StartupNation » Articles http://www.startupnation.com Rock Your Business! Sun, 31 Jan 2016 18:20:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Copyright © StartupNation 2014 webmaster@startupnation.com (StartupNation Media Group, INC) webmaster@startupnation.com (StartupNation Media Group, INC) business 1440 http://www.startupnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/rss-feed-logo.png StartupNation http://www.startupnation.com 144 144 StartupNation provides content, resources, and community to help you build your business. StartupNation offers articles, blogs, step-by-step tutorials, a weekly radio show, community forums, and many more resources to help small businesses grow their business, and aspiring entrepreneurs start a business. small, business, entrepreneur, startupnation, marketing, business, plan, funding, inventor, home, business, sales StartupNation Media Group, INC StartupNation Media Group, INC webmaster@startupnation.com no no Monetizing High Value Low Volume Keywords http://www.startupnation.com/articles/monetizing-high-value-low-volume-keywords/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/monetizing-high-value-low-volume-keywords/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:27:45 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19518 Introduction The online world seems to be buzzing with a couple of mantras that are almost omnipresent, however I think by following these principles, many people miss out on the true potential of the revenue they could be getting. This post will be focused on search traffic, which in my opinion is the most valuable [...]

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Introduction

The online world seems to be buzzing with a couple of mantras that are almost omnipresent, however I think by following these principles, many people miss out on the true potential of the revenue they could be getting.

This post will be focused on search traffic, which in my opinion is the most valuable source of traffic that the web has to offer and a specific kind of search traffic too.

So here are some mantras that I seem to see everywhere.

#1: Passive Income

This is #1 for a reason: this is the ultimate goal. The idea is to earn money in your sleep, i.e: not be involved with the sales process, but rather create processes through which one would be able to systemically generate revenue. More on that below.

#2: Complete Automation

This feeds into #1, passive income comes from automating a process entirely, where the sales pitch, the payment checkout and the product delivery all happen automatically – without the involvement of the entrepreneur or ideally any other human.

#3: Huge Traffic, Large Number of Followers

Getting huge amounts of traffic, twitter followers, Facebook likes and YouTube subscribers is the ultimate goal. The more the better.

I cannot say I entirely disagree with these mantras, but frankly, I think they are not painting the whole picture and neither are they the easiest and/or most profitable modus operandi online.

The other thing to note is that getting a huge audience/traffic base is actually enormously hard work – hardly passive!

To summarize, the goal of most bloggers and social media gurus is

“Get a huge number of visitors, followers, likers and make marginal affiliate revenue from each one”.

Here is the OTHER side of the coin, which in my opinion is where the real money resides:

“Get a low number of high value visitors and make huge affiliate revenue from each one”.

  1. Low Volume but High Value Traffic
  2. Personalized Customer Service
  3. Conversion Through Real World Contracts & Relationships

Lets dig in!

Part 1: Finding & Valuing Keywords

The first step is to understand the value of various keywords that are in your space or a space that you wish to move into.

Firstly, you need to filter out keywords with BUSINESS INTENT, i.e: keywords which reflect a persons intent to make a purchase, not simply research or gain insight.

Secondly, you need to do some basic math: Number of Searches times the Average Sale

Lets get specific here, using fishinguae.com – which is a web property here in Dubai that I run.

Now, doing keyword research is an entire art + science but here is a brief run down on some high value keywords that I am targeting.

Example #1: ‘fishing trips dubai‘.

This keyword gets a measly 210 searches/month – and many people would ignore it and rather focus on a term like ‘fishing in uae‘ which has 1900 searches.

Here is the difference, the first one has clear cut business intent, i.e: the searcher is ready to take out his wallet and make a payment, the second search term is more informational, even though it has higher volumes overall.

Doing some basic math: 210 x $500 (cost of fishing trip) = $105,000

Now, the average commission rate here in Dubai on such trips is 20%, thus if you don’t own the fishing business and simply want to resell your traffic, i.e: become an affiliate you would be looking at an estimated potential of $21,000/month

Example #2: ‘yacht rental dubai‘.

  • This term gets about 1900 searches monthly, and has clear cut business intent.
  • The average yacht rental is 4 hours with no less than $200/hour on the cheapest yacht
  • Taking the most pessimistic outlook: 1900 x 4 hours x 200$ = 1520,000$
  • Take the affiliate commission (lets say its even 10%) = 152,000$

Not bad, right? Per month!

Now compare that to 3% on a book sale or $1.5/click on Adsense?

Here is the funny thing, any serious internet/SEO marketer could take over that space with far less effort than competing on marketing space terms or achieving huge overall traffic.

Part 2: Conversion & Affiliate Mechanism

Fine, you have identified these high value keywords.

Naturally, the next step is to actually rank for that traffic, which in off itself is another science. The good thing is, despite their high value, their low volume often puts off much of the competition and thus its not as challenging as it may appear.

Either way, once you are ranking or close to ranking for those terms – you don’t always have to look for affiliate program. You can make one!

For example, if you take the example of fishing charters, simply send them the following email:

“To whom it may concern,

My name <John> and I run a website <url> which ranks on page #1 for <search term>, <search term> & <search term>. We are able to direct targeted business leads of customers looking to book <service> at a commission rate of <x%> for all successful conversions.”

The fishing charters or any other business for that matter have nothing to lose and out of 10 emails, I am sure that 50% or more will agree.

From that point, you can either charge the customer a 20% down payment online as a reservation which in actuality is your commission or just avoid that altogether and simply have a booking request form or email address that simply redirects the request to the operator.

In my specific case, I also operate the charter business, thus the sales are generated for my own businesses, however I work with a couple affiliates gladly on exactly the model described above, e.g fishfishme.com

Key Take-Aways

  1. You don’t need high traffic websites to generate revenue. In fact fishinguae.com only had 1400 unique visits, but generated approximately 26,000$ revenue last month. Focus on high value keywords
  2. You don’t need to just focus on generic affiliate models such as clickbank, a small effort in manual relationship building can go a long way
  3. In reality there is no such thing as passive income. The super star bloggers who paint lavish lives achieved this through hard work. Blogging, tweeting & posting daily is hard work. Sure, the actual ‘conversion’ happens automatically – but the audience acquisition does not.

