5 Ways to Avoid Startup Failure

These days it’s not uncommon for someone to change career plans and decide to start up a small business. The great thing is that it’s socially acceptable. Everyone is cheering each other on, saying “go for it!” and “what have you got to lose?” and in reality, some startups succeed and some fail. Maybe you’re ready to ditch corporate America and open up that specialty shop or maybe you finally decided to be an independent consultant rather than rely on being part of a company. If you’ve got the patience and the drive, there’s no doubt you can get started. In order to stay on the right track and be successful, there are some things that you should avoid doing that often lead to the failure of a start up. Make a couple of “right” moves to avoid failure and you’ll be happy you went after your dream job.
Be Confident, Even When You’re Not

Once you begin to establish your startup, it’s important to have familial and friend support, but you need to be confident in your startup and your ability to succeed. If you constantly second guess every decision, how do you expect to sell your ideas and promote your business to others? Sure, a startup is a big, scary, and often times risky decision, but you need to be confident for the sake of your customers, your employees, and yourself. If you fail to be confident, your startup is likely to fail.
Ask For Feedback and Advice

Startup businesses can be intensely personal; a part of you. Unless you have years of experience running your own business, you may need a mentor or consultant. Find someone who you respect and trust to bounce ideas off of, yet someone who is not part of your personal circle (spouse, family, best friend).
Hire the Right People

The beginning stages of a startup are often a whirlwind. You may not expect needing employees right away, but then all of a sudden you do. Eager to keep the business moving forward, you hire the first person who seems qualified. Hiring the wrong people can break your business. Choose people who understand your plan and vision and show potential for having the same passion. It may take a while, but it’s worth the search.
Be Original

Many new startup business owners want to own a business, but rather than choosing something they are passionate about, they base their plan on what’s trending. While this is important to do to some extent, don’t “copy and paste” another existing business. For example, if you are really interested in making specialty cakes, you need to create a style or a product that will set you apart from every other trendy cake shop in your city. The most successful startups are a perfect balance of originality and trend.
Listen to Your Clientele

Your customers will make or break your business. If you don’t care how your customers perceive your business or your products, then you probably don’t care whether or not your business will succeed. Ask for feedback, even if you may not want to hear the truth. Whether customer feedback is positive or negative, listening, learning, and taking action can help your startup grow and have a better chance at returning customers.

Newest Innovation in the Small Business Scene

Newest Innovation in the Small Business Scene

The biggest innovation in the small business scene is the creation of the startup. First of all, startups are not the same as small businesses. Small businesses are usually privately owned, exist for profit and usually are not targeted to have much effect on a large scale. Startups on the other hand, are temporary scalable businesses that, though existing for profit, are targeted at searching out major solutions to problems for the sake of disrupting a particular industry.

Why Small Businesses Want to be Startups

Since startups started cropping up all over the world, the business scene has changed. Many people confuse small businesses as startups, and they are not entirely to blame. Small businesses have begun to copy the startup model. The startup style of business is easily recognized for its innovative approaches and flexibility, which has been a proven factor of their success. The necessity for small businesses to improve sales and performance, and the confusion among most on the distinction between startups and small businesses, has led to this copycatting.

The Small Business Goals

The goal of a small business is to gain profit and maximize on sales. Small businesses are targeted towards gaining the maximum amount of customers within the reach of the business. The availability of the internet has dramatically increased the reach of the small business. This is another factor which has led to small businesses copying the startup model. The startup is usually geared and targeted towards a worldwide market, and the twentieth century globalization trend has brought that worldwide market closer than ever, even to the steps of the small business. Small businesses have the capability to target a wide market now.

Small Businesses Evolve Into Startups

Popular knowledge dictates that while startups are not small versions of big companies, small businesses can be. Current trends have blurred that line. Small businesses are more and more evolving into startups. By emulating the model of the startup, the small business scales faster than it normally would, and can become a big company in a shorter time.

Are Startups Still Cropping Up?

Yes they definitely are, and at much faster pace. The present valuations of startups are at an all time high and this is motivation for the entrepreneur with ideas and ambition. Aspiring entrepreneurs are springing up faster as a result of worldwide economic conditions which have ceased to favor the traditional form of business. Starting a startup requires as little as no funding at all, and several VCs and angel investors are lining up to fund startups at a concentration that is unprecedented. The success of the startup –despite being limited to 1 out 9, can also be seen with the proliferation of accelerators and incubators at a level not seen since the dotcom bubble.

