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.

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.