P.s: building a startup around high value keywords is probably the best way to validate your idea and have a clear cut path to success versus basing it on some assumptions that are likely to be subject to inherent bias.

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Entrepreneur Vs. Employee: Which Life is for You? http://www.startupnation.com/articles/entrepreneur-vs-employee-life/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/entrepreneur-vs-employee-life/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2015 13:30:12 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19509 Many people dream of launching the startup that will make them millions of dollars and lead them to respect and success within their industry. There are many things about entrepreneurship that sound good. You’re your own boss. You can set your own hours. You’ll be working towards your vision, and not another person’s. What’s remarkable [...]

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Many people dream of launching the startup that will make them millions of dollars and lead them to respect and success within their industry. There are many things about entrepreneurship that sound good. You’re your own boss. You can set your own hours. You’ll be working towards your vision, and not another person’s. What’s remarkable is that in spite of this, very few people take the steps to open their own businesses, and those that do, often quickly return to working for somebody else. This is because entrepreneurs and employees differ in personalities, world view, and priorities. This doesn’t make one better or more hard-working than the other. In fact, one of the goals of this article is to dispel the notion that entrepreneurs are hard-working and ambitious, while employees are simply clock punchers with no vision. If you are considering the life of an entrepreneur, here is a bit of information that may help you to decide if this is the life you want.

Entrepreneurs and Employees: The Myth of Passion

If you choose to become an entrepreneur, many people will assume that you have an exceptional amount of passion for your work. While this may be true, there is no reason to assume that an entrepreneur is more passionate than an employee. In fact, an entrepreneur must split their days between financial planning tasks, marketing, dealing with human resource issues, and accomplishing a laundry list of managerial and operational tasks. In a given day, they may not actually get to spend a large amount of time doing the work that got them into the business they are in. On the other hand, an employee may spend ninety percent of their day, specifically doing the work that they love.

None of this means that the entrepreneur is not passionate. It’s just an indication that the entrepreneur and the employee might be passionate about different things. For the employee, it may be the work itself that drives them. For the entrepreneur, it could be the concepts of ownership and creation that keep them going. These differing passions bring up the next difference between employee and entrepreneur.

Generalization and Specialization

When an entrepreneur launches a business, it may be born of a specific skill or talent that they have, however as the business grows, it is inevitable that their attentions and talents will be divided between many areas. This leads to them knowing a little bit about many things. Employees on the other hand tend to know a lot about one or two things. This often means that their expertise is more in depth than the entrepreneur, but unlike the entrepreneur, they are often lost if they are expected to perform in another area.

The Risk/Ownership Trade Off

If somebody passes up an opportunity to go out on their own as an entrepreneur, their reason for doing so is often that they do not wish to take on the risks of launching and running a business venture. They are more comfortable giving up the benefits of ownership such as growth, notoriety, and income growth in order to avoid the drawbacks such as loss of personal savings. Entrepreneurs take on the risk, and expose themselves to the possibilities of any resulting rewards. Of course, this difference cannot always be attributed to willingness.

Resources and Support Systems

Not all differences between entrepreneurs and employees are due to personality, preferences, or ability. Some are due to life circumstance. As a whole, entrepreneurs have more resources and stronger support systems than employees. This might include personal financial resources, or friends and family members who are willing to invest or give emotional support. These resources often mitigate the level of personal risk they take on if they should decide to open their own business. There are many people who remain employees in spite of having a strong entrepreneurial drive, simply because they lack those resources.

Differing Views of Failure

Entrepreneurs are accustomed to failure. Most successful business owners make several missteps when developing their businesses and even more missteps when they run those businesses. Because of this, they learn to embrace failure as a learning experience. Failure isn’t something that they take personally. It is something that they embrace as a way of learning where changes and adjustments need to be made. Employees, on the other hand, dread failure. This is often because failure is directly tied to performance reviews, and performance reviews are directly tied to compensation and promotions. Employees also tend to take failure more personally, because it often indicates a weakness in their expertise or a lack of proper resources and training in the workplace.

After Hours Priorities

When an employee is out of the office and they are not on call, they tend to focus on family and leisure activities. Employees want to fit in as much entertainment and relaxation into their down time as they possibly can, because they have little time to fit this into the work day. On the other hand, entrepreneurs spend more time focusing on planning, education, and personal development during their off hours because that is the time they have to plan for the future both personally and professionally. None of this is to say that entrepreneurs never have time for family and entertainment. They simply have less down time than employees, even when they are physically away from their place of business.

Assuming Accountability

A great employee will assume accountability for themselves and those in their charge. This means taking the lead on solving problems that exist, and preventing problems that may occur in the future. If they are leaders in addition to being employees, they also feel as if they are accountable for the professional development of their underlings. A great entrepreneur assumes accountability for an entire organization and the professional development of all of their employees. In addition to this the entrepreneur is also accountable to their investors.

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6 Soft Skills for Entrepreneurs: A Guide to Success http://www.startupnation.com/articles/6-soft-skills-entrepreneurs-guide-success/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/6-soft-skills-entrepreneurs-guide-success/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 13:59:58 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19496 Did you know that you can be one of the most brilliant minds in your field, but lack what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? This is because in addition to needing hard skills (technical knowledge), you also need soft skills. If you don’t have these skills, you cannot successfully develop a business, work [...]

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Did you know that you can be one of the most brilliant minds in your field, but lack what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? This is because in addition to needing hard skills (technical knowledge), you also need soft skills. If you don’t have these skills, you cannot successfully develop a business, work with others, or do many of the other tasks required when you own your own business. The six soft skills you need to learn are leadership, relationship building, empathy, public speaking, time management, and negotiation. If you would like to learn more about each of these skills, continue reading. Not only will we define each skill, we will also provide resources so that you can take steps to further develop your soft skills.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is a tough one. Very few of us are natural public speakers, but if you want to lead the next great startup, you will have to learn to become comfortable speaking to groups. If you wish to become a better public speaker, you must do the following:

  • Work to get past your discomfort at public speaking
  • Learn your voice – Are you naturally funny, do you have an inspiring story, etc.?
  • Make an effort to speak to other people.

