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How Young Entrepreneurs can make time for Love

With the arrival of yet another Valentine’s Day, a young entrepreneur’s thoughts may turn to love. And though many of us yearn for it, we often think we simply don’t have time because we’re so busy with our business.

Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, explains the situation he experienced as an entrepreneur with six startups under his belt, “Starting a company requires a marriage-like commitment — for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health…”

In other words, you’re stuck with your other loves: Your love of entrepreneurship, love of owning your own business, setting your own hours, making your dream a reality. Although the money is tight — or often nonexistent — and 18-hour days are the norm, your dream keeps you going. But the question is, for how long?

At some point, you may look up from your desk or your laptop and realize that somewhere in your future you want a life, and not one lived in solitude. What can you do to make that happen? You’re an expert at business planning, so why not use some of those insights to find room for love in your life?

Here are seven steps that may help you make time for love:

1. Clear some space. Do you have the time to build and maintain a relationship? Figure on a couple of phone calls a week and two evenings, one morning and an afternoon of free time minimum. And this means totally free — no answering the cell phone or checking email. Well, maybe once with an apology for the intrusion, but that’s it.

2. Return to civilization. Are you living in your parents’ basement? This is not conducive to developing a relationship. Does your apartment or home have any furniture other than desks and file cabinets? Are the only clothes in your closet networking outfits and sweats? If you want to attract and keep the attention of a real person, better start acting like one.

3. Reconnect with friends. Guess who provides the best introductions to relationship candidates? That’s right, the people who really know you and have a good idea of the kind of person best suited to you. Spending some time with friends will also let you see how well you can carve out some space from your entrepreneurial efforts.

4. Make expectations clear. If you do find someone you value, you should explain how your life works and what you’re capable of, given the requirements of your business. Not ready for a full-time relationship? Say so. Not interested in marriage or children in the near future, or ever? Make that clear. That special person will be investing in you and has the right to a clear picture of what to expect in return.

5. Don’t expect instant success. You’re a nontraditional person, so finding someone who values that can take time. It’s particularly difficult if you’re also smarter than the average bear. In the meantime, enjoy the process.

6.Don’t backslide. Once you find yourself in a good situation, or even find the person of your dreams, it’s easy to think, “Well, that’s taken care of,” and jump right back into your business full-time. Understand that another person in your life isn’t a project you can set aside until you’re ready to work on it. You’ve made a commitment, with the attendant responsibilities.

7. Be honest. Can you really do this? Are you willing to give up the time and dollars and commit to something other than making your business concept a reality? If the answer is no, that’s OK. But be honest with yourself. Is your work worth the sacrifice of the rest of your life? Maybe for a while, but someday you’re probably going to want more.

So as another Valentine’s Day comes and goes, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to add life balance to your strategic plan or find yourself alone again next year. If you’re not ready for the big leap, you could start smaller. How about a dog?

Article by Adam Toren, a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of www.YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley).

Balancing Part-Time Business with Full-Time Job

 

Imagine this scene: your deadline to submit the completed project to your biggest client from your part-time business is tomorrow and you plan to work all night long to finish the work. However, your boss from your day job tells you that a rush project came along, and that you may need to go on overtime to finish the work for a management presentation at 8:00 am the following day. If you do well on this assignment, a promotion is guaranteed!

Oppps! How do you now divide yourself to do both tasks one from your job, and another from your part-time business that have the same deadline and same level of importance?

This is simply one of the myriad challenges that a part-time business owner faces. It is not easy to balance full-time work with the demands of a new business.

The ideal situation would be to have a job that provides enough leeway and time to allow you to dabble on a business on the side. Alas, that is not always the case. You will often find yourself faced with seemingly insurmountable odds when you try to do both at the same time.

Below are some tips to help you achieve a successful balancing act when trying to start a business while working on a job full-time:

1. Be open to your boss at work about your business. It is best to tell your bosses about your business. Of course, owning up about a sideline business depends on the dynamics of your relationship with your boss. Generally speaking, however, conflicts and problems can be avoided if there is no secrecy about either job. Make sure that you reassure your boss that your business will not affect your productivity at work, and that no resources of the company will be used for your business.

In many instances, telling your boss about your business demonstrates to them that you have other skills and capabilities that are not being tapped in your present job. With the new knowledge, better opportunities may open for you that will make use of your previously undisclosed talents.

