Why Startups Still Need Excel In 2017

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Just because Excel has been around for 30 years doesn’t mean it’s redundant in the ‘age of information’. Excel is still very much needed by businesses of all kinds, including startups. Here’s why:

Finances And Accounting

Excel is one of the simplest and best things you can use for finances and account in 2017. It can be used for outlining financial results, clarifying and setting budgets, forecasts, plans to make big business decisions, and so much more. While it’s always wise to have an accountant on hand, excel can help you to keep track.

Marketing And Product Management

Excel is also useful for marketing and product management. You can use it to list customer sales targets, manage your sales force, and help to plan based on past results. It’s never been easier to manage your strategies and products.

You Can Do Pretty Much Anything With A Spread Sheet

Let’s face it; anybody who has ever worked in an office knows you can do pretty much anything with a spreadsheet. It has a number of diverse uses, and can be used for hours each day in just about any office. Excel will never go anywhere and is still a primary tool that should be used to keep offices in check in 2017.

Excel should be one of the basic things that an office worker uses in their daily tasks. To help you on your journey to becoming an Excel buff, here are 7 essential tricks that every office worker should know:


credit to STL excel tricks

Marketing Methods Debunked

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Marketing is one of the most important things a business needs to do. Right from the beginning you should be looking for ways to market yourself, and your products. The official definition of marketing is, “The study and management of exchange relationships”.  Basically, you’re communicating with your customers products and offers. Without it, you’ll be struggling to get yourself noticed in a very big world. Before you start a marketing campaign, you first need to do some market research. Knowing exactly what your customer wants, and what your competitors are doing can help build your own marketing campaign. This can either be done in house or outsourced. Getting an expert to look into your market for your first campaign might be a little easier than giving it a go yourself, that way your first campaign will be strong and effective. There are a lot of different ways of marketing, some of which can be confusing. This article is going to debunk some of the most effective.

SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. This is one of the most effective methods for getting your website noticed within a search engine’s rankings. It works by increasing traffic to your website, or a particular web page within your site, and in turn boost your overall rankings. Everything is on the web at the minute, so getting your website to the top is so important, hence why SEO should be your number one method of putting yourself or product out there. Like with market research, it may be best to outsource this one yourself. A successful SEO campaign can be hard to do, but SEO can be self taught. The backbone of SEO is link building. So basically, a search engine his little ‘robots’ that’ll crawl through all the websites on a web search. Within a website or webpage there should be a number of links that the robot can follow through the continue its crawl. If you have no links, and the robot can’t crawl your site, you site will be right at the bottom of the rankings. So this is where keyword research and link building come in. The more links that are dotted around the web that link to your website the better. Search engines assume that the bigger and better that your link building profile is, the more interesting your site is. But you can’t just build spammy links on random fake sites. This could face you being penalised. You also can’t build hundreds and hundreds of links at once. Again, you’ll be penalised. The robots aren’t stupid, you need to build your backlink profile up naturally. This is where companies that specialise in building backlinks come in handy. As you start to dabble in the world of SEO and backlinks, you should start to notice a rise in your rankings pretty soon.

Social Media

Again, this is a really big method of marketing, purely because social media is so huge. It is however, not as effective in terms of drawing traffic to your site as link building would be. It is more to showcase yourself to the world much more quickly. Social media is a real time thing, people are constantly tweeting, putting a picture on instagram etc. As soon as you tweet or post something, it’ll instantly start to get noticed. Your business should always have the three main social media pages set up. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you create a business page through Facebook, they have a really good tool called boosts. Basically, if you post something such as a new deal, you’ll be asked if you want to boost the post for a set price. This will then rocket the posts views from maybe hundreds, to in the thousands. The prices are relatively cheap, but it isn’t alway reliable in terms of meeting the right people. If you’re going to utilise Twitter, you need to think of hashtags that are relevant to your business. For example, if you’re selling gift hampers, you could promote a product by using hashtags such as #Gifthampers, #Christmas, #Birthday, and so on. Twitter is huge, and if done right you could be sending a lot of people your way. Make sure you’re always active in terms of tweeting, and try to gain followers as best as you can. Instagram is more for just showcasing what you have to offer, it won’t be as effective in terms of sending people to your website. Use it to show professional pictures of your products, and again you can use the hashtags that instagram has to build a decent following. Make sure you show your products off in the best light, use photo editing software to make them look as professional as possible.

Adwords

This is a service ran purely by Google, and it is effective if used alongside other methods such as link building. If you’ve ever done a Google search, you’ll notice that at the top of the search they’ll be three pages separated from the rest of the search with a little ‘Ad’ sign next to them. These are Adwords. Google uses keywords to determine which website should appear for which search. This is the difference between natural non-paid rankings, and paid rankings. To get your website in the top three, you’ll have to be paying a bit of money. You’ll be competing against other companies to take one of those spots in a particular keyword search. So for example, if you’re running an Adword campaign for the keyword ‘Sports Clothes’, they’ll be a few other companies doing the same, pumping money into this keyword search to try and secure the Adwords spot. It’ll sort of become like a bidding war to stay there. Whoever pays more, wins. It is effective in the sense that your website will get noticed instantly, and it does look more trustworthy. But it can be a really expensive game, and unless you want to constantly be paying a lot of money, it’s only a temporary method. But it will boost sales quickly, even if only for a short period of time.

