Business Advice: How Startup Founders Can Prioritize Efficiency

Forbes Publication

As an entrepreneur or startup founder, there are numerous tasks that you need to work on at any given moment. The skill is figuring out what to work on, when to work on it and what deserves immediate attention. Why is it so hard to prioritize in a startup business? At times:

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• A huge deal is in progress that requires collaboration. Employees’ attention is now diverted.

• Clients are unsatisfied. Employees are now focused on customer service.

• Stakeholders in the organization want to change things around. As the founder, you’ll have to placate their needs.

• Technical issues slow the startup down.

• A potential partner wants to invest in your business. This requires drafting contracts and meeting deadlines.

You may find yourself leaping between these tasks daily. So, how can you prioritize the ins and outs of your startup? Let’s discuss exactly what you should be focusing on to ensure continued success.

Why do so many startups fail? 

To understand what you should focus on, it is first important to recognize why so many startups fail — lack of proper prioritization is only the tip of the iceberg.

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One of the reasons startups fail is because they run into the problem of having little or no market need for their particular services or products. Typically, this happens because there isn’t a compelling enough value proposition to motivate consumers to buy.

Startups may also face improper market timing. Ideally, startups should be ahead of the market, with proper forecasting enabling them to deliver products and services strategically.

Lack of prioritization also contributes to startup failure. Improper planning manifests as an ineffective management team. Unfortunately, inadequate management is a problem for many startups. Weak management teams make mistakes, including poor execution and not prioritizing key projects.

A lack of prioritization can eventually contribute to cash flow problems, another reason why many startups go under. One of the key responsibilities of a CEO is understanding cash flow and whether it will carry the company from quarter to quarter.

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What do startups have to prioritize above all else? 

Above all else, I believe startups need to prioritize workplace efficiency. Startups in particular have returns that are under pressure. Put a spotlight on the value of employees carrying out the right tasks at the right time. By working efficiently, your team can produce more in the same amount of time. This will maximize productivity, contribute to positive cash flow, achieve more at a lower cost, and lead to higher returns.

Before tackling issues when it comes to workplace efficiency, it is important to recognize if your startup is productive in the first place. Productivity is vital for continued success, especially since the economic model of a startup can involve a lot of uncertainty.

You can measure your startup efficiency through several methods, with one of the popular methods being time management productivity. This method measures productivity by recording how employees use their work time. There are software programs that measure how much time employees spend being productive and dedicated to efficiency. Daily updates from employees, progress reports and transparency on daily tasks will not only measure efficiency, but also encourage dedication to the startup’s mission.

One of the best ways to encourage efficiency in the workplace is to properly onboard employees and respect their autonomy. Onboarding refers to the process of orientating new employees for success, and it goes beyond making a new employee feel welcomed.

Give employees the tools to familiarize themselves with their daily tasks and work culture. Then, give them opportunities to contribute to the culture. A successful onboarding program includes a thorough introduction to the startup’s mission, key players and roles that specific people or departments have.

Proper onboarding leads to autonomy. It is an essential element in an efficient workplace. I’ve found that it empowers employees to shape their environments and helps them realize that startup founders rely on and respect their contributions. Furthermore, it helps thwart feelings of disengagement, work dissatisfaction and apathy. An efficient startup includes efficient employees who feel like they are being understood.

10 Creative Marketing Ideas to Build Your Business

AllBusiness Publication

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When entrepreneurs are first starting out, they usually are not thinking of “rocking the boat” when it comes to marketing. Yet a very creative promotion can work wonders for a new business, generating a positive buzz that will get it noticed. 

To find out which approaches work best, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC Next and Young Entrepreneur Council this question:

Q: What is one out-of-the-box promotion that worked wonders for your fledgling business? 

