Thursday, September 22, 2016

Staying Motivated as an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is a liberating journey that highlights the emancipation of being an employee, but it is also work-heavy. And the natural accessories that come along with this position of leadership can quickly result in regret and remorse for choosing a path so heavily ridden with high levels of responsibility and stress. When discouraging moments do arise, how can a new business owner find enough strength to push through and see beyond the temporary circumstances? What keeps an entrepreneur motivated?

Track your progress

It is easy to point out all the things that are going wrong in your business. In those moments however, it is useful to remind yourself of  your accomplishments up to the point of your fatigue. This helps motivate entrepreneurs by identifying and categorizing attainable and realistic goals in comparison to goals that might take a little longer to accomplish and are better off as long-term ambitions.  Tracking your progress is not an exercise that should be reserved solely for moments of demotivation. Instead, implement this practice at the very start of your business and do weekly or monthly checks to see how far you’ve come and how much farther you have to go. This tangible tool will motivate you, on a regular basis, to work hard in order to see your business attain and surpass each level of success you envision for your company.

Reflect on the beginning

Why did you want to become an entrepreneur? Some individuals only have to recall a single experience whereby sitting at a cubicle at a dead-end job, with a boss who was not interested in accelerating the company while simultaneously suppressing the ideas of employees, posed a far greater challenge. Reflecting on previous experiences of “occupational prison” can jolt you back into your purpose and motivate you to keep going. Other individuals initially begin their entrepreneurial pursuit in the hopes that they can give their families better lives. If that was your starting point, talk to your loved ones and rediscover what their goals and aspirations are. Then, ask yourself if your contribution to their goals and dreams will be fulfilled working for yourself or working for someone else. The idea here is simple: when you reconnect with your origin stories, you can reconnect with the motivation that initially allowed you to start a business in the first place.

Join Networking groups

Mingling with likeminded people is perhaps one of the easiest ways to stay motivated as a business owner. Stepping away from your computer screen to listen and share ideas with others, sparks your own creativity and forces you to think about where your business is currently, and how you can make it better. Further, the sharing of similar experiences reassures you that a lack of motivation is a part of the discourse of entrepreneurship. Your peers have been through and may be going through the same things and you may benefit from their coping strategies. Socializing with a group of successful people who had the courage to stand alone and start a business can give you the mental push you need to move forward with confidence.

Make positive affirmations a part of everyday discourse

In business, you get out what you put in. Feed your mind with positive affirmations daily. It may sound silly, but it works. Some entrepreneurs have mantras that they recite on a daily basis. Others keep inspirational words in a frame on their desk as a screensaver on their computer. Whether you say these things out loud to yourself, write them down daily, or read them in silence, they are healthy for your mind and motivation. The more positive you are about your business, the less the negative shortcomings will affect you. They will occur, but their impact will motivate rather than discourage you.

If you’ve been feeling demotivated lately, try one or a combination of these methods and see how your behaviour changes. Share some of your motivation tactics below to encourage fellow readers.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stress Management in Entrepreneurial Ventures

Venturing into entrepreneurship, especially for the first time, can be a bit overwhelming. The
experiences are new, the challenges are multiple, and being at the top can be lonely. Business owners are likely to encounter pressured situations on numerous occasions. Consequently, coping strategies are necessary.  We’ve compiled a list of some of the most reliable and effective strategies to keep every entrepreneur afloat and on top.

Recognizing the Source

With the inevitability of stress lurking around the corners of entrepreneurship, it is important to be able to recognize the cause of your heightened emotions. If you can locate the source, you have a greater chance at a successful resolution. For example, if you find that you are regularly stressed around deadlines, assess the situation to determine whether or not it is a time-management issue. If it is, create a schedule that accommodates checkpoints at least two weeks prior to your deadline. In doing so, you reduce the pressure to complete everything in a short time frame and you have the flexibility to make changes or re-evaluate your decisions within reasonable time. In totality, knowing the source of your stress leads to the alleviation of it.

