Smiling business people having a meeting in conference room

Management Consulting: Not Just for Established Businesses

Although entrepreneurs in start-up mode commonly think that management consulting is utilized only by businesses that have established themselves or grown to a significant size, the truth is that early-stage companies can benefit from management consulting a great deal. While I’m clearly an evangelist for business consulting services, having seen firsthand how they can turn things around for troubled companies and help new businesses get off the ground, I don’t think I’m too biased when I say that the start-up phase is one of the times when management consulting is most useful.

The purpose of management consulting is largely to offer advice. And who can really afford to turn down the advice of a seasoned professional? Certainly not entrepreneurs who are growing a business from scratch – even if they’re experts in their industry. There’s always value in having someone review your plans, offer second opinions on ideas and help identify areas for improvement.

So here are 10 reasons why early-stage companies especially can benefit from management consulting.

1. Management Consulting Helps You Keep up with Changes

Businesses, old and new alike, existing in an ever-changing landscape. What’s relevant, timely and appropriate one day can be tired, outdated and inefficient the next. A good business consultant stays abreast of fluctuations, from market instability to technological improvements to changes in standards or best practices, so entrepreneurs can stay focused on their primary goal: launching successfully.

2. Management Consulting Provides Honest, Unbiased Feedback

An entrepreneur will get glowing feedback about his idea from family, friends and even his professional networks. Before you know it, he starts thinking his concept is foolproof. But truly unbiased and actionable advice is hard to come by unless you harness management consulting to take a look at the big picture. You’ll get feedback not only about the concept behind your business, but about the details of execution, organization and other critical matters. At Shared CxO, we pride ourselves on having outsourced executives who offer completely honest advice without the personal agendas or blinders that entrepreneurs will encounter when seeking feedback from others.

3. Management Consulting Solves Problems

In my experience working with incubators and interacting with entrepreneurs daily in the busy start-up scene in San Francisco, I’ve seen plenty of entrepreneurs hit brick walls at critical moments in their business’s development. Whether the obstacle stems from a lack of planning, a lack of research, a lack of knowledge about a particular facet of business or something else, I’m positive that management consulting can help frustrated entrepreneurs solve problems. And the more experienced an executive is, and the more diverse his background, the quicker he can untangle even the most complicated issues facing early-stage companies. That’s why we’ve cherry picked only the most seasoned business veterans to work with our clients.

4. Management Consultants Love Forward Momentum

Management consultants simply love to see a company grow and achieve its goals. As such, an outsourced executive providing management consulting is incredibly motivated to help entrepreneurs overcome issues and move forward with their plans. They triumph when the start-up’s off the ground. And it’s easy to get caught up in this excitement. It’s one of the reasons I love working with early-stage companies!

5. Management Consulting Teaches Entrepreneurs Valuable Lessons

A good management consultant doesn’t just drop by, solve everybody’s problems and disappear. In management consulting an executive guides entrepreneurs through the process of finding solutions for the stumbling blocks they encounter. Entrepreneurs actually learn from the engagement, and become better equipped to handle issues in the future.

6. Management Consulting Helps Entrepreneurs Stay Focused and on Deadline

Because of the sheer amount of activities involved in starting a business, it’s easy for entrepreneurs to lose focus unless guided. Management consultants can keep entrepreneurs laser-focused on the tasks at hand. Management consulting also involves prioritizing activities so that entrepreneurs have a step-by-step walkthrough for what has to happen before the big launch. I’ve also seen entrepreneurs lose track of time or spend too much time on one particular aspect of business, at the expense of others. Business consultants can keep things running on time.

7. Management Consulting Involves Top-to-Bottom Analysis

Quality business consultants leave no stone unturned when analyzing an early-stage business – from the initial concept to the business plan, market research, company structure and organization, and post-launch next steps, management consulting examines everything holistically. Management consultants, as experienced executives, catch overlooked aspects of starting up a company. They’re a second pair of eyes and ears to watch things carefully.

8. Marketing Consulting Sets Companies up for Branding

One of the biggest challenges for start-ups is simply being discovered. Brand awareness comes with tremendous time and effort, and often financial investment. Part of management consulting is teaching you how to plan an initial marketing campaign that gives your brand a shot in the arm. You’ll learn the channels that will produce the biggest ROI and how to create a scalable, practical plan so that you don’t exceed budget or spend too much time on a potentially fruitless activity.

9. Trust is Implicit in Management Consulting

I completely understand the “play your cards close to your chest” attitude that some entrepreneurs adopt from the get-go. Nothing could be worse than investing time, effort and money in a unique business idea, only to find parts of the idea or the idea in whole stolen by someone with more resources to make it happen. But in management consulting, an outsourced executive honors privacy without question. Entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about details of their business plan leaked – everything is kept strictly confidential, which is not always the case if you appeal to peers or professional networks for advice.

10. Management Consulting Dots I’s and Crosses T’s

With a management consultant on board, you’re no longer solely responsible for everything. Management consulting involves quality assurance and identification of areas of improvement. While entrepreneurs still need to be vigilant, with an executive on their side to help make sure everything is complete, correct and ready for the next stage of growth, they can have peace of mind.

Ready for Management Consulting? Take a look at our CEO advisory and outsourcing services and browse our membership packages, or contact us to discuss your needs.

5 Presentation Tools Your Startup Should Check Out

Audrey Jones pitching at #EECincinnati

Audrey Jones pitching at #EECincinnati

Have a startup idea? Ready to take your concept from napkin etching to full-fledged business proposal? It might be time to explore your options in terms of presentation tools. Whether you need to create a pitch deck to impress potential investors or a slide presentation to woo new customers, knowing which tools can present your concept in the best possible light can be critical in the development of your startup. Following are five presentation tools you can consider utilizing in your efforts to transition from wantrepreneur to startup founder.


