When you’re a small business owner, efficiency is everything. You’re up against the big dogs in the world, so you have to make sure all of your priorities and resources are well-known, because one misstep could make or break all that you’ve worked so hard to build. Deadlines must always be met, but without sacrificing the production quality of your product. This means you have to be on top of the company’s schedule, your schedule and the schedule of all that report to you.
It can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. So here are some tips to help make sure your small business runs like a well-oiled machine.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
When you’re trying to grow a business from the ground up, it may seem like a great idea to take on every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. But you have to prioritize. Which opportunities seem like they have the most potential? Which can you realistically take on without spreading yourself too thin? Only commit to solid opportunities that your time and resources align with, so that in the end, you deliver something that is up to your standards.
Even Your Strengths Can Be Improved
What is it that is driving the most profit to your business? Identify this and then scrutinize it and determine what you can do to make it even better. There’s always room for improvement, and that leads to increased success.
It’s Okay to Say No
Running your own business is a full-time job; you don’t really get to take a day off. So when it comes to being bombarded with side requests from friends, family and even employees, stop a moment and think: Is this worth my time? Do I actually even have time for this? Or, in the case of an employee: Is this something they should be able to figure out for themselves? If the answers are “no” and “yes”, respectively, respectfully decline and eventually you will have established boundaries.
It’s beyond important to have a set list of deadlines in order to ensure that everything is done in a timely manner. Be sure to adhere to these deadlines, because the minute you let a few slide, you’ll soon find yourself buried and it can become difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
Take a Breather
Yes, running a business is essentially a non-stop job. But in reality, you need to allow for a little time to yourself. So while you may be in the middle of a hectic day, make a point to step away for 15-30 minutes. Going nonstop can result in poor decision-making, so taking this time—which you may feel is time you can’t afford to lose—will actually help result in improved work and decision-making.
Marc Worth is often billed as being an Internet pioneer. After founding WGSN, the now celebrated trend forecasting website of product development tools for the fashion industry in 1997, he sold it to Emap for a cool £142mn in 2005. Since then Worth has invested in a couple of start-ups, attempted to resurrect cult seventies label, Ossie Clark, and—since 2011—has been working on his design inspiration service, Stylus.com, which is aimed specifically at the hospitality industries.
We were fortunate enough to be granted a tête-à-tête with Worth to ask him about his successes, failures and advice for trailblazing entrepreneurs.
MW: It sounds simple but I woke up one day with an idea. My brother, Julian, and I had a company, Heatseal, which made labels, badges, t-shirts etc. Because of this, we had 10+ graphic designers on staff who were churning out artwork non-stop. However, business had been crap that summer and we had to cut costs in order to maximize the value of what we were doing and I thought that maybe there was something we could do with the designs we were creating… Could we, perhaps, create a website whereby people could download and buy the rights to the artwork? Believe it or not, this very elementary idea was the catalyst for what became WGSN. Of course, we soon realized that this initial concept was not enough but, about three or four months later, we had a product that went far beyond being a graphic library. Instead, it boasted shop window directories, trend boards and so much more. It took us between six and nine months to go to market but we were launched by August 1998, with a product that is not dissimilar to what WGSN is now.
Having spent 25 years in the fashion industry already, Julian and I knew what it needed and wanted. Timing was on our side, we rode the crest of the Internet wave and we had a firm belief in our assessed interest and the industry’s need for it.
MW: Between 1998 and 1999 Julian and I invested a lot of our own money into WGSN but we still had Heatseal. The positive of that was that we still drew an income, the flip was having a weight to carry when—by now—we were so heavily focused on—and invested in—WGSN. So between 1999 and 2000 we sought to raise a lot of money from Venture Capitalists and, in just over nine months, we had generated £20mn from interested investors in exchange for one third of the business. As a consequence we were able to give up Heatseal (which we sold to management) because the future of WGSN now seemed pretty secure.