Change your Environment

Sometimes your work environment can be stuffy. You become accustomed to the space that you think, create, and close deals in day after day. This repetition can result in a feeling of entrapment, stagnation, and overall fatigue. Business owners advise on changing the scenery to keep your mind fresh and elevate your productivity. Whether it’s renting a space for a month or taking one or two days out of the month to work in a coffee shop or a quite conservatory, a new environment stimulates your brain and maintains your sanity.

Get a Team

Business owners are overprotective of their projects and rightfully so. Unfortunately, that over-protectiveness, in some instances, breeds a ‘one-man show’. Consequently, your business, in its entirety, becomes your responsibility. You are in charge of accounting, sales, marketing and advertising, and productivity. While this methodology works for some people  (many start-ups begin this way), after a while it becomes stressful. Add someone to your team to lighten the load. Even a single person makes a difference. Further, it is beneficial to have someone to bounce your ideas off of and company to decompress work tension. You can still maintain the integrity of your business with a team.  Hire individuals who share your passion so you can worry less about their performance and concentrate more on being a successful business.

Healthy Work and Lifestyle Balance

Working is great, but so is not working. Take regular breaks when your body gives you warning signals. Engage in external activities that allow you to recharge your batteries. Many entrepreneurs play sports in their down time to stimulate their brains and heart rate in a healthy and beneficial way. Spend some time outside to breathe in some fresh air. Become intertwined your family and attend as many family-related events as possible. The most successful entrepreneurs understand this balance and actively work to achieve and maintain it.

This list is not exhaustive and is an essential starting up for reducing the entrepreneurial stress of starting a business. In closing, don’t just work hard, work right. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How to cope when you’re on double duty: Starting a business while working full time

When you decide to start a business, you usually aren’t sitting in the lap of luxury with unlimited free time, resources, and countless windows of opportunity. Instead, most new business owners are confronted with their business ideas amidst the stereotypical “9 to 5”.  Further, some start-up ideas do not materialize beyond the conception phase due to the intimidating challenge of juggling a new business while working full time. Despite this disposition, entrepreneurs have been and continue to nurture successful businesses in this way. So, what’s the big secret? The truth is really no secret at all. Managing a start-up while working a full time job does not have to make you a victim of entrepreneurial defeat. Our small guide below is designed to help you thrive and succeed at this balancing act.

Time Management

When you dedicate an average of eight hours per day to a full time job, it is inevitable that time is going to be one of your greatest competitors for success. Once you recognize and accept this fact, you will be well on your way. Part of effective time management is planning. Assess your current schedule and determine how much of your time is “wasted”.  For example, if you watch three hours of television after work, consider at least two out of those three hours disposable. Further, evaluate how you spend your weekends. The weekends consist of two full “non-work” days, how do you use them? 

Once you have mapped out your current weekly schedule, create a new one inserting small-business/start-up time in all your disposable time slots. Creating a schedule and planning how you will use your time will help you track your progress and give you a big picture on how you are allocating your time in favour of growing a lucrative business. You can also incorporate lists to ensure that each day you are completing a specific task. If you are fortunate enough to work at a company that has liberal policies on working other jobs simultaneously, take advantage of that time without jeopardizing your present employment. Alternatively, if your job opposes integration of this kind, capitalize on your lunch breaks. This does not mean that you should skip lunch however, but take time to eat and time to work. If you manage your time correctly you will still be able to do the more relaxing activities you enjoy.

Licensing and Registration

Obtain all the necessary license and registration at the start of your business. It is particularly important to engage in this process at the beginning stages of your start-up because in some jurisdictions it can be time-consuming. Additionally, you may need sufficient time to obtain necessary documents and tackle unforeseeable circumstances that can or may hinder your project. The last thing you need during this process is a setback.  That is not to say they will not happen, but you have a great chance of minimizing them by acting sooner rather than later.

Money Management

Most start-ups and small businesses are individually funded (out-of-pocket). Make a budget and monitor the distribution of funds. Determine what percentage, if any, of your full-time salary can be redirected into your business.  Further, ensure that your business expenses do not compromise your personal expenses. If you are really pressed for funding you may have to make smart but effective lifestyle changes. For example, bring a lunch and limit the amount of coffee purchases you make in a day or week. Go to the movies once a month and substitute your frequent social outings for a night in. Reassign those funds to your business. These changes are not about ridding your life of its social pride, but rather, cutting out what it beyond necessary objectively.

