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The Sharing Economy Is Changing The Rules Of Business

The pervasive ability and need to communicate constantly and globally through the Internet and smartphones is incenting everyone to get more out of their own assets and time, and capitalize on the idle resources of others. This sharing economy is rapidly becoming the new business of sharing, with major winners already including Airbnb (rooms), Uber (rides), and Chegg (books). If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, or an existing business, and haven’t yet sized any of these opportunities, you may be already late to the game. Until I read the classic book “The Business of Sharing,” by Alex Stephany, who founded JustPark (current valuation estimated at £33M), I too had no idea of the scope of opportunities, and the 350 or more players already out there. The business tenants of the sharing econo...

10 Keys To Innovative Branding For A Great Solution

In today’s world of constant change and information overload via the Internet, content marketing and branding are often more important to success than product quality or technology. Contrary to a popular myth, word-of-mouth and viral marketing are not a substitute for more basic branding activities. The challenge is that many new business owners still don’t know where to start. The right strategy for branding these days is to create a most memorable total customer experience for customers, rather than a focus on hyping the product and the company name. Innovation is key in setting your company apart from the onslaught of promotional media out there today, including email blasts, banner ads on the Internet, and pervasive television spots. The new generation of consumers know what they want,...

It Takes Courage In Business To Change The Status Quo

According to recent articles, more than half of the businesses that once appeared on the Fortune 500 list have disappeared in the last twenty years, and the rate of departure is increasing. I’m convinced this is happening because most companies don’t have the courage to keep up with the escalating rate of change in the market today. Business as usual is no longer good enough. From my years of experience in big companies, as well as startups, I can attest that the courage to promote change is not something often seen, or even encouraged, in most employees or executives. Rather, the opposite is usually true; it’s better to play it safe, rather than risk being wrong. The problem is that most business people associate the word “courage” with excessive risk, to be left for individuals who are i...

10 Collaboration Myths No Entrepreneur Should Believe

If you listen primarily to the popular press, you could easily be convinced that all successful startup businesses are built by one smart person, such as Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, or Jeff Bezos at Amazon. In reality, it takes a collaboration of many good people to build and run a business, even though the original idea probably did come from that innovative entrepreneur. Thus a key skill and focus for every aspiring entrepreneur is the ability to collaborate with others who have the complementary skills in delivering the many decisions required in business, including marketing, financial, operations, and support. Solo or autocratic entrepreneurs usually don’t survive, due to required skills and a workload far beyond the capacity of a single human. Yet there are many myths around collabo...

7 Recommendations For Building Your Brand With A Blog

Blogging has come a long way in the past few years, from a social release for narcissists, to today’s required vehicle for promoting your consulting business and gaining valuable online exposure. Even with product businesses, it’s the ultimate way to build your brand credibility, bring in customer leads, and get feedback from your target market. Let me be clear – a product or consulting startup today without a blog, even with a static website, risks not being competitive in cost and time to reach and hold that critical mass of online customers. If you can’t justify both a web site and a blog, skip the old-fashioned web site, and make your blog do double duty as described below. The challenge, as with all new technologies, is to make it work effectively, and avoid wasted effort and expensiv...

8 Keys That Separate Lifestyle From Growth Startups

Until the recession a few years ago, market research indicated that as many as 90 percent of the roughly 20 million American small business owners were motivated more by lifestyle than growth and money. More recently, the desire for extra income has become the key driver in new startups, according to the popular press. It seems that more people are focused on money today. Being called a lifestyle entrepreneur should be a point of pride, not an insult. The term applies to anyone who places passion before profit, and intends to combine personal interests and talent with the ability to earn a living. This usually means not taking money from equity investors, since investors want fast growth, high profits, and an exit event, to allow investments to be recouped. Of course, even lifestyle entrep...

How To Boost Your Selling Skills And Win In Business

Image via Flickr by Alan Most of you who start new ventures don’t think of yourselves as sales experts. In fact, you may feel on the opposite end of the spectrum, more focused on delivering the perfect solution and managing the finances to grow the business. Yet in today’s competitive and rapidly changing world, top notch sales and marketing skills are critical to the success of every business. As an advisor to technical entrepreneurs, the most common mistake I see is the “If we build it, they will come” approach with no sales plan, under the assumption that the technology is so spectacular that customers will buy the product. In todays’ rapidly changing world, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, so it’s easy to slip into that unseen majority and fail. Thus, in my vie...

How To Take Your Business Idea From Dream To Reality

Image via Pixabay In my role as a new business advisor and occasional investor, I hear lots of people talking about their dreams of “someday” starting and running a new venture. They can talk with passion about their innovative new idea, and ask lots of questions, but never seem to really get started. The challenge we all have as business founders is to move from the idea stage to a real business. The solution I recommend is to move forward with a few quantifiable steps, to turn your dreams into specific goals and milestones, and then measure your progress and celebrate each small success in achieving these goals and milestones. I found these bite-sized chunks to be far more achievable and satisfying than making that one big step from your dream to a success business: Get the idea out of y...

5 Keys To Starting A New Venture In Your Local Town

Image via Wikipedia From the advice I hear these days, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, or one of the few other financial hubs around the world. What does that mean for the rest of us, who reside or grew up in the thousands of small towns that cover most of the landscape? Is entrepreneurship ever viable or recommended in a small town? I was pleased to see these questions addressed in a new book, “Small Town Big Money,” by Colby Williams, focused on entrepreneurship and opportunity in today’s small towns. Colby is a living example of how it works there, starting with his Parengo Coffee Shop in Sikeston, Missouri. He offers some practical entrepreneurship lessons I most often see talking about Silicon Valley: You still need a go...

10 Scams To Avoid While Seeking New Venture Funding

Image via Flickr by ivanpw Some aspiring entrepreneurs are so desperate for funding, or naïve, that they ignore the obvious signs of scams and rip-offs on the Internet, praying for a windfall. One would think that with all the sad stories and tools published over the past twenty years, this problem would be behind us. But people are still begging for more technology or laws, often to protect them from themselves. As examples, I present my list of ten of the most common ways entrepreneurs can be victimized by ignorance or greed, based on questions and stories I get from entrepreneurs and associates. Most of these are easy to avoid if you do your homework up front, but can cost you dearly if you get sucked in. Use the common sense suggestions to avoid the pain: Decoy investor scam. Here some...

6 Communication Elements Required For Every Business

Image via Wikipedia Effective communication is an absolute requirement for successfully starting a business, but it doesn’t come naturally to many entrepreneurs. Communication is considered a social skill, and inventors and engineers, for example, are not known to be social butterflies. Founders have to communicate their ideas and products to investors, business partners, and the rest of the team. Then, hopefully, come customers, distribution channels, and going public or merging with an attractive buy-out candidate. Communication is not just talking, but also writing, body language, and “actions speak louder than words.” John Spence, in his classic book “Awesomely Simple” says that the single biggest problem he has to deal with in client companies worldwide is the lack of open, honest, ro...

10 Tips For Rising Above The Crowd In Your Business

Everyone knows that that startups are risky, but they also expect that the job will be exciting and potentially very lucrative (think early employees at Facebook and Google). Yet we have all heard stories about the high turnover, unstructured work environment, lower base pay, and unpredictable expectations from the top. Assuming you are lucky enough to get hired, what can you do to survive, and even stand out above the rest in this environment? Here are some tips from a classic book by Harvey Mackay, “Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door,” which work even better in a startup than they do in a bigger company: Make yourself indispensable. The truly indispensable person in a startup is a problem solver, because every startup has plenty of problems. Very few people are willing and able t...

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