Inside the Successful Leader’s Mindset

As a business leader, you are mired in the everyday details of your company’s success. You’re worried about your bottom line, your sales goals, or your next board meeting. Amid the chaos, it’s easy to forget that intangibles — like your beliefs — play an important role in your success.

The most successful entrepreneurs share a set of core beliefs that help them persevere as they grow their businesses. These four tips will promote a positive mindset and increase your chances of success:

1. Trust that you’ll adapt to new challenges. Successful entrepreneurs approach uncertainty with confidence. When faced with an unfamiliar challenge, they think of similar situations they’ve handled before or skills sets that might apply. “Focus on the abilities you do have and apply your general knowledge to whatever comes your way,” says Matthew Della Porta, a positive psychologist and organizational consultant.

If you focus on your current skills and your ability to learn new ones, you’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed. “Trust your ability to adapt,” Della Porta says.

2. Attribute your success to hard work, not luck. Successful leaders believe their achievements are due to hard work, not just lucky circumstance. “That’s a result of self-efficacy,” Della Porta says, meaning that people who believe they’ve worked hard trust their ability to master new or unfamiliar skills.

Leaders who are confident in their ability to learn are more likely to seek out and persevere through tough challenges, increasing their chances of success.

3. Believe that you are unique. Every great entrepreneur stands on the shoulders of giants, but successful leaders champion their individuality. In other words, they don’t try to become “the next Steve Jobs.” To be successful, learn from the people you admire but don’t try to emulate them.

“You need to focus on being the first you, not the next someone else,” Della Porta says. If you foster the unique strengths that you bring to the table, then you will be far more likely to stand out in a crowded industry.

4. Challenge your negative beliefs. If you want to succeed, stamp out negative beliefs that might be holding you back. “People have a tendency to self-handicap,” Della Porta says. For example, an executive who believes he won’t meet his sales goals is more likely to prioritize other tasks, giving him a preemptive excuse for a poor performance. His belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Notice the goals or tasks that you shy away from and articulate your beliefs about them. Challenge any negative thoughts by reminding yourself that you will succeed if you apply yourself. When your beliefs are confident and positive, your actions will promote success.

via Inside the Successful Leader’s Mindset | Entrepreneur.com.

Gallup Research: The 10 Functional Demands Of Successful Entrepreneurs – Forbes

Recent Forbes articles have offered ample discussion of the traits of a successful early stage company, but today I’d like to take a closer look at the personality strengths of the actual entrepreneur. I’ve often wondered if some personality types are better suited than others. I would maintain a definite “yes.”

Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton’s book, The Coming Jobs War, has a description for entrepreneurship—he calls it the “scarcest, rarest, hardest energy and talent in the world to find.” Forbes Contributor Dan Schwabel interviewed Jim Clifton in Oct. 2011 here. Aside from age (we’ve been talking about that quite a bit lately), educational background, and number of prior companies, successful entrepreneurs are ones who’ve learned or developed a very specific set of functional traits, Clifton maintains.

Sadly, few educational institutions recognize the psychological factors or know how to instill the critical traits that play such an essential role in a company’s ability to succeed.

As defined in Clifton’s book and also recently covered in a write-up by the Gallup Business Journal, here are the key functional skills every entrepreneur should have:

The 10 Demands of Successful Entrepreneurs, According to Gallup

1. Know your personal brand. Successful entrepreneurs know themselves well and can perceive others accurately.They have a high degree of self awareness and the ability to engage in self reflection that allows them to accurately recognize their strengths and weaknesses and to be open to the prospect of positive change.

This talent helps entrepreneurs to engage with employees, customers, suppliers, and investors in an optimal way that results in positive business outcomes.

2. Take on challenges. There is an inherent risk involved in venture creation. Entrepreneurs make hard decisions, often without complete knowledge of the factors that could affect their businesses. They must deal with the challenges of scarce resources, high uncertainty, and ambiguity.

Entrepreneurs with strong talent in this area are energized, rather than drained, by the perpetual challenges. They are willing to face fears, to take risks, and to experiment when necessary. They frequently take an overly optimistic view of the risks involved (even to a fault). They seek challenges willingly and are undeterred by the risks of venture creation and growth.

