important role as worldwide consumer spending via mobile jumps from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion in 2018…” If you aren’t building ecommerce businesses with mobile in mind, you may be irrelevant in three to five years.

  1. Stay on top of SEO.

As the ecommerce economy experiences rapid growth, more and more businesses will be entering this increasingly crowded space. That means it will be more important than ever to stay on top of SEO in order to stand out from the competition. Connecting with a skilled SEO will help you stay competitive in the long run.

  1. Collect information.

Unless you plan on launching a single site and stepping away (most entrepreneurs are tempted to keep trying), it’s critical that you collect customer information and build databases to aid future launches.

  1. Continue evolving.

Finally, never stop evolving. Technology, trends and customer tastes will change, and so must you if you want to succeed in such a variable market.  With these nine tips, you can be well on your way to becoming a successful ecommerce-based entrepreneur.

How successful people work less and get more done (Entrepreneur)

By Travis Bradberry

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246270 May 21, 2015

Successful people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. Like Spencer, they use their weekends to create a better week ahead. This is easier said than done, so here’s some help. The following list contains 10 things that successful people do to find balance on the weekend and to come into work at 110% on Monday morning.

  1. They disconnect. Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy on this list, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work Friday evening through Monday morning, then you’ve never really left work. Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. For example, check your messages on Saturday afternoon while your kids are getting a haircut and on Sunday evenings after dinner. Scheduling short blocks of time will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.
  2. They minimize chores. Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What’s worse is that a lot of chores feel like work, and if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day workweek. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.
  3. They r Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, and your job. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.
  4. They exercise. No time to exercise during the week? You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity. I know that a lot of my best ideas come to me while I’m surfing. While you’re out in the ocean, the combination of invigorating activity and beautiful scenery creates the perfect environment for an influx of creativity. Whether you’re running, cycling, or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fueled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.
  5. They pursue a passion. You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you’re passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing catch with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.
  6. They spend quality time with f Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Family time on the weekend is so important to Spencer Rascoff that he flies home for the weekend, no matter how far away he is, even if he has to be in the same city the following week. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don’t let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favorite restaurant, and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.
  7. They schedule micro-adventures. Buy tickets to a concert or play, or get reservations for that cool new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for Saturday will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.
  8. They wake up at the same time. It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready). When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. This isn’t just disruptive to your day off, it also makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn’t ready to wake up at your regular time. If you need to catch up on sleep, just go to bed earlier.
  9. They designate mornings as me time. It can be difficult to get time to yourself on the weekends, especially if you have family. Finding a way to engage in an activity you’re passionate about first thing in the morning can pay massive dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. It’s also a great way to perfect your circadian rhythm by forcing yourself to wake up at the same time you do on weekdays. Your mind achieves peak performance two-to-four hours after you wake up, so get up early to do something physical, and then sit down and engage in something mental while your mind is at its peak.
  10. They prepare for the upcoming week. The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning your upcoming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is execution.

Ten ways to become a great mentor (INSEAD)

By Martin Roll

Source: http://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/ten-ways-to-become-a-great-mentor-3994 May 6, 2015

Mentoring is a much used and abused word. Becoming a great mentor is by no means a goal or a destination, but a journey that has a starting point and a constantly changing end point. To be effective at different stages of this journey, a mentor needs to keep his or her mind open, constantly adding value, helping the relationship evolve and playing different roles at different stages. Mentoring is a “relationship” and a successful relationship is based on an effective two-way model of sharing, commitment and trust. Intel’s founder Andy Grove has commented that whenever he hears the words “mentor” and “mentee”, it makes him nauseous. According to him, successful mentoring is as much “give and take” between the mentor and the mentee as it is about the mentor providing guidance and direction. The jump from being a good mentor to a great one requires a mentor to become the compass of the relationship and co-create its future path. There are a few golden rules of achieving greatness in mentoring, which have stood the test of time and are equally relevant and effective today as they were twenty years ago. Below are ten basic rules which I have developed over the years, and constantly employ in my role as mentor for a variety of global C-suite clients, managers and business school students.

