the true entrepreneur – 3 tips for your success

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“Most of you would agree that an entrepreneur is one who is a risk taker, a visionary, thinks outside the box, is passionate and determined, driven and courageous, strong work ethics, highly motivated and creative, a learner and a maverick. These are just the basic characteristics of an entrepreneur.

However, to be a true entrepreneur you must also be a charismatic leader with integrity, who knows how to listen and make decisions, is disciplined and a passionate servant, humble, driven, loyal, a good listener and influential. To be successful, you must be the combination of the two. In addition, you need to develop a procedure of leading that becomes the foundation of your business’ growth and prosperity.

Now, let’s look at why a lot of businesses fail and what you need to do in order to become successful. Here are the 3 tips for your success:

1_Change your mindset!

Most people fail because their mindset remains focused on steady paychecks, job security, benefits, promotions and time off. They get discouraged and give up. Being self-employed means changing your focus from an employee’s mindset, to focusing on being your own boss and doing things your way. Starting a business takes serious focus, day-in and day-out, all hours of the day. Don’t burn yourself out by doing all the work yourself. To be successful, look for others who are the best to do the work for you. Strive to use other people’s time and other people’s talents (OPT). The true entrepreneur will find the best employees or the best specialists to run their business.

2_Be a leader!

Get out of the mindset of having employees and start thinking about building a team. Employees compete with one another and have a win/lose mentality. Build a team that works together, helping one another for a common goal. Teamwork is not just something you teach. It is a lifestyle you live every day. It starts with you. A true leader will take responsibility for the success, as well as, the failure of the team. Learn how to communicate effectively with your people and develop great people skills if you really want be successful.

3_Adjust your focus!

Life has a way of bringing distractions in front of us. Distractions can prevent us from seeing what’s on the other side. If you want your business to be a success, you must look beyond the distractions in life and focus on the joy of gaining possession of your dreams. Allow your focus to bring out the best in you. Robert Kiyosaki has a great definition for focus. In his book entitled Midas Touch, he defines the word FOCUS as Follow One Course Until Successful. You need the strength of character and the ability to stay on course until successful.

When you apply these 3 tips in your life, you position yourself for success. You don’t have to be another statistic. You now have the power to be a success for everyone to read about and follow your example. Develop the qualities of being a true entrepreneur and live the life you were destined to live.”

 Matthew Habbis

The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact

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Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact, the brand-new 99U book, is now on sale.

Whether you’re about to launch a new company or are considering how to retool an existing business, it will offer you fresh thinking, practical advice and the moxie to get out there and make an impact.

Inside you’ll find best practices for launching a purpose-driven business, refining your product, delighting you customers, inspiring your team and —ultimately— making something that matters.

order now Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact

6 bad habits holding you back from success

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“We all have bad habits, but bringing your baggage along to the office can be the difference between soaring or stalling in your career. Below are six common workplace bad habits to break if you want to continue moving up the career ladder:

1_Being a lone wolf. Collaboration is the key to workplace success. You need to show you can play well with others. After all, managers and those in charge need to be able to lead a team.

2_Saying sorry. Are you apologizing too much in the office? Saying sorry about every little thing implies you are constantly making mistakes, and can undercut your position in the office and with managers.

3_Taking on every project. Do you get excited by new projects? Do you like jumping in with both feet and finding new challenges? These are great attributes to any employee, but it’s time to learn your limits. If you say yes to every single project, you might soon find yourself unhappy, burnt out, and badly overworked. The word “no” is a powerful thing. Be protective of your time and abilities, and know when one more task is just too many.

4_Being negative. Enthusiasm and passion are traits managers look for in superstar employees who get promotions and excel within the company. No one wants to promote someone who looks miserable to step into the office each day. Ask yourself what would make you wake up excited about your workday, and chase after your dreams.

5_Doing things the way they’ve always been done. Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, yet many workers just come into the office to punch their time cards and collect their paychecks. Lack of innovation in companies, it turns out, is a two-way street.

6_Being disorganized. Imagine how much of your work life is being frittered away every time you misplace a report under a pile of desktop debris. People walking past your cluttered workspace are judging you for your organizational chaos.

Your bad habits don’t have to hold you back from career success. If you tackle these habits head-on, you might just find yourself moving on up the ladder.”

Ilya Pozin serial entrepreneur, writer and investor

12 things bosses should do, but don’t

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“Here are 12 lessons Michael Scott from The Office probably never learned.