The small business world is growing, innovations abound everywhere and the internet has made a market out of every individual on the planet. Small businesses are leveraging on this opportunity to scale faster than ever.

Don’t Let Startup Upkeep Be Your Downfall: Tips for Continued Success

Don’t Let Startup Upkeep Be Your Downfall: Tips for Continued Success

When nearly seven out of ten startups fizzle out before they hit the ten year mark, it’s no wonder the internet is flush with tips of the trade to help you succeed. However, many starry-eyed entrepreneurs get so caught up in the initial launch and logistics of their potential new empire, they forget to save their marketing energy for the long haul. Although launching a small business is always different, it’s imperative that entrepreneurs approach their efforts by evolving traits of both the “tortoise” and the “hare” in the race to the finish line.

Maintain Momentum

Most businesses want to emerge with a big splash, eager to leverage any and all PR or marketing opportunities they can brainstorm. In the early planning stages, figuring out the most fun, exciting and impactful publicity strategies is exhilarating. However, as quarterly reports pile up and daily troubleshooting takes hold of your worries, bombastic early strategies can quickly slow to a trickle. To avoid this, it’s important to utilize all the tools at your disposal to keep your brand presence strong and relevant without breaking your back to do so.

  • Social media aggregation tools: it’s imperative to maintain a strong media presence for your startup, and there are many tools to help you do so without spending hours a day. Sprout Social or Hoot Suite, for example, can allow you to parcel out a posting strategy that allows you to pre-program posts all at once.
  • “The Fortune is in the Follow Up,” is an old saying that pertains strongly to new businesses. Strategize Your Success points out that a little personal massaging can go a long way. Something as simple as a kind follow-up email can be enough to remind your busy potential clients that you’re around and ready to spring to action.

Read the Fine Print

While some people are natural detail-oriented and wouldn’t dare skip a single line of fine-print, many of us, much to the chagrin of our bank accounts, don’t come over details that could have negative long-term effects on a start up. For example, if leasing a commercial space, Lisa Girard for Entrepreneur notes that many commercial spaces are wracked with hidden fees, utilities and the potential for costly misfortune. For example, many buildings built prior to the 1990s still contain asbestos, or lead if built before 1970. If your business offers a unique product or proprietary service, it’s also essential to ensure all the patents are in order. Although it’s tempting to assume there isn’t anyone lurking to ride the coattails of your wonderful idea, the Maher Law Firm points out that there are many people and companies that are just waiting to “unscrupulously violate patent owner’s right.”

Create a Lasting Culture

Employee “quit” numbers are up, according to Forbes, and the cost of losing an employee is not only astronomical, but the disengaged employees that leave or often disengaged leading up to the decision, which also hurts bottom line and productivity. In a nutshell, employees who feel valued and engaged can help give your company wheels that helps give it those extra miles for the long haul. Bill Conerly for Forbes notes that in order to maximize retention and culture, business owners should:

  • Track retention: look for trends and arcs in employee happiness, engagement and productivity
  • Give employees a path: no one wants to sit around feeling like a cog in a cubicle all day. Giving employees a long term purpose and goals can help them feel like the work they do is leading up to something rewarding.
  • Increase Flexibility: Draconian rules and rigidity can make employees feel trapped and undervalued. Although there needs to be a balanced schedule and professional environment, flexible hours and accommodation of personal schedules can go a long way to keep employees happy.
  • Keep an Eye out for Stressors: whether it’s a jack-hammer outside or a thermostat stuck on 90 degrees . . .or even a particularly loud talker . . . office stressors can quickly turn a tranquil environment into a high-stress zone.
The Pros and Cons of New Overtime Rules

The Pros and Cons of New Overtime Rules

President Obama’s new overtime rules raise the overtime annual salary threshold to $50,400 from $23,600. This change will expand overtime protection to include nearly 5 million workers in 2016, as stated by the President, and reported in Huffington Post.

According to the President, “a hard day’s work deserves fair pay,” and the reform will be good for lower salaried workers who have been putting in long hours of overtime with no additional compensation. The President also stated that the change will benefit employers who are already compensating their employees fairly, as they can no longer be undercut as easily by businesses that have been underpaying their workers with the prior overtime threshold.

As discussed in an article on NPR News, under the old rule, any salaried manager who made more than $23,600 a year could be required to work extra hours with no additional pay, while overtime was strictly limited for non-salaried employees. Employers often misclassify workers as managers – yet at lower salaries – to avoid paying overtime.

