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12 Myths about Starting a Business

1 I need to write a business plan before I start.

No you don’t. Start-ups are so unpredictable that writing a business plan is a pointless exercise.  You don’t exactly know who your customers are or what benefit/value they get from your product/service. If you think you need to prepare a plan to raise start-up funding see point 3 below.

2 I need lots of business experience.

No you don’t. There is a little unknown principle called be, do, have.  But for some reason our society believes it is the other way around – have, do, be.  People think you need to have a certain amount of skills, knowledge, contacts before you can start a business (do) and be an entrepreneur/business owner.  A better way to live is first of all just be an entrepreneur then you will do all the things that entrepreneurs do and eventually have the necessary things you thought you needed before you could start.  Essentially fake it till you make it.

3 I need to raise lots of funding before I can start

No you don’t. This is a risky and unnecessary strategy.  What you need is a minimal viable product to send to potential customers to receive their valuable feedback. Then you can alter your product/service until it’s exactly what they want.  Let them guide you as in the end its customers that will eventually be paying you for it. If there is no demand for this product/service idea you will find out without wasting much time, energy or money.  An MVP is not just market research.  If you were conducting market research you would ask someone if they would find your product useful and they may respond yes – but there is a massive difference between what someone says they will do (during market research) and what they will actually do in the real world.

How to Cultivate the Best Brand Image

Branding is crucial when it comes to establishing a positive reputation for your business – but just how do you go about ensuring your brand image is the best that it could possibly be? Read on for our top tips.

1) Know what you do – and why you do it

Having a clear business plan is only part of corporate success – identifying how to go about achieving your goals and, most importantly, why you’re even doing what you’re doing is the key to knowing how best to position your brand.

Think about what your products/services are and why you’ve decided to bring them to market. Chances are you’ll hit upon a unique selling point that can be the focus of your brand’s image. Some good examples to consider include Lush and its strong positioning as a provider of natural and ethical toiletries, while Tesco and its ‘Every little helps’ slogan clearly marks out the brand as an entity that wants to help customers save money.

2) Be consistent

You Might Be Looking For Success If…

This post will help you lead, identify with, or better market to these small business owners. And hey if you’re an entrepreneur yourself…well you totally get it!

You Might Be Looking For Success If…

• You can’t stop checking your phone even if it requires waking up in the middle of night
• You attend networking events on a weekly basis
• Working out is a part of your daily regimen

• You become addicted to coffee and Red bull gives you wings
• Pulling all-nighters becomes a habit
• Traveling becomes a part of your lifestyle
• Doing what YOU want is your #1 priority
• Everything you own fits in a suitcase

• You have more ideas then time
• You have more social media accounts then you can possibly update
• You’re willing to sacrifice your relationships to build a business
• You always negotiate the price
• You outsource your to-do-list

Why Your Lawyer Might Be Wrong For Your Business…

Any of you that have ever hired a lawyer know that if you really want to screw up one of your business deals, a potential litigation issue or the future planning of your business, all you need to do is hire the wrong lawyer.

Too many entrepreneurs go into the selection process with the wrong pre-conceived notions and set of qualifications for the next critical member of their team. The decision to hire the correct lawyer should be considered carefully and using realist criteria.

Here are four of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when choosing a lawyer:

1. Hiring a Jack of all trades. This is a mistake that even the experienced business owner will make. As many of us know, there are all sorts of specialists in the medical profession and the same thing applies to the law. If you are doing business or tax planning, use a business lawyer and get your CPA in the mix as well. If you have a fight brewing, consult with a litigation attorney. A general attorney or advisor can play ‘’quarterback’’ and give you sound advice, but when it’’s time to get into the details, use a specialist.

2. Choosing the cheapest lawyer you can find. This is a classic strategy that will ultimately cost you more in the long run after you find the right attorney. You may think you are saving money in the first or second meeting with that low hourly rate or a flat fee promise that rivals an online service with unlimited legal consulting. But this attorney will cost you a lot more with misdirection, and wasted time and money. Remember the old adage: “You get what you pay for”. This applies with the law as well.

3. Paying a big retainer up front without a second opinion. This is a dangerous mistake and can be very difficult to undo and get your money back. A lot of entrepreneurs never get a second opinion and out of fear or intimidation, make a rash decision. There are many honest and skilled lawyers out there who can take a smaller retainer up front and bill as they go. If the amount they are asking for makes you feel uncomfortable, heed that prompting and interview some other lawyers before making a decision.