Choosing the Right Startup Team for Success

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Did you know that roughly 80 percent of startups crash and burn, vanishing without a trace in their first year of trading? I say this not to put you off starting your own business, but to highlight just how difficult it is to build a successful company from nothing, and you know what one of the biggest startup killer, other than a lack of cash flow, is? It’s choosing the wrong staff!

Hiring decisions might not seem like the most important thing when you’re setting up a new operation, but think about it your employees will be doing everything from marketing your company to coming up with new product and service ideas, and handling customers – if they’re not great at their jobs, your business will struggle to make any traction at all.

If you want to ensure that you hiring the right team to push your startup towards success, here’s what you need to do:

Be Aware of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses

As the startup owner, you are the head of the team, and you are going to be taking a lot of responsibilities on for yourself. That means, there is little point in hiring employees who have the same strengths you have; what you want is a team that will compliment you and their peers. So, first know what you can do well and then branch out from there.

Network. A Lot

If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of putting together a crack team who are everything you need them to be to build a successful startup, you are going to want to leverage your network. In order to do that as effectively as possible, you may want to build stronger networks than you have right now. Go to events in your field, join social networks and forums and start talking to people; chances are you’ll get lots of leads on great marketers, content writers, PAs and accountants.

Qualifications Count

A lot of startup companies tend to hire based on whether they have a good feel for the person and whether they can demonstrate an ability to do the job well – this is a good way to go about building a team, but qualifications do still count. If a candidate has completed one of the many online mba hr programs or holds a marketing degree from Georgetown University, for example, it’s a good sign that they at least know their stuff. So, what you really want to be confident that you’ve chosen the right people, assess qualifications, ability and even passion for the role; if they have all three, you can be relatively confident that they’ll be a real asset to your business.

Choose Team Players

If there’s one thing that can make a small business implode like no one’s business, it’s employees who backstab, infight and generally don’t want to work together for the greater good. So, when you’re hiring, you should look for people who have a record of collaborating on projects, who know that having team spirit is important, even when they are working individually, and who appear to be well-liked by ex-bosses and a colleagues alike. It might take a bit of digging to find this information out, but social media has made it a bit easier, and it’s certainly worth the effort to try.

Diversity Pays

Choosing a diverse team isn’t just about being politically correct or looking good in the eyes of your customers – it is a great way of ensuring that your business has a diversity of ideas and opinions too. If everyone you hire has broadly the same background, then their outlooks are likely to be pretty similar, and that limits your company more than you might expect. So, choose the best people for each role, but try to account for a wide range of background and personality types too.

Choose Resilient People

It’s also a good idea to choose people whose resumes demonstrate an ability to work under tough conditions and thrive. If they have a  history of working on complicated projects, then chances are they’ll be able to keep their head should something go wrong or should your business go through a rough patch. This matters because, if your employees get stressed out and start to lose their heads at the first signs of trouble, you’ll have a very hard time weathering the storm and getting through the other side.

Choosing a startup team that spell success isn’t easy, but using these tips, your own judgement and taking the time to get to know people before you hire them, chances are you’ll build a brilliant team that works for you and your company.

Shop Talk: This Is How Much Space Your Office Should Have

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When the time comes for you to open a new office, or even get your very first office, it’s not always easy to know where you should start. You’re probably thinking of calling a commercial realtor, and you’ve probably already looked online at what you can get for your budget, but other than that, you might not know where the start. And if that’s the case, you’re not alone. It can be daunting to find a new space for your business. But the way to make it a little bit easier is to firmly know what you’re looking for. Yes, budget will play a big part in what you can and can’t afford, but it will help you to know what kind of space you need when you start the physical search.

Reception

First up, you need to think about whether or not you’re going to need a reception area. When you’re just starting out and you’re looking for somewhere to house your staff, this may not matter so much. However, if you’re planning on having clients, customers, or suppliers over to the office, then you’re definitely going to want to think about a space that has a reception area. Then, you need to work out whether you need a small area just suitable for greeting guests, or somewhere huge and impressive, with an array of receptionists working away.

Meeting Space

Next, you should then think about what meeting spaces you need. Or whether you need any at all. For some companies, they can get by with one communal area to hold their meetings in. But for others, they’re going to need dozens of meeting rooms to conduct meetings at the same time. So look at your calendar. This can often be the biggest indicator of the amount of meeting space you will need for your new office space.

Restrooms

Then, you need to be thinking about the facilities the space should have. If there’s one bathroom and you have 20+ employees, it’s just not going to work. You’re also going to want to think about covering off everything from urinal mats to sanitary machines. Whether it’s something you have to supply or the landlord will sort for you, it’s food for thought to think about as you’re planning and searching.

