Getting inspiration can sometimes seem like a daunting task, especially for creatives. It is normal to look for inspiration from others or seek enlightenment from those who have experienced things that we have not. There’s nothing wrong in that. This helps us to be better rounded individuals with a more diverse perspective. We should not ignore a source of inspiration much closer to home though – our past.…
Inspirational tips and thoughts to motivate and stimulate thought.
Entrepreneurs, new business owners and even bloggers often pop up on the scene with vigour and motivation. Driven by determination to see our projects succeed we invest time, money and effort in the project or business. We strive to ensure that it has the best chance of success. This may include working extra hours or sacrificing other things to tend to our new endeavour. While this may be necessary, how we handle the inevitable slowdown may decide how successful we really are.…
When we start doing something new it can be very intimidating. There is risk involved in entrepreneurship as in all business ventures and it is possible to be paralysed by the fear of failure to the point that we miss valuable business opportunities. This is why it is important to get into the habit of overcoming challenges which inevitably will come.
The first hurdle
The first hurdle will be the first major challenge we encounter in either starting a business or running it. It is the first defining problem that makes us wonder whether we should proceed or count our losses and give up. It could be difficulty raising initial capital, low sales, low profitability or unexpected expenses. The first hurdle could also be non-financial such as reduction in family time, difficulty finding the right employees or competition from other businesses. Usually the way we handle this first hurdle will teach us about making tough decisions and the sacrifices that are necessary to be successful.
Overcoming the first hurdle
There is no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle. There is also no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle in our first try. While this may seem like a recipe for failure, it is actually an opportunity to consider the challenge facing us and the potential solutions. If profitability is the issue and trying to increase sales does not work maybe their is a problem with the entire business model. The music industry learned this lesson when it was reluctant to capitalize on the growing popularity of the internet and concentrated instead on physical record sales. Timing may also be a subtle factor which we sometimes neglect to consider. Introducing a product or service to a market that is not ready for it can lead to failure. Educating the market first and showing the need for the product or service can help us overcome the hurdle of the product/service being new.
The confidence boost
Getting over the first hurdle in business gives a boost in confidence and a taste of solving real world solutions. It may not guarantee business success but the lessons learned from this experience can be the foundation for getting over future hurdles. Many times the solution may not be obvious and out-of-the-box thinking may be necessary. We can use the experience of getting over the first hurdle to remind us that success can be achieved even when it is not immediately in sight.
Success stories obviously have happy endings but on the path to success these happy endings may seem an unbearable distance away. Creative solutions may have to be devised to overcome obstacles that arise. Both anticipated problems and unexpected situations require quick thinking and decisive action in order to achieve your goals. With that in mind , consider experimenting to improve your offerings, techniques, skills or general customer service before a problem arises. This allows you to be better equipped to face challenges when they inevitably come knocking.
Experimentation precedes innovation
Most success stories are also packed with stories of failure before the eureka moment occurred. Before the right idea can be identified the horrible and not so practical ideas have to be eliminated. Experimentation is the testing ground of ideas and the birthplace of innovation. Having the courage to try something new rather than follow the status quo has led to the invention of countless appliances. Failure of an original idea does not always mean the failure of an experiment as many products that were invented by accident show.
In the same vein, experimentation in business is vital for not only initial success but longevity. It allows a business to try new things and new approaches in a constantly evolving environment. Out-of-the-box thinking can gain a business a competitive advantage or even change an entire industry. Apple is renown for iTunes and iPod products that helped to transform the music industry from a CD dominated market to a digital one.
Experimenting breaks monotony
While doing the same thing over and over again can build up efficiency it can also become monotonous. When the excitement of a task is gone the morale of those performing it can also suffer. Experimenting is one method of averting the monotony of routine tasks. Google and other companies have used a 20% rule to inspire employees and allow them to express their creativity on work related projects of their choosing. This not only boosts morale but also results in new homegrown products. Google AdSense and GMail are examples of products that began as experiments but matured to be integrated into the company’s business model.
