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Friday, April 3, 2009

the Entrepreneur and Ego

I have been working with a lot of Entrepreneur’s over the last 6 years as a consultant, a business leader, and one myself. There are two types of Entrepreneurs and I have definitions for them:

1. Successful Entrepreneur
2. Unsuccessful Entrepreneur
3. New Entrepreneur

Not very catchy definitions are they? Let me define them based on their characteristics because the “New Entrepreneur” out there could save them self a lot of headache if they look for behavior that generally leads them to failure.

Sucessful Entrepreneurs

These guys are easy. They know the game. They understand why you build a business. They do it over and over again because they love the challenge. They are not in it for their egos, the idea, or the need to have President on their business card. They do it because they can’t do anything else, but build things and then sell it off. They get it started, then hand it off to people to run it.

Unsuccessful Entrepreneurs

Things just don't work out for the Unsuccessful Entrepreneur. More often than not, they keep on trying, and get it a little more right next time. Eventually, some become successful. Often, they give up and return to the safety net of a 40 hour per week job. Their idea, product, or service just does not solve anyone’s problem, but their own.

New Entrepreneurs

I have a lot of respect for people that venture out into their own or try to turn an idea into action. These are people that generally don’t fit into the corporate structure, are generally liberal minded (not to confuse the Rush Limbaugh listeners of the world, liberal minded means finding new ways of doing things from how it is always done. Or, it simply means outside the box thinking). Having the audacity to question how things are being done and suggest there is a better way to do it.

So the new Entrepreneur has this great idea! Then, they get excited because they could make a lot of money doing it! “I am going to be rich!” So, they embark on the emotional high of becoming an Entrepreneur. They become infatuated with their idea. It is the best idea and the only idea worth investing. Most need money to fund their idea, yet they don’t want to give anything up to get other people’s money. Their valuation of the business is way over inflated and they have no sales. Ego and control start to get in the way.

I have been involved in several start-up ventures and this is a common pattern that occurs. As I sit at the Venture Club of Indiana and listen to new ideas being pitched around the table, the pattern is there. The “New Entrepreneur” is excited about their great idea, yet they cannot really articulate how to make money with it. Their assumptions about their market are not well defined and they do not really understand what it takes to get a business going. They don’t understand why no one will invest in their business. They are passionate about the idea and their ego loves the fact that they can now put President on their business card.

So what is important for new Entrepreneurs? It is all about sales.

When I was President of the Indiana Entrepreneur’s Alliance, one of the guests to our meeting made an important point. He said, everyone says you need and accountant and a lawyer to get a business started. So, everyone goes out and gets and accountant and a lawyer to make you feel good about your idea. This is backwards. He points out that you need customers first to determine if the idea has merit, then go out and hire an accountant and a lawyer. Is what you are doing in demand and are people willing to pay for it?

In other words, it is about sales and marketing. As a New Entrepreneur is weighing the idea, the emphasis needs to be on sales and marketing. Get the idea, product, or service out there and see if someone will pay you for it. Do you need an infrastructure to support it? Yes. Do you need to be able to deliver it? Yes. But figure out what kind of expectations you can put out there and manage. As another successful Entrepreneur told me, don’t be afraid of success. You can always find money, if you have a book of business to show an investor. And, you can always find ways to deliver.

In our web consulting, we see the New Entrepreneur all the time. Some people are looking for the “Mirror”. “Come in and tell me that I am great, my idea is great, and that you can sell it the way I want it to be sold, even though I have had mediocre success to date.” In our case, the web plays an important part for most customers trying to sell products or services. They focus on their logo and their image, their name. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs gladly feed into their egos and leave results starving at the table.

The reality is New Entrepreneurs need to focus on results. In business, results equal sales and profits. Logos, names, and images can have value – only if people buy because of the name, logo and image.

Get centered Answering the questions of your buyers:

1. What is it?
2. What is the value?
3. How do I get it?
4. Has anyone else used it?
a. What do they say?
b. If not? What is the edge I get with it?
5. Yes, I want one!

With limited resources and limited time, investment needs to be on finding the market, bringing them to you, engaging the market, and closing some deals or selling product. The question to always ask:

Is what I am doing or spending money going to help me generate more sales?