As you develop your public speaking skills, you will begin to notice that you can apply these same skills to developing your acumen as a salesperson. Take a moment to think about the similarities. You are making a presentation, you are working to convince your audience, and you are doing so in spite of any trepidation that you may have.

Read more here for some excellent public speaking advice.

Time Management

Time management is simply using your time in a way that is most productive to you. In order to do this successfully you must, prioritize your tasks, use a calendar or an app in order to stay organized and on top of things, work hard during your most productive times, use self-discipline to avoid wasting time, learn what helps you to be efficient, delegate tasks, and give yourself breaks when you truly need them. If you learn time management, you will become more productive, and you will make the people on your team feel as if their time is also valued and respected. Time management is one of the most essential skills that all successful entrepreneurs have developed already in college. Without this habit, you cannot expect to succeed in college or business.

Here is an excellent course on time management for entrepreneurs.

Relationship Building

Business is all about building beneficial relationships, not just for you and your company, but for your customers, vendors, and employees. Hopefully, you already possess one of the core traits required in relationship building. This is simply being a decent person who cares about others and who wants to provide them with information, assistance, or entertainment. You can begin relationship building by starting an informational blog for your customers, posting instructional videos on YouTube, or simply reaching out to potential customers with a giveaway offer. Some people are hesitant to engage in relationship building because they don’t want to risk giving something and getting nothing back in return. However, if you give it a try, you will see that for the most part, people will reciprocate.

Take a moment to learn more about building business relationships.

Leadership

Many people know how to be a boss. Not many know how to be a leader. A boss gives out orders. A leader is not solely focused on accomplishing tasks. They are focused on developing a team and developing the people within their team. Leadership means:

  • Showing a willingness to work as hard as anybody on your team
  • Understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivates each member of your team
  • Supporting truly open communication
  • Giving feedback that is fair, timely, and constructive

Developing leadership skills is truly a trial by fire. The best way to grow this skill is to lead in an open and honest way, seek advice from mentors, and to be open to feedback from your team.

Check out this great blog post about building up your skills as a leader.

Negotiation

Negotiation is a tough skill to learn. If you’ve never participated in a negotiation session before, it can feel strange contradicting what another party feels you deserve for your products and services. If you are on the other side of the negotiation table it is equally as uncomfortable. Fortunately, you can develop strong negotiation skills as long as you practice, and you know a few tricks:

  • Know what you are willing to do if you cannot come to an agreement
  • Remain calm
  • Know your stuff
  • Never make a claim you cannot back up

Try practicing your negotiating skills at flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales. Start by simply asking for a small discount or a buy one get one free offer.

Here you can find more useful tools for productive negotiations.

Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important skills that an entrepreneur can acquire. It can be easy to confuse sympathy with empathy, but there are some distinct differences between the two words. Sympathy is simply feeling compassion for another person. Empathy includes that same feeling compassion, but is a result of understanding where another person is coming from. If you develop a strong sense of empathy, it will help you to approach customer service issues from a position of understanding, support and motivate your employees, and even to develop content to which your customers can relate.

Strongly developed empathy skills begin with great listening skills. The more you listen, the more you understand the other person’s view point. In order to truly listen, however, you have to engage in active listening. This means asking questions to clarify and learn more, and repeating back what you have heard to show that you understand.

Here are five ways you can become more empathetic.

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Startup Ideas You Could Launch Tomorrow http://www.startupnation.com/articles/2015-new-startup-ideas/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/2015-new-startup-ideas/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:52:28 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19492 It has been said that 9 out of every 10 startups fail. This is an extraordinarily frightening figure. Whether this is accurate or not, it’s a good reminder that starting your own business is hard, very hard. Entrepreneurs that fail, however, are not failed entrepreneurs. One of the greatest assets in business is to learn [...]

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It has been said that 9 out of every 10 startups fail. This is an extraordinarily frightening figure. Whether this is accurate or not, it’s a good reminder that starting your own business is hard, very hard. Entrepreneurs that fail, however, are not failed entrepreneurs. One of the greatest assets in business is to learn from failure, quickly, and apply those lessons to future endeavors.

What follows is a list of startup ideas that you could launch tomorrow, with little capital and a small time investment. Potentially, you could go wild with these businesses and run them into the ground without damaging your wallet, your ego, or your reputation. Get a head start on your big idea: learn from the success or failure of a small one.

Networking Services

All you really need is a regular location. Market to a particular professional group, charge an entrance fee, and make sure you’re providing some kind of recurring value. As a bonus, you might just meet some very useful people.

Cleaning Services

With the only initial outlay being cleaning products or specialist equipment, it shouldn’t be too complex to turn a profit from a specialist cleaning service. A pressure washer would be a good place to start: you could clean cars, driveways, gutter and more.

Gift Wrapping / Hamper Making

If you’ve got a gift for present buying, then putting together hampers for special occasions could be a viable option. Purchase enough for a few different basket options, take plenty of nice photos, and then wait until your first order to get the stock. Take some inspiration from gift websites like Think Geek or Toxic Fox, and think about unusual or niche products to include or personalize.

Coffee Delivery

Buying your own coffee machine could be ludicrously expensive. Instead, partner up with a local coffee shop that doesn’t yet deliver. Work out the furthest you could get by car or bike, and then help them advertise their new delivery service. You’ll need something to keep the beverages in once piece…and hot.

Baking

For particularly talented bakers, this is a no-brainer. You should be able to work out your initial costs easily, start taking orders quickly, and build up a sensible-sized customer base in no time. Marketing is very important here, twee bakeries are a dime a dozen. Find an angle.

Graphic Design

Artistic talents aren’t something all of us are blessed with, but anybody with a talent for design should consider selling their services. In graphic design, you will live and die by the quality of your work. Put together a great portfolio, and then reach out to local clients that are in desperate need of a face lift.