4. If it sound too good to be true, it probably is. We’d all rather hear how incredible our case or project is and how it’s the “perfect slam dunk.” However, nothing is always clear-cut and if a lawyer is sugar coating it you should be able to tell. Be careful when your lawyer doesn’t speak realistically about your own situation and the mistakes and problems you are facing. Don’t let yourself get pummeled in court. Lawyers can overpromise and under-deliver.

Consider taking recommendations from others who have already found affordable lawyers specializing in your area of expertise.

If you have a bad experience hiring the wrong lawyer, don’t give up interviewing and networking with others to find the right advisor. Just like in every profession, there are winners and losers. Sometimes it take a little work to find the winners, but it is certainly worth it in the end.

Backlinks

Have you ever wondered how to get backlinks to rank a new site in a proper manner that Google loves? Getting your websites ranked on the front page of Google is everyone’s dream so that you can receive free traffic to your site. I know some of the people do have other traffic sources apart from Google, having organic traffic will be a bonus on top of various traffic sources. Eventually, who else does not like free traffic to their site?

SEO is a combination of on page and off page effort. If you are not sure what I refer to, I strongly urge you to read my previous posts about on page SEO and off page SEO. In this post, I am not going to repeat various backlink sources that you can get from my previous post, but to focus on the process to get your site ranked on the front page of Google. There are literally endless sites that you can generate backlinks to your sites. Without a proper backlinking process, you might be struggling to rank your site and might even risk your site get sandbox or penalty by Google.

Process About How To Get Backlinks

Before you start the SEO link building campaign, you must ensure you have done your on page SEO, else you will have to spend multiple times of the effort to get your site ranked on the front page of Google.

6 Startup Lessons From Man’s Best Friend

Recently, I wrote an article about how dogs can be an asset to entrepreneurs and their startups. I thought it was a fun topic, but I was not prepared for the overwhelming response. Entrepreneurs from all over the country emailed me with stories of their own dogs and how much they’ve learned from them. The advice was just too good to keep to myself.

Below, a selection of entrepreneurs (all fellow members of the Young Entrepreneur Council) share the wisdom they’ve gleaned from their furry friends:

1. Live in the present.

From Snoopy, our office mascot and a vivacious maltipoo, I’ve learned that living in the present moment is the best gift you can give yourself. He loves it when he gets a treat, but he is just as content taking a nap on my pillow.

– Shama Kabani, The Marketing Zen Group (@Shama)

2. If it’s not rewarding, don’t do it.

My dog won’t do menial tasks without promise of a reward, and neither should entrepreneurs. Sure, Zoe will sit on command or come when called, but it’s always because she enjoys the treat or attention more than the alternative. I too try to only do things that are fun, rewarding and enjoyable. Life’s just better that way!

– Alexis Wolfer, TheBeautyBean.com (@AlexisWolfer)

3. Maximize fun.

Spending time with my Wheaten Terrier Lulu reminds me not to take life too seriously and to leave plenty of time for relaxation and play. For instance, without taking a breather from the go-go startup mentality, I wouldn’t think of creative solutions to some of the problems I face on a daily basis that are programming related, project management related, etc. In general though, I’ve learned from her that you have to maximize your fun as much as possible. That way, work isn’t really work!

– Matthew Ackerson, Saber Blast (@saberblast)

4. Never stop trying.

Growing up, I had Desert Tortoises as pets. The oldest and largest of the two actually learned how to open our back screen door. In the summer, she would open the door and hide under a bed where it was much cooler. We got smart and started locking the screen door so she couldn’t get in. However, that didn’t deter her. She would try every day to open the door, and from time to time we’d forget to lock it and she’d come right in. The moral of the story is that, as an entrepreneur, even when the door is locked, never stop trying — because one day, someone will leave it unlocked, and that’s when your perseverance will pay dividends.

– Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com (@markcenicola)

5. Find a sounding board.

My min pin, Frisco, and I have been “working” together for the last couple of years. Working with him has taught me that our own headspace can be our worst enemy. What sounds like a good idea in your head might not be a great idea in practice. To prevent bad ideas, I tell Frisco what I’m thinking. By talking through my idea out loud with him, I can find out what needs to be improved or get confirmation on my concept. If Frisco were a human, he’d be really annoyed with me. But since he’s a dog, I can bounce ideas off him without any worries.

– Brett Farmiloe, Markitors (@BrettFarmiloe)

6. Don’t take work (or life) too seriously.

I adopted a puppy about a year into my startup, and it definitely enhanced my quality of life. Watching her play reminds me to follow suit. Don’t take work or life too seriously. Sometimes, you just need a break. This realization has done great things for my energy and creativity, and for my startup!

