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5 Things Not to Do Running a Small Business

5 Things Not to Do Running a Small Business

I’ve been a creative entrepreneur since 2005. My first design company was a partnership with my significant other. It was largely a freestyle experiment in running a business, conducted live over the course of five years. As a business, it was marginally successful. As a learning experience, it was my equivalent of a masters of business administration.

So, by the time I had started my second and current company, I had a pretty good blueprint of don’t’s for running a small business. I had been fortunate enough to make the mistakes that have yielded five valuable lessons learned — lessons that have truly paid off the second time around.

1. Don’t rush into partnership

It was only after my original partner and I parted ways did I recognize that we should never have had a professional partnership in the first place. Just because someone is your best friend, long-time coworker and / or significant other hardly qualifies them as the perfect candidate for maintaining a business. I say “maintaining” because it’s far easier to get excited about the prospect starting a company than being able to handle the day-to-day reality of running it efficiently.

The best partner is typically someone whose skills and approach are the polar opposite of yours. The first ensures the you are able to cover a lot more ground without additional employees. The second may create conflict, but it’ll force you both to defend your business instincts and weed out lesser ideas before you waste resources.

2. Don’t get discouraged

Running a company isn’t a goal — it’s a long, winding road. Enjoy the process! Unless your goal is to cash out, and you’ve got some built-in exit strategy, chances are you want a long-term entrepreneurial career. You will have ups, and you will have downs — possibly in the same week or even day. You will gain amazing clients and lose others for reasons fair and unfair. That’s all part of having a business.

I’ve yet to encounter a single business owner who’s reached some grand, stable plateau beyond failure, disappointment and doubt. We all experience it. Instead of discouragement, focus on becoming more resilient, on learning how to handle stress productively.

3. Don’t forget why you wanted to start a business in the first place

Whether it’s following a passion or having more control over your time to devote to family, always remember why you started down this road in the first place. It’s easy to get carried away and forget what it was you wanted from your own business. I, for example, was driven by quality-of-life factors, especially time off for my other passion — travel. At times, temporary sacrifice may be truly necessary, but it pays to be conscious of when you’re in danger of permanently shelving the very thing you wanted most.

4. Don’t try to do everything yourself

I started my first company with $500 — barely enough to cover the costs of incorporation. So, right away, I developed an addiction to doing everything myself. My partner was only capable, willing and able to do so much, and I found myself doing a lot of admin tasks I never anticipated. Those tasks came with learning curves, and they took up valuable time and energy — energy that could have been directed at helping the business grow.

I didn’t make this mistake twice. With my second, far more successful attempt, I contracted my business half just a couple of months in. Although my expenses grew, now I could focus on doing better work as well as devote time to business development. Both actions helped to grow the company far quicker than my former money-saving attempts at being my own bookkeeper.

So, resist the urge to cover all the ground alone. Saving financial resources is important, but don’t let your task list undermine your big goals.

5. Don’t stop evolving

Your strategy, your marketing plan, your target market — nothing is set in stone. The world is changing more and more rapidly each day. Your industry will likely experience a shift, whether slight or monumental, at some point. As a small business, you are at a disadvantage, because your resources are a lot more limited. But you have a priceless advantage in ability to change course and adapt far quicker than a larger organization.

The best way to remain relevant is keeping your eyes open for changing tides, your mind open to new ideas and staying flexible.

And, of course, don’t be too afraid of making your own mistakes!

 

 

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur by Maria Rapetskaya

Four Things Women Entrepreneurs Must Have Before Starting A Business

Four Things Women Entrepreneurs Must Have Before Starting A Business

I’m a big believer in entrepreneurship. It’s an abiding passion of mine to encourage other women to take the plunge and start their own business; the benefits are myriad, giving you more control over your financial future and more social capital than almost anything else in modern America. Empowering women is my number-one mission, and women’s entrepreneurship is the best route to self-empowerment and social change that I know of, giving women the ability to excel on their own terms instead of being trapped in the limbo of a toxic and prohibitive work environment.

Starting a company is a new adventure. But make sure you’re ready.

But starting a business isn’t easy, and requires buckets of hard work and preparation. There’s no easy path, no get-rich-quick scheme that will make your business thrive other than you. And while lots of people are going to give you practical advice for starting a business – how you want to incorporate, building your business plan, finding your niche – I want to say something to all the women out there that’s a little different: what do you, as a person, need to have in order to start a thriving business?

