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5 Best eCommerce Platforms For Budding Entrepreneurs

5 Best eCommerce Platforms For Budding Entrepreneurs

Choosing your ecommerce platform is one of the most important parts of starting an online business. The look, feel and functionality of your store and shopping cart have a distinct impact on your sales. Thus, finding the right one is essential.

The market for ecommerce platforms offers options for every entrepreneur but there’s no one-size-fits-all option. The right ecommerce platform for you will depend on what features you require, where you want to host it and how savvy you are in IT.

Here are the five best ecommerce platforms budding entrepreneurs:

Shopify

Shopify tops plenty of lists for best online platforms because it’s easy to get started and one of the most popular platforms online. A recent report from the site said that 100,000 stores call Shopify home.

Shopify is constantly evolving to meet customer expectations. Recent additions to the platform include hundreds of templates, fast and safe payment systems and the custom title tags that are essential for SEO. Shopify uses several SEO tools like meta descriptions and canonical tags. This enables shops on this platform to rank higher in Google searches.

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Shopify is great for anyone just starting out. But it is difficult to switch out your store on this platform. This can complicate plans for expansion or moving to an independent store. The number of options available can also be overwhelming so it is helpful to know what you’re looking for before diving in.

Bigcommerce

After Shopify, Bigcommerce is the second easiest place to set up shop. The user dashboard offers clear directions and simple steps. Thus, you can get your business up and running in a few minutes. You can do all your customizing from one dashboard which makes it easy to return to later.

If you are after customization options, there are coding options available. However, Shopify offers you greater control of the changes.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a great tool for entrepreneurs with a website or blog on WordPress. It runs as a shopping cart plugin which means you can integrate it into an existing site or launch it as a stand-alone store. Woocommerce is also customizable which means you can set it up to fit the aesthetic of your site.

Rather than setting up a dedicated merchant account, WooCommerce can be integrated with your existing PayPal account. Thus, you’ll only pay the relevant PayPal fees per transaction instead of merchant fees.

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Most of the content on WooCommerce is free of charge. This makes it a great tool for bloggers or artists looking to monetize their sites for the first time. However, there are also specialist themes and extensions for sale that are designed for those who need more functionality from their shop. These paid extras run from anywhere between $79 and $139.

Prestashop

PrestaShop is an open-source store software system. Because its open source, the software is free to use. However, you do need to pay for hosting which can be done through a third party or with your own server.

An open-source shopping cart allows you to develop a shopping cart that designed specifically to your goals. If you’re not familiar with web design and development, you’ll generally need to find a professional who can get the system set up for you.

PrestaShop has over 300 features that are useful for growing your business. You can integrate your store with PayPal and social media. You can also add functions like one-page checkout, coupons, sales tracking, image zoom and currency support. If you find that there’s something you need that isn’t already available, you can have it built for the site or buy it from the Modules page.

PrestaShop also offers a guide to help store owners make the most of SEO, which is an important and useful feature.

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Keep in mind that open source systems require a lot of administrative labor. If you’re not familiar with IT, it is a good idea to get a tech guru involved with your site to check in make sure everything is running smoothly.

Magento

Magento is a great platform for entrepreneurs who expect to grow quickly. Unlike other platforms on the list, you can easily scale your Magento store to meet the needs for startups and large businesses.

The platform is not always novice friendly. It’s a bit more complicated to use than the simple step options provided by Shopify and Bigcommerce. This is natural because more mature platform is required when you want the option to expand.

However, the technical skills required should not put off entrepreneurs. Rather, make sure you get to know the platform inside and out before going live.

There’s a lot of information on the internet to help you, including this handy white paper from OSF Global Services that highlights the key points to consider when embarking on a full scale ecommerce solution.

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“Building or replatforming your ecommerce site can be a daunting task,” said Gerard Szatvanyi, President and CEO of OSF Global Services. “Before you move forward, consider the key points of action—and unexpected pitfalls—to an engaging ecommerce experience.”

These are just a few of the options available for your new store and there are many differences between them. Match their capabilities to your business goals and you’ll quickly find a new online home for your business.

Featured photo credit: Robbert Noordzij via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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