2. Do not compete for clients. One cardinal rule of balancing full time work with part time business is that you must not compete and steal your day job’s clients (unless you want to be booted off). Doing so violates an important rule of work ethics; and breaks the trust of the management.

3. Schedule and plan your time accordingly. The toughest part of starting a business while working is finding enough time to do both jobs well. It is particularly difficult when you face tremendous pressure in your job to provide the highest caliber of performance, particularly in situations when you are up for promotion or you have just been given additional responsibilities. If your job demands that you work 12 hours every day, it may be extremely tough to provide your part-time business with the attention it needs.

Take a realistic look at your work schedule. Make sure that your working hours do not overlap. If you do need to check on your business during your working hours at your job, do so discreetly. You boss may give you leeway, and even support your business, if he knows that your work is not affected and you are still able to give a good performance. You may be able to check your answering machine and make some phone calls to clients (from your own cell phone, of course) during slack time. Or you may be able to use your lunch break to check and respond to the emails that you received from your business.

4. Keep your commitments realistic. Assess your schedule and ensure that your commitments to deliver services or products are realistic. You will often find yourself walking on a tightrope, trying to balance the need to deliver fast and quick service on one hand, and the need to provide high quality work on the other. Accept the fact that you will always have a limited amount of time that you can spend on your part-time business.

Understand how your tight schedule can affect your capability to cater to your customers. There will be times when you will be pressured to deliver the product or service to the client just to meet the deadline, without putting in the time needed to ensure that your product is of the best possible quality. Customers are usually impatient, and if you’re slow to produce, your company’s reputation could be compromised.

5. Seek the support of your family members. Discuss with your family your plans to continue working at your job full-time while starting a business on the side. It is important that your family members know and understand the impact of working at basically two jobs. They should be aware of the pressure, commitment and risks of having dual work schedules. If you get their support, you may even expect your family to help you run the business and delegate some operational aspects to them.

6. Use technology to help you run your business. If you are trying to balance work with business, technology should be your best friend. Make full use of available technology. Answering machines, cell phones, fax machines, email and other technological devices can make your life easier and much more manageable. Clients from your business can reach you (discreetly) during on-the-job hours.

Make sure, though, that you are using YOUR own machines. To the extent possible, avoid using your company’s fax machine to receive your personal faxes and do not give out your work email to your personal clients. You should also be aware of your company’s policy regarding the use of personal email accounts during business hours. Many companies are now monitoring email use of their employees, and some have even banned access to free email sites like Hotmail and Yahoo.

7. Take care of yourself. The demands of a full-time job and a part-time business can take its toll on you. Your fatigue and stress levels may hit stratospheric proportions at times, and you better be prepared for this. Get enough sleep as much as you can. If you stay up late at night working on your business and then go to work at 7 am the following day, it will soon catch up with you. Your productivity will go down, affecting your full-time work and the chances for success of your part-time business. Worse, your health can also be affected. Learn when to push yourself, but also learn to listen to your body when it tells you to rest.

It is possible to be an employee of a company, while starting your sojourn to self-employment. However, this balancing act requires coordination and careful planning. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your job, or failing in a business that is yet to take off the ground.

When you have a part-time business while employed full-time, there will times when both will demand your undivided attention. Here are some tips to help you achieve a successful balancing act when trying to start a business while working on a job full-time.

by Lyve Alexis Pleshette

What kind of business should I start?

Starting a business is way cool these days – everyone is doing it. And what’s not to love about it, right?

That being said, the only question then is what kind of business should you start? That’s the burning question on the lips of many a would be entrepreneur stuck in cubicle nation.

Here’s my take – I hope to whatever God you pray that you have discovered the next new big thing and that you have your patent attorney working overtime for you, but . . .if you want some really good, free advice, take head.

Research and find a business, industry, product or service that seems to have a number of players who already seem to be doing pretty well and jump into that potentially crowded field with an innovation and a commitment to a marketing system.

It is far easier to create a twist or unique offering in a market that already exists and appreciates what your business has to offer than it is to convince a market that they ought to want and need your great invention. I know that may not be the way to entrepreneurial stardom, but it’s the surest way to create a business with a chance of success.

But what about all the competition? Don’t sweat the competition, most have succeeded on sheer market momentum or demand. You’ve got the secret duo of innovation and marketing system on your side and you are about to blow the competition away.

So let’s talk about these two ingredients you need to add once you find your boring, but sound, business to jump into – innovation and a marketing system.

