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Small Business Ideas to Finance Your Company

money-treeMany people are full of small business ideas, yet they do not have the cash-flow to really begin it. Fresh out of the box, new organizations are regularly turned down for bank credit, and regardless of the possibility that your business is set up, assets can in any case be hard to secure. Advances supported by the Small Business Administration are generally more available; however they are turning out to be progressively aggressive.

With that in mind, there are several alternative sources of small business financing to choose from: (more…)

Why Small Business Owners Sometimes Shouldn’t Listen

Small Business TrainingStarting, managing and growing a small business requires quite a bit of listening. Small business owners need to listen to customers, spot trends, solicit input from employees, and watch for regulatory and financial warning signs along the way to small business growth. Entrepreneurs without the ability to recognize these inputs and synthesize them into their strategic and day-do-day decision making often ultimately fail.

At the same time, there are times when it is important for small business owners to disregard inputs they hear from various sources. After all, there is a difference between detractors and non-believers versus those that are providing constructive feedback on how to make your small business more successful.

Here are three important scenarios where listening can be less helpful and more of a liability: (more…)

Three Sources of Small Business Help That Every Successful Entrepreneur Should Tap Into

Small Business HelpStarting, managing, and growing a successful small business is much easier said than done. If it were easy, more people would do it – and more people would be successful entrepreneurs and we would have more Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerbergs, and Bill Gates in the world.

In reality, though, entrepreneurship and small business ownership is very difficult. Every day of owning a small business involves a number of curveballs, unpredictable variables, and other challenges that most business schools don’t teach. This career can be especially difficult for first-time entrepreneurs and small business owners. (For more, see our blog: The 5 Scariest Parts of Running a Small Business).

There is some good news, however. There are a number of resources that can provide the help, guidance, and assistance that may seem hard to find at times. In other words, you don’t have to be alone when it comes to navigating the waters of starting, managing, and growing a successful small business. And, you can learn from common mistakes of entrepreneurs – all without having to make those same mistakes on your own.

Below are three critical resources that can help you and your small business succeed, grow, and thrive without breaking the bank: (more…)

The Case Against Small Business Growth

Earlier this week, we posted a blog outlining three reasons why small business growth is good for entrepreneurs and business owners. To summarize, the reasons are because you’re dying if you’re not growing, growth is the only way to create real wealth for yourself, and it’s the right thing to do (read the entire blog here).

While these are certainly valid points, small business growth is also a double-edged sword, with several risks and downsides. Starry-eyed entrepreneurs with grand visions of becoming the next big thing may not think about these challenges, but they are important to consider as you chart the course for your small business: (more…)

Three Smoke Signs of Small Business Failure

Small Business FailureIt’s no secret that most businesses fail. By most measures, somewhere upward of 80% of small businesses and startups fail in their first few years of operation. What is less clear is why and how those small businesses fail.

Most small business failures are long in the making rather than overnight catastrophes. Experienced entrepreneurs will recognize the causes of and reasons for failure and take proactive and reactive actions to remediate those risks. Less experienced small business owners, on the other hand, won’t realize what hit them, even after the failure occurs.

There are several key early warning signs that, when properly remediated, can proactively provide a small business owner guidance on how to avoid small business failure and instead achieve small business growth. Here are three of the most common ones: (more…)

Why Perseverance is the #1 Ingredient for Small Business Success

Small Business SuccessIt is a well-known fact that hard work, dedication, and perseverance are all important to small business success. At the same time, however, few people ever explain the tangible and specific reasons why perseverance is so important to attaining your small business goals.

For example, in the classic book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill examines how focus and desire can lead to business and professional riches. While the author does a good job of explaining the connection, here again, there is very little offered in the way of tangible ways that this focus and desire will help your small business succeed.

On the other hand, much has been written about other variables that commonly contribute to success. Popular business gurus and academics have analyzed all financing, education, leadership traits, and a spectrum of other small business success factors at length. However, none of these variables are nearly as critical as the more simple and universally accessible trait of perseverance.

Other than stating how important perseverance is, most business authors, gurus, and advice from the Small Business Administration gloss over this important topic. However, it is extremely important to understand exactly how perseverance will translate to small business success and help overcome the various obstacles that you face as an entrepreneur.

Below are the three ways that perseverance will help you on your way to small business growth and success: (more…)

Finding the Right Management Style for Your Small Business

Small Business ManagementInnovation. Creativity. Delegation. Empowerment. Flat organizational structures. These are just some of the management styles that most academics, journalists, and the Small Business Administration will tell you are “right” for small businesses, startups, and even large organizations.

These management styles all sound great. After all, who wouldn’t want to work at a place where there is unlimited creativity, bosses don’t get in the way, and you’re allowed to make every decision for yourself?

However, small business management isn’t quite that simple – especially if you plan to grow or scale your business with any success. In fact, these flavor-of-the-month management styles are often times the worst possible formula for certain situations.

Before we get into that discussion, though, it is helpful to first understand the two primary general management styles available to small business owners: (more…)

Finding the Best Sources of Financing for Your Small Business or Startup

SBA loansWe all hear the common refrain regarding small business and startup finances: cash is king. As existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, we hear this so often simply because money can be so scarce during the early stages of a startup, as well as phases of high growth later in the startup’s lifecycle.

Just to add some tangible data to this discussion, I thought I would take a look at some preliminary results from our ongoing survey of small business owners. In the study, we are polling several hundred small businesses and startups to learn more about their risks, costs, profits, success factors, and a number of other variables. (Take the brief survey here and earn a chance to win a $250 American Express gift card).

Of the several dozen responses we have received so far, we found that each and every one of them – in other words, 100% of the businesses in the study – cited “managing cashflow” as a big concern and challenge for them. We suspect that this challenge may be at least partially amplified by the fact that credit is tighter for small businesses now than it was before the financial crisis of 2008. To add insult to injury, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) is cutting back on their government-backed loans in recent years as well.

So we wanted to hear what readers of our blog think: what sources of cash have you used to support your business, if any? Take the poll below and view the summary of results from other entrepreneurs.

In the meantime, we’ll dive into each of these sources of financing in more detail in a blog next week. Stay tuned. We’ll also cover this topic in our free online Small Business Boot Camp training course, so register or learn more here if you haven’t already.

How to Start a Company Without a Small Business Loan

Small Business LoanObtaining enough funds to finance their businesses is one of the biggest concerns and fears for many entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, in our recent survey of small business owners planning to attend our upcoming online Small Business Boot Camp, 100% stated that “running out of cash” was one of their biggest concerns and fears – hands-down the top response in the survey.

Small business loans are becoming increasingly hard to come by, so it’s no wonder that financing is on the top of everyone’s minds. A weak economy, reluctant banks, and even the US Small Business Administration scaling back on government-backed small business loans are all contributing factors to these challenges.

The good news is that it is easier than ever to create a startup without excessive capital needs. The internet, technology, and new ways of thinking are all making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business without breaking the bank.

Below are just a few examples of how an entrepreneur can create a startup with very little to no startup capital or small business loans: (more…)

Small Business Loans: Are They a Good Idea?

Small business loansMany entrepreneurs feel as though their survival hinges on landing a small business loan, whether it be an SBA loan or one from some other source. After all, most mainstream media and academics tend to claim that “running out of cash” is one of the leading causes of small business failure – if not the single biggest reason.

However, our hands-on experience with and research of small businesses suggest that cash is not the reason most businesses fail. Instead, cashflow issues are typically symptoms of deeper root causes. Much like person dies because their heart stops beating or they stop breathing, those are merely symptoms caused by some other disease or problem.

With this in mind, I tend to believe that cashflow issues are not what small businesses should be most focused on, especially in the early startup stages. Startups landing millions of dollars of capital are often glamorized in popular media such as Shark Tank, but in general, small businesses are often better off without outside capital.

Here are three reasons why small business loans can be a bad idea:

(more…)

Five Things the SBA Doesn’t Teach You About Running a Small Business

Small business administrationThe Small Business Administration is one of the first resources that come to mind for many small business owners looking for guidance or help. And for good reason, since the promise of government-backed loans and free advice sounds like a pretty good deal.

Having run multiple startups and grown them to become multi-million dollar entities, however, I can tell you that the guidance provided by the SBA just barely scratches the surface of what business owners and entrepreneurs need to know to be successful. To add insult to injury, most small businesses are denied SBA loans, and according to data published earlier this month, the SBA is continuing to cut back on their government-backed loans to small businesses. In other words, the SBA means well, but the resources they provide leave much to be desired.

So how are small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs like us supposed to carry on? The good news is that there is a wealth of information and lessons to be learned from entrepreneurs that have actually been in the trenches and run their own businesses. Below are five things that the SBA was never able to teach me, but are critical lessons for any entrepreneur: (more…)

Secrets to Small Business Growth: Download the Free Guide

Small business training coursesAs small business owners and entrepreneurs, finding practical and real-world advice can be very challenging. Especially when it comes to effectively managing small business growth, good advice from experienced entrepreneurs can be hard to come by.

We just released a new white paper that attempts to provide guidance, tips, and lessons to small business owners and startups looking to take their businesses to another level. In this paper, we cover a number of important topics, including:

This paper is available to download for free for a limited time. Click here to download this small business guide now.

Rising From the Ashes: Lessons From a Small Business Failure

Small Business Failures, small business training, small business consultingAs the optimistic, positive-thinking entrepreneur types, we typically like to think about the upside of being small business owners. However, there are often struggles and landmines along the way – and plenty of small business failures – that often get overlooked in our culture of glorifying the seemingly “nothing but success” stories of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gates of the world.

What many don’t realize, though, is that most entrepreneurs struggle immensely at some point along the way. Even for those that are fortunate enough to become successful, the entire journey can be a long grind. Despite this fact, most popular business publications, training courses, and Small Business Administration recommendations don’t prepare entrepreneurs and small business owners for the difficult scenarios to expect.

Based on my own challenges and failures – combined with what I’ve seen countless other entrepreneurs struggle with – small business owners make a number of common mistakes along the way. I certainly have, having unintentionally run one of my companies into the ground, only to recover and grow the company to heights that I had never seen before.

Below are several things that I learned in my rise, fall, and rise again cycle as an entrepreneur: (more…)

Why Search Engine Optimization Isn’t Enough for Your Small Business Marketing

Small Business Marketing, SEOThere’s a lot of buzz around social media, search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, and other technology-based marketing service providers. While technology has certainly expanded both the ability to reach more customers and target more specific groups, many marketing consultants get too myopic in their view of how marketing should work.

When I founded one of my startups in 2005, we were one of the few companies doing SEO small business marketing for the professional services industry. Fast forward nine years later, and most companies have an idea of how SEO works. If they don’t, there are literally thousands of one-man SEO consulting companies out there that can help make at least a minor improvement in your results for relatively cheap. In addition, there is a much broader understanding of how SEO works, even though it is constantly changing. All of this means that more people are good at SEO than they were even just yesterday – and that includes your competitors. (more…)

How to Focus Your Startup Company and Small Business

Small business startup focusWhen starting a small business, choosing the right level of focus can make or break your chances of success. On one hand, you want to focus on a relatively narrow market as a way to minimize your marketing costs and develop a strong customer following. On the other hand, too narrow of a focus can result in lost opportunity and revenue, which can be especially troubling for cash strapped small businesses operating on a shoestring budget without access to small business loans.

For example, let’s suppose that you are opening a retail clothing outlet. There are a myriad of different ways you could focus your business: you could focus on one target market, such as millennial women, baby boomer men, or children. Or, you could focus on one product line: outerwear, shoes, business attire, or casual clothing. Or, you could pursue a combination. The strategies you do and don’t pursue will have a big impact on how successful your company becomes.

Clearly, finding the right level of focus is important to achieving your small business goals and success. Here are four things to keep in mind when determining the right level of focus for your small business: (more…)

Constant Contact vs. Marketo: Which is Right for Your Small Business?

Constant Contact MarketoFor most small businesses, email marketing and social media are key parts of their marketing strategies. However, with the proliferation of small business software options in the marketplace, choosing the software that best aligns with your business strategy can be a tricky proposition.

While certainly not the only two options available, Constant Contact and Marketo are two of the leading email and small business marketing automation systems commonly used by small business owners and startups. Both provide features that allow business owners and entrepreneurs better communicate with their customers and prospects digitally – all while driving more top-line revenue growth and profits. In fact, according to a recent report from Pardot, 84% of small businesses are already using or planning to use some sort of marketing automation software.

Both software packages are good options for many small businesses, but they also have their distinct differences, strengths and weaknesses, depending on your needs. Below are a few observations we have seen among small businesses that have used each solution: (more…)

Tips to Jumpstart Your Small Business Marketing Plan

MarketingRunning a small business has its share of challenges. Developing a marketable product or service, finding a marketing niche, and creating demand are just a few of the challenges that small business owners face. However, a good small business marketing plan is a good first step in overcoming these small business challenges.

But what exactly does it mean to “create a good marketing plan”? Obviously, it needs to be effective and fit within the constraints of your budget. But beyond that, creating a marketing plan can be like navigating a no man’s land.

Here are just a few tips to help create tactics that can make for an effective marketing plan for your small business: (more…)

Three Things You Need To Know for Small Business Growth

Small Business GrowthIn this brief video, we outline three important components of small business growth:

  1. Developing a viable product or service
  2. Marketing and selling that product or service
  3. Scaling a company to meet demand for that product or service

Unfortunately, too many small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle with the #3 component. (more…)

Why Small Business Innovation is Overrated

Small business training coursesThe world is full of great ideas. In particular, entrepreneurs are especially good at generating ideas to address some of the world’s most complex problems. Breakthrough products such as Apple’s iPhone, Tesla’s electric car, and Facebook are all examples of things that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for small business innovation.

Further, the TV show Shark Tank, popular business journals, and small business consultants all love to talk about innovation. After all, it’s more exciting to talk about new, creative ideas than it is to discuss the nuts and bolts of running a business. We can also see and touch innovation, much more so than the intangible grunt work of managing a business. In other words, innovation is sexy.

So, if we assume that this is all true, then how in the world can innovation be overrated? Here’s the dirty, two-part secret about innovation: (more…)

The Five Scariest Parts of Running a Small Business

Small business training coursesFor most of us, starting a company is the epitome of the American Dream. By fusing our passions, visions, and identified opportunities in the marketplace, starting a small business is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

However, running a small business can also be gut wrenching and downright scary at times. Cashflow, economic turmoil, employee issues, and a host of other variables – often perceived to be outside of our control – all threaten to undermine the fun and rewards of starting a company. According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and other sources, most small businesses fail in their first one to two years of operation.

But having your eyes wide open to these various risks is the best way to overcome them. Below are five of the scariest aspects of running and managing a small business: (more…)

How To Increase Your Small Business Growth

Small Business GrowthThe many small business owners and entrepreneurs I’ve worked with over the years have different reasons for being in business. Some are looking for aggressive small business growth to enable an exit strategy in the not-too-distant future. Others want to create a lifestyle business, allowing them to work independently without the hassles of employees or overly complex operations. Still others want to create an asset that they can pass on to their kids or grandchildren.

Since there are a multitude of reasons why entrepreneurs start businesses (I’ve only listed a handful of them above), there is no one-size-fits all strategy for managing growth. Academics, self-proclaimed small business experts, and even the US Small Business Administration often prescribe generic solutions that aren’t good fits for all organizations. These ill-advised strategies can often create more harm than good, much like fitting a square peg into a round hole. (more…)

How To Motivate Your Small Business Employees

HungryI’ve founded, managed, and consulted to small businesses in all shapes and sizes over the years. One common item that entrepreneurs struggle with is how to maintain the same drive and sense of urgency that the entrepreneur and business owner has. After all, we poured blood, sweat and tears into our businesses and risked it all to pursue that dream, so surely our employees will share our same sense of focus and discipline as our business becomes more successful, right?

Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. To add insult to injury, most small business training courses and Small Business Administration workshops won’t cover this important topic. Here are a few reasons why it’s not common to see 100% alignment between you as the entrepreneur and your employees: (more…)