Hi, my name is Avishai. I am the Founder of Oribi. I love Internet Startups, PC gaming, Star Wars, Blogging, Photography, LinkedIn and Chess. Feel free to drop me a message and connect with me on all the socials, you will be surprised by the amount of free advice I giveaway.
Let’s face it, we all could be a little more productive.
Whether we are actively procrastinating or simply getting bogged down in unimportant or unrelated tasks, we waste time. For the average startup founder, time is as precious as money. You are likely as strapped for time as you are for funds, especially because most startups are one-man or very small operations. There are fewer people to take on the jobs that most large companies have entire departments for. Your team (or, if you are a one-man operation, just yourself), are the IT team, the customer service department, the marketing department, product testers, social media experts, etc.
But with so many different roles to play and so much that needs to get done, even the most adventurous startup founder can become bogged down in meaningless or menial tasks. There are, however, ways to start improving your productivity. Once you have improved your productivity, you can start improve the entire company’s productivity. In no time, your business will be running like a well-oiled machine, with projects reaching completion not just faster, but more effectively. What good is fast if the job isn’t also well done? We have the top five productivity tools every startup founder should use.
Number One – Yast
Before you can improve how you use your time, it useful to know where your time is actually going. Have you ever gotten to the end of a day of work and thought, “What did I actually do today?” It’s time to leave the office, but you can’t actually remember anything that you’ve completed, even if you were working hard all day. This is a dangerous cycle to find yourself in—it means that you are neither keeping track of your time nor what you are doing with it. In this pattern, it’s easy to get completely lost in tasks that ultimately will not help you be any more successful or profitable.
That’s where Yast comes in. While there are many different productivity tools that are designed to help you use your time wisely, Yast is one of the only tools that actually helps you keep track of what you are doing and when. You get to load Yast will all of your projects, given them each their own color, and as you move from task to task, simply press a start button. When you move on to another task, you press stop and start that task’s timer.
The important thing to remember about Yast is that you should not just record how much of your day you spend thinking about or amorphously working on a task. Time how long you spend really working and how much time you spend goofing off, checking emails, at lunch, etc. Getting yourself into the habit of watching your own time and understanding where it goes during the day is a great way to make sure you’re on top of what needs to be done. As a bonus, Yast can be integrated with ZenDesk, so you know exactly how much time you are spending answering customer support tickets.
If you need a solution that is more integrated into your system or that can help you stop wasting time on social media, there are programs like Anti-Social, that will track how much time you spend on pre-determined websites and block them (or the entire internet), once you’ve used up your allotment.
A/B testing is just about the best way to improve your website’s sales, and most users even report that they actually cut the costs of customer acquisition.
What could be better than that? Because there are so many companies offering this tool, however, it can be difficult to know which one to use. Many people will opt for the free tools offered by Google, in favor of saving money, but be willing to put out a little cash on a real tool will help you see serious returns.
For this comparison, we’ve chosen two of the internet’s favorite A/B testing tools and done a side by side comparison so you can easily pick the one that will be best for your website, budget, and business. Keep in mind that both Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer have their own advantages and drawbacks, beyond just the price.
Optimizely touts itself as A/B testing that you will actually want to use. Instead of getting you bogged down in useless data, it claims to present only information you can actually use and in a format that will tell you what is working and what’s not. It says that it will take the place of a dedicated website monitoring team (which most small businesses can’t afford anyway), and make it possible for even the smallest business to have access to the information that drives big businesses’ most successful marketing campaigns. It also claims flexibility and functionality that other optimizers can’t offer.
Those are some pretty big claims. Does Optimizely deliver and how does it stack up against Visual Website Optimizer? Let’s start with what Optimizely does well.
The first major benefit for Optimizely is the price. At only $17 per month, it is definitely affordable even for businesses that find themselves seriously strapped for cash. Those $17 dollars promises 2000 site visitors and before you even have to commit to the program, you get a full month’s worth of a free trial. That is, however, just the bronze level. There are four other levels to choose from, which offer more features and more site visitors. While 2000 site visitors might not seem like very many, for a company just trying to find its footing, it’s an excellent way to draw in customers and start to build a mailing list, as well as to give their marketing messages time to gain traction. Once the real money starts pouring in, upgrading is easy.
Optimizely has also tested extremely well when it comes to customizability. There are plenty of advanced features that make it easy to edit the code of your website, even if you are not an expert in any programming language. For those who are really not code-savvy, Optimizely will even generate custom lines of code that can be implemented onto the website and which will make it easy to make changes at a moment’s notice.
They also rank highly when it comes to the amount and quality of data that they gather and how they report it. The user can select what kinds of data they want to hear about and how it is presented, so that when a change needs to be made or something is really taking off, it’s easy to see where and how. One of the best features is the ability to track revenue in comparison to marketing methods. It is also a favorite among those who like to be able to really dig into the data, as there are plenty of choices for how to organize and analyze collected information.
The one area that Optimizely falls short is when it comes to multivariate test options. While simple A/B testing may be fine for most companies, especially in the beginning, some may want access to more sophisticated techniques. While Optimizely does have multivariate test options, they are only available at the second-highest level, which starts at $359 per month—a bit steep for a startup or burgeoning business that just wants to see how well it is performing in the marketplace.
While Optimizely does have a low-cost starting level, beyond “Bronze,” the prices really jump up. Though users can add more site visitors for additional money, without jumping up to the next level, there are some features that many companies will find necessary that are only available at the higher levels. The “Silver” level jumps to $71 per month, and the “Gold” to $359. While they also pile on the monthly visitors and functionality, those prices are likely to be far too steep for the companies that could benefit from them the most.
The Bottom Line
Optimizely is a great place to start and grow, especially for small, online companies that are looking to experience the optimization process, without having to sacrifice too much time or money to get started, but also want to stay with the same company as they grow and improve their website and their knowledge of A/B testing. Unlimited experiments are a huge bonus, and the ease of use and comprehensiveness of the data are major draws. If you feel that you can do plenty with what the $17 package provides, then Optimizely is the way to go.
