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Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Why Virtual Businesses are the New Norm (Contribution from Ujëbardha Bekolli of Mother-Works)

The following post comes to us from Ujebardha Bekolli who is a writer for mother-works.com. MotherWorks is a job portal designed to bring together stay at home moms and recruiters. The platform also brings helpful articles in the blog section regarding mothers who want to return to the workforce.


why virtual businesses are the new norm

Why Virtual Businesses are the New Norm

People’s lifestyles have changed these past years. With the revolution of the internet, we have discovered that we don’t need to go to an office to do a job. Companies’ ongoing intentions of lowering costs and people’s needs for flexibility, together with the internet revolution have created the perfect climate for a new way of doing business. Virtually.

A virtual business consists of constant activities you have to do in order to create a product or service. So virtual businesses is basically an organization with no office where all of the employees work remotely. The roles are separate, there are managers and supervisors, they just don’t work under the same roof.

But nowadays, remote jobs are not considered only as an option, there are companies who operate completely virtually. Hundreds of companies proving that this is doable and can work. The number of companies operating remotely keeps growing every day. The largest business in the world, Amazon, is a virtual business. Amazon is the world’s largest retailer and employs over 150,000 people. Many businesses operating in the same industry have found it hard to compete with Amazon due to its low cost operating policy and innovative nature.

Amazon is only one example of virtual business, but it shows us that traditional business making is not the only way to go. The way virtual businesses work is by outsourcing many operations to third-party companies, but still keeping some core activities in-house.

How they do it?!

One of the greatest challenges of virtual businesses is recruiting. While most people like the idea of remote working, few are cut out for it. Isolation, time management, and burnout are some of the few challenges employees face when they work remotely.  To overcome these challenges, companies have carefully curated recruiting systems and communication canals that fight that.

There are some characteristics that define people who are fit to work remotely. Better said, there are some things to be established before employees recruit some for a remote job. The ability to take action and prioritize is a key factor when working remotely.

Of course, like with everything else, this way of making business has its advantages and disadvantages.

The Good

Counting down the good and the bad for virtual business is the way to understand why it has become so huge. People’s search for flexible jobs is at its core what makes virtual business the success it is. Not only do virtual businesses offer their employees flexibility, but they become a flexible themselves and adapt to change faster. Another reason is the cutting down of costs. By having a virtual business, you don’t have to pay rent, utilities, energy, water, etc. Even if you have headquarters, the costs are still lower.

In a study conducted by professor Nicholas Bloom, he found that people who are allowed to work from home have higher job satisfaction and work more efficiently in comparison to the ones who had to work in an office.

The Bad

But there are also a few downsides to running your business remotely. Communication becomes harder when all of your employees are operating from different places. This may cause miscommunications, leading to mistakes that could cost the company more. Another thing people are concerned about is the reduced productivity one the people who are not easily self-motivated.

Lastly, it comes down to this. The new way of business making has changed the way we think about efficiency and productivity. People’s needs and demands are changing and companies are finding ways to offer better products and services with lower costs and modernized operations. This is why virtual businesses are the new norm.

Have you had any experience working from a virtual office? Share what you have found to be the highs and lows of this booming trends in businesses by leaving a comment below!

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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business (Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who serves small businesses and startups.


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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business

Did you know that 51% of customers stop doing business after just one negative experience? Research further shows that businesses lose over $62 billion every year on poor customer service.

Precisely because of that, wise small business owners don’t look at great customer support as a cost. For them, this is a chance to increase sales and boost brand loyalty.

Now, when it comes to providing spotless customer support, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few great tactics that will help you take your customer relationships to the next level.

Don’t Overcomplicate Customer Conversations

Providing customer support is not an opportunity for you to showcase your impressive industry knowledge. When reaching out to you, a customer expects to get a specific answer that solves their problem.

Using overly complex technical jargon may cause miscommunication issues and hurt user experience. It may even seem as if you yourself don’t know the answer to the question. To keep your customers happy, you need to speak their language. Simple and effective explanations will boost their satisfaction and motivate them to buy from you again.

Help your Customers Make Payments Faster

The flexibility of your services can get you a long way. Let’s take an example of invoicing, as this is one of the major problems businesses face. Stats say that 64% of businesses have unpaid invoices that have gone unpaid for at least 60 days.

Sure, in the short term, you need to find the right financing method to boost your bottom line. For example, you can improve cash flow with invoice finance. This financing option brings numerous benefits to small businesses and startups. First, invoice finance firms usually pay businesses about 80% of the total sum within 48 hours, meaning you’ll get your money fast. Second, unlike with bank loans, there are no high-interest rates. Finally, invoicing doesn’t hurt user experience and helps you maintain stronger client relationships.

Sure, these are all short-term solutions. To boost your cash flow in the long run, you need to manage your late payments strategically. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your customer support:

  • Offer multiple payment options to boost their buying experience and encourage them to buy from you.
  • B2B businesses should also have a billing policy, where they would clearly state when and how you want to get paid and how you will handle late payments.
  • Send invoices on time to get customers to take them seriously.
  • Automate your rebilling process. With the help of the right software, your customers will be able to track their payments directly from an app, get informed about any failed payments, and get actionable tips to solve these problems faster.

Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time

The demands of a modern customer have changed. They now use multiple channels to communicate with brands. Unsurprisingly, they expect businesses to use these channels, too. Research says most customers expect to get an answer within 2 hours, while 84% of them don’t want to wait longer than a day.

Precisely because of that, you need to need to provide multichannel customer services. Update your contact information on your site regularly and get listed on all major business directories. You should also provide your email address, links to social media support profiles, and live chats. Multichannel communication increases user satisfaction and helps them resolve the problem faster.

Leverage the Power of Social Networks

Many brands have started seeing the value of social networks in building customer relationships. First, you can use AI-powered software like chatbots to provide customers with timely and relevant answers. Today’s chatbots are smart and they’re constantly learning from customer interactions to understand their intent and give relevant feedback.

You can also use social monitoring tools to track your brand/product mentions on social networks and participate in customers’ conversations instantly. These tools give you a great opportunity to identify customers experiencing problems with your products, help them fix these problems effectively, and turn them into brand advocates.

Collect Customer Feedback Regularly

There are numerous metrics you can track to assess your small business’ performance. And, one of the most important ones is customer satisfaction. You need to understand how your customers feel about your brand, what they like, appreciate, or hate about it.

Collecting customer feedback is one of the most significant aspects of customer support, given that 91% of unhappy customers won’t complain about poor experiences with your brand. They will simply leave you for your competitors.

There are numerous ways to do gather user feedback. I’ve already mentioned the importance of social listening and AI-powered chatbots. These tools let you see what questions your customers usually ask and what problems they experience.

You could also create a dedicated feedback form on your website and even reach out to a customer that abandoned the shopping cart. Live chat support can also be effective. Once a customer support agent helps a customer, they can send them feedback. Finally, you can always call a customer and ask them for their opinions directly.

Over to You

With the rise of sophisticated customer relationship management tools, providing subpar customer services are not acceptable anymore. You need to provide timely customer support, answer customer feedback professionally, and customize your customer services. This way, you will build stronger customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.

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About the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

 

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How to Help Your Business Run More Efficiently (Contribution from Kevin Conner)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Kevin Conner who is the founder of Broadbandsearch.net. In this blog, Kevin shares a wealth of experience related to starting and running an efficient business.


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How to Help Your Business Run More Efficiently

Efficiency is the difference between a company that doesn’t make it past year five and a business that succeeds for decades to come. Good efficiency practices show dedication to having good management, reduce wasteful spending, and discipline the culture of your business towards regular and sustainable productivity.

Yet how does one create an efficient business? It’s all about the environment you create and the policies you implement (and don’t implement). Above all else, consider it a mindset, a filter through which you should run all your decisions, even if you wind up deciding on the less efficient option in the end.

Here are some main principles you should keep in mind.

Delegate and Trust

While your instincts may at first tell you that heavy oversight is the key to better efficiency, we want to warn you that it will have a limited effect at best or even be counterproductive. While oversight is important, employees generally won’t like having someone perched on their shoulder all of the time and getting approval from you or a manager for minor, non-essential decisions will only bottleneck projects.

If you feel that you need to keep a close eye, then you don’t have an efficiency problem as much as a personnel problem, and it would be wise to find and hire people you can trust to work professionally and efficiently when you’re not around, at least in key positions. After this, trusting employees will ease your mind, generally let employees come up with the most efficient solutions on their own, and let people reach their greatest potential.

Make Sure Services and Utilities Are Effective and Working

If you’re using online services and technological tools to help you run your business or help employees perform tasks, make sure they’re either the best or the best option for the cost. Competition will breed a lot of new developments, and you might not be using the most efficient service or option anymore.

For example, consider the internet connection set up for your office. If its too slow to either upload necessary content to a webpage or, even worse, slow to download items your business needs, it creates a huge problem for your employees, and fixing the issue will be the best thing you can do for your business.

Automate Whatever Would Be Reasonable

Automation has become the new driving force in efficiency, and while the initial costs can be high to start with, getting a program (or even a machine in some cases) can save you a lot of money through wages otherwise spent on menial tasks. As a general rule, try to automate whatever your employees do that doesn’t utilize them in the tasks they are best at and were hired for doing. Paperwork, office chores, and laborious production steps can all often be automated or mostly automated, and you should investigate solutions to those problems.

Consolidate Tasks

By grouping tasks and improving the logistics of your business, you can increase efficiency by a great deal. Try looking at what tasks are commonly done and checking if you can simply have a dedicated block of time to taking care of them instead of them randomly being spaced throughout the day. Increasing flow around the office is a great way to improve efficiency.

Additionally, a group of specialists can likely do a better and faster job than a similar-sized team of generalists all handling their own tasks. See what tasks you can consolidate to one team member (when doing so wouldn’t put your business at risk) and let improvement happen over time. You’ll soon see productivity numbers go up as people adjust well to their updated agendas.

Focus on Improving the Most Time-Consuming Tasks First

This is a short tip, but one you should keep in mind. You may or may not believe in the 80/20 principle, but you’ll likely find that most of the stress and inefficiency in your business is coming from a few places and only a few places. As hard as it might be at times, we recommend you cut right to the core of those problems instead of distracting yourself with minor inefficiencies elsewhere (they’ll still be around once everything else is taken care of).

Review Tasks Regularly

Sometimes doing things as they always have been done is simply not the best choice for some tasks. New solutions appear and employees, when given some time and freedom to solve problems their way, can be extraordinarily innovative. Therefore, we recommend that at regular intervals (three months would be a good starting point for most companies) you look at your business and list out every major (and some minor but time-consuming) tasks your employees do, making changes where they would help.

This might not be something you want to do alone. Your job isn’t necessarily to know the ins and outs of everyone’s job so well that you can do it better than them. Instead, if you’re not entirely certain where to make changes (if that would be wise at all), talk to the employee about their tasks, and what might be done to improve efficiency, and which ones are truly necessary. Working with your best people on course correction will likely be the best path to success.

Conclusion

Your business will naturally have its own unique needs, and we are certain that there are methods that will work for you on top of those above that will vary based on your industry and team makeup. Yet with the above tips and strategies, you’ll find that your business will run more effectively and efficiently, driving growth forward and making everyone involved happier in the process.


About the author: Kevin Conner is the founder and CEO of Broadbandsearch.net, the U.S.’s leading home services (broadband and TV) search engine. Kevin’s strengths lie in creating a strategic vision and leading a team to successfully execute that vision.

 
 

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How to Find the Perfect Name For Your Business (Guest Contribution from Squadhelp)

The following post comes to us from Grant Polachek, Director of Marketing at Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform serving businesses of all sizes and industries, from small startups to some of the world’s largest corporations. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.


Naming your business is a crucial piece of launching your brand. It is often the first thing potential customers learn about your business. It should draw people in and sum up your brand identity.

Although naming is a challenge, it does not have to feel like stepping off the edge of a cliff blindfolded. With the three stages laid out below, you can streamline your ideas and get the most out of your brand name.

Stage One: Mission and Vision

Outline your brand

When selecting a name, it helps to get all of your ideas in one place. Create a document that you can refer back to throughout your naming process. Include key aspects of your brand. What do you do? What are your values? Why is what you are selling important? If others don’t feel that you’re passionate about your own brand, they will begin to question why they should care about it at all.

Jotting down a few existing business names that you like can help you brainstorm. What do you like about these names? Are you trying to achieve a similar vibe?

Compile a list of eight to ten of your favorite names, then dissect them. Explore these winning name ideas to start. Write a couple of bullet points about what you like about the name and why it works for that company. Dissecting your favorite names can provide direction to your naming process.

Consider your audience

A clothing brand targeted at successful middle-aged professional women will sound nothing like a fashion line for hip students, and there’s a reason. Your brand name should not just be about you, it should be about who you are selling to. Most successful names target a specific audience, drawing them in with values and emotions that resonate with them.

For example, take the investing app Robinhood. Their platform focuses on making the investment process free and accessible for the average person, not just the wealthy. The name of their brand not only summarizes their values perfectly by using the story of the heroic bandit Robin Hood, it also appeals to a millennial audience. The name is youthful and fun, and it aligns with millennial values of convenience and fairness.

Look ahead

Where do you want your brand to be in five years? What about ten years? If you’re planning on starting a company that might expand into new areas down the line, be careful not to choose a name that pigeonholes you. At the start, you may be launching a brand of socks, and you feel that the name SuperSocks could be a great fit, but if you plan to grow into other territories later, taking on accessories like hats and scarves, SuperSocks is no longer a suitable name. Planning ahead can help you avoid a costly rebranding process down the line.

Try to sum up your mission and vision in a few short project statements like this:

● We need a name that captures our fun, unique approach to selling socks.

● We need a name that establishes us as a hip, young brand

● We need a name that hints at our eco-friendly business practices Get started by writing a few project statements of your own.

Stage Two: Get Creative

The essentials

Now that all of your ideas are in one place and you’ve figured out what kind of name you want, you can start coming up with ideas. S

tart with the basic principles of a good name. A strong name is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to hear. If people have a hard time sharing your brand, they won’t share it at all, stunting your brand’s climb to success.

Gather some names

Now, it’s time for the fun part. Jot down every possible name you can think of that might fit the brand you are creating. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box, and don’t be afraid of writing down names you don’t like. The more you have to cross off the list, the better idea you will have of what you are looking for.

Start broad. Some names are descriptive, abstract, emotional, or classic. You can merge words to form a name, or use two separate words to sum up your appeal. Write down a possible example for every name type you can think of. This can help you see what you’re looking for. The more names you have to work with, the better scope you’ll have. Narrow your list Now that you have compiled a broad range of ideas, begin crossing off ones that don’t work for you until you have a list of five or six favorites. This is a great opportunity to get second opinions from friends, family, or even your target market.

When asking questions, don’t just ask “Which of these names is your favorite?” Frame your question neutrally by asking something more along the lines of “Which brand would you want to learn more about?”

Stage Three: Check your Boxes

Secure your domain and assess your risk

A strong domain compliments a good name. Your website is where people will find out more about what you do, so it is best to have as close of a match as possible.

Run a trademark risk test to ensure that your name isn’t already taken by a similar business. If your name is closely related to another name for a business that offers similar services, you may run into trouble with trademark law. Be proactive about trademark risk to avoid messy legal issues.

Coming up with a strong name is a daunting task. So much rests upon a name. It is the sum of your brand’s identity, and it is the first point of connection for your audience. You may feel like all the best names are already taken, or that you have no good ideas, but the perfect name for your business is out there. It just takes a bit of prospecting and brainstorming to find it.

About the Author: Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.

 

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Overcoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription

descriptIf you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article is originally published by Descript.

 

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Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


 

Why Successful Business Owners need a Background in Marketing

Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing

Being successful in the business world means so much more than simply having a great idea. Though you will not get far if you don’t have a unique or innovative idea, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a business.

Knowing how to market your business is extremely important and can seriously affect how others view your business and the products or services that you provide. Having basic experience or knowledge in the field of marketing before you start your business is a huge asset. This doesn’t need to be a formal degree. It can be a general understanding of marketing fundamentals and an appreciation for the important role they play in growing a successful business.

Business owners who have a background in marketing and who can think like a marketing professional, when needed will have a significant competitive advantage for the following reasons.

Goal Driven – A strong marketing sense will tell you that one of the first things you need to do when starting a business is to have a clear path for where you want to go and have goals that will get you there. If you do this, you will be able to have better control over your business and where you want it to go, rather than going in blind, and not having a plan. Your goals should encompass everything from business development and marketing to human resources and infrastructure.

Vision for the Future – With a marketing mindset, you will be able to create a business that has a vision for the future. There are various ways to ensure the success of your business, but at minimum you must have a long-term marketing strategy in place that will dictate the products and services you provide to your customers, how they’re priced and how they’re promoted.

Knowing the Target Market – Every successful business owner knows how to identify their target market so that they can sell their goods and services to the right people. Identifying your target market will help you when it comes to promoting your business because you will have a highly focused marketing and advertising strategy that will effectively and efficient use your resources.

Depending on what you are selling and who you’re trying to reach, you will market your business in very different ways. For example, if you are running a clothing store that caters to a young, female audience, your social media presence will be highly important. Compare this to a retirement community who needs to reach an older demographic that’s not likely active on social media, and your marketing strategy drastically changes.

Understanding the Competition – Having a clear idea of who your competitors are and how they market their businesses can help you figure out the best way to market your own business. If the strategies that they are using are successful, then you may want to emulate some of their ideas.

However, it’s also important to separate yourself from our competition, making sure you stand out and that your business is memorable. For example, retail giants Kmart and Target are very similar and even sell some of the same products, but the way that they market themselves separates them from each other, and in turn, they attract different clientele. If you can execute a marketing strategy that is different from your competitors’, then you may be able to tap into a part of the market that they don’t normally reach and in turn, increase your overall sales.

Brand Power– Knowing your brand is extremely important when it comes to marketing your business. It has a profound impact on how you connect with your target audience and how they perceive the value and quality of your business.

For example, the WholeFoods brand attracts a very different clientele than people who choose to purchase their groceries at Wal-Mart. Both brands are successful and have become household names, however the fact is they have strategically chosen to establish different brands and as a result appeal to different target markets. Think carefully about how you want people to feel about your business and the goods or services you provide. You must carefully craft a consistent brand to reflect this.

How would you rate you marketing knowledge ad know-how? If you could benefit from stronger marketing skills, consider Upskilled – a company that helps you to study at any level in any field to get the qualifications and skills you need to further yourself in your career. You’re given support from people who have industry experience and knowledge, and you can study from the comfort of your own home.

Upskilled has everything on offer from short courses to Bachelor’s degrees that are suitable for all skill-sets. Upskilled offers a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), that is a valuable enhancement for someone who is looking to learn about business and marketing and how they go hand in hand in today’s economy. Upskilled also offers plenty of other short courses with a business or marketing focus, so no matter where you are in your career, you can expand your knowledge.

Join in the conversation! Do you agree that having a background in marketing in beneficial for business owners? What other qualities create successful business owners? Leave a comment below!

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

 

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5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

For many, the hardest decision you will make as an entrepreneur is the first one: the decision to go out on your own. In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the idea of running a business can be intimidating, to say the least. But once you get over this hurdle and realize fear and hesitation are the only things standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals, you’re well on your way to entrepreneurial success.

As you likely already know, though, it’s not that simple. Getting started with your own company is like riding a roller coaster in the dark. Each up and down is intense, and it’s hard to know what’s coming next.

To try and make things a little easier, we’ve come up with a list of five decisions that every entrepreneur needs to make early on in the life of their company. By highlighting these, we hope you’ll be able to focus in a little more on what you need to be doing to make your company work so that you can weather the storm as it comes your way, worry a bit less and take one more step towards success.

The decision making will never end, and it will soon turn into your most critical task, but here are some key choices you’ll need to make right off the bat to set your company up for a healthy future.

 1. Your ideal customers

You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to clearly define their target audience. Often times, entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea that they don’t stop to think who might want to spend money on it. A good idea is a good idea, and there is likely a business to be built around it, but without clearly defining your target audience, the initial stages of your business will be a real challenge.

The important thing to remember when going through this process is to be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to just say you are hoping to target urban Millennials. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself how your product or service might factor into their life. What need are you fulfilling? Or, how are you making their life better or more comfortable?

By answering these questions, you will have a more specific idea as to who you need to be going after and how you are going to reach them. For example, you may find that your audience is men between the ages of 20-35 who live in cities, earn above-average salaries and have an active lifestyle. This is vital information, as it will help determine your marketing and advertising strategies going forward.

Furthermore, once you make this decision, a lot of other decisions will become easier. All you need to do is ask yourself: Is this going to help me reach my target audience? If the answer is yes, proceed. If no, then keep working. Taking the time to be very clear about this part of the business right from the beginning is an essential step to ensuring the success of the company.

2. Management style and company culture

While you as the entrepreneur may be the brains behind the operation, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can pull this off on your own. You are going to need to bring in a good team to help you get off the ground, and then once you do, you are going to need a growth plan. What types of employees are you looking for? Which ones are you trying to avoid?

A big part of this is also your management style. Are you going to run things more top-down? Or do you plan to be more decentralized, delegating certain decisions to those more qualified to make them?

You’ll also want to take a look at yourself as a leader and manager and figure out how to improve. There are plenty of things we do without realizing that affect how employees view us and act towards us, and you really won’t see this until you are in a position of leadership.

Take some time to figure out what you want your company culture to be. You may think of culture as something that develops organically, and to a certain extent it is, but you can have a significant impact on the direction it goes. A lot of companies are adopting a more laid-back approach, offering their employees more and more benefits, such as unlimited vacation time and free coffee of the month subscriptions, as a way of trying to foster engagement and buy-in. This may or may not be the right approach for you, and this is something you’ll want to figure out as soon as possible.

All of these things should be figured out in the beginning because as you grow it will be harder and harder to make time for this type of planning. Spend some time as you are getting started and you’ll find yourself managing growth much better, setting your company up for success in the future.

 3. Exit strategy

When first starting out with a company, the idea of an exit strategy seems far away. But it’s actually very important to consider. Planning out your exit strategy means thinking long-term. It allows you to align resources so that you can move forward at the right time.

An exit strategy can come in the form of an initial public offering (IPO), a sale or a merger, but the thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to implement the strategy. If things are going well, you have every freedom to stay with the business. But plotting out from the beginning how you might exit gets you thinking big picture and this can only help your business.

Plus, having a clearly defined exit strategy plays very well with investors. They want to know how they are going to get their money, and demonstrating to them how this will happen increases your chances of securing the resources you need to get your company off the ground and heading towards prosperity.

 4. Marketing and branding

It’s never too early to start thinking about branding. In today’s competitive marketplace, having a strong brand is going to be what ultimately sets you apart. Much like the decisions you’ll make about company culture, choosing your branding strategy needs to be one of the first things you do.

Figure out what makes you unique, determine what you want to stand for and do some research to figure out the best way to communicate this to people. Social media is huge for building your brand, and if your target audience uses this medium, you may want to consider hiring an agency or consultant to help you.

In fact, this may be one of the best decisions you make as an entrepreneur. Successful marketing requires a full-time approach, and too many small companies try to do it on their own, only to end up wasting their precious resources without seeing results. It’s your job to do the high-level strategic thinking. Then, bring in some experts to help you execute your plan.

5. Cybersecurity

Here’s one not too many entrepreneurs think about, and it’s a real shame that they don’t. Cybercrime and hacking is the threat of the future, and small businesses are being increasingly targeted. They’re easier to get to, as they don’t always invest in the right protection, but they still possess valuable information. And the damage a hack causes to your reputation is often far too much for any small company to overcome.

Figure out how you’re at risk and what you need to do to protect yourself. Cybersecurity infrastructures can be expensive, and the last thing you want to do is to have to shut down your website or other services so that you can install new security measures. Don’t let cybersecurity become an afterthought. You’ll pay for it down the road.

Final thoughts

From the moment you decided to become an entrepreneur, you essentially converted yourself into a full-time decision maker. As the business grows, you will be faced with increasingly challenging choices, but with experience, you’ll learn what’s best for your business. However, until you reach this point, things can be a bit stressful. Consider these critical decisions every entrepreneur needs to make so that you can start your business heading in the right direction.

Join in the conversation! Among these five decisions an entrepreneur must make, which one do you feel is the most critical?

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

 

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