Communal Space

But you’ve also got the communal spaces to think about too. It’s easy to know that you need areas for people to work in, but they also need areas to take a break in. From kitchen space complete with the right office kitchen essentials, to somewhere to sit and breakout areas too, you need to work out how much communal space your staff will need and whether that should take priority over anything else.

Individual Offices

Finally, you’ve also got individual offices to think about. You may not need them, but if you’re planning on moving somewhere that you can grow into, they could be handy to have, or at least space to add them in, should you need to have senior offices in the future.

Empathy In Your Strategy

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When thinking about the characteristics which make a good entrepreneur, most people won’t consider empathy. It’s not obvious that being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes would be helpful in business. But, in reality, it can be one of the strongest tools you have. To help you with this, this post will be going through some of the things which appeal to customers, along with something to inspire you to apply these ideas throughout your company.

Of course, appealing to customers isn’t the only thing which you need to think about in this area. But, as a starting point, it should give you a good idea of the sort of thing you need to aim for. Below, you can find some examples of ways to appeal to people, along with the reasons why they can be so helpful.

  • A Good Reputation: Word of mouth has long been one of the most popular ways for word about a company to spread. People rely on a company’s reputation when they’re choosing to buy from them, and will often decide not to if people recommend against it. This is because of trust, and the difficulty people have in giving it to you blindly. Of course, it should be nice and easy to stay in people’s good books, though, and you won’t need to do much work.

 

  • Something Free: Getting something for free will always make people feel good, with the added benefit of reminding them of your company whenever they use it. This doesn’t have to cost you anything, though. As covered in several King Kong SEO agency reviews, you can often get away with giving away simple information. This is a great way to make customers feel great about buying things from you.

 

  • Feeling Valued: No one likes to feel like the companies they buy things from don’t value them. When someone gives you their money, they will expect a certain amount of due courtesy in return. This will come in the form of good customer service, regular order updates, and helping them with true support when something goes wrong. If you leave people feeling bad about your company, they may be reluctant to return in the future.

 

At its core, all of this focuses on the way that your customers feel. Of course, though, it can often be hard to see why you need to think about this. In the modern world, people have access to loads of different businesses and will go to the ones which make them feel the best. If you can offer a better experience than your competitors, people will naturally want to use you more. This sort of method will not only make people feel better about you but will also make them more likely to shop with you again.

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start using empathy when you’re operating your business. A lot of small companies fail to consider this part of their work. But, in reality, your company isn’t anything with your customers, and it’s worth thinking about how they feel.

7 Options To Start a Business With Little or No Money

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Do you have great business ideas that never get past the daydream stage because you have little or no money? A lot of us have been there, but don’t give up just yet! Obviously it would be nice to have a million in the bank, but even if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck or don’t have a job at all, there are still options and techniques to start a business.

Let’s dig a little deeper …

1) Provide a Service

While you might have one grand business idea that does require substantial capital, not all businesses do – especially if you are providing a service. Becoming an online freelancer for example requires next to no startup costs (unless you don’t already have a computer) and you will be paid as you go. Depending on your goals and how you approach freelancing this could be the business for you, but it is also a great way to bide your time, make some extra cash and save, while you work on other business ideas … which brings us to our second point:

2) Research and Plan

Just because you don’t have the funding now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. If you are serious about starting a business there is nothing stopping you researching the market, drafting a business plan, estimating costs and carrying out other vital research. ll businesses start with research and planning, and some of this can be carried out at home on your PC for free.

3) Saving

So you have no capital right now? Save!Whether that means revising your monthly budget and cutting some outgoings, freelancing (see Provide a Service), selling unwanted items, or doing odd jobs – good old fashioned saving should not be dismissed. Imagine how great you’ll feel when your business is a success and you know you put in all that hard work at the beginning!

4) Sharing and Reducing Costs

At first glance startup and day-to-day business costs might seem overwhelming, but you can get by a lot cheaper when you think outside the box. Do you need to rent office space or can you utilize public facilities, shared work spaces or even your own home? Why pay for a phone line when you can use Skype? Do you need to pay for professional marketing, advertising or other services, or can at least some of this be done yourself?

5) Loans

Most large businesses are not funded solely by the founder’s pocket; they borrow from investors and partners or take out loans on the hope that the business will be a success and make enough to repay them. Someone with a good credit score and a business plan stands a strong chance of getting a business loan from the bank. Others might choose to use a regular personal loan, though this might carry some added risk. If you have bad credit or are between jobs there are still loan options out there that you can use to fund a business. You can learn more on how to get a loan with no job from MatchedLoans.com.

6) Seek Investors and Incubators

If you are particularly confident in your business idea and have thoroughly researched the market and crunched the numbers, you could approach individual and groups of investors who fund startups. Incubators are funding programs designed specifically for startups that come with extra benefits such as expertise, admin services, office space and other support. They might also be sponsored by local colleges or universities.

7) Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding puts you in touch with investors and regular members of the public, and if your idea is something viable you may be able to fund it all the way. Some sites like Fundable are designed specifically for crowdfunding startups. Although you can accept straight-up donations on most platforms, usually you will be required to offer perks in return for a set sum of money. This might vary from a simple thank you or piece of business/product related merchandise, to early access to the product or even pre-ordering of the finished product itself.