3. Think through possibilities and practicalities. Entrepreneurs must constantly hone their abilities to think outside of the box. Successful entrepreneurs can look at an existing idea or product and make it into something even better by looking at it with fresh eyes.

4. Promote the business. Successful entrepreneurs are their own best spokespeople. They are strong communicators, and they are readily able to enroll and motivate others. These traits are essential at every stage of the business.

5. Focus on business outcomes. It would seem to go without saying this would be one of the entrepreneur’s most critical traits. But it is surprising how many executives are unsuccessful or only mildly successful in maintaining this focus. Profit orientation should be a spontaneous, moment-to-moment mental activity for a highly-successful entrepreneur.

Yes, there are other highly valuable aspects of running a business as well–fulfillment, the ability to achieve personal growth and to instill it in others, and the ability to benefit the company’s customers and even the world with a remarkable solution. But without a focus on business outcomes, none of the other values can be fully sustained. Beware of statements such as “yes, we missed our goals, but we were fulfilling a higher purpose,” or “revenue doesn’t matter.” Yes, it does. A successful entrepreneur will recognize inherently that without a solid revenue model, all of the additional higher purposes for running the company are for naught.

6. Be a perpetual student of the business. Successful entrepreneurs are continual “students” who are constantly seeking additional knowledge to become perpetually more skilled at helping their businesses grow. An entrepreneur who is sure he or she knows everything and knows better than anyone else how to achieve their business objectives is destined to level out and to eventually fail. This trait becomes more and more critical as the business progresses.

7. Be self-reliant. Entrepreneurs often fill multiple roles to address the needs of a startup. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs resent this fact or handle these situations poorly. But successful entrepreneurs are prepared to do whatever is necessary to help the business succeed.

The entrepreneur’s sense of responsibility and levels of competence are critical in the early stage of venture creation. However, as the business progresses, entrepreneurs who are unable to shift from self-reliance to delegation may actually hinder the growth of their established company later on.

8. Be a self-starter. Startups and growth companies require long hours of work and high levels of energy and stamina. Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about making things happen. They show high initiative and they have an enduring sense of urgency at all times. They see opportunity where others see roadblocks. The individual who says, “I was never properly trained,” or shows irritation at a lack of detailed instructions or a pressing timeline will never be a successful entrepreneur.

9. Multiply yourself through delegation. As businesses grow, the unilateral decision-making style of early-stage entrepreneurs must change into an environment in which the entrepreneur delegates authority and takes on the role of a team manager instead. Gallup notes that Norman R. Smith and John B. Miner (1983) suggest the transition point is around 30 employees and $750,000 in assets. I would personally suggest the transition happen much earlier than this – at approximately 10 employees and $1.25-1.5 million in sales.

10. Build relationships. An entrepreneur may be the originator of an idea, but almost immediately, he or she must interact with others to secure resources, engage with potential customers and suppliers, or hire and manage employees. At every stage of a business, the ability to build strong relationships is crucial. “Successful entrepreneurs are adept at building relationships,” Gallup says. “They have strong social awareness and can attract and maintain a constituency.” The enthusiasm and positivity of strong relationship builders make it easier for others to interact with them. These entrepreneurs also have high standards of personal conduct that allows others to trust them readily and makes it easier for others to proactively form relationships with them. This skill will be essential at every stage in the company’s growth.

I can personally agree with every one of the traits the Gallup poll has suggested. In my experience, the skills and traits of the entrepreneur have had at least as much to do with a company’s success as the product or service, the state of the economy, or any other factor in determining a company’s chance for success. What has been your own experience with these factors? Are there additional traits you would name? Feel free to share your experiences here.

via Gallup Research: The 10 Functional Demands Of Successful Entrepreneurs – Forbes.

5 Ways to Use Your Network to Grow Your Business | Entrepreneur.com

Have you ever sought advice from the people in a business network you belong to? If not, you are missing out on one of the secondary benefits of being involved in a networking group.