Don’t think too big, too quickly

Starting a business can be exciting, but do not allow that excitement to cloud your judgment.  Take your time and understand your business. Do not waste time worrying about office space and spending frivolously on products and services that are not fundamental to your start-up. Take meetings at coffee shops if you have to. Schedule phone and Skype calls where necessary. If you become too caught up in materializing your ideal business at the beginning of the process, you run the risk of losing money and, worse, losing your business.

Finally, enjoy the process. It is easy to get caught up in what is sometimes a dense world of business. Do not lose sight of yourself and your vision. Take regular breaks just like any other job and laugh a little. You will make mistakes, but do not fret on them for too long. Cry if you have to and get back in position remembering that failure is a natural progression of success.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The “Money Problem”

There aren’t many scenarios in which people are repulsed by money…except of course, in the world of business. As a new business owner, conversations about money can be intimidating, uncomfortable and condescending. In a discourse where the exchange of service for currency is inevitable, it’s hard to conceptualize such a fear, but most business owners are able to recount instances where having to pick up the phone and discuss payment was a nerve-wracking as pulling teeth.  

There are three primary factors that are attributable to the money problem:

·         Value - Entrepreneurs struggle to accurately assert a price that is complimentary to the value of the service they offer. In some instances business owners quote clients/customers fees that are much lower than the product value because they fear that the consumer will not recognize the worth; the opposite is also true.  Pricing comes with a warranted level of sensitivity because quite often it dictates how well a business will perform in the respective market.  Consequently, talking about it can result in gaining clients or losing clients and some entrepreneurs are not willing to take that risk.

·         Cultural taboo - Cultures discourage discussions about money. Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs allow that inter-generational value to seep into the discourse of business. Where it is unacceptable to talk about money in the familiar institution, it is equally disrespectful in a financial one.  The symptoms of this cultural taboo are evident in scenarios where business owners are complacent in obtaining late fees, outstanding balances, and unpaid debts. Instead, they carry on quietly and accept the loss, notwithstanding instances where the obtainable amount is not of “significant” value.

·         Social Psychology, “A need to be right, and a need to be liked” - This explanation is quite simple: business owners and people in general, want to be liked and want to be right. When a conversation of money begins to occur, the rigidity of these two qualities is threatened. Consequently, a client may refuse business on such premise.

Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. The following strategies have been effective in relieving conversational tension on this hot topic.

·         Market Comparisons - Compare your prices to your competitors’ prices. Although this may require a little bit of research, the effort is worth the outcome. Pinpoint noticeable financial trends and assess your business on a similar spectrum. If there are businesses that price their services above average fees, evaluate their company to see why. Some businesses may offer additional services, have more qualified professionals, or may have simply capitalized on effective branding.  When you refer to your prices, quoting some of the prices of your competitors will reassure your client that they are not being lowballed. If your business is above average, make the same comparisons, but emphasize what you are offering that warrants a departure from the status quo.

·         Managing Your Motive - Why are you talking about money? How important is the conversation you’re about to engage in? These two questions are fundamental in shaping your thinking about money in business. If both responses yield a matter of urgency and your business will suffer if the matter is not addressed, it is imperative to have the conversation. On the other hand, if your sole motive is to get more money without providing a service that matches same, you’re better off not mentioning it.

·         Formal Non-verbal Communication - Talking on the phone or over a meal in a meeting may work for some business professionals, but it is not ideal for everyone.  Send an email outlining the details of pricing and be clear and direct. Not only does this alleviate some of the burden, but it also functions as binding documentation of exchange between you and the client. Further, emails accommodate, what are otherwise, high-intensity negotiations.
      
      In closing, the infamous expression, “money talks” is misleading, because money cannot talk until someone else does. And the reality is: if you cannot get rid of the money problem, it may result in a “non-existing business” problem. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Start-Up Mistakes to Lookout For!

Let's face it, every entrepreneur's first start-up is a fish-out-of-water- experience; new territories usually are. One of the best ways to tackle the unfamiliarity of business ownership however is to learn from those who have gone before you. Most entrepreneurs have a laundry list of things they've had to do, and redo multiple times before getting things right. Fortunately, we've got our laundry list of mistakes you should avoid to make your startup success attainable.