Slidebean lets users create slide presentations in a variety of styles. Whether you want to create bullet list slides to highlight your startup’s core features or a chart slide to illustrate your month-over-month traction, you can do so with Slidebean. Slide options include word cloud slides, timeline slides, image slides, and text slides.


Need to illustrate your startup idea with a diagram? Gliffy makes creating diagrams easy. From venn diagrams to flowcharts, Gliffy offers multiple options. Organizational charts, floor plans, technical drawings, sitemaps, and network diagrams are just a few of your options. Whether you are launching a startup or monitoring marketing tools, Gliffy is definitely worth bookmarking.


Considering business blogging to build brand awareness for your startup? Blogvio offers impressive blog widgets to help your content marketing stand out from the crowd. Whether you want to add a news ticker to your blog or a widget to add conversations to your images, you can do so with Blogvio. Widget options include a disc spinning MP3 player, a before and after image widget, and a video player with progress bar overlay widget.


Need to create a professional single page website to show off your concept? A landing page to harvest email signups for beta testers? Populr lets you create a single web page in mere minutes. With a multitude of designs and extensive analytics tracking, creating a professional image for your startup with Populr couldn’t be easier.


Create collaborative visual presentations with Bunkr. Collect everything from images to articles, videos to URLs, and embed into your Powerpoint or PDF presentation. Bunkr lets you take your pitch deck presentation from basic to bombshell in no time at all.

Creating a strong first impression can play an integral part in taking your startup idea from concept to reality. While traction and revenue will ultimately determine your startup’s fate, getting your proverbial foot in the door might be partially attributable to the presentation tools you choose. Could one of the above presentation tools be the secret ingredient in your startup’s success story?

Eleanor Wall (aka Tech Tidbits) is a freelance tech blogger and startup cheerleader. When she’s not busy unearthing intriguing startups, Eleanor ghost writes brand marketing content for corporate clients.

Photo courtesy of Demarcus Bowser.

Should Startups Hire for Today or Tomorrow?

'01 (100)' photo (c) 2012, Victor1558 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Selecting and hiring talent in today’s market is perhaps the most critical success-factor for high growth startups. Yet these founders face a dilemma: Should they acquire talent to address today’s challenges and goals, or hire leaders with the head-room and skills to scale and anticipate future opportunities?

Earn the Right
Startups need to solve today’s challenges to earn the right to address tomorrow’s opportunities. By failing to focus on immediate challenges, such as meeting the needs of your early customers, the challenge you anticipate in international expansion will never materialize. It’s important to seek individuals who can drive near-term success, and thus position a company for growth.

Near-term challenges are inherently tactical in nature. The early success of a startup often hinges on the success of those first beta customers. Focusing on issues that guarantee that success is a matter of working day-to-day with customers, iterating product enhancements in response to market feedback, fine-tuning marketing messages and so on. The challenge is finding leaders who can scale down sufficiently to lead the company through these early challenges, while having the experience and knowledge to build scalable organizations that will sustain rapid growth when it comes. Focusing too heavily on a leader’s skills at managing established organizations creates the potential for leaving a leadership vacuum during this more tactical phase.

Seek Scalability and Potential

High-growth companies face challenges that evolve at rapid pace, and thus no company can afford to adopt a sequential approach to hiring. The best leaders are those who bring experience of what needs to be done today, with the capabilities to create the organization that can efficiently scale in pace with growth.


The rapid pace of change inherent in a high-growth environment leads to a dynamic culture that makes change the only constant. As a result, the nature of a leader’s charter will evolve rapidly, as will the cultural environment, moving from an agile, responsive organization to one structured around processes designed to facilitate growth. Leaders therefore need not only to be personally adaptable, but equally to hire for adaptability and instill a culture of embracing change in order to ensure the organization remains fit for purpose over an extended lifecycle.


The question of whether to hire for today or tomorrow becomes a false dichotomy. Scalability and adaptability become necessary requirements in durable leaders of start-ups. Organizations don’t have the luxury of selecting talent based on the needs of today, because tomorrow is just around the corner, along with the fresh challenges that come with it. Leaders with the aptitude and desire to operate at all levels, tactically and strategically, are the only ones with the skills required by the unique demands of the startup environment.

Bio: Kevin Buckby is a Partner at Riviera Partners. He focuses on helping his clients compete successfully for the most highly sought-after product and marketing executive talent. 

The Slow Revolution of Private Equity

Jobs Act, Title III, Crowdentials, Crowdfunding, Cleveland startupBy: Rohan Kusre, COO // Co-Founder, Crowdentials

After months of restless anticipation, there is finally some substantial progress towards the implementation of the JOBS Act. It has been exactly one month since the Title II rules- the ones based around general solicitation- went into effect and the SEC is moving forward with implementing the next portion of the monumental legislation.

Title III, the poster child of the JOBS Act, is focused around the sale of private equities in an open market. It is as groundbreaking for the industry as it is controversial in its own right. There are as many proponents of the crowdfunding bill as there are naysayers and today the SEC discussed the proposed rules that would provide the infrastructure for equity crowdfunding to take place.  Platforms such as EarlyShares have been waiting for these exact rules in order to set in motion their part in facilitating the sale of private securities.

There have been claims that equity crowdfunding will result in a ‘ghetto stock market’ due to the high risk of fraud and the low barrier to entry. There have also been concerns about the cost of properly keeping up with SEC regulations. Currently, an investment group will spend anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in due diligence and this begs the question of how such practices will be handled at a smaller scale for investments that will be under $20,000.

