Start a Feeding Frenzy for Your Product

I was watching Shark Tank on TV the other night and got treated to watching the “Sharks” in a rare feeding frenzy. For those of you not familiar with the show, entrepreneurs pitch their ideas before a panel of successful, wealthy business owners (the Sharks), requesting investment dollars in exchange for a pre-determined return.

In this particular episode, a team of three guys had solved an everyday problem with one simple, inexpensive widget: the Paint Brush Cover. Honestly – which of us hasn’t painted a room and had that stinkin’ paint brush dry out every time we stopped for a Coke or a beer? It’s an annoying problem that we either put up with or fight with plastic wrap or other messy, sticky things.

Image by jscreationz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, these guys were professional painters, and they didn’t like it either. But unlike the rest of us, they figured out a way to solve the problem – and now they’re going to be rich.

The Sharks saw its value immediately. Each of them has successfully built a business – many businesses – and could see the potential of this small gadget. They were falling all over each other, salivating, each scrambling to top the other’s offer and get these new entrepreneurs on board. It was great TV. :)

But there’s an important lesson to be learned here. These painters did something so simple, so basic to starting a profitable business, it’s a good reminder: Business is all about solving problems. It’s about finding out what people need, and then providing a unique and satisfying way to meet that need.

Are you wanting to start your own business, but don’t know what to base it on? Start listening to people. Pay attention to what they’re complaining about. What are they frustrated by? What makes them annoyed? What challenges to they have? The louder the grumbling, the better your chance of creating a successful business solving it.

Think about it. If you could just solve that “one problem.” Now. Decide what that problem is, and go start a feeding frenzy with your awesome solution.

[Image by jscreationz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.]

The Importance of Branding

One of the most critical decisions for your new business is how to present and market yourself. The importance of branding can not be overstated.

What is branding? Your brand is your identity, your “business personality,” what people know and expect when they see your logo. Your brand differentiates you from the guy next door who’s offering the same service or selling the same thing. It’s what makes your customers like you, trust you, and to know exactly what to expect when they choose your business.

Consider, for example, two stores that sell women’s clothing: J.C. Penney and Victoria’s Secret. Do they have different “personalities?” Do you picture the same style of clothing in each store? The same models? Same customer base? You don’t, because they each have a distinct and very different brand.

Or let’s take publications. Think for a second about Reader’s Digest. People. The National Enquirer. National Geographic. MAD Magazine. The Wall Street Journal. Which of these would a teen boy read? Your grandparents? Your banker? Because each of these has a strong brand, I’ll bet you could match up their readers pretty quickly. You know you won’t read many stock analyses in the National Enquirer, and the Wall Street Journal won’t be reporting on who got voted off the island.

An amusement park brand will be loose, carefree and fun filled. A funeral home brand will be solemn, respectful and conservative.

How do you want your business perceived? Who is your clientele, and what do you want to say to them?

Jonathan Adler, of Adler & Adler, explains more in this quick, “in-a-nutshell” video below. Take a few notes while you watch, and then ask yourself the questions he invites you to consider.

In today’s fierce competition for business, we need every edge we can find. Never underestimate the power of a strong brand. It’s your reputation, your advertisement, and the future of your business.

 

There’s No Shortcut to Success

“If you’re not making someone’s life better, you’re wasting your time.” ~ Will Smith

“I know who I am.
I know what I believe.
And that’s all I need to know.” ~ Will Smith

When it comes to fulfilling our dreams, the most important thing is mindset. Adopt a “ridiculous…  sickening…  work ethic.”

“Lay one brick at a time.”

And “focus on making a difference.” There’s no shortcut to success.

Here’s a Will Smith video compilation that makes me want to take on the world every time I see it.

I dare you to not be inspired!

Three Critical Questions for Your New Business

So you want to start your own business, and you wonder what it should be.

You think about what you’re good at. You think about what you enjoy. You think about your life experiences and your values and your needs. You think about what you’d like to do.

