Tag Archives: small business

Staying Confident

Entrepreneurship is filled with ups and downs. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay confident when the end is not in sight and challenges do arise. Often the data about the businesses that fail is overwhelming and discouraging. So what can a business owner do to stay confident?

First, you need to be ok with the challenges and discouragement. Recognize they are a part of this human experience and can be great educators. This opposition allows you to value the good at a greater level because they create a contrast.

Second, it is critical that you do not allow yourself to stay there. Discouragement is like quicksand. It bogs you down, traps you and hinders your progress. Take a moment to immediately look for the good. It is always there but our vision is too often clouded by the bad. Be lifted by the good away from the bad.

Finally, remember. Remember why you are doing what you are doing. Remember what works. Remember to DO what works. You can stay confident. Just accept, rejoice and remember.

SMALL BIZ RESOURCE: Small Business Development Center Miami-Dade

The Florida Small Business Development Center Network (FSBDCN) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976. State designated as Florida’s Principal Provider of Business Assistance, the Florida SBDC Network has over 35 years of experience helping businesses start, grow and succeed.

The local SBDCs offer everything from extensive one-on-one consulting and small group workshops to large group meetings on important business topics. Training topics cover many areas of business operations including Business Start-up, Financial and Cash Flow Analysis, Accounting and Recordkeeping, Marketing and Sales, and Business Planning.

Why They Started:

Whether you’re starting a business, buying a business, growing a business or selling a business, the Florida SBDC Network can help.

 Funded in 1976 by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), the Florida Small Business Development Center Network (FSBDCN), one of eight original SBDC pilot programs, successfully links the state’s education system with community outreach to aid in the development and education of the state’s entrepreneurs and small business community.

Who They Serve:

FSBDCN serves small and medium sized businesses.

With partners ranging from institutions of higher learning to federal, state and local governments to private organizations, and funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Florida SBDCs offer this business management and technical assistance at little or no cost.

Greatest Success Story:

Since its inception, the Florida SBDC Network has consulted 402,528 small business owners and entrepreneurs with 1,778,404 hours of one-on-one consulting and conducted 35,989 business training events for 741,050 participants.

In 2011, Florida’s SBDCs helped its clients open 1,026 businesses; create and save 16,914 jobs; win government contract awards worth $313.9 million; acquire $96.6 million in capital for business formation and expansion; and enjoy sales growth worth $317.9 million.

Biggest Challenge:

The Florida SBDC’s biggest challenge is raising more awareness on their services.

Word of Advice:

The Small Business Development Center Miami-Dade advises people to take advantage of valuable, no-cost consulting, training and information covering all areas of business management provided by their Certified Business Analysts (CBAs).

What to Remember About Them:

State designated as Florida’s Principal Provider of Business Assistance, the Florida SBDC Network has over 35 years of experience helping businesses start, grow and succeed. Florida SBDCs have assisted hundreds of thousands of potential and existing business owners by providing the management advice, training and information needed to make sound business decisions in a complex and ever-changing marketplace. With partners ranging from institutions of higher learning to federal, state and local governments to private organizations, and funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Florida SBDCs offer this business management and technical assistance at little or no cost.

Statewide with close to 40 locations from Pensacola to Key West, the FSBDCN’s integrated infrastructure has the professionals and partners needed to successfully serve the Florida business community. No matter the needs of the business, the FSBDCN has the expertise, tools and connectivity to help businesses succeed. Whether you’re starting a business, buying a business, growing a business or selling a business, the Florida SBDC Network can help.

Learn More:

www.miamisbdc.org

FSBDC Miami-Dade – Miami; 8500 SW 8th St, Ste 224; Miami, FL 33144-4002

 

 

It’s All About Location

When it comes to the success of your small business, it may well turn out that it’s all about location. Based in part off of an article on CNNMoney, this post will focus on the importance of where you open your physical store(s) and what state you start your business in.

Location, Location, Location

If you can afford to, get a prime real estate location for opening your small business. Do the math and see what area you can afford to put your business’ name at. After balancing out where you can put your money, it could definitely be worth it to make a stretch for a better location. Advertising can be expensive, and if your store is out-of-the-way, out of eye’s sight, and hard to find, you’re going to have to spend even more time, money, and effort to advertise your business. When you get a better location where your store’s sign can be seen from major roads, you don’t have to spend as much money advertising because a lot of that job is taken care of simply by location.It’s not wise to get over your head in a lease for a location that you simply cannot afford. This is where wise planning and projections are crucial. Be honest in how much money you think you can bring in to support the location you choose.

Do your research beforehand. Go see for yourself the shopping centers where you know people go to. Where are locations that seem customer-friendly and will provide you with a great business opening? After you have a few spots in mind, go there and talk to the other business owners who have stores in the area. You may be able to find out how much they are paying for their location and get any tips or advice that could persuade you one way or the other. Also, put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes. If you were them, how would you find out about your store, and where would you expect to find your store? Where would you shop for your product and what location would entice you to actually go in the store?