Exactly how you set this up is up to you and will depend on your business idea and business model, but you must obviously account for any perks you offer. You must also be enthusiastic and capable of marketing your idea through the crowdfunding platform as people still need to know it exists before substantial capital can be raised.

These are just some of the ways you can get a business going with little to no money. Have your own methods? Let everyone know in the comments or share the article if you found the information useful!

6 Reasons Why Startups Fail

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So you accept that you might not become a billionaire, but how can you prevent your startup from failing like so many others? To begin with it’s important to understand why startups fail and build your strategy to avoid the same mistakes.

Let’s take a closer look at these reasons …

1) The Wrong Team and/or Leader

A startup is only as good as the people behind it, so if any part of the team or even its leader isn’t suited to the project it will most likely fail. A good team needs to have all the skills required to research, launch and build the startup, and they need to be able to fulfill their individual roles without too much oversight. At the same time the founder needs to be able to set the vision and inspire the team. If you can’t convey your idea and needs to others, they can’t help you bring it to fruition. An icon like Steve Jobs was a master at setting the company vision and inspiring it within the team. Smart people also need to be on hand to handle unforeseen hurdles (changes in the market, funding issues, poor feedback etc).

Take a look at your own team, if something unexpected happens will they be ready?

2) Not Market Driven

The majority of successful business ideas solve a new problem or solve an existing problem better than anything else on the market, but they must do so with sound data to back them up. For example, solving a problem that only a few hundred people have is not going to sustain a business for the long-term or improving on an existing concept but spending millions in the process might make it impossible to break even. The market has to be there and it needs to be accessible with mind to all of the constraints a startup faces. You might also have the right idea but are targeting the wrong market, or just the wrong idea altogether.

Just because you think you have a great idea doesn’t mean other people do or will spend money on it.

Note: One common mistake in the tech industry is putting new technology before the needs of the market.

3) Too Many Competitors

But what if you have the right idea? Startups also commonly fail because there are too many competitors or the little competition that does exist is just too strong. Even if your product or business is objectively better than the competition, they may have more funds, experience, better marketing or other advantages that squeeze you out of the market. The market itself might also be saturated, with several businesses carving up consumers without much room for anyone else. Unless you can do what they do better (see: Not Market Driven), then it’s time to come up with a new idea altogether.

4) Inadequate Funding

An idea can’t go anywhere without the required funding, this means you must have a realistic expectation of how much your project is going to cost, whether you can raise such capital and if not, how things can be tweaked accordingly. Most entrepreneurs will go the traditional route of pitching to relevant investors, but smaller projects and tried and true businesses (a new restaurant) can also rely on loans.Funding failures are often down to a poor pitch or not foreseeing and handling funding gaps at different stages of the startup’s development. Small funding gaps that need to be filled while you wait on other agreements might even be covered by reputable online services like WhoNeeds500.com, who can deposit money in 24 hours for a term of up to 30 days.

Longer funding gaps and other needs might be covered by regular business loans.

5) Overpriced Product

Products obviously need to be priced to cover costs, but when those are so high that consumers aren’t biting (overpricing), it quickly leads to under-performance and failure if changes can’t be made. Many startups fail not because the product itself is bad or there’s no market, but other factors have made the product too costly in this manner. 

6) Poor Business Model

Giving away lemonade for free but monetizing it with ads is not a very realistic business model, and while most startups aren’t usually this clueless, a bad business model is one of the primary reasons for failure. An efficient business model needs to be scalable (i.e. has the mechanism to grow and acquire customers) and can be monetized to a level where costs can be met and eventually profits can be made. A good business plan might even work out an accurate cost of acquiring new customers and therefore what this means for the viability of the business as it grows.

Keeping these points in mind will stand you in a good position for formulating your business plan. If you found the information valuable feel free to comment below and share the article.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

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If you are considering starting your own business, it is important to realize that the plans you make up front on its structure often will be the keys to its success. Indeed, the difference between a successful small business and one that fails is often determined at the planning stage. It’s not always easy to know what those plans involve and how to make them. But we’ll help you do so with five crucial questions to ask yourself. Your answers will help you shape your own venture and will go a long way in making it work for you. These questions are based on a study that were conducted of scores of successful small businesses over many years. We know that they can help you focus your mind and help you succeed.

1) In Which Business Field Do You Have The Most Experience?

It is vital that you start your small business in a field that you know and that you know well. If you start out in a field with which you are unfamiliar, you will have to learn as you go. You will make mistakes and you will lose money as you learn and the business likely will collapse. We have watched many businesses fail because they did not realize the importance of experience in the field into which they went. The way most people gain experience in a field is through working in it. They learn how the system works. They learn about sources of supply, about invoicing, and about profit margins. They learn what customers want. They learn about the competition. They learn where they could start their own business to fill a gap. Your answer to this question, therefore, will determine the nature of your business.

2) What Is Your Aim In Starting Your Own Business?

If your aim is simply to make money, you are probably better off working for someone else. You should have a passion for the business you want to start. Making money comes second. 

