A Google branded van will be travelling all across Egypt with the goal in mind of finding the next big thing from technological entrepreneurs. Egypt is a burgeoning technological locale, one already famous for its clever uses of twitter and other online social media. Google has plans of a 7 month mentoring program to an Egyptian entrepreneur who they hope will help make the next Mark Zuckerberg. Google is also working with local venture capital firms with the hopes to bring this next big idea to the world wide web in a big way.
By SARA HAMDAN
A bus branded with the Google logo will be traveling across 10 governorates in Egypt starting this week, including stops at universities in Cairo and Alexandria, scouting for the next generation of technology entrepreneurs with homegrown ideas on the scale of Facebook or LinkedIn.
“We will put someone’s dream through a seven-month crash course that will help turn it into a commercially viable business,” said Wael Fakharany, Google’s manager in Egypt. “We have been working on this concept for nine months. We had signed a contract with the Egyptian government in 2009 to invest in the country’s Internet ecosystem and this is part of that commitment.”
Google’s new initiative, Ebda2, which means “Start” in Arabic, is the latest in a string of seed and mentorship programs designed to support the wave of entrepreneurial ventures sweeping across Egypt. The revolutionary spirit that had youth demanding job creation and speaking out about their political concerns through social media has also encouraged them to start online businesses, experts say.
“We are at a very important transition point socially and culturally, and this empowering sense of throwing off the shackles will be a big driver of economic growth,” said Ahmed Al Alfi, founder and chairman of the venture capital firm Sawari Ventures, who will be a mentor at Ebda2. “Young tech graduates had three options before: work for a multinational like Microsoft, or the government, or start a business with friends. The change is that more people are now considering the last option first.”
This year alone, incubators, angel-investor networks, and mentorship and seed investment programs like Alexandria Startup Weekend, Tahrir2, PlugandPlayEgypt.com andFlat6labs.com have cropped up to provide necessary support for young, local entrepreneurs. Similarly, Google’s Ebda2 plans to provide 1.2 million Egyptian pounds, or about $200,000, in seed capital to bring a winning business idea to the market.
“Small entrepreneurial ventures will help create the ecosystem for entrepreneurs and investors in tech, which will lead to more jobs,” said Samih Toukan, founder of the Arabic e-mail service Maktoob.com, which was sold to Yahoo in a landmark $175 million deal in 2009 to become Yahoo!Maktoob.
“Especially now in Egypt, there is a feeling of excitement and new beginnings,” Mr. Toukan said. “But what is lacking is support from investors and the government. We need to create the right framework to make it easy for people to set up businesses and secure financing.”
That is what Ebda2 sets out to do. During the eight-month project, Egyptian entrepreneurs will go through a screening process based on a specific set of criteria laid out by an independent judging panel of experts from various industries. The entrepreneurs will also receive mentoring and coaching from industry professionals and executives.
After designing the concept, Google has handed the program over to Science Age Society, a local nongovernmental organization, and InnoVentures, a local tech incubator, for execution in order to maintain impartiality — for example, for entrepreneurs who choose to work with domains other than Google.
Entrepreneurs can submit tech business ideas in areas like cloud computing, digital advertising, e-commerce, as well as mobile applications, location based applications and Arabic content.
“In the stage that we’re in, the ecosystem that endorses entrepreneurs is still being put together — everything from funding, to starting a company easily, to getting exposure,” said Hanan Abdel Meguid, chief executive of the technology company OT Ventures, who will serve as a mentor at Ebda2. “The pieces are slowly coming together and we need to create more momentum.”
“We have so many brilliant people working at multinationals, why not encourage them to create their own companies that can go global?”
Ms. Meguid started her first company in 1993 and failed, only to try again with a new venture in 1996 that succeeded. Her current company operates MsnArabia.com across the region and is an exclusive partner with Facebook for the Middle East and North Africa.
“I go into a lot of boardrooms and find myself the only woman at the table — this is something I am particularly looking forward to discuss in this initiative,” she said. “I want to mentor women on how to create the right impressions and overcome prejudices.”
Ms. Meguid is one of 112 mentors who have signed up with Ebda2, alongside 47 Google employees. Over the next month, applications will be accepted online as well as during the road show, after which judges will select 200 candidates with whom to work. Fifty candidates will develop a working business model with mentors and 20 will be selected as finalists until a winner is granted $200,000 in seed money in May. The winner will be chosen based on innovation, potential for impact and job creation, skill set, well-designed business model and potential for revenue, organizers say.