Because you know your business the best, draw out what type of location you need and will bring you the most success. If your business does not interact with clients much or doesn’t rely on customers physically coming into the store, then having your business easily accessible to and visible by the public may not matter as much. Proximity to distributors or other partners or even transit and shipping areas may be much more important. If your business mostly relies on people physically coming into your store to purchase your products, then an easily-visible, friendly location may be everything to you.

Entrepreneurial-Friendly States

No matter where you open your small business, there is a risk involved. Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but if it were then everyone would be in business for themselves. According to the article, states such as Arizona, Texas, California, Colorado, and Alaska make up the top five most friendly startup states. Missouri, Nevada, Vermont, Idaho, and Florida follow closely behind.

So what makes these states so startup friendly? One of the first and main reasons is that, in general, business and property taxes in these states are lower than others. Texas, for example, does not have personal or corporate income tax. Alaska does not have state income or sales tax. Nevada has no business income, estate or franchise tax, and income taxes are also low. Another reason is that worker’s compensation costs are also lower, such as in Arizona, which means less payout from small businesses that do not have a lot of capital and income to work with at first. Colorado even has a state-funded training program for business owners.

A growing population, such as in Texas, also helps to create more jobs, and when a growing population is coupled with universities that churn out graduates educated in areas such as science, technology, and business, you have a recipe for startup success.

Some states, such as Nevada, have streamlined the process for small business owners to get up and going. The easier and less expensive it is to start, the more people will be attracted to giving the entrepreneurial rout a shot. Other states, such as Florida, have reduced regulation and business taxes, which is a large draw.

Wherever you decide to start your small business, do the necessary research before you dive in. Every state is different in how they try to entice small businesses. Some states, such as California, are much more friendly to small businesses than large ones, so keep growth in mind as well. Your business’ needs will largely determine location.

 

Click here to view the CNNMoney article

Creating Independent Employees

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying along the lines of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” As a small business owner, your time is valuable. Helping your employees become more independent will free up more of your time and result in a more productive workplace. To give yourself more time and create independence in your employees, you need to teach your employees rather than just give them things. Once you show an employee how to accomplish a certain task or project in such a way that the employee can perform that task without your help in the future, you have created an employee who will become a large asset to your business.

Take the Time to Teach

A good teacher does not simply give students the answers, but shows the students how to get a certain outcome. Take a math teacher, for example. If the math teacher were to put the second-to-last step to achieving the answer to a given problem, the student would never build a base off of which he can work through the entire problem to get the right answer. Many times, teachers will require students to show their work and give points for almost getting the right answer rather than just listing the final answer without the work. Performing the work, or the start-to-finish of catching a fish, is how people learn the best. If you simply give your employee one easy part of the task without showing him how to actually do the task, the employee will be coming back to you and become dependent upon you whenever that task is before him.

A successful small business owner will take the time to teach his employees how to start and then complete a task, not skipping steps in between. It may be easier and take less time to give the employee a fish at first, but by teaching the employee you will create an employee who can actually help you in the future.

Don’t Be a “Hover-Employer” or Jump In

A hover parent is a parent who is always so close to their child and the child’s every move that they end up impeding the child’s growth and ability to be autonomous. The parent will be there to correct any mistakes before they’re made or keep the child from getting into trouble. Often, the parent will make the decisions for the child instead of relying on the child’s own judgment. Children of hover parents are often smothered by their parents’ presence and do not fully learn for themselves, becoming dependent in situations upon their parents’ help.

Don’t be a hover employer by breathing down the necks of your employees. This takes away their confidence because they will always be worried about doing something wrong, or they will turn to you whenever things become difficult. Forcing your employees to make their own decisions, and then allowing them to make mistakes to learn from them, is how you will best build independent employees. Be patient with your employees, because they are learning, just as you once did.

Compliment Your Employees and Give Them Responsibilities

It’s amazing how far a compliment will go in creating independent employees. Compliments will boost confidence, which will in turn encourage growth and result in independence. By giving your employees important responsibilities, you are building their self-esteem and showing them that you trust them to get the job done.

Independent employees do not turn to their employers for every question they have, but rather try to figure it out on their own first and learn the process before asking for help. Independent employees do not wait for a fish to be given to them, but are proactive in fishing for themselves. These are the types of employees you want. Employees who you can trust to get the job done so that you don’t have to take up your time with things that you can delegate. Let your employees know what their jobs are, how they can do them, show them what to do, inspire confidence, then let them get to work.

As a small business owner, it is your responsibility to help create independent employees. Be patient, take the time to teach them how to fish, trust them, and build their confidence. You will quickly find that independent employees make bosses happy.

 

You Can Grow Your Business In Rough Times

About five years ago, the U.S. economy took a hit from which it is still trying to recover. Most businesses felt the effects of the hurt economy, and many businesses found themselves downsizing or closing altogether. Despite the rough times, some businesses found ways to survive, and some entrepreneurs actually used the time as an opportunity to create start-ups. This post will discuss a few ways business owners kept their businesses alive, based off an article from The New York Times titled “Strategies for Growth, Even in Down Times.”

Offering New Products

If your business is struggling, brainstorm ideas for new products that could help target a new crowd or excite consumers to buy from you. Society is constantly looking for the newest thing. People want what’s trending, what’s new and exciting, and what the next best and most impressive thing is. Offering a new product can be expensive, and sometimes there’s not enough resources available to do so. If you can’t afford to offer a new product, try improving your current line. Add something to the product that makes it “new” or stand out a little more. Spice up your product and attract more attention.

