Category Archives: Entrepreneurs

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.

The Unwritten Secrets for Choosing a Startup Mentor

Every first-time entrepreneur, or even an experienced founder stepping into a new business area, needs a mentor. Nothing you have ever done raises so many questions, or has the potential to be so fulfilling, or so risky, as starting a new business for the first time. A mentor is a confidant who has been there and done that, and is willing to guide your steps.

In case you think mentors are only for “wimps,” you should know that most great entrepreneurs are quick to give credit to their mentors. Bill Gates always revered the early guidance he received from Dr. Ed Roberts, creator of the Altair 8800. Later, the great Warren Buffet became his mentor on many corporate matters.

In a reverse fashion, most of the recognized business gurus always found time to be a mentor. For a fortunate, surprisingly large club of CEOs, the late Peter F. Drucker was the single most lucid, eloquent, and encouraging force in their lives. With experts like this willing to help for free, why should you be the one to go it alone?

The best mentor candidates are the most experienced professionals you admire, and from whom you can learn, to accelerate your progress and avoid the deep potholes in the road ahead. Martin Yate, in his recent book “Knock ‘em Dead – Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World” succinctly outlines the key criteria for choosing mentors:

  • Mentoring is not a group activity. Mentors are not like lovers. You can have more than one at a time. But my advice is to start with one, or certainly no more than one in an area of expertise. It could make sense to have a business mentor, as well as a technology mentor, but a committee of your friends won’t work.
  • The best mentors are older than you. Although age and wisdom don’t always go together, it is better to find a mentor older than you, because they will have skills you don’t and the wisdom of greater experience. You need both.
  • Let the relationship develop naturally, over time. Mentor relationships, like any other human relationship, don’t happen overnight, and need to be nurtured on a person-to-person basis, rather than remotely or anonymously. The best mentors will even introduce you to their support network, which can multiply the value.
  • The mentor should not have a direct reporting relationship with the protégé. The protégé should be able to feel free to speak about issues which may be plaguing him without fear of repercussions from a major board member, investor or boss.
  • The mentor must be committed to being a mentor. Mentoring is an incredibly important responsibility. If the mentor does not want this responsibility, he will view the time spent mentoring as a nuisance. Being committed means being available, listening well, and able to keep confidences.
  • Find someone who will tell it straight. Telling it straight means having direct discussions that are constructive, respectful, and specific. Both sides need the courage to stop if the relationship isn’t working. Life is too short to waste their time or yours. In this context, it’s also important to find someone who matches your values.

Remember that a good mentor doesn’t relieve you of any responsibility in running your business. Be aggressive and take charge of your own decisions. Don’t expect the mentor to do the work for you, or even the research required to get a job done. In other words, don’t abuse the mentor, by asking them to be your boss, or respond to every thought that pops into your head.

In business as in life, the smartest people are the ones who know they don’t know it all. But smart people learn quickly. Not far down the road, you will be ready to mentor entrepreneurs who are where you were only a year or two ago. You then become a contributor to business leadership in the same way your mentor was to you. That’s value squared.

via – Gust Blog.

6 Must-Have Attributes of Social Media Managers

Marketing your product or brand on social media is one of the more pervasive ways people will learn about your business. You don’t want to leave that responsibility in the hands of an amateur — even one that might be conversant in Facebook and Twitter.

Social media marketing requires a lot of work, a certain amount of technical savvy, excellent writing skills, empathy for customers, and an awareness the company’s strategy. Here are the traits look for when hiring a social media manager:

1. Naturally Curious. Being naturally curious about what everyone’s working on in your company and the impact on customers, is important. A good social media manager should tap into different areas of the business and gather appropriate information that is engaging.

2. Writes conversationally. Your messages shouldn’t sound like advertising. It’s important to hire someone who can write in a conversational voice, which isn’t always an easy task. Well-crafted conversational content for social social media opens up a dialogue between business/brand and customers, and ideally, between customers themselves.

3. Operates with a sense of urgency. Unlike traditional corporate communications tools like press releases or prepared interviews and speeches, social media demands immediacy. A question or comment posted on Twitter or on your brand’s Facebook Page or blog must be answered right away. Professional social media managers understand this and respond real-time, with the company’s set protocols and guidelines.