Innovation comes by simply finding a unique way to package, deliver or market your business. It must be something that allows you to clearly show how your business is different in some significant way than all the others that say they do what you do. For example, Duct Tape Marketing coaches don’t do marketing consulting, they install a marketing system.

It’s not enough to simply say you offer better service. In this regard you may need to be willing to throw off long ingrained notions. Some find that’s it harder to get old thoughts out than new thoughts in – let your innovation include green skies and blue trees!

Once you have your business idea and innovation, surround it with a marketing system. A marketing system is just my way of explaining the systematic way to build know, like and trust.

Your system must contain a strategy that helps you communicate, in very simple ways, your innovation – your difference, your core message. It must also contain a thorough and consistent, education based communication strategy combined with proven ways to toot your horn and let your ideal customers find you.
This may not be the path to instant gratification, but it is the long, slow, steady and perhaps boring guarantee for start-up success.

Posted by: John Jantsch

 

How to find a Niche Market

A market in its entirety is too broad in scope for any but the largest companies to tackle successfully. The best strategy for a smaller business is to divide demand into manageable market niches. Small operations can then offer specialized goods and services attractive to a specific group of prospective buyers.

There are undoubtedly some particular products or services you are especially suited to provide. Study the market carefully and you will find opportunities.

While researching your own company’s niche, consider the results of your market survey and the areas in which your competitors are already firmly situated. Put this information into a table or a graph to illustrate where an opening might exist for your product or service. Try to find the right configuration of products, services, quality, and price that will ensure the least direct competition. Unfortunately, there is no universally effective way to make these comparisons. Not only will the desired attributes vary from industry to industry, but there is also an imaginative element that cannot be formalized. For example, only someone who had already thought of developing pre-packaged surgical instruments could use a survey to determine whether or not a market actually existed for them.

A well-designed database can help you sort through your market information and reveal particular segments you might not see otherwise. For example, do customers in a certain geographic area tend to purchase products that combine high quality and high price more frequently? Do your small business clients take advantage of your customer service more often than larger ones? If so, consider focusing on being a local provider of high quality goods and services, or a service-oriented company that pays extra attention to small businesses.

If you do target a new niche market, make sure that this niche does not conflict with your overall business plan. For example, a small bakery that makes cookies by hand cannot go after a market for inexpensive, mass-produced cookies, regardless of the demand.

By Gaebler Ventures.

Why Existing Companies Need Planning Too

Does your company have an annual strategic plan? Does your company develop an annual plan to polish its strategy, focus on main priorities, and manage its cash?

Every business needs to plan

Unfortunately, there is a myth that associates planning with start-ups. That’s particularly common in the United States. Because of that myth, inertia, putting out fires, and related reasons, a lot of businesses miss out on the opportunity to manage themselves a bit better.

As an owner or manager of a small or medium business, can you afford not to plan? Do you leave the annual plan for the large businesses, and let your business depend on reacting to events? Or do you want to plan for priorities, and manage your growth proactively. That’s a leading question, of course, the answer is obvious.

You could call it strategic plan, annual plan, operational plan; the name doesn’t matter as much as the management of it. While these kinds of plans are common in larger enterprises, they are surprisingly rare in small and medium business.

Benefits

Guide your growth: Your business will grow or not depending on a lot of different factors, including overall economic trends, location, specific market needs, hard work, and other elements. Businesses that plan do it to guide and influence their growth, so that they move proactively towards defined objectives rather than just reacting to business events.

Manage priorities: Strategy is focus. Allocate resources where they will do the most good. Work towards your strengths and away from your weaknesses. Develop the company by doing the most important things, according to your long-term objectives.

Assign responsibilities: A plan gives you a place to develop organizational responsibilities.

Track progress: Think of a plan as a business positioning device. With a plan, you can track your progress towards goals, measure results, and manage the business. Without a plan, how do you tell whether or not you are moving in the right direction. What do you measure against?

Plan for cash: Profits are not cash, and cash is not intuitive. You spend cash, you don’t spend profits. However, businesses don’t plan well for cash, and they need to. That may not sound strategic, but it is. It is also the core of an operations plan, and an annual plan. Whatever else, you have to plan for cash.

Main elements

Regardless of the name you use, strategic plan or annual plan or operational plan, the vast majority of these plans include some or all of the following main points:

High-level strategy: Strategy is focus. It guides your growth. Strategy assigns priorities. Of the whole range of possible market segments, and the whole range of services and possible sales and marketing activities, which are your main priorities? Strategy is often a matter of understanding when and how to say no, selecting opportunities.