The article tells of a company that sells sandals, which experienced a cost increase to make their product and needed to stay afloat to save their business. Instead of developing a new sandal line, they added small jewelry that could be used to decorate the sandals and wear around ankles. The plan worked. Sometimes you don’t have to revamp what you are already doing, but simply get a little more creative and add to what has been working for you.

Expanding Overseas

If the market is not generating enough incoming revenue for your business to currently succeed, try expanding to overseas markets. The same business that sold sandals, mentioned above, also decided to expand their business overseas. By finding partners and selling through local distributors, the business found that it was able to sell its products in foreign markets at a reasonable cost. The sandal business experienced growth by its venture overseas.

Changing Your Marketing Strategy

If your current marketing and advertising isn’t producing the results you want, you have a few options. Two of those include modifying who you’re marketing to and how you’re marketing. The article tells of a business that was hit hard by the economic downturn and met to brainstorm ideas to survive. The group decided that they needed to adjust what potential industries and clients they were going after. After some adjustment in their marketing, the company experienced a 40% growth last year as a result of their efforts to change their marketing strategy.

Another company mentioned in the article spent millions to revamp their technology so that they could appeal to a wider and different market. With their projections, they will soon break even and appeal to a much wider market, which will soon increase their profits exponentially.


Depending on the current size of your business, you can apply the above-mentioned strategies at whatever level is most applicable to you. Your business may not require that much change at the moment, or you could be in desperate need of anything that will work to help your company. Whatever your situation is, there is always room for improvement. Even if you’re not a large business, like the sandal business mentioned above, you can add to or modify your current product line or services, you can expand to other markets, or you can modify your current marketing strategy. It is possible to succeed in today’s economy – many small businesses are doing it.

Click here to read the New York Times Article

 

Organization at Your Business

Have you ever found yourself scrambling to find something at work, but it’s been swallowed up by other things? Have you been asked by a client or employee for a certain file or information but weren’t able to find it? Do you ever feel like there’s too much on your plate and you have no idea where to begin? If you answered yes to any of the above or had to think hard about it, you could most likely use more organization at your work. There are numerous ways organization plays a role in your business’ success, and there are many ways that you can become more organized. Because everyone is different, this post will address various ways to become more organized.

Clean Up

One of the first steps in becoming more organized is to simply start physically cleaning things up and de-cluttering your work space. Mess creates inefficiency because instead of taking a few short moments to find a file, product, or other information, it takes a lot longer to search through stacks of paper, boxes, and junk sitting around. The thought of cleaning up your work area may seem daunting, but there are a few ways to tackle it.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If becoming organized seems overwhelming, take it little-by-little. Start out with one area of your desk, or one corner of your office. Tackle a box of files, or go through a certain number of days of email. If you break the task up into little pieces, you will be able to reach your goal. Think of construction. Building a house or office doesn’t just happen overnight or in a couple of days. It takes planning and daily effort to complete the project. Becoming organized is a project that you will have to work on day by day.

If your problem is email and contacts, create folders in your email for certain clients so that you mark your incoming mail where it’s supposed to go. If there’s a certain task or important piece of information within an email, add it to your t0-do list or write the information down where it’s readily accessible. Create a contacts list in your email, computer, phone, or rolodex. If your problem is physical papers or products, purchase bins, file folders and cabinets, etc. in order to help you get organized. If the task is way too much for you to handle, consider hiring somebody for a good price to help you clean up your office.

Keep Track of What’s Going On and Maintain Organization for Efficiency

Whether it’s organizing your emails, contacts, invoices, products, files, etc., you need to keep track of everything as it comes in. Don’t just throw it in a corner or put it off until later. Procrastination is your enemy. When something comes to your desk, into your inbox, or through the front doors of your business, have somewhere for it to go. Develop a system that puts everything in a place. If you’re trying to become organized and you keep piling things up on top of what you already have to do because you don’t have a system in place yet, you’re going to feel overwhelmed very quickly.

Teach your employees your new organization system, or ask them for advice. If there’s a gap in communication or things aren’t easily accessible to multiple departments, create collaboration that will result in better communication. Often, organization in a small business involves more than just one person or one department. In order for your work place to be organized, everybody has to know your expectations and how to create order. Come up with a system to organize the office that everyone understands. Create an organized team of employees who can organize your small business. The organization for your business created by your team will only be as strong as the weakest link.  Don’t let invoices, receipts, or orders slip into the cracks.

A clean work place is an efficient work place.

Keep Your Home Life Organized As Well

Most people would prefer to not bring their work life home with them, and most employers would prefer that you not bring your personal life and home “t0-do’s” into the office. Also, many people would probably agree that you’re more efficient and productive at work when your personal life is not interfering with the business you have focus on at the office. If you’re feeling that you’re not as productive or focused either at work or at home as you should be, try creating more separation between the two. Organization at home will allow you to complete everything there that you need to by maximizing the time you have at home to get things done. If you can’t get everything done at home, set things aside such as phone calls that can be made during your lunch hour at work. Organization at work will allow you to accomplish more, thus helping you to finish things up so you don’t have to bring them home with you.