1_Be vulnerable. Bosses lead by example whether they realize it or not. Being vulnerable, admitting and working on your weaknesses and disclosing fears all create an environment where others do the same. If you want an organization powered by people who care, exhibit caring for both your employees and yourself.

2_Be an expert in your industry. Bosses are busy managing and leading, so they typically don’t have time to work on positioning themselves as experts in the industry. Creating content, speaking at conferences and building other brand vehicles takes time. However, your employees will respect you more, and you will be able to attract higher quality talent.

3_Clean the bathroom. Everything is your job. Let your team see you doing tasks that might surprise them. It helps them to see you less as a boss and more as someone who’s in it with them and willing do whatever to help make the organization successful. It also helps send the message that they should look around and do whatever they can to help the organization, even if it “isn’t in their job description”.

4_Find employees’ genius zones. As bosses, we get so focused on how to grow the business that we forget to grow the team. Growing a team properly is difficult and sometimes feels like you’re taking a step back or just treading water. Employees have genius zones where they work most efficiently, so developing or tapping into those should be first priority. As soon as your team is working at full speed, you can, too.

5_Offer validation. We all love to be validated. As a boss, I love to be validated. It’s built into our psyche and developed from childhood.
Validating people’s work and contributions isn’t hard to do, but people deeply appreciate it when you take the time to do it genuinely. I’m always amazed at how often/easily this is overlooked.

6_Know when to step aside. A good boss hires highly talented women and men and lets them do their thing. Knowing when to jump in the trenches versus when to step aside is a sign of a seasoned boss. As an entrepreneur and/or founder, this is especially important. You can’t grow a huge business if you’re in the weeds all the time.

7_Buy lunch. One of my favorite things to do is randomly buy lunch for my employees. Sure, we aren’t Google, and we don’t have a massive cafeteria, but I am able to do a surprise pizza (or other food of choice) day in the office about once a week. The cost of the gesture is usually not too high, and it gives everyone something to look forward to — quality time together.

8_Take a holiday. We all need to rest our minds and find inspiration away from our laptops and iPhones. Unfortunately, there’s always something important, the timing is never right or you “just need to do this thing.” It’s unhealthy for everyone, including the good boss who needs to recharge to stay good or even become great. American corporate culture doesn’t appreciate this, but it should.

9_Address problems quickly. Great bosses don’t let conflicts with clients or between colleagues fester. Create an environment where people feel free to bring issues to you early on and have the confidence that you’ll work proactively to address them.

10_Give credit where credit is due. A boss oftentimes wants to take credit for every success his or her company has. A great boss will give credit to a team member where it is due. This is a good way to keep your team motivated, and it really makes them feel valuable.

11_Get to know team members as individuals. Great bosses should take the time to truly get to know their employees. Doing so helps leaders understand each person as an individual (their dreams, fears, etc.), which can be tremendously helpful in structuring work in a way that capitalizes on unique strengths and intrinsic motivations. It also helps leaders give the most meaningful feedback to each employee along the way.

12_Give feedback outside of performance reviews. Managers should not wait for performance reviews to give positive feedback or constructive criticism. Employees can adjust their performance and style faster with more input.”

Ilya Pozin founder of Open Me and Ciplex

20 business lessons you don’t want to learn the hard way

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“Here are 20 reminders that just might save you a headache:

  1. You can’t do everything on your own. Building a team is essential because there are only so many hours one person can devote to a business. Exactly when you reach that limit depends on your other obligations. If you’re a young single person, you might be able to do everything for a year or two. But if you have a family, your dedication will eventually hurt those relationships. Build a team that can carry on when you’re not around.
  2. You may think your product is perfect, but your clients won’t. Listen to user feedback: Your opinion may not be the best one. The key takeaway here is “release your product early and release it often.” You won’t know if you have a great product until it’s in the field and users are beating it up. It’s like some of the contestants on American Idol. They think they’re talented, and their friends and family think so, too, but when they get on a bigger stage, their flaws become obvious.
  3. Do one thing really well. Entrepreneurs try to be everything to everyone, but it’s hard to be the store that sells bait and baby toys and vintage Beatles albums. Specialize, and you can charge for what you do provide. That said, if there is a skill or service that would make your core product better, provide it.
  4. Get paid before you hand over a project to a client. This is especially important if you provide a service. Once you turn over that contract or website or design project, you won’t have much bargaining power. When I was a graphic designer, I watermarked all my projects and hosted websites on a private domain until the bill was paid.
  5. Undercharging is not sustainable. You think, “I don’t need to charge $150 an hour, I can charge $70 and make way more than I was making as an employee!” But you might find out a short time later that your “great” rate is unsustainable. By the time you pay taxes, employees, business licenses, insurance, etc., that $150/hour is looking more realistic. Compete on quality, expertise and your niche focus (see #3) instead of price. When competing on price alone, the clients who are price-shopping will always leave for the person or company that undercuts you.
  6. Patience and flexibility help you survive the lean times. ShortStack started out as a side project at my web and graphic design studio. We weren’t a software development studio, but when a client asked us for a software product, we didn’t say no. We were patient, scaled slowly — partly out of necessity — and it allowed me to build with company without debt.
  7. Build for your actual market. All of my software-building experience so far has been in answer to a demand. It is purely opportunistic. If you’re an app developer and you think “Wow, I think xx industry could use xx,” you might be disappointed. Put another way: I would never start a restaurant without having worked in one…for a long time!
  8. Never enter a partnership without a buy/sell agreement. No matter how well you think you know someone, you just don’t know when he or she will want to retire or do something else. Even if it’s on amicable terms, know how you can get rid of one another when it’s time for one of you to move on.
  9. Be grateful. Appreciate loyal customers who show you there is a demand for what you do. There is no dollar amount you can put on brand advocates. Good will translates to loyal customers.
  10. Look after those who look after you. We offer referral commissions at ShortStack, but it’s very much under the radar. We want people to recommend the product because they like it, not because they’ll say anything for a dollar. If we notice someone said nice things about us publicly, we might send them a t-shirt as a thank you. If they do it again and again, we might say, “Hey, you should become a referrer and earn a percentage of the business you send our way.”
  11. It’s not a sale until it’s paid for. This sounds obvious, but I’ve known small business owners who get very excited about orders and/or meetings with prospective clients. But until the money for those products or services is in the bank, it doesn’t count.
  12. You’ll make more money being “wrong” than proving you are right. Rather than fight with an unhappy customer and say, “You’re using it incorrectly,” or “You don’t know enough CSS to use our product,” we just refund their money. In the long run, these people consume so much of the support team’s time and energy that it’s more cost effective this way. They’re not our ideal client, and that’s OK.
  13. People don’t leave companies — they leave management. This lesson goes for both employees and customers. A manager will lose staff if the employees think they’re not being listened to or valued. Customers will stop using your products or services if they are dissatisfied with them. The quality and reliability of your products and services is a reflection of management.
  14. The way you present your business should be a reflection of your audience. If you have serious clients, be serious. If you have hip, fun-loving clients, have a sense of humor. You have to find your niche and build your content to suit them. For example, Constant Contact and MailChimp do essentially the same thing, but their marketing content reflects very different client bases.
  15. Agree on scope in advance. Have a clear contract before work begins. Once a project goes beyond the documented plan, charge for it. If you agreed to build a website with 10 pages, but soon the site is 20 pages, the client should pay you for them. If your contract makes that clear at the outset, it is easier to control scope creep.
  16. If your company sells a variety of products, make sure you know how to use/operate every single one of them. It might sound like a tall order — depending on how many products your company sells — but learning to use what your company sells will help you look at things with fresh eyes.
  17. When you think you’ve tested your product enough, test it some more. Never release a product until it has been tested and tested and tested by people who don’t work for you.
  18. Understand how social media networks work. When Twitter was first available for businesses, I’d see people use it like an ad in a newspaper. If you go on a channel and use it the wrong way, it could do more long-term harm than good.
  19. Save up. You can operate at a loss for a number of years but you can only run out of cash once. Have a rainy day fund that has at least two or three months’ operating costs in it. And have a line of credit available, even if you don’t plan to use it. Having a CPA look at your books once a quarter is also a must.
  20. Always let the CFO pay for drinks. Cheers!”

Jim Belosic co-founder and CEO of Pancake Laboratories

3 things that empower your team

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“It’s not about motivational posters, productivity seminars or catchy slogans. It’s more about a culture that encourages open communication, provides plenty of context and requires accountability.”

Dan Sanker president & CEO at CaseStack inc.