  1. Be a complete role model (and not in parts). A great mentor is a complete role model. You may have been sought after for your professional expertise, for your career success or for your impressive credentials, but when a person takes on the role of a mentor, he or she needs to make an impact beyond professional success. In addition to the knowledge, expertise, guidance and direction that a mentor is supposed to provide, the overall impact is measured by the quality of communication, empathy, sensitivity, the strength and integrity of character and the ability to inspire.
  2. Be empathetic. Putting oneself in the shoes of the mentee is a key aspect of the overall relationship. Effective mentors display empathy at all points in the relationship journey. It is important to constantly understand, evaluate and feel the mentee’s situation while providing advice, coaching and guidance. Without this understanding, any form of feedback and guidance may sound disparate, unrealistic and in many instances, impractical.
  3. Help in evolving strengths and diluting weaknesses. Mentors do not (and should not) have responsibility for character transformation. Great mentors should enhance personality strengths and find workable solutions for weaknesses. Mentors are increasingly sought out during critical inflexion points in an individual’s professional career, such as changing industries or moving up the ladder. In all such situations, a great mentor uses their skills to sharpen the mentee’s strengths to take on such challenges.
  4. Listen effectively and deeply. Effective listening is not only a leadership trait but also a key differentiating aspect of a great mentoring relationship. Great mentors are effective, engaged, focused and sensitive listeners. They listen with intent. They listen with purpose. They listen with the intention of assimilation and reflecting. All forms of guidance and direction that are given back are influenced by this strong and patient art of listening.
  5. Be open-minded. Just like no situations are alike, no points of discussions, seeking guidance or direction, requests for advice etc, are alike or driven by the same considerations. Hence, a great mentor needs to keep an open mind. The openness should be around thinking afresh if required, tailoring advice and suggestions, helping in strategising and improvising, seeing their past advice and guidance blown to smithereens or simply having the patience to see the impact of bad implementation of good advice.
  6. Have great patience. In a mentoring relationship, the importance of patience as a virtue cannot be emphasised enough. Just like any other relationship, there will be moments of frustration, annoyance, miscommunication and lack of understanding. Great mentors will tide over momentary periods of frustration by exercising patience. Equally, the same is expected from the mentee to keep the relationship effective and fruitful.
  7. Display commitment. Just like patience, commitment is a virtue that needs to be equally practiced by both the mentor and the mentee. A great mentor can play an invaluable role in shaping the commitment levels of the mentee, in addition to keeping their own commitment levels high. If the mentor believes in the potential, then an important aspect of the relationship is to ensure that commitment levels remain unwavering.
  8. Educating and passing on. It is important to understand that no mentors are super humans. They are not expected to know everything or have answers to every possible question. Effective mentors do not let the lack of knowledge and answers incapacitate them or make the mentoring relationship ineffective. For questions they do not have answers for, they tap into their larger networks, educate themselves and pass on the knowledge to their mentees. In many instances, they will put their mentees in touch with someone who they believe has the right answers for their questions.
  9. Be privy to the personal side. Every professional question for guidance and advice comes coupled with a silent personal question. Questions about career transitions come together with doubts on confidence and willpower. Questions about transitioning to senior leadership roles come together with doubts on the ability to lead or having a personality that is not fit to lead. Questions on managing teams come together with doubts on the ability to work effectively with other people. A broad understanding of the mentee’s social, environmental, financial and individual circumstances always helps in providing sound and practical advice.
  10. Tailor advice to circumstances. Every piece of advice, guidance and feedback is valuable if tailored to a specific circumstance. Effective mentoring involves providing situation-specific advice as the relationship evolves and the mentee’s professional and personal life stage changes. Advice does not need to be timeless but relevant and practical. Becoming a great mentor is definitely a challenging endeavor. But the bigger the effort and application, the greater the rewards. The joys of witnessing someone succeed and progress in life and the realisation that they have helped in some way for the individual to progress on that path is unparalleled for any great mentor.