Here’s why:

If your aim is solely to make money, you will be tempted to cut corners to boost your profit. The result is likely to be an inferior product or service. Customers soon will be turned off. If your aim, however, is to produce a quality service of which you can be proud and which you love to provide, you will put all you have into making the product or service excellent.

The money will follow.

3) Do You Have The Drive To Make The Venture Successful?

Unless you are fully dedicated to the business and throw all you have into it, it will collapse when you face the first hurdle (and you can be sure you will face hurdles). If we have found one characteristic among the small businesses that we have studied, it was that the owners were determined at almost any cost to make the venture succeed. When failure loomed, they learned from their mistakes, picked themselves up, went in a new direction if necessary, and tackled their venture with renewed energy.

4) Will You Fulfill A Need In The Market?

Here’s where your experience in the field helps. You will know whether the product you produce or the service you provide is already available in the area in which you plan to provide it. You will know where there is a need that you can fulfill. You will know that it is a losing game to compete with major players in the field. The difference in your product or service could be geographic; the area is undeserved. It could be the nature of the product or service; no company anywhere is providing it. It could be the price; you can produce this at a significantly lower cost using today’s technology and still come out ahead. It could be a host of other ways. But there must be a need for it. Clearly the answer to this question must be yes.

5) Do You Have Access To Capital?

Almost all small businesses need some sort of seed capitalSome, such as a restaurant for example, need substantial upfront money. Furniture, cooking equipment, an industrial kitchen and staff are all expenses that need to be met even before the first customer walks in the door. Others, such as an online shopping store, need little in the way of start-up capital beyond hardware and software. One way is to obtain financing online. You might want to learn more about applying for 90 day loans from reputable websites like WeGot1000But businesses also need money after they have been launched. Indeed, many small businesses are likely to need to tap into a money source at some time. Markets change, natural disasters occur, and sales suddenly slump for no apparent reason. Usually the downturn does not mean that the business will fail. It means that it will have to take measures to overcome the temporary setback and that it will need capital to see it through the tough times.

Bottom Line

Your answers to the questions above will help you to focus your thinking so that you have a plan to be successful even before you launch your own small business. Please share this article and let us know if these questions have helped you.

5 Ways To Get Funding For Your Startup

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Have you ever wanted to start your own business? Becoming an entrepreneur can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Having a great idea for a startup is only part of the equation. Whether you’re creating a small business, or tomorrow’s Fortune 500, properly funding your venture is key to a successful startup.

Here are five ways to get funding for your startup:

1. Self-funding your startup

Make yourself the first investor in your new business. Self-funding allows you to retain full control over your business. You may be asking yourself, can I really start my business with my own finances?

The short answer is yes.

Here are some tips to self-fund your business successfully:

Keep your hiring costs low. When you’re just starting the business, you’ll have to take on many roles of the business yourself. There’s many tools available to help you with accounting, web design, advertising, and other aspects of your business. There may be some tasks you can’t do on your own; for these you can work with freelancers as needed.

Borrow from your 401(k)-retirement plan. Many entrepreneurs start their business while still working full time at their current job. Most retirement plans allow you to borrow up to 50% of the value of your vested balance. The interest rate is lower compared to a traditional bank loan as well. One downside is that if you leave your job, you have up to 60 days to repay the loan. Otherwise there could be taxes and penalties.

For additional tips on self-funding your new startup, take a look at this article from Entrepreneur.

2. Crowdfunding Campaign

A popular fundraising option for a startup in recent years, crowdfunding allows you to raise small amounts of money from multiple donors.

Equity-based crowdfunding makes contributors part owners in your business and can be a good option for raising large sums of money to start your business.

Reward based crowdfunding is another alternative (think Kickstarter) for businesses that will be selling a product. These contributors usually get the product at a discount and/or bonus rewards based on contribution levels.

Here are some tips that will help you manage a crowdfunding campaign:

Calculate the cost of your startup. Research the cost of equipment, location, and other necessities to start up the business.

Be active on social media. Contributors like to receive regular updates on the progress of the startup/project.

Have a clear goal. Be transparent with your contributors on what your business plan is. Make sure that you’re raising enough funds so that you don’t have to repeat this process a year down the line.

3. Venture Capital

Most venture capital investors finance startups while they’re still taking off of the ground. There are two types of Venture capital funding, equity provides stock to the investor so that they can share in the profits. Convertible debt allows investors to loan funds in exchange for equity within the company. Here are some tips for having a venture capital source the funds.

Create a strong business plan. Potential VC investors want to make sure that they’re making a wise investment that has a strong potential for growth. Do a SWOT analysis of your startup. This is broken down into internal factors: Strengths, weaknesses and external factors: potential opportunities and threats.

Utilize online networking to connect with other entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Not only can you get advice from others that have been in your position, they can introduce you to firms that deal with VC funding

For additional tips on acquiring Venture Capital, take a look at this article by Ryan Fuhrmann.