When you are interrupted by a task that you’re doing at work, it’s going to take you a lot longer than usual to complete whatever it is that you’re working on. Whether it’s a file, paper, conversation, or notes that you’re looking for in your project, organize your life so that you don’t have to spend valuable time looking for them when the need arises. Set your affairs straight so that you can maximize your time and not be playing where’s Waldo during the day.

Whatever level of organization you feel you’re at personally and at your small business, there’s always room for improvement. An organized office decreases stress and provides a more welcoming and soothing atmosphere that will ultimately make you feel better and lead to more success.

 

SMALLBIZ PROFILES: Terra Medicus Corp. – A Life Saving Business

Have you ever wondered what you would do if someone around you suddenly needed immediate medical attention, but you were the only one around to help at that time before medical help arrived? Are you interested in learning more about CPR or first aid for your job, or are thinking about a medical-related career? Terra Medicus Corp. offers health courses such as CPR, first aid, BLS for healthcare providers, life guarding, and pet CPR. They can help you learn what to do in certain situations that could help you save someone’s life.

Terra Medicus Corp. is American Heart Association certified and offers courses seven days a week in either English or Spanish, focusing on your particular needs. Learn more about Terra Medicus Corp. below.

 

Why They Started:

With a background in EMS and working in a trauma center, I found myself teaching BLS, CPR/AED, First Aid, and BBP. It became apparent that I was really good at teaching and have done it ever since.

Who They Serve:

Healthcare, Community

Greatest Success Story:

Participating in television interviews about CPR for the American Heart Association & The American Red Cross

Biggest Challenge:

Conveying the importance of CPR/AED and First Aid to parents and the community.

Word of Advice:

Persistence

What to Remember About Them:

We are in the business of teaching people how to save lives!

Learn More:

www.terramedicus.com

Or contact Ismael Galvez305-300-7736

Visit Terra Medicus Corp.’s website, get involved, and be prepared to help someone or save a life when you’re needed!

 

Building Unity

Your small business is a team of people, and however large or small that team may be they should all be working toward a common goal. As a small business owner, in order to make your business as successful as it can be you need to facilitate unity among your employees. Don’t exclude yourself, however, because as a team leader your every interaction demonstrates how you expect your employees to interact.

Unifying Activities

At my first real job, my coworkers and I would get together to play cards during our two breaks in the day. It was a small office, but almost all the employees would participate in the card games. If nothing else, it was a great way to get to know one another and build relationships at the workplace. Through becoming more comfortable with one another, our productivity during the rest of the day increased, and people seemed to enjoy the workday more because of the interaction. The simple card game created an opportunity for the office employees to build comradery, which resulted in a happier work environment and better numbers from our work.

At another one of my first jobs, the company really focused on creating a friendly work atmosphere and built unity in a variety of ways. The company sponsored certain community events, which encouraged all of us at work to work together in preparation for those events. We celebrated holidays during our lunchtime, such as Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. and we even had events like hot dog eating contests. During our work breaks, we also had the option of playing foosball, pool, or even multiplayer video games in the common area. Because there were several different departments all in the same building, without these types of events and activities, it would have been difficult to get to know one another.

Like my first example, these activities did wonders for the company. By interacting and getting the chance to blow off some stress during breaks, as well as having something to work toward at the bigger events, the work atmosphere was almost always a happy one and people were productive. The company grew rapidly due in part to the collaboration between the different departments created by the interaction. The employees felt comfortable working with other departments to finish projects and generate ideas, which lead to more efficiency and better customer satisfaction.

What Can You Do At Your Workplace?

I mention these examples above because the employee interaction created unity at the workplace, and even outside the workplace. As a result, the companies experienced growth and success. Every company is different in terms of size, employees, stress, management, etc., but every company is made up of working employees who thrive off of human interaction and the unity it creates.

Think of ways that you can build stronger unity within your small business. As a leader, part of your job is to make sure that your team is working well together. No team is greater than the individuals that comprise it, and without the necessary unity to help those employees strengthen your business, your business will never achieve its potential. Encourage interaction, and set an example of how you would like your employees to interact with one another. Experiment and find what works for you, and as you do your business will grow.

How To Be A Strong Leader At Work

A small business is often only as strong as its owner and management. As a small business owner, the way you act and present yourself directly affects your business’ success. Your energy and habits will be transferred to your employees and their work. Your customers and clients will also pick up on your strengths and weaknesses, which is why it’s important to eliminate bad habits and strengthen what you have going for you.

A strong leader is not someone who flashes his power or rank in the company or who lives by his way or nothing else. Rather, a strong leader is someone who lifts others and is an example of how they want others to act in the workplace. Quiet confidence, wise decisions, passion, and a proactive approach will help others view you as a strong leader that they can trust and follow.

Be Passionate and Excited About Your Business

As a small business owner, it’s crucial that you focus on why you started whatever business you’re running – focus on what excited you and what motivated you in the first place. Don’t let your frustrations about running a business show. Your employees and clients will pick up on your passion for the business, and that passion will spread without much effort on your part if you are consistent.