Specific responsibilities, activities, deadlines, and budgets: We call these milestones. They are the bricks and mortar of business planning, critical to business success.

Financial plan: One of the most important gains from an annual plan is the financial plan, which of course hinges on cash flow. A business needs to stress its priorities by making sure they get the right amount of money. Growth costs cash.

by Tim Berry, Founder and President of Palo Alto Software and a renowned planning expert.

The 11 Harsh Realities Of Being An Entrepreneur

There’s always talk about the end game in the form of an acquisition, funding announcement, or eventual flame out. Hollywood has even made a movie about the founding of Facebook that glamorizes startup life instead of showing what it really is: a day in day out marathon of work with very little glamor. We rarely hear about the harsh realities that entrepreneurs face and the journey that this entails. This isn’t meant to be a downbeat and negative article, but actually quite the opposite. By knowing the harsh realities that lie ahead, you can be prepared when they come about so you can solider on. Here are some of the harsh realities that come with the territory of being an entrepreneur.

Your First Iteration of an Idea Will Be Wrong

The first iteration or implementation of your idea will often be wrong. That’s not because you’re not smart, not doing the right things, or some other reason to come down hard on yourself. As it turns out, this is actually a good sign. No idea survives its first interactions with its customers and requires you to synthesize feedback to adapt to the customer. You could be prideful, not listen to what your customers are telling you, and keep things the way they were. In the end, that just leaves you with no customers and a product you may not even use yourself. It’s okay if things change up a bit when it comes to your idea and its implementation.

Your Friends And Family Won’t Understand What You Do

“You’re an entrepreneur, so that means you’re un-employed?” or “Oh that’s nice.” are some of the many reactions you will get from close friends, family members, and others over the course of starting your company. Even if you achieve milestones that are worthy of praise (customers, fundraising, new traffic levels, press,etc.) and denote success in the entrepreneurial world, people still won’t understand what you do. Unless you build one of the few consumer success stories that come around every few years, things probably won’t change here. The b2b space is even more difficult to explain as most people aren’t your customer, especially if it’s a niche workflow. This is okay and sometimes even a relief to know there is more outside in the world than just techies and entrepreneurs. Just because they don’t understand it, doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or unacceptable. I doubt Larry Ellison can have most of his family understand Oracle (that database company that stores information), but things turned out pretty well for him at the end of the day.

You Will Make Less Than Normal Wages For A While

If you got into entrepreneurship first and foremost for the money, then you are in the wrong business. Sure you may one day sell your company, but that day is probably far far away. Even then, there are usually earn out clauses, vesting still in tact, and a whole lot more. Even if you raise a good chunk of cash, your money is better spent on hiring the best talent than paying yourself a higher wage. There’s nothing wrong wanting to make money, but in the beginning it’s going to be rough. You will make less than most of your friends, especially the ones doing the “normal” paths of things like finance. It’s a litmus test in its finest form though. If you truly love what you’re doing, the capacity to have a large bank account takes a back burner to completing your mission. Sure you need some basic creature comforts, but luxury items almost seem silly as you will not have the time to truly enjoy them.

Everything Takes Twice As Long…If It Even Happens

Multiply everything by two, including the things inside of your control. When things take longer, you sometimes think that you’re doing it wrong or no one really cares. In reality, everyone else has multiple deals and responsibilities on the table. By factoring this into the expectations of your startup, it makes a lot easier to prepare for launching products, closing deals, and more. Also, be persistent and get the other party what they need as soon as possible. On the flipside, most deals just never work out. It may be an acquisition all the way down to a simple business development deal. There are always many moving parts and excitement that can just fade. That’s okay though. If you’re building your company upon one deal or a silver bullet (more on that below), then you need to re-evaluate things. Don’t be depressed when a deal falls through as that is just the nature of the beast.

Titles Mean Nothing. You Will Be a Janitor

Hey there Mr. CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder! As a co-founder of a < 10 person company with a product that doesn’t have customers, titles really don’t mean much. Everyone will be doing a little bit of everything, including cleaning the toilets. Don’t try to mask the grind of being an entrepreneur with some superficial title. In reality, you should love and embrace the nitty gritty of those first days. Business cards are nice to hand out, but they really shouldn’t say more than co-founder or something else. Maybe someone inside the company plays more of the CEO role (speaking and being the face of the company), but that doesn’t really matter in the early days. You have to be humble and you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. You don’t have a staff of 50 to throw the task on to either. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. Sure you could also try to optimize for efficiency, but that’s almost counter productive as the early days of a startup requiring doing so much, that it’s hard to just cut something out.

