Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coping with Failure

There are unlimited mantras, quotes, and stories dedicated to coping with failure. This is perhaps because it is a well-accepted fact that failure is simply a part of life. Starting and running a business is often subject to the same outcome. In fact, failure is often a welcomed disposition in the discourse of entrepreneurship because it helps to shape and reshape a successful business.  Failure should never be a deterrent from pursuing your business goals. Rather, it should be embraced and perhaps anticipated. In this article, we’ll explore coping with failure in business and using it as a sword rather than a shield.
 
Business failure can span anywhere from an unsuccessful marketing or promotional method to the complete termination. Regardless of what failure looks like in this particular context, it has an impact on the psyche of the self-employed individual who started or took over the business. 

According to Bruno, McQuarrie, and Torgrimson in an article published in Journal of Business Venturing, the self-employed appear to have an emotional relationship with their business.  More specifically, the motivation for managing one’s business spans beyond personal profit, into loyalty to a product, loyalty to a market and customers, and the need to prove one’s self. When you consider these elements of this emotional relationship, it becomes clear, first, why failure elicits such a huge response in business and second, why the way in which you recover is much more important than the failure itself.  So, how do you cope? How do you recover?

1. Learn
                       
One of the best ways to cope with failure in business is to make a conscious decision to learn from it. In a 2003 article published in Academy of Management Review, Dean Shepherd suggests, “learning from business failure occurs when you can use the information available about why the business failed to revise your existing knowledge of how to manage your own business effectively.”  This requires the ability to stare failure in the face and accept that you are still a student even when you run the business. It further requires an ability to “revise assumptions about the consequences” of previous decisions, actions, and omissions.  When you can approach your failure in an evaluative manner, you are more likely to have a successful outcome.

2.  Anticipate and Rehearse

“Don’t make the same mistake twice”.  This warning cannot be echoed loud enough in business. When you’ve done something wrong or insufficient a first time it should prompt you to be more careful the second time around. In other words, you should anticipate an error; rehearse with that error in mind and control for it.  Many entrepreneurs have had to test and retest prototypes continuously to ensure it is failure proof.  Sometimes this means getting out of your comfort zone and being completely transparent.  The more you dissect your product or service piece by piece and ask yourself “how can this fail”, the closer you get towards a product or service you can proudly stand behind in success. This will not make you failure proof, but it can certainly minimize the outcome of same and teach you more about yourself as a business owner.

3.  Think Positively

One of the immediate responses to failure is negativity. A close second is doubt. These two devils can drive your business into hell if you allow them to manifest and percolate.  When you’ve come face to face with failure, take a few minutes to cry and scream if you have to. But once those minutes have expired, commend yourself for your effort, feed your mind with positive affirmations, and most importantly, saturate yourself with acceptance. Accept that the one thing that makes you most like any other business is your susceptibility to failure. Once you’ve acknowledged that, immediately begin rebuilding, modifying, or changing your direction.

4. Start Again

Some of the biggest companies that exist today have failed hundreds of times before getting their big breaks; Apple and Disney are prime examples. Failing just might be the answered prayer you didn’t know you need. It can challenge you into success. Don’t pressure yourself with deadlines if your product isn’t ready. Take your time with your craft. If you love it, you’ll be tender and starting over will only allow you to become more intimate with your business. Embrace a fresh start.

Failure is a part of life and that life doesn’t stop when you acquire a business. Instead, it becomes much greater. Consequently, your failures will increase, but so will your successes.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Getting Acquainted With the Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Psychologists have proven, through continuous research, that behaviour can be learned through observation and mirroring. They also purport that it takes 21 days of consistency for an individual to make or break a habit. Why is this important to entrepreneurship? Well, your success as an entrepreneur can lie heavily on the monitoring, observing, and putting into action some of the habits, techniques and practices that are common among entrepreneurs and small business owners who have propelled their careers beyond the confines of “a single start up”. Many entrepreneurs credit their success to modeled behaviour and plans. Consequently, we have compiled a list of some of the habits of successful entrepreneurs to help steer you in the right direction and give you a head start on your return on investment.