Social Media Accounts Manager

A bad Twitter feed is very bad indeed. In fact, whatever the platform, poorly curated posts can tarnish the reputation of a brand. Lend a helping hand to business that seem to be struggling, and take on their social marketing.

eBay

People have junk, and you could sell it. It’s no secret that eBay is time consuming and at times frustrating, but it is also a potential goldmine. Lots of customers will be willing to split the revenue with you if you take on the work of selling for them.

T Shirts

The outlay is a little more here. You’ll need to order stock, keep a careful track of sales, and stay on top of delivery. Nevertheless, this is all good training for a future e-commerce business. Come up with a few eye-catching designs, and spend some time marketing to a small audience online.

Event Coordinator

Put those good organization skills to use. People hate planning big events, and all the stress that comes with it. Take care of everything, and your relieved customers will be happy to compensate you well.

Gardening

Not the most glamorous of tasks, but a noble one nonetheless. From basic lawn mowing and weeding, to planting and growing vegetable, gardening services can be hugely popular with the elderly, those without green fingers, or people who are just too busy to do it themselves. Invest in some tools, hire a van for the first few jobs, and see how big you can grow.

With a bit of forward planning and a small initial investment, you could be up and running with any of these small businesses in a few months. You might fail, and if you do, you’ll have a valuable set of lessons to utilize in the future. If you succeed, then you’ve found a way to secure more capital for future projects. You may even decided that your new tiny business could grow into a much larger one.

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Videoconferencing Is Not Just For Corporate Giants http://www.startupnation.com/articles/videoconferencing/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/videoconferencing/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 14:01:46 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19488 Videoconferencing is not just for major corporations, nowadays. No longer do businesses need expensive and elaborate equipment run by a team of IT guys to make sure everything works. It’s great when a company has all the bells and whistles, but not everyone connected to the video conference needs that. Small Businesses Technology has advanced [...]

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Videoconferencing is not just for major corporations, nowadays. No longer do businesses need expensive and elaborate equipment run by a team of IT guys to make sure everything works.

It’s great when a company has all the bells and whistles, but not everyone connected to the video conference needs that.

Small Businesses

Technology has advanced to the point at which videoconference participants only need a laptop or mobile device with an Internet connection to participate in a meeting.

Entrepreneurs can increase their client base with videoconferencing. Financial planning is a field that can greatly benefit from use of technology, says Lisa Gerstner of Kiplinger. Not only are Millennials a good prospect for receiving financial planning advice via videoconferencing, but “snow birds” can use it as well. With America’s aging population, senior citizens are a big market for financial planners, and today’s seniors know how to use computers and cell phones; doctors can use videoconferencing to consult with their patients, according to the Huffington Post. The addition of video in this case can increase accuracy of a diagnosis as compared with phone call. Some medical insurers recently started covering areas of “telehealth.” Doctors who offer the option of video conferencing give their patients an easier way to see them. It sure beats driving to a doctor’s office, sitting in a big waiting room, moving to a smaller waiting room and finally seeing the doctor.

Growing Popularity

Why is videoconferencing catching on? According to Computer World, today’s technology makes it easier and more affordable to use. The cloud has solved many problems in recent years. With the Blue Jeans enterprise video platform and similar systems, companies and individuals can access and control a videoconference with up to 100 people from anywhere.

With a cloud-based videoconferencing service, a host just logs into his account, starts a meeting and sends out invitations. After the meeting starts, the host can do all kinds of stuff such as record, set up text chats, zoom in and analyze metrics.

Good Reasons

One great reason for using videoconferencing instead of dragging everyone in for a meeting is to avoid note taking and repetition. The videoconference can be recorded and viewed by all who need to see it by clicking on a link.

Like online college courses, videoconferences help avoid repeated questions and the “late guy” who has to be caught up. Participants can focus on the purpose of the meeting without being distracted by side conversations or habitual texters.

A recorded videoconference has an interesting advantage over traditional meetings. Participants can enforce accountability. If someone comes back days after the videoconference with a surprising different recollection of what was discussed and decided, others can refer him to the recording. “Yes, you said that. That was you.”

Collaboration often gets bogged down with delays and confusion when people try to do it over the phone or through instant messages or email. A small videoconference can break through the noise and allow participants to share ideas in real time and ask questions. It’s all there, the people and the charts.

Of course, videoconferencing saves corporations time and money, but it can do the same for entrepreneurs. Cloud-based services allow participants to work from almost anywhere and accomplish more.

Not the Usual Advice

Assuming anyone reading about videoconferencing should already know to

  • Position the camera at eye level or higher
  • Have a fast internet connection
  • Avoid an awkward background
  • Use good lighting
  • Test everything beforehand

Let’s concentrate on some more subtle ideas. Sarah Cooper listed some tricks on Medium that can make videoconference participants look smarter.

Not only should the area behind your look uncluttered, it’s a good opportunity to show off leadership books in a bookcase or display a company logo on a mug or some other inanimate object.

Eating while on a videoconference is not automatically considered rude. Cooper advises participants announce to the group that they were so busy, they didn’t have time to eat. Just don’t overdo it by talking with a full mouth or eating loudly. Remember your teeth and anything on them are visible.

Showboating on a videoconference can be just as annoying as it is in the board room. Casually mentioning the odd time zone you’re calling from can give other participants perspective, but don’t expect applause. Holding children or pets up for the camera might be cute for a moment, but that easily can backfire in an annoying and distracting way.

This goes back to testing. Don’t try to show off by experimenting with the latest video watch during the videoconference. The Cooper Review has an infographic listing suggestions for looking smarter during videoconferences, but they’re mostly meant as jokes, so be aware the audience before trying to prank the group. Some videoconference jokes just make people look incompetent.

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3 Quick Lead Generation Ideas That Every Startup Should Know http://www.startupnation.com/articles/3-quick-lead-generation-ideas-every-startup-know/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/3-quick-lead-generation-ideas-every-startup-know/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:24:53 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19485 Startups are powered by passion, long hours of work, and an overarching sense of mission – the sense that your idea has the potential to make a big difference in your market and in the world. But many startup founders struggle with sales – especially early on when they’re trying to find their market and [...]