Excitement about even the more mundane parts of what helps keep the business organized can be created by focusing on the final product. When you’re working toward a larger, exciting goal, the smaller tasks that may be seem arduous or annoying will soon become viewed as a necessary stepping stone toward realizing an exciting goal.

Compliment Others

It’s amazing how motivational a compliment from a boss or manager can be for others. A good leader is confident and comfortable enough to compliment others. Because your employees in a small business really help to determine your success, they need to feel needed. If you help an employee feels that he is an important part of the business, he will be more productive and spread a good work ethic to other employees. A strong leader will build on his employees’ strengths and talents by complimenting what that employee does and can do.

Show and Encourage Confidence

In many circumstances, a high amount of confidence can help make up for a lack of experience or skill. For those of you who play, watch, or understand sports, you know that a player’s confidence can make or break his performance in a game. A boost of confidence can help a more inexperienced player perform beyond his capabilities, while a lack of confidence can destroy an MVP’s performance.

When you’re confident in your work by being assertive about actions that you and your business need to take, you will help to foster an environment where your employees will perform their best. A good leader will take the team he has and do the best possible that he and his team can. As a small business owner, you need to be the MVP of your team and help inspire others to do all that they can to help the business succeed.

Create a Feeling of Family

A strong leader will bring others together to accomplish whatever goals are necessary to succeed. To encourage your employees to respect one another, you need to show respect to them. A strong family leader is the glue that holds people together, and as a small business owner you need to hold both your employees and your business together. When your small business employees respect one another and see each other as members of a group working toward a common goal, your employees will go out of their way to help one another and make the business successful. If they see themselves as an integral part of the whole, they will be more productive and make decisions that better serve the interests of the business.

All said, there are dozens of things that you can do to help you become a strong leader at your work. A strong leader is only as strong as others perceive him to be, and by following the suggestions above you can help grow your business through improved leadership skills.

How Surveys Can Help Your Business

How do you know if you’re doing everything you can to make your business successful? It is often difficult to assess your own business because you have put so much effort into making it how you think it should be that it may be hard to see the flaws. If your business is your “baby”, you might be slow to discipline or criticize that baby even if you think some things might need to be changed. There are professionals who you can have come in to tell you how to make your business successful, but they can be expensive and possibly not as helpful as a simple survey.

Customer or client surveys are a great way for you to look at your business or evaluate what you are doing. Those who receive your services are in a great position to offer you some advice through their evaluations and suggestions of your business. They provide a look at your business from the other side of the mirror, whereas you may only see your business a certain way.

Offering Surveys Much of the time, customers or clients may be hesitant to take time out of their busy schedules to fill out a customer survey. There are several things you can do to hopefully get customers to actually fill them out. One way to encourage someone to fill out your survey is to offer them something in return for their time. You could hand them a coupon, gift certificate, or other small token of appreciation upon their finishing the survey. Something that will be stated many times on this site, but is something that we forget all too often, is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you were in their position, what would you think about your product? What would you think about your customer service? How about your prices, ability to actually get in contact with a person who can answer questions, location, advertising, etc.?

As a small business owner, you are in the best position to design questions to help you improve and grow your business. Keep your surveys honest, clear, and concise. A long survey with a lot of boxes and fields to be filled out is an immediate turn off. If your questions are not carefully crafted and to the point, not only are you going to confuse the survey taker, but you’re not going to get the responses that will help you the most. Avoid confusing language and long statements. Also avoid questions that would lead a customer to answer a certain way. You want the survey to be an honest assessment of your business.

How to Begin There are numerous examples of surveys available for free on the internet that can provide you with a starting point as far as format and possible questions. The key to your small business survey should be to tailor it as closely as you can to your business and services so that you can receive an honest opinion. Don’t get over-technical with questions or too specific, just keep it simple. Hand surveys out to customers and clients and explain the perks of their taking a short minute or two to complete that survey. Keep in mind that if you do it right, the benefits you will receive by taking the effort to create the survey and have people take it will outweigh the time and money you spend to get it underway.

Keeping It Simple

A business is all about its product, whether tangible or intangible. One thing that some business owners forget is to keep their product simple. What do I mean by this, and why is it so important? It is sometimes hard to remember that the product you have spent so long developing may by the time of its introduction seem simple to you, but may be complicated to the unfamiliar buyer. The level of complexity or the amount of time it takes for your intended customers to become familiar with your product is a must-know before you put it on the shelves.

Know Your Target Customer

If you are designing a product for a specific audience who is familiar with that product and its features, then you may not have to worry as much about how simple it is for your potential customers to figure out your product. However, for many entrepreneurs, designing and introducing a product that has immediate appeal and is very user-friendly is of utmost importance. If your potential customer is turned off by a product that seems overly-complicated from the get go, then it is unlikely they will buy.

Most consumers want a product that they can put their hands on, figure out, and become comfortable using in a short amount of time. One great way to determine if your product idea or design is user-friendly is to simply ask people about your idea. Will they think it sounds too complex to even consider purchasing it? Do the functions and features of the product appeal to them on a basis where they could buy it from the internet? After a first glance, will they be attracted to it?