4. Startup Incubator/Accelerator Organizations

Do you like collaborating with other entrepreneurs? Startup incubators aren’t limited to the tech industry. If you’re getting started as an entrepreneur, an incubator can be a great option to get seed funding, mentors, and networking opportunities. Here are some tips for finding the right incubator/accelerator to get your business off of the ground:

Research the right incubator program for your business idea. If you find an incubator that has goals that align with your ideas, reach out to people who’ve previously gone through the program. They can share information on their experience to give you a better idea on if it’s a fit.

Be passionate about your business idea. Most incubators require you to dedicate a lot of time. When creating your business pitch, you need to convince the incubator that your business idea will be successful with or without them- they want to see that you have something to bring to the table.

Take a look at the article from the Young Entrepreneur Council for other tips on getting the most out of an incubator.

5. Angel Funding

Angel investors. So, what are they all about? These investors focus on investing in startups and entrepreneurs using their own money to fund the capital needed for the business. In exchange for funds, angel investors gain ownership equity in your business. Here are some tips for attracting angel investors to your startup.

Invest your own money. While this can sound counterproductive, many angel investors want to see that your business venture has potential.

Build a plan. Think about these questions. What will these funds allow your business to do that you can’t do on your own? How many similar businesses are there? How profitable is this venture?

Conclusion

If you’re just starting your business, or you’ve been thinking about it, I hope that you found these tips helpful.

Lack of funding is one of the driving factors that cause business failures in their first couple of years. As a last resort, take a look at getting a cash loan till payday. Used responsibly it can get you out of a bind.

Let me know if you’ve been able to use any of these tips to fund your startup and if you have any advice on your own, feel free to share them with me.

 

5 Reasons Why You Could Lose Your Best Employees

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The success of a startup business not only depends on the business owner but also the employees of the business. However, as a business owner we can often become so caught up with budgets, meetings and numbers, that we forget about the important people. The people on the ground who keep our business running on a day to day basis. It is important that we recognize the contributions of our employees, or we possibly face losing them to a rival company.

Why Our Employees Might Leave

We Don’t Know Them

If our employees feel like we haven’t taken the time to get to know them, then they will feel unvalued and used. They are not just another employee, we shouldn’t just know them as “the man who is good with numbers”, we need to make an effort to get to know them on a personal level. No, I am not suggesting that you interrogate them in a small room with nothing but a table and some Gooseneck Lighting, that would just be weird! However, you do need to take the time to learn more about them. Find out about their family life, what their interests are and what they are good at. Your employee will really appreciate this and as a result they will be more likely to stick around.

You Don’t Give Them Enough Freedom

We get that it’s your business and as a result you want to be the one making all of the decisions. However, if you don’t give your employees some freedom to make decisions, then they are going to feel stifled. We need to show our employees that we trust them and that we believe in them. We need to them the freedom to make some good decisions. Having too many rules suggests a lack of trust. Clear expectations are good: never-ending rules are not. If we don’t trust our employees then we will find that they are leaving to work for someone who does trust them.

We Don’t Give Out Praise

We all want to know when we are doing a good job. I am not suggesting that you start dishing out medals, unless you want to (who doesn’t love a bit of bling around their neck). However, I am suggesting that you give praise where praise is due. Don’t wait for that person’s annual review, take the time to let them know that week. It could be a quick ten minute chat, a brief email or even a few words of praise in the weekly meeting. Just make sure you make the time to do it.

You Resemble A Dictator

No one wants to work for a dictator. You do not want to spend your time managing your team through fear. You shouldn’t also be expecting your employees to work crazy, long hours just because you do. You need to respect your employees and show them respect. If you work people too hard then they will leave.

Lack of Training

You should be investing in your company by investing in your employee’s training. Regular training keeps your employees up to date with the latest industry requirements and your employee will feel valued as you are investing in their training and, therefore, them.

In order to make a success of your startup business you need to keep all of your employees happy and motivated. That’s not that difficult, is it?

This Is Why Cleaners Are The Most Important Employees In Any Company

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Most of your employees have probably never met the office cleaner. They come in early in the morning or after hours to clean the place off and then slip away without a trace before everybody else arrives. Everybody just takes it for granted and doesn’t really question how everything is always so clean. If you asked them to write a list of all of the company employees in order of their importance, the cleaners are likely to feature low down on the list, if they’re remembered at all. It’s only natural that they wouldn’t consider somebody that they don’t really interact with and they don’t have any impact on profits, do they? Actually, they do. The cleaner is one of the most important employees in your office and if they stopped doing their job it wouldn’t be long before you started noticing a huge impact on productivity in the office and your overall profits. Don’t believe me? This is why.

Sickness

Sickness is number one. If your employees aren’t in the office then they aren’t working towards increasing your sales or cutting your costs to maximise profit margins. Increased sickness rates are bad news for any business but without a cleaner, that’s bound to happen because the office environment is teeming with bacteria. There are a lot of people coming in and out of that office, spreading germs around, and without regular cleaning, it’ll soon build up and make people sick. Sickness is passed around very easily in the office so you could end up finding that half of your staff are out sick.

