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how to start your own business

Life
How To Make Your Business Dream A Reality
October 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm 0
business-woman-white-suit Recently we heard from many of you that you would like to start your own business. Being an entrepreneur is amazing - you have control over your own destiny, you reap the rewards of your success instead of the big corporation you work for, and you manage your own schedule. But according to Scott Belsky, having too many great ideas can actually work against you! This article was originally posted on Entreprenuer.com, and we've re-posted it here to here to help you clear the idea clutter & get focused. --- Belsky, 30, author of Making Ideas Happen (Portfolio, 2010), argues that most entrepreneurs suffer from idea-to-idea syndrome, jumping from one big idea to the next while executing none. Startup failure rates suggest he's right, and he's built a business to address the problem. Belsky is the founder of Behance LLC, a firm in New York City which operates a networking website for creative professionals called The Behance Network, a tip site for productivity junkies called The99Percent.com, and sells web-based productivity software based on the Action Method. The Action Method breaks work into a series of steps represented by verbs that specify the next things to be done in executing an idea. Write the plan. Ship the product. Invoice the customer. Here are Belsky’s three tips for using the Action Method to create a company that executes. 1.Hire the killjoys. The first step to activating the Action Method, Belsky says, is to create an "immune system" that kills ideas. This means hiring killjoys to capture every action step and say no to new ideas -- rightfully so, in most cases. "It's important for entrepreneurs to hire people they don't necessarily want to have a beer with but who can be the immune system in their startup," Belsky says. Founders sometimes play this role, too. Francis Pedraza, a long-time Reserve Officer Training Corps student from a military family, enforces focus at his Ithaca, N.Y.-based startup of 17 fellow Cornell University students, The DoBand Campaign. DoBand is a social network where participants hold each other accountable to get things done. Each participant has a wearable band that identifies them and their proposed tasks. Pedraza, who manages the company using Belsky's Action Method productivity software, says the team's performance slipped during the summer months while working remotely. Upon their return in the fall, he brought in new team members, challenged others and cut those who weren't performing. "If you've got enough guts to fire one or two people on the team, miracles start to happen," Pedraza says. In this case, he and his team raised $75,000 in funding just a few months into the life of the business. 2. Work with a bias toward action. No doubt accountability is a key feature of the action-oriented startup, but perhaps the most important attribute is a propensity to act. For that to occur, Belsky says entrepreneurs need to unlearn some things. "It's important, in the early stages of a creative project, to almost do the opposite of what we're taught growing up, which is to think before we act," Belsky says. "Startups have to recognize that their competitive advantage against the big guys is that they have the space to [experiment]." What they don't have is time. Today's startups build and release products in days rather than months. In that environment, action is a survival skill, Belsky says, especially if the original concept was right all along. Evan Saks, founder of build-to-order mattress maker Create-A-Mattress.com in Needham, Mass., learned this lesson the hard way. He says his team spent two months talking with suppliers about adding options before his design agency pushed him to focus on getting the company's website live. Feedback would dictate changes, the agency's owner said. It was just the wake-up call Saks needed. "Following that meeting, I created a roadmap that let the other vendors see there was a place for them in the future. Then, I set the roadmap aside and put all energies into launching the core website the way it was originally conceived," Saks says. 3.Change your vocabulary. While taking action can be the key to getting unstuck, talking action is often necessary to produce growth. "You need an environment where people are obsessed with taking action steps," Belsky says. This behavior manifests in various ways. Belsky says he's seen action-obsessed managers run meetings in which no one's allowed to sit. The thinking: Weak-kneed participants are more likely to keep discussion short and focused. Others force meeting participants to speak aloud the action steps assigned to them. The theory? If you speak what you intend to do aloud, you're more likely to do it. Atlanta-based brand development agency Matchstic uses this second tactic to improve how its teams and project managers work together. It wasn't always this way. In the past, project managers would take client requirements and pass them along to team participants and wait for results. When team members failed to get things done, the project manager would bear the consequences. Recognizing this problem, Matchstic chief strategist and co-founder Craig Johnson says management bought Belsky's book for everyone on the team. They read it together in the spring, and as an agency, began to change their approach to getting things done. Now, no meeting ends without every participant reviewing his or her action steps. Revenue is up 30 percent since, Johnson says. "Adopting action-oriented vocabulary in our office has made a huge difference in how things get done," Johnson says. "If something doesn't get done, it's clear who's dropped the ball, which means people drop the ball much less often." Uniting Against Idea Overload Belsky isn't the only business thinker who sees having too many ideas as potentially toxic. In addition to Behance's networking group, the company also hosts a popular productivity think tank called The 99 Percent, a tribute to legendary inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison, who famously quipped that genius is "one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration." This same community also gathers annually at a conference attended by many of the business elite, including venture capitalist Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures and early investor in Twitter who spoke at last year's confab. The next conference is scheduled for May 5-6, 2011, at the Times Center in New York City. Idea generation will play no part in the agenda. "Most entrepreneurs focus more on the ideas and less on how they organize themselves for action," Belsky says. To him, and his inspiration, Edison, making ideas happen is all about the other 99 percent.