4. Understands your business-related goals. All content on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel, etc., has to support your business-related goals. Which means that your social media manager must have an intimate understanding of the company’s goals. That requires an editorial calendar displaying a majority of your company’s posts for the next 30-60 days — each tied to your goals for the current fiscal quarter or year.

5. Seeks input from others. Social media managers shouldn’t work in a vacuum. They need to be proactive, checking with those who know best like department managers, executive team members and front line staffers. Social media managers are only as good as the people around them and the information they freely offer up.

6. Respects confidentiality. A social media manager needs access to all areas of your business. They must know what’s okay to share and what can never be revealed. Forward-looking or safe harbor statements for instance, are never meant for public consumption. Neither are topics related to personnel, vendors and regulatory issues that impact your business. Your social media manager should possess a “when in doubt, kick it out” mentality.

via 6 Must-Have Attributes of Social Media Managers | Entrepreneur.com.

5 Reasons Why Customer Loyalty Is So Important in Our Digitized Marketplace

For businesses, the current trend to attracting customers now in the consumer market is participating in group buying sites by selling their products and services at deeply discounted prices. On the surface, this customer acquisition method of increasing sales seemed to work. However, group buying does more harm than good to your business and its brand. You make plenty of sales, but hardly any of these dollars translate to profits. Businesses are starting to be wary of group buying. This is a topic for another day before I digress further.

Consider another channel of increasing sales- through customer retention and loyalty activities. Not only does instilling customer loyalty increase sales, it also creates profits and builds your brand.  According to The Gartner Group, 20% of your existing customers generate 80% of your profits.  The key for any businesses to survive and grow is beyond just acquiring new customers, but to build sustainable sales stream of existing customers.

It’s about time businesses pay more attention to building and instilling customer loyalty which has a long-term impact on their brands and not getting completely sucked into the group buying craze. It is more than just increasing sales.

Here are 5 reasons why customer loyalty matters.

1.  It’s easier to up-sell and cross-sell to loyal customers

Loyal customers are familiar with their favourite brands and more willing to try out and explore recommendations and new products. Marketing Metrics found out that the probability of selling something to new prospects is only about 5-20%, whilst the probability of selling something to an existing customer is 60-70%. For the same amount of effort to sell something, expected sales as such is higher from selling to your loyal customers.

2. Loyal customers are your free marketing agent, brand ‘ambassador’ to help build your brand

Loyal customers are more inclined to share their positive experience and making recommendation of a business to their friends. They love your brand, they speak about your brand and humans are generally more influenced by people they are familiar with. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful channel of marketing, if not the most. They reinforce your brand in the mind of consumers that are unfamiliar and new to your brand.

3. Lower costs to acquire new customers

It is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than servicing your regulars. Businesses have to advertise to attract their attention, incentivize them with discounts, educate them about their brand and product, provide personalised services which all amounts to costs. By focusing on customer loyalty and building your brand, your loyal customers will be a strong influencer to get new prospects to try out your brand, substantially reducing the associated costs in acquiring new customers. Cultivate loyalty, and get an army of free, sales people to spread the love of your brand.

4. Customer loyalty insulates your business from price competition.

Competition is heating up! Let’s slash prices! But through loyalty, it reduces the effect of price sensitivity on your customers and in the words of Warren Buffett, it gives you an ‘economic moat’ from losing customers to competitors. It takes more than reducing prices to lure your loyal customers away. Loyalty also helps in the opposite direction when prices have to go up. In times of rising costs and inflation, the stickiness and commitment towards your brand makes it easier to pass on additional costs to customers without them defecting in mass, eventually helping to protect your bottom line.

5. Loyal customers provide honest, quality feedback

Feedback is crucial to know where and how to improve. Loyal customers, they love your brand. They wouldn’t hesitate or be shy to provide their honest feedback, especially negative ones as they want to see your brand thrive and serve them better. In many instances, new customers visit your brand, try it out, have some dislikes or unpleasant experience and they tend not to voice it out and telling themselves that they will not return again. You hardly get feedback loop from new customers and this is detrimental to your product and service quality.