Watch the company you keep.

If you want to attain entrepreneurial success, you should find yourself in the company of those who have gone before you and have excelled. You can learn a lot from people who are smarter than you. Don’t let their knowledge dissuade or intimidate you. They, too, once had a startup (in many cases, of humble beginnings). Once you’ve selected the individuals you want in your circle, refrain from suffocating yourself with business and business-related tasks and conversation. 

To elaborate, refrain from meeting these  “role models” in networking and business settings. Instead, spend time with them at sporting events, barbeques, or even light coffee. If you surround yourself with successful business owners beyond the context of business, you create the opportunity to learn how they live their lives on a day-to-day basis. Conclusively, if you intend on starting an accounting firm, make sure accountants make up a percentage of your “friends group”. 

Be intentional about your day-to-day routine.

Successful entrepreneurs rarely complain about lacking enough hours in the day. They recognize that everyone is allotted the same time and it is the use of that time that is transformative. If you are a morning person, wake up early to capitalize on your hours of productivity. That doesn’t mean waking up at 7 a.m. It means really taking advantage of the time you complete your best work. That may translate into a 4:00 a.m. call time. If you want to maximize your daily productivity potential, you must take your body’s cues seriously. Recognize that work is just as important as rest and when there’s an imbalance of these two things, you and your business are bound to suffer. Further, incorporate time for exercise, personal time, and quality time with family and friends. Once you’ve settled on your day-to-day routine, be consistent.

Make use of the short-list.

When you own a business, your to-do list is often eternal. The list itself might discourage you from completing any work at all. In other instances, it can be so demanding that you seldom complete tasks in a reasonable manner.  Successful entrepreneurs report condensing tasks to two to three priority items each day. As a result, in the likely event that you do not get through your entire list, your most important tasks are completed daily. This technique keeps you accountable, increases task completion, and provides an overall picture for your efficiency. Additionally, short-lists function as an evaluation tool on how to run and grow your business.

Aim high.

Finally, one of the most common emotional traits that persist among entrepreneurs is doubt. Will this work? What if I fail? Is this the right way? Will they buy it? Should I do this? The second-guessing disease is correlated with goal setting. The more you second-guess yourself, the smaller the goals. Successful entrepreneurs aim high, no matter how unsure they are. Why? Because starting a business is a risk and that’s where the magic happens in many instances. Will the outcome always be favourable? Probably not, but at least you can edit and go back to the drawing board when something does not work out.

It is better to aim high and land somewhere at the top than to aim low and hit the mark.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Importance of Market Research

Most entrepreneurs are inexperienced and ignorant to the discourse of business when they first embark on the journey of managing a company.  It’s not a bad thing, but it is a fact worth acknowledging. That being said, a vast majority of starting a business is education and in many instances, that education is informal and self taught. One of the greatest challenges of an independent business education is the experimental learning of trial and error.  Some aspects of business will only make sense once you’ve tried it a few times and realize what is missing. Other aspects will come quickly and immediately and will pose no further threat to your business.

The pedagogical journey of entrepreneurship consists of a series of fundamental factors that should be considered and practiced for any serious contention for a successful business. One of these factors is market research; how well will your product or service perform in the market? Often overlooked due to costs, time, and significance, market research can make or break any business idea.  We want your business venture to start off in a way that will encourage growth. As such, we’ve outlined our top three reasons why market research should be on your priority list.

Market research reaffirms your business idea

When you have a concept or idea and you wish to convert it into a product or service, market research helps you understand who your target audience is, whether there is indeed a demand or interest in your product, and ultimately your business’ success potential. For example, if you anticipate your target audience to be young adults between the ages of 18 and 27, but upon reviewing the data from your surveys and focus groups you notice that middle-aged persons express a greater benefit from the product, you may need to redesign your business model taking into account middle-aged individuals.  On the other hand, you might also find that there is absolutely no interest whatsoever and your investment may not be worth it. Market research is simply a strong editing tool that can refine your business to properly meet the needs of your consumers.