Well, where there is a will there is a way. Solutions are already in place for companies wishing to utilize the new legislation as the SEC continues to implement it. Companies like CrowdCheck provide quick and secure diligence reports while companies such as Crowdentials assist with making sure your investor is accredited among various other compliance needs. Sure, the waters of the JOBS Act regulations are currently a bit murky but there is a lot of money to be made within these environments and those that take advantage of it will be handsomely rewarded. So when can those interested to utilize the new legislations expect to be able to do so? This is where it gets a bit tricky.

Title II of the JOBS Act, which went into effect one month ago on September 23rd, and it allows for companies that are making a private security offering to be able to use public advertising in order to get the word out. While the JOBS Act itself was signed on April 5th, 2012, the SEC didn’t release the proposed rules until July 10th of this year. This seems to be an ongoing trend as the SEC has delayed the implementation of the whole act by several months multiple times.

There is hope that this trend will be broken as the SEC held a live webcast today where the commission discussed the rules surrounding equity crowdfunding. Once these rules are posted to the Federal Registrar (this usually only takes a few days), they will be open for comment and the ball will be rolling to get this brand new industry up and running.

With industry experts waiting to pounce on the opportunity to help out investors and entrepreneurs navigate through the dense regulations of the JOBS Act, those on the fence about joining the crowd should feel a sense of assurance in doing so. CrowdCheck, Crowdentials, and several other industry leaders are poised to iron out the wrinkles as more and more people get involved with Title II and Title III of the JOBS Act.

Choosing The Right Finance Software For Your Startup

Running a small business means that you have to become a bit of an expert in everything. It’s not enough to be good at what your business does, you also need to be able to plan, manage logistics, handle the marketing of the business and perhaps the bit that most entrepreneurs enjoy the least: manage your finances.


Startup Tips, Startup Finance Software

(image credit: WikiCommons)

Whether you are a running a small consultancy business or a large scale non-profit, being able to track your spending and income is essential to running your enterprise efficiently.

Using Microsoft Excel is certainly an option that many people go with, but in reality it is not a great option and there are many very cost effective software solutions that will help make your business more profitable and save you time.

Here’s what to consider when looking for finance software for your business:

Do You Want A Hosted Solution?

In the past is was more normal to buy some finance software on a disc and install it on your local computer, but there are now a wide range of accounting packages available which are hosted “on the cloud”.

Buying software outright is still an option, but for most businesses a cloud based accounting package has a few notable advantages:

  • There is a relatively affordable monthly cost
  • Upgrades are regular and often automatic
  • You are likely to have constant technical support
  • You can access your accounts from anywhere
  • Your accounts are automatically backed up online
  • It may be possible to integrate with other services

Talking About Integration

That last point is an important one because many cloud based finance packages will have the ability to integrate with any other services that you may need as part of your business model.

You may think that you only need a stand-alone piece of software to handle your required accounts, but by integrating other services that you use (or may use in the future) you can often automate tasks and at the same time gain some powerful data.

Consider what services you already use online that could be integrated, for instance:

  • Business banking; automatically download your bank statements to fill in new transactions
  • Invoicing and quotes; invoices can be automatically added to accounts and payments tracked
  • CRM software; track your marketing channels, customer relationships and costs all in the same place, giving you a powerful opportunity to marry your accounts and cost of sales to your marketing costs and income.

Even if you don’t use these types of software yet, consider whether you will eventually want to. Many businesses miss out on opportunities because they don’t know what is available or they over-estimate the complexity of getting set up.

Thinking About Features

Finally of course you need to consider what features you want from your finance software. You may not really know what you need, so this exercise will help you to get your head around what actually needs doing.

There are a few features that are common and contained in most solutions and some other more specialist ones that might be helpful. For instance, you might want the ability to track inventory and control stock, or the ability to create invoices within the system and automatically send payment reminders when invoices are due.

The most essential features are likely to be things like reporting of profit and loss and financial analysis which will let you see where your money is going and what level of profit you are making.

If in doubt, look at the feature lists of a few finance options and note down any features that you think you need and any that you might find useful. You can then use these notes to weigh up the cost/benefit of your various options and select the most suitable solution.

Mike Spalding works as an IT technical consultant at Advantage.co.uk. Advantage specialize in business management and finance software for small businesses and social enterprises (learn more about the options here).

5 Typical Business Mistakes to Avoid

Startup Mistakes, Business Mistakes, Startup Tips, YECI jumped into the world of entrepreneurship a few years back, and it’s certainly been an interesting ride. Don’t let anyone fool you — business ownership requires a lot of hard work. No matter what you do, you’re going to make mistakes in the beginning. However, once you get all the wrinkles ironed out, the benefits of self-employment are numerous.

In order to help you along your way, here are five typical mistakes entrepreneurs make, as well as some suggestions on how to avoid them:

  1. Not doing enough research. One of the worst mistakes you can make as a first-time entrepreneur is not researching the industry or niche you want to penetrate. With the Internet, you have a world of resources at your fingertips, so take advantage of it. Several pieces of information you should keep an eye out for include current demand, competition, average startup costs, and when you can expect to become profitable. I conducted thorough research, and therefore went into business with my eyes wide open.
  2. Not saving money. If saving money is not at the top of your list, sustaining your business over many years will be incredibly difficult. First, create a simple budget by recording all fixed and variable monthly expenses, as well as an estimate for monthly income. This can give you a rough idea of how much money you have to spend — and if you realize you are spending more than you are earning, you’ll know it’s time to cut back. In order to cut costs or reduce expenses, consider purchasing used equipment to outfit your office. Turn down your office heat or air conditioning, and make sure you are not wasting any energy. And if you are spending a fortune on advertising, consider implementing free social media campaigns instead. Many business fail due to money woes, so doing whatever you can in advance to prevent these troubles is key.