Visual Website Optimizer
Visual Website Optimizer’s claim to fame is the ability to design and run tests, even if the user has absolutely no knowledge of code or HTML. For small business owners, this can be a major draw. They also offer A/B testing that can be expanded into multivariate testing as the tests go on, as well as data which can help explicate customer behaviors. It claims to be an excellent optimizer for those looking to track revenue, see what SEO and marketing efforts are working and which need to be scrapped, and can even provide suggestions for how to improve. There seems to be quite a few enterprise-sized companies that benefit from this service, though there is a pricing level that can tailored even for small, one-man operations.
Like Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer has very good code adjustment and editing services. Where it beats Optimizely out, however, is in functionality for users who are not versed in HTML or code. Changes can often be made visually, instead of having to delve into lines and lines of confusing code.
A/B testing and multivariate testing are standard at every pricing level, as is geo-targeting and the much sought-after usability testing. Having a feature that tests how usable a website is to consumers is a serious bonus, as even the best content and products can be stifled by a website that is difficult to understand or navigate. They even offer email support for those users who are a little lost when it comes to optimizing their websites or who have problems with one of the features.
Another bonus of Visual Website Optimizer is the price. It, too, offers a month-long free trial to it users, allowing them to get a feel for the service and understand how to use it properly before they decide which pricing level they want. At first glance, Visual Website Optimizer appears to be more expensive than Optimizely, and it is—if you are content with just 2,000 site visitors a month. At $49, Visual Website Optimizer’s lowest pricing level will rake in 10,000 visitors per month, which makes it a far better deal. There is also standard multivariate testing, even at the $49 level.
Overall pricing is good, too. With only three “paid-for” levels, starting at $49, then jumping to only $129 for 30,000 site visitors in testing, and then an enterprise level that requires a special quote. In some ways, this makes Visual Website Optimizer a better deal than Optimizely.
One feature that is a favorite of current users is the “Heatmap.” This gives you a very visual representation of what content, which links, and what images are working, and which are being ignored by potential customers. This is a great way to organize and present data, which allows the user a unique insight into how to improve the website overall.
Visual Website Optimizer might be lacking in some of the features that advanced users are looking for. Optimizely has more features that appeal to those who are experienced in the testing game and are looking for meaty data they can really leverage into more sales. That’s not to say that Visual Website Optimizer doesn’t offer plenty of great data, it is slightly more basic that the information provided through Optimizely. That may be a bonus for those not prepared for the meatier data and who need only the essentials. Though it is competitively priced, starting out a $49 might be too much for some small businesses who have only a few dollars to spare.
Another drawback might be the sheer amount of features. Even at the most basic level, Visual Website Optimizer offers its users plenty of great features, and a user not familiar with how to use them can become bogged down in them.
The Bottom Line
Visual Website Optimizer is best for users that are unfamiliar with code, HTML, and the system of A/B testing. Other users might feel that their hands are being held a little too much. The pricing, on the other hand, is hard to beat for the number of site visitors that you will be in touch with every month.
Which Is Better, Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer?
Which service is better will ultimately come down to what you need, and in many ways, because there are few significant differences between Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer, especially at the lower pricing levels and lower experience levels, this can be an either/or situation. At its core, Visual Website Optimizer is better for those just starting out and who only plan of testing casually.
Optimizely is better for those looking for extremely in-depth data. The basic level is cheaper, but many of the necessary features are missing and require an upgrade to a more expensive level. If you are simply using a free content optimizing tool, however, it is time to upgrade if you want to start seeing real results. Most experts will point towards Optimizely—but that’s probably because they use it themselves. The best way to determine which one to use is to go for the free trial that both services offer and pick which one best matches your needs and abilities.
Whether you are looking for the newest product or service to offer or want to take your passion to the next level and follow your dreams into the world of entrepreneurship, there are some very basic habits you must have in order to achieve success. You may already possess some to these desired skills, and some you may have to learn along the way. Either way, before the end of the process, you’ll quickly become an expert.
Before you embark on this venture, there are few things you will really want to consider at first. There are some demands that can be too much for a first time business owner to deal with. First at the top of the list is time. Any business owner will tell you for the first few years, they had no spare time, free time, time off, personal days, vacations or even sick days. In the beginning you will hold down all major and important positions within your fledgling company. With that being said it is of the upmost importance to take care of your personal health, suffering burn out can be difficult to recover from. Learning to manage stress will ensure you stay focused, excited and engaged in your project. After all this is your dream and you wouldn’t want it to be the end of you.
These are the Top Five Habits a novice business owner must have to be successful. Not in order of precedence.
1. Effective Communication
No matter where you’re at in the first beginning stages, you will be consistently and constantly dealing with people. Vendors, clients, recruiting employees, marketing and so on. At the start you will be your own marketing strategists, so promoting your service or product to attract clients will help build your future. Building an excellent rapport with your vendors will also ensure your shipments will be on time not to mention you need to communicate your specifications effectively so you are getting the right product to meet your needs and your client’s. As you will also be networking with the leaders in your industry, having clear and concise communication skills will convey competence and present an aura of confidence. As you’re getting your feet off the ground, and building a support team, in person meetings as well as e-communication will be frequent. It’s more than a little necessary to be able to convey your vision clearly in text as well so your team members are not left with incomplete information. The ability to be thorough will also save you and your staff time, nothing is more frustrating that having to field questions due to lack of clear definition.
2. Taking a Trial-Run
This should be your very first step. Very few business have been successfully launched without knowing what to expect or without having a full grasp of the industry. There are several ways you can test the waters. If you can and if it’s possible, volunteer. Find an organization as close to your target as possible. Or better yet, find a fledgling organization that’s trying to get its feet off the ground. This will give you a close idea to what it will be like in the early stages with your start-up. If don’t have the spare time, consider quitting your day job and get the best of both worlds by working for a start-up. Not only will you get something that is close to a practice run, but you will be getting the experience, making contacts and networking at the same time. You will learn firsthand how and what needs to be invested in to starting a business. You may be taking a pay cut, but the education you will be receiving will be priceless. In a start-up you’ll be given the most responsibility and multi-tasking you will ever receive compared to working for a corporation or established business. You can also take advantage of small but informational-packed business courses/classes offered in community college. These are often taught by professionals and business owners and are offered as continuing education or community courses.