There Is No Silver Bullet

There shouldn’t be and usually never is a single deal that can make your company. Certain deals or customers can take you to another rung on the ladder, but there are still many more rungs to climb along the way. You shouldn’t look at a deal as the end game to the startup, but a means to a specific milestone that is in the near future. A deal can be taken away far faster than it can be given to you. By training yourself to diversify your risk and the milestones that advance your company, you control the destiny of your company, NOT one single partner. The success of a startup is the compilation of luck infused with many little wins along the way.

Customers Will Frustrate You

Having customers is a great thing, but dealing with support is a whole other ball game. If you’re in the consumer world, expect to deal with customers that don’t notice the obvious even with your fancy pants UI/UX in place. You will also get an influx of feedback that is often contradictory. One customer wants it in red, another wants it in blue, and a third wants it combined to become purple. The key to dealing with customers is to respond to everyone, but have a strong rule of authority. If you succumb to customers frustrating you and do everything you say, you quickly end up in a far worse position.

You Can’t Do It All Yourself

Some entrepreneurs have a superhero complex that they feel they can do everything themselves or with just one co-founder. They think that it’s possible to scale the company with just two to three people. This just results in being overworked and unfocused. Know when to let go of your pride and bring in people that are often smarter than you are. By bringing in others to work with you, there’s also an ability for each team member to be laser focused on what they’re best at.

There Is No Such Thing As An Overnight Success

In some cases you may be able to find out that your idea just won’t work or that you are one of the lucky few that get acquired early on. Other than that, be prepared to work on your startup for many many years. The press often makes it seem as if success happened overnight, but the entrepreneurs themselves spent a lot of time with the company over the course of many years. Startups aren’t a 5k, but an all out iron man competition.

Building A Team Is Hard

Finding co-founders by themselves is very hard just by itself. Finding a group of individuals smarter than yourself across a broad range of skill takes up way more time than you would ever think. In the early days, you may be super excited about your company, but it’s often hard to get a large group of others equally excited. They may have their own ideas they want to work on, be comfortable with a cushy salary, or generally just not interested in what you’re doing. Just because you’re excited does not mean others will be excited. If you’re lucky enough, you will hit a certain period of growth explosion that requires you to hire rapidly and be a great judge of character on the fly. This is a dangerous period for a startup as the company is still small enough that the wrong DNA can make things take a turn for the worse, but you cannot be as granular with hiring these employees as your first 10.

There Are Forces Outside Your Control

Last, but not least, you have to understand that you cannot control everything in the universe. Markets collapse, the government intervenes, tragedy strikes, and other unforseen circumstances. You don’t let this make you quit. It’s like a roadblock on the way to a concert, sports game, or party you want to get to. You may have to sit in traffic or take an alternate route, but as long as you are determined to get there, you will end up at the event. In the words of the late Randy Pausch “Brick walls are there to show you how bad you want something.” Once again, this isn’t a deterrent to becoming an entrepreneur, but just a reality check to make sure you’re prepared. Many companies die because people just give up . Hopefully this article does some small bit in helping preventing this. Life as an entrepreneur is hard, but if you really love what you’re doing and have the determination, you WILL do it.

By Jason Baptiste

Follow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jasonlbaptiste, Friend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonlbaptiste, Email: jbaptiste@onstartups.com

14 Ways To Be A Great Startup CEO

Everyone thinks that being a startup CEO is a glamorous job or one that has to be a ton of fun. That’s what I now refer to as the “glamour brain” speaking aka the startup life you hear about from the press. You know the press articles I’m talking about… the ones that talk about how easy it is to raise money, how many users the company is getting, and how great it is to be CEO. Very rarely do you hear about what a bitch it is to be CEO and how it’s not for every founder that wants to be an entrepreneur. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about what it takes to be a great Startup CEO that is also a founder. Here are some of the traits I’ve found.