  3. Over-reliance on outside financing. 
    Instead of begging for money from angel investors or venture capitalists, look to your own checking account for financing your startup. You’ll maintain more control over your company’s direction and enjoy a bigger percentage of the profits. I financed my own business by bootstrapping, and I have no regrets. Of course, you don’t want to overextend your personal finances and go into debt to start your business, so some outside business financing may be necessary.
  4. Not fully utilizing social media. The best way to gain the most exposure for your small business is via social media marketing, which offers the additional benefit of being free. Start accounts on Facebook and Twitter and post helpful content to your potential customers, making the experience as interactive as possible by personally replying to each person who responds. Once your popularity begins to grow, consider conducting weekly TweetChats on topics relevant to your business, and offer giveaways to boost your presence on Facebook.
  5. Expanding too soon. While my website enjoyed modest success early on, I ultimately decided against pursuing an aggressive growth strategy. Expanding a business too rapidly can negatively affect the level of customer service you provide and can also overwhelm your staff. Once you’ve got a good thing going, the last thing you want to do is cause damage to your brand by overwhelming your workforce. Expand conservatively, and you are more likely to enjoy success in the long run.

Through all of my trials and tribulations, I always relied on one key piece of advice a successful small business owner once gave me. He said, “Andrew, stay passionate about what you’re doing, work hard, learn from your mistakes, and success will eventually come your way.” Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but once you’ve obtained success, the benefits make it worth all of your hard work.

What other mistakes should entrepreneurs avoid when just starting out?

Andrew Schrage is co-owner of the MoneyCrashers.com Personal Finance website. The site strives to educate readers on a wide variety of topics, including how to budget for retirement, tips to increase your income, and the best small business credit cards. Schrage hopes to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives as they work to gain and maintain financial freedom.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

J.D. Power’s 10 Things I’ve Learned in Business

JD Power, Guest Post, Startup Tips, Business lessonsBy James “David” Power III

  After fifty years working with a range of companies—as well as founding and running my own company, J.D. Power and Associates—I have observed a good deal, and come away with a few thoughts about how to have the best shot at success in business.
The businesses I’ve seen grow, adapt, and thrive are the ones that keep a focus on satisfying customers by listening to them, anticipating their needs and desires, and maintaining their organizations’ prioritizing of these principles.
Whether I’m speaking with business school students or seasoned executives, I find that my advice incorporates ten basic lessons I’ve learned throughout my career.
1. Listen—to your customers, your employees, and your stakeholders. 
I have witnessed too many car manufacturers move further away from achieving satisfied customers by refusing to listen to them. One example that sticks in my mind is that of Peugeot back in the 1980s. They were trying to broaden their appeal and expand their share of the American car market, but they were unwilling to listen to customer complaints about difficulties starting their advanced fuel-injected cars. Peugeot was an early adopter of fuel injection, and American customers were “flooding” the engine by pumping the gas, something that was necessary in conventional engines at that time. Customers saw this as a quality issue, but rather than hearing this as a problem, they held fast, confident that fuel injection was superior from an engineering standpoint. No doubt they were right, but by not listening and adapting to their customers they lost them, and by the early 1990s they had to abandon the American market.
2, Remember who the client is. In a B2B world it is the organization or business you serve, not just the guy or gal sitting across from you.
This is important from two perspectives. It is critical that you not serve the desires of the representative assigned to work with you to the disservice of the organization. On the flipside, you must feel empowered to not let that person become an obstacle to the organization receiving the information necessary to take full advantage of your services. I frequently encountered a situation where the person assigned to work with us put up roadblocks to information reaching further up the chain of command because it undermined his own position within the organization. I worked around this by sending letters directly to top leaders or using the press to get out the critical information, knowing that it was only when our message could not be ignored that true change for the organization could occur.
3. Empower your employees to be curious, to do the right thing for the business, to speak up. You need the right kind of leadership and a strong culture to make it work but there is nothing more valuable.
At J.D. Power, if an employee came up with an idea, they owned it. This engendered tremendous initiative and loyalty, and may have been one of the greatest keys to J.D. Power’s lasting success.
4. Relationships matter, but they need to be built on a bedrock of respect and trust, not just friendships.
I never approached business relationships as requiring glad-handing or wining and dining. In the beginning, I simply couldn’t afford it, but as J.D. Power’s success widened, I found that true relationships with executives came from providing them with the clear, actionable information they needed to do their jobs, not time on the golf course.
5. Have empathy, be kind.
Of course this applies to all of the individuals in your own organization who come together to provide the support you need to run your business—from your CFO to the cleaning crew. It’s a Golden Rule in my book. I found that it inspires employees to show that you care about them enough to acknowledge them, and ask about their families. Another example is with regard to my clients. Sometimes I didn’t agree with what they were doing, or I knew that they were in an unwinnable position. I felt a compassion for them and always tried to make sure that our information was there to help them.
6. Be willing to look at situations from unusual directions to seek the “truth.”
Don’t be afraid to take a counter-intuitive position in order to generate better ideas. The Jesuit education I received at the College of the Holy Cross provided a basis in questioning the status quo, a trait that has served me well.
7. Accept change.
I really believe that you need to anticipate changes, be flexible, and move with the trends. We are in the Information Age today. The rise of the Internet and its impact on retailing is the most recent example of the ways companies must adapt in order to survive, but there has never been a time when change was not actively underway.
8. Stay true to your values.
Part of your brand is what you are—and, at the core, what you are is made up of your values. Whether you are an individual or an organization, you must keep your compass aligned to the virtues that guide you. At our company, I really felt that we kept the organization focused on the “Three I’s”: Independence, Impact, and Integrity.
9. Find information and inspiration in the work of others.
I have long been a student of the writings of Walter Wriston, Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, and Alvin Toffler. Their observations are still compelling today, as are myriad others who can offer insight and perspective that will be invaluable to your pursuits.
10. Don’t “torture the data till it confesses.”
Don’t be blind to all but the good news you may want to hear. Consciously or unconsciously interpreting information that comes across your desk in a way that supports past decisions rather than illuminates needed improvements is short-sighted and won’t bring you closer to the satisfied customers who will ultimately dictate your success.
These ten principles guided me through a successful and satisfying career. The individuals I dealt with who shared a similar view of business invariably had the respect of clients and colleagues, and the markers of success were realized for them as well.
Dave Power is the founder of J.D. Power and Associates. Stories from fifty years in the auto industry are shared in the new book, Power: How J.D. Power III Became the Auto Industry’s Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to History. For more information, visit www.davepowerbook.com.