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Startups are powered by passion, long hours of work, and an overarching sense of mission – the sense that your idea has the potential to make a big difference in your market and in the world. But many startup founders struggle with sales – especially early on when they’re trying to find their market and figure out exactly what their value proposition is. Where can startups go to get new B2B sales leads? With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few quick lead generation tips that startup founders and their teams can use right out of the gate to start finding new business opportunities.

Start With Your Inner Circle

One of the best ways to find sales leads is to start by networking within your inner circle of contacts, former colleagues, family and friends. Make a list of 20 people who know you well and who would be happy to help you, then start calling and set up coffee meetings to share your business plan with them and ask them for referrals and contacts. Ideally, every one of your “inner circle” of closest friends and colleagues will be eager to help introduce you to 10 or more other people who might turn out to be serious business leads. Ideally, you should start networking your way into opportunities by starting with the people who know you best and trust you the most – that way, they can give you a foot in the door to start introducing yourself to people who might know the right people to talk to at your target audience companies.

Get Smarter About LinkedIn

Once you know which companies you most want to sell to, build on your “inner circle” networking strategy by using LinkedIn. Lots of people are on LinkedIn but don’t really use it actively – they might have updated their resume and re-connected with old co-workers, but they’re not really using it as a daily hub of activity. This is a mistake. LinkedIn is a great resource for B2B lead generation because you can use it for research – figure out which companies and B2B buyers are the right fit for what you sell – and you can also use it to do smarter networking to “warm up” the cold call and email solicitations that you will eventually make when you’re ready to start pitching these people on your company’s solution. Another underrated LinkedIn marketing strategy is to join LinkedIn groups that affect your industry – many of your target decision-makers might already be on LinkedIn looking for answers and advice on specific questions and problems. By being more proactive on LinkedIn, you can enter into these conversations and build up a reputation as a smart, helpful resource – and this will make it more natural and easy for you to open up a dialogue to create a business relationship.

Go All-in on Content Marketing

Startups usually don’t have a big budget for advertising – and that’s totally fine, because for startups, the most authentic and often most effective way to get new sales leads is to put your time and effort into content marketing. Content marketing is great because it’s useful on multiple levels: it helps you get new inbound sales leads, it gives you a “calling card” that you can use to send to new prospective customers, and it gives you raw material for educating your customers that you can utilize as part of online demos and presentations.

Why is content marketing so great for startups? Because it’s all about heart. As I wrote in this previous article about content marketing, content marketing demands you to be real and be passionate. You’ll be sharing your insights, your thoughts, and your expertise with a wider audience in your industry, and in the new reality of the social media age, this is often the best way to build business relationships – by being really generous and putting yourself out there and exercising thought leadership.

What should you write about, blog about, podcast about or make YouTube videos about as part of your content marketing strategy? Not “your product” (because you don’t want to be overly salesy and self-promotional), but feel free to talk about the problems in your industry that your product helps to solve. Share your big picture thinking about where your industry is heading. Share your sense of mission. Advocate for new ways of doing things and new ways of solving problems. Show your readers and listeners why you’re unique and why you’d be a good person and a good company to work with.

Startups have a lot of challenges and never-ending to-do lists, but with the right lead generation approach, getting new business leads should be easier than you might expect. It’s all about networking (starting with your inner circle of people who know you best), getting your name out there with the right people in your industry (via LinkedIn), and establishing a reputation for thought leadership and expertise (via smart content marketing).

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Guide to Authorpreneurship: Turn Your Passion for Writing into a Start-Up http://www.startupnation.com/articles/guide-authorpreneurship-turn-passion-writing-start-up/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/guide-authorpreneurship-turn-passion-writing-start-up/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:15:28 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19478 Facing a blank page is an extraordinarily challenging position for a hopeful writer to be in. If you don’t have a real plan, nothing is going to work out. But, rather than fearing that blank page, you can create the action plan to get yourself motivated. Motivation is the key to start working towards becoming [...]

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Facing a blank page is an extraordinarily challenging position for a hopeful writer to be in. If you don’t have a real plan, nothing is going to work out. But, rather than fearing that blank page, you can create the action plan to get yourself motivated. Motivation is the key to start working towards becoming a professional authorpreneur.

Defining your Writing Routine

If you are only dreaming to become a professional writer, you need to define your writing routine. This routine includes the regular actions that you are going to take that will help you start-up and become a professional authorpreneur. Here are some examples of incorporating rituals into your daily routine:

  • Make writing a daily habit
  • Establish a time to read each day

Any amount of time that you spend reading is very valuable to your experience and ability as a writer.

  • Create a space to write

You owe yourself that isolated space and the comfort that goes along with it.

  • Set assigned times where you will be writing without disruption

Again, if you want to be a writer, you are going to set this boundary in order to force the support of those around you

  • Keep a journal

Write something reflective in order to gain experiences as a writer.

  • Light candles or find other ways to introduce pleasant scents into the writing area.
  • Read to others
  • Experience new things

You cannot be a writer if you do not have hew things to write about. This means being open to new experiences.

The point of these rituals is to help you claim the role of author-entrepreneur, to make writing a priority in your life, and to simply continue writing.

Making a Strategic Plan for Your Initial Steps as a Writer

The first part of this plan is probably quite obvious – to improve writing skills. Don’t waste time worrying about the quality of that writing. Just write.

The next part of building this strategic plan is to establish the goals you want to accomplish. So, what kind of writer are you willing to be? Now, keep in mind that the answer to this question is not, about your ultimate goal as a writer. But, what are you going to do to simply establish yourself as a writer.

In other words, what practical steps are you going to make to become a person who earns a living as a writer?

Here are some steps that you can take:

  • Establish yourself among your friends as a ‘director of communications’. Help them to word or reword communications, letters, and memos.
  • Seek out editing and writing positions in local publications.