– Martina Welke, Zealyst (@zealyst)

Does your dog inspire you, too?

David Adelman is the Founder and CEO of ReelGenie, an online platform that will revolutionize the way family stories are told and shared. David is also Founder of Reel Tributes, the premier producer of high-end documentary films. Reel Tributes’ films preserve timeless stories and memories for families and family-owned businesses.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

5 Lessons Learned By Hiring a 13 Year Old

I founded Elevatr because everyone has great business ideas, but not everyone knows how to turn those ideas into businesses. Our first product, an iOS app that guides raw ideas into concise business plans, launched in May, was featured on the App Store, and now has more than 70,000 users.

A few weeks ago, Akiva Lipshitz, a 13 year old heading into 8th grade, emailed me to ask for an internship with Elevatr. He said he’d love nothing more than to meet the team and contribute in some way to the company that created his favorite app.  We said yes because Akiva validates everything that we’re doing with Elevatr: There are more and more aspiring entrepreneurs seeking help everyday who we’d love to help out.

Akiva interned for us on July 8 and his task was to translate the app into Hebrew (he did a great job). We spent the rest of the time talking about his ideas and my entrepreneurial experiences. I know Akiva learned a lot from us that day, but I think we learned just as much from him. Here are some lessons we learned by hiring the 13 year old ideasmith.

Internet entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age requirement.

Akiva may only be 13, but he has the passion and savvy of an entrepreneur twice his age. With nearly unlimited information available to everyone at their fingertips, anyone, even children, can be in tune with the markets. Akiva knew what was going on and picked my brain for first-hand advice. It’s great to see younger generations making use of the Internet rather than taking its power for granted.

Startup founders are to younger generations what rock stars were to older generations.

While our parents had Beatlemania, todays generation of kids have startup founders. Akiva may be the exception rather than the rule, but he is fascinated with meeting founders. He constantly reaches out to companies he’s interested in to see if he can spend some time talking with them. This 13 year old was talking about famous founders as if they were Michael Jordan or Mick Jagger. It shows how the times are changing and that startup founders can be celebrities without even knowing it.

Startups are safer than corporations.

Something happened during the recession of 2009 that showed people that traditional corporations aren’t as safe as we once thought. Subconsciously we reacted by wanting to create our own startups. Now, these kids have grown up through the rough economy and are raised thinking that corporate jobs aren’t safe. This is changing the way of thinking for many young people like Akiva who are seeing more ideas turning into businesses than ever before. The business landscape is evolving.

With a little bravado, you can connect with anyone.

Saying I was shocked by Akiva’s bravado would be an understatement. How many of us would have had the courage to reach out to a young CEO and ask for a chance to meet and work with them? It should be motivation for anyone hesitant to reach out to an investor, business partner, or media outlet. Take the chance and see what comes of it, a little bravado can take you a long way. Like Akiva told me when I asked him if he was afraid of being rejected, he said, “the worst they could say is ‘no’.”

Anyone can create a successful business if they make moves one step at a time.

One thing a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of, and Akiva was no exception, is being overzealous with planning. He wanted to build his entire vision at one time. After talking with him and further breaking it down, he began to understand that it was important to take things one step at a time. I suggested that he build something small just to get started. This would help validate his idea and vision and allow him to evolve it over time. That’s exactly what he’s done by creating a Tumblr account.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is everywhere. It expands across multiple generations and is always evolving. I can’t wait to see what ideas Akiva and his peers turn into businesses.

David Spiro graduated from the University of Michigan Business School and College of Engineering in 2012 where he became the first undergraduate to receive the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. He played baseball for Michigan, loves to chat about quantum consciousness, and is a startup lifer.

Should I move my startup to Silicon Valley?

Some background – I’m a New Delhi based founder writing this in New York at the end of a three month accelerator programme in Mountain View with 26 international startups (including those from Asia, Middle-East and Africa). Being stuck indoors due to rains in a cafe with spotty WiFi in the upper east side, I decided to throw some gyan (Hindi slang for unsought founder advice) on the subject of relocating a startup.

 

PlaneWhen you’re building a prototype, you need to be at a place where you can do it most cost-effectively. Most likely this is where you live currently, or in case of shameless Indian kids like me it is where your parents live (so you can save on rent). All you need is a laptop with a dependable broadband connection, and relocating to a “Silicon Valley of X” where you shell out a huge rental and adjust to a completely different way of life doesn’t make much sense. This is the reason why the Morpheus isn’t based out of a single city and both Sameer and Nandini spend a lot of time traveling across the country.