3. Expert Problem-Solver
Sharpening your problem solving skills adds to and will only help further enhance other skills like discipline and focus. All three are like a trifecta, a winning combination. Perfecting all three, will help give you the drive you’ll need to get your dream off the ground. And getting your company off the ground is no small feat, it’s a bumpy road and being able to fix issues in a timely and efficient manner will help you further down the road. There will always be a problem to fix or solve in the business world, whether it’s yours or your clients’. It also takes great discipline starting a business, so prioritizing tasks is a must in order to meet deadlines. Some tedious tasks can feel daunting and tempting to procrastinate. However, as the owner, it is your investment on the line, so honing in on these skills early, before development will help pay off.
4. Being Selective About Your Team
While you are dipping your toes in water, now would be a good time to find a mentor. There are some non-profit organizations that are willing to pair you up with an experienced advisor. Having a mentor is an invaluable asset to add to your team. It should be your first step in establishing a foundational team. While organizing and building your team is essential, you also need to have persons who will see your vision, share it, and be willing to work towards making it a reality. They must be invested in your company just as much as you are (or as close as possible) and be willing to work as a team, cohesively. In the first stages of any new company, building a collaborative and competent team is especially vital prior to breaking ground. It will be a test run, before long you’ll be needing to expand your staff and the ability to recruit talented employees will save you time. There is nothing more stressing and frustrating to a novice owner than having to rehire after time and energy was wasted on new hires who didn’t fit in with the company culture.
5. Staying Flexible
Some of the world’s best inventions happened by accident, some were developed while searching for solutions to other problems. The point? Company and industry leaders know the importance to innovation. Lack of vision can ruin a company, no matter how long it’s been in business. The ability to change with trends will be just the pivotal point that can launch a business into a new level of success. Not to mention you will be relying on working around other schedules, you’ll need patience. And as your company is being run by human beings, probably all with their own outside life, you need to allow for meeting their needs too. If you’re too stubborn, you will find it difficult to keep your company staffed. Those who do not bend, break.
Most of the tech giants got their start as a startup.
This is one of the reasons why some people are drawn to them. The first thing they realize is that money is not that good and yet they stay with the company. There’s something about working in a startup that makes them stay for a long time.
Culture of Collaboration
One thing that you will observe from people working for a startup is that they love collaborating with each other. A startup is usually made of a few people, and that means each one has to work together in order to be successful.
Because of startup life, a person has no choice but expand one’s skill set. Each worker has to don several hats to get the job done. Teak work is an important trait that workers have to master, especially in a startup.
One of the benefits of working in a startup is having a tight-knit workforce that collaborates all the time. It usually means setting camp in a single room with the entire company in it. There are no barriers between the CEO and employees.
Lack of Bureaucracy
People love working for a startup because of its lack of office gossip, red tape, and bureaucracy. As stated above, a startup usually fosters a close relationship among its workers. Each one feels important and needed. This gives them the drive to perform better as they feel more satisfied with their jobs.
Startup life does have some kind of hierarchy, but there’s no true bureaucracy involved. Of course, there’s a need for someone to act as the boss and demand certain tasks to be completed on time. The good thing about it is that workers get feedback, answers, and approvals faster than working for a big corporation. Work is accomplished faster and in the shortest possible time.
Trust is an important element when working in a startup. They make it a priority to be as transparent as possible in order to attract investors, customers, and the best workers in the industry. One benefit of working for a startup is that you have a direct line to the CEO.
Because of the strong collaborative culture and the lack of bureaucracy, startups can maintain a high level of transparency. Some companies even share the balance of its bank account to its workers. This makes them do their best in order to make the business more successful.
Everyone is accountable in startup life. One must do his part or else the operations will stop running smoothly. You can immediately tell who is dragging the team down. This type of transparency will make the workers strive hard to get the job done.
Today I am working at imonomy and it is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a passion and I enjoy every minute working at this startup.
These are the top three benefits of working in a startup. Yes, it doesn’t pay that much but hard work and perseverance will be rewarding in the end. Plus, you get to improve your skill set and learn a lot from other workers, which can help you in your career.
Most startup founders are blind to the benefits of outsourcing, they want to keep all of their operations together, under one roof, even if that roof is their apartment.
Outsourcing often seems like something that only large companies have the funds to do, companies that are too big to be managed by the staff they have on hand. However, outsourcing can be a great way for a startup to improve the quality of their business and quickly expand, without being restricted just to the talents and the time of those who work in the physical office or who are currently on the payroll.
Outsourcing gives small, new companies the opportunity to quickly branch out, and to ensure that their some of their business-related tasks are done quickly and efficiently, by someone who really understands how to do them—instead of handing the task over to someone in-house who has no time or idea how to complete the task. Here are the 9 top benefits of outsourcing work at your startup:
Lower labor costs
This is probably one of the most popular benefits of outsourcing work. It is often much cheaper to pay someone outside of your company to complete a task than to pay someone inside of the company to do. There are freelancers and outsourcing companies that offer work for pennies on the dollar, if you only know where to look. Do not be afraid to look outside of your home country for labor, as outsourcing to a foreign company can save serious bank, while still getting the task done correctly and efficiently the first time.
Even if your task needs highly specialized skills, it is cheaper in the long run to pay someone outside of your company to do it correctly the first time than to pay someone inside of your new company to do it incorrectly over and over. Startups usually have very little breathing room, so if you have an important task that needs to be done properly, and no one inside of the company can do it well, find someone outside of the company that can.
My Experience: While many might not admit, I have no problem telling you that the logo on this blog was created by a someone on Fiverr. So before you go and spend a lot of money, think about the importance and the ROI of your upcoming job. In my case it was easy, this blog isn’t a for profit blog, and therefore I decided to spend only $5 on my logo.