Sure, the primary reason you’re networking is to get referrals, but you also gain access to professionals in almost every type of business. Every good network can actually become a type of “mastermind” group that you can tap to gain more information and knowledge.

Here’s a story about how a simple request for advice led to much more. An owner of a small creative-services firm wanted to relocate across the country to a state with a more favorable business climate. But she became frustrated by her difficulty in communicating with government entities two time zones away. Her plans came to a standstill.

The business owner decided to approach a certified public accountant, who had recently joined her networking group, and seek advice. She provided a brief overview of her situation to the CPA, who turned out to be very knowledgeable and quickly identified what she needed to do to move forward in her new state.

That sounds like a happy ending, but it doesn’t end there. The owner of the creative services firm hired the CPA to help resolve her problems, then transferred all of her financial and recordkeeping functions to the CPA’s firm and referred at least three other business owners to her. In return, the CPA connected her with a major new customer. Surprisingly, all of this happened from a single request for expert advice from one member of a networking group to another.

But seeking help from other network members requires some finesse. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when preparing to ask your network members for advice:

1. Before you ask for something, give something. It’s important to build some social capital with the people in your network before you start asking for favors. Seeking help from people before you’ve given anything is a little like trying to get a withdrawal from your banking account without having put anything in first.

2. Restrict your requests for advice to a person’s area of expertise. Otherwise, you risk putting a fellow network member on the spot and making him or her uncomfortable.

3. Don’t have hidden motives. If network members believe you are seeking advice as a subterfuge for promoting your services, they will not only be offended and unwilling to help you, but they will also feel less confident about your ability to help them.

4. Avoid potentially controversial and sensitive issues. This may sound like common sense, but if you delve too far into the personal, you could cause discomfort and damage the relationship.

5. Don’t ask for advice people would normally charge you for. A quick question or two is fine, but don’t go too far. In the case of the business owner above, she was quick to recognize when to switch from soliciting free advice to enlisting–and paying for–the CPA’s services.

A powerful personal network not only can help you expand your business, but it also can help you improve your business. There’s nothing more powerful than having a room full of people who are ready and willing to help you succeed.

via 5 Ways to Use Your Network to Grow Your Business | Entrepreneur.com.

Using Social Media to Find the Right Customers

There’s no doubt that Facebook is popular. The site not only reels in millions of loyal users each day, a man in Egypt recently named his newborn daughter after the social network.

The question is: Can you leverage the popularity of Facebook and other social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to pick up new customers or clients?

Maybe so, but to make the most of your efforts, you’ll need to come up with a plan to reach the people you want to connect with. Jeffrey Carr, the executive director of New York University’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, offers three tips for finding customers through a directed social media campaign:

1. Choose the right platform.

Just as there is a different audience for Saturday morning cartoons versus the Sopranos, the legions of users who flock to FourSquare, LinkedIn and Facebook are a diverse bunch. If you want to find customers, it’s your job to pick out which platform caters to your business’ desired audience and join it. For instance, if your company’s target market is mature, professional women, establishing a presence on FourSquare, which has more of a youthful, gamer-type user base, may not be right for you. LinkedIn might be a better fit. Likewise, if your customers don’t use Twitter, don’t bother using it. “It’s like putting an ad where people can’t read it,” says Carr.

Selecting the right social media platform for finding customers may seem basic, but business owners tend to leap on to the next big thing. For instance, when the Facebook community surpassed 200 million users in 2008, many business owners piled in — thinking that the popularity of the site would naturally translate to their business. While it certainly happened for some, it’s hardly a sure thing — and the last thing you’ll want to do is waste your time.

2. Give it time.

A big draw of using sites like Twitter and Facebook to find customers is that they’re free. They’ve effectively leveled the playing field between large and small businesses, right? Not quite. Big businesses can often afford to hire a professional to manage their social media efforts, while small businesses, which typically have more limited means, often can’t. But it’s a mistake to do nothing or to even make a half-hearted attempt.