Change is always met with some form of resistance. People are reluctant to simply accept the unfamiliar but this should not discourage you from experimenting. In fact, the more your experiment can break through this barrier of resistance the more likely it will be to succeed. Great products/services are often those which make us wonder how we lived without it after it is invented. Have faith and fun experimenting and your hard work may just pay off.
Profits may be the most popular metric of measuring the success of a business venture but it is by no means the only (or the best) method for measuring success. Most start-ups are not profitable at the beginning of operation and many are not profitable for years. While monetizing a business is an important goal there are other important metrics that can be used to judge the performance of the company beyond the simple bottom line.
The impact a company has on society as a whole may warrant its existence even if it does not make a profit. This is why non-profit organizations exist and why they are able to source funding for their missions. Even businesses that operate for profit may have such a positive environmental or social impact that the level of profits alone cannot fully measure their success. Take for example a utility company that invests heavily in renewable energy and experiences losses in two years following that investment. The short term losses, will undesirable, may be overshadowed by long term impact of the transition to a cleaner source of energy.
Ideas are valuable and great ideas even more so. Not all ideas will be the next big thing, but innovation requires brainstorming and trial and error before genuinely useful new products and services are invented. The process of innovation can be expensive and yield little or no monetary profits in the short term. It however, is an essential part of business which is why some companies have whole departments dedicated to research and development. The ideas hatched today may actually be the cash cows of tomorrow and/or may inspire the next wave of technology developments.
It is possible for a business to develop and polish the products and services that it offers before it is able to monetize these goods and services. During that period the business may garner fans, users, supporters and attract investors, but may not be able to match the enthusiasm with sales. Sometimes the right business model just has to be figured out. In these situations the potential of the business means that profitability is expected eventually so the company should not be written off. It is a risk but the potential rewards are also high.
More and more businesses are being judged not only by what they provide but by how well they treat current and potential customers. It is easier than ever for people who interact with businesses to publicly express and share their experiences – good or bad. Businesses with superior customer service gain a good reputation and stand to gain more business through referrals and repeat customers. On the contrary, if a business neglects t respect and treat customers well it may face a lot of negative publicity on blogs and social media.
Make no mistake – your company will be judged by the bottom line. Profitability will be an unavoidable metric used to measure your success in business. Bear in mind however that profit is not all that is important. There are many other factors to consider in making your business a true success and ignoring these factors may discourage a entrepreneur on the verge of success.
A lot of people are scared of competition because they fear they will lose business. Thoughts such as “what if they are cheaper?” or “what if they offer better quality products or services?” tend to creep into the mind of business owners when someone new enters the industry. While these are valid concerns, increased competition is not all bad. As a matter of fact, the intuitive business owner can actually grow market share despite the arrival of a new player in the industry. Here are 5 lessons businesses can learn when the threat of competition is an issue:
1. Focus on your SWOT
Taking stock of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a common practice at the start of a business, but emphasis may wane as the business grows and becomes comfortable in the market. The introduction of a new competitor is an opportunity for you to revisit this handy analysis tool to reconsider your position and compete better in the market. Both internal and external factors may have changed since the last SWOT analysis so this helps you position yourself with a view of the current and future business environment.
2. Bring out the unique characteristics of your business
You are going to want to stand out from your competition and to do this you need to know your unique selling proposition (USP). Knowing what makes your business different allows you to focus on the core business functions that give you a competitive advantage. This x-factor ensures that even if your competitor offers similar products or services you have an opportunity to give your company an edge in the market.
3. Know your target audience
When competition arrives you get a chance to really know and understand your target audience. When consumers have options those that choose you over your competitor are that much more valuable. Finding out why those consumers choose you and knowing the type of consumers you want to attract will help you tailor your products and services to your target audience. Obviously you should do market research before new competition arrives but it doesn’t hurt to analyse your performance in the eyes of your target audience, taking into consideration the new competition, and tweak your offerings to better suit their needs.
4. Do not neglect marketing
Staying relevant becomes a little more difficult when others start competing for your target audience’s limited attention and limited disposable income. At this point effective marketing becomes more important than ever. You need to reach your target audience and make them aware of not only your existence but the reason why they should choose your business over the alternatives. Expect your competitors to invest in marketing as well so you will not only be competing with products and services but also marketing messages.
5. Partnership opportunities exist
As much as you may like to be independent sometimes you just can’t do it all alone. To be more competitive you may have to make strategic alliances. This does not necessarily mean collaborating with a direct competitor since you can also partner with other small businesses that provide complementary products and services. Improving relations with a supplier or streamlining the supply chain management are all ways of using business relationships to become better equipped to handle competition.
Competition in business is inevitable and almost always inconvenient. This is no reason to panic when new competitors arrive though. You can actually learn from your competitors and as an established business you already have a relationship with your target market. Use these factors and these 5 lessons to survive in an ever more competitive global economy.
It is not always easy to wake up and go to work. It may be a bit easier if you work for yourself but there are still days when you just are not in the mood to do any work. If you do not make a conscious effort these days may occur so often that it hinders productivity and performance. This is why you may need some external motivators to remind you of your goals and the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Here are a few motivation techniques that help get you to work when you don’t feel like doing anything.
1. Focus on the big picture
A list of goals, a picture of the family you are trying to support or an inspirational quote from a role model can all help you focus on the big picture and where you want to be. This is especially important when times are hard or depression sets in. Knowing what you are sacrificing for helps put your sacrifices in perspective.
2. Make a schedule and stick to it
Planning ahead can be the difference between doing something or doing nothing. Deadlines allow you to recognize when time is running out and the urgency of a task needs to be escalated. A schedule can also allow you to work harder when in the mood or “in the zone” so that you do not have to work as hard when you are not. Schedules therefore help you to decide how scarce resources should be allocated.
3. Incorporate something fun into mundane tasks
Work that doesn’t seem like work is usually the first to get done. Find creative ways to incorporate the things you love into the task you don’t to make it more bearable. You might want to sketch an idea instead of using words to brainstorm since you enjoy drawing but not writing. This makes the task at hand more enjoyable and less likely to cause you to scowl at the thought of doing it.
The world can be a scary place for an introvert with a great business idea, but a reluctance to express these views in public. Fear of ridicule, criticism, failure and doubts of one’s own ability can be crippling to the point of holding back ideas and stifling creativity. What if I am not good enough? Should I do this if I know I am not the best at it? Won’t the competition think I am a joke? All these thoughts tend to creep up on someone who is thinking of making a dramatic step into the world of entrepreneurship, especially when that person’s personality is not outgoing and bold. Despite these reservations there are a few things you should know if you are held back by fear uncertainty and doubt.
You are going to fail, but you can still succeed
When you start your own business you should expect to fail and if you decide not to start the business you have already failed. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and there are numerous statistics which show that the vast majority of start-ups fail. The trick with entrepreneurship is that success is only achieved after you overcome initial failures and set forth plans for long term sustained success. Do not be intimidated by the risk of failing, instead prepare for obstacles since the response to failures will determine your future success.
Confidence is key
If you cannot convince yourself that your business plan is solid and that your idea has merit you are unlikely to convince investors and other key stakeholders. While you must recognize risks and know your weaknesses if you are going into business you should also know your strengths and why you believe your business can succeed. Having credible information to back up your claims is a good way of building confidence so research can be a powerful ally.
Network whether you like to or not
When you start a business you must resist the urge to keep to yourself and hope your work gets noticed. You will have to actively promote your business to let people know it exists and more importantly what it has to over them. This may be a challenge if you are not a naturally outgoing person, but it helps to use your passion for the business and desire to see it succeed to motivate you to network with prospects who may become leads and ultimately be converted to customers.
Slow times at work may cause boredom, frustration and make you feel that you are not accomplishing anything. While you use this time to rejuvenate from busier periods you can also use it to prepare for an upcoming more hectic schedule. Start with these 5 tips to keep you motivated during slow times , and use the opportunity to take a preemptive strike at the stress and frustration of future busier times. Here are some things that can be done during slow times to ensure that busier times are more bearable.
You can restock office supplies during slow periods so you do not have to worry about it later. You can also restock emotionally by using the less stressful time to build up the patience, perseverance and courtesy that can be drained during chaotic periods of work.
A slow period is a a great time to reflect on the successes and failures of the busy period that preceded it. What went well? What needed improvement? What was a total disaster? While this exercise may seem like a useless trip down memory lane it puts things in perspective and allows you to honestly analyze where you are in comparison to where you want to be.
Tie up loose ends
Going into tomorrow with yesterday’s problems unresolved only postpones an undesirable situation. It is easy to procrastinate and put things off in times of low activity. If there are things to be done during slow periods ensure that they are done or else they might pile up and make an already busy period of work even busier.
Creating a strategy for dealing with future problems can go a long way in alleviating their impact in the future. Contingency plans allow you to prepare for the things which you hope will not happen but which could have negative effects if they occur. Planning ahead can also help you to better allocate scarce resources by considering future needs.
Improve the system
Many of our frustrations at work may not be with the job itself but actually with the system that we use (or are forced to use). Jobs are constantly changing and there are times that the system in use lags behind the needs of either the employees or customers. If you notice inadequacies in the work system you use the slower work periods are the ideal time to work on improving them. This could be a simple suggestion to those in authority or actualy presenting an improved system yourself.
The lure of running your own business and not having to work for someone else is very tempting for most ambitious individuals. This is especially true if you feel exploited at your job or feel that it is preventing you from reaching your full potential. Having control of your business activities gives you the freedom to reap the rewards of your hard work. You can take responsibility for the decisions that are made and their outcomes. There are many costs that are associated with starting a business that can be anticipated beforhand but there are also a few hidden costs that usually tend to become obvious after you have started operating. These costs are not limited to money but also affect resources and time.
1. Administrative costs
Besides your core business functions there are several administrative tasks that you will have to perform as an entrepreneur. Be prepared to either take up these responsibilities, which will be time consuming, or to hire someone to handle it for you. Simple tasks such as billing customers, listening to their feedback and making calls to acquire leads can add up to hours a day or require you to pay a salary. This can be especially frustrating for an entrepreneur trying to focus on improving core business functions.
2. Opportunity costs
Entrepreneurs are known for their ambition and enthusiasm but you will soon realize that you cannot do it all, or at least cannot do it all alone. Sacrifices have to be made and tough decisions will have to be taken. This is where you have to consider opportunity costs or the cost of choosing an alternative course of action. You may want to raise prices but the number of customers you will attract will decrease. If this decrease will reduce profitability then the cost of changing the price is higher than the cost of keeping it the same. Analysing opportunity can help you make wiser business decisions.
3. Contingency Costs
While we hope that unfortunate events do not occur we have little control over them. The most we can do is prepare for them. Contingency costs include the cost of this preparation but also the emergency costs that creep in when something unexpectedly goes wrong. If an important piece of equipment breaks down it may need to be replaced as soon as possible. Documents may need to be backed up requiring you to purchase additional storage solely for that purpose. In the Caribbean where there is an annual hurricane season an upcoming storm can incur costs even if a major hurricane does not hit.
4. Family life costs
Starting up your own business requires a lot of work and dedication and this can definitely affect your family life. Before the time comes that you can take vacation whenever you want you will most likely have to work long hours and on days you normally would not have to in a regular job. Days off can quickly transform into days of work. It is important for an entrepreneur to consider relationships with family and make responsible decisions. Communication is critical in these circumstances as family responsibilities and work duties can often conflict.
5. Financial costs
This may seem like an obvious cost since everyone knows that investment is necessary to start up a business. The financial costs you need to be aware of are not just the initial investments though. The financial burdens that occur when the business does not do as well as you anticipated or when you do not separate business and personal funds are pitfalls that every entrepreneur should be aware of. A passionate entrepreneur will undoubtedly be tempted to invest personal funds in the start-up but garnishing your savings to fund a failing business is a risky undertaking. At some point, if the business does not start generating a profit you need to find a sustainable form of investment or it may be time to call it quits.
These hidden costs are in no way intended to discourage entrepreneurship. In fact, being aware of them before they affect you can help you develop a stronger business and be prepared for some of the challenges that may be in store. I encourage anyone who wants to start a business to work on a business plan and pursue those dreams if they are plausible.