1. Speed dating with potential customers

I would set up in a WeWork conference room for a day and let people book 20 to 30 minute time slots with me. Founders would come in for free and get growth advice from our growth team (me) on how to scale their business. My main goal was to get out of the office and talk to potential customers. This method doesn’t scale, but by doing it we formed some great relationships with people. —Jim HuffmanGrowthHit

2. Performance guarantees

When we first started out, a great way to get our foot in the door was to offer various performance guarantees that we felt we could, and should, be able to meet or exceed. This de-risked the choice for our clients, and it’s something we still offer to ensure our clients meet their demand generation targets. —Brandon PindulicOpGen Media

3. Get a little outrageous

We made a list of 50 of our perfect target clients. We then worked out a deal with a local pizza place to deliver free pizza to all of them. Out of each pizza, we had the shop remove one slice and replace it with a small printed graphic that was in the shape of a slice. It said: “Looking to grow your company? We are the missing piece. Give us a call.” —Frank BravataMarketing Rebellion

4. Radio interviews

By giving radio interviews, you get exposure, and potential customers get to know you and will remember you. Contact radio stations to promote your business and let them know you have expertise in a particular area and are available to provide a local angle whenever necessary. This is something I personally did in the early stages of Aligned Signs. It is still a good practice for free publicity. —Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

5. Public speaking

One of the best lead generation methods is public speaking—it’s inexpensive and very effective! Sharing knowledge is a great way to provide value and position yourself as an expert. Every time I present, I have multiple people approach me afterward who are interested in learning more about my services. We’ve closed many deals this way. —Zack HanebrinkHookLead

6. Alignment with trade associations

One of the best things we did was to strategically align ourselves with several respected trade associations by offering our services in exchange for being considered their marketing partner. By first proving our worth, we built a strong endorsement from them to their respected members within the organization. That opened the door to high-quality companies looking for a vetted marketing partner. Remember, most associations are non-profits that have limited resources but do great things for their communities, so they are always interested in expert help. —Matt BardenIndustrial Marketing

7. Third-party guest posting

In the world of digital marketing, this is nothing new. But for other businesses that aren’t so content-centered, the last thing they want to think about for a quick promotion is creating content for relevant websites or blogs within their industry. Start with the most influential sites and pitch blog ideas to them that discuss unique solutions to their readers’ problems, while not being self-promoting. —Ron LiebackContentMender

8. Tell your story

If people don’t know you’re up and running, they can’t hire you. Get the word out to your entire network, however is best for you to communicate (email, social media, in person, phone, mail, etc.). When you’re first starting out, you have the novelty of newness that people will pay attention to. Tell your story about who you are serving, what problems you solve, and why you decided to start. —Todd GiannattasioTresnic Media

9. Be very specific

Be laser specific and identify your most ideal 100 clients. Think of the companies or people you’d love to work with most and to whom you can provide great value, too. From there, I’d build a very specific outbound campaign to reach them, demonstrate value, and have a call to action to hop on the phone. Before this CTA, I’d work hard to establish rapport and trust. Think in terms of “What makes me different and how can I give before getting?” This campaign might look like: Email 1, Mail 1, Call 1, Email 2, Contact Us form, etc. —Zach BurkesPredictable Profits

10. Offer add-ons

Since we sell travel experiences, we offered promotions of free side trips, tours, and adventures to incentivize customers to take action there and then, rather than get lost among our competitors. We still do this to this day. As it’s a promotion of a product within the same space as us, we get industry rates and we can find “add-ons” that sound interesting and are cool that don’t necessarily cost as much as they sound. We found this makes a big difference to customers who are often seeking more and more value for their money. This is something many companies and industries could do with partners they already work with: Buy X today and get a free Y. —Jürgen HimmelmannThe Global Work & Travel Co.

Does Your Web Business Face One Of These Common Problems?

Forbes Publication

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It’s important to do what you love, or at least to find a way to derive pleasure from whatever it is you do to earn a living. But at the end of the day, if your business isn’t making ends meet, you’ve got a problem. A lot of people come to me for business advice and, most of the time, the problem lies in one of three areas: marketing, messaging and traffic.

Here, we’ll discuss common problems in these three areas and how to fix them.

Marketing Problems

• Leads and traffic: This could be a quality problem. If your content isn’t drawing clicks, you need to step up your game. Start by conducting research to find out what your audience wants.

• Insufficient return on investment (ROI): If your marketing efforts aren’t paying for themselves, you have a problem. If meeting your financial needs isn’t the problem, consider curtailing your spending. Otherwise, finding alternate hosting options or new partners might be called for.

• Budgeting: If you’ve nailed down exactly what you need to be spending on marketing, but you just can’t draw away enough funds from other assets to pay for it, something needs to be adjusted. Like ROI problems, you can try making money-saving changes. But better marketing is probably the real solution in the long run. Try turning your attention to your messaging efforts. We’ll discuss this more below.