Although you shouldn’t put yourself in hole so you can have an outsized presence on Facebook, you have to be willing to make a serious time commitment or hire someone to put in the time for you. “Between tweeting all the time, finding followers or just maintaining a Facebook site, most companies really underestimate what it takes,” says Carr. It’ll take hours, not minutes, he adds.

3. Provide value.

The best way to get people to follow, fan, and eventually shop at your business is to give them something they want, not just a pitch to buy your product or service. No matter if you’re offering entertainment or information, people will pass along your tweets, newsletters or posts only if they think someone else they know will also find value in it. “You have to pay people for their time,” says Carr.

This approach may not sound like any kind of way to drum up sales. But keep in mind that the more people who know about you and your company, the more people there will be who’ll think of you and your company when they want to start shopping.

via Using Social Media to Find the Right Customers | Entrepreneur.com.

To Find Local Customers, Use Local Resources

For business owners, it’s likely well-known that understanding how your customers consume news and information can help you target your marketing efforts to better reach them. So here’s a question: Do you know what resources your customers rely on for local news?

Your first stab at an answer might be that older folks turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, while the younger generation turns to their computers. But as it turns out, a new study shows that it’s a lot more complex than that, and savvy business owners would be well advised to take notice.

The survey, from the Project for Excellence in Journalism (a Pew Research Center project), breaks down local information into 16 topics — ranging from weather and breaking news at the top to social services and zoning issues at the bottom. Here’s that topical breakdown by medium and why it matters for businesses:

Television, for instance, is where most of us go for breaking news, weather and traffic. Newspapers are the primary source for news on community events, crime and local government. The daily paper ties with the Internet for news on housing, schools and jobs, and it ties with TV on local political goings-on. Most go online for information on restaurants and other local businesses. And radio ties with TV for traffic news.

This survey dispels the belief that we’re all married to a primary source for most of our local news and that, in fact, while local TV remains king, when broken down by topic, the tube is a primary source for only three subjects — breaking news, weather and traffic.

Though, surprisingly — and here’s where owners need to tune in — print newsletters, online listservs and good old word of mouth ranks second as the source people use weekly. Those surveyed said newspapers and their websites rank first or are tied for first place in 11 of the 16 key topics. But for the nearly 80 percent of respondents who go online, the Internet ranks as a top source of information on most of the local topics. For those under 40, the Internet is top choice (or tied for first) for 10 of the topics and is a close second for four others.

What’s more, 64 percent of those surveyed said they turn to at least three media sources for local news each week, with 45 percent of those claim they don’t have one particular favorite source. As far as the 16 local topics are concerned, weather tops the chart as the most sought-after information (89 percent), with breaking news following at 80 percent, local politics at 67 percent and crime at 66 percent.

And while it’s seen as supplemental, nearly half of the adults surveyed (47 percent) said they use mobile device such as smartphones to get some of their news and information, a trend that’s certain to grow rapidly in the future.

via To Find Local Customers, Use Local Resources | Entrepreneur.com.

Location-Based Check-Ins on the Rise with Consumers

Just when you thought American’s love affair with their mobile phones couldn’t get any closer. A recent study shows that an increasing number of mobile-device users — a.k.a. would-be customers — are taking advantage of geosocial and location-based check-in services such as Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare.

One in five smartphone users currently use location-based “check-in” services on their phones, representing 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers, or about 7 percent of the nation’s total mobile phone population, according to a recent study from comScore, a Reston, Va., audience measurement service.

That’s quite a jump from the piddling 4 percent figure announced after the results of a Pew Research Center survey were released just last November. But for small business owners who’ve been looking to geolocation services to put them on the map in front of new customers, that growing propensity for check-ins is certainly welcome.

The comScore study found that 16.7 million mobile phone subscribers accessed retail sites and shopping guides on their phones during the one-month test period. Further, 12.7 million of those participants said they did so on a smartphone — a figure that represents 17.6 percent of the nation’s smartphone users. That’s an impressive growth statistic when you consider that companies like Foursquare and Gowalla launched in 2009 and 2007, respectively.