A Responsible Fear

It may sound counter-intuitive; getting your confidence up is always a big part of any package of advice for people starting businesses. There’s lessons on how to “fake it till you make it,” because confidence in you inspires confidence on the part of investors and clients. However, the fear of failure is an important motivator; as is the fear of irrelevance, or of simply not fulfilling your dreams. These are healthy fears that encourage both responsibility and risk-taking, keeping you perpetually on your toes instead of getting complacent or resting on your laurels. The right kind (and amount) of fear can motivate you to locate new opportunities, seek out new strategies and dig deep for that extra bit of energy needed to continually strive for more and raise the bar.

Realistic Expectations

The vital importance of a vision that aligns with reality can’t be overstated; while overnight, runaway sensations dohappen – your Ubers, your Twitters – in most cases, a successful business takes time to grow, and will occupy most of your time (what you don’t see in overnight success stories is the years of hard work it actually took to get there). You probably won’t hit a million dollars in revenue in your first year. You probably will spend some nights sleeping on your office floor. Your team probably won’t gel as well as you expect it to, and you’ll have unexpected competition. There are a million different wrinkles you could encounter, and having a realistic idea of what your first five years are going to be like can and will both help you be more productive and avoid burnout. Burnout can ruin you, but having a realistic set of expectations can help you avoid it by showing you that you’re on the right path to meeting your goals.

Short and Long-term Goals

Speaking of goals, realistic performance expectations are one thing, but let’s not forget that you didn’t start this business because you had realistic expectations; you started it because you wanted it to become wildly successful. Far too often, entrepreneurs fail to connect the dots between their dreams and their business model, letting their long-term ambitions drive their decisions without any sense of a middle ground. It’s the error of mistaking your reach for your grasp, and overextending yourself. When I started TransPerfect, and still to this day, I set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly (and beyond) goals for myself, providing concrete, achievable steps all in service of a grander, meaningful dream. Start with small, iterative steps that you can reasonably expect to be able to achieve within a short time-span and are component with the larger goals you have for your company (what we might as well call “wishes” if there’s no clear plan to get there). Look into adopting the SMART Goals framework as your own; it forces you to think through your plans in concrete ways and will quickly expose wishful thinking for what it is.

A Support Network

Starting a business might feel like the hard part, but that’s because you haven’t experienced the day-to-day slog of it yet. Running your own company means nonstop stress: managing your finances, managing your employees, keeping your clients happy, ensuring quality of work, healthily maintaining and growing the company’s value, intelligently investing in the company’s future, worrying where your next client is going to come from – it can be a lot, and it’s not something you can simply leave at the office. For this exact reason, depression is the great unspoken affliction of entrepreneurs.

You can help avoid or manage stress overload by making sure you have a network of friends, loved ones, and (importantly) colleagues you can connect with and lean on when things get difficult. We all know that confidence is the name of the game when you’re running the show, which means it can feel impossible to let your guard down and show vulnerability; this is especially true for women, who may feel the need to overcompensate in response to sexist assumptions. But the thing is that vulnerability is not the same thing as weakness, and having people with whom you can take off your armor and from whom you can both seek and receive comfort is a vital part of keeping your head above the water rather than sinking below it. This will be especially true in those first five years, which will constantly challenge and ask more of you.

By making sure these five areas are filled, you’re filling your toolbox with the right equipment to help your business succeed. Keep your eyes forward, but never lose sight of what’s right at your feet. Going into a new venture mentally prepared and thoroughly thought through with a healthy understanding of what it will take is probably the biggest key toward reaching your goals; after that, it’s all follow-through.

 

Originally posted on Forbes by Liz Elting

Writing a Daily To-Do List has an Amazing Benefit

Writing a Daily To-Do List has an Amazing Benefit

We’ve all been there, kept awake and tossing and turning because we’re anxious about what challenges the next day will bring. But a recent study found that if you spend just five minutes putting together a to-do list to tackle in the morning, you might go to sleep more quickly.

The team of researchers tried to figure out if the to-do lists would lead to more or less concern about the following day’s tasks. They monitored a group of university students as they slept during weeknights in the lab. The students were split into two randomly selected groups and given two different five-minute writing assignments.