Once you’re past the initial prototype and start testing it out in the market, it makes sense to be where the market is. If not relocating, at least consider traveling to familiarize yourself with the target geography (like the most important city) and the relevant communities. You might not get anything tangible (no cheques or purchase orders or WSJ stories) from this short visit, but it will pay off in some way later (believe in serendipity).

If your business has a strong local component (like manufacturing or local business relationships) the key team members responsible (the founders!) ought to stay put as far as possible. You’re more likely to hurt your progress than help it by choosing to handle things remotely. We might be living in the age of always-connected devices, but sh*t gets done FAR more efficiently when you’re not going back and forth on long email threads, especially across different time-zones.

The exception to the most of the above is if you get accepted into a YC or a500S, which, for most founders, is too good a deal to walk away from and comes with cash that can take care of those rents. Move your arse to Mountain View pronto, however boring and expensive it might seem, at least for the programme. After that you can let the other factors decide whether you wish to stay or move back.

A caveat – I don’t believe that founders of startups neither based nor focussed on the US markets should relocate to the valley (or say, Chile) just for a programme. Staying away from the target market and team can be injurious to (startup) health, and you should be absolutely certain you’re willing to pay the price for whatever you expect to gain from relocating for too long. People and cultures can change drastically from one city to another, or in case of San Francisco, from one micro-neighbourhood to another. For Seat 14A, the Marina guy is more likely a customer than the Mission guy. The point is, expecting to gain know-how about growing a business from the-place-that’s-done-it-all-several-times, and applying that to a completely different market, is being over-optimistic.

Of course, more often than not a startup will not be in a position to say no to cash, which makes this point moot. Apart from learning the repeatable know-how of positioning and growing a startup, the most important thing a foreign founder expects to get from spending time in the valley is investor interest (euphemism for ca$h). The latter is again hard to come by because an investor might not relate to the foreign market you’re going after, and is more comfortable with the several local entrepreneurs working in a space they understand better.

So, should you move your startup to the Silicon Valley? Think about:

  • are you in build-mode or sell-mode?
  • are you getting into YC/500S etc.?
  • is your customer in the US or your home country? if both, can you focus on the US customer?
  • does your business have a strong local component that would need remote-management?

Depending on your response to these queries the answer can switch from a resounding yes to a far less compelling maybe.

About The Guest Author

Aditya Sahay a.k.a Adi bites off more than he can chew. A serial entrepreneur, he’s currently helping men look good (at a budget) at Seat 14A. Follow him on twitter @adsahay.

5 Business Rules Worth Breaking — and 1 You Absolutely Must Follow

You can’t get through a semester of business school or a meeting with a loan counselor without learning the so-called unbreakable rules of business.  And, yet, some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs ignored accepted business conventions.

Bill Gates, for example, attributes some of his success to reading, thinking, researching and being quick to call a dumb idea dumb.  But he’s never written a playbook for business success.  And Donald Trump, a perennial member of Forbes’ list of billionaires, suggests that rules don’t matter when he says “Everything in life is luck.”

Can only the lucky few get away with breaking the rules?  Or can anyone?  Can you?

Here are five business rules that successful CEOs have ignored:

1.  Never start a business with friends or family.

Taki Skouras, Jaime Brown and Joseph Brown wanted to work together after they graduated from college.

They opened a weight loss kiosk, and it failed miserably.

But their friendship and desire to work together remained intact.  They opened a second kiosk business, one that offered cell phone accessories.

Although they struggled initially, living together in a single room and taking home about $100 a week, they kept their faith in their friendship and the business.

Today, 10 years later, Cellairis has grown into a $350 million success, according to company spokesperson Andrew Park.

22 Things That Steve Jobs Told Me

Steve Jobs.

That son-of-a-bitch.

I just finished his biography. Why didn’t I do that a year ago when I started it? Anyway, it rocked. This is news, right?

For a while after he died everybody wrote stories about him. I read as many words in those stories as were in the entire biography (I should have just finished the biography!). They were all trying to sell me on, “Hey, you’re a little like him, too. Maybe you’ll make the next Apple.” And so we all bought the magazines and said, “YES! Tell me how much like Steve Jobs I can be and why I will make the next Apple!

They forgot something, though.

The next Steve Jobs isn’t going to act like Steve Jobs. He/she is going to be completely unpredictable. (Also, the next Mark Zuckerberg will probably not wear a hoodie everywhere.)

Anyway. Here are some of my favorite bits from the bio:

[All quotes are Steve.]

steve jobs young apple

1. Respect your experience.