Case in point, people always feel like they need to reinvent something that has been tested to work. (Ok…I respect out of the box thinking, but dollars can be wasted on IT projects that bring very little value in the end). E-Commerce is an area that people feel the need to “customize”. We had a client that need to change e-Commerce systems because the one they were using did not support standard marketing practices for e-Commerce sites. Yet, they would not do it because the one they were using had a feature that really brought no value to the buyer or their business. Again, was what they were doing going to help them generate more sales? The answer was no, yet they chose to spend $20,000 when $3,500 would have done the job for the next five years.

So, New Entrepreneurs, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. No one cares about “the idea.” They care about what the idea will do for them.
2. Investors don’t care about “the idea.” They care if their investment in the idea will make them money.
3. Investors don’t invest in “the idea”, they invest in the people behind the idea. If you do not demonstrate your ability to execute, you will not get investment.
4. Being President of nothing with no sales has no value.
5. It’s about marketing and sales, particularly for start-ups.
a. Always ask, is what I am doing going to help me sell more?
b. Is what I am spending my money on going to help me sell more?
c. Can I apply metrics to what I am doing?
6. It’s about execution.

As it relates to the web marketing, the same rules apply. Here is the list to keep in mind:

1. The website visitor does not care about you, they care about what you can do for them. They want to know:
a. What is it?
b. What is the value?
c. How do I get it?
2. Before you spend money on an expensive website, can you answer these questions:
a. How big is the market?
b. What words do people use to search your product?
c. How much to advertise?
d. Who are your competitors?
e. What are they doing?
f. What are they not doing?
g. Who are the top ranked sites?
3. Have you budgeted for web marketing?
a. Monthly?
4. You are a new business, people don’t know you. And until you spend millions on drilling your brand into the American psyche, they aren't going to know your brand from a hole in the ground. Use what you do, or what your customers call your product as your name. This strategy worked fine in the past and still works fine today. Evidence: International Business Machines, Advanced Micro Devices, American Telephone and Telegraph, General Motors, General Electric, National Cash Register, American Airlines and Budget Rent-a-Car. Not an obscure latin name with an interesting meaning only to you.

There is really nothing sexy about Internet marketing. It too is about execution. It is about results. It is not about corporate ego. It is about what your product or service does for the buyer and the investor. Read more...

Dynamics Of Business Success

From the time you first decided to be an Entrepreneur and go into business for yourself, the only choice you had was to be successful. No one goes into business desiring failure, that would be self-defeating. Can you be as successful as you want? Can a person succeed on desire alone? Of course you can't. No matter what the nature of your business, desire and passion only serve for motivation not hard core statistics. If you have not investigated the possibilities and learned the dynamics of running a business, then you are flirting with disaster. No amount of desire in the world will pay start-up cost and day-to-day expenses of a business. The cold hard facts are you must know your product and its' market. You must know the dynamics of running a business.

How do you handle the bookwork, satisfy the IRS, schedule workers, where to locate, attend to restocking, marketing, sales, etc. Then there is the public relations side of being a business owner. Projecting the right image to your customers, vendors and employees is an all important task assigned to – guess who – that's right, the business owner. Large businesses have departments to handle each challenge, but the small business owner in on his/her own. It would seem then, desire is only a small part of going into business. Preparing is as or more important than desire. There are many people across the country who have little desire for their business but succeed because they were well prepared and have the fortitude to keep on going. They did the things necessary to make their business succeed.

Then there is the competition. Beating out the competition comes from knowing your business and executing it with precision. No brick and mortar business can run on autopilot. Someone has to be at the wheel, steering, stepping on the gas, putting on the brake, someone has to be in control. Like a giant truck charging down the highway needs someone to keep it in control, a business can quickly become a wreck without proper guidance. Your business may be a franchise or it may be independent. It may be a product or service, in any case I cannot overemphasize the importance of preparing for the venture.

Franchise businesses have taken a lot of the guess work out of the equation. They present their business as a time proven package with all the necessary ingredients for success. They have been successful and offer a copy-cat version of the outcome. A business plan and marketing strategy is included right down to uniforms for the employees. They have already promoted the brand name and gained market recognition. They are what is called, “branded”. The brand is already recognized and accepted by the customer. The dynamics of this kind of business is in getting the momentum going and maintaining it.

