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From An Entrepreneur Dream To Dynasty In 10 Easy Steps

From An Entrepreneur Dream To Dynasty In 10 Easy Steps

As an entrepreneur with multiple successful ventures under my belt, I get a ton of questions from potential entrepreneurs wondering how to go from the idea phase to an actual business. If you’re looking to start a business, here’s what I’d tell you.

1. Ruminate on the Possibilities

All businesses — small or large — must start somewhere. Before there is a vision, plan, or management plan, there’s an idea. They generally come about in one of two ways. Either a) you’re pondering a solution to a pressing but unresolved problem or b) you’re evaluating your life and arrive at the realization that you’ve been running from your dream instead of running to it. Whatever the case, don’t take this seemingly trivial step for granted, as everything that follows rests on your founding premise.

After you’ve had an opportunity to reflect upon this central concept or solution thoroughly, it’s time to turn to the market and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. Doing so will give you a good idea of where your product or service could fit into the market.

2. Evaluate Your Tolerance for Risk

Evaluate Your Tolerance for Risk

    It would be good if you could start the process by determining how comfortable you are with taking risks — if you don’t make it past this point, there’s no “pass go.” Unfortunately, that’s just not the way it works. Likewise, it would be nice if you could pretend that your entire entrepreneurial journey will be free of threats, but we know that’s not the case, right?

    By its very nature, entrepreneurship is fraught with uncertainty. Just the amount of action that you must take to start your part entails risk — that doesn’t include what you will inevitably face after getting your venture off the ground.

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    There’s always the chance that any one of these actions could result in a problem of some sort. And while there’s a certain amount of ambiguity associated with punching a clock every day, the risks are much more predictable. So if the thought of facing the unknown causes you undue stress, it may be best to put your ideas on pause until you’ve found a way to resolve your fear of uncertainty.

    3. Don’t Just Think About Your Vision, Write It Down

    After you’ve settled on an idea and decided that you’re comfortable with the possibility of things going wrong, it’s time to hone in on your vision. This entails visualizing what you’d like your business to look like in the future. If you experience difficulty with this step, all you have to do is ask yourself this: “Where do I see my business in 5, 10, or 15 years?”

    But remember, it’s not enough to merely know your vision. You’ve got to internalize it, which requires going a step further and writing it down. There’s just something about seeing your vision on paper that makes it more real. And if you think this is all too much, consider that when all else fails, it’s your vision that will compel you to get out of the bed at 5 o’clock in the morning to see your dreams through.

    4. Do Your Homework

    Do your home work

      If finding a solution to a market-driven problem or putting your grand vision into action is sexy, then market research is probably no different than taking a hundred free throws, one right after the other. But guess what? If he hadn’t put in the work, where would Jordan be today? So it is with researching the market.

      Market research dictates pricing, messaging, advertising, staffing, and so much more. Do yourself a favor and put all that you have into learning your market. When you’re done, you should have a clear understanding of who your customers are, but you should also know what they like or don’t like about your competitors. Armed with this information, you can continue the march to your empire.

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      In addition to market research, you’d be doing yourself a favor by doing some operational research. Familiarize yourself with industry best practices; doing so will allow you to build an efficient business.

      5. Draft a Business Plan

      You’ve got your idea, vision, and research in hand. Now it’s time to turn these abstract ideas into something tangible — a plan of action, also known as a business plan. Your business plan is a roadmap designed to help you arrive at your destination. And if you ever get lost, like a GPS your plan can help you get back on track.

      Your business plan should address questions like the following:

      • How will I reach my customers?
      • How much will it take to start and run my business?
      • What types of personnel should I hire?
      • Who is my target audience?
      • Who are my competitors?
      • When will I see a profit?

      While from time to time you may run into questions that you don’t have the answers to, your business plan should address the most pertinent issues.

      6. Review Your Finances

      Whether you’re starting your business on a shoestring budget or purchasing an existing business, there are always financial considerations associated with beginning a new venture. Identify these costs upfront and determine how you’re going to pay for these items.

      For example, maybe you’ve already built a sizeable nest egg and plan to use some or all of it as collateral, or perhaps you have a colleague who’s agreed to make a financial investment in your business. Whatever the case, knowing what you’re getting yourself into from the start can make all of the difference in the world.

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      7. Determine How to Structure Your Business

      There are several different ways to structure your business entity. In fact, you may already be aware of several. For instance, you can organize as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, etc. However, understand that each legal structure comes with certain pros and cons.

      As a point of comparison, if you want to shield yourself or your family from liability, assuming one of the various corporate structures may be in order. Alternatively, if you plan to keep things simple while “testing the waters,” exposing yourself to greater risk as a proprietorship could be a more suitable option. Of course, you won’t know until giving it serious consideration. It might also be prudent to consult your local attorney or CPA, as whichever decision you make will entail a different set of legal and financial ramifications.

      8. Build a Company Website

      Regardless of the type of business you plan to launch, one thing is unavoidable — you will need a website. It doesn’t matter if your customers prefer to do business in person — not having a web presence is just plain irresponsible in this day and age. So please, do yourself a huge favor and invest in a solid site.

      It doesn’t have to be extravagant. In fact, if you have financial constraints you can even set one up yourself. Just visit Wix, Weebly, or any of the other site builders available and use the templates that they give you and you’ll be well on your way.

      Of course, you can always upgrade when finances permit, but the important thing when it comes to establishing yourself online is to start somewhere.

      9. Set Up Your Taxes and Federal Registration

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      Set Up Your Taxes and Federal Registration

        By this point, you may already have a business license and articles of incorporation. However, to be recognized as an official entity, you will need to file your documents with the federal government. While it may sound complicated, it’s probably easier than you think.

        Upon completing your business registration, you’ll also need to go to the IRS website and apply for an employer recognition number (EIN). Doing so will allow you to handle payroll and employee taxes. If you’re organized as a sole proprietorship, you may be able to skip this step, but this is something that your lawyer or accountant can help you determine.

        10. Build Your Brand

        So you’ve got yourself a business that’s capable of changing the world. But guess what? Without customers, you’re dancing in the dark. Of course, if you’ve completed the marketing section of your business plan, the next step is just a matter of executing your plan. The good news is that there’s a proven method of building and promoting your brand.

        Namely, marketing your business is a matter of informing your audience as to what makes your offering unique, learning where to find your customers, and making sure that your brand is just within your audience’s vicinity so that when they have a need, they know to check with you first.

        In a nutshell, that’s it. I hope that everything made sense to you. But if you have questions, I’m here to help. Drop me a line!

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        Last Updated on October 21, 2019

        How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

        How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

        U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

        Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

        Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

        But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

        To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

        What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

        You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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        You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

        If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

        1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

        Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

        Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

        While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

        2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

        It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

        “While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

        In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

        Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

        3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

        Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

        For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

        4. Good leaders are students.

        In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

        I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

        Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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        As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

        5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

        It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

        “As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

        This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

        6. Good leaders understand themselves.

        I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

        Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

        Final Thoughts

        Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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        Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

        After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

        Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

        If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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        Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
        [2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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