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Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

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    In Part 1 of this series, I talked about why now is a good time to start a business. But without Part 2, Limiting Your Risk, you may be setting yourself up for problems. Now is a great time to start a business, but part of starting a business in this kind of economy is playing it smart.

    How You Can Limit Your Risk:

    When you start a business in challenging economic times, you’ll want to limit your risk as much as possible. There are several ways to go about this, but here are my top recommendations:

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    Get it right at the beginning. A lot of budding business owners skip crucial steps on their way to a business launch. I can’t tell you how many clients have come to me, a year or two into their businesses, without having set up their companies with the Secretary of State, the IRS, or having met with an attorney to help them set up their operating agreements. These are things that could get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t do them the right way.

    There are other steps that won’t necessarily get you into trouble, but may cause some headaches if you don’t get them right. Branding is an excellent example of one of the most-missed (and most misunderstood) steps in entrepreneurialism. It’s also one of the things that can make or break your company.  Choose a generic business name like “ABC Consulting” or create a brand that doesn’t intrigue your target market and you’ll start your business heading down the wrong path.

    Choose an industry that’s hot or one that’s a “need.” Generally, you want to go with the industry you know best, but at the same time, you can’t ignore what most business experts define as the wave of the new future. Currently, the hottest trends are green businesses, health care, natural beauty, discount retail and luxury, credit and debt management, and technology. If you can find a way to spin what you already know into one of these hot business areas, you’ll take advantage of the coming upsurge in these industries.

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    On the other hand, I also believe in going after the “needs” of your consumers. For example, I once worked with a guy who was a chimney sweep in the winter (something people need) and a custom SUV builder in the summer (a luxury people want). His winter need-based business was one that provided enough income for the whole year, just in case his want-based business waned in the summer.

    Start with a low-risk business model. When I work with a client to design a new business, we typically use what I call a “leap-frogging” or “dovetailing” approach. This is where you start your business using a low-risk business model and build from there, using the income from the first model to fund expansion and growth into more complex business models. This approach almost always allows my clients to start their own businesses without seeking any type of funding from lending institutions, venture capitalists, or other investors.

    Plan ahead. If you lose your job, there isn’t much you can do about that. And in this economy, you’d have to work a part-time job in addition to your regular full-time job to save up enough for the six to twelve months of living expenses I generally recommend when clients want to start a business they can work full-time from the beginning. But if you can keep your job and start your business part-time, you’ll reduce your risk substantially. This allows you to maintain a steady income while you’re building your business, and eventually, you can make the transition to being self-employed, full-time.

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    Market research can save you a lot of time and heartache. Before you head into any business startup, you want to know your market inside out. More than that, you want to know your target market. There are lots of ways to do the research. You can do your own research (called “primary research”) or you can use information compiled by others (“secondary research”). Both have their pros and cons, but the questions you want to answer are:

    • Who is my target market?
    • What do they want?
    • Can I deliver it to them?
    • If I deliver what they want, will they buy it?

    Leverage free and inexpensive marketing methods to build your business. A lot of new entrepreneurs develop complicated, expensive marketing campaigns before realizing how many ways there are to get the word out about their businesses without spending a fortune. And with the power of the Internet literally at our fingertips, it’s easier now than ever to build awareness for your brand. However, that doesn’t mean you should go out and build a giant Twitter following. There are so many online options, but all of them may not be appropriate for your target market.

    Get the right help. Before you launch a company, you want to find professionals who can help you start on the right foot. There are countless people out there calling themselves “consultants” and you have to be careful who you choose. The ideal business consultant for you is someone who understands a lot of different business models, especially the low-risk ones, and who can help you figure out the model that suits you best. You want someone you find personable, someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone you can trust.

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    In addition, make sure they don’t make promises that are too good to be true. A lot of business “experts” I’ve seen lately offer what amounts to “get rich quick schemes,” while others offer such vague information that you’re compelled to keep buying more books and products to get to the “real” information….which never actually comes. Instead of wasting your time on these folks, find someone genuine, real, and honest, who may not promise you the sun, moon and stars super-fast, but who can help you build a solid, stable income with real growth potential.  Work one-on-one with them to develop a sound business model and a strong brand with a viable marketing strategy that you can easily implement. A good business consultant will know how to work with whatever budget you have and tailor solutions to your needs. Plus, they should have an army of other professionals who can also work within your budget, but still offer high quality work.

    Build your team. Speaking of other professionals, you will need your own little army. In addition to a business consultant, you’ll also want an accountant, an attorney, a graphic designer and a web designer, and you may also want a virtual assistant and some other consultants, most of whom your business consultant probably has access to.

    Starting a business in an uncertain economy can feel risky, and it certainly has stopped a lot of people from moving forward with great ideas. But if you look at history and remember that some of the most solid businesses today were started in just such an economy, mitigate your risk factors and hire the right professionals from the start, you’ll give yourself a fantastic leg up on your competition, and set yourself up for success.

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    Published on October 8, 2019

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

    The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

    By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

    1. Define What Success Is for You

    There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

    Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

    2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

    Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

    Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

    3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

    It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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    By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

    4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

    A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

    One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

    5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

    You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

    Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

    6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

    If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

    Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

    7. Pick Up Some New Skills

    Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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    By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

    8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

    Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

    If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

    9. Make Yourself Indispensable

    Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

    It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

    10. Get Off the Fence

    People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

    If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

    11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

    If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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    Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

    12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

    If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

    Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

    13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

    Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

    Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

    14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

    Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

    A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

    15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

    The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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    Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

    16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

    Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

    Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

    17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

    It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

    Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

    18. Join a Professional Organization

    The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

    Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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