If there is a local newspaper where you live, there is a great chance that they are looking for columnists, feature writers, and others who are willing to work hard to keep their publication going.

Describing the Vision Plan

Why do you write? If you are unsure, that is fine. Just be aware that this is an indication that you need to begin working on your vision plan. So, ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy the solitary aspect of writing?
  • Do you like to help people or encourage them through writing?
  • Are you talented at facilitating communications between entities with your writing talents?
  • Have you found a way to create an income as a writer?
  • What makes writing interesting and exciting for you?

Putting together Your Career Goals

Just take a blank piece of paper and answer these questions clearly:

  • Are you interested in being published in print, or are you interested self-publishing or e publishing?
  • Do you see yourself working best as a staff member or as a freelancer?
  • Would you prefer to write fiction or non-fiction.
  • Is there a particular genre that you are drawn to or in which you have proven expertise?
  • Are you drawn to the idea of writing novels or books, or are you drawn to the idea of writing articles and other short format pieces?
  • Is there a particular niche you would like to work in (technical writing, content and marketing, education, health and life style, technology, science, the environment, entertainment)?
  • Are you comfortable with the notion of not receiving a paycheck on a predictable basis?
  • Are you comfortable with marketing yourself to clients?
  • Are you willing to write pieces and then find clients to sell those pieces to?

If you are serious in your intentions to become an authorpreneur than you should have clear end goals in mind.

Developing your Brand

To put it simply, your brand is what people think of when they read the things you have written, and (if you have established some notoriety) what they think when they see or hear your name. The biggest part of creating your brand is to establish your voice. You can accomplish this by continually refining your writing until your voice is clear in the things that your write. The second part of developing your brand centers on marketing. This is where it is hugely important to have a presence on social media, and to careful manage and maintain that presence. What visitors see on your website, your blog, Facebook, and even what you tweet all contribute to how they perceive you. Your job is to decide how you want to be seen, and then to create a brand that reflects that.

The Action Plan

Now is the time to create an action plan. This entails writing down specific steps that you are going to take to turn the vision into a reality. You begin by taking your vision plan (what you want to do) and turning it into an action plan (how you are going to make it happen). Here are some sample items that you might include on your action plan.

  • Establishing a website with samples of my work – Time Period = 1 month or less
  • Establishing a blog and contributing at least one post per week – Time Period = 1 week or less
  • Establish social media accounts as a professional writer – Time Period = 1 week or less
  • Find other writer’s blogs to follow – Time Period = 2 weeks or less
  • Contact Publishers to feel out interest on a book idea that I have – Time Period = 1 month or less
  • Set up an account on freelancer.com – Time period = 1 week or less
  • Submit samples of my work to a local lifestyle magazine – Time period = 2 weeks or less
  • Complete manuscript – Time period = 6 months or less
  • Educate myself about e publishing – Time period = 3 months or less

Note that each item is a specific action step and each comes with a time limit. This increases motivation and helps avoid procrastination. Becoming a professional authorpreneur is not an easy task. Don’t forget, such plan will require dedication, motivation, and the willingness use time management tools to keep yourself on task.

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7 Tips to Successfully Grow Your Business http://www.startupnation.com/articles/7-tips-successfully-grow-your-business/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/7-tips-successfully-grow-your-business/#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2015 19:17:17 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19473 Obviously, when you start a small business, you want to succeed. After all, it is said that most businesses will fail in their first year. But, there are things that you can do in order to make sure that this doesn’t happen, and that your business is indeed a successful one. Here are seven more [...]

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Obviously, when you start a small business, you want to succeed. After all, it is said that most businesses will fail in their first year. But, there are things that you can do in order to make sure that this doesn’t happen, and that your business is indeed a successful one. Here are seven more things to keep in mind to grow your business.

1. You need to Work Hard

You will need to be at your business all the time, and ready to jump in and do any work that is needed. You will often be faced with the most menial of tasks, but they all need to be done. This includes cleaning, which is noticed a lot more than you may realize.

2. Be Passionate

If you are not enthusiastic about what you are trying to sell (in this case, you are trying to sell your business to the public). The more passionate you are about what you are doing, the more others are going to be infected by your passion. Threadless CEO Jake Nickell said, “I try not to make any decisions that I’m not excited about.”

3. Be Customer-Oriented

Getting and keeping customers is the sign of a successful business, so you need to make sure that you are always focusing on your customers. They should always come first no matter what. The more satisfied they are, the more likely they are to be return customers, and they will recommend your business to others.

4. Be Competitive

In order to stay ahead of the game, you need to keep up with or even get ahead of the competition. You need to create your own competitive advantage, which is going to involve your own special selling proposition. The better this is, the easier it will be to stay competitive. There are other aspects to consider as well, including location, and your products/services.

5. Respect Your Employees

Your employees need to be treated like people, not like numbers. Don’t treat them like many employees at large corporations, who are only seen as faces. You have a great team of talented people. Make sure that they know they are appreciated. Happy employees lead to successful businesses. Kohls Coupons Online CEO Rick Taylor said, “Treat your employees as equals and they’ll make the difference.”

6. Keep Your Focus

If you are all over the place with your ideas for your business, you are never going to truly grow, because you will always be working on too many things. You need to focus, and keep that focus. “The thing that I learned early on is you really need to set goals in your life, both short-term and long-term, just like you do in business. Having that long-term goal will enable you to have a plan on how to achieve it. We apply these skills in business, yet when it comes to ourselves, we rarely apply them,” says Denise Morrison, CEO Campbell Soup Co.

7. Embrace Technology

If you are going to keep up with your competition, you need to keep up with the latest technologies, which are always improving. Technology can be anything from new software to telephone systems and more. If a technology can improve the way that you do business, make sure that you are taking advantage of it. Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo, said, “The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you. That is a big lesson. I cannot just expect the organization to improve if I don’t improve myself and lift the organization, because that distance is a constant.”