One group wrote down everything they needed to do the next day and the other group was asked to write about what they had accomplished within the past few days.They also had strict bedtimes — 10:30 p.m. — and they were not allowed to use electronics or do any additional work.

“We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime,” said lead author Dr. Michael K. Scullin in a summary of the findings. “Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract nighttime difficulties with falling asleep.”

The results of the study found that the participants who wrote the to-do lists fell asleep nine minutes faster than those who reflected on what they had done earlier in the week. Additionally, the more specific the list, the quicker people fell asleep.

While the study had a small sample size of just 57 students, the researchers say that they would be interested in applying the experience in a broader context.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Nina Zipkin

Collaborate for Small Business Growth

Collaborate for Small Business Growth

In a world where social media and product association are rampant, small businesses know there’s great strength in numbers. Business owners benefit considerably when they collaborate with other entrepreneurs to build branding and ultimately thrive together.

The Competitive Advantage of Collaboration

There are costs associated with any venture, but when you team up with a company that provides goods or services that you don’t, you significantly reduce the time and money you put into a new channel. Another word for collaboration is bartering — both businesses provide expertise and mutually beneficial services, strengthening each other in doing so.

The more businesses you partner with, the larger your potential client base grows and the greater the demand for your product becomes. Whether you’re an e-commerce site or a brick and mortar, by bartering you gain an advantage on those who aren’t partnering up.

Finding the Right Partner

To ensure you’re collaborating with a “merger” rather than a “moocher” and to safeguard yourself from the biggest partnership pitfalls, ask yourself the following questions before entering an agreement:

  • Can their industry or sector accommodate the needs of my company?
  • Is this partnership professionally or personally driven?
  • What am I committing to this partnership?
  • What are my goals and objectives for this partnership?
  • Specifically (and with as much detail as possible), how will the two businesses collaborate?
  • What data, intellectual property, patents, and secured information can be shared/obtained while collaborating?
  • What is the ROI of any funds allocated to this partnership?
  • What is my business NOT offering that this potential partner IS offering?

While professional collaboration may be attractive, if the data doesn’t back the decision, it’s safer to go it alone or look for other partnership opportunities.

 Keep It Personal, Keep it Local

Small businesses may aim for global expansion, but attention should focus locally (or at least on a localized market) in the early stages. A business that offers a physical product the local community needs — which is generally why the product is offered in the first place — should buy local and establish a local entrepreneurial group that meets regularly. These groups spark innovation, improve marketing strategy, and increase community interest in small business ventures, which equals higher profits.

Most of all, keep it personal. It’s your business and your livelihood at stake. If you have doubts about collaboration, get a professional opinion. If you can’t get one, walk away. Better to err on the side of caution than risk an ill-informed partnership.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Jana Barrett

12 Things You Can Do Starting Today to Be a Better Leader

12 Things You Can Do Starting Today to Be a Better Leader

Some believe certain people are born leaders. Others think an individual can learn to be a leader. Regardless of how you may feel you obtained your leadership skills, there are always ways to enhance your abilities. This list of suggestions may inspire you to reevaluate your leadership abilities and address any issues you find need improvement.

1. Be a positive role model.

As a leader, your actions set the tone for what is appropriate behavior in the workplace. Exhibit actions that you want your team to emulate. You may establish rules of conduct or have expectations for how staff should behave at work and what actions will not be tolerated. The best way to encourage these specific actions is to correctly and precisely demonstrate these behaviors yourself.

2. Be humble.

Share the credit for successful projects with your team. If you make a mistake, readily admit to your error. Apologize when needed and admit when you do not have the solution to a problem. Demonstrate the willingness to seek answers from other sources. Such actions show your human side and help you gain the respect of employees and customers alike.

When you admit a mistake your employees feel safe admitting their mistakes, instead playing the “blame game.” Accepting that individuals make mistakes will create a more cooperative atmosphere in your company.

3. Practice effective communication.

Let your team know they may openly discuss workplace issues with you. Be approachable. Give employees your attention, keep an open mind and make eye contact as they speak, (don’t be working on your next project or email.) Maintain the confidentially of the conversation. You can build trust this way. Be sure your staff knows of your expectations for them. Quickly address any misunderstandings. Make a note of what was discussed and put in a private email to your employee, if appropriate. This will help keep misunderstandings at a minimum.