A Saturated Market

One of the more challenging tasks of being an entrepreneur is knowing how to reason with yourself and be honest in those responses. This is particularly true at the conception stage of your startup. You come up with an idea for your business, you believe in it, and you start investing time, energy, and resources to make your vision materialize. Finally, when you launch, you realize that the market is too saturated and your attempt to transcend your peers failed. Just like that, your business dissolves. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake.

When you have an idea for a startup, it is imperative to implement a market research component that facilitates your place in the designated industry. If you haven't invented something it is more than likely the case that your business idea already exists. Know who your competitors are, how the market is performing, and whether it makes sense to invest in a business idea that has seen one too many launches.

Launching too quickly or too slowly
 
Having a new business can be exciting and that excitement can persuade you to place your product or service in the hands of consumers as fast as possible. Prematurely launching your business can kill it. There is nothing quite like introducing an ill-prepared product to a consumer. On the other hand, it is equally detrimental if you have a successful product and you are unable to keep up with the demand for it. Take some time and nurture your idea to control for foreseeable outcomes like these.

It is also possible to launch too slowly. Some startups require a large amount of preparation time. Research, testing, and funding are among the primary factors that can delay a launch. However, if you are taking too long to make your business accessible, perhaps it has no place in the market. Otherwise, you're hurting your business if you withhold something that is on demand and is necessary to your consumers. They may stop waiting. If you are slow to launch, there should be substantial reason.

Poor Investment Strategy

Every business wants to grow, but that growth is heavily predicated on how money is managed. Your business should be your investment manager's priority. Monitor the monetary flow and forecast of your startup to effectively regulate where you can make more money and where you should pull back a bit. Further, investments should yield growth and this should not be interpreted as investing solely in the interest of shareholders. Investments should also be made in favour of consumers; they make the business. “If you invest in your users, your investors will benefit regardless”.

No Target Audience

It's unfortunate that some startups fail due to the lack of a clear and definitive consumer. Knowing who you are selling your product to is instrumental in startup success. A designated target audience helps drive marketing and promotion strategies, product development, and sale projection. When you have a target audience you are aware of exactly where to find your market and how to control it and be competitive. On the other hand, failure to determine a specific group to which to market your product can result in financial loss and over-investment.

A Divided Team

Lastly, if your team does not share your vision, you are doing a disservice to your business. Hire like-minded people who share your values, but differ in creativity and skill; this will diversify and enhance your business potential.

Starting a business can be intimidating, but minimizing your mistakes can make the ride a little less bumpy and a little more successful. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Starting Point for Small Business Marketing

When you decide to start a business, one thing is immediately obvious: you are your own boss. This is usually symbolic of the unshackling from the demands of workplace discourse, but every new business owner quickly falls off of their high horse into a pit of demands to which they are solely accountable for.  All of a sudden you are in charge of the product, promotions, advertising, payroll, and most importantly, marketing. Fortunately, marketing has transformed how business is done thanks to social media. In fact, even the most successful businesses are becoming increasingly reliable on the marketing power of resources such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to name a few.  Small business owners and first-time entrepreneurs must become familiar with this newly popular outlet if they want to get in the game, stay in the game, and be competitive. So what’s the big deal with this seemingly impersonal marketing tool? Here’s our big three!

Traffic! Traffic! Traffic!

Traffic is to business what location is to real estate. It is imperative that your business drives traffic. If you are not interacting with your potential customers, clients, and consumers regularly you are doing a disservice to your business. Social media provides the perfect platform to engage. Whether you are posting once a day or multiple times a day, posting is what will spark interest. The more interesting content you post, the more likely you are to drive people to your website and find out more about your business and what services you have to offer. 

Hashtags are particularly important to expanding your reach beyond the set number of people who are following you. Don’t know what a hashtag is? Hashtags are keywords relevant to the corresponding image, text, or information that you post on a social media outlet. It is always preceded by the “pound” or “number” sign. For example, if you are starting a real estate business and you posted a home for sale on Instagram, you can hashtag words like #realestate #buying #selling to allow your image to populate on those pages. The idea is, if someone is looking for home, they can search the hashtag and browse your social media page. This method is quick, easy, free, and effective. Hashtags aren’t the only way to drive traffic to your page and subsequently your website. You can team up with other business owners and agree to promote each other. These tactics are likely to increase traffic to your business pages and website and are quite interactive.