Outsource non-essential tasks
Sometimes, there are tasks that you just feel you do not need to be doing. This can be anything from writing your company’s weekly email newsletter, updating your Facebook page, or responding to customers who interact with your company over social media. These tasks could even be as simple as clearing the junk mail out of her inbox or managing your email subscribers.
If you are being bogged down by tasks that are taking your mind away from the actual meat of the business, outsource them! There are tasks in your company that just do not need to be performed by someone actually in the company. By getting someone from the outside to take care of them, you save time and money.
My experience: When I need to make a long list, or get some data from a data miner. I find that Elance is a great place to find experienced freelancers at good rates, some 5 star rating freelancers will cost you roughly around $5 to $8 an hour.
The task is done by someone who really knows how to do it
This is one of the biggest reasons to outsource. If you do not know how to build a website, the worst, most expensive thing you could do is try to build your own website. You will waste time and money trying to make sure that it is properly outfitted for search engine optimization and for all of the content you want to place on it.
Not only will this take time away from the things you do well, it can actually cripple your business. If you do not know how to do something, do not be afraid to ask someone who does. Outsourcing to a knowledgeable expert means that the task is done correctly, by someone who understands that sliver of the industry much better than you do.
Internal personnel do not know how or do not have time to complete tasks
Startups generally only have a few people, if that, working together to build the company. That means that all business-related tasks are relegated to those few people—and “those few people” may only really be one person. No one can really know everything they need to know about every aspect of their business. There will be facets of any business that no one inside the company really understands how to handle.
This could be anything from accounting, to social media management, to logo design. In some instances, you may actually know plenty about accounting, but on top of everything else you have to do, you just do not have time to set up the payroll system or spend hours building social media pages and producing content, there are freelancers that do nothing else and build their businesses helping people who are too busy to complete all of their tasks proficiently. When this is the situation for you and the rest of the people involved in your startup, start looking for a freelancer who is more than happy to take on the job.
Lower overall costs
At first glance, it seems that outsourcing is an additional expense, being added onto an already strapped budget. And that is one way to look at outsourcing—but it is also an incomplete way to look at it. Freelancers lift the burden of the routine or specialized tasks. They allow you to shorten your sixteen hour days to twelve hour days. You can maybe sleep a full eight hours for the first time in months. They also prevent costly mistakes.
Take the example of the webpage designer from before. A webpage designed by someone who does not understand the process or does not have time to do it correctly, will not draw the kinds of visitors you need to sustain your business. And even if it doesn’t work properly, you still have to pay for it. You had to pay the person inside your startup to build it, and you have to pay for the hosting, even though it is not yielding profits as a result of that investment. Instead, if you outsource the webpage to someone who can build something appealing and SEO-friendly, who might even be able to fill it will relevant and useful content, you will have a webpage that bring in real profits. That investment pays for itself.
Focus on big-picture tasks, instead of menial day-to-day tasks that do not require training
Especially in the early days of your startup, when it seems like there is a lot of busy work related to marketing, social media, emails, and other tasks that larger companies have whole departments to handle, you may begin to feel disconnected from the reason you first started this company. This is one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing. When the menial tasks are assigned to someone outside of the company, someone who does them well and at a cut-rate price, you and your staff will be able to focus on the big picture again.
You will have more time to consider the overall goals, to focus on refining the product or service you offer, and building a strong, sustainable business. For example, if your company sells a physical product, there are plenty of companies that can store and ship your products on demand, completely taking care of the sales aspect of your business. This frees you to work on creating new products and finding other ways to build the business.
Greater access to new areas of the market and making connections
As a new startup, one of the best ways to build your business is to hire freelancers and other small, specialized companies to take care of the tasks that you cannot or do not have the time to perform yourself. This also opens an avenue for new collaborations and for connecting with other businesses. Not only does this process afford you greater name recognition, it gets your business into sectors of the industry that you might not have thought to connect with.
For example, if your startup builds interactive webpages, you might hire a freelance writer to create content for your startup’s landing page. In turn, that freelancer might ask you to build him a new webpage. You have just built a business relationship that will undoubtedly be useful down the line—for both of you. Outsourcing helps you find skilled individuals in all parts of the world, who can help introduce your startup into new markets. You may even find a person so skilled and so integral to the functions of your business that you want to bring them on full-time. A great deal of success in the business world is dependent on how active you are in that industry. Are you making friends with other companies? Are you finding skilled people who can help build your business form the outside?
When you are first building your startup, it will consume your life. It is very difficult to have a startup and have a real life on top of building that business. This will pay off down the road, but there are some things you can do to make right now less stressful and provide yourself with greater flexibility—which is just as important as working hard. Building a business is a creative pursuit, and having your schedule bogged down with important but menial tasks can sap the creativity out of anyone.
The more flexible you can be, the better able you will be to handle whatever roadblocks are placed in your way. If you do not have a rigid schedule that you must adhere to or the company will fall apart, you have the breathing room that you need to actually think critically about your business. Plus, if you find you need to fly off to another city to woo a group of investors, you can do it without worrying about who is taking care of these large, important projects. The last thing you want to tell an investor is that you don’t have any time to meet because you have to finish your webpage before your first product launches. One of the benefits of outsourcing is the flexibility to prioritize your tasks and put the big-picture projects ahead of the ones that can be delegated to someone on the outside.
Are you concerned about your ability to handle customer service? Are you afraid that the content on your webpage, in your correspondence, or even on your product packaging will not be quality? One of my personal favorite benefits of outsourcing, is that you can pass on a task to someone who specializes in that specific task. For example: If you know that customer service is not your strong suit, you can outsource your helpline to someone who does nothing else. By outsourcing to specialists, the overall quality of every aspect of your business will improve. Services will be handles by those who have trained for years to provide them, and you can focus on the aspects of the business where you excel.