4. Find a mentor.

A confident leader realizes there is always more to learn and will turn to a trusted friend or colleague for their opinion of a given issue or to receive feedback on their job performance. Seeking the advice from someone with more experience is not a sign of weakness.

5. Be emotionally aware.

Business is ultimately about dealing with people. While some may say emotions have no place in the business world, wise leaders strive to be aware of the sensitivities of others. These leaders learn to acknowledge different opinions and consider background information to better understand those around them. Emotions usually reveal the deeper, most important and relevant points of personal interactions. It is an important area to explore more deeply.

6. Encourage creativity.

Let your team know you are open to their ideas. Empower them to take their ideas to the next level by giving positive feedback and constructive advice as warranted. The opportunity to present and try out ideas can lead employees to deeper commitment, enhanced problem-solving abilities and greater productivity. Reward creativity and recognize that these actions help your staff develop their full potential.

7. Be passionate about your work.

Leaders must demonstrate a commitment to the goals of the company. Show your staff how strongly you believe in the organizational goals and how much you value their contribution to this endeavor. If you want dedicated employees, be dedicated yourself. Don’t hesitate to speak passionately about what you believe in.

8. Know your team.

Learn about your employees. Ask about their families or recreational activities they enjoy. Politely ask how things are going for them. Doing so will demonstrate that you care about them as human beings and do not consider them just another name on the company payroll.

Jot down this information so you don’t forget areas that are important to your employee. Be sure to include remote workers. Review these notes before an interview or progress report with an employee so you can make appropriate comments that show you are thinking about them.

9. Think positive.

It is easy to be positive when things are going well but a good leader will remain confident when things go wrong. They embrace failures and inspire their team to consider such events as opportunities to learn. A positive outlook will help your staff remain encouraged and create an overall upbeat environment where people will want to remain. Thinking and acting positive go hand-in-hand. Never slight anyone, in or out of your employ.

10. Be yourself.

All leaders have their own style of dealing with people. Talk with your mentor or supervisor to help identify your strengths and weaknesses. Seek advice on how to enhance your weaker skills and utilize your stronger assets to their maximum potential. Obtain feedback from your staff as how they view your management style. Share some information about your personal life to help your staff learn about you. Plan a happy hour where business is not discussed and everyone can be themselves.

11. Study past leaders.

Take a look at those who have previously held your position. Examine why they failed and why they succeeded. Become aware of common mistakes. Compare your leadership style to theirs. Also, take a look at your peers to compare their progress while taking  into consideration variables such as location and economic factors.

Your leadership style doesn’t have to be the same as a previous leader in your company or position. In fact, your leadership style shouldn’t be the same as anyone else’s. Improve your style, but stay real.

12. Challenge your staff.

Employees may become bored and dissatisfied if they are performing the same tasks and projects each day. Give your staff new challenges that are within their abilities. Provide constructive feedback as they work on new projects. Learning and mastering new challenges will give your staff a sense of accomplishment. It shows that you have confidence in their skills and value them as part of the organization. There are many skill learning opportunities on line that can be worked on during working hours.

 

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Murray Newlands

6 Characteristics of Resourceful People That Bring Them Success

6 Characteristics of Resourceful People That Bring Them Success

There is not a more useful or important trait to possess than resourcefulness in the pursuit of success. Resourcefulness is a mindset, and is especially relevant when the goals you have set are difficult to achieve or you cannot envision a clear path to get to where you desire to go. With a resourcefulness mindset you are driven to find a way. An attitude of resourcefulness inspires out-of-the-box thinking, the generation of new ideas, and the ability to visualize all the possible ways to achieve what you desire. Resourcefulness turns you into a scrappy, inventive and enterprising entrepreneur. It places you a cut above the rest.

1. Open minded.

As an open-minded entrepreneur you must be passionate about breaking boundaries and redefining what is and is not possible. You must possess the unique talents necessary to leverage and fulfill the immediate goals set out in front of you, and remain open when considering new ideas and differing thoughts from your own. Open-mindedness is critical when taking the actions that will lead you towards success.