6 Ways to enhance your mindset so you can take on life’s challenges (Entrepreneur)

By Matt Mayberry

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246269 May 15, 2015

One of the most rewarding things that I have ever done was create a daily mindset enhancement program for myself. This program has one goal and one goal only: to constantly feed my mind with uplifting and positive material that will help to keep me performing at a high level day in and day out, regardless of what’s going on.

Failure, toxic people and the everyday challenges of life have the potential to completely shatter our dreams, hopes and desires to do anything worthwhile in this world. Don’t be like everyone else and take a major hit to the quality of their thoughts and thinking when something bad happens in their lives. Take charge of your mind. Grow and protect it with everything you have. All achievements, riches and happiness start in the mind.

There are going to be times where you wake up in the morning and don’t feel like going to work on your mind. However, failing to do so provides you with a lot more challenges and problems than to actually take the 20 to 30 minutes out of your day to sit down and do it.  Here are the steps of my daily mindset enhancement program that you can use as a starting point to help get you started.

  1. Rise early

Wake up at least two hours before you have to be somewhere. If you have to be at the office at 8, then wake up at 6. Waking up two hours before you have to be anywhere is very important because one of the main reasons why most people don’t have very good morning routines is because they rush. From the time they get up until the time they run out the door, everything is just a constant blur for them. They have no time to spend on themselves before they enter the real world.

  1. Enter the classroom of silence

In this day and age with all of the technology, gadgets and obligations that we have, we hardly ever spend time in solitude. There is no better time to tune out the rest of the world and get in touch with your inner-self than early in the morning. All you need is roughly 10 to 15 minutes to sit in solitude and capture the essence of all of the beauty in your life.

I visualize how I want my day to go to every exact detail, from the moment I walk out the door, to the facial expressions of clients after meetings, to eating healthy meals all day long. My vision for the day ahead is as positive and successful as possible.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal

The best attitude to have is an attitude of gratitude, and keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to incorporate gratitude into your daily routines. When we are going through a rough time or have a million things on our mind, the last thing we are thinking about most of the time is what we are grateful for. Taking the time to actually write down at least three to five things you are grateful for in the morning sets you up for a happy and amazing day. Regardless of what setback or challenge you may be currently facing, gratitude is one of your best weapons against unhappiness and feeling sorry for yourself.

  1. Read an uplifting and positive book

Reading to the brain is what exercise is to the body. By reading a motivational and uplifting book you are providing yourself with the mental fuel to have a positive state of mind all day long. What we read and watch first thing in the morning is said to have the biggest effect on how the rest of our day goes.

  1. Utilize the tremendous power of audiobooks

Instead of driving to work and listening to music, put on a good audiobook or some type of audio program that is going to motivate, inspire or teach you something. Work out in the morning? Get your sweat on while feeding your mind at the same time.

We spend so much time every day in cars, trains and airplanes that one of the best ways to utilize that commute time is to grow with audiobooks.

  1. Engage in conversations that stimulate your mind

Think about all of the conversations that you have on a daily basis. How many of them stimulate your mind with positive energy that gets you extremely excited about life in general? There will always be negative people around us, including some of our closest friends and family members, but start to get real serious about the daily conversations that you engage in every day. Our moods, lives and mindsets are greatly affected by the conversations that we engage in. Make sure yours are building you up, not tearing you down.

Creating a mindset enhancement program and going to work on your mind every single day can dramatically change the direction of your life and business in an instant.

6 skills that all extraordinary entrepreneurs have ( World Economic Forum)

By Amy Wilkinson

Source: https://agenda.weforum.org February 27, 2015

The Creator’s Code is based on interviews with 200 entrepreneurs who have started companies that generate more than $100 million in annual revenue or social enterprises that serve more than 100,000 people. Some of these creators have started businesses that generate more than $1 billion in revenue every year. Crisscrossing the country, I spent hours interviewing creators in technology, retail, energy, health care, media, mobile applications, biotechnology, real estate, travel, and hospitality, working to understand their approach. Across my research, I witnessed individuals turning small notions into big companies time and again. From the creators who invented online storage provider Dropbox (annual revenue $200 million), fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle ($3.9 billion), discount airline JetBlue ($5.7 billion), to a myriad of other successful businesses, I found that they achieved entrepreneurial success in much the same way.