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5 Essential Lessons I Learned From Being a Digital Marketer http://www.startupnation.com/articles/5-essential-lessons-learned-digital-marketer/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/5-essential-lessons-learned-digital-marketer/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2015 18:30:10 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19459 This is my first post for the Startup Nation and I am very happy to share any wisdom that I have aggregated in my years as a digital marketer & entrepreneur so far. Introduction So first of all, I’d like to introduce myself & the experience that I have – this will provide more context [...]

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This is my first post for the Startup Nation and I am very happy to share any wisdom that I have aggregated in my years as a digital marketer & entrepreneur so far.

Introduction

So first of all, I’d like to introduce myself & the experience that I have – this will provide more context for the subsequent points.

I manage a Digital Marketing Agency called ‘No Label Inc.’ and my experience can be characterised into 2 parts.

The first is growing out small/medium size websites for SME’s – primarily having static/basic pages with simple conversion mechanisms, a functional UI and most importantly – making sure the right people visit those sites/pages.

The second is an in-house start up called ‘DiveAdvisor’, which is a very large project with mobile apps for both iOS & Play, a very deep backend, user generated content and pages in the tens of thousands.

I truly feel like I have learned some very important lessons which are shared below.

Lesson 1: Stay Light & Small

A new businesses only advantage over a large well established business its ability to out manoeuvre the larger business & really focus the efforts/finances into a single point.

By having a small team, you are able to easily pivot the product, which almost always happens, and secondly you will have a leaner cost structure meaning whatever funding you get will last longer.

Now, of course you have to have ‘enough’ people – but at the same time, you want to have as few as possible.

The key to this is making it extremely difficult to join your team, and testing the person repeatedly.

Lesson 2: Understand What to Automate & When

A lot of startups in the beginning think too big.

Businesses at different sizes has to be structured and run differently and this cannot be forgotten.

For example, if you are a new service/product then you are most likely not dealing with sufficiently large volumes of sales/transactions/interactions to warrant building automation elements.

Lets imagine you are on online store and you just launched.

You do NOT need to hire a separate person and integrate an ERP + CRM system right away.

What you need is a spread sheet.

Only once you really are on track to a point where you cannot manage the business any longer then do you need to invest in to the next phase of automation.

Do not anticipate problems too far ahead of you.

Continuing with the online store example, your initial investment should be focused on increasing sales, rankings & engagement with your store.

Now, of course there definitely times when YOU do need automation, or rather investment in a serious systemic solution.

The trick and the experience of the manager/founder is to decide when this is necessary and when it is not.

Lesson #3: Building the MVP & the Power Rule

Build an MVP, get to market fast and survive.

That is the general axiom of startup wisdom, however, establishing WHAT the MVP is, is perhaps the biggest question that needs to be answered in any business.

There are 2 things to keep in mind when trying to understand how to prioritise all the tasks that need to be done.

The first is establishing what the MVP is. Frankly, in the beginning this is mostly an assumption, although customer validation, surveys, market research and any available data can make the guess a rather educated one.

Once the MVP is established, it is important to build it in progression, so that it becomes usable as quickly as possible.

Lets say you are building a car and your MVP is basically a body, steering wheel, brakes, engine and tires.

The idea is that once you get in the car you are able to do get from point A to point B.

The steps which you take must get you as quickly to the point where this is possible, disregarding some of the finer things like A/C, radio player & so on.

Each step must be the next logical step in bringing the user to a usable MVP, without distractions on tasks that are beyond the MVP, unless of course absolutely necessary.

The next thing to understand is the ‘Power Rule’.

The power rule is basically a ‘law’ found in nature which shows that in many different situations, 80% of the effort will bring 20% of the reward and vice versa.

Put simply, 20% of the things you will do today will bring 80% of the benefits and vice versa.

Identifying how this applies to you is critical.

For example, if you find that 80% of your customers are using a specific service (20%) – then most of the effort should be made on improving/growing out that service, rather than focusing on the other 80% which will only be used by 20% of the users.

To sum up:

  1. Identify what MVP is clearly
  2. Build MVP in least number of steps
  3. Focus on the most important 20% of the business

Lesson #4: Planing Costing & Understanding Utility

Similar to the dot com bubble in the 90s, a lot of startups seem to be speculating everything they do way beyond what its actually worth.

Besides mentally inflating the value of their own business, they mentally deflate the costs that it will take to build this vision.

The first thing that must be really understood is the ‘utility’ or the ‘value’ that your product or service brings.

For example, if you build an app that can save somebody 10% of their taxi bill, or a website that helps someone learn a new language very clearly – they are definitely getting ‘use’. The degree of this ‘value’ is really important to understand.

In the first case the user will save 1000’s of $ in the long run, and in the second he will know a new language that will open new career opportunities and salary increases.

In contrast, think about an app that lets you make fart noises.

Compare the 2 and see what you are willing to pay for and what you are not.

The right thing to do is be extremely prudent & pedantic.

You must take the most pessimistic expectation of costs as well as the revenues, to visualise the worst case scenario and use that as the basis for your plans.

Lesson #5: How To Manage Employees

Managing real life people, is often far harder than computer code, bugs or revision history.

The goal is to nurture your team and create the environment to get the most potential out of every employee.

What makes this difficult is the fact that every person is different and understanding the approach to each one needs to personal – thus taking time.

There is no way to systemically automate the selection of HR.

Some people like to be micro managed and given clear cut tasks, while others like to be given larger tasks and allowed to work independently.

Some are morning people and some work best at night.

Matching the right personality to the right kind of task is very important and can be the difference between a successful venture and not.

Think about it, most VC’s will blatantly tell you that they value the team over the business.

Building a well functioning team that collectively can do something a lot more than the sum of their parts if probably the most important task & goal of any entrepreneur in any sphere of business.

Conclusion

A startup, or to use a less ‘trendy’ word; ‘young business’ is a very exciting & important phase of a business.

The sad reality is that the vast majority of startups, especially in the overly inflated, speculated and often quite useless ‘tech’ sector fail.

Succeeding in business takes a more than just skills, it takes experience and a sense of judgement that only comes from experience.