In being open-minded you find value in all kinds of different people, events and circumstances. You demonstrate a willingness to embrace an array of possibilities, opportunities, thoughts, views, suggestions and experiences outside of your normal repertoire. You push yourself to do what others believe to be impossible. This is how you attain success while the less resourceful give up on their dreams. Stretch out of your comfort zone and expand your thinking. As you stretch yourself you discover things which greatly improve your business, and ideas which help you bypass current obstacles standing in your way.

2. Self-assured.

Believe you are capable of handling any problem placed in front of you. You must wholeheartedly hold the belief that you are competent and adequate enough to achieve what you desire. This belief is the first step you take in getting things done. When you are self-assured you like and trust yourself. You know your value, appreciate your talents, work ethic and your ability to consistently follow through on your every word, deed and action.

Hold the mindset that workable solutions exist for every problem. Visualize yourself being successful every day. When facing difficulties picture yourself overcoming them. Imagine accomplishing your goals and celebrating your successes. Openly accept compliments and know that you deserve them. Keep a daily log of your successes. Write down your achievements each day and soon you will fill the pages and develop a clear scope on how far you have come and how much success you have had. This will go a long way in helping you realize that you have earned the right to be confident in yourself and your abilities.

3. Imaginative.

Resourcefulness is having the mindset to look at what’s in front of you and to optimize what you have to work with. Being imaginative is not always about creating something new, but also, with a little ingenuity making old things work better. Reach far into the depths of your mind and come up with outlandish possibilities as well as practical ones. Allow your mind to wander. Never stop your creative process, as you may talk yourself out of great idea. Creative thoughts quickly move you from one idea to another and to another. One of those ideas may bear the fruits of a genius idea or solution.

4. Proactive.

There is no such thing a procrastination in the mindset of those who are resourceful. To be successful you cannot put your dreams on hold and wait for the right resources or people to show up. There is no waiting. Get out there and create your own resources and networks. When you are resourceful you do not allow outside circumstances determine when or how you take action, or you will always settle for less.

When opportunities present themselves do not overthink or talk yourself out of them. Get in the game. Avoid being a passive observer. Participate actively and always be deeply involved. Take initiative to be a part of creating and finding solutions. Engage with and influence the people, events, circumstance and knowledge which come your way. It is when you are actively engaged in your business that you have the most significant impact on everything you touch.

5. Persistent.

To be resourceful you can never give up. If you stop trying before a problem is solved then you haven’t accomplished anything. If you don’t succeed at first, get up and try again. Try a dozen things a hundred different ways if that is what it takes, but don’t give up the fight simply because obstacles present themselves on your path. Trust that every “No” puts you that much closer the “Yes” you are looking for.

Let anxiety and frustration motivate you. Get in touch with how deeply you want to succeed and make a difference. These motivators largely determine what you accomplish. Discipline yourself to keep going when you want to quit. Any sought after goal worthy of your effort will place challenges in your way. If you practice persistence and make it your habit to discipline yourself to get done what needs to get done, you are guaranteed to reach your goal. Gregariously go after what you want. Never see a setback as a failure, view it as practice. Practice makes perfect. Use fear and frustration to push you over the finish line of what you are seeking.

6. Hopeful.

Possessing a resourceful mindset requires you stay positive. There is a solution to every problem, even if that means a change in direction. Train yourself to see the positive benefits in every situation. As you cultivate a positive outlook you will see it is easier to come up with solutions. Fear and frustration block innovation.

When frustrated, remind yourself of all the times in the past you dealt with a crisis or difficult situation and the stories of victory and success that resulted from those hardships. Allow these memories to keep you hopeful in your present situation. Each time you are successful through hardship you grow into a stronger, wiser person. Your experiences teach you things you can now pass onto others when in need of support and encouragement.

To develop a resourceful mindset be willing to constantly improve yourself. Be open to learning new things and do all you can to keep current with what is happening within your industry. Even if your business becomes more successful your learning must continue because learning provides enrichment to your life. Know and embrace what your personal strengths and weaknesses are and learn how to control and overcome them. You cannot manage every situation you encounter effectively if you do not have the ability to harness your fears and/or weaknesses. Therefore, read as many books as you can, consistently educate yourself and put what you learn into full blown action. Become the person who finds the loopholes, who is scrappy and innovative. When you practice resourcefulness, you raise the bar and success is a guarantee.

 

Originally posted on entrepreneur.com by Sherrie Campbell

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