If you have followed business news in the past couple of years, you will have read about how companies are downsizing their physical stores and the employees that work there because an increasing number of people are shopping online, whether through that store’s own website or through a site such as Amazon. One article I read within the past few weeks described how many consumers are entering stores to test a product, then going online to order.

How this relates to this post’s topic is that you want to keep your product simple enough that the average consumer could walk into a store, test it out and like it immediately, and then either purchase it there or online. If a consumer is shopping online, the immediate appearance of the product makes a big difference. Does the product look overly-complicated, especially as compared to its competition? Does the product have too many buttons on the front or too many features that make it seem from the future? Again, the average consumer want to feel comfortable and not have to rely on someone else teaching them how to use their product.

Achieving a Balance

As with so many other things in life, balance is necessary to success. While this post focuses on keeping your product simple, you still want to be on the cutting-edge and offer certain functions of the product that will make you stand apart. Design a product that gets the job done without making it hard to do so because of its complexity. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles, but it needs to get the job done. Think of your average consumer, or the target consumer, and put yourself in his shoes. Consider yourself buying an unfamiliar product and what you would want from it.

 

Why I Am Going to Launch a Startup

As my readers know, I am an international business and immigration lawyer.  I have been doing that for the last several years and still enjoy it (most of the time).  Despite the great experiences that I have had as an attorney, I have felt the pull to start my own venture.  Maybe it is the excitement that I see in my clients as they are launching and growing something.  Maybe it is the pull of entrepreneurship.  Either way, I have a startup that I am looking to launch by the end of the year.

Because of that, I am going to be using this blog as a platform to describe the challenges and successes that I run in to as I go through the process.  I will use it to demonstrate firsthand some of the legal questions that startups need to ask in the formation process.

Feel free to follow along and learn about the process that I go through with my startup.  Also, feel free to interject ideas and insights as the process moves along. Thanks again for reading and following!

It’s Time to Celebrate

 

You should celebrate and enjoy what you do!

 

There are a lot of reasons that people decide to start their own business.  Some are born out of necessity or a desire for change.  Others come as a solution to a need or problem.  Still more come from a great idea or a breakthrough.  Whatever the reason for starting your own business, I believe that it is always a good idea to “celebrate” what has happened in your business at the end of each year.  Here are three ways I will be “celebrating”:

Celebrate Success-

As a business owner it is always important to take a look at the successes that you have had over the last year and evaluate why they were success.  What can you do to build on that success?  How can you create a system of success that will allow your venture to grow and flourish?  By “celebrating” your success, you are better able to build on it and translate it into more success.

Celebrate Lessons-

Most people have had to deal with adversity.  Things change in the economy or in our lives.  With adversity and struggle come some of the greatest lessons.  Did you make mistakes as a business owner?  Were their things that impeded you from finding the success you wanted in your business?  What did you learn from those experiences?  What were you able to do to overcome?  Just as you celebrated your successes, make sure that you review the lessons as a way to avoid repeated mistakes and improve yourself and your business.

Celebrate Opportunities-

Each year brings new opportunities and new experiences.  What are things that you have coming?  What are you doing the adjust to the adapting market?  How can you increase your presence in your community?  There are many great opportunities for you as a business owner, what are you doing to celebrate and plan for the things that you will be trying to accomplish in the coming year?

Coordinating Your Team’s Efforts

 

Where are you leading your team?

 

One of my favorite distractions in life is sports.  I truly enjoy the competition, teamwork, triumph and hard work that is personified in the efforts of athletes and teams.  Critical to any athletic teams success is true leadership that takes each of the players, uses their skill to maximize their success, and directs a plan in the most efficient way possible.  The same applies for you as you manage your team.  Here are three ways to ensure you get the most from your team.

1) Know the Players

It is important that you take time to get to know the players on your team.  Everyone has talents and interest that may not be listed on the resume or job description but that may bring additional value to the company.  The more you know your employees, the better able you are to see those additional talents and help them apply them to improve the team.

2) Request Feedback

Make sure that you allow for effective and consistent input from all the player on your team.  They offer a unique perspective on the work that you are accomplishing and can guide you to greater heights.  By allowing each of the players to be involved in the flow of the business, they become more committed to the work that they are doing generally and helps launch the team to increased success.

3) Maximize Talents

Make sure that people are given assignments that allow them to maximize their talents and abilities.  Re-assign tasks and responsibilities to address weaknesses and build on strengths.  By organizing your team in such a way that it maximizes talents, you are better able to run your business and all the players involved feel more committed to the overall success of the organization.

Every business owner wants to make the most of their venture and get the most from their employees.  By allowing them opportunities to become more committed to the overall success of the venture, you will be able to increase the impact of your business and all will be improved in the process.

How to Digest the News

 

What does the news mean to you?

 

Right now there are probably thousands of new articles that you could read about everything that is going on in the world.  With this increase in access to information and understanding, it can sometimes be overwhelming to try to filter through to the things that matter most to you.  Because your understanding of critical elements can be drowned out by this great expanse of information, here are three things that you can do to better digest the news.