Video: Tips for Outsourcing on Elance
When to Outsource
How can you know what to outsource and what to keep in-house? Outsourcing shouldn’t just be for the jobs you and your staff (if any) don’t want to do. When considering outsourcing, make a list of the tasks that need to be completed but cannot be completed by someone on the staff—not a list of people who do not want to do them. For example, you may not have anyone on staff that wants to handle customer complaints, but is that something you can actually hand to someone outside of the company to deal with? Not if you want those questions and complaints resolved properly.
Be honest about your time commitments and the skills and limitations of everyone in your burgeoning business. Getting the task done and done correctly will mean fewer costs down the road and a stronger company, over all, but outsourcing something just because you don’t want to do it, when it really should be done by someone inside the company, with have the opposite effect. However, when done well, employing qualified professionals, outsourcing is one of the best investments that startup owners can make.
Have any stories of your own about the benefits of outsourcing? We would love to hear about it in the comments section bellow.
So, if you are looking for brilliant advice about business and running a new startup, you probably weren’t expecting to find it in one of the geekiest, most celebrated, and most popular film franchise of all time.
But Star Wars has it all – power and control, right and wrong, robots and a rather lovely woman in a bikini. Through the six films (and of course, there are about to be nine), good and bad decisions are made by almost every character, and there are definitely life lessons – as well as business lessons – to be learned here.
We have put together what we think are the five most important business lessons that you can learn from Star Wars, and it can be guaranteed that once you have read them, you will not only be a better business leader and startup founder, but you will also want to immediately go and watch them all again:
Do you remember in the Star Wars film The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn is fighting the really creepy Sith Darth Maul? It is an incredibly tense scene, and it is made even more so by the fact that when Qui-Gon Jinn cannot physically reach Darth Maul, he sits, meditates, and takes some time out. Many generations have shouted at the screen at this point, wondering why on earth Qui-Gon Jinn isn’t doing anything. But that’s the point: he can’t. Qui-Gon Jinn has learned the impressive art of knowing when to take a break, and embracing the chance to rest while he can. If we applied this to our businesses, we would be a lot happier. There’s so much about the finance and economic worlds that we can’t do anything about – but instead of pacing, and wasting our energy like Darth Maul, we need to take a moment to chill.
2. Know your own strengths, and your weaknesses
The hero of the films, Luke Skywalker, is a brilliant character that is so perfect for audiences because he is so human: he has some incredible strengths, like his ability to use the force, and for some reason, understand droids, but he also has terrible weaknesses, like his inability to control himself when he believes his friends to be in trouble. Of course, you could argue that this is a great strength, but it actually leads him to act rashly, and endanger all their lives, leaving his friend Han Solo trapped in carbonite. Star Wars clearly teaches us that not everything we do we are good at, and it is this knowledge that in turn makes us strong. Learn this business lesson, and keep to your strengths.
3. Never underestimate your competition
Han Solo often underestimated his competition, throughout the Star Wars films, whether it was Jabba who would eventually get his flabby fingers on him, or Leia who was clearly a lot smarter than he was. Luckily, Han Solo always had luck on his side. The Emperor wasn’t so lucky – he underestimated the power of paternal love, and never realized that Darth Vader would one day betray him to save his son. In the world of business, it is imperative that you never underestimate your competitors. Never get lazy, and never think that they could never defeat you, because that is exactly when they will.
4. Don’t give in to the Dark Side
There will always be an easier way to make money, an easier way to sidestep that problem, an easier way to control and manipulate someone. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Both Skywalker men in the Star Wars films have the chance to do something wrong, but only one of them gives in to the Dark Side: Anakin. Throughout your business career, you will have opportunities to make the decisions which may be easy, but are more like the Dark Side of business. Learn your business lesson now, and say no to the Dark Side.
If you want to revisit the movies you can click the Amazon link and buy your personal set:
5. There will always be someone ridiculous to make you smile
You can hate him or love him, but let’s be honest: C-3PO is a character within Star Wars that offers the most comic relief throughout the six films. He has some of the best lines, and is always the character that you are rooting for to win, even though so many people have to put up with him. He is the character that many people would like to be friends with, and have on their adventures. You need to make sure that there is always someone like that in your office. Whether it be you, or someone else, it is important to have someone that can lighten the mood, and make you smile even in a complicated situation. That is potentially the most important business lesson to learn from Star Wars that you will ever need.
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Have Star Wars tips of your own? Share in the comments.
Are you ready to take your startups networking to the next level?
Networking is essential when you have started up your own startup company or small business, and while networking can be a fun it can be equally terrifying. You’ll be meeting people that began their startups years ago, and are now ridiculously successful – how on earth can you hope to interact with these people? Surely they will just ignore you?
If you know what you are doing, networking for startup founders is not actually that frightening, you just need to know what you are doing. Here are my seven most important networking tips for startup founders:
1. Remember it’s all about give and take
Networking is not a process by which you try to get as much as you can from the other party – instead, it is more about what two people and companies can offer each other. Make sure that you are not demanding too much from the people that you interact with. Even though you are a startup, there is automatically something of value that you can offer people. Once you have identified that, make sure that you lead with that, instead of appearing like someone incredibly needy.
2. Don’t try and meet everyone
Yes, there are thousands of businesses and companies out there that could help you – but sorry, there is just no way that you can be friends with everyone. You will eventually drive yourself mad trying to remember all the names and faces, where you met them, and what you agreed to do for them or with them. You need to whittle them down to something that is more reasonable and manageable for you. After all, you do have a startup to be running! In order to execute this important networking tip properly, I suggest that you invest time in doing your homework, have a game plan ready and only then start the actual process of getting meetings.
3. Everyone is valuable
It is all too to dismiss someone that you meet through a networking event if they do not seem to be particularly important or useful. But you never know when knowing that person or having a link into their startup could be incredibly valuable to you, and actually make or break your own startup. Try not to judge people too harshly on the number of employees they have, or whether you’ve heard of them or not. It is often the companies that are running things behind the scene that have the most power.
4. Keep emails short and to the point
You know how many emails run through your inbox every day? Triple that, or even more, and you are getting slightly close to the number that large companies receive from people that they don’t even know. People don’t have time to read through five pages of why it would be brilliant if you could work together. Instead, send a short email that says you enjoyed meeting them – say where and when to remind them – and mention something that you discussed at the time that requires a follow-up. If you don’t hear from them within three working days, send another email. If you don’t hear in a week, ring them. Be persistent.
5. Always carry business cards
This is one of the most important networking tips on earth, like it or not business cards are still relevant for networking worldwide. One of the most embarrassing and irritating things that many new startup founders do at networking events is have a wonderful conversation with someone, and then just walk away. How on earth is that person meant to remember you, or contact you! By carrying business cards at all time, with your name, the name of your startup, and a contact number or email that you use regularly, you will be able to keep in contact with those that are interested in potentially working with you in the future. If you want to, whenever you give one out ask for one in return. That way, you can keep track yourself who you have spoken to.
If you are looking for a business card holder this is the best one Amazon has to offer at a great price:
No one has unlimited time, and that means that sometimes, someone has to give. This may mean that at some networking meetings, there are people that don’t have the time to talk to you, or when you strike up a conversation, say “No” pretty early on. This is not a slight on your company, your startup, or yourself. It is simply an honest reflection of their time restraints, and you should never take it personally. After all, before too long you’ll be saying the same thing to a new startup founder that starts talking to you.
7. Don’t force a relationship
One of the worst things you can do during a networking meeting as a startup founder is be too eager, and refuse to let someone get away from you. If they don’t return your calls, stop leaving them voicemails. If they block your email, don’t use another one! It is unprofessional, irritating, and a complete rookie error. You don’t want to mark yourself out as someone new and stupid, so learn when to let a working relationship go.
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Pitching your startup, whether it be to partners or to investors can be daunting.
Getting it right can mean the difference between success and failure and that is why most people feel so much pressure to get them right the first time. First impressions really are vitally important, and coming across as boastful or even too zealous can kill even the best pitch before it really gets off the ground. Finding the right balance of passion and confidence, while providing the right information in the right format can be difficult, but once you’ve crafted a formula for pitching your startup perfectly, you will have no trouble drawing in investors, clients, and partners.
But how do you find that balance? Here are five mistakes to avoid when creating a pitch for your startup:
1. Being too pushy
When you are pitching your startup it is important to be assertive and persuasive, while avoiding the trap of being too pushy. No one likes to feel that they are being sold something, even if they arrive at your meeting knowing that you are going to try to convince them to do business with your new company. Even VC’s and angel investors don’t want to hear just about what’s excellent and perfect about your company, they also want to hear the challenges, as the challenges are the real reason someone will be willing to invest in your startup. If you start listing off your accomplishments and how spectacular your startup is right out of the gate, not only will your audience feel like you are being pushy, they are less likely to see the need to invest or partner with you.
On the other hand, if you use personal anecdotes to show (rather than tell) the value of your startup, your audience will be able to come to their own decision about you and your company. Don’t be boastful—being modest about your accomplishments, even if they are incredible, is endearing and those listening to your pitch won’t feel as though they are being force fed an opinion.
2. Relying on buzzwords
Many people will rely heavily on buzzwords when writing their pitch, because they are easy to use and seem to convey a lot of information about your startup in a single phrase. What they really do, however, is confuse your audience. Saying that your company is a “game changer,” may sound like a good thing, but the phrase itself is essentially meaningless. It does not provide any real information about your startup and what it intends to do to change the industry. Plus, these phrases have likely been said a hundred times by a hundred other entrepreneurs.
Instead of relying on buzzwords to build your startup pitch deck, use real stats and real, quantifiable information. No matter who you are pitching to, they should be able to instantly understand what you are talking about, and see that you have real proof to back up any claims you make.
3. Working from a script
When pitching your startup to investors, especially if those investors are important, many people will make one of the worst pitch mistakes: reading from a script or working off of a PowerPoint. While PowerPoint can be useful during a pitch, reading straight off of the slide or straight from a notecards can kill the energy in a room. Nothing sounds less sincere than a person reading their lines off of a card. You want your pitch to feel organic—even if it’s not organic at all. Feel free to use visuals, but build a personal connection with your audience before dimming the lights and starting in on the slides. I highly recommend developing a habit of practicing your pitch, you should start-off by pitching your startup in front of friends and family, get their honest feedback before you start to meet experienced investors.
Here is a great example of how to pitch perfectly a startup under 3 minutes, yes this isn’t a classic investors pitch, but you can learn from how synced the presenter from DoorDash is with his presentation running in the background, he didn’t even look back once and he knew exactly when to click to the next slide.
4. Not getting a second opinion
This would be like walking out the door to pick up a date without asking someone to make sure there isn’t spinach stuck in your teeth. You probably won’t realize there’s a problem until it’s far too late. Obviously, you are probably independent and feel as though you can take care of writing your pitch alone. However, just like the spinach, you might not be able to see a problem with your pitch until someone else points it out to you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who will tell you the truth. Getting honest feedback is the only way to improve, and in many cases, is the only well you will know if you are doing or saying something distracting. If you have ever had to give a presentation for a class, for example, you might have sat down only to have a friend tell you that the way you fidget with your shirt hem is very distracting. You don’t want your voice, your clothes, the facts you present, or the way that you present them to detract from your overall message.
5. Not trusting your gut
If you show up to your pitch with everything prepared, take the temperature of the room, and feel that your PowerPoint just won’t draw these investors in, don’t be afraid to scrap it. Learning to be flexible is not only important for creating the perfect pitch, but also in running a business, so start preparing now. If you find yourself in a room of investors that just aren’t feeling your vibe, be flexible enough to change things up.
The best way to learn to be flexible is to really know what you want to present to your audience. There is a difference between having a pitch memorized and really knowing that pitch. When you have it memorized, you will be tripped up by a sudden interruption or question, but when you know it, you have the flexibility to answer questions as they arise, leave out information that won’t do you any favors for your particular audience, or introduce a new point you might have left out of the original pitch, if you get the sense it will reel this particular group in.
6. Dissing the competition
This one is going to be short in sweet, the rule here is to not talk about your competitors like you are somehow better, and they are worse, you must give any large competition the respect they deserve. For example: instead of saying your idea is “better than Facebook and Twitter together”, say that your idea is “taking the best out of the two successful platforms and combining the better features together with an additional feature that users are missing today”, now doesn’t that sound much better? Avoid badmouthing anyone when you are pitching your startup to investors, people want to hear about why you are good and not why others are “bad”.
7. Everyone has idea, show that you can execute
Here is a fact: everyone has ideas, the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failing one mainly comes down to execution, when you are pitching make sure everyone in the room knows that you are a hard-working person that can move mountains. Many people pitching their startup talk about “the great idea” while in reality they should be making sure everyone understands the “game plan”. Investors are interested in knowing how an idea is going to grow into a successful business, so when you are pitching your startup make sure that everyone will understand, that you are as an entrepreneur a much bigger asset than any idea.
Your SEO tactics shouldn’t eat up your startups budget.
When most people think about search engine optimization (SEO), they think about a long-term, expensive strategy that takes up not only plenty of their precious time, but also drains their bank account. While SEO should be looked at as an investment for your business, and not just expense, there actually are plenty of great ways to build your search engine rankings without spending a single penny.
Especially when you are a young business, strapped for cash (or even just not ready to make the kind of investment that SEO can sometimes be), finding ways to improve your rankings with spending a lot of cash can mean the difference between success and failure. For most small business owners, your budget is very small, and most of your money will be apportioned long before you can section off a piece for SEO strategies, even just for SEO content.
In general, startups fail for two reasons. First, they spend too much money, without the right backers and investments. Second, they are not aggressive enough with their online marketing techniques, and end up falling short when it comes to customers and client acquisition. Running a business takes money, and you should not be afraid to put money into SEO tactics—when you have real money to do so. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to improve your rankings that won’t drain your bank account. Here are just five of the most popular free tactics I use on a daily basis.
1. Guest Posting
Believe it or not, most people who run blogs are more than happy to allow a guest poster to jump in and write an informative, valuable blog post for their readers. In general, all you have to do is contact a blogger in your industry with an idea for a post, and they will be perfectly willing to let you write it and even post it under your name and with a link back to your webpage.
Be sure that you can write helpful, informative posts, otherwise, you will be wasting your time and the blogger’s time. The better your posts are, the more likely they are to ask you back—which means more exposure! Content that works should be friendly and informational. While you don’t want to exactly match the tone of the original writer, it would be beneficial to read through past posts and get a feel for their style and what their readers are expecting.
Here is my step by step break down of how to do this right.
Step 1: Find blogs that match your niche
If there is one thing I learned at imonomy is that no one wants to post on their site content that their readers are not looking for, even if you have the most unique and creative content, you should always direct it at your core-audience. If I am going to write a post about startups, it should be directed to a startup blog. You might think that a post about startups can fit any tech blog, and in reality there is so much technology news going on, why would any tech blogger want to spend time writing on a new startup company? Luckily there is a workaround. Let’s say that you found a blog you like, and that blog doesn’t match your niche business. One thing you can do is approach that blog with an idea for a post, that is semi-related to your agenda and a bit more related to the blog you are approaching and that blogs readers. Before you do this think about what the blog will gain out of the guest post, and not what you will gain.
Step 2: Write amazing content with added value
If you are going to guest post, prepare to bring your best writing skills to the table. When you ask for someone to feature you on their blog, they are expecting you to bring added value that they themselves couldn’t create. Be creative and informative, make your writing unique and fill each paragraph with your personality, and with a bit of luck you might end up with a following of your own. A great example of added value is sharing experiences, I shared mine on a blog post once, people enjoyed hearing about my experience on Elance and oDesk.
Step 3: Email like a pro
Now I must admit, I can’t say I mastered this 100%, but the basic rule is that your email should be short and to the point, the screenshot bellow is an example of how I was able to get a chance to guest post on a Spanish startup blog known as Todostartups.
If you need help with your emails, feel free to pitch them to me, if I have time I would be glad to comment. In case you prefer to keep reading more about sending emails, then I highly recommend a post by Iris Shoor about cold emails.
2. Sharing on Social Media
Social media is definitely the future of online advertising, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend money on social media marketing. Simply having an active page that adds value to your fans’ newsfeeds is a great way to build clout for both your social page and your website. Link to it, mention it, and keep your customers interested. Remember the golden rule when it comes to social media, however, do not clog your users’ pages with useless content. Always look for value over quantity. The more valuable and useful it is, the more likely it is to boost your SEO efforts. Read my post about the SEO tips and tools you should use in 2014, remember to build your tactics according to where your users are. Here is an example of a good Facebook post by Bizzabo.
3. Onsite SEO
Onsite SEO doesn’t necessarily mean you have to farm out content writing to a professional writer. While you should have clean, keyword-rich content, chances are, if you are willing to take a little time to create this content yourself, not only will it be more accurate, it will boost your rankings and bring more readers to your website, even if you didn’t pay anyone to write it. Finding keywords can be as easy as thinking about what you would search if you were a consumer looking for a business like yours.
While this is not exactly the most scientific way to obtain keywords, it is free. Often, the most expensive part of SEO is acquiring the right keywords. When you are first starting out, however, you may not have the cash to pay someone to research applicable keywords, but you may not need them. For example, if you are an app developer in Santa Barbara, you probably want to rank for Santa Barbara app developer. That is a good place to start.
4. Running a Blog
Running a blog is time-consuming, but it is a vital part of building your page’s rankings. Putting out regular, informative, useful content that users in your industry will want to read can easily build a gauntlet of keyword-rich SEO content, that will quickly build your authority both with individual people and with the algorithms that Google uses to sort their pages. Top Ten lists are especially popular and easy to research and write. Consumers find them enjoyable to read because they are easy to scan and provide excellent snippets of information in a compact format.
Whatever format you choose, make sure that the tone and style of your posts fit your business and that they provide information that is relevant to your customer. While a post may provide interesting information to a wide number of readers, if it does not cater to your customer, it will not do its job. Do not stuff your blog with popular keywords that do not relate to your niche, as not only is this annoying to customers, but it actually could lead to Google flagging your page.
Here are 3 good but very different company blogs from very niche areas of expertise, each blog shows that any company can run a blog if it is for customer acquisition or for general SEO, there is no secret sauce, just good content:
On of my favorite examples is a blog by Takipi, this blog shows you that you don’t have to post every day to run a great blog, just make sure you provide value to your readers.
Vend are all about POS, and they did an amazing job with building a blog that constantly engages with store owners, I highly recommend to check their Blog, especially if your company is working on a physical product or service.
I think the Buffer Blog is one of the best company blogs in the world, to be honest I am not fond of all their writers and topics, but in the end of the day there is no denying that we can all learn a lesson or two from Buffer on how to manage a startup blog.
One of the most important things you can learn from the most successful company blogs, is that a company blog does not only exist to convert readers into users, or improve SEO. The best company blogs try to connect with the users, even those that are not among the clientele or target market.
5. Free Backlinking
Some people may be willing to pay for backlinks, but real, high-quality backlinks are bound to cost a pretty penny—something you may not have. Instead, you can post your own backlinks, on applicable websites, directories, and blogs to build your reputation. Just make sure that the links are appropriate in the context of the directory or blog. Otherwise the moderator might delete them, or worse you might be going overboard with your SEO.
Don’t be afraid to spend several hours a week placing backlinks where they will be seen by interested parties. Even just adding your link at the end of a helpful comment on a blog post of forum thread can improve your page rankings, and it takes almost no effort, once again, your comment should be helpful.
Do you have SEO tactics you want to share? Feel free to exchange your ideas and tips in the comments section bellow.
The To Do list has long been a vital part of not just our everyday lives, but also successful businesses.
Especially in a startup situation, when there are plenty of moving parts and perhaps only a few people to handle a multitude of tasks, a to do list can keep you organized and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. An evolving to do list can be used throughout the life of your business, keeping track of who is doing what, what needs to be discussed, and even helping you to pinpoint areas of inefficiency.
While building a to do list may seem like a straightforward task, an efficient list will take a little planning and creativity, especially if it is designed to make sure all of the necessary tasks are being completed. You may choose to employ one of many productivity apps, which can manage your list, remind you about tasks, and even help you allocate your time more efficiently. If you want to write the most effective and efficient to do lists, we have a number of tips which can help you get started and manage your lists.
When Should You Build Your List?
The most common advice is to sit down in the morning and write your list for the day. However, a more effective and efficient planner will already have that day planned, at least the night before. Take a few minutes before you go to bed and make a list of the things that you know needs to be done tomorrow.
Is there really a difference between planning at night versus planning in the morning? There is, in fact, a significant difference. In general, you will have just finished a day of work. At this moment, you have an excellent gauge of your working pace, where you are in the overall scope of your long term projects, and what work absolutely needs to be done for tomorrow—for example, things you were supposed to, but did not complete today.
This is also a great way to train yourself to remember you do not have to finish everything on one day. Completing this task each night after the day’s work is finished can help you to review what you actually completed that day and feel better about the entire process.
When do I build my To Do List? Well I do my lists at night, my mornings are too busy, if I had a long day I might forget something but that’s the chance I have to take.
Consider Color Coding
If you are already an organization expert, you are probably already a fan of color coding. Choose whatever color system works best for your needs, but keep in mind that if more than one person is viewing your to do list, you might consider using red for urgent tasks, yellow for semi-urgent tasks, and green for “probably should do these, but if I don’t get to them, it is okay” tasks.
Color coding can also help you visualize how much work you actually have to complete on a single day. If you have a lot of red on tomorrow’s to do list, you probably will have a busy day. Things like meetings and important phone calls—things that must happen tomorrow (or on the day they are listed)—should definitely be in red. As you color code, factor in the consequences of not completing a certain task on a certain day. If there are no negative consequences of not completing it, consider if there are negative consequences of pushing it to another day.
Don’t make every task on your list red. This can be very discouraging, but it is also untrue. Some tasks simply have higher priority than others. Use as many colors as you need to properly prioritize your list (but don’t go crazy with the color scheme).
My personal tip: Don’t go over board with the colors, I use 3-4 main colors and that’s it
Use One of the Productivity Apps
There are plenty of apps on the market that can help you not only build, color code, and prioritize your list, but can also remind you of meetings on your list, or other important tasks which might slip through the cracks if you are not paying attention to your list.
Four popular apps are 24me, any.do, Todoist and Remember the Milk, both of which allow you to group tasks by category, assign them colors and priorities, and even keep a record of what has been completed and by who. Try a couple different apps before really diving in, as you need one that has all of the right features for your business and that is easy to use. Remember, you are going for efficiency. If an app slows you down, paper and pen might be better for your needs.
My favorite app: Well I don’t have one, they are all good apps and I can’t complain about anyone of them.
What to Put on Your List
Knowing what to put on your list can be difficult. It is tempting to fill the list of tasks that you know you will complete whether or not they are on that list, simply for the satisfaction of ticking their box or crossing them off. For example, if you check your email every day, several times a day, just by habit, there is no reason to include this on your list. On the other hand, if there is a specific email you need to respond to, that is a task for your to do list.
Treat your to do list as a planning tool, not a laundry list of everyday tasks you complete without being prompted. Lunch should not be on your list, unless it is in the form of an important lunch meeting with an investor or other important entity.
As you write your list, try to focus on language that encourages you to complete things. Writing, “Start investment plan,” is not directive and is not quantifiable. You may consider this task completed if you simply searched around on the internet for examples of investment plans. Instead write something like, “Finish bank loan application,” or “Complete investment plan.” These are tasks that you can fully quantify.
Don’t be afraid to be flexible with this list. Inevitably, there will be tasks cropping up throughout the day which were not included on your list but which must be completed. In order to keep yourself organized, keep adding them to your list and crossing them off as you finish.