“I’ve worked with a number of programs like this before and witnessed weak participation, which was always a big surprise,” Ms. Meguid said. “Somewhere was rooted the belief that this is a corrupt process, so why bother and give up my secure job? The presence of Google in the mix makes it legitimate, it is a brand that is trusted by youth.”
Mr. Fakharany, the manager of Google’s Egypt office, who now spends 70 percent of his time on this initiative, is planning a follow-up program after the close of Ebda2 in May 2012. After gathering enough data and market research from this pilot program, he hopes to replicate Ebda2 in every governorate. This is the first time that Google has rolled out such a program, anywhere in the world.
“What we’re seeing in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt is that power structures that we once considered immovable have proved vulnerable. Now, there is a need for economic opportunity to improve the lives of families,” said Shervin Pishevar, managing director of the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures in Silicon Valley, who frequently visits the Middle East in search of opportunities. “That’s where the movement of entrepreneurship will become a huge factor for the future of the Mideast.”
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This article below from Businessweek.com details the top 25 most successful entrepreneurs today in America that weren’t even alive when Raider of the Lost Ark came out in theaters. These 25 fellows come from varying backgrounds and have become very successful in a variety of business ventures. For some, the successful companies they are running now aren’t even their first endeavors. At the bottom of the article there is a link to see the slideshow that contains further information about who these entrepreneurs are and what they are doing in their businesses to make them so financially successful.
By John Tozzi
Today’s 25-year-olds were 9 when Netscape went public. They were starting middle school when Google (GOOG) was founded; they watched the tech bubble burst before they went to their senior proms; and some were dropping calls on iPhones before buying their first legal drinks. Many of the jobs they thought they’d get disappeared just as they were finishing college.
So maybe it’s not surprising that millennials are embracing entrepreneurship, albeit at lower rates than previous generations. The 25 companies run by founders no older than 25 in our 2011 roundup of America’s best young entrepreneurs are wired, global, and resilient, because the economy demands it.
A trio of North Carolina State University students left school to run Business Empire Consulting, an online marketing consultancy started in 2009 that now employs 27 people. “We simply knew very talented young individuals whose voice would not be heard in corporate America,” explains co-founder Bryan Young, 25, who bootstrapped the business and expects $5 million in revenue this year. It’s his fifth company.
For many, doing business overseas is the norm. Lesley Silverthorn, a 25-year-old, Stanford-educated engineer spurned a career designing high-end electronics for the U.S. market to build solar-powered lamps and cell phone chargers for people in developing countries living off the power grid. The design shop she co-founded with Bryan Duggan, Angaza Design, shipped its first products to customers in Afghanistan, India, and Uganda this summer. “It’s a little bit different because you’re operating on higher volume, lower margins than you would if you were selling to the U.S.,” says Silverthorn. “But it’s an incredibly large market opportunity.”
Young entrepreneurs are also taking on social and environmental challenges their generation is inheriting in the U.S. ReGreen Corp. performs energy audits for businesses and installs technologies that help clients reduce their power and water bills. The company, started by a trio from Los Angeles, employs 110 people and expects $15 million in revenue this year.
Public and private institutions are pushing startup creation among recent grads to help revive the stalled economy. The White House Business Council has met twice with groups of young company founders this year as part of the Startup America Partnership. That initiative, launched in January at the White House, is among several attempts to foster more successful new businesses nationwide. Others include a slew of mentoring programs and such groups as the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which brings entrepreneurship education into inner-city classrooms.
Another nonprofit, called Our Time, is trying to rally shoppers around companies founded by the under-30 set to highlight the economic and political might of the millennial generation. Unemployment is highest for people under 30, and Our Time’s goal is to encourage consumers to “buy young” to boost companies run by young entrepreneurs and create jobs for young people.
It’s an appealing thought for a generation that has come of age in an economy in need of transformation. For a sample of the most promising ventures run by people age 25 and under in the U.S., take a look at the profiles in our slide show and then vote for the one you think is most promising.
Follow the link here to view the slideshow
One of the key principles any business must decide on is how to price their product. There are many factors that go into determining how to price your product such as: quality, aesthetic, appeal etc. One strategy that may seem obvious and tempting as an entrepreneur is to try and beat the competition by having the lowest possible price for your product, but believe it or not this is not as strong a strategy as you might think. There are many pitfalls that come with employing this business strategy, and the article below details why this probably isn’t the best choice for your business.
By Mark Stiving
When you select a pricing strategy–that is, decide how you wish to price your products or services–what is your goal? The first answer that comes to mind may be to maximize profits, but that isn’t a good enough answer.
Think about it this way: When your company develops new products orinvests in a new marketing campaign, what’s the goal? To maximize profits. But that doesn’t tell you what types of products to develop or which customers to target or what message to deliver.
Both Ikea and Mercedes want to maximize profits–and they use very different pricing strategies to do so–but we don’t think of Ikea and Mercedes in terms of their pricing strategies. We think of them in terms of their products and positioning. Ikea is a fun, designer, starter furniture store; Mercedes is a luxury automobile manufacturer.
Both companies set their pricing strategies to be consistent with their overall goals and the vision of who they are. Price follows their corporate strategy–not the other way around.
What is your overall strategy? It’s the general description of how you compete in the market. It is your sustainable competitive advantage. Your strategy should be based on how your product or service differs from your competition, from product features or location to marketing or the breadth or focus of your offering. It can be many things, but it shouldn’t be price.
Why not? Because pricing is not a sustainable competitive advantage. Prices can change almost instantly. Your competitor can change prices just as quickly as you can. What if you find that optimal price, that psychologically perfect price that magically makes all customers want to buy from you? Your competitors will copy it–immediately. Any competitive advantage you may gain with pricing is not sustainable.
The one time that pricing can be a corporate strategy is when the company is positioned as the low-price leader. That’s Walmart. If you adopt low price as your strategy, then your business must be continually focused on lowering and controlling costs–like Walmart. You are attracting the price buyers, customers who are not loyal, but are looking for the lowest price. Once a competitor figures out how to sell a similar product for less, they will charge lower prices and you will struggle. If another company figures out how to sell products for less than Walmart, Walmart will be in trouble. Knowing this, Walmart maintains a laser-sharp focus on keeping costs down. If you make low price your strategy, you have to be like Walmart, continuously lowering your costs so your competitors don’t catch up.
You may be thinking about a different price-based strategy. “My product is as good as a Lexus, but less expensive. I’m going to make that my strategy.” Don’t do it. You may be able to have that product positioning for a short while, but it’s not sustainable. The market will morph, and your position may or may not exist in a few years. You have competitors on both sides of you, above and below, either of which may be able to steal your position, because your position is just price.
Consider Walmart’s discount retail competition. Kmart is having a difficult time competing with Walmart. Same-store sales continue to decline even as they come out of the 2010 recession. On the other hand, Target’s same-store sales figures are growing rapidly. What’s the difference? Although there are many factors, one is that Target has a unique positioning. It is described as “trendy,” “cool” and “a hip discounter.” Kmart may have the Martha Stewart brand, but the company as a whole doesn’t own a position. There doesn’t seem to be any real differentiation between Kmart and Walmart–other than price, which Walmart wins.
Target’s success isn’t based on price. They could not beat Walmart in a low price battle. Target’s success is because they own the unique positioning of “hip discounter.” There is only room for one company with lowest prices, and that company is Walmart, at least for now.
The strategy of low-cost leader is a rough-and-tumble position. Everything is done without frills. Once you get too comfortable, someone else hungrier than you will do it with less and steal your position. This is not a fun position to defend.
Even for companies that aren’t low-cost leaders, you must still focus some of your energy and resources on costs. Target, Kmart and every company in a competitive situation still win and lose customers based on their prices. And to have competitive prices, they must maintain relatively low costs. Price is a factor in every customer’s decision, and if one company’s costs are much higher than another’s, then they run the risk of losing on price.
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A new business has many overhead costs to keep tabs on to ensure that the start-up business is thriving. Anything a new business owner can do to lower costs will in the end increase profits. One way to lower costs is to think about how your business handles mail and postage. By putting into practice a few of the ideas listed below your business will increase its bottom line, add in the fact that the U.S. Postal Service is facing increasing financial woes, which will most likely lead to higher prices, it’s more important now than ever to make sure you are mailing as smartly as possible.
BY CAROL TICE
Here’s a not-so-special delivery: The U.S. Postal Service may be insolvent by the end of the month. Hobbled by shrinking revenue and an arcane rule that requires USPS to prefund retiree health benefits where other agencies can pay as they go, the agency is contemplating shedding 3,700 post offices and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
There will no doubt be some legislative action to keep USPS afloat — a couple of reform bills were already in the works in Congress before this announcement. The bottom line, however, remains the same: Prices will likely continue to rise while services may decline, with Saturday delivery likely next on the chopping block.
For small business owners, it may be time to review mailing habits to find a more reliable, cost-effective way to get your message to customers. Here are five suggestions:
1. Plan better. Having to spring for overnight delivery costs a bundle. Push back your mailing deadlines and send letters and packages by regular mail. As USPS deliveries may slow down, this could be even more important.
2. Prune your list. How current is the mailing list you’re using? Maybe it’s time to clean out your list. Send a postcard asking interested customers to respond to stay on the list. Cut the deadwood and lower your mail charges.
3. Compare costs. If USPS prices rise, competing offerings from UPS, FedEx and others may look more and more attractive. But even now — before any changes kick in — it might be worthwhile to reach out and see if there are cost or service advantages to switching all of your mail business to a competitor.
4. Switch to email. For letters, try an email marketing program such as AWeber orMailchimp to deliver that great-looking flier to customers’ email inboxes instead of their mailboxes. If you’re concerned customers won’t like it, mail them and ask for email opt-in. (You’ll probably be surprised how many will prefer virtual delivery.) An added bonus: if you didn’t have them before, now you’ve captured current customer email addresses.
5. Try private electronic mail. Some big companies and government agencies are already taking advantage of new services such as Zumbox and Earth Class Mail, which allow you to send full-featured, clickable messages to customers’ private electronic mailboxes for retrieval from wherever they are — not just at home. This keeps your message out of clogged email inboxes.
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The online trend of businesses offering a daily deal or coupon is quickly shutting down. A recent poll showed that the majority of people are feeling a sense of fatigue from having to sift through sites or emails to find daily changing coupons. Recently, Facebook and Yelp announced that they will be eliminating and scaling back its services respectively. The largest purveyors of this trend will continue, like Groupon, but it would behoove most businesses to abandon this model. That goes double for smaller companies or ones that are just starting because it seems this once fashionable trend has become tiresome and ineffective.
By Tomio Geron
Just a few days after Facebook said it was shutting down its daily deals service, Yelp is scaling back its daily deals service.
About 15 sales people in Yelp’s daily deals business are being re-assigned, Bloomberg reported Monday. On Friday, Facebook said that it was closing its own daily deals service after four months.
The moves raise increasing questions about the proliferation of daily deals websites. Groupon, which has filed for an IPO, and LivingSocial are the leaders in the space. But dozens and dozens of other sites have popped up offering similar deals. And other existing companies such as OpenTable, daily newspapers and travel websites have jumped into the fray.
The result is daily deal fatigue. About 52% of people surveyed in an Experian Hitwise report said they were overwhelmed by all the deal emails they get. From the peak week in June, overall traffic to daily deal sites was down 25%, according to the report. Traffic to Groupon was down nearly 50%, while traffic to LivingSocial was up 27%. This report does not include mobile or app traffic.
Yelp launched the deals service last year and expanded to 20 cities this year. Yelp will apparently continue to offer some discount services for merchants. Yelp told PaidContent: “Email-distributed deals (including Mobile Deals) will continue to remain an important part of Yelp’s product offering to help small business owners’ attract new customers, along with local search and display advertising, and deals business owners can self-serve post on their Yelp profile pages.”
For Groupon and LivingSocial, how do they keep people buying deals, or even opening emails in the long-term? And for others in the space that don’t have the scale of these two companies, the questions are tougher. If Facebook and Yelp can’t make it work, how can these smaller competitors?
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By preparing for obstacles such as low cash reserves, high customer acquisition costs, and burnout, your business can improve it’s chance of surviving
Starting a new company or business is always a daunting task, especially given the disheartening statistics on the amount of start-up failures that occur soon after starting. However, if a business can prepare for the worst situations and have a plan ready to go if and when those situations arise it can quickly lead to a stable and prospering company. The article below details ten most challenging obstacles a company can face along with possible solutions to these problems.
By Karen E. Klein
In your experience, what are the 10 most challenging things a business faces in its first through fifth years? —C.J.G., Baltimore
Interesting question. We posed it to small business sources from startup entrepreneurs, to marketing experts, to tax specialists. Here is a compilation of their thoughts, with five challenges for startups and five for growing enterprises:
1. Getting and vetting a business idea. ”I always wanted to start a business, but it’s hard to find a problem that is worth the time and effort to solve,” says David Greenberg, a New York attorney and chief executive of Updater.com, an online service for managing postal mail. The light bulb moment happened when he moved and found automated change-of-address processes lacking. “Since millions of people move each year and no good solution existed, I felt I had discovered a problem worth solving,” he says. Your idea should be somehow different than your competitor’s idea, says Bruce Freeman, co-author of Birthing the Elephant. ”If you’re not bigger, better, faster, or delivering a better bang for the buck, it’s not worth doing.” Once you get a great idea, prove your concept, including prototyping, market research, and focus groups. “Don’t write a business plan in your basement, or you’ll have to rewrite it over and over again. Go out and test your idea, talk to your family and friends, and then your target market,” says Dan Nathanson, an entrepreneurship lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Business.
2. Focusing and persevering. ”It is hard to maintain confidence that your concept will succeed. You will second-guess yourself more than once, but if you really believe in it, you will push ahead,” says Kristy Lewis, founder of Quinn Popcorn, a natural microwave-popcorn product that’s being launched this summer. “Be prepared to sacrifice time, energy, and mental capacity—you’ll never be as prepared as you think you are,” she says. Startup entrepreneurs usually have great vision but must limit themselves to the practical. Rather than go in a dozen different directions, focus on one or two things your company can do well from the outset, then expand as you build trust with customers and partners. Take the time to study the industry you’re entering; Greenberg spent 15 months researching full time. Taking an entrepreneurial training course can also go a long way toward building your confidence, says Roberto Barragan, president and CEO of the Valley Economic Development Center in Los Angeles. The more you understand how businesses run, especially on a financial level, the better chance you’ll succeed.
3. Raising capital. Most startups are self-funded, bootstrapped through the founders’ savings or credit, or through private investment. “You’ve got to get to know local independent bankers who can lead you to angel investors,” says Jeff Williams, founder and CEO of Bizstarters, a Chicago business startup consultancy. “After searching in four cities, we got an outside investment 11 years ago through a referral from a small neighborhood bank.” You may have to get creative to keep your company afloat: Lewis has used the Kickstarter site to raise cash.
4. Managing cash flow. Undercapitalized, underplanned startups can be derailed quickly by unanticipated expenses, says Robert O. Ball III, CEO of OfficeArrow, an Atlanta business that runs an online community for entrepreneurs. He lists the cost of customer acquisition, paying retail for supplies until you can qualify for vendor discounts, and fluctuating revenue as the biggest cash flow challenges for startups. “In the early days, when you don’t have built-up reserves, it doesn’t take much of a swing on the revenue or expense side to put you in a bind,” Ball says. Put accounting software in place to help you manage cash flow or bring in a bookkeeper to help.
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In today’s age of ubiquitous social media getting information about a job candidate is easier than ever. It is also useful to use different social media sites to attempt to groom, interview, and recruit potential employees. But, every rose has a thorn because if a candidate is left with a sour feeling about the company, its hiring process, or anything at all the very same ease of access social media sites can be used to slander your company with ease. It is for this reason that is important to be respectful and civil while seeking potential recruits. Making sure that the candidate who didn’t get the job be just as satisfied with the experience as the one who did is of primary importance to keeping your company’s name out of bad publicity.
by Mikal E. Belicove
When your company uses social media channels to both source and screen new talent, you must consider that your applicants can turn right around and use those same channels to your disadvantage. In other words, if you screw up the interview process or treat job seekers with disregard or disrespect, you could find yourself the target of a rash of unwanted publicity.
For this reason, it’s most important to capture and promote good feedback from candidates who apply for a job with your company, says Lisa Chartier, U.S. head of resourcing communications for Alexander Mann Solutions, a provider of recruitment process outsourcing solutions. Her firm just publishedCandidates, Consumers and Your Global Brand, a white paper looking at the impact of the job candidate’s experience on consumer perceptions of businesses and brands.
If a job candidate is treated poorly during the interview process, your company risks alienating a customer — a potential evangelist of your product or service. The AMS white paper claims such ill-treated job candidates are more than willing to share their tale of woe online, and, as we know, social networking enables them to do so quickly, reaching a large number of people with the click of a button.
Specifically, the report says that 77 percent of job seekers are likely to tell people either within their profession or friends (or both) if they have a negative experience when applying for a job. And 52 percent say a bad interview would likely influence their buying decisions from that organization in the future. Only 10 percent of job applicants say such an unpleasant experience would not affect their opinion of the company.
The best-of-all-worlds solution, of course, is to make sure applicants leave the hiring process with their heads held high to ensure continued loyalty or, at the very least, apathy toward your company and brand.
Chartier says organizations need to remember that positive feedback doesn’t travel far on its own, so it’s important to capture and promote good feedback from job candidates. For example, you could post quantitative data on the careers page of your website from candidate feedback surveys, developing statistics like “95 percent of job candidates say the application process was positive and constructive.”
You should also coddle your applicants. “Email the ones who aren’t hired and tell them the position has been filled by someone who fits the role perfectly — and then tell them why,” says Chartier. She suggests letting them know what areas you’d like to see them improve, which gives the unsuccessful applicant a feeling that they’re still connected to your organization and that you really were paying attention during the interview process.
And if you’ve narrowed the field down to two or three candidates, send the losing applicants sample products, a thank you note, and an invitation to stay in touch for future opportunities.
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There are all sorts of information to sustain small businesses all over the internet. It seems most articles are written with the idea that you already are in the middle of running your own business. But, what about all those people out there who are just looking to get started? It can be a daunting task to figure out all at once how to go about creating a business, and a successful one at that. Below are 10 tips from a young entrepreneur from the point of view of starting your very first business venture.
By Scott Gerber
I write Entrepreneur.com ‘s Young Entrepreneur column because I believe there are far too few resources directly addressing the nonacademic trials and tribulations young entrepreneurs face along their journey. Whenever possible, I encourage up-and-comers and established entrepreneurs to mentor the next generation of dream-seekers; for it is this insight and insider education that will provide the foundation for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. With that, here are 10 pieces of advice that I wish someone had given to me before I launched my first venture.
- Focus. Focus. Focus.
Many first-time entrepreneurs feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” they come across. Opportunities are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Avoid getting side-tracked. Juggling multiple ventures will spread you thin and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. Do one thing perfectly, not 10 things poorly. If you feel the need to jump onto another project, that might mean something about your original concept.
- Know what you do. Do what you know.
Don’t start a business simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success. It’s not only important to create a profitable business, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out. If your heart isn’t in it, you will not be successful.
- Say it in 30 seconds or don’t say it at all.
From a chance encounter with an investor to a curious customer, always be ready to pitch your business. State your mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
- Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t.
No one knows everything, so don’t come off as a know-it-all. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors who will nurture you to become a better leader and businessman. Find successful, knowledgeable individuals with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals that see value in working with you for the long-term.
- Act like a startup.
Forget about fancy offices, fast cars and fat expense accounts. Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal. Watch every dollar and triple-check every expense. Maintain a low overhead and manage your cash flow effectively.
- Learn under fire.
No business book or business plan can predict the future or fully prepare you to become a successful entrepreneur. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. There is no perfect road or one less traveled. Never jump right into a new business without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become a well-rounded entrepreneur when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
- No one will give you money.
There, I said it. No one will invest in you. If you need large sums of capital to launch your venture, go back to the drawing board. Find a starting point instead of an end point. Scale down pricey plans and grandiose expenditures. Simplify the idea until it’s manageable as an early stage venture. Find ways to prove your business model on a shoestring budget. Demonstrate your worth before seeking investment. If your concept is successful, your chances of raising capital from investors will dramatically improve.
- Be healthy.
No, I’m not your mother. However, I promise that you will be much more productive when you take better care of yourself. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession. Working to the point of exhaustion will burn you out and make you less productive. Don’t make excuses. Eat right, exercise and find time for yourself.
- Don’t fall victim to your own B.S.
Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Impress with action not conversation. Endorse your business enthusiastically, yet tastefully. Avoid exaggerating truths and touting far reaching goals as certainties. In short, put up or shut up.
- Know when to call it quits.
Contrary to popular belief, a smart captain does not go down with the ship. Don’t go on a fool’s errand for the sake of ego. Know when it’s time to walk away. If your idea doesn’t pan out, reflect on what went wrong and the mistakes that were made. Assess what you would have done differently. Determine how you will utilize these hard-learned lessons to better yourself and your future entrepreneurial endeavors. Failure is inevitable, but a true entrepreneur will prevail over adversity.
Discounts and coupons can be a great way to bring in potential new customers, but there are also some downsides to this common practice that aren’t necessarily readily apparent. Sometimes, having these discounts can make the customer focus solely on price, which may not always be a motivating factor for your business, and may jeopardize the integrity of your products. Below is an article detailing the potential pitfalls of discounting merchandise improperly, and also includes some tips on how to effectively limit the coupons you do use.
By Dan Kennedy and Jason Marrs
Why sales and discounts can cause damage and how to offer breaks without devaluing your products.
If you’re the type of person who shops only sale prices, think about this: Would you want you as a customer in your own business?
When I was growing up, my entrepreneurial family wasn’t motivated by sales. I was taught to not get excited about sale prices because nine times out of 10, you can always buy the item for that price. This has been a good lesson: Sale prices are often nothing more that statements of what you should really be paying for something.
And that is the downside to discounts: They can destroy price integrity with blinding speed. On the other hand, they can bring a stampede of buyers through the door faster than just about anything else.
That’s why business owners should have an uneasy relationship with discounts. They can be a destructive force, yet an effective way to drive sales. Most business owners use discounts too casually, thoughtlessly and often because they like the positive effects and do not fully understand the negative effects.
Consider: Is price your only competitive advantage? The thing to keep in mind is that offering discounts is a form of selling on price. When you offer a discount, you are taking the focus from the value you provide and placing it squarely on your price. There is no way to escape that.
To maintain higher prices, you have to instead be adept at selling value. Discounts erode your ability to do that. Any reduction in prices can damage your price integrity. Later, getting the same customer to stop thinking about price and re-focus on value can prove difficult.
Not only that, studies show that discounts actually reduce the effectiveness of whatever is being discounted. In a buyer’s mind, the discounted offering literally does not perform as well as it did at full price. That sounds impossible, but double-blind studies using prescription drugs and over-the-counter health products, cosmetics and other products have shown this to be true.
A study conducted by a group of resort properties matched their most glowing comment cards to guests paying full price or nearly full price. The most critical comment cards came from guests who had knowingly bought at deeply discounted rates. Part of the explanation for that may be that the discounted rates drew a different type of customer. But it also suggests that, in the same way people told they were taking a more expensive drug expected and received better outcomes, guests paying substantially higher rates expected a better experience and molded their assessment to their expectation.
Ironically, discounts can also lead to dissatisfaction in your clientele. Discounts can lead your clients to ask themselves why your price can be discounted. They look at the price they have been paying, and then look at the discount and smell a rat. They wonder why they can’t get that price some other time. If they recently paid full price for a product that is now on sale, they may feel cheated.
This is why it’s imperative that you always give a good reason for a discount and that your rules are solid. Unless you plan to compete on price continuously, you can’t have predictable sales or flexible terms. If there’s a sale, it must be for a specific reason with specific rules.
There are upsides to offering discounts. They can be a great way to modify behavior. Volume discounts are an example of this. They make sense in the buyer’s mind. We are trained to expect that the more we buy, the cheaper things will get. So customers are generally not skeptical or resentful if you give this type of discount.
Other good reasons to discount include:
- Prepay discounts. Prepay will help to keep your accounts receivable current.
- Bundled deals. These discounts can help you increase your transaction size.
- Seasonal sales. Businesses with seasonal slumps can disclose that as reason for discounts at a specific time of year with few negative ramifications.
A good reason for a discount can mitigate damage to overall price integrity, reputation and relationship with regular customers, and can create the kind of behavior you want from customers, such as buying now, not later; during off-season; and in bigger quantities.
As for using discounts to bring new customers through the door, have one product or service that’s designed to be the one thing you use to drive traffic, whether periodically or perpetually. This way, you isolate the damage discounting will do to your price integrity. You can then, if you wish, preserve full, fixed pricing for all other products and services.
In today’s marketplace it is pretty much possible to run a business from your smart phone. The phones themselves are basically little computers and the apps that they offer can be a huge boon to any company, especially while on the move, and the best part: many of them are free! Below is a list of some of the best apps, some free some not, that can add much needed utility to your business. For example, there are apps which allow you to take credit transactions right through your phone without the hassle of being contracted. Keep reading to see the full list of apps and how they could positively change your business.
These downloadable applications can improve productivity, ROI and time management for businesses of all sizes.
By Scott Steinberg
No matter your weapon of choice from iPhone to iPad, BlackBerry, Android or Palm device, apps make every entrepreneur’s life that much easier. But with thousands available for download on dozens of mobile gadgets, it can be hard to tell which are really worth their weight in microchips. Following are 10 of the top business apps for entrepreneurs to help you get started. All of them put the power to boost productivity right in the palm of your hand.
1. Square (Free, www.squareup.com) – Process credit card payments from anywhere using your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with Square’s free card-reader accessory. An intuitive interface and single universal fee (2.75% on each transaction), with no monthly charges or contracts, makes it easy to use for both individual contractors, freelancers and small businesses. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are all accepted.
2. Evernote (Free, www.evernote.com) – Ever feel like the absent-minded professor? Stay on top of tasks with this service that lets you take virtual memos on-demand. Capable of storing text, photos and voice recordings, you can dictate, snap pictures and automatically synchronize updates across your computer, smartphone or electronic tablet. You can also tag notes by location.
3. Scanner Pro ($6.99, www.readdle.com) – Instantly transforms your iPhone into a portable, multi-page document scanner than can capture electronic copies of invoices, business cards and signed documents. From meeting notes to contracts, its high-quality image processing and automatic edge detection readily handle conversions. You can also produce and skim email-ready PDFs on-demand, set up custom page sizes and password-protect your files.
4. Flight Track Pro ($9.99, www.mobiata.com) – Staying on top of flight delays and gate changes is easy with this handy travel tracker. Import trip data from an airline confirmation email, and it will monitor your itinerary, alerting you to delays, cancellations and alternate boarding plans. The program also provides satellite and weather imagery and maps of airport terminals — in case you need to sprint for a connection.
5. MightyMeeting (Free, http://app.mightymeeting.com) – Upload presentations and product videos to the cloud, then access them nearly anytime, anywhere with this handy demonstration tool. Allowing you to quickly call up clips and slideshows on your smartphone or tablet PC, it makes it easy to showcase sales pitches or market overviews on-demand. Users can also connect mobile devices to a widescreen projector for added impact.
6. Gist (Free, www.gist.com) – Lets you organize and update contacts in a single location with minimal fuss. Capable of importing email, phone and address data from multiple sources (inbox, social network, smartphone, etc), the program makes it easy to keep up with ever-changing contact information. Also has an option to view colleagues’ real-time Facebook and Twitter feeds without exiting the program, which is nice.
7. LinkedIn (Free, www.linkedin.com) – Makes it possible to access the leading social network for professional users while on the go. Search for new workers, mentors or strategic partners; mingle with peers; and share business tips, news and insight with like-minded people.
8. Print n Share ($8.99, www.mobile.eurosmartz.com) – Dream of printing right from your smartphone or tablet PC? Wish granted. Wielding this nifty app, you can send documents straight to a WiFi printer, or one connected to a Mac or PC. Requests may also be issued remotely over 3G wireless networks, so you can pick up copies of contracts or insertion orders the next time you’re in the office.
9. Jump Desktop ($19.99, www.jumpdesktop.com) – Offers the option to control your desktop remotely, regardless of where business takes you. Armed with an Internet connection, you can manipulate files or folders via touchscreen, and actively browse on your home or work computer. Compatible with Mac or PC systems, it lets you be productive without having to lug yourlaptop.
10. OmniFocus ($19.99-$39.99, www.omnigroup.com) – More expensive than most apps, but cheaper than an executive assistant, this full suite of utilities for task management makes plotting a daily agenda much simpler. Capable of organizing tasks by groups, contexts, tools, locations and resources, it helps you keep tabs on ongoing engagements and prioritize to-do lists. Also supports synchronizing between multiple devices.