How To Create Value In All Your Business Negotiations

We all want to create value during a negotiation, but that’s only possible if we’re willing to collaborate and connect with our counterpart. Instead of reaching an unstable agreement with an annoyed and resentful associate, we should try to build a relationship that is firm and long-lasting, a relationship that satisfies everyone. It’s important to leave the negotiation table smiling, shaking hands, and happy that we teamed up with a good partner.  Value is directly linked to power in negotiations. The way we use that power influences both the deal and the people’s we’re negotiating with.

Startup Tips, Guest Post, Steve Brown

Share information

You have goals and so does your opponent. The problem is that you haven’t met before and you don’t know too many details about each other. What should you do? If you want to build trust, you should start by sharing information. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to reveal your whole game plan, but you can start sharing small things about yourself to see whether or not your opponent is willing to do the same.

Ask questions

You won’t be able to reach an agreement if you’re not familiar with each other’s goals. Therefore, you should ask smart questions. Prepare your questions before the meeting and you can be sure that your counterpart will do the same thing. The more information you share the better chances you have to come across a mutually satisfying solution. A negotiation involves two parties, so everyone has to be willing to share and receive information. Reciprocity is one of the most important factors that can lead to a successful outcome.

Multiple negotiation problems

Negotiations can’t entail a single problem only. Such complex process involves a partnership that might come with many problems down the road. Keep in mind that a long-lasting partnership requires respect and faith, despite the fact that the parties have to negotiate a price. You have to focus on developing a strong working relationship that brings benefits to both sides. Spot and prioritize the issues when you prepare for a negotiation, and note that a bigger number of issues will boost and improve the number of resources that will eventually be shared, which creates value in the negotiation.

Stevebrown2Use your negotiation skills

Patience, a truly analytical mind, time, and the belief that communication will help you obtain a better result, are essential skills of a successful negotiator. It’s equally important to be a good listener and pay attention to what your counterpart wants. Ask questions if you want to understand the position and requirements of your opponent, and don’t forget to express your own demands and opinions. This negotiation might fail, but maybe you will meet again someday and that’s why you should leave the door open for potential opportunities.

Add resources to create value

If you want to create value, think of ways to add new resources when the problem related to limited assets is leading to a conflict. Contacting another supplier or closing a subcontract with a party that both sides fancy are two ways of handling the problem. You always have to come up with creative solutions that are mutually beneficial if you want to build a long-lasting partnership.

Stevebrown3Trade-offs is vital

Never compromise too much because that won’t create value and it will reduce the resources you can negotiate. Instead, you should go for trade-offs. You give away something and your counterpart offers you something else in return. This approach will surely help you close a better deal. Creating value in negotiations might be a tricky task, and the truth is that it can happen only if both parties are willing to solve the problem in a creative way and reach an agreement that benefits everyone. You can improve a business negotiation only if you collaborate with your partners to reach valuable trade-offs.

Creating and claiming value in negotiations is every business person’s dilemma. You may have a good deal to offer that is valuable and worth taking into account, but you’re expecting the exact same thing in return from your counterpart. Good communication skills and teamwork are essential in a business negotiation. If you want to win, or at least reach common ground, you must be ready to compromise without having to give up your hopes and dreams.

Steve Brown is the writer to this article. He regularly posts his high quality posts in top most blogs. The site http://www.thegappartnership.com.au is the negotiation specialist and provides their workshops in 12 languages in over 50 countries.


Reaching Your Zen: Relaxing Before an Investor Meeting

Startup Tips, Investor Tips, Guest Post, Tony MonteleoneAn investor meeting often means your livelihood. You’re about to ask a bunch of people to trust in your idea and help you fund it. You’re rightfully excited, and even a little nervous. The only issue is that when you’re nervous, you aren’t performing well, and the investors standing in front of you can see it. To really knock it out of the park in an investor meeting, you’ve got to calm down and slow down. There are a few ways to help you reach some inner peace before you dive into the shark tank.

Slow Down

There’s a theory that says wise people speak slowly. That doesn’t mean they speak in long, drawn out syllables. It means they’re thinking about everything they say before they say it. It’s not even noticeable to the people they’re speaking to.

But slowing down isn’t usually in any person’s head before an investor meeting. From the minute you hear the investor meeting is scheduled to when you jump in the car, your mind is going 150 miles per hour. You’re going over things again and again in your head, trying to make sure that you’ve got your pitch as nailed down as you can.

Here’s the thing, though: once you get into the car, there’s nothing more you can do. You’ve already prepared as much as you can. Think of it like a bride on her wedding day. It’s easy for her to get worked up on the day of the wedding, worried that something might go wrong. But on the wedding day, after she’s zipped up into her dress, there’s nothing more she can do. That’s her chance to just relax and enjoy the day. The same concept applies to you and your pitch. Once you’re on the way to the meeting, it’s time to just slow down, relax, and realize you just can’t cram another memory into your brain.

Avoiding Amygdala Hijack

On your brain stem, the second gland before the brain is called the amygdala. This little gland controls what we call the “freeze, fight, or flight” response. The amygdala produces adrenaline, and it can hijack your brain. When you’re faced with a situation that jumpstarts your amygdala, it fires in .8 milliseconds and it takes over your brain. Your brain—even brains with the highest of IQs—is unable to reason. The only thing you’re thinking about is fighting or getting out of the situation.

After your brain is hijacked, it can take up to 18 minutes for your brain to regain control again. If it happens five minutes before your investor meeting starts, you can kiss your investors goodbye. Countering an amygdala hijack isn’t easy, but it’s possible to avoid it by just staying away from drama. Don’t talk to your angry significant other, and don’t call your estranged brother who’s asking for money. Just keep your mind clear and focused on the task.

Counteracting the Amygdala Hijack and the Positive Hijack

If you do let your brain get hijacked by the amygdala, there are ways you can counteract it. If a tiger was attacking you, your amygdala would take over, and you would either fight the tiger or run away from it. If your brain gets hijacked, do something you wouldn’t do if a tiger was about to attack you. Drink water, sit down, or lean against a wall. This slows you down and calms you down, and helps to counteract the 18 minutes of hijack you’re about to face. In fact, a mark of high-level leaders is the ability to sense a hijack coming on and do something to counteract it ahead of time, like going for a walk.

Your other option is the positive hijack. In a similar way to the amygdala hijack, you can trick your brain into being completely calm. Smells often do that, or things that remind you of something happy. My positive hijack, for example, is listening to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It reminds me of my brother and my childhood, and puts me in a happy place before an investor meeting.

Do what you have to do to calm down before a meeting. In the long term, practice slowing your thinking. In the short term, avoid drama and focus on good things. Take your mind away from the stress. If that’s eating a giant ice cream cone, do it. Find your positive hijacks and use them to dominate your investor meetings.

Tony Monteleone(@StartupTony) is a serial entrepreneur and does Business Development for PERQ, a marketing technology and promotions company that specializes in increasing online and in store traffic for businesses. He also serves as the Indianapolis Chapter Director for Startup Grind.


4 Best Practices for Scaling Your Startup

Scaling startup, startup tips, guest post, YECEarlier this year, Wildfire (the Google-owned company that helps businesses create social media apps) announced they were retiring their small business offerings. Wildfire also happens to be one of my company’s competitors, so the news caught my attention. Their decision was baffling to me. It seemed like they were shutting the door on thousands of customers by eliminating their basic plans — which meant only a fraction of small business owners would be able afford to use Wildfire’s product.

This got me thinking about scale. Wildfire’s architecture must require lots of manual attention, which in turn requires a huge staff. If a small business client and a Fortune 500 client require the same amount of effort, I can see why at a certain point, they had to cut the strings.

Here are a few things to consider if you want to scale your product or service:

Grow your company without growing your staff (too much).

Social coupon-sharing companies came out of nowhere and revolutionized the coupon concept. And while I can see how they grew so quickly because of their innovative idea, from what I can tell most of the models still require a traditional sales team to reach out to the local small business owners who are the mostly likely to use their product. Yes, they’re making big profits, but they have a huge payroll; I’m not sure the model can be scaled efficiently.

Automate what can be automated.

If I were building the next coupon-sharing business, I’d make offer a do-it-yourself coupon creation option. This is sort of what I did with ShortStack. Before my team created ShortStack, we had a successful web design agency. The company was doing well, but was labor-intensive (follow leads, pitch clients, put together RFPs, etc.) and required more staffing resources than I could manage to grow in a meaningful way.

Soon, I realized I’d be better off if my team created a DIY version of what we were using in house and offer it to everyone. In essence, we switched from a service model to a product model. Yes, we still have some clients who need hand-holding, but the vast majority of our users can use what we make right out of the proverbial box. The automation model allows us to serve 200,000+ users with a staff of 12, versus 20 clients with a staff of 12.

Shift from outbound to inbound marketing.

Not every company can afford to have a sales team out pounding the pavement. People are expensive! Instead, think about how to pivot so you can bring customers to you rather than having to chase after them. I know this won’t work for every type of business, but I’m finding that having a small but dedicated content-marketing team is turning out to be way more cost-effective than spending money on advertising.

My analogy is that blog posts, infographics, etc. are like solar-powered cars. Advertising is the gas guzzler. We have content that was created last year that still gets shared on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and leads people to our company website and blog. I’d rather devote resources to my development team who work on making our product better and better and to my content team who gets the word out.

Consider the possibility of franchising.

I’ve focused mostly on technology here, but there is a scaling option for other sorts of businesses: franchising. Let’s say you own a successful cupcake bakery in a big city. You get lots of great press and have loyal customers, but opening shops around town might be too difficult. But if you focus on your idea/model/brand — and on packaging the best parts of what is working for you — and offer them to aspiring bakers in any city, you will make a percentage of the sales of several small businesses without having to manage the staff it takes to run them. (Word to the wise: make sure you have have good legal counsel to prevent spawning your own competition.)

If you think about scaling from the outset, you’ll be more likely to grow your company without huge hiccups. And you’ll be less likely to have to abandon the customers who helped make you successful in the first place.

Jim Belosic is the co-founder and CEO of Pancake Labs, a software company based in Reno, Nev. The company is best known for its flagship product, ShortStack, software that’s designed to help small business owners and designers create custom apps that harness the power of social media (www.shortstack.com).  ShortStack recently celebrated its second birthday; Pancake Laboratories has several new software products slated for release in 2013.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons. 


Oversee Your Business Without Being Chained to a Desk

Guest post, Startup tips, startup monitoring You would think that advances in technology would reduce the amount of hours you spend at work. You’d be wrong, as Technology Digital finds that white collar jobs are sitting at a 60-hour work week, and anyone chasing that elusive 40-hour beast is written off as a part-time dabbler. While it will take quite some time to change the societal and corporate culture, you can put technology to work for you in at least making your time more comfortable. You don’t have to be chained to a desk day in, day out to oversee and manage your business, departments and employees. Instead, put your smartphone to work so you can get a change of scenery.

Bring Your Own Device

BYOD policies bring more benefits than headaches to most corporations, but if you’re a CTO or needing to manage a variety of mobile devices in a secure and safe manner, it takes some time to work out a cross-platform solution. One such solution, Blackberry’s Mobile Device Management, allows you to take advantage of Blackberry’s secure setup. The Blackberry 10 OS allows you to create a virtualized environment that is kept entirely separate from everything else installed on the device, and supplies mailing and calendar functions, among others. MDM is a cross-platform version of that so you can increase the safety and security of every mobile platform accessing your work network.

Productivity Apps

Productivity apps streamline your day-to-day tasks, as well as keeping you on track with employee activities and essential business information. Stocks is a solid, free Blackberry app that keeps you on track with the stock market, an essential bit of information if you’re a publicly traded company. Evernote is an essential bit of software that works well with small or large teams, or for your own personal notes. Since it’s a cross platform app, you can access your notes from any location, whether it’s your phone or computer. When you need to keep your notes on hand when you’re out of the office, this is the perfect choice for you.

Cloud-based Storage

Cloud-based storage is essential to unlocking you from your office. When you can access your files from any location, at any time, there’s no real reason for you to stick around work if you’re not otherwise needed on-site. Instead, you can head down to the beach and work on your tan while you’re getting the profit and loss statements ready for your department. Many cloud services are compatible with Blackberry, such as Google Drive and Dropbox. However, one the most useful apps you can get is one that allows you to access all your files in any of the cloud storage sites supported. This app is called Playcloud, and it also lets you bring up FTP and local files.


The Role of IT Training in Today’s Startup World

Startup Tips, IT, Startups, Guest Post

The Role of IT Training in Today’s Startup World

The world of business and startups has changed a great deal over the course of the past decade or so. No longer is it practical to think that a business can be operated without IT, and whether that comes from an employee who is well-versed on the subject or yourself will depend upon both how much interest/time you have in learning more about IT and how much you can afford someone else to take care of things for you. The fact is, every business owner can benefit from increasing his base of knowledge when it comes to IT, especially when it comes to overseeing daily operations.

You don’t have to delegate a huge amount of time if you want to prioritize IT, but putting some effort into the equation will definitely help to push your business in the right direction. Here are just a few reasons why IT training is more important in today’s business world than ever in the past.

Businesses Rely on IT to Keep Moving

Years ago, IT didn’t usually take up a great deal of space in the minds of business owners when it came to day-to-day operations. Today, however, it is essential part of running a company. Without IT, the flow, retrieval and storage of information for businesses of all kinds would come to a screeching halt. Many business owners who simply don’t have the time or interest to handle the IT side of the business, and while this can be an effective tool, it can also be quite costly. Understanding more about how to handle the day-to-day logistics of your business’s IT can be quite freeing and is more than worth your while.

IT Is Crucial to Customer Satisfaction

Your customers need to know that they can get in touch with you no matter what time of day or night they need to. This means that if your website, email or other IT-related services are down, you’ll not only be missing out on the chance to bring in new business, but will also be running the risk of angering current clients and customers. Gaining a better understanding of IT will allow you to take care of any issues that might pop up, which means that any downtime can be cut to an absolute minimum. If you’re in the dark and can’t get in touch with whomever is handling your IT, you’re bound to run into issues that could be costly to your business.

IT Will Only Become More Integrative 

Technology is advancing at an alarming rate, and businesses of all kinds rely on it for daily operations. While there are still certain types of businesses that don’t utilize IT as much as others, this is likely to change as the Internet continues to become a central aspect of the professional world. This will be especially important in terms of security. Understanding IT and training your employees to do the same will be a huge part of providing online security for your company in the years to come. It’s safe to assume that years from now, a business that doesn’t have solid integration of IT will have an immensely difficult time finding success and surviving in the marketplace.

There are plenty of resources online and elsewhere that can help teach you about IT issues. Follow the link here to learn more about an education in IT security measures and the technology involved in protecting your IP.

Kelly Jane Brown is an aspiring writer, entrepreneur and student at UCLA.


3 Tools That Promote Startup Security

Startup Security, Cloud Security, Guest PostStartup business owners normally don’t associate the security threats that haunt larger corporations with their enterprises, but the reality is that malicious code, BYOD malware, data theft, phishing, payment fraud and other attacks pose just as much risk for startups as they do to larger businesses.

CEO of Web Security at CloudFare Matthew Prince states that it’s not just giant retailers like Amazon that are under threats–businesses with 100 employees or even less can also become targets. The 36-employee operated company itself became a target when hackers gained access to sensitive customer information and were nearly successful.

Moreover, it’s not just the startups themselves that the attackers target. They’re aware that newly formed companies can give them access (act as a gateway) to some of the larger corporations who are usually clients of startup companies. According to a report from Symantec, the world’s top 500 companies have over 60 collaborations on average.

While you may not be able to enjoy the perks of military-level security, you still need to pay attention to protect your business from possible threats.