However, by 2003 the money had almost run out and at that point, now looking back, we took some enormous risks, remortgaging our homes for the second time and so forth. In short, we put everything on the line. We reassured ourselves saying the timing was right… And, thank goodness, we were right. Pretty soon after that, the sales increased and the overheads decreased (from £1.2mn to £750k), thereby making us profitable and “out the woods.” Within six months we became cash positive and in 2004 we were able to buy our investors out for 30p on the pound. We were fortunate; we became very successful very quickly. By 2005 we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and sold WGSN. But that was part of our plan—we always saw WGSN as a means to an end; in fact our 1997 business plan even states our ambition to sell for £100mn in two years. It took us a bit longer, but we also got quite a bit more than that £100mn. And, in truth, Julian and I had taken WGSN to a certain level, beyond which it required a larger organization to run it. We were also very blessed that we were able to walk out the door the day we sold it. Typically, there is a two-year earn out but in this case neither party wanted it. Thankfully.
MW: My top pieces of advice would be (1) It is essential to look at your competitive landscape. For us, there were already so many businesses in the fashion and eCommerce space, even back in 1998, so we had to establish how we were going to differentiate and stand out from all the others competing for the same money. (2) Leave fundraising as long as you can until you can show traction. Ideas that are pre-revenue wind up giving too much of their business away as they try to raise funds. (3) Choose people who know your space—both its information and its industry. You don’t just want people who will look at the numbers but will understand why your product is important for the market. (4) Make sure you have a market looking for a product, rather than a product looking for a market. If it’s the latter, don’t even bother.
Andy Stefanovich, author of Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change (which was an Inc. bestseller and included in AdAge’s “Ten Marketing Books Your Should Have Read” in 2011) is a prominent—and much sought after—thought leader and innovator. Stefanovich, a TEDx speaker and guest lecturer, has been invited to share his ideas with some of the world’s leading corporations and institutions, including Yale University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, NASA, Coca-Cola, and Disney. He is also a frequently invited commentator on CNBC. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andy to discuss inspiration, innovation and life balance.
AS: Inspiration and passion inspire me. Inspiration is my inspiration and passion is my passion. These abstract, but critical, elements to anyone’s life can serve as fuel to create, innovate, and lead a great existence.
AS: My five Ms explained in five lines:
Mood: The company’s ethos, i.e. the climate for creative energy within an organization.
Mindset: The individual’s propensity, passion and capability for creating.
Mechanisms: The tools, techniques and technologies used to create.
Measurement: What are we measuring to drive innovation and what might we consider measuring that we are not?
Momentum: Assuring creative energy is not an event or episodic, but instead a part of an ongoing cultural underpinning.
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Überpreneurs are heroes who work to solve the world’s greatest problems and improve the lives of millions. Among those thought leaders are Mo Ibrahim, Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon, Bill Gates – from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, James Oliver (“The Naked Chef”), and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus.
What makes leadership such a popular business book category? Business books are a resource that people follow in order to achieve success, with the goal of taking their career or their business to the next level. Leadership books, on the other hand, are almost the opposite, in that their goal is to inspire people to stop following and start leading. An intrinsic quality of those books is that they challenge the status quo, teaching us that we should not be afraid to act and think differently from the rest. Three books epitomize this notion: “The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting the Business Rulebook” by Jonathon Moules; “Fear Your Strengths: What You are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem” by Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser; and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love,” by Cal Newport.
Jonathon Moules, author of “The Rebel Entrepreneur,” and a writer for the Financial Times of London, studied successful business owners who didn’t play by the existing rules, but instead forged their own path. He concluded that contrary to the stereotype of the start-up entrepreneur, rebel entrepreneurs are interested in neither funding their business with angel or VC capital nor trying out a brand new, untested business idea, even if they have the potential to be disruptive. Rebel entrepreneurs simply create new businesses that evolved out of already proven models. The author also identified the following traits that set the rebel entrepreneur apart:
5 Common Traits of the Rebel Entrepreneur
Today’s business climate revolves around innovation and new product development, so entrepreneurs increasingly need support from venture capitalists. The individual entrepreneur’s problem is determining how to stand out in a sea of other impassioned visionaries.
