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Don’t Wait Anymore! 20 Websites To Help You Start Your Own Business

Don’t Wait Anymore! 20 Websites To Help You Start Your Own Business

It is easier than ever these days to start your own business, especially with all the resources at your fingertips. Starting a new business is fun, exciting, challenging, and overwhelming all at the same time! I should know because I started a business 15 years ago from scratch, and let me tell you everyday is a new adventure.

Although there are more resources than ever to get your new venture started, combing through them to find the best can be a maddening experience. So, what I have done is come up with 20 websites that will not only help you get it started, but keep it running!

Complete A-Z Resources

SBA

This is my number one draft pick! The Small Business Administration is a must for anyone thinking about starting or currently running a company. They have more resources than anyone I know. SBA should be in your speed dial while starting and running your business.

SCORE

SCORE, who works with SBA, is a great resource as they offer mentors who have been there, done that, and it is free! They’re people who have done what you are trying to accomplish. So, don’t try and invent the wheel, get some guidance from professionals who know and SCORE is the place to do that!

My Own Business

I wish this site was around when I started my first business in 2000, fortunately we live in a time when resources are abundant, and this is a great one! They even have classes you can take for free that get you ready for your successful venture.

BPlans

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Although it sounds like this site will just help you with building your business plan, which is one of the most important steps in starting a business, it also helps you with pitching your idea, funding your business, how to get it started, managing it once you’ve got it up and running, as well as many other business tools.

StartupNation

Startupnation is a website I was unaware of until writing this article, but I am glad I stumbled upon it. It has everything you need to start your business including a community platform that involves groups, forums, and even a radio show.

AllBusiness

Whether it is a home based business, online business, franchising, buying or selling business, this site has ebooks and guides along with many other resources that will get you going in the right direction.

Business Know-How

This site is great. It takes you from ideas, to startup, to marketing, to HR, to financials. With worksheets, checklists, and ways to find money, it is a great resource for every stage of starting a small business.

Small Business News, Trends, and Ideas

Entrepreneur

Great articles on how and what it takes to start your own business from writing business plans to what it takes to be your own boss. Entreperneur is an industry leader with top articles in every avenue of becoming your own business owner.

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Inc

Inc. is one of the industry leaders in small business ideas and resources for entrepreneurs. This website is great for ideas and learning about what other successful entrepreneurs have done.

The Huffington Post

Great website to get ideas and general information for people running a small business. It has a ton of current small business news, which is essential to keep up with small business trends.

For Entrepreneurs

This site is done by David Skok, who is a serial entrepreneur turned VC. He writes for this site and provides entrepreneurs help with starting their companies. No better place to learn than from someone who has done it time and time again.

TheSelfEmployed

This site was created by the bestselling author Steve Strauss, who wrote The Small Business Bible. In Steve’s words, “The site aims to be your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know to have a fun and successful entrepreneurial journey. At the site, you will find relevant articles, how-to videos, podcasts, forums, and special offers that are all deigned specifically for the self-employed.” I couldn’t put it better myself, so I didn’t.

Social Media

Facebook

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When it comes to starting a successful business, marketing is at the top of your priority list. This site helps you understand some of the social media benefits and how to gain customers right away and increase your customer base as you grow.

WordStream

Wordstream is your all-in-one social media manager. Although it has a monthly fee, it can be well worth it. The site itself gives you a great helicopter view of how to manage your social media even without paying.

Legal

Shake

Just as marketing is vitally important to creating a successful business, without the right legal strategies your business is at risk of crumbling because you did’t have the right document signed. This site helps you understand the legalities of operating your own small business. From terminology to contracts, this site is a must!

Startup Company Lawyer

Are you looking for some legal advice, but don’t have the cash to pay the overpriced attorneys? This site gives great ‘legal” via posts. It answers many of the common questions anyone starting or running a small business needs.

Funding

Fundable

Depending on what type of business you are starting, funding can sometimes be an idea killer. Fundable is a great choice for those looking to raise funds when family, friends, and personal options are exhausted.

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Fundera

Another option for funding when all others methods are out of the question is borrowing. After filling out a single application, Fundera will then match you to up to three compatible lenders. Don’t waste time going from lender to lender. Fundera does it for you.

Onevest

Are you looking to do some crowdfunding to get your business started? If so, Onevest may be the way to go. You can raise up to five million from investors with proven results.

Gust

Gust is a cool site where you can upload your pitch for investors to see exactly who and what they will be investing in. A great way to get your mission and passion across to potential investors.

You now have 20 websites that will get you from idea to startup to successfully running your own show. No more excuses! Begin with SBA and before you know it, you will be in business!

Featured photo credit: Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet by Maurizio Pesce via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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