A business opportunity is a cross between a franchise and new start-up. It's sometimes referred to as a “turn-key” business start-up. Everything needed for success is supplied in a start-up package, except a business plan. The business owner must formulate his/her own business plan. The difference between a business opportunity and franchise is; in a business opportunity the business owner is free to put his/her own personality into the business.

The dynamics of new start-ups are conceptual. They are derived from the individual's desires, mixed with background and abilities. This type of business venture is the most vulnerable and has the highest failure rate. A concept must become a marketable reality. Acceptance is paramount for this type of enterprise to survive. A person may think they have great idea but in reality it is not acceptable to the public.

Transfer businesses are those that have been established and then sold or transferred to another person. In many cases the transfer is between family members. Some times the transfer is to employees or another person altogether. This type of business is sensitive to change. If too much change takes place too fast the business may fail, unless change is warranted. Here you're riding on the coattails of the previous owners. If they had a good customer base then chances are the new owner will succeed. If the new owner has to start up under a “new owner” banner, then the previous owner's reputation has to be overcome. This is a very difficult type of business to be involved in.

All of these traditional brick and mortar establishments are dependent on correct location for visibility and accessibility. This type of business depends upon physical appearance, ease of stocking and maintenance. Because it is a physical entity, it requires physical support. The bigger it gets the more support it requires.

The Internet on the other hand provides a portal, a doorway if you will, for an individual to present a product to the customer and the customer to respond. Although physical location is not required, it is advised. How do you succeed in cyberspace? It's basically the same as a brick and mortar business, you have to be visual to be found. You have to build brand recognition, confidence, and reliability for customers to respond. There are literally millions of business on the Internet and the customer will not go to great lengths to find you. If your not in front of their nose they will overlook you. The customer also tends to view everything with a measure distrust. These are the two most difficult obstacles to overcome when marketing on the Internet. You must be seen and trusted in order to be successful in an Internet business.

In Conclusion
Internet marketing is not about having the best product or how much desire you have. It's not about passion or family values or anything other than marketing. Success depends on how many prospects you can drive to your website and well your sales copy coverts them into customers. The Internet is a marketing medium and social gathering place only. It doesn't produce a product or change anything on a physical level. Internet sales are liken to phone sales. The prospect is contacted, given a sales pitch and converted to a customer, or the prospect contacts the seller from advertising media and the same process is preformed. On the Internet, in most cases, the prospect is never verbally or physically contacted. All transactions are by form.

The success rate in Internet businesses are very low. The glamor or promises of making huge incomes is thwarted by time constraints. Success comes from hard work over a period of time. Overnight success is not possible or a reality unless a person has a large bankroll to start with.

The thing is, success comes to those who take the time to learn the dynamics of the business they are getting into. Develop a passion, learn and stay the course. Read more...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blogging - How to Turn Your Blog Into an Online Money Maker

Whilst it is fairly easy to get a blog up & running, making decent money from it is another matter entirely and something that remains elusive for most of the blogging community.

So if you want to set up a blog that has the legs to generate a more than decent income, then read the following 5 things to ensure that your blog is an online money maker...

1. Can you make a decent income by Blogging?

Well if you consider an annual 5 figure income decent then it is a totally attainable figure for your money making blog. However, don't be fooled it doesn't come easily as it does require some work but for someone working full time and effectively on their blog they could easily generate well in excess of $1000 a day.

2. What Skills or Talents Are Required to Create a Successful Money Making Blog?

As the barriers to starting & creating a blog are a;most non existent, many people have started blogging & have hoped to generate a wealth of income from them, but have failed dismally in the cash generating area.

So why is this you may ask. Well for starters to be successful at monetizing your blog there are a few factors that can influence this but the number one factor is intelligence - or web savvyness, ie. to be successful at blogging you need to be fairly web savvy above all else.

What this means is that you need to have a good sense of knowing what will make money & generate interest on the net and how to present your blog to capture & monetize this demand.

If you don't think you are web savvy enough you could do a lot of reading & learning to become web savvy but if you don't think you have what it takes to achieve this, don't be disappointed if your blogging exploits amount to nothing in terms of income generation.