In my startup, ChopChop, we help businesses to easily launch effective loyalty programmes through our mobile app and amplify all the important points above about customer loyalty. Going digital has also made it easier for customers to spread and share their favourite brands and for businesses to increase brand exposure through integration with Facebook, email and smartphones. Customer loyalty, as you can see, not only brings in quality, profitable sales but also building your brand, reducing your marketing costs and innovating on your product and services quality.

via 5 Reasons Why Customer Loyalty Is So Important in Our Digitized Marketplace – Entrepreneurs.my.

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Their Brains

Are you more like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Richard Branson of Virgin, or Tony Hsieh of Zappos? Knowing the answer could help you become more successful in your business.

Being aware of how your brain works can help you make better decisions as an entrepreneur, contend the authors of a new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). Business veterans Tony Tjan, Dick Harrington, and Tsun-yan Hsieh interviewed and researched more than 500 business leaders from young, upstart entrepreneurs to experienced CEOs and identified four character traits that define a business leaders’ decision-making process.

Here is a rundown of the four categories of entrepreneurs they found and the leaders that exemplify them:

1. Heart. Howard Schultz of Starbucks. Hearts-dominated leaders are the passionate, big-picture, founding visionaries that may not necessarily have a rational, research-based business plan, but are fiercely committed to seeing their goal through.

2. Smarts. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The smarts-dominated leader is rational, makes decisions based on facts, sets goals, delegates responsibility and knows how to hold people accountable.

3. Guts. Richard Branson of Virgin. Guts-dominated leaders actively seek out uncertain business ventures with the possibility for high reward (risk takers) or are capable at managing situations laden with heavy consequence (risk-tolerant).

4. Luck. Tony Hsieh of Zappos. While almost every successful business venture owes some portion of its success to a lucky break, the luck-dominant business leaders strategically expose themselves to luck by developing organic, deep connections with a group of people and then having the open and optimistic outlook in life to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

To learn what kind of leader you are, take the authors’ entrepreneur aptitude test at http://www.HSGL.com. Six in 10 company founders that are still in the early stage of growth are heart-dominant leaders, according to the book.

“You tend to go through a couple phases in business building. There is the founding stage, then what we call the scaling stage and extending stage and in each of those stages you have to shift gears,” Tjan told Entrepreneur. “You have to go from heart-dominant to smarts/guts-dominant — or you need different types of people to help you.”

via What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Their Brains | Entrepreneur.com.

Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk?

You want your employees to perform at their best, but there’s a fine line between being a tough boss with high expectations and being an unreasonable jerk. Business coach Mike Staver, founder of the The Staver Group, a Fernandina Beach, Fla., business performance consulting firm, advises using these four rules to avoid crossing the line.

1. Appreciate different work styles. Be clear about the outcomes you expect, but don’t create conflict just because your employee has a different style of getting something done, warns Staver. “If they’re effective, give them latitude to develop their own solutions and add value,” he says. “When the leader is saying, ‘I don’t want you to do it any other way than the way I want you do to it.’ I think that’s where the ‘demanding jerk’ side comes in,” he says.

2. Give your employees a sense of purpose. In his book, Leadership Isn’t for Cowards (Wiley, 2012), Staver says business leaders need to give their employees a reason to care. It can be tough if you’re providing a basic product or service versus curing cancer, but everyone is in business to serve a need–so make sure employees understand that. For example, if you sell machine parts, it’s because someone needs them to keep their equipment running. The receptionist at an insurance company helps protect people from financial catastrophe. Clarifying the big-picture importance of what your people do helps employees stay focused and committed, even when the demands are great.

3. Recognize good work. If you’ve set rigorous performance goals or expectations employees must meet, don’t change the rules after the fact or fail to recognize success. Include your expectations in resources such as employee manuals, training materials or job descriptions. Conduct regular performance reviews and be sure to acknowledge when expectations have been met or exceeded. Whether it’s a simple “good job,” in front of the team for hitting a tough deadline, or a small perk for landing a big new client, recognizing a job well done enhances motivation.

4. Be respectful. Regardless of how demanding you are, treat your employees with respect and dignity. While it takes courage to tell the truth, it should be done in a way that doesn’t devastate your employees. That means no “sucker punches”–blindsiding them with expectations they couldn’t have anticipated–and avoiding destructive communication styles like screaming and insults. Explosive or reckless behavior hurts productivity and will likely cause you trouble retaining your best employees, Staver says.

via Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk? | Entrepreneur.com.