Knowing your numbers

Numbers are vital to a business. How much will you pay? How much will your consumers pay?  Are you competitive enough? Market research assists in money management. If you understand who your ideal consumer is, you can further assess how much they are willing to pay for your product. Additionally, it will gauge how much money you need to invest to obtain a beneficial return. Research will highlight the monetary relationship between the business and the consumer. If your intended audience is women, but they are from low-income brackets, you must consider the likelihood that they will impact your business financially, particularly in a way that will encourage steady growth. 

Further, market research, in the form of business-to-business comparison, can help you determine whether your prices are too high or too low and how competitive you will be among your entrepreneurial peers. This research can often be obtained by simple web searches and do not require much time. It is an easy way to gain some perspective on your business.

 Business and Market Predictability

Market research can reveal how your business will perform in its initial stages as well as the future. Granted, there are a myriad of factors that can cause predictions to deviate, it is still a reliable tool for estimates on what to expect. The research can guide contingency plans and business projections.

Whether you decide to limit your research to the web or other minimal resources or you choose to spend thousands of dollars in quantitative and qualitative data collection, market research will have a positive effective on your entrepreneurial pursuits. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Networking

Many business professionals, educational institutions and other agents of commerce continually stress the importance of networking. This is quite possibly because they foresee, witness, and experience the tremendous benefits that derive from opportunities of connection. Networking is like a good pair of shoes that never goes out of style. Whether you’re just stepping into the field of entrepreneurship or you have been running your business for a long while, it is still the perfect fit that will get you to that next step.  No matter where you are on the spectrum of entrepreneurship and business ownership, you have something to gain from connecting with likeminded individuals. Below are our five reasons why you should be networking. Take advantage of them.

Information
           
Networking is an outlet for information. People attend to both talk and listen. We suggest that while it is imperative that you speak and promote your business in these kind of forums, it is fundamental that you use networking opportunities to soak up as much information as you possibly can. Listen for what’s working in your industry and what pitches and approaches have been unsuccessful. What are the current trends? Which individuals should you be speaking with? What more can you learn? Who is your competition? How can you stand out? There is no limit to the information you can gather at a networking event. At the very least, it is a soundboard to reassure you of your progress, setbacks or need for a little positive and negative information is useful to a growing business.

Increase business/referrals

As a business owner, it is your job to promote your company and increase your clientele. Networking events facilitate this in a way that is less formal and stuffy.  There’s no Powerpoint presentation, no folders, and no necessary major pitch. You simply speak about your business and hand out your business cards. It is your key opportunity to be as real as possible without feeling the pressure of having to book a client. You go at your own pace, choose the people you want to talk to, and keep the conversations lighthearted.  Entrepreneurs tend to excel at networking due to the natural flow of the conversations. Additionally, you can be more creative in your approach to draw people to you. For example, wear a statement piece (jewelry, shoes, etc.) that is guaranteed to strike up a conversation. Although most networking events are less pressure-filled, it is crucial however, to maintain an objective standard of professionalism as you are still representing your company.

 Making connections

Let’s face it; every business needs resources to contribute to the growth and acceleration of business. Networking provides such opportunities. You are exposed to different individuals who are experts in subjects that you are less familiar with. They may also have capital that your business may benefit from or perhaps you’ve heard they invest in certain kinds of businesses. Your attendance significantly increases your connection potential. Use that opportunity to build and grow.  Once you have exposed your business to likeminded individuals who believe in your company and your vision, it can secure a connection that may transform your business for the better.

Tackle unanswered questions

Networking is your “Q and A” forum. If you’re feeling uncertain about your business or perhaps your next step, use networking to share ideas, receive feedback, and alleviate your uncertainty. Additionally, speak specifically with individuals who know more that you and pick their brain.
           
Building your profile and confidence

Finally, networking is your runway. It is where you strut your stuff so that your colleagues can put a face to your name and you can build your profile. It is always where you go to gain your confidence. Most of the people you are intimidated by are just like you.  Find comfort in that. Believe in your ability, believe in your business and be confident.  

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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How To Ensure Your Business Remains Innovative As It Grows

As companies get larger, there is a tendency for them to lose some of the innovative edge and versatility that defined them as start-ups and young enterprises. Several factors common to larger firms contribute to this, including increased bureaucracy and more rigid, hierarchical command structures.

Accordingly, one of the challenges that growing businesses face involves keeping the company nimble, and ensuring that the workforce and leadership alike continue to adapt to technology and changing market conditions.

Encourage experimentation, with some margin for error.

All businesses strive to offer products and services that are commercially viable, and for larger firms in particular, a preoccupation with maximizing shareholder value can intensify those commercial pressures. Unfortunately, a drive for immediate windfalls can undermine more sophisticated forms of innovation that require time and capital investment to develop.

Major innovations cannot happen without experimentation, and experimentation is inherently risky. Many successful businesses have invested in products and technologies that never really took off. (Think of Google Glass, or QR codes, for example.) To genuinely innovate, managers must be willing to take risks on novel concepts that may not always pan out.

Consider the potential, and not just past achievements, of job candidates.

In applying for a position at your company, job candidates will typically emphasize their past experience and achievements that are relevant to the role—and well they should. But in looking to hire and promote, don’t get so fixated on the past successes of a candidate that you overlook the potential of applicants to grow as individuals and expand their skill sets.

In the recruitment stage, in interviews, and in personality surveys, try to incorporate questions that will reveal whether a candidate is curious, open to new approaches to old problems, and believes in h/er own potential to cultivate new skills.

One question that may reveal all of these attributes is: “What new skills or knowledge have you gained in the past year, and what did the learning process involve?” Alternatively, the common interview question “Do you have any questions for me?” can help bring out the curiosity, level of engagement, and preparedness of the candidate. Consider giving job candidates an assignment that will test their skills and approach to problem-solving.

Personal accountability matters.

One of the most important attributes of strong leaders is a capacity to assume responsibility when something goes wrong. In other words, they believe the locus of control is primarily internal rather than external. These are the types of individuals you should seek to hire and promote.

Personal responsibility is important from the perspective of organizational growth. Individuals who are willing to assume primary responsibility for their own shortcomings are more likely to learn from them and modify their approach. By contrast, those who convince themselves that their errors are entirely attributable to bad luck or circumstances beyond their control risk missing the lesson.

Reflect on your performance.

It’s not enough to merely work harder or put in longer hours when your business faces a challenge: you need a plan to help steer your efforts in a productive direction. Real learning requires not only hard work and persistence, but also active mental engagement.

One practice that can help is daily reflection—over the course of the work day, what did you do well, what would you have done differently if offered a second chance, and where do you see room for improvement? To facilitate this kind of reflection, you can encourage staff to keep a work journal, and set aside time (10-15 minutes of the workday) for entry-writing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting The Most Out Of Focus Groups

Large organizations, including corporations, academic institutions, and government agencies, have recruited focus groups for decades to help them gain insight into the wants, needs, and behaviour of the public. For businesses, it’s useful to ascertain what current and potential customers and clients are looking for, and the focus group can be a cost-effective and highly revelatory source of information.

Consider the following points when you’re planning to recruit focus groups, so that you can separate the signal from the noise and ultimately derive useful data from the sessions.

The overall composition of the groups should accurately reflect your target demographic.

While this principle seems like common sense, its importance is difficult to overstate. A series of focus groups whose composition substantially differs from that of the target demographic won’t necessarily yield helpful data.

What age are your prospective clients or customers? Gender? Marital circumstances? Ethnicity, or mix of ethnicities? What language(s) do they speak? Where and in what circumstances do they live?

The better you can form a mental picture of your customer/client base before you begin recruitment, the more informative your focus group sessions are likely to be.

Stay on track.

One the of purposes of a focus group is to enable participants to share their own thoughts and feelings in an open, accepting environment, and in relative spontaneity. But whenever you gather strangers or acquaintances together and encourage them to converse spontaneously, the discussion is likely to wander off topic. This is where the skill set of a competent moderator becomes essential.

Attributes you should look for in a moderator include patience, firmness, articulacy, strong organization skills, the ability to appear neutral and impartial over the course of the discussion, and ideally some credible previous experience in the field. A moderator will also occasionally need to call on participants who haven’t said anything in a while, to encourage their input.

Would Goldilocks approve of the size of your group?

A focus group that is too small will tend to be stilted and fail to generate rich discussion. On the other hand, when the group is overly large, it will tend to segment into several smaller cliques, or a core group will form that excludes participants on the periphery.

Ideally, the scale of your group should be six to 10—not too big, not too small, but just the right size to facilitate an inclusive, respectful, productive exchange of ideas.

Ask the right questions.

To design effective questions for a focus group, you must begin by posing one to yourself: What exactly do you want to know? Until you can narrow down what you’re looking for, you’ll find it difficult to design questions that are specific enough to meet your needs.

You’ll also want to limit the number of questions to a manageable level. A good rule of thumb is that the number of questions (except for clarifying queries that the moderator may inject once in a while) should be roughly equal to the number of participants.

One of the main advantages of a focus group over a survey is the opportunity for participants to modify their views during the discussion. It’s common for a focus group participant to end the session with an opinion significantly different from the one s/he started with.

Conduct at least three or four unique group sessions.

This is likely the minimum you’ll require in order to generate valid, applicable results.

Each session should last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Beyond that point, group productivity tends to stall, and you’ll probably have covered all of your questions anyway.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the “saturation point”.

When new focus group sessions aren’t generating many new ideas, you’ve probably retrieved about as much data as you can reasonably expect from the focus group endeavour. It’s time to wrap up and analyze what you’ve collected.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dealing With an Unproductive Colleague

Among the most common complaints that employees of large organizations and co-founders of businesses express, involve a colleague or associate who doesn’t seem to pull h/er own weight.

This situation can become especially awkward if the aggrieved party and the espied slacker share equal authority within an organization. The reason for this is straightforward: bosses have the authority to keep under-performers in line, and to dismiss them if the problem persists. But staff members and associates who occupy the same position in the organizational hierarchy as an alleged slacker don’t have this luxury, and face a multifaceted dilemma.

Is it better to confront the offending party, or try to ignore the issue? Face to face, or by reporting the problem to superiors or other colleagues? What about the risk of being labeled a tattle-tale, the potential strain on interpersonal relationships, or even the prospect of retaliation? What if it becomes one person’s word against another’s?

How does the perceived slacker’s underperformance affect you?

The answer to this question will determine whether it’s worth your time and energy to actively address the problem.

If the behaviour of the alleged slacker affects your work and professional relationships very little, or not at all, then you’re better off minding your own business. On the other hand, if your ability to complete job tasks and/or your rapport with colleagues and superiors suffers due to an unproductive colleague, then you have a legitimate concern and should take action.

Once you resolve to act, your first step (barring extraordinary circumstances) should be to address the matter directly with the perceived slacker.

Start by favouring diplomacy over confrontation.

Even if you suspect your colleague’s lack of productivity owes to laziness, don’t assume that. Your colleague may be experiencing a legitimate mental health issue, may be distracted by difficult conditions in h/er personal life that are beyond h/er control, or may have an easily resoluble gap in h/er skill set that is slowing h/er down.
 
Instead of adopting a confrontational tone, try approaching the issue tactfully at first—e.g. “Is everything OK? I’ve noticed that you seem less engaged with this task than you normally are.” Then ask if there’s anything you can do to help. The “slacker” may call your attention to a factor you hadn’t considered that changes your perception of the problem. Be prepared to afford h/er the benefit of the doubt.

This exchange also gives you an opportunity to clarify exactly what you expect from your underperforming colleague, and ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Use impersonal, non-accusatory language, and cite specific examples.