The study also showed that nearly 60 percent of check-in service users were mobile-phone users between the ages of 18 and 34. These younger proponents of Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla and other check-in services were more likely to be full-time students (23 percent) when compared with the general population of mobile and smartphone users (15 and 17 percent, respectively).

Such strong adoption of these digital services by consumers illustrates how important it is for businesses to begin doing more than just thinking about finding customers by way of offering specials, deals and other incentives through mobile devices. In fact, it’s probably past time for businesses to begin leveraging and then profiting from the rapidly evolving check-in arena.

After all, offering specials and deals has the potential to draw new customers and generate new leads on a local level. The reason? If people search for deals near them, or when they check in someplace, they’re pushed deals nearby. If I act on those pushes, I’ve become a new customer or lead for someone’s business.

With participation topping 7 percent, now’s the time test a deal or two and start rewarding mobile users for checking in. To create a special on Foursquare, start by claiming your venue or brand, and then follow the onscreen instructions. To claim your Place on Facebook, search for your business name on Facebook. If a Place already exists, click the “Is this your business?” link and Facebook will help you claim your Place. To create an Individual, Loyalty, Friend or Charity Deal on Facebook, start by downloading and reading Deals Guide for Businesses.

via Location-Based Check-Ins on the Rise with Consumers | Entrepreneur.com.

4 Ways to Stop Making Excuses and Follow Your Passion

Remember waking up before dawn to jump into the lake at summer camp? The hardest part was the moment right before you jumped, when you knew the water would be freezing cold but didn’t yet trust that you’d acclimate. For would-be entrepreneurs who want to follow their passion but haven’t made the leap, the fears about starting a new business can feel just like staring at that frigid, early morning water.

Maile Ehlers, a graphic designer and founder of PGH Papercraft, felt torn between freedom and stability. “I was climbing up the corporate ladder (at a paper packaging company), but I really wasn’t happy,” she says. She put off quitting for fear of stiff competition and unpredictable earnings, but after building a customer base in her spare time, she finally struck out on her own.

“New entrepreneurs are not confident about their own competencies, and thus aren’t sure if it would be the right decision,” says Hao Zhao, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Such hesitation is normal.”

Today, Ehlers’ business is booming and she’s branching into new markets. “Seeing that my business has been successful gives me the confidence to keep going and expand,” she says.

If you find yourself making excuses about why your new venture should wait, these four tips can help you gain confidence and make a firm decision.

1. Decide if you’re truly passionate. “(Entrepreneurship) is not for everyone,” Zhao says. It may sound like a sexy career, but the reality is that it takes self-motivation and fortitude. If it isn’t for you, that’s okay. “Be honest with yourself about whether you have the tenacity to be an entrepreneur,” says Paula Caligiuri, a psychologist and author of Get a Life, Not a Job (FT Press, 2010). “You’ll eventually need it to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and persevere when the tasks become challenging.”

Ultimately, passion drives that momentum. “Taking the successful leap requires both caution and passion,” Zhao says.

2. Get to know your market. Before launching a new venture, scope out your competitors, get to know your customers, and meet entrepreneurs that you might emulate. “Success requires expertise with the product and market, as well as careful planning and execution,” Zhao explains.

Ehlers launched her shop on Etsy before quitting her job, which helped her assess the demand. “When I saw (business) was consistent, I put my two weeks in,” she says.

3. Create a safety net. If you’re serious about starting your own business, save up the resources you’ll need in order to succeed. “Lack of time and debt are the two greatest pitfalls that prevent people from starting a new gig,” Caligiuri says.

At first, cut out TV time in favor of business planning and curb unnecessary spending. Ehlers didn’t quit her job until she saved enough money to cover two months of costs, a precaution that helped reduce her pre-launch anxiety.

4. Turn to family and friends for support. The people closest to you can be a vital resource as you prepare to start a new venture. “Encouragement from trusted family members and friends will help build entrepreneurial self-efficacy,” Zhao says.

They can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. “Many people cannot name their own natural talents,” Caligiuri says. “Family and friends can help us see what we are good at and what our challenges might be as entrepreneurs.”

via 4 Ways to Stop Making Excuses and Follow Your Passion | Entrepreneur.com.