Website management: Most companies have a website because it’s necessary to do business. If managing your web site is too time-consuming or isn’t your cup of tea, you could go with a full-service hosting provider. They sometimes have prefab site templates you can use. Another solution is to hire a web development professional. This doesn’t have to be terribly expensive, and you can ask a developer to deliver a product that’s designed to be easy to maintain by a novice user.

Messaging Problems

• Inconsistent or insufficient branding: Major brands discovered long ago that the purpose of branding is to make people feel that your brand is a person, a simple and consistent person who’s behavior is trustworthy and predictable. Think of Walt Disney. Disney has a very consistent branding profile. People know what to expect from Disney. It could be that your brand messaging does not communicate a simple, attractive and consistent brand image. If that’s the case, create a “branding bible” for your company. Another solution is to have all your content and marketing done by the same person.

• Failure to communicate your value proposition: If your audience doesn’t know what makes you special, then they might as well go to the next company that has a similar product or service. Make sure your messaging and branding clearly explain why you are different. It may be that you’re less expensive, offer better quality or superior service, and so on.

• Content quality issues: These days, your content should not consist only of advertisements. You need to give your audience information that they want or need. If your content does not entertain or educate, it’s not doing its job and it won’t draw clicks.

Traffic Problems

If your website isn’t drawing traffic, that’s a problem. If it’s not due to one of the problems mentioned above, then the fix might be pretty straightforward.

• Search engine optimization (SEO): If you’ve spent more than a minute looking into advertising online, you’ve heard of SEO. SEO is about researching terms that are proven to attract clicks to merchants in your industry. SEO is a full-time job. If you’re new to it, consider contacting the professionals.

• Too little or stagnant content: If your blog isn’t active enough, Google might give you a low search rank. Advertisers don’t like having their ads on inactive sites, so make sure you update your blog at least once a week. I recommend that posts be at least 750 words in length.

• Been to Quora?: Quora is still a great place to answer questions for people seeking advice from experts. Whatever your profession is, you’re sure to know many things about it that outsiders aren’t privy to. Congratulations, that means you’re an expert. By answering questions relevant to your industry, you’re advertising your expertise to a new audience. Quora isn’t the only Q&A site, but it’s a good place to start.

At the end of the day, as long as you’re plugging away at these common problem areas, you’ll make progress. Just put in a full day’s work and stay under budget — you’ll be A-okay.

Original Post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/10/02/does-your-web-business-face-one-of-these-common-problems/#687ef269387e

Six Communication Habits Leaders Should Remember

Forbes Publication

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Becoming a great leader takes some real initiative and confidence. But how you communicate with an audience—whether it’s your own team, potential or existing customers, or industry peers—can heavily impact just how well your message and ideas are received.

Using techniques such as body language, empathy and self-awareness can help you become a leader who is successful at getting others to see your vision and act accordingly. With your staff in particular, being a great speaker with strong communication skills can lead to increased productivity and great morale.

So how can an entrepreneur best acquire the necessary skills to effectively communicate with others? To help, six members of YEC Next share a few crucial communications habits that can make all the difference between an average speaker and someone who inspires. Here’s what they said:

Members discuss some communication habits worth remembering.

Members discuss some communication habits worth remembering. Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Demanding Presence

The telltale sign of a great leader versus an average speaker is how a person keeps eye contact. It can be very intimidating to have direct eye contact with the audience when one is speaking, but the person who is able to pull it off, demands greater attention. When a person has such a demanding presence, they are distinguishable from an average speaker. A person who is looking at the clock, their shoes or even up at the air shows a sense of nervousness. Great leaders are very careful to not let their attention wander while speaking. Sometimes, just looking slightly above the audience does the trick, because the people in front think you are looking at the people behind them. As long as the attention of the speaker is focused on the people, he or she exhibits the qualities of a great leader. – Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning

2. Self-Awareness

A great speaker is a person who can convey to an audience that they are the most interesting person in the room.  A great leader is one who inspires their audience to be and become the most interesting person that they know. We pride ourselves on self-awareness. Every great communication starts from knowing yourself, so you need to be aware of your inner self. The more aware you are about yourself, how others perceive you and how you take in the information the world offers you, the better you are able to connect. Having confidence and conviction in what you say translates into what you do, how you carry yourself and how you convey your message. The best way to be a great leader is to start with you, and believe in yourself.  If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? – Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