Outward hostility on your part can cause your interlocutor to shut down or become defensive; you’ll effectively sabotage the conversation right at the outset. Pay close attention to the language and tone you use.

Instead of leading with “When you do (or fail to do) X, it makes me Y,” go with something like “Last week, this (specific event) happened, and consequently I had to remain at work late in order to complete some unfinished tasks. That experience was frustrating and unpleasant for me.”

Don’t make the conversation any more personal than it needs to be. Ultimately, the issue is not your colleague’s personality or character; it is h/er behaviour, which consists of identifiable actions and omissions. Keep a documentary record of these, and of your own efforts to improve the situation, so you can be accountable and transparent.

Don’t involve your boss or higher authorities unless you have to.

The capacity to deal with relatively minor, day-to-day differences of opinion in a constructive manner is a valuable skill. If you are an employee or middle-manager, don’t involve higher-ups in a “slacker” case unless you believe the problem is too serious for you to solve on your own.

Addressing a colleague’s underperformance directly with that person has two big advantages over reporting to higher authorities right away: 1) it is friendlier and more conducive to an amicable working relationship moving forward; 2) it shows that you are prepared to take initiative and demonstrate leadership in dealing with interpersonal conflict at work.

If you and the “slacker” are joint founders of a business, it is even more essential for you to confront the issue head-on rather than let it fester.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Finding Your Calling

Nearly everyone wants a career that is emotionally, spiritually, and financially rewarding. But unfortunately, a lot of people never find that professional sweet spot—either because their passion
doesn’t happen to pay well, or because they feel stuck at a job they dislike for the sake of a steady paycheque.

To achieve a fulfilling career, think about how you can find synergy between your professional endeavours and your personal affinities, values, and strengths.

Let your character and values be your compass.
 
Consider your basic personality traits. Are you typically organized or disorganized? Are you patient and deliberate, or do you prefer to see results quickly? Extroverted, or introverted? Analytical, or intuitive?

Most importantly, what are the principles you believe in most strongly?

We can all imagine blatant examples of career mismatches: people who are vegetarians and vegans for ethical reasons shouldn’t become butchers; innumerate individuals are unlikely to thrive as accountants.

But there are many more subtle instances of career misalignment as well. If you like to keep moving and spend much of your time outdoors, a sedentary office job may wear you down. And if you have an artistic flair, you may desire significant creative autonomy, and feel frustrated if your career path doesn’t offer that.

Perseverance and resiliency are essential.

The main difference between a dream and a goal, is that a goal revolves around a concrete and achievable plan. But there is another important distinction: dreams occupy the realm of fantasy, while goals must contend with reality. In dreams, you can envision your own triumphs, but not necessarily the barriers that stand in the way.

In the real world, meaningful success rarely happens overnight—in fact, it often requires years, if not decades. You might have an extraordinary passion for something, but you’ll also be competing against many other individuals and organizations that share your enthusiasm. Almost invariably, you will encounter a great deal of rejection and shortfalls before you experience the thrill of victory. To bring your vision to fruition, you’ll need to remain committed to your goals through thick and thin.

An alternative mental approach to failure or rejection is to remember that your disappointments needn’t define you or even necessarily set you back. You can instead look at them as stepping stones that bring your closer to your final goal by affording you valuable lessons and experience.

Instead of “work-life balance”, think about your life’s work.

Of course, human beings are social animals, and it’s important to make time for family and friends outside of work hours. Your physical and mental health also depend on a healthy diet and regular exercise.

However, the optimal career path for you should bring you enough satisfaction that you believe your time on the job is beneficial to you, and that your work is fully integrated into the life you want. This is one reason why the concept of “work-life balance” is flawed: it implies that a firewall should separate your profession from the rest of your existence, and not that your career endeavours are a vital component of your life.

Instead of trying to achieve equilibrium between work and “life”, consider instead what you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime, and why. If you can’t identify how your current professional trajectory is helping you achieve the long-term goals you’ve set for yourself, then it’s time to contemplate a career change.