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How To Network For Career And Business Advancement

It pays big dividends to network with peers and others if you want to succeed in business. You need to get guidance before you start a new venture, connections to investors as you seek funding to scale the business, and expansion and exit insights as the business matures. Just as importantly, your business network can actually make a sometimes lonely role enjoyable. Yet networking effectively does take valuable time, and for some of us who are introverts, it’s not so easy at first. In working with many entrepreneurs and career professionals over the years, I have collected my own strategies which I offer to all of you as a place to start, and a focus on getting real value for your efforts: You make the first move – don’t wait for someone to pick you. If you wait for the right people to fin...

5 Barriers To Wise Delegation In Business Leadership

I often wonder how many more startups would succeed if their founders could master the art and science of delegation. It seems inherent in the mind of most first-time entrepreneurs that it was their idea, and they must do all the work themselves to make it happen. In my role as mentor and advisor to many founders, I consistently fail in convincing them of the power in wise delegation. I saw this challenge highlighted well in a new book, “Leadership Skills that Inspire Incredible Results,” by Fred Halstead. He has spent many years coaching and consulting with over 200 organizations, and he has helped me articulate the benefits of delegation, and better understand some of the key barriers. Here is my list of barriers to effective delegation, with tips on improving: Thinking only you can impl...

7 Steps To Meeting Your Goals With Your New Venture

Successful entrepreneurs are usually hard-driving, and highly focused on some specific goals, like being the dominant player in a given domain, or the low-priced provider of their product. Yet other entrepreneurs will talk for hours about all their ideas, and how they intend to change the world, but I don’t hear any specific goals or milestones. Many people are very hesitant to set specific goals, due to lack of self-confidence or whatever. The result is that they don’t ever get anywhere, because they never really knew where they wanted to go. If you find yourself in this category, try the following simple steps highlighted by Brian Tracy in his classic book “No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline”: Decide exactly what you want. If you want to increase your income, decide on a specific a...

6 Steps To Providing Exceptional Customer Experiences

For decades, efforts to satisfy customers have been built around demographics – capitalizing on race, ethnicity, gender, income, and other attributes. Today, in this age of pervasive social media and two-way communication, the focus needs to get beyond demographics into personalities. Customer personalities define customer experience, and sets what they love, and what they hate. Even businesses with highly specialized market segments will find it more effective and simpler to focus on who customers are as people, rather than the “what” of their demographic attributes. Customers today expect highly personalized and exceptional experiences to stay loyal and become advocates, rather than just conventionally “satisfied.” Satisfied is far from memorable. The challenge for every entrepreneur and...

5 Tips For Making Your Whole Team A Marketing Machine

As the rate of change continues to increase in business and technology, the more I’m convinced that marketing is the primary key to success for a new venture. Yet I find that many technical founders don’t feel they need it at all, or at best point to one person on the team who is marketing. I believe the real challenge is make your whole team a marketing machine. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to participate in creating the typical marketing hype, or needs to face the press on a regular basis. It does mean that everyone on the team, from you the founder to your most introverted developer, needs to really understand and believe in the product and strategy, and when asked, doesn’t hesitate to be an advocate for you and the business. For example, as a member of an angel investment grou...

7 Skills Every Startup Team Needs To Get Things Done

Isn’t it amazing that some people you know always seem to be working hard, but never seem to get anything done? As an entrepreneur, you need to avoid partnering with these people, or hiring them into your startup. The challenge is to find people who get things done, as well as work hard. LinkedIn profiles and resumes still focus too much on responsibilities rather than results. The best entrepreneurs never confuse motion with results. It’s easy to find people in every organization rushing around from one meeting to the next, often working overtime to generate more work for themselves and other people, but rarely taking the action to close an issue or contract. We all need more people around us who make every motion mean something. So how do you recognize those few people on your team who a...

5 Strategy Realities For Running Your Small Business

As an advisor and mentor for many startups and small business founders, following my initial career in big business, I realize that the key strategies to achieve success in small businesses are often different from those that make larger businesses successful. The primary difference is the amount of time you have to spend working in the business versus on the business. Small business owners have to do both, and split their time carefully between the two. Big business executives have the luxury of spending all their time working on the business, while delegating the operational tasks to other people and processes already in place to handle these. Continuing to micromanage both as your business grows is the downfall of many entrepreneurs. I found this challenge and others outlined well in a ...

Shortcuts For Simplifying How To Think, Act, and Lead

The cost of entry to the entrepreneur lifestyle is at an all-time low, but the challenge of winning and success is at an all-time high. Anyone can build a new web site, or publish a smartphone app for a few thousand dollars, but getting market penetration requires a lot more. Customers have come to expect disruptive change, so yet another social network is not the way to get traction. As an angel investor, I quickly look behind the idea or solution, to gauge the mindset and the leadership capabilities of the entrepreneur. That’s why the book, “The Leader’s Mindset: How to Win In The Age Of Disruption,” resonated strongly with me. It was written by Terence Mauri, who has worked extensively with Sir Richard Branson and the London Business School. Mauri offers some practical, actionable advic...

Early Adopters Are Not Enough To Assure Your Success

Every technical entrepreneur is an early adopter of technology, so naturally they build things with people like themselves in mind. Unfortunately, for most solution markets, early adopters represent only 10 to 15 percent of the total opportunity, so it’s easy to get mislead on the real requirements of mainstream customers. Psychologists call this the confirmation bias. I call it failing by early adopters. The good news is that early adopters are never reluctant to sign up as beta customers and will provide you early feedback on product quality. The bad news is that they are not a good test of basic usability and ease of operation, which are always a key to the much larger market of regular customers. Consider the long market acceptance struggle of digital wallets and home automation. Liste...

8 Keys To Market Delivery Of Innovative Technologies

Since I am a techie at heart, I always get excited when founders pitch their new innovation as “disruptive,” meaning that it is so unique that it will create a new market and disrupt the existing value network, displacing established products and markets. Unfortunately, I have learned that investors and customers are wary that big changes will take a long time, and cost more money. Therefore I always recommend to entrepreneurs that they use the term cautiously, but I never discourage their focus on disruptive innovation. In fact, in the greater scheme of things, it’s the best way to gain a real competitive advantage, and maximize economic value. Linear thinking is a good way get started as an entrepreneur, but paradigm shifts are the route to a big legacy. As examples, everyone should be a...

5 Market Obstacles That Kill Even Compelling Products

Even when your new product or solution fills a real customer need, and has a positive value proposition, many new venture founders are surprised and frustrated to find that excited customers are hard to find and growth is slow. Thus, as an advisor to many startups, without being negative, I often spend hours with them brainstorming on all the possible barriers that may slow adoption rates, and how to plan or modify the business model to work around these obstacles. For example, the software-as-a-service (SAAS) subscription model was created many years ago to offset the high one-time purchase cost obstacle that killed many early software products. Since then, the monthly subscription model has become the norm for a wide range of products and services, from web applications, to hardware, and...

Apply Hospitality-Driven Thinking to Your New Venture

I just finished a new book by Stephen J. Cloobeck, “Checking In: Hospitality-Driven Thinking, Business, and You”. As a self-made entrepreneur and former chairman of Diamond Resorts International, he asserts that the five biggest companies by market value today, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, aren’t really tech, but hospitality companies. Tech may be the tool, but hospitality – making life a little easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for your customer, is the winning focus. Unfortunately, too many of the technical entrepreneurs I mentor and advise are focused on their technology, and assume that the value will be self-evident to customers. They don’t do the translation from technology to customer comfort in their marketing, and they don’t constantly check to make s...

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