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Life
What It’s Like To Be Your Own Boss
May 27, 2010 at 11:22 am 0
employee of the month...every month!

employee of the month...every month!

If you are like most women climbing the corporate ladder you have dreams that one day, you'll have your own office, your own employees, and yes, your very own company. But what will that be like? Recently I started my own business. It was a huge transition from the standard office environment, and for me a very welcome one. I always knew that I wanted to work for myself - partially because I'm an incredibly independent person, partially because I didn't want to be held back by corporate culture, and partially because the very thing that makes you a great entrepreneur makes you a not so great employee for the vast majority of the companies out there. If you are a super motivated, forward thinking individual that loves to try new things, test things out, and always looking to advance there is often not a spot for you on the corporate ladder. Corporations exist because a lot of people are just doing what they always do, and that keeps things rolling along nicely. If you aren't happy to just toe the line you either become a threat, an easy target, or you just don't fit in and find yourself standing alone on an island at work. Or worse yet, you work at an intensely political environment where it's more like a snake pit than an agreeable workplace - and in those places the entrepreneurial mindset does not work at all. And that very thing that doesn't work in corporate cultures does WONDERFUL things for you as an entrepreneur. Quite frankly, you just get shit done. And you do it well. And it's cool stuff that you get to work on. There are some amazing things about owning your own business: - You set the hours - You figure out how hard you want to work - You figure out who you want to work with, and who you'd rather not - You don't have to pussyfoot around irritating office politics; as an outsider you don't have to care - You don't have to deal with a boss - If you know a project will work you just go with it...often your gut will not lead you astray - You get to feel proud of what you have achieved on a daily basis - And best of all only you place limitations on your success. If you can break beyond your comfort zone and try new things, pick up the phone to make a few calls and keep it all together you'll soon find out it's pretty easy. And then there are some not so amazing things: - You may miss the company of having colleagues around - It's harder to bounce ideas of other people and build something great as a team...it's just you, and the few friends that answer your calls for creative input - You can so easily start working all the time! Last month I worked everyday (but it was worth it) - If you are not outgoing making those cold calls, introducing your company or asking for business can be absolute torture! - You may have dry periods where no work comes in and that means no money! But overall working for yourself is truly amazing. The very simple things in life are so easy again; going to the doctor is now possible without seven cancelled appointments first because your office life took a priority. You can take a walk in the afternoon for an hour to brainstorm ideas, and it actually is work! If you are exhausted on Tuesday and the work is just not happening you can stop, and pick it up when the ideas start to flow again. And it's that exact freedom coupled with discipline that makes the entrepreneurs life a dream! If you are interested in starting your own business be sure to read the following: Introducing Fabulous and Fearless Female Entrepreneurs Interview with Lisa Ng: Owner of Hello DJ Interview with Ali DeBold: Owner of Chick Advisor
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Life, Style
Ali De Bold: Fearless and Fabulous Female Entrepreneur
May 5, 2010 at 10:30 am 2
Ali De Bold - cofounder of ChickAdvisor.com Our latest Fearless and Fabulous Female Entrepreneur Series feature is Ali De Bold - co founder of ChickAdvisor.com. Equipped with a great business idea and loads of hard work she and her husband and business partner, Alex De Bold, started www.ChickAdvisor.com - Canada's first user generated reviews community for women to share advice on their favourite products and local places. It was launched in September 2006 and has reached over 3 million women since. How did you start your business? I was planning my wedding out of province and was researching for hair salons and spas for the big day. It was 2004 and there weren't any websites in Canada that had reviews for those kinds of services. In fact, most salons didn't even have a website. My only option was to flip through the yellow pages and choose the prettiest ad - and pray I picked well. I complained to my husband that there should be a site like that where women could give each other advice and he suggested we start one! Did you always know you wanted to work for yourself? No. I didn't have any specific desire to start a business. I always thought I could work equally well for myself or someone else as long as I was passionate about what I do. What’s your typical day like? I get up at 6:30 and go to the gym. That's the only time I can squeeze in a workout and it helps with energy and productivity. If I'm not in meetings, I spend a lot of time preparing proposals for clients, writing articles, chatting with members in the forums, testing and reviewing new products and attending press events. I also have a strategy session with the team once a week to discuss new ideas, then do testing and tweaking until it's ready to go live. What was your biggest worry when you started your own company? What if I fail? I always believed in the concept, but it's an incredible risk to work for yourself with no safety net. I'm very lucky that my husband is my business partner. He's a web veteran and incredibly smart, He supported us while we got the company off the ground. If I didn't have him, this wouldn't have been possible. How long did it take for you to feel confident about working for yourself? I didn't have much time to ever reflect on that. When we started the company I was in school full time in my second year of a 4 year degree program. I worked hard out of necessity because failure wasn't an option. I wasn't going to drop out of school, and since money was tight, I had to get strong grades so I could get scholarships every year. I wasn't going to let the business fail either. I don't start something only to get a C+. I wanted an A and I really pushed myself to get that. What surprised you the most about working for yourself? I'm more capable than I thought. I've learned so much in such a short time. I would never have believed this could be possible in 3 years. Was there a moment that you thought you wanted to quit and go back to a 9-5 job? Never. Being an Entrepreneur is incredibly challenging and there are more ups and downs than you could imagine, but it's all worth it. I've never regretted doing this and unless it was failing, I wouldn't be able to quit. What have you sacrificed? Social life, sanity, lifestyle, money… a lot. I've never worked so hard in my life. It took a long time for my friends and family to understand that working for yourself doesn't mean you have more free time, it means you have less. If you don't sit down and do the job, it won't get done. Even if you hire someone to do it, they may not come through for you and so you'll be the one working into the wee hours to push it across the finish line. I've sacrificed a lot but I've also gained a lot. It's a crash course in business, marketing, management, logistics, accounting.. you name it. What advice would you give to other women who wanted to start their own business? Start it for the right reasons. If being rich is your ultimate goal, you may be lacking the passion and vision to actually create something of value. If you are passionate about what you do, the money will come. If it doesn't, you'll still be happy along the way because you are doing what you love. I also think it's extremely important to have several mentors you can turn to for advice. I've learned a lot from my mentors, one of the most important being: Hire slow and fire fast. Having the right people on your team is critical. If you haphazardly hire someone you will pay for it later. Is there anything you would have done differently? I'd trust my instinct more. It's so cliche, but it hasn't led me astray. There have been cases where I've ignored it, whether it's hiring someone I didn't feel 100% confident about or entering into business discussions with parties I don't completely trust, and inevitably I would have been better off trusting my gut. ---- If you enjoyed this interview you should check out our interview with Lisa Ng - DJ, Fearless & Fabulous Female Entrepreneur and blogger at Hip and Urban Girl
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