Engagement

Equally important to any business is feedback. If you want to know if your business model is working, you ask. Social media puts you in direct contact with the people you intend to serve. Post questionnaires and ask for product feedback to find out how your product is doing or why the service your offering is helpful to some people and not others. Having an interactive platform is beneficial to molding your business for success. It is one thing to have input from shareholders and investors, but when consumers are telling you what they like or don’t like, there is a lot more weight in their words.

Engagement does not only help you to evaluate and shape your business, it also helps to gain it. This can be accomplished by interacting with your followers. People want to know they are being heard. If someone comments, make an effort to respond. If you are consistent you will gain customers and clients. The key to mastering engagement on social media is creativity and consistency, so be sure to run trials. Be observant to what posts garner the most “likes” and what posts are less popular. Use these statistics to guide your posts.

Branding

One of the primary goals of marketing is to be recognizable and  stand out among your competitors. Social media facilitates branding goals such as recognition and loyalty. Any opportunity you have to post your logo or assert your brand, you should use it. In doing so, you will increase your visibility and enforce familiarity with your audience. Using social media to promote your brand will also keep existing customers engaged. As previously mentioned, the more you engage with your audience, the more likely they are to remain customers and fans.

Social media marketing may not be the hot topic forever, but it is the hot topic now. Don’t let your business fall through the cracks. It may take some time to get acquainted with social media discourse, but once you master it your business will flourish. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Video Marketing Advantage

Content marketers are claiming 2016 to be the year of the video. As marketing strategies continue to embrace the hot new trends in the online community, video marketing has risen above the fray in terms of reach and impact on target markets.  Videos can be used in a multitude of ways – from comedy to educational, to reach customers at critical points along the buying life cycle and build ongoing relationships with users. In addition to this, there are many other reasons why video marketing can be beneficial to your business.

The Age of Information Overload

These days, most people who frequent the internet are bombarded with information from social media, and mixed in with it is advertisers trying to cut through the noise to get their products and
services noticed. With the rise of 140 character tweets and 10 second Snap Chats, it’s hard to get users to pay attention to anything for any length of time. Videos are way to get your information out there in short bursts so that users get relevant information without too much effort on their part. It’s easier for brains to consume and process visual content rather than taking in a wall of text, so making a video visually appealing with audio enhancements will take your message to the next level. Your videos can range from customer testimonials and product demonstrations, to funny and creative ads that showcase your business.

Social Media Reach

Most internet users have at least one social media account that they check regularly, so social media is the best place to be for advertisers online.  While YouTube is the most well-known website for video watchers, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have enhanced the way videos are watched on their apps and websites to keep up with the video trend by enabling videos to be played directly in news feeds so users can easily watch without being directed away from the platform.

Posting videos on social media pages can reach thousands, and potentially millions, of people and it costs nothing to do so. If you’re a small business with only a small social media following, paid social media campaigns can broaden your reach very inexpensively. You’ll get more people watching your videos, which can translate into more followers and, potentially, more business.

The Viral Potential

We’ve all seen the work of viral videos – they appear seemingly out of the blue on your Facebook timeline and subsequently get continuously shared across all social media platforms. There’s no magic potion in making a video go viral, most times it’s just a mix of creativity, engaging content, and luck. But the potential is there for anyone to make a video that catches on and becomes a trending topic and, even if it only lasts for a day, a viral video can do wonders for your business. Users are more likely to share a video over any other content on social media, so it’s a great tool to get your business noticed.

While you may have to invest some time and money into video production, the result are videos that highlight your business and can be shared across social media, and have a permanent place on YouTube and your website as a way for users to get quick insight into what makes your business special. 



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Minding Your Business with a Business Plan

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be." Mark Victor Hansen could not have spoken truer words. The idea of writing down thoughts, goals, and dreams, is a transcendental one. In fact this very practice has materialized to a standard requirement in the world of business, formally known as a business plan. It is the vital blueprint for any startup and entrepreneurs are recognizing just how drastic business can change positively, with written foundations. So why are business plans so important?

Vision

If you were traveling somewhere you’ve never been before, would you go without a map? Probably not, so why would you embark on a business venture, where the risk is far greater, without having a blueprint? Your business plan functions as a map—your big picture. Before you start any business your only tool is your idea. As you begin to think about it more and more, ideas develop and a plan emerges. You start to consider factors like your target audience, market research, funding, staff/ employees, business registration, and the list goes on, but they still just classify as ideas in your head.

Documenting this information is what keeps your vision alive. It is your way of stepping outside of yourself to allow your vision to materialize. Further, organizing your ideas by formulating them in a business plan helps you build effectively and remove information that may be detrimental to your business as a whole. This inherent editing and buffering allows you to keep your vision in mind; the more you work on the plan, the realer your entrepreneurship becomes. Simply put, creating your business plan takes you from a dreamer to a doer.

Accountability

Your ability to transition from the phase of a dreamer to a doer often determines how serious you are about your startup. Creating a business plan requires work and research and this investigative nature of the process keeps you accountable in more ways than one. Firstly, your business plan makes you accountable for your own actions. When you make a plan and write it down you are more likely to follow through on that plan than if you had simply stored it away in your mind. Your business plan is your personal correctional officer, ensuring that you are working towards the fulfillment of your startup. 

Secondly, a business plan keeps you accountable to your potential investors, sponsors, and banks (when you apply for a business loan).  At some point you will realize that your startup is less about you and more about what service you are capable of bringing to the table. Investors and those alike, want to ensure that you are worth the investment: a) is there a market for your idea b) is it lucrative, and c) how big is the return on investment. Additionally, they want to be able to trust you and your abilities. In most cases, the primary source of endorsement is a well-orchestrated and thought-out business plan.

To Answer the Question: Should you really be starting a business?

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is underestimating how much work actually goes into starting and running a business. A business plan is one of the primary tools to weed out the weak from the strong, the able from the disabled, and the determined from the desolate. As mentioned above, your business plan is where the evolution of your idea takes place. As you comb through each category of the plan and consider your place in the entrepreneurial world, things can become overwhelming. It is at this point that you must reason with yourself. Consider whether this is a journey you should embark on now or, alternatively, if you would benefit by waiting a while. 

You might also reflect on whether you should partner with someone or work individually. How much time would you have to invest daily, especially if you’re pursuing a startup while working a full time job? At the very least, your business plan is your platform for evaluation; don’t take it lightly.

We’ve shared some of the most fundamental reasons for using a business plan for your startup and we encourage you to consider them before your next venture.  If you’ve been working on a business plan tell us why it’s an important starting point for you!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mentorship: The Secret Weapon to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

 At the forefront of every entrepreneurial venture are two certainties: the conception of an idea and the desire for seamless execution. Everything else is a mere combination of fear, inexperience, ignorance, and zeal.  Although this disposition can be unforgiving, it is a part of the courageous discourse of entrepreneurship that every entrepreneur encounters and often overcomes. For example, entrepreneurship is theoretically equivalent to preparing for war; you know you want to fight, the foreseeable outcome is winning, but executing that victory is jumbled in your lack of experience as a fighter, the fear that it may kill you, and jumping head first into a situation with inadequate preparation. Fortunately, proactive and preventative resources exist to minimize the risk of failure when taking on the battle of business. More specifically, mentorship is a key weapon capable of optimizing success in the realm of entrepreneurship.  

Mentorship, although commonly undermined and underestimated, places you in a position of observation (and in some instances, participation), allowing you to become more familiar with the craft or career of your choosing. Consider this: having a single conversation with an individual who has soldiered through the trenches of entrepreneurship can spark myriad ideas and transform the way you approach your own business. Imagine then, what magnitude a series of conversations throughout your journey can yield when you answer the call into the world of start-ups. In fact, don’t just imagine; having a mentor should be attached to any business idea that you intend to pursue, so much so, that the idea should be impossible to fulfill without one. 