Those are all excellent questions. But let me add just a few more to consider, and I think you’ll land a lot closer to your mark:

  1. Who do you want to serve?  All business is about meeting a specific need – and then getting compensated for it. Every thriving business involves “serving” someone or something. Who or what “speaks” to you? Is there a group or class of people you feel drawn to? Is there an environmental concern about which you’re passionate? Maybe cats or giraffes or the Three-toed Tree Frog inspires you to act. Great! Think about the greatest need (or needs) this group has. Now. Why are you qualified to help meet that need, and how can you do it in a unique way? And now… how can you make money doing it?
  2. What is your vision?  When you’ve decided what service your business will provide, what does it look like fully realized? At it’s ultimate, fully functioning glory, what do you see? Whatever you do, DREAM BIG. The world needs big dreamers, and why can’t you be one of them? Every great company or product started with a vision of what it could become. What is the gift you alone can give?
  3. What is your mission?  Vision and Mission are intimately related, but they’re not the same. Your Vision is the nuts and bolts, real picture of your dream company at the height of its operation. Your Mission is the reason – the purpose – for your huge amazing vision to begin with. Mission goes beyond just making money. Sure, all businesses need to ultimately generate some cash (unless they’re non-profit, but chances are, you hope to turn a profit). “To make money” is NOT a mission statement. Mission is bigger than money. Mission is why you would do it for free.

Does this seem too simple? Sometimes “simple” is profound. Just ask yourself these three questions, and see how it changes everything:

  1. Who or what keeps grabbing my attention? Who or what do I feel connected to and have a heart for? Who or what do I feel compelled to help and give my time to?
  2. If I were to start a business in service to that group or need, what unique edge or role could I offer? What really cool, big thing could I create to make a difference? What would it look like, fully fledged? What special insight or experience, talent or skill can I provide to do something really special there?
  3. What difference will it make to the people/needs I wish to serve? Why does it have value? Why do I care about this in particular? What special purpose makes it meaningful?

I’m sure you’re wildly intelligent and extremely hard working. Fantastic. To be an entrepreneur, you’ll need to be. But beyond that, you need more. When the going gets tough, a solid vision and deep sense of purpose will sustain you through those long hours and lean beginnings.

The most rewarding career is one that comes from your heart. Answer these key questions for your new business, and you’re off to a promising start.

 

Getting Your New Business Website

Whether your business is mainly online or “bricks and mortar,” you must – absolutely must – have a web presence. It’s just the way business is done today. At the very least, people expect to be able to pull out their smart phones, Google your business name, and find your business hours, phone number, and maybe a quick and dirty overview of your awesome products.

So how do you get started? First you’ll want to grab your domain name. There are literally hundreds of domain suppliers you can use, and I’ve used several of them. My favorite is Dynadot, which I’ve been using for years and recommend to everyone. They’re fair priced, simple to deal with and don’t scream at you to buy endless products while you’re trying to check out. Just go there and search for your business name. Ideally, nobody will have it. You can shoot for the dot-com version, but those are getting harder to come by. No matter, Dynadot will offer the dot-net, dot-biz and any other versions that are available – plus make some suggestions for other similar names you can try. Your domain name will cost you about $10 a year. Some places charge more, and some charge less, but $10 is about right. Remember: you get what you pay for. I’ve tried some cheaper places and wasn’t happy.

After you’ve nabbed your domain name, you’ll need someone to host it. Basically, that just means you’re renting internet space so your website can be seen by everyone. Just like domain sellers, there are tons of hosting companies out there. Again, I’ve tried others, but I’ve been with Hostgator for years and love them. I get overwhelmed by fussy, loud and fancy interfaces, and Hostgator’s cPanel (the customer side of things) is intuitive and simple to use. Also, they’re super reasonable and are really nice to newbies with dumb questions. Not that I’ve ever had any (ahem!). Hostgator even has a free website builder, if you go that route. It’s all so fun and simple, it’s downright addicting. Watch out – you might find yourself in a new business!

If you don’t use Hostgator’s website builder, they also offer a quick install of all the popular free website engines like Blogger, WordPress, Joomla and dozens of others. Personally, I prefer WordPress, which is what this site runs on. It offers hundreds of amazing templates that are simple to install and personalize. You can literally get your website up and running in less than an hour.

Regardless of whether you’re new to website building or have years of experience, getting an online presence is a critical first step for your business. I’ve found that the combination of Dynadot, Hostgator and WordPress is unbeatable. But this is just an overview, and I’ll cover more in the days to come. Please let me know any questions by leaving a comment below.