3. Posture

Posture and eye contact are paramount to being an effective speaker. You have to consider what the audience is seeing. Watching a speaker whose shoulders are slumped and whose eyes are directed at the floor is uninspiring and will damage the event at hand. When speaking, you want to command respect and hold the attention of your audience. Hold yourself upright and look at those to whom you’re speaking. It is not a big deal if you look at notes every once in a while; your audience is expecting to listen to a fellow human. That said, you need to do enough to make them feel present and engaged. The best way to develop this skill is to practice. Work with friends or family, and be open to failing for a time. Public speaking skills don’t come easy. It takes persistence. – Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC

4. Empathy

Great leaders are experts in their verticals, whether it’s Steve Jobs in tech or Anthony Williams in health. The moment a speaker can’t communicate an expert opinion is the moment all attention is diluted and lost. When speaking, great leaders are not cocky about their expertise; rather, they share with empathy, always putting the audience’s emotions and understanding before their own opinions. If they are concerned, then share that concern; if they are excited, then share that excitement. It takes practice, but it helps you target the exact thoughts and emotions they are feeling, which allows you to speak in a personal manner—something much better than just a generalized manner. And always be as transparent as possible: If you don’t know an answer to a question, be honest about that. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender

5. Eye Contact

People underestimate the power of eye contact. When you look into someone’s eyes, you communicate your interest in what they have to say. Even if you are the one speaking, you show your attention to the conversation through eye contact. Establishing that connection is crucial for leaders. Practice with a close friend and ask them to give you feedback about how your communication made them feel. – Kyle Wiggins, Keteka

6. Storytelling

An excellent storyteller makes a fantastic speaker, engages an audience, and is thereby seen as a leader. The best way to develop this skill is to find your story for your particular audience. What is your unique story? What is relatable? What is interesting? What are you trying to convey? What is your why? Find your story. Create your story. And practice practice practice. You might have a great story and be terrified of speaking. Or you may be a great speaker but you’re not sure what story to share. There are many factors at play here. You can hire an expert to help you determine your story, develop your speech, body language, posture, and delivery. – Angela Delmedico, Elev8 Consulting Group

Five Things To Look For When Considering Working With A Vendor

Forbes Publication

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As an entrepreneur and business owner, you work with vendors on a nearly daily basis. While you certainly will be regularly courted by a series of new vendors, knowing whether it makes sense to start a partnership with one of them or not requires some careful consideration.

Before you decide, you first need to figure out whether this is someone you can work with long term. Can they provide you what you need in a way that will be agreeable to your values or will you grimace every time they come into your establishment?

To find out more, we asked five members of YEC Next to discuss some of the important things to look for when deciding whether or not you want to work with a vendor. Here’s what they said:

Members share a few things to consider when debating establishing a relationship with a vendor.

Members share a few things to consider when debating establishing a relationship with a vendor. Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Integrity

Integrity is the most important quality to look for when considering working with a vendor. Look for a proven track record of following through on commitments. Many companies are good at sales and telling you what you want to hear, but do not deliver. Ask for a list of the vendor’s past and current clients and contact them to get an objective viewpoint about the vendor. – Kyle Wiggins, Keteka

2. Alignment Of Core Values

As entrepreneurs, we’re driven for quick growth and value, and sometimes forget that we’ll have to frequently work with these vendors. To make things stress-free, make sure that your company’s core values and ethics align with those of the vendors. Without alignment, aggravation can set in, and even the most successful of relationships from a monetary perspective can feel draining and invaluable. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender

3. Strong Communication

Something to consider is how frequent, quick to respond, clear and kind the communication is. Does the vendor communicate honestly? Have they been clear about what is being offered and what costs should be expected throughout the sales process? What is their timeline to deliver services? We partner with vendors that respond within 24 hours and show us they value working together. – Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

4. Clarity

I want to know exactly what I am paying for. It makes me cringe when I start working with a vendor and all of a sudden, they say something is not included in what I purchased. Whether it be a service or product, I like to list out clearly what I am expecting from a particular transaction. I don’t move forward until I get written confirmation from the vendor that all my requirements will be met. – Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning

5. Alignment Of Goals

You should never enter into business with a vendor who doesn’t understand the value of your product or service. They should understand exactly what you want to achieve in the market, and should be able to articulate why they’re suited to make that goal a reality. Likewise, get to know their business goals and track record with similar businesses. Make sure you see eye to eye with one another. – Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC