The Short Lives of Most Businesses

Approximately 26,000 new companies are formed each year in North Carolina. In that same year, over 23,000 companies fail due to poor management and operational mistakes. The statistics are worse for rural communities, minority populations and veterans. This means that good ideas go to waste along with the grant and investor funds that helped get these companies started. As a result, the potential growth of revenue and new jobs is lost also.

Having assistance for emerging entrepreneurs considerably reduces the number of failures. Entrepreneurs should be seeking out business mentors that can help them through the early years of their business.

Entrepreneurs Need Mentoring

North Carolina has a comprehensive array of entrepreneurship education programs throughout the community college and university systems including various other private and public organizations. The problem is that we have little help for entrepreneurs once they have completed these programs and actually try to start a business. Actually starting a business is a whole lot harder than passing academic tests about the subject.

The issue is that all of these entrepreneurs have need of business management and leadership expertise including:

  • Business strategy and planning discipline to make sure the business is focused on a viable market with a winning product/service that has a competitive edge
  • Forecasting and financing ensuring that sales plans are realistic and that cash is well managed
  • Operational discipline and judgment to increase the chances of success by making fewer mistakes
  • Industry connections that can help accelerate the business and its operations
  • Start-up company experience that can instill the wisdom of what it takes to really start and manage an emerging business

Entrepreneurs often do not know where to turn to perform even the most basic things in creating and managing a business. They need help with such issues as:

  • Putting the legal and regulatory infrastructure in place for the company along with the necessary human resources programs
  • Financing the early months of the company in order to cover start-up costs, capital equipment and operating expenses
  • How to accomplish technology transfer, protect intellectual property and apply for patents and trademarks
  • Getting the necessary campaigns and skills in place to execute their marketing and sales plans
  • Establishing industry relationships that will further enable sales and operational efficiency

Mentors Connect the Dots for Entrepreneurs

For the majority of the companies that fail, the missing ingredient that could have ensured their success is basic business and operational “know-how.” This is the void that a mentor fills. A mentor provides business guidance to entrepreneurs and helps them make the right decisions as they start and operate new companies.

Mentors increase entrepreneurs’ chances of success by providing them needed business wisdom, resulting in increased revenue. Good mentors are seasoned business executives who establish long-term mentoring relationships and are available whenever needed. Their services include:

  • Advising entrepreneurs on the viability of their business ideas, helping them to get on the right track from the beginning
  • Identifying research to understand their market opportunities, creating the in-depth understanding of their customers and other industry players that is needed
  • Developing an effective business model and business strategy so they know how they are going to make money and/or achieve their social purpose
  • Identifying marketing, sales, prototyping and financing needs to make sure the company has the right infrastructure to accomplish their sales goals
  • Helping establish appropriate business infrastructure so that the company has the necessary legal and regulatory infrastructure in place
  • Advising them on business operations so that the right support is in place for marketing, sales and customer support
  • Dealing with marketing and sales issues so that the hundreds of issues that always come up are properly dealt with
  • Identifying the needs for protecting intellectual property so that the company is not exposed to losing their differentiation and barriers to entry
  • Providing management guidance for their business decisions to make sure they are both thoughtful and effective
  • Referring entrepreneurs to business resources that will help them in both operations as well as reaching out t new customers and partnerships

Get a Business Mentor

If there is any doubt in your mind, don’t hesitate. If you are a new entrepreneur, get a mentor. Even if you are not so new to entrepreneurship, get a mentor anyway. In either case, the mentor provides the impartial set of eyes you need to hold you accountable for meeting your own objectives.

The key to selecting the mentor is their being impartial. They have no horse in your race. So, chances are you don’t know your next mentor right now, but one is out there that can help you. Find one.

About the Author: Bill Warner is co-founder of EntreDot, and non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs start new businesses. He is on the management team of Bunker Labs, a Fund Executive of the Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF-RTP), an angel investor organization and Managing Director of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm.

The best time management system for entrepreneurs is one that takes into account all of the unique challenges that a self employed person faces. If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to find out about better time management, this is the article for you. Some things to consider are how productive you really are at the office, what types of distractions waste the most time in your day, and how you can be more effective with the time that you have. With that in mind, let’s look at how a great time management system can improve your peak performance.

Creating a Comprehensive Time Management System

When designing your own time management system, there different factors that you should take into consideration. Not all of these will apply to every entrepreneur, but there are sure to be some time management strategies here that you can use to make more money, and enjoy a better lifestyle.

  • Are you productive at the office? In a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, the renowned entrepreneur Derek Sivers told Tim that he loathes spending time at the office, and at one point even considered moving to Hawaii without telling anyone at his company where he was going. Derek considered such a rash move (and even bought the airplane ticket) because he understood that he was unproductive at the office, and he was wasting time on small details that didn’t concern him.

    In your own life, you should take the time to actually figure out whether working at the office is productive for you. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who works from home, and this doesn’t concern you. But most entrepreneurs work with other people, and one of the best tools for time management is figuring out a way to optimize an office routine. This can include delegating tasks, creating distraction free times when you’re not available, and bundling meetings together on the same days.
  • What distractions take up most of your time? Creating an awesome time management system means finding ways to maximize the amount of time that you spend on your work. For entrepreneurs, being interrupted while at work is a common distraction. If you work at the office, these interruptions might be coworkers asking you questions. On the other hand, for entrepreneurs working at home, you might get distracted by your family, smartphone, or the temptation to turn on the TV for ten minutes to get the latest news.

    You don’t necessarily have to do away with these distractions, but you should budget time for them. For example, if you’re aiming to work eight hours a day, you can create a time management schedule which actually gives you nine hours in a day to get eight hours of work done. By planning ahead for the inevitable interruptions, you’ll be one step ahead of other entrepreneurs.
  • Are You Using Your Time Effectively? When creating a time management schedule, you should consider all of the actions that you can take to improve your productivity. For example, one of the best ways to start off your day is by not checking your smartphone. Put it into airplane mode the night before, and then set a time to check it at.

    You’ll find out that by ignoring your telephone and email in the morning, you’ll actually set yourself up to be more productive throughout the day. While this might be especially difficult for you if you’re an entrepreneur and you feel the need to always be connected, you’ll quickly find out that most messages can wait until lunch.

 

Learn Why Over 300 Companies Have Used Our Entrepreneur Program “Six Steps To Success” To Grow Or Pivot Their Business.

 

Time Management Tips That the Pros Use

After you’ve taken a broad look at your day, you probably have some ideas about how you can improve your productivity. These may include spending less time at the office, budgeting time for distractions, or ignoring your phone in the morning. While these are some general ideas to keep in mind, the following specific tips will help you to become more productive, while maximizing the time that you have to get work done.

    1. Set goals and measure your progress.
      If you don’t have your goals clearly thought out and written down, you won’t have a good idea about where you’re going. It’s worth writing them down as well. In the classic book: How to Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states that if you don’t have your goals written down, you stand almost no chance of achieving them.

      The best entrepreneurs start by stating what they want to accomplish in great detail. Then they break that down into goals for each year, quarter, month and week. This will ensure that you manage your time effectively, and spend less of it on frivolous activities that won’t help you in the long run.
    2. Create a daily to do list
      The importance of this step cannot be overlooked when it comes to creating the best time management system. By taking the time to lay out your goals before the day begins, you’ll be far more likely to stay on track towards achieving your long term dream. Some people recommend writing down your goals the night before, while others prefer to do it in the morning. When you choose to do it isn’t as important as the fact that you do it consistently over time.
  • Block out distracting websites
    Facebook and Twitter might be tempting, but they rarely result in you getting much work done. Even if you’re an entrepreneur who needs to interact with potential customers, or clients, via these platforms, you should set aside a certain time of the day to do it, while staying off of social media for the rest of the day.
  • Take frequent breaks
    It might not seem like better time management to frequently take a break, but it’s actually an effective way to increase your productivity. Every good time management system leaves some room for you to set aside the work and spend 5 or 10 minutes doing something you enjoy. You’ll find that after a break like this, you’ll return to work with an increased amount of motivation and focus.
  • Don’t Try to Get Everything Done
    If you have a Type A personality, or if you’re extremely dedicated to your work, you might get stressed when it feels like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. The best way to combat this is to remember the 80/20 rule. At your work, 20% of what you do is going to result in 80% of the results. When you feel like you have too much work to get done, look at your list and ask: what can I do here that will make the rest obsolete?

 

Putting it Together
The best time management system for an entrepreneur is the one fits best into your lifestyle. All of the advice presented above is a great way to get started in creating your own time management schedule. However, you’ll find that some things work for you while others don’t. That’s fine, and it’s part of the process of refining your schedule and becoming the most efficient version of yourself possible.

 

 

Reboot Your Growth!

Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Moore

If your business is like many others, it has progressed through a period of growth, followed by flattening out. The future is up to you. Will you begin the decline as many mature companies before, or will you start a new season of growth? There are two primary areas to consider to energize your growth: your approach to the market, and your approach to your management team.

With regards to the market you pursue and your positioning, it is important to reassess whether doing what has brought you this far is the best course to continue. Many find that developing new products/services for an existing customer base is challenging. Commercializing new category starters often requires different skills and a cultural shift. For others, successful marketing is determined by finding new places to promote and deliver existing offerings.

Management teams in maturing companies can become stagnant. A shot in the arm in terms of professional development of soft skills can be the ideal prescription. It is too easy to allow silos to develop and technical knowledge isolates without intentional growth of individual team members. Whether it is an executive MBA, or certificate programs, or simply using industry continuing education as a way to diversify one’s competencies, do something to make your managers more valuable! Added to the value of learning new skills is the benefit of gaining greater emotional intelligence. A mentor or coach brought in from the outside can guide managers into better decision making.

The best course of action is to combine marketing/business development initiatives with management team professional growth. We hope you are successful in starting a new “S” curve in your business. Let us know if we can help!

Blog excerpted from: Need A New “S” Curve?

Knowing that you have, or will have, a winning product or service does not give you time to rest. You have to grease the skids by making your potential buyers aware that you have a product that solves an important problem they have. Founded upon your in-depth understanding of your buyers, you need to structure the appropriate marketing campaigns that raise buyer awareness of the product’s or service’s value and availability. But, that’s not enough either. You will also have to make all the sales channel partners that sit between you and the buyer also know of the value and availability of the product. All this is needed to get your product or service from your facility into the hands of the buyers.

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This whitepaper is the fifth in a series entitled “Pillars of Success” by Bill Warner.

“Let’s buy some great advertising and put up a Web site. That will really tell customers about us. That should do it, right?” Another set of famous last words. Does anybody know how much was spent on advertising by the ‘Dot.bom’s’ from 1998 to 2002? Does anybody remember them? Better yet, did the advertising work? I’m all for advertising as a marketing tool. But, I am more committed to putting together marketing lead generation programs, targeted at the intended buyer of the product or service. This is the world of marketing and has everything to do with telling your potential customers that you have something they need and giving them a way to contact someone who will sell it to them.

Click here to read more!

This whitepaper is the fourth in a series entitled “Pillars of Success” by Bill Warner.

You don’t have to talk to an investor or company board member for more than five minutes before the word focus comes up. It is death to any business plan that wanders through a dozen possible initiatives for the business. You will be dismissed if you even hint at hiring people or purchasing equipment that is not relevant to your business. If you are not clear about how your product or service is marketed and sold, the prospects of getting the support you need is zero. The message is: “be unwaveringly focused.”How do you, as a small business founder, accomplish laser beam focus? Click here to read more!

This whitepaper is the second in a series entitled Pillars of Success by Bill Warner:

Sun-tzu expresses it in many ways with respect to preparing for war, when he writes “know your enemy.” Preparing to compete in business is similar in a lot of ways. One of the similarities is the need to know your competition in detail. As in war, you don’t want to enter the battlefield with the wrong weapons, deploying inappropriate tactics, with too few people, and engaging on the wrong terrain.

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