Be A Keeper Of The Company Vision

The CEO is the keeper of the company’s overall vision. I’m not talking about the vision for the next few months, but the larger road ahead. The CEO needs to be able to keep things on course for the current quarter to make sure that the large overarching vision of the company can be achieved. The takeover the world vision of a startup usually can’t be achieved in one year or even in some cases, like Google, in a decade. It takes a great startup CEO to keep the company on track to achieve that vision. A great startup CEO will often judge upcoming initiatives to see if they fit in as a piece of the large puzzle for the bigger vision.

Absorb The Pain For The Team

A startup CEO needs to be the personal voodoo doll for a startup. They need to be able to take on a strong burden of stress, pain, and torture all while making level headed decisions. You can’t have the troops stressing and worrying about the difficult challenges at hand. A good startup CEO will absorb the stress, so the rest of the team can carry on. He also needs to be able to mask this pain and stress. Not that he should hide or lie to the team- I’m not encouraging that. Most of the day to day nuances+stresses of a startup aren’t worth having the entire team worry about and the CEO needs to bear that pain.

Find The Smartest People And Defer On Domain Expertise

A startup CEO has a great knack for finding talent. The key is finding people that are smarter than you on specific topics. It might be technical team members/leaders or it might be a new VP of Biz Dev. A startup CEO has to have the ability to find these people and make relatively fast decisions to hire them. They also have to be able to show the fire and passion to convince them to leave what is most likely a better paying and more secure job to join the company. The real key to hiring as a startup CEO comes after the hire. A great startup CEO will be able to trust the hires that they make and defer to them on areas of domain expertise. It’s hard to let go, but you have to learn to, especially when the company grows.

Be A Good Link Between The Company + Investors

Whether you want to believe it or not, you are not an investor’s only portfolio company. Even if you are a superstar, they have a handful of other companies to help and a ton of incoming potential portfolio companies. A good investor will pick 2-3 new companies per year to work with. A good startup CEO will be a good link between progress, issues, and areas where they need help with investors. A good portion of early stage startups that raise money will have a board comprised of 3 people: the CEO founder, the investor, and an independent board member. You are the lone representative for your cofounder and other employees.

Be A Good Link Between The Company + Product

I have this unwavering belief that the best companies are those that keep a founder as CEO for the long haul. Not because the founders have the right to be CEO, but because the CEO needs to be close to the product vision of the company. Founding CEOs understand this the best and can carry out that same unified vision over time. To fill in the management gaps a great COO, other board members, and heads of divisions will come along. It’s a strategy that Facebook has employed and why Apple has had a great resurgence with Steve Jobs at the helm. It’s all about keeping the CEO as close as possibly linked to the product.

Be Able To Learn On The Job

Most startup CEOs didn’t start out with an MBA or some background in growing a company from nothing to something. The best have an ability to learn along the way and embrace their failures to become a better leader. Zuck started when he was 19 and now 7 years later, runs the most powerful internet company. Don’t worry about whether “you’re qualified” as it’s hard to put typical qualifications on the job. You’ll learn the really core stuff along the way. The best startup CEOs will surround themselves with smart mentors to be a sounding board along the way.

No Experience Almost Preferred

It’s almost better to have a blank slate of zero experience as a startup CEO. If you come in with preconceived notions and block out the scrappy methods of a startup founder, it actually hurts you. Traditional education often trains you to be CEO or manager for a much larger company, not for a startup of under 50 people. It’s a different kind of leadership and company.

Have An Uncanny Ability To Say No

You will be inundated with a list of requests from potential partners, investors, employees, and more. They will all sound absolutely wonderful. As you grow, you will also have the resources to execute more of them. Don’t. It’s easy to say yes, but so very hard to say no. By having an uncanny ability to say no, you can keep your company on track with the large vision you maintain. It will also keep your team members (notice I don’t like to use the word “employees”) laser focused and feel more rewarded as they are able to focus on one thing for a good chunk of time. I’ve seen too many startups sink because the CEO keeps changing what the head of product and engineering should be doing.

Have Some Technical Knowledge And Skillset

A good startup CEO shouldn’t be afraid of a little bit of code and a text editor. They don’t need to be diving into the source code on a daily basis, but they need to understand the technical requirements. It’s easy to say “go build this”, but it’s a whole other ball game to understand how to build it. What seems simple may be a huge mountain of a technical feat that just isn’t feasible with the given resources and deadlines. It can also help lend some street cred with hiring early technical team members too.