In some cases, you could even get more serious health problems. If the office isn’t cleaned and maintained properly, things like clogged drains and damp in the walls could cause mold problems or overflowing toilets which is going to throw all sorts of horrible bacteria into the office. If you don’t have staff that are regularly using drainer cleaners to keep toilets running clear, you might end up having to shut the office for a few days while somebody fixes the problem if they overflow. That’s going to eat into your profits in a big way.

Low Morale

A good working environment is one of the most important things when it comes to keeping morale up. If you don’t take enough pride in the company to even bother keeping the office clean, why should your employees have any pride in the business either? Keeping the office looking clean and fresh will encourage a positive attitude towards the business, meaning that people will be more inclined to work hard to see it succeed.

They’ll also find it difficult to feel comfortable in an office that’s dirty and stinks. When staff are uncomfortable then they won’t work anywhere near as effectively. Maintaining a clean office where staff members can feel relaxed is the key to keeping morale up and boosting productivity.

The cleaners often get forgotten about but the truth is, they’re one of the most important employees that you’ve got so give them the credit they deserve.

Tips for Effectively Recognizing Employees on a Budget

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When you’re running a startup and trying to make ends meet, it’s unlikely you have the funds available to spend on lavish perks and rewards for your team. However, it’s still vital to recognize the efforts of all your employees, so that company morale and results stay as high as possible. Read on for some key ways you can show gratitude and recognize the hard work of your staff members without spending a fortune today.

Give a Heartfelt Thanks

For starters, a very low-cost option for recognizing your team is to simply thank them for their efforts. A heartfelt thanks can show people straight away that they’re appreciated, and that you have noticed all the hard work they put in.

Wherever possible, try to have an in-person conversation with your worker to express your gratitude, or else relay your thoughts via a handwritten note. Alternatively, if employees are remote, you can send them a letter or email, or pick up the phone or arrange an online chat.

Whichever method you opt for, just make sure you are specific, genuine, and direct, so that workers really understand the difference their contributions have made to you personally and/or the company and its results or culture.

Recognize Employees Publicly

In addition to, or instead of, thanking your team members privately, you can also make a lovely fuss over them through public recognition. For example, you can express your appreciation at a corporate event, in a business newsletter, or via one or more social media pages.

Another good way to give employees a boost is to present them with trophies, certificates, plaques, crystal awards and other validations which aren’t expensive to source but which can really make your staff members feel special. You might like to set up an Employee of the Month or other structured awards program, or simply hand out a commendation when you think it is warranted.

You might also like to instigate low-key celebrations where you and your top workers can get together as a way of honoring a job well done. For example, you can set up office parties, head out to lunch together, enjoy a picnic, or spend time together in some other celebratory way. A few drinks, sandwiches and other nibbles don’t have to cost much but can have a big impact.

Give Time Off or Low-Budget Rewards

Many employees also like to be rewarded when they have been working really hard or achieving amazing results. As such, even when you have a small budget, it is worth looking into ways you can give out perks which will put a smile on people’s faces.

For starters, something that doesn’t cost you any extra money is simply giving workers some bonus time off as a reward. This could be a day off, longer lunch breaks for a set period, or extra vacation time. You can also consider perks such as a better parking space at the office, some free lunches or massages at work, or even relieving them of having to complete a least-favored task.

When it comes to gifts, there are also plenty of low-cost options to select from. For instance, consider buying things like a movie voucher, bunch of flowers, hamper, book, bottle of wine, store gift voucher, magazine subscription, tea set, or any other gift you think might suit the employee you are wishing to reward.

Provide Opportunities for Employees to Grow and Develop

Lastly, don’t forget that something else that’s important to more and more staff members these days is the opportunity to grow and develop. People want to achieve their career goals and continually learn and try new things, and you have the power to help them do this. As a result, promote people through the ranks over time, and/or look at ways you might be able to give additional responsibilities to your top workers, which they can then use to highlight on their resumes as important experience.

You should also conduct annual, or even quarterly, employee reviews with your team members so you can sit down and discuss their goals for the coming months and put a plan in place to help them achieve them. Another great way to recognize your employees is to give them opportunities to attend key industry or company events. This allows them to network, learn and grow, and shows them that you see them as a key part of the team. You might also want to look into investing in training and mentoring programs, or bringing in speakers to motivate and inspire your workers.

Startups: What You Need to Know About Accepting Credit Cards on Your Website

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If your online startup takes payments from customers, you need to accept credit cards. There really isn’t any way around that. Now, you could just add a PayPal button to your site and collect customer payments that way, but it’s not always ideal. Sure, it’s quick and easy, but it doesn’t allow for very much branding, and not all of your customers will be comfortable using the site to send money.

Therefore, to support a professional image and provide the best possible service to your customers, you need to find a better way of accepting credit cards on your site. As with anything having to do with your business, you have some important things to think about before you get started with this.

1. Where Is the Money Going?

Obviously, the money that you collect from customers goes into the company’s coffers. But there are two ways to do this: Sending the money directly to your bank, or to a payment processor that then delivers the money to your account.  Each method has its pros and cons, and you’ll need to weight them against each other.