Without exception, creators describe their work as doing something much more than achieving financial ambitions—they aim to make a mark on the world. “This generation of technologists thinks about bringing people together to do all sorts of interesting things,” eBay founder Pierre Omidyar told me. “That’s intoxicating and incredibly motivating and creates a stage of human development that is fundamentally new.” Analyzing nearly 10,000 pages of interview transcripts and more than 5,000 pieces of archival and documentary evidence, I worked to understand how creators, sometimes dismissed as unrealistic dreamers, not only come to disrupt competitors but also to reshape entire industries. The research is based on grounded theory method, widely used in qualitative analysis. My extensive interviews were recorded and the resulting transcripts combed for common attributes that were coded and then grouped into concepts. These results allowed me to identify the categories that provide the basis for developing the theory of six essential skills that enable the success of every creator.

To test and support my conclusions, I immersed myself in the literature relevant to entrepreneurial endeavor from the fields of organizational behavior, psychology, sociology, entrepreneurship, economics, strategy, decision theory, and creativity. I reviewed more than 4,000 pages of academic research, examined hundreds of studies and experiments, and consulted leading scholars. It was a five-year odyssey that led me to six skills that make creators successful. Creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. I found that they all share certain fundamental approaches to the act of creation. The skills that make them successful can be learned, practiced, and passed on.

  1. Find the gap

By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts. I characterize creators who master these approaches as Sunbirds, Architects, or Integrators.

  1. Drive for daylight

Just as race-car drivers keep their eyes fixed on the road ahead, creators focus on the future, knowing that where they go, their eyes go first. Creators move too fast to navigate by the confines of their lane or the position of their peers. Instead, they focus on the horizon, scan the edges, and avoid nostalgia to set the pace in a fast-moving marketplace.

  1. Fly the OODA loop

Creators continuously update their assumptions. In rapid succession, they observe, orient, decide, and act. Like legendary fighter pilot John Boyd, who pioneered the idea of the “OODA loop,” creators move nimbly from one decision to the next. They master fast-cycle iteration and in short order gain an edge over less agile competitors.

  1. Fail wisely

Creators understand that experiencing a series of small failures is essential to avoiding catastrophic mistakes. In the course of practicing and mastering this skill, they set what I call failure ratios, place small bets to test ideas, and develop resilience. They hone the skill to turn setbacks into successes.

  1. Network minds

To solve multifaceted problems, creators bring together the brainpower of diverse individuals through on- and off-line forums. They harness cognitive diversity to build on each other’s ideas. To do this, creators design shared spaces, foster flash teams, hold prize competitions, and build work-related games. They collaborate with unlikely allies.

  1. Gift small goods

Creators unleash generosity by helping others, often by sharing information, pitching in to complete a task, or opening opportunities to colleagues. Offering kindness may not seem like a skill, but it is an essential way that creators strengthen relationships. In an increasingly transparent and interconnected world, generosity makes creators more productive.

The six essential skills are not discrete, stand-alone practices. Each feeds the next, creating synergy and momentum. No special expertise is required to master the six skills. You don’t need credentials or degrees. The ability to turn ideas into enduring enterprises is available to anyone willing to learn and work. Although everyone has strengths in certain skills and weaknesses in others, the more we exercise and increase our proficiency in each, the more we will be able to make the most of every opportunity. When a creator brings together all six skills, something magnetic occurs. Creators attract allies—employees, customers, investors, and collaborators of all kinds. Customers become evangelists. Employees turn into loyalists. Investors back the company with support that transcends financial returns. Creators engage in meaningful work with the aim of making a difference. To become one of them, all you need is to understand and practice the six essential skills.