Be Able To Break Things Down Into Sizable Chunks + Milestones

Remember that huge unwavering vision that you are the keeper of? Odds are it only makes sense to you and your cofounder. You will need to break it up into sizable chunks and milestones for the rest of the team to understand it. You also need to be able to pick when and where to conquer things strategically. What is the past of least resistance so you can gain traction? What can you do first with your given resources?

Have The Ability To Call An Audible

Nothing goes according to plan. Things fall through, people quit, shit happens, servers crash, and other random things go bump in the night. You’re going to have to deal with it and fast. This is a football term:

“Seen when the quarterback goes up to the line of scrimmage, sees a defensive alignment he wasn’t expecting, and adjusts by yelling out a new play.”

You’re going to come up against things that you didn’t expect and just be able to call an audible. Launch faster, spend more money here, or even abandon a project.

Can Motivate The Team Through Despair

People love to talk in this business. People love to talk even more when you’re company isn’t fairing well. A great CEO will be able to take those moments of public despair and keep the company focused. They will be able to debunk the rumors or even approach them head on by keeping the members of the company focused on the bigger mission at hand. It can come in simple 5 minute talks or motivational emails. The worst thing you can do is avoid the situation and be passive aggressive. I repeat: DO NOT WUSS OUT.

Be A Great Communicator

You need to be able to portray the energy and passion that you feel into others…over and over and over and over and over and over again on a daily basis. As a startup founder you need to communicate the vision and hope for the future of your startup to the rest of the world. You need to be able to break down the overall vision of the company into something that mere mortals can understand. You can’t speak in crazy technical jargon or industry terms. It needs to be simple, clear, and compelling. You also need to be able to argue your point. Many will pick “fights” with you just to see how strong willed you are. Be respectful, but be very confident in your answer. Often wrong, but never in doubt my friend.

Don’t Be A “Fake CEO”

Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, makes a strong case for not being a fake ceo. In short, worry about things that produce results, not fame. If it’s between going to a conference/doing an interview or completing a deal, get the deal done. Don’t “leave it to someone else”. You need to get your hands dirty every single day.

By no means is this an exhaustive or definitive list. In some cases, the traits listed above might be counter-intuitive. What are some traits you’ve seen in great founding startup CEOs? Not the glamorous job you thought it was, eh?

By Jjasonlbaptiste
Follow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jasonlbaptiste, Friend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonlbaptiste, Email: jbaptiste@onstartups.com

4 Marketing Aces for your Tech Start-up

Marketing a Tech Start-up is challenging and costly. While using social media offers one route to generate some demand it represents but one piece of the jigsaw. Instead, the following 4 strategies represent some of the more powerful demand-generation activities (aka Aces) that should be considered by new businesses:

1. Concentrate on Building a Really Great Product.

I make no apologies for making what seems like an obvious statement. There are too many new products and services that are simply… “OK”. The gains on existing products and services they are intended to supplant are not compelling enough to drive adoption. Similarly, the importance of having a strong, design-led focus from day one has never been as strong.

2. Create Remarkable Content.

Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of using content to target an audience and to build relationships. The easy thing to do is to simply add a WordPress blog as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) play, in the hope that the content will secure an organic listing for relevant keywords and will attract prospects.

But the internet is littered with poor quality blogs hosting lowbrow content and negligible engagement. Content needs to be consistently remarkable, so readers find it truly beneficial and worthy of sharing, which will help secure the inbound links that play such an important role in securing premium organic placement. Compelling content will also help establish you as an authority in your field and help build the trust that will help to drive conversions over time. It is also a great low-cost strategy to deploy if you operate in a niche area.

3. Advertise on Google AdWords

Advertising on Google AdWords affords tech entrepreneurs a great opportunity to create awareness and to generate conversions. The power of the medium is clear.

Firstly, purchase intent is readily discernible from the “search intent” of the user. At one end of the funnel, you can target generic terms that indicate the user is in consideration mode, while at the other end you can aggressively target users in buy mode who are searching for specific products or brands. Hence advertisers can really hone in on a small set of converting terms as a means to promote their services to qualified leads.

Secondly, it enables entrepreneurs to tightly manage their budgets so they can ensure that marketing spend is commensurate with return. Finally, the use of Google is synonymous with searching for solutions, be they paid or otherwise, to the needs we have, not about media diverting you away from what you are trying to do.

4. Build Strong Relationships.

People buy from people, and one strength of the technology community is that there is a very high bias of early adopters willing to try out new products and services. It is a buoyant community in the US and one in which a small number of influential writers and bloggers can promote your offering to a very focused audience from which to build.