1) Choose Your Sources

First and foremost, it is important to find news sources that are meaningful to you.  Use criteria such as expertise, technical know-how, writing style, accessibility, etc. to determine some sources that best fit what you are looking for.  Narrow it down to about 5-6 critical sources and focus on getting your information there.

2) Schedule Time to Digest

It is not only important to read through the news, but it is also important to take some time to digest it.  Schedule time to not only ready articles, but also give yourself some time to analyze what you are reading and considering what the events you are studying mean.  As you think more about this articles and events, you will be better able to digest what is going on in the world and use that information to your benefit.

3) Apply the News

Critical to anything that we do is the ability to apply what we learn in our own lives.  That takes a reader beyond mere fact gathering and entertainment to increased personal development.  Do not just read the articles and learn the facts, but also take time to apply the scenarios in your own life.  Come up with solutions to the things that you are reading.  Think about how these events might personally affect you.  As you take the time to apply the news in your personal situation, the more you will be able to take from the reading.

It is always important to be aware of what is going on in the world and apply what you learn in your life.  This always improves your business and your personal character.

Finding Great Resources

 

Do you know where to find golden resources?

 

For many small business owners, it is sometimes difficult to know where to look for great resources to assist in the launch or development of their venture.   While the “treasure map” for those golden resources will be different for each owner and each venture, here are some places to consider when searching for resources for your business.

1) Government Resources

The government has so many great resources on all levels and I feel that they are under-utilized by inquiring small business owners.  From local to state to federal, there are many different types of organizations that are set up to help you in your venture.  Start by speaking with your local SBA office or doing a Google search for support entities for your business.   Note only will they be able to help you understand the regulations that your specific business may face, but they also can point you to other entities that can guide you toward your success.

2) Alma Mater Search

Another great resource to look in to is your college/university alumni association.  Many have groups for networking, business outreach and support.  Use the organization to find other business owners or services providers that can assist you in the work that you are doing.  By staying connected with your college/university, you can tap into a lot of great resources, while finding some great people to talk about this weekend big game.

3) Online Communities

Definitely take advantage of online tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to access a wealth of information.  There are industry leaders that share tips and advice.  Use your contacts to learn more about business opportunities.  Reach out to friends and neighbors for support with new products/ideas.  The access to information that the internet provides is nearly limitless and is an excellent resource for business owners.  If all else fails, figure out what you want to know and then Google it.

One Person, One Community- Make a Difference

I have a strong belief that we all have the capacity to do great things but too often we let doubts or fears keep us from being great.  That is why I love reminders like the above video to show us that capacity inherent in who we are.  This man saw a problem and set about to solve it.  His community had a need and he filled it.  He made sure that, even if it was only a few people, he would help them, and now he is impacting the world.

As a business owner, you may see problems in your own community.  What can you do to change it?  How can you build up those around you?  Help those that suffer or who are in need?  Sometimes it is critical to remember that we are all a part of a great human family.  These problems often exist only because we allow them to exist.  We simply do nothing to change it.  Our communities need more of us.  Take some time this month to find a problem that needs fixing in your own community and then go out and fix it.  Don’t question your capacity; just go out and fix it.

Avoiding Distractions

 

What is side tracking you from your goals?

I think we all have stories of when we were children and we ate too much candy and became sick afterwards (Halloween anyone?).  We disregard the wisest course of action for an instantaneous pleasure.  True success comes when we are able to overcome our tendencies to over entertain ourselves and instead focus on accomplishing the most important/critical items first.  Because our lives are often filled with distractions that will cause us to lose focus on those important/critical items, here are some things that may help you with your focus.

1) Begin Right

 

Make the decision each evening to start the morning immediately doing something that is important or critical.  Each day will present unique challenges and concerns and you will need to prioritize accordingly.  By making the decision and then following through each day, you are better able to succeed in focusing throughout the rest of the day.  On the other hand, if you begin distracted, it is a lot more difficult to get things back on track.

2) Schedule Entertainment

We all have things that we are very interested but that are ultimately neither critical nor important.  It is sometimes more beneficial to set up a time to do them.  For example, plan a time during the day to read about sports or other items that interest you but may not be a direct part of what you do.  By scheduling time to do those entertainment items, it gives you something to work toward and removes that distraction during the rest of the day.

3) Understand Yourself

Most importantly, it is best to understand yourself.  What are the things that are most likely to distract you and take you off task?  Is it your cell phone?  Emails?  Colleagues?  You need to find out what it is that normally takes you off focus and find ways to minimize its influence in your life.  By making a concerted effort to create an environment where you can be the most successful, you will be better able to avoid distractions.

Success will come the more that you are able to remove distractions from your life and focus on the important and critical items.

Three Ways to Improve Proficiency Today

 

What grade would you give yourself?

 

One of the major things that I see both in my own business practice as well as with many of my clients is the constant effort that is needed to improve proficiency.  Because proficiency is so important to success in business, it is important to know both the definition of proficiency as well as some daily things that can be done to improve proficiency.  According to Merriam-Webster, proficiency is, “advancement in knowledge or skill.”  We must consistently educate ourselves in our business and the world in order to become successful.  Here are three things that you can do today to improve proficiency:

1) Read the News

It is always important to take time each day to read the news, especially in areas that impact your business directly.  Take the time to read up on current events, research trade journals, and develop a better understand of important events that unfold each day.  As you gain a great understanding of the world around you, you are better able to adapt yourself and your business to more opportunities to succeed.