3. What Do You Blog About?

This is a fairly crucial decision that you need to make before starting your blog because if your blog's topic is not popular enough you may not generate enough interest or traffic to generate more than a few dollars a month. So you need to have a topic for which there is sufficient demand & interest for it to be worthwhile in terms of monetizing it.

4. Can You Have Multiple Streams of Income on Your Blog?

It's a good idea not to have all your eggs in one basket so having multiple streams of income options on your blog is not a bad idea. Some blogs can have as many as six different streams of income made of advertisements, products, for sale, donations etc.

5. What Is the Cost of Blogging?

Blogging and setting up a blog is really cheap. There are some free blog set up options, but if you want to use your own domain name that will be a cost as well as web hosting which could be as less than $5 a month.

One of the best things about earning a living from blogging is not only the unlimited earning potential it provides, but the freedom it brings - you can set up your blogging business from home and work when you want - it's hugely rewarding & fun at the same time.

So start blogging & make sure you're one of the few who makes a six figure living from it.

Find out how in 5 simple steps you can set up your own free blog & start making money by blogging here >>


Market Intelligence

If you are managing a business of any size, large or small, you need to understand both your customers and your competitors – and for this you need market intelligence. You have to decide where to grow your business, where you may need to cut back when times are tough, or where to change your emphasis according to trends and fashions.
The questions for which you need to find answers begin with ‘who’, ‘where’, and ‘why’. Who purchases your product? Better yet, who uses it and who decides to purchase it (these may be two different people). Who buys the product from your competitor?
You need to know where your product is used and what benefits customers seek from it. Where do they look for information about it? Online? In newspapers and magazines? Word of mouth? Is the product likely to be bought on impulse, or will most people research it carefully before spending money on your product? Then it is necessary to know how much people are prepared to pay for your product, especially in comparison with your competitor’s product. The answers to all these questions are important as you manage the marketing side of your business.
How to find the answers depends on the types of questions you need to ask.
You can find out facts using questions that only need "yes" or "no" as an answer; for example, "Does your household own more than one car?" This sort of question tells you about consumption, but not much more. Some facts rely on memory, for example, "Have you heard of chicken-flavored ice cream?" The answers here will tell you about product knowledge. Opinions give you an idea of the motives people have for buying things. A question like, "Why do you think red apples taste better than green apples?" can help you understand more about customer preference. Attitudes are hardest of all to work out – but they are the most valuable to determine, since they help us understand why people buy products.
Statistics can provide demographic data. Census data for household expenditure can help you build a profile of the market you are attempting to supply and will help you work out the ages of your local population, and other details such as its ethnic composition, average household income, size of the average family and so on. Various trade organizations are another good source of up-to-date data.
Surveys of your customers, established and potential, provide the most valuable data. There are many sorts of survey: three important methods are interviews, telephone surveys and online surveys.
Interviews should be kept brief and to the point – people are busy. This method depends on sampling a small number of people who represent the total group you want to research. You can ask some structured questions at point of sale, or employ market research companies, which are adept at this type of survey.
Telephone surveys may be met with a reluctance to respond and you may get a biased sample coming from only those people who are willing to take part in the survey. They can be costly and time-consuming.
Online surveys suffer from the fact that people can express their opinions anonymously. This can lead to a lot of ‘noise’ in the results, but if you provide an incentive (some sort of prize) and allow participation only by people who have been through some sort of screening process, greater accuracy can be obtained. Again, keep it simple.
Unfortunately, market intelligence is unable to predict the future, but it will help you find out where you stand and what your best strategy should be for the present. Read more...

How to Offer Your Employees a Memorable Special Event by Hiring a Party Rental Specialist

There are professionals in every field of activity to offer their expert help. Arranging parties and special events for your organization is something that cannot be risked with the expertise of in-house staff unless you are prepared for a lot of avoidable lapses and gaffes. Professionals thorough in the business of arranging parties and events should be roped in to take charge of the tasks. Creating that special event is an art form that only party rental specialists can handle with success.

Event hosting requires precision in planning, experienced personnel, creative judgment, a large contact of entertainers, and the availability of the latest party equipment. Party rental specialists provide these facilities with ease. They transform an event in to a memorable occasion with their valuable service. Irrespective of the nature of the event –- whether it’s a birthday celebration of a top executive, the organization’s founding day anniversary, a training workshop, a charity show, a fundraising event, Christmas party, summer party, promotional event, laugh party, or the completion of a training program – party rental specialists have that uncanny ability to make them a perfect occasion.

How Hiring a Special Events Company can Make Your Next Event Better and Less Expensive

No organization can plan, promote and deliver a big party or special event on its own despite having all the necessary resources without some problem arising. It requires imagination and creative ideas to organize a special event or host a party. Technically, event organizers have better knowledge of the sense of lighting, creating a theme design, arrangement of tables, arrangement of props, and the entire styling of the event. They have perfect knowledge of the order of events in a party based on propriety and convenience. The array of entertainment options they provide is also stunning.

Special events companies have extensive list of contacts and the right support staff to include; of entertainers, party hosts, caterers, florists, light and sound specialists, bakers etc. They have the contact numbers of professional entertainers such as: stand-up comedians, singers, musicians, and magicians too. .

Special event organizers party planners plan according to your budget. They have several options when your budget doesn’t permit spending top dollar on the special event or party. They will suggest that you pare down on some of the other areas of the special event or private party to enhance the special event experience and delight your guests. This is where the special event organizer’s help becomes invaluable. With their direct experience from prior special events and private parties they will suggest the best option. Some event planners even have a pool of new and fresh ideas and contacts that you can select from based on your requirements for the special event or private party.

If it’s a dance party they can suggest the names of happening DJs. Their expertise in setting light and sound for these occasions is impeccable. If you wish to transport your employees to their childhood briefly then slides and jumpers can make them shed their inhibitions and become kids for a few hours. Event planners will arrange poker games to add fun and excitement to a party.

Most importantly special event companies have a thorough idea of how an event should be planned and arranged. Beginning from the setting of the chairs and tables taking account of space and the number of guests to the selection of a wonderful menu they can take care of everything.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

From Concept to Customer: Supply Chain Management

The 21st century consumer is spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping for goods and services; and there is certainly a wide range of products to choose from, whatever the occasion.

But it’s probably fair to say that very few people ever stop to consider how the goods actually end up in their current form in the first place; from an idea in someone’s head to the factory floor, then transported on the back of a truck and taken to their local department store. Indeed, from a customer’s point of view, there is probably very little reason to ever consider the journey a product has taken to get to their front room.

However, from a business point of view, managing and monitoring a product’s journey is integral to the company’s long-term success. What's more, streamlining the process to minimise costs and delays will help to ensure the supply chain is optimised to their own benefit.

Indeed, the main underlying objective of supply chain management (SCM) is to meet the demands of the consumer through efficient use of all resources involved in moving the product or service, from the supplier to the customer. There are, however, many mechanisms in place to ensure that the SCM process runs smoothly from start to finish. This includes clear communication between suppliers to eliminate bottlenecks, and also strategic sourcing to ensure the right balance is struck between material costs and the quality of goods on offer.

But whilst supply chain management requires businesses at every level of the process to cooperate fully with each other, the ultimate goal of individual companies is to fulfil their immediate obligations in moving the product on to the next stage in its journey. As such, any tool of the trade will do if it helps them manage the often complex procedures involved in SCM, thereby increasing their profitability, competitiveness and subsequently, their growth.

And this is why many companies are turning to supply chain management software. Indeed, such software has specialised functionality to help companies effectively manage and coordinate the processes involved in collaborating between manufacturers, retailers and transportation/logistics service providers. SCM software also often includes useful features that help to facilitate purchase order processing, inventory management and supplier management/sourcing.

However, at the more sophisticated end of the SCM software spectrum, some have forecasting functionality built in, which can be a very valuable feature. Given that it can often be difficult to predict future consumer trends, there can often be a significant gap between supply and demand; through using algorithms and performing consumption analysis, forecasting tools can help businesses plan more efficiently for their future requirements.

So, whilst the customer may not be overly-concerned with the processes involved in moving a product concept to the shop floor, businesses stand to gain a lot from understanding and managing the supply chain effectively. Read more...