The flipside of the growth in entrepreneurship is an unprecedented increase in the competition for funding. So, to catch a VC’s attention you need more than just a good idea. But how do you hook and reel in bankers and other investors, and convince them in to fund your venture when the competition is so steep? Your edge may simply come down to your pitch. Its content and its delivery may matter even more than your product or service itself.
Of course, a strong “advanced elevator pitch” requires a working prototype and a strong presentation,” but what else do you need?
First, make sure your PowerPoint presentation follows author Guy Kawasaki’s oft-quoted 10/20/30 rule? (that is, 10 slides, lasting no more than 20 minutes, and containing no font smaller than 30 points.)
To get the scoop on pitching to VC’s, we turned to two well-regarded speakers, both leading authorities on gaining start-up funding. Kawasaki himself and David S. Rose, who offer their top tips on pitching a VC:
BusinessWeek calls David S. Rose a “world conquering entrepreneur;” he calls himself the “pitch coach.” He’s an investor who has raised millions in venture capital and invested millions in more than 75 pioneering tech start-ups. His top tips on how to pitch venture capitalists successfully include:
Top Tip # 1: Entrepreneurs themselves are the most important aspect of any business investment. They must display as many of the following characteristics as possible: integrity, enthusiasm, experience, expertise, skillfulness, leadership, commitment, vision, realism, and willingness to learn.
You have already started a blog with the intent of making it your job. You provide relevant information and views on important topics. You blog frequently and people are returning to your site for information or entertainment. Your blog entries now rank in Search Engines and drive new visitors to your website. You can measure the results of your efforts with your blog’s PageRank and Domain Authority. Personally, you are well on your way to establishing yourself as a thought leader in your “community” or industry. In short, you have found your niche. You have successfully launched your own blog. So what’s the problem? Well, you can’t make a living with it, at least, not yet.
So, how do you monetize your blog, the traffic it draws and your blogging skills? How do earn money from your blog without compromising its content or your integrity? Charlie White and John Biggs, authors of “Blogger Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog” – offer some valuable insights that inspired the following tips:
The donate button is popular among bloggers whose site’s traffic volume is not sufficient to be monetized any other ways. PayPal, the most commonly utilized service for this purpose, may have been overused. Donations work only if your blog is connected to a charity or a worthy cause. Without that strong connection, asking for donations does not work. The online audience has gotten tired of seeing buttons that say “buy me a beer” or coffee, and that killed the random personal donation button.
If you are a small business owner, it’s likely that you are sorting through piles of information about the Affordable Care Act. New rules and regulations have many of you wondering just how exactly it applies to your business.
Well, when it comes to this new law, the size of your business matters. The law is intended to help small businesses meet the health needs of their employees by providing business owners with more choices and control over health insurance spending. The Act doesn’t require small businesses to provide health insurance to employees, but it does give tax breaks to some of those businesses that do.
The credit of up to 35 percent goes to those businesses that have less than 25 full-time equivalent employees, pay an average annual wages below $50,000 and give 50 percent or more toward employee health insurance premiums. This credit goes up to 50 percent for two years starting in 2014. Nonprofits will see a tax credit of 25 percent which will increase to 35 percent at the beginning of the new year.
Small businesses that have 50 employees or less can participate in the Small Business Health Options Program also known as SHOP. This is a place where small business employers can select low cost health coverage from a number of providers.
Most large firms, those that employ 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees, offer health insurance to their employees; but, those businesses that don’t will likely face employer responsibility requirements.
Take steps to reduce health care costs even further by making wellness a top priority at your business. Your workers are at their best when they and their work environment are healthy, which helps to increase productivity and profits. Learn about the steps you can take to encourage a healthy lifestyle and a healthy organization in getAbstract summaries like ExecutiveHealth.com’s Leading Under Pressure: Strategies to Avoid Burnout, Increase Energy and Improve Your Well-Being, by Gabriela Cora and “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business,” by Patrick Lencioni.
Sources: www.sba.gov, www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform