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The 6 Biggest Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

The 6 Biggest Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

As any entrepreneur can attest, there is a lot to do when starting your own business. It’s easy to make mistakes in the early days but you can avoid some of them if you know what they are. Many start-up entrepreneurs fall into these all-too-common traps, which can bog down or block their business flow.

1. You choose the wrong name.

Picking the right business name is crucial to your success. Don’t choose a name just because it’s cute, sentimental or quirky. Imagine your brand going national; will the name hold up to expansion? Is it easy to spell and remember? Does it describe your business or its benefits?

2. You buy for the sake of buying.

You will need business equipment, furniture, software and electronics, but you don’t need to purchase everything up front. Buy the essentials and upgrade as your business makes money. Keep your capital on hand for building the business; you will need it for networking, marketing and future investments.

3. You have no marketing strategy.

When it comes to branding, pay a professional to design your logo, website and other marketing materials. You may know your product but your lack of knowledge in to how to represent it properly to your potential client can hurt you. Enter the market with a focused marketing strategy and first-class materials that will elevate your business to a professional level from your first appointment on.

4. You work in isolation.

Many entrepreneurs can work for days on end and not see another human being. Get out of your pajamas and surround yourself with other talented and self-motivated professionals. Join networking groups, volunteer, serve on boards and other activities in order to generate new ideas and connect with like-minded individuals.

5. You underprice.

To determine what you should charge, look at your entire cost of doing business, including materials, labor, rent, utilities, taxes, and more. In the beginning, you should be able to cover your expenses and break even or make a small profit. Also, research competitive pricing; see what others are charging for similar services. Don’t venture too far off the average, either high or low. The more specific your niche, and the more in demand you are, however, the higher the price you can charge.

6. You give in to distraction.

Do you check email every time it dings, or spend hours surfing the Internet? Distraction eats up time and profit more than any other factor. Determine the specific activities that generate income (client appointments, contacts and networking) and spend the majority of your day on them. Set a formal work schedule and stick to it. Make income-generating tasks your first priority every morning, fill in with housekeeping chores, and hire out tasks that can be done by others.

Before starting any business, remember to do your research, network with other successful business owners, establish a budget and stick to it, and you will eventually achieve the profits – and the satisfaction – you desire.

 

 

I Survived September 11, but My Business Didn’t. What I Learned From Rebuilding.

I Survived September 11, but My Business Didn’t. What I Learned From Rebuilding.

On this anniversary of the day that changed the course of American history, I must reflect on how September 11, 2001, changed me both as a person and a businessman.

Seventeen years ago, I was running my first business, AbraCadabra Digital Printing on the 18th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower in New York City. Business was booming. We were generating about $4 million a year with 30 employees and five locations across New York and New Jersey.

I was finishing up a meeting with my business manager when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. Seventeen minutes later, we were standing on the streets of New York as the second plane crashed into the building where we had just stood.

Following the events of 9/11, my once thriving business suffered as many others did at the time. My sales plummeted to $600,000 in 2003. I finally sold the business in 2004 for $325,000.

Seeing so many lives destroyed and losing my business was a major setback for me both professionally and personally that, ultimately, taught me a number of enduring lessons about perseverance, rebuilding from the ashes and the importance of consistently reinvesting in myself. Although it is hard for anyone who was not there to relate to the extreme tragedy experienced on 9/11, the lessons I learned can apply to turning around any struggling business and to every entrepreneur looking to start again with a new venture.

Recognize when it’s time to let go and start over.

Business in New York was dead after 9/11. Our most profitable branch had been destroyed and the business was suffering immensely. I had a family to care for and had to let go employees who I’d been working with for years. When my business revenues dropped to just 30 percent of what they’d been just years before, I knew it was time to let this venture go.

Business owners and business persons alike often make the mistake of holding on to what they know, when letting go could be their best shot at future success. As a business owner, when you see your business is failing and know the chances of it improving in the foreseeable future are slim, it’s imperative to know it’s time to move on.

This means reinventing yourself and reinventing your business — not quitting entrepreneurship for good. Stay in the same field of business if that’s what you’re passionate about, but find that new sweet spot with a brighter, clearer future that gets new energy moving and reignites the excitement behind the business.

When I decided to sell AbraCadabra Digital Printing and join Cartridge Word, I was entering into somewhat unknown territory. I’d known very little about franchising, advertising such products, the top competitors in the industry, etc., but I made the bold move to purchase the franchise rights to Cartridge World when there were zero U.S. locations. Now there are 287, of which 70 are mine. Sometimes letting go of smaller ventures can lead you to greener pastures.

Reinvest in yourself.

As an entrepreneur, you are your biggest asset. You are the driving force behind the business; therefore, you should always seek to learn as much as you can about your business and industry for when big decisions need to be made.

Make the time to take additional courses throughout the year to learn and grow. Whether it be a business course on the latest techniques or technology, or a marketing and advertising course covering modern trends and creativity, always work to reinvent yourself and grow your knowledge base. I typically allott five to 10 days a year to attend a courses so I keep growing and widening my capabilities.

Furthermore, have a mentor to help guide you and advise you during your business journey. As your interests or field of business change, seek new mentors who can guide you along the way. In my experience, those who’ve made it, so to speak, are typically happy to help others make their dreams come true. Do your best to return the favor. Meet with fellow entrepreneurs, learn their stories and share your own. Networking is fundamental to growing your business.

Take responsibility for your business.

Whether times are good or bad, you need to realize that the state of your business is a reflection of how you, and you alone, are running the business. If times are bad, but you insist on running your business like you’ve done for the past 10 years, you can’t expect anything to change. If catastrophe strikes like it did on 9/11, be prepared to make major changes and adapt, even if that means leaving one venture behind and starting a new one.

To run a successful business, you need the energy, goals and dedication to self-improvement to keep it running and thriving. All businesses can get stale, but it is up to you as the backbone behind the company to make changes and keep the energy high.

When I decided to take one of my Cartridge World locations back to the new World Trade Center, I was the only business tenant pre-9/11 to return after the attacks. I knew this was a bold move, but a move that ignited my spirits and in turn, my business.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Greg Carafello

The Most Successful Entrepreneurs are Middle-Aged

The Most Successful Entrepreneurs are Middle-Aged

Here’s refreshing news for Boomers and Gen Xers, especially women considering starting businesses after 50 (who I’ve been writing about this year): When it comes to launching a successful business, youth is not the magic elixir.

“Successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young,” according to Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, a paper by Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Javier Miranda of the Census Bureau’s Center for Administrative Records Research.

Most Successful Entrepreneurs: Middle Age and Beyond

“We find that age indeed predicts success, and sharply, but in the opposite way that many observers and investors propose, they wrote. “The highest success rates in entrepreneurship come from founders in middle age and beyond.”

The provocative paper published earlier this year may stun some people, but not me. It confirms what I’ve found studying and interviewing midlife entrepreneurs for more than a decade; I profiled successful launchers in my book What’s Next?

Refuting the Conventional Wisdom

The paper’s authors said: “Many observers, and many investors, believe that young people are especially likely to produce the most successful new firms. We use administrative data at the U.S. Census Bureau to study the ages of founders of growth-oriented start-ups in the past decade and find no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed. Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond, while young founders appear disadvantaged.”

While the authors parsed their research by age, geography and industry, I was disappointed they didn’t tease out data on gender; more on that shortly.

The study’s researchers calculated a mean age of 45 among the 1,700 founders of the fastest-growing new ventures. And they found the “batting average” for creating successful firms rises dramatically with age. “A 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old founder,” they wrote.

Older Entrepreneurs Vs. Younger Ones

As my colleague Richard Eisenberg noted in his Next Avenue column, research from The Kauffman Foundation, a nonpartisan group supporting entrepreneurship, backs the researchers analysis. In its 2018 State of Entrepreneurship survey of 2,165 business, older entrepreneurs reported having less difficulty starting their businesses than younger ones, in a variety of ways.

For example, while 32% of startup owners under 45 said obtaining the necessary licenses to operate their business was difficult, only 23% of older ones did. And 21% of those under 45 said applying for loans was difficult, but a mere 14% of those 45+ did.

The authors of Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship theorize that there are few reasons an older entrepreneur may reap the benefits of start-up success over a younger one. These include: greater management, marketing and finance experience as well as a richer, deeper knowledge of an industry. Also — and this is important — they may have larger financial resources to tap and more social networks to mine for support in leveraging their idea.

The Importance of Work Experience for Successful Ventures

That said, they explained in a Harvard Business Review post about the study, “we found that work experience plays a critical role. Relative to founders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful startup.”

Since I’m particularly interested in women entrepreneurs over 50, I contacted MIT professor Azoulay and asked if he could speculate on whether the results would be as true, or truer, for women midlife founders than for men. “We do not have any evidence on gender, so we cannot enlighten you, very sorry,” he replied.

What About Women Entrepreneurs?

Frankly, I’m surprised the gender discussion was left on the table. I regularly receive emails and calls from women interested in starting businesses and looking for guidance. Generally, they’re over 50. The number of businesses owned by women in the U.S. has more than doubled in 20 years, and women are starting an average of 849 new businesses per day. There are now 11.6 million women-owned businesses, employing nearly 9 million and generating more than $1.7 trillion in revenue.

So I’ll take a stab at the question myself. My unscientific prediction is that if gender had been part of the research findings, middle-age and older female entrepreneurs would have risen to the top of the charts in performance over time.

Here’s why: As I wrote in this recent post, after 50 can be a great time in life for women to launch companies. “Research shows that women’s confidence at work increases with age while at the same time, their family responsibilities — especially related to child bearing and rearing — decrease,” Kimberly A. Eddleston, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University and a senior editor on the EIX Editorial Board of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, told me. “This makes entrepreneurship over 50 a great idea and a possibility.”

Midlife Women and Entrepreneurial Mojo

Another compelling reason midlife women have entrepreneurial mojo: “With their greater work experience and confidence, such women are more likely to see opportunities for a new business — customers whose needs are not being filled and gaps in product categories,” Eddleston said. “In turn, their work experience often gives them the networks to successfully launch a business at this career stage. They also often have the financial resources to support a new business.”

Sanyin Siang, author of The Launch Book: Motivational Stories to Launch Your Idea, Business or Next Career, told me that women have a few advantages over men as entrepreneurs. For one thing, they’re connectors. “We tend to have a diverse network,” she said. “That’s a diversity in terms of people with different backgrounds.”

Another advantage, according to Siang: Women tend to be open to “collaborative entrepreneurship.” That’s a terrific asset, but one that many would-be business owners dismiss.

“There is this idea that when we are starting something, we have to do it alone, to be the front and center person for it,” said Siang.  In reality, she noted, “to succeed, you need to expand your thinking about what your gifts and talents are. It might not be you running that company. You might come up with the idea and partner up with someone who is much better than you at execution and implementation. That’s collaboration, and something that comes naturally for many women.”

David Deeds, the Schulze Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, concurred.  “Entrepreneurship is a team sport, and women are good at working with others. That gives them a little advantage.”

Serious Concerns for Women Entrepreneurs

We hear a lot about sexism against businesswomen and a lack of capital for women-owned enterprises. And both of these are serious concerns. Nevertheless, experts I’ve interviewed have consistently told me that decades of workplace experience can make a big difference in whether womens’ businesses thrive. “The added work experience and the associated boost to their self-confidence significantly assists in the development of their businesses,” says Eddleston.

And women in mid- to late-career generally have more capital of their own to invest in their businesses than younger ones. “The ability to invest more capital provides a substantial advantage to these businesses,” Eddleston says.

Struggles in Year One

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for women owners. In the first year of owning a business, female entrepreneurs appear to struggle more than men, according to The Kauffman Foundation. Only 52% of women with first-year startups said their ventures performed well last year, while 67% of men said theirs did. The difference, however, fades over time. Among businesses that are five years old or older, 77% of women and 77% of men said their company performed well last year.

So my advice to mid-life female entrepreneurs or wannabes: Stay the course.

As Maya Angelou said: “All great achievements require time”

 

Originally posted on Forbes by Kerry Hannon

4 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Career Path

4 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Career Path

“What is the right career for me?” How often have you asked yourself that question? Or heard someone else ask it? I know that if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it, I’d be rich.

In fact, I’ve asked myself that question many times over the course of my life. When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then a marine biologist. Then a business lady (because I absolutely loved the idea of wearing high heels to work, which still makes me laugh to this day). Around the time college selection was underway, my desire was to be an art teacher. By college graduation, I had earned a degree in both Fine Art and Business, with a goal to pursue an advertising career. Finally, fast-forward another eighteen years and here I am, departed from advertising to a career of leadership coaching and empowering my clients.

My guess is that many of you reading this article have felt the same way, with a shift here and a try-that there. So, how do you know what the right career choice is for you?

Beyond taking a career aptitude test or quiz from Buzzfeed – which I’d wager won’t actually answer the question for you – it’s important to know what your purpose is in life, what your passions are, what your gifts are, and what keeps you motivated.

Purpose.

Most people confuse purpose and passion, but purpose is the philosophical idea of why you are on this earth, what you are here for, and what you are intended to do.

A less-overwhelming way to look at this is to ask yourself what your “who” is. Your “who” is essentially what drives you, defines you as a person, and makes you tick.

My “who” is being a supporter. Nothing makes me happier or gives me more fulfillment than supporting someone else, however they need it.

Passion.

Passion takes the idea of purpose one step further. Essentially, it’s what gets your juices flowing. What excites you? What gets your heart beating fast? What are you willing to sacrifice for?

On my end, I love seeing women be successful in their careers, as well as watching them continue to rise up in the ranks around the globe.

Gifts.

What skills, experiences, and unique offerings do you have or want to have? What can you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually offer to the world around you?

I am gifted in being able to see themes and break down information in a way that it can be used to tell a compelling story. I see people’s gifts, strengths, and offerings (sometimes before they do) through my abilities of being a great listener, having strong empathy and intuition, and being able to translate ideas and themes into simple, sticky messages that resonate.

Motivation.

What keeps you going, even when times are tough? What keeps your internal “lights on?” People tend to be promotion- or prevention-focused when it comes to motivation – meaning you are either goal-oriented and motivated to reach new heights (promotion) or interested in security and protecting the things you’ve worked hard to get (prevention).

Promotion people are typically fast-paced, and they like a challenging or changing environment and trying new things to grow and evolve. Prevention people are more analytical and like to know the details before taking action, in order to avoid potential risk. They also take great pride in the quality of their work and recognition of their expertise. No one is completely one way or the other, but knowing what your main motivation is can be extremely helpful when considering careers.

My motivation is the idea of taking on new challenges and solving new problems. Learning and trying new things is highly motivating to me, making me primarily a “promotion-motivated” person.

Once you know the answers to these four questions for yourself, you can really start to define (or redefine) what your career path looks like. The combination of these questions pointed me down the path of being a leadership and career coach. My heart sings when I support women by helping them to become successful and building their confidence to get that next job, get promoted, become a stronger leader, or run a business. And because every human in the world is unique and different, my promotion motivation goes on and on to support every client’s needs.

Adding it up for you.

Choosing a career, changing careers, or even contemplating trying new things can be equal parts scary and exciting. The fact that we work or are focused on careers for the vast majority of our lives only compounds our fear and enthusiasm. Give yourself time to really reflect on these questions. Make lists, ask your friends, family, and peers for their thoughts, and research opportunities to open your mind to your potential.

 

Originally posted on Ellevate by Tami Chapek

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