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12 Startup Pitfalls to Avoid http://www.startupnation.com/articles/12-startup-pitfalls-avoid/ http://www.startupnation.com/articles/12-startup-pitfalls-avoid/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 10:02:14 +0000 http://www.startupnation.com/?post_type=articles&p=19157 Avoid these pitfalls when starting your business and save yourself a headache or two!

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Startup pitfalls to avoid

12 startup pitfalls to avoid - Lioness MagazineSo you want to be an entrepreneur, eh? Get ready for the ride of your life. Following our passions gives us a feeling of vivacity that is infectious.  We get tunnel vision as we hone in on our dreams. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we need tunnel vision to stay on task and to keep our dream alive on awful days. But other the other hand, we have to heed the signs that may be pointing for us to take a new route or reevaluate an idea.

If you don’t pump your breaks every now and then to come up for air, you could find yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of disaster.

Here are 12 Startup Pitfalls to Avoid.

1. Going with no guidance.

The task of writing a business plan can be daunting. In fact, many people with exciting business ideas often give up when it is time to get it down on paper or they fly without one and wonder why their plane crashes mid-way after takeoff. Your plan is your map and every now then you’re going to need to look back at it to make sure you’re on track (especially if you intend to seek financing).

Whether it’s in an old shoe box, computer file or tattooed on the bottom of your foot, you should at least have the vision, its purpose, the mission and your target audience written down somewhere.

2. Spending cash unwisely.

Think of your money as your lifeline. Even blood donors have to wait 56 days before they can donate again. You should be spending conservatively and only on necessities as a startup. Entrepreneurship brings a variety of hidden costs.

Mismanagement of funds and bankrolling poorly executed ideas is a surefire way to go broke fast.

3. Figuring it out on your own.

No one is an expert in everything. If you don’t know the answer, find someone who does. There are a variety of programs to assist entrepreneurs, networking opportunities to meet other professionals and workshops to teach solutions to problems.

You can’t be all things. Smart entrepreneurs surround themselves with smart people.

4. Fearing failure.

You’re going to fail most of the time and get it right some of the time. You get more lessons and experience out of losses than wins. It’s scary. It sucks. It’s entrepreneurship.

Think things through. Try your hardest. If you fail, reevaluate, get back up and repeat.

5. Not devising a marketing strategy.

How can someone buy your product if they never heard of it? You’ll learn very quickly that it takes more than grandma bragging about you to her friends at church and a classified ad to build a brand.

Find out where your target audience is going and be there when they arrive. You’re also going to have to leave your modesty at home and actually tell people what you do. If you’re not enthusiastic to sell what they will be buying, they won’t be enthusiastic about taking their hard-earned cash to buy it.

6. Growing too fast.

Once you start meeting your financial goals, even exceeding them, this is the perfect time to reevaluate and pull out that old business plan or vision statement we talked about in #1. Don’t just aimlessly decide to start hiring new employees, adding more products to your line, making large distribution deals or spending more on plush items.

Growing requires preparation and a blueprint. Just remember that more employees, more office space, more products, more overhead costs means spending MORE money.

7. Not being on the same page as your partner.

If you’re going into business with a partner, you guys not only need to be on the same page, but at the end of that page should be a line for you both to sign on and a notary seal. Nothing can make a venture go sour like two people who begin to despise one another.

Sure they’ll be days when you want deflate your partner’s car tires, but a good working relationship starts with a legally sound one. Your roles should be clearly defined, your strengths and weaknesses should be shared candidly behind closed doors and your decision-making process should be clear before the first decision is implemented. You both should be a unified front to your staff, investors and general public. There should be trust and room for respectful disagreement. Because there will be issues – oh yes – many issues. But who wants to deal with that on top of possible backstabbing?

8. Waiting.

Successful entrepreneurs execute not procrastinate. You can have a billion-dollar idea, but if you never put it into action it is worthless. Entrepreneurs don’t have time to wait or waste.  If you are not a self-motivator who can manage your own time, adhere to deadlines, occasionally beg and be willing to put in at least 12 hours of work most days – then you, my friend, should stick to your day job.

9. Not knowing your competition.

If you don’t know what your competitors are doing, how will you know what sets you a part from them? Do the research. Get to know the leading people in your field. Join associations where your peers are having open conversations about your industry. Buy trade journals. Go to trade shows. Participate in Google+ groups and chime in on discussions on LinkedIn. Be in the know. Thinking two steps ahead keeps you on your toes and full of fresh ideas. Industries seldom die. They change. Make sure you’re at the front end of its revolution.

10. Believing if you ‘Build It, They Will Come.’

Ryan L. Mansell, author of Success In Online Business, encourages entrepreneurs to go beyond themselves. “An idea or service may look good to the entrepreneur but the most important question that should ring in one’s mind is whether customers would actually be willing to pay for it.”

Case in point: after kicking butt in the dental industry, Colgate thought launching Colgate Dinner Entrees (microwaveable meals) was their next great idea. It wasn’t. Do your research and host a few focus groups. Just because it seems like a good idea doesn’t mean it is one.

11. Not packing a tissue box.

Cry Me A River is not just a hot song by Justin Timberlake. It’s a way of life at startups. Five doors may slam in your face before one cracks open wide enough for you to jam your foot in.

So bring your box of tissues, sister. It takes a lot of ugly, boring, tedious work to get your business off of the ground and sometimes you will be up to 2 a.m. getting it done. Your days will be demanding. Your mind will be all over the place and sometimes all it can take is dropping a splat of coffee on your blouse to make you completely lose it. So you may cry. Often. However, get your ass up the next morning and go back to work full throttle. This is your dream. Doing what you love makes the tears worth it.

12. Forgetting to establish your Avengers team.

Successful entrepreneurs are rarely a one-woman show. They usually have a team of good mentors, advisors, friends, family and employees around them. Everyone needs a cheering section. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your company, who can offer words to build you up, not tear you down.

Launching a startup is hard enough. You will wrestle with doubts and fears on your own. The last thing you need is negative comments from the peanut gallery. People who are not entrepreneurs will not always get it so make sure to find other women entrepreneurs you can have a glass of wine with and just vent.

Originally posted on LionessMagazine.com.

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