Some of the tools that startup business owners can leverage to enhance startup security are:

1.  Cloud backup

From employee screening records to business contacts, the hard drives of your office computers are likely to be filled with precious data that you can’t afford to lose. However, a virus can inflict them at any moment, and they can also malfunction on their own. Other unfortunate things like fire or a natural disaster can also lead to the loss of important data.

A survey conducted by Carbonite reveals that 48% of businesses operating on a small scale suffer from lost data of 2-20 employees, which leads to decrease in productivity and revenue. It is therefore important to opt for cloud backup solutions, which have several advantages over on-site services. Some of the benefits include remote backups, top notch data-encryption and automatic restore when the data is wiped out.

2.  Virus-protection software

Ransomware, spyware, malware and viruses can infect your smart devices, flash drives, Windows PCs and Macs at any point. Applied Research conducted a survey in 2012 among 2,100 businesses, and the results revealed that most of them have been regular victims of cyber-attacks such as malware, phishing, email virus etc.

These are a few reasons why virus-protection software is important, but you shouldn’t go on a blind buying spree. What you need is software specifically designed for virus-proned small businesses. A business antivirus software program can protect your mail servers, files servers, and all of you precious IT from the comfort of the cloud.

3.  Secure payment protected

Visa Inc. estimates that out of 100% credit-card data breaches that take place, 95% of them are targeted towards small business operators. Most of the payment threats surround those startups that regularly engage in online payment transactions.

Luckily, there are ways to include an extra layer of protection to payment systems. For example, Discover offers an online number service that allows customers to sign in to the account and create a unique credit card number to make a purchase. That number can only be used once, even if a cyber-criminal gains access to it.

These tools will add top level protection to your business operations and secure your data, devices and investment when anything unfortunate happens.

What tools do you use to enhance startup security? Feel free to share your answers in the comments section below.

Kelly Jane Brown is an aspiring writer, entrepreneur and student at UCLA.

11 Marketing Tools Your Startup Needs For Launch

Startup Tips, YEC, Guest Post, Launch

Startup Tips, YEC, Guest Post, Launch

Question: What ONE must-have tool should small businesses include in their marketing campaign when launching a new product? (events, pop-up shops, swag, social media campaigns, etc.)

Mailchimp Is a Must

“For every new product launch, we collect emails via MailChimp. We use their email campaign and auto-responder functionality to draft countdown emails so that our customers receive regular updates and pre-specified intervals prior to launch. These email campaigns get customers excited about our launch and result in increased conversion.”

Landing Pages with Unbounce

“Landing pages are a must when launching a new product. They let you easily focus the potential consumers attention on the actions that you deem desirable. With new products, money is scarce, so having the highest conversion rate is of necessity. My product of choice is Unbounce — it’s dead simple to use, and they also have new and improved features for the advanced user.”

Create a Dedicated Email

“As you’re building buzz for your product, there must be a customer and sponsor support team ready to handle incoming questions. Put your email out there everywhere and encourage questions, ideas and communication. Don’t just have the email account, but be ready with resources, FAQs and engagement specialists to nurture your early adopters and raving fans and help them promote you further.”

Set Up Google Analytics Properly

“You can’t have a good marketing campaign without tracking in-depth analytics throughout the entire process. Not only is Google Analytics great because it’s free, but they continue to add more robust features for tracking every detail of each visitor on your site, which will help you understand the location, referrers/keywords, behaviors, site usage, and transactions of each of your visitors.”

Incorporate Retargeting Pixels.

“Use a service like ReTargeter or AdWords Remarketing in order to drop cookies for first-time visitors to your website, so that you have the opportunity to remarket to them later and stay top of mind. Start building your remarketing list from day one.”

Utilize Hacker News

Hacker News is a great place to launch a product. If you submit your site correctly, it could drive thousands of visits within a few hours and collect excellent feedback. Make sure to read how to use Hacker News first though!”

Ben Lang | Founder, Mapped In Israel

Put In a Squeeze Page

“If I had to recommend one tool for any product launch, it would be a “squeeze page,” also known as an opt-in page. Get an account with an email service provider (ESP), create a squeeze page, and point potential customers to it during your pre-launch. Send emails to your subscriber list building anticipation for the launch, and then offer your subscribers a limited-time offer upon the launch.”

Pete Kennedy | Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Main Street ROI

Let People Use Your Product!

“If the goal is to get people to use your product and talk about your product, then it seems logical that you should get that product into as many hands as possible. If it’s online, this means a trial. If it’s food, it means having tons of samples. If it’s jeans, give away your jeans. You can talk and hype something all you want, but the product speaks for itself. A worthwhile investment.”

Luke Burgis | Director, ActivPrayer

Bloggers Create the Buzz

“A lot of small businesses focus on long-lead, print media without realizing the power of blogs. Even relatively small blogs have the power to convert sales with links in a much more powerful way than print ever can — and even have the potential to take on their life of their own through social sharing.”

Alexis Wolfer | Founder/CEO, The Beauty Bean

Coordinate a Social Media Push

“Including fans in the conversation or decision-making process prior to launch is by far the most valuable pre-promotion you can do. We generally narrow new watch designs or colors down to three or four options before running a vote on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. It’s our “Threadless meets Kickstarter” model: whether we receive 100 votes or 1,000, we learn from our biggest advocates!”

Aaron Schwartz | Founder and CEO, Modify Watches

Collect Real Testimonials and Reviews

“No matter what else you do to market a new product, you need to have proof that it does what you say it does. Getting people outside your company to try the product and talk about it is the only initial source of that proof that you can set up before the product goes on the market. So make the effort to get testimonials and reviews from beta testers and pre-launch customers.”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.