Word of mouth can also play a powerful part in helping you gain early traction with these key influencers. And while some relationships can be established online, there is no substitute for getting out networking. A growing number of events also offer tech entrepreneurs the ability to nurture and cement real relationships in person.

by Alan Gleeson

Alan Gleeson is the General Manager of Palo Alto Software UK, makers of Business Plan Pro and LivePlan. Alan has an MBA from Oxford and an MSc from University College, Cork, Ireland. You can follow Alan on Twitter@alangleeson

Is Your Business Healthy?

Answer the following questions with either a ‘YES’ or a ‘NO’. Put each question into the context of your own business: is your business facing problem? ‘YES’ or ‘NO’?

Is your industry, sector or market going through significant change?

Do you have difficulty in saying what is really different about you – what makes people buy from you rather than your competitors?

Do you lack a clear vision/strategy? (are you missing a map of where you are going?)

Are you overconfident? (do you have an unrealistic map?)

Are you failing to invest enough for the future (e.g. in training your people; in upgrading your process; and in spending on capital equipment, product development, new products and marketing; or in building up financial reserves by leaving sufficient cash in the business or obtain banking facilities or investments.

Do you have a management team that is weak because it is missing key functional skills (e.g. a finance director), personality types (e.g. an ideas person) or that has problem due to the personalities involved (e.g. an autocrat in charge, conflict between key staff)?

Is the business going through a major change (e.g. high growth, a move of premises or a major acquisition) that is stretching your management and/or financial resources?

Are you failing to face up to necessary changes (e.g. succession planning, not bringing in external management experience where needed)?

Have you got weak financial management?

Are your revenue and / or profits stagnating / weakening / declining?

Are you depending too much on one customer or supplier, or in a big project?

Is cash tight and pressure from the bank and creditors increasing?

Are you suffering from some catastrophic event (e.g. a fraud, fire or flood)?

Important – If your business is at risk, and you think you need to take corrective action – Capital Business Turnaround™ Coaching Program can help you streamline the process of getting your business back on track to profitability … click here for more information

5 Cold, Hard Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask Themselves

Is your quality of execution sufficient to take quality of execution off the table as a variable? Poor execution of the right strategy will most likely lead to failure, just as brilliant execution can hide the holes in a flawed strategy. So where are you on that scale? If you’re happy with the quality of your execution, on balance, you need to look deeper for the source of the challenges in your business.

Do your customers understand your offering differently than your prospects? The world has a learning curve, and dealing with it is part of the entrepreneurial adventure. But does the perception of the people who’ve climbed that curve — your existing customers — really change in important ways from that of your further-out prospects? If the answer is no, you’re seeing something your customer doesn’t. And that usually means it doesn’t exist.

Are others finding success in your space? This one is simple. Is someone in your space kicking butt? If so the competitive threat may be important, but so is the validation that you’re chasing something which can be caught.

Will the larger context change in some way to smooth your path to success? m-Qube was the 800-lb gorilla in a non-existent industry for years before the US text messaging phenomenon took off. We kept our powder dry, and waited it out. Are you doing the same? If so agree on a tangible trigger and conserve your cash until you hit it. If not consider giving the money back, and changing over to a game you can actually win.

Is the source of your conviction what you need, or what actually is? I love Shark Tank, and in almost every episode some amateur tells the sharks that their idea will take off because they need it to. Cuban and Kevin typically bow out soon after that. The reason? Entrepreneurs motivated by an objective opportunity have a much better hit rate than those motivated by an internal psychosis, or an external requirement.

This last one breaks my heart, and I see it a lot. I get that you hate to disappoint your uncle Nunzio, or that you promised your spouse you’d make it work this time. But the fact is those things are irrelevant to the question of whether your idea will fly, and anyone willing to point that out to you is someone you can trust over the long run.

Don’t be that person, folks. So much of the pain in life, over time, is caused by distance from the truth. And the same is true in business.

Ask these questions of yourself, and try hard to answer them honestly. If the news is bad and you deal with it like an adult, I promise you’ll live to fight another day. If the same is true but you’re a good enough salesperson to sell yourself eventually you’re going to hit somebody else’s wall, and create collateral damage you might otherwise have avoided.

There’s a fine line between being the captain of your destiny, and the prisoner of your own wishful thinking. Use these questions to help sort out which side of it you’re on, and please share what you learn with the rest of us here.

By: http://onstartups.com


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