The benefit of being a protégé to a professional who can enlighten you far outweighs the cost of seeking the right mentor (it can be an intimidating and daunting process finding the right person who is willing to work with you as much as you are willing to work with them). In a 2003 study conducted by Jackson et al., it was reported that mentoring relationships are key to developing productive careers and yield personal satisfaction for both the mentor and the protégé. The ability to have someone who can critique your ideas, give you constructive criticism, and encourage you along the way can eliminate potential setbacks that derive from error. This is not to say that you won’t make mistakes, because you will. However, there is a safety net the works both proactively and retroactively to activate damage control. “Mentors provide a safe, secure culture in which protégés can develop ideas/innovations, ensuring that they receive the recognition their efforts deserve”.

Once you’ve come to terms with the necessity of a mentor/mentee relationship for any startup or entrepreneurial endeavor, “the search” must commence. The search is simply finding someone who is adequate enough to lead you and humble enough to be challenged. Equally important is your connection—how well your personality gels—with the professional. Research suggests that mentor relationships are best formed in unprofessional environments.  Perhaps find common interests and build on those first. Finally, seek someone that can contribute effectively to the circle of inspiration; you inspire him and he inspires you. Mentors gravitate towards rising stars, so show why you deserve to be among and even transcend them.

Entrepreneurship will never be easy, but if you’re prepared you can handle whatever it throws in your direction. Look at it this way: You would never show up to war without your weapon and expect a victory, let alone an easy one, so don’t show up for business without the right tools expecting success to fall in your lap.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When Clients Take a Long Time To Pay

If you’re a business owner or independent contractor, you’ve probably dealt with clients who fail to remunerate you in a timely manner. It can be awkward.

Of course, you’d like your late-paying client to expedite the payment you’ve earned. On the other hand, you don’t want to alienate someone who might otherwise have been inclined to retain your services again in the future, and perhaps tell h/er friends and associates how exemplary your work was.

How can you encourage clients to make timelier payments without sounding overly pushy, souring a professional relationship, and potentially undermining your reputation?

Agree in advance on a payments system that is convenient for the client.

You’ll probably find that different clients have their own preferences with respect to payment methods. Some may favour writing cheques, others may be more comfortable with PayPal, bank transfers, credit card, or even in-person cash transactions.

Set up accounts with multiple secure payment processing services and through your bank. If the client can choose among several payment options, s/he is likely to find one that is convenient for h/er.

Expect to receive payments late, and plan ahead.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t depend on timely payments from invoiced clients. Instead, try to keep a fairly robust cash reserve on hand to cover your own short- and medium-term expenses.

Although you want to encourage all clients to pay on time, realistically you’ll almost certainly encounter laggards here and there. One way to compensate for this is to request payment on a date well in advance of the time when you actually need the money—if possible, leave a margin of at least ten days.

Remember: you’re unlikely to suffer significantly negative consequences from being paid earlier than you expected.

Be clear and specific about when you expect to be compensated.

“Payment on this invoice is due within 20 days” as opposed to “Payment due upon receipt.” (In the latter case, your client could invoke the phony excuse that s/he received your invoice late.)

The clearer and more comprehensible the instructions, the less of an excuse the client has for failing to follow them.

Consider an early-bird discount.

No one enjoys wasting money, and by offering your client a slight discount for early payment, you introduce a direct economic incentive in favour of timelier compensation. Even a discount of one or two percent can provide your client sufficient impetus to get the ball rolling sooner.

Alternatively, you could institute a penalty of one or two percent for late payment.

Send cordial reminders.

If a week or more has passed since the deadline you originally established for payment, it’s reasonable to send the lagging client a gentle reminder, indicating that you would appreciate being compensated for your work as soon as reasonably possible.

Withholding of services is a drastic, but sometimes necessary, step.

You won’t need to resort to withholding services in the vast majority of cases. However, you may encounter a handful of situations in your career where there is simply no reasonable alternative. Your client has failed to pay up despite numerous polite reminders, and you need to draw a line in the sand. 

Your skills have value in the marketplace, you can’t afford to work for free, and you don’t want to garner a reputation for being overly lax on clients who refuse to keep their end of the bargain.