To send credit card payment funds right to your bank account, you will need to establish an Internet Merchant Account with your bank. When you do this, your bank acts on your behalf as the “acquirer” of the funds, confirming the availability of funds, collecting them, and depositing them into your account. If you choose this route, you will also need to choose a payment service provider (PSP) to serve as a type of point-of-sale terminal, collecting the card details and scanning for fraud and other security issues, before sending the information to your bank for processing.

You’ll have to pay fees for both providers, and your bank is likely to require that you adhere to strict security requirements in order to comply with payment card security standards. However, your PSP is likely to supply a wide range of customized options so you can create a system that best meets your needs, including meeting the requirements of applicable PCI compliance levels.

The other option for collecting credit card payments is to use a payment processing gateway to collect your payments for you, eliminating the need to set up an IMA and PSP. PayPal and Google Checkout are two of the most popular options for this type of setup, but there are some drawbacks. While they are easier to install on your site from a technical standpoint, they also redirect customers to their site to make payment. This can cause concern among customers, and doesn’t support your company branding. In addition, some companies will hold your payments for up to 60 days before depositing them, and you are likely to pay higher fees than you would with an IMA/PSP arrangement. That being said, if you are a relatively new business, establishing an IMA can sometimes be challenging, and using a third-party payment gateway can help you get up and running and build a solid trading history.

2. The Checkout Process Matters

Once you have determined how you’re going to collect funds, you need to start thinking about your checkout process. On average, about 70 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned during the checkout process — and almost half of them are because the checkout process is too long or complicated.

You can reduce abandoned carts and increase sales if you keep a few things in mind when setting up the checkout process:

  • Allow customers to check out without setting up an account. Many people don’t want to do this because they fear spam emails, and will buy elsewhere if it is a requirement.
  • Only request relevant information. Again, if the process takes too long and asks for too many details, customers will click away.
  • Include clear calls to action and a visual representation of the checkout process to help guide customers through the process quickly.
  • Include visuals of the items being purchased in the cart, as well the option to edit items (change quantities, sizes, etc.) from the checkout page.

Keeping the checkout system streamlined, but still informational, will keep customers engaged in the purchase process.

3. Be Mindful of Security

Finally, while your payment processor will help you comply with security regulations, you should still reassure your customers that their payment information is safe. More than half of customers will cancel a transaction due to concerns about security, so make it clear that you take security seriously. Implement multi-layer authentication for those with an account, use SSL protection, display SSL and PCI badges on your site, and choose a payment processor that uses address verification and requires a card ID number to authenticate purchases to give your customers peace of mind.

Accepting credit card payments on your site is key to your bottom line, but you need to do so safety and efficiently. Consider these issues before you design your site, and your startup will get off the ground more smoothly.

Once More With Feeling! Making Emotions A Key Part Of Your Marketing

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When you are marketing your business, an impression needs to be made right off the bat. Ultimately, standing out from your peers is key; this will bolster your brand, your identity, and will beat your competitors. To do this, it’s almost a very simple formula; you trigger the emotions of the right audience at the right time. So how do you do this?

Giving Your Customers Meaning

You need to provide a sense of meaning for your customers when it comes to marketing a specific product if your customers are unhappy, whether this is because they don’t have a specific product in their life or not, you can attempt to provide a way to avoid pain. The notion of the psychology of pain is something that lots of marketers talk about. And while fulfilling a need or filling a hole in your customer’s life is something that you can do by showing how your product fulfills these needs, it is important for you to be genuine in this respect. If your marketing is, in essence, untrue, this is not particularly moral. You have a moral responsibility to uphold too!

The Importance Of Resources And Platforms

Platforms in the marketplace, such as online stores, are a valuable resource to get your product out on a mass scale. And for entrepreneurs like Issa Asad, Amazon is one such platform that is a great way to present products and to stimulate your customer’s emotions. Instagram marketing is another one where you can reach a lot of people quickly. But it’s also important to make the most of the resources at your disposal, such as marketing agencies, but you can also use your own wealth of knowledge, and also research into these platforms like Amazon, and see where certain products are going wrong, and why they are not travelling as far as they should.

The Importance (And Power) Of Value

The thing about marketing a product is that it’s not just an item that delivers a specific need, it actually fulfills an emotion. A great example are modern smartphone advertisements, these phones are not just a way to contact someone, but they are now a way to capture your children’s first steps, capture vacations with friends, and can span generations, in addition to the handy little features on the phone itself! But the emotion is the key to getting a product to fly.

Communicating With A Purpose

With so many different marketing campaigns, it’s much harder now to keep your customers attention. Their attention span will go to the cheapest competitor, and so this is why you need to push emotions with your marketing, this is going to be the thing that will resonate. The cliché, of course, when people buy an item from a store, is that it’s not about what they bought, it was how they felt when they bought it. This is a key to establishing relationships with your customers, so if you can work hard at the emotional aspects, this will have a lot of benefits for you, not just in terms of the marketing, but in terms of the business.

Emotion is the vital thing when marketing products now, so instead of that flashy poster, think about stimulating your customer’s emotions. This will prove beneficial in every aspect of your business.