2) Community Educational Courses

Even if you do not have the time to get an advanced degree in your specialized field, it is always beneficial to take additional courses in important subject areas.  You may be surprised to know that most community colleges offer courses to the community at reduced rates that allow for continued education.  Research and find pertinent courses that will allow you to develop you skills.  Also, look into auditing classes at major university in specific areas of interest.  Continuing educational opportunities are all around, it is up to you to take advantage of them.

3) Study Industry Leaders

Finally, take some time to evaluate the industry leaders in your sector to determine what makes them successful.  The more that you learn about their process, the better able you will be to find success in your sector.  By evaluating what makes them successful, it will allow you to create systems that could potentially become more efficient and improve on the product/service.

Ultimately, to improve proficiency, you need to take the time to education yourself on the areas that will help you in your business.  Take advantage of those things that interest you most and you will not only develop yourself, but also enjoy the process.

Persistence Wins the Prize

 

Are you racing for the win?

 

 

I have seen this quote from Calvin Coolidge several times recently:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

All too often, people give up just before the prize is won.  They lose sight of their goals/dreams and miss out on the success that they begin working towards because they do not stay the course.  Business requires owners to be consistent and persistent.  Make sure that you are making adjustments as needed and constantly evaluate when your current plans and actions are taking you.  But in doing that, always stick to it.  You will be surprised by the strength that will come with a little hope and a lot of work and effort.

Three Ways to Monitor Business Legal Health

 

Feeling healthy?

 

Between my wife being a doctor and all the recent discussion on the recent Health Care bill and its impact on businesses and individuals, I have been thinking a lot about how treatment and care principles can be applied to how business owners manage and deal with their businesses.  Just as it is important for you to monitor your person health and wellbeing, you should be conducting frequent business check up to ensure that you are you the best to take care of and protect your business.  Here are three things to do in your Business Legal Check-Up:

1) Quarterly Compliance Checks-

I strongly recommend that all business owners schedule time each quarter to sit down and evaluate two types of compliance concerns: government and contract compliance.  For government compliance, take the time to research if there are any permits, regulations, ordinances, or other government oversight that you should be aware of for your business.  Also take a look at previously filed permits or licenses and make sure that all your information is up to date and that the permit or license has not expired.  For contract compliance, review the duties and responsibilities of your contracts and make sure that all parties are meeting their obligations.  If you need to renew or opt out of an agreement by a certain time, make sure you are prepared for that event in advance.

2) Quarterly Liability Scans-

Also, take time each quarter to evaluate any potential liabilities that you company may be facing.  This can range from employment issues, to breach of contract concerns to consumer liability.  Also, if you are in the unfortunate situation of pending or actual litigation, do some cost analyses to consistently look for the best business alternative/solution to the issue.

3) See a Specialist-

Finally, just like with your personal health, if it is an issue that you do not understand, don’t risk letting it linger.  See a specialist.  If cost is an issue, think of resourceful ways that you may be able to barter or trade for services or suggest a payment plan.   Talk to family and friends that may be able to help out.  Whatever you do, DO NOT ignore a potential problem until it becomes a major issue that may doom your business.

Be Understanding

 

Understanding is a path to success.

 

Sometimes in life we get so caught up in the course that we are on, that we do not take the time to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.  People get caught in patterns of behavior because of many reasons:  ‘Their parents before them did it.’  ‘This is what I was taught to do.’  ‘I don’t have the capacity to do things differently.’  Doing without understanding is rarely a path to success.

Because of the importance of implementing understanding as a means to become more successful, I recommend seeking increased understanding in these three areas: 1) self, 2) community, and 3) profession.  We should take time each week and each day to evaluate and understand ourselves and our roles in our life.

Understanding will come as we research what we do and then start the question why we do it.  This increased understanding will improve how we act and what we do.  Also, it will motivate us to better understand our client/customers in a way that will create more meaningful business.  Have a great weekend and keep pushing forward.  There is success to be understood.

Your Community Needs You to Be a Leader

 

Who can you help today?

 

It is always risky to discuss things like politics, sports and religion because there will almost always be those that will take an opposing viewpoint.  I think because of that fact, I have become increasingly more convinced that we all need to seek to be leaders in our communities, and not just from the point of view of our business.

Everyone has unique abilities to positively influence those that surround them.  Often we have family members or friends that look to us for council or support.  We have customers and clients that rely on the goods or services that our businesses provide.  Are we paying attention to the influence that we have and how it can better those around us?

It seems common practice today for people to be cynical and pessimistic about the world around us.  For whatever reason, it is human nature to amplify the bad and minimize the good.  These negative conversations can have a profound impact in our communities and families.  Despite the difficulties that we all face, people now need to receive hope and support.  Find out what the needs are in your community.  Find little ways that you can improve your street, your block, your town, your state, your country and even the world.  If we each resolve to lead in one thing, however simple, our communities will be able to overcome the negative and live in more enriching and uplifting ways.  More than a business owner, you are a member of a community.  A community that needs you to lead.