Now – go get that domain name!

Do You Have What It Takes to be an Entrepreneur?

Self-employed people – entrepreneurs – are a special kind of people. I think most of us dream at some point about quitting our day jobs and forging instead some meaningful, world-changing career (working for ourselves, of course) that ultimately leads to fame and fortune.

The reality is that very few make that leap. Starting one’s own business isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only does one give up the security of a regular paycheck – and often some nice employer-paid bennies like health insurance and paid vacations – but we take on the hustle to find clients, wrangle payments, deal with tax and labor laws, work hellish hours, and triple our paperwork and record keeping.

In light of that, it’s hard to believe anybody goes the self-employment route. But you know what? I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurs all my life (and I’m married to one), and frankly I don’t think it’s a choice. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is something one is born with.

Ask any “serial entrepreneur” (meaning, someone driven to invent and create business ideas, rather than work for someone else), and they’ll tell you they’re basically unemployable. Or to put it another way, they can’t work for someone else, at least not comfortably. These self-employed wannabe’s chafe at punching a clock, of following company rules, of not having final say over the why, what and when of their work. They’re gifted and incredible workers, but they’re not great employees.

For lots of self-employed people, starting their own business wasn’t so much something they wanted to do. It’s more something they couldn’t not do.

Does this sound like you? Has your job gotten too “tight?” Are you thinking of making a move to become your own boss? Take some time to decide if you need a different job or need to step into self-employment.

Here’s a quick checklist provided by Elena Bajic at Forbes.com. As she says, “Consider carefully. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. But when it’s right, it’s the most satisfying career path one can follow.”

If you can answer the following questions with a resounding “YES,” you may well have what it takes:

  • Are you a believer in — Yourself? Your ideas? Your ability to land on your feet? (no “herd animals” allowed)

  • Are you a risk taker? Do you get energized and excited by ambiguity and unknowns and the possibilities inherent therein?

  • Are you creative? Can you look at what exists and “see” what could be?

  • Are you analytical enough to size up a situation quickly and correctly? (zero tolerance for paralysis by analysis)

  • Are you decisive? (no waffling permitted!)

  • How is your “bounce”? If you make mistakes (and you will) do you have the resilience to recover, learn and keep moving forward.

  • Are you determined? Not just sort of determined…but REALLY determined (the steely resolve kind)

Remember: Your life is not your career, and your career is not your life. But earning a living doing what you love is an incomparable life choice. Just ask any entrepreneur.

Finding Your Passion

It happened again last night.

I was chatting with my sister on the phone, and she piped up with, “I’m thinking of starting my own business, but I don’t know what to choose. Maybe I could…” And then a long discussion followed about the zillion ways she could make money by becoming her own boss.  Long story short, we had a great chat. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her a new career.

FreedomPeople everywhere are having this conversation. Maybe it’s the entrepreneurial spirit nudging our economy, or maybe I just know lots of self-starters. But the fact is that the American Dream is alive and well. Every day, small businesses are started by little guys just like you and me.

So how does a person find that perfect niche? How do we zero in on our true passions, skills and natural talents? How do we choose that “sweet spot” that will make us happy to give 110% and work 60-80 hours a week? Because let’s face it, self-employed people work harder and longer hours – at least till they’re rock solid – than anyone else we know.

One place to start figuring out your new business is by taking self-assessment tests online. Sure, they can be a little boring, but they’re kind of fun, too. Head over to your favorite search engine, and type in “career assessment.” Ding! Ding! Ding! You’ll be knocked over by the number of websites that come up. Careful though – a lot of them want money, so be aware. Still, there are some good ones that are completely free and give tons of great info. For example, the government has a pretty nifty website called My Next Move. You can type in a specific job or career, a general area (like real estate or self-employment), or even just what kind of work you like to do – and My Next Move will spit back a list of matches. And get this: it’ll also tell you whether those are “green” jobs, if they’re hot careers for the future, and whether they’re apprentice-type occupations to get started.

Are you looking for a career change? Wanting to start your own business? Pop over to My Next Move and see what you find. It might just be your future.