Updating the Fair Labor Standards Act with a significantly higher overtime threshold can help put an end to this abuse. In the future, employers will be forced to hire more workers, as opposed to overworking existing salaried employees, or pay their salaried employees overtime rates at time and a half, unless they make more than $50,400 a year.

Some employers consider President Obama’s proposed changes to be unrealistic and burdensome, as discussed in a Rochester Home Page article. New business owners interviewed for the article stated that the change will affect their plan to convert from hourly to salaried employees as the business expands.

One of these owners said that he would simply hire more employees for lower-skilled positions, and if he did hire salaried workers, he would limit their hours to no more than 40 per week. The existing overtime threshold for salaried workers is below the poverty level for a four-person family, according to the Rochester Home Page article.

A Washington Post story on the subject reports that, according to a well-known economist, the change could have the advantage of creating additional jobs. Workers get paid time and a half for their overtime hours. Employers may decide to hire more workers to avoid paying time and a half – hence more jobs may be created.

Some salaried employees may find themselves in the position of working fewer hours instead of being paid for their overtime after the reform goes into effect. Although this may not pad the pocketbooks of those workers, at least they will have more personal time free, and hopefully a higher quality of life.

Make It Like New: Renovating an Old Building for a New Retail Space

Make It Like New: Renovating an Old Building for a New Retail Space

Whether you are starting a new business or are expanding, finding the right space is essential. Depending on your location, there are may be many older and abandoned properties with historical value, loads of potential, and in need of a little TLC. These days, when city dwellers across the country are urging to keep downtown business districts alive, an older building may be the perfect fit for your business; particularly if the price is right.

Whether you love the clean lines on a Classical Revival building or are head over heels about the masonry construction and arches of a Romanesque Revival building, any old building you choose to renovate may require some work. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by your work in progress, look at your purchase as an opportunity to make your business stand out.

Safety First

Much of an old building’s charm is visible on the outside, but in order to capture the original look on the inside, it may require peeling and tearing out layer upon layer of outdated building materials (such as paneling, plaster, carpeting, and linoleum). However, you may also come across a building that looks as though it has never been touched by modern architecture. Either way, you will need to make sure that your building is a safe place for your business and that it won’t put you or your patrons in danger.

  • Inspection: Have the building inspected by a professional. He or she will closely examine every aspect of the building from the roof to the foundation to determine the building’s safety. This report will help you decide how much to invest in the remodel and how much assistance you may need from a designer/architect.

  • Beware of Red Flags: The price tag may be too good to pass up, but are there are some red flags to consider such as hazardous materials like asbestos. Many old buildings contain the carcinogen and should not be destroyed or removed without a professional.

Asbestos can be found in almost every type of building material prior to the late 1970’s. “Asbestos has been used in heating and domestic water systems, including pipes, boilers and tanks. It also has been used in vinyl and linoleum flooring, and drop-in ceiling tiles,” says Belluck & Fox

Design Tips

Once you’re given the green light to go ahead and start renovating, it may be hard to decide where you want to start. While money will most likely be the deciding factor, plan a design that focuses on energy conservation and safety without losing your business’s unique style.

  • Spend to Save: There are many features in the old building that you may want to hang on to such as tall ceilings, ornate light fixtures, and large store front windows. You can keep some of these charming features and add some updated, money saving designs. Consider saving light fixtures, but adding more efficient lighting. Keep the large windows, but make sure there is new weather stripping around the windows.

Additionally, get rid of features such as mail chutes, that may interrupt efficient heating and cooling. If you’re lucky, you may find some inexpensive replicas (flooring or lighting) that perfectly match some of your building’s vintage charm.

Top 5 Metro Areas to Start a Business In

Top 5 Metro Areas to Start a Business In

Certain cities – and states – are much more favorable places for the establishment of a new enterprise. Starting any new business is expensive, and keeping costs low in the initial stages can make it possible for a small business to survive this stage, and become viable. Costs associated with corporate taxes, real estate, and the necessary equipment and materials, as well as marketing and payroll will consume the majority of any investment, whether your own money, bank loans, or funds provided by an investment partner. Choosing the right metro area to get established is an important decision. There are five places that Forbes Magazine reports as offering the greatest advantages.

Raleigh, NC tops the list, due to low business costs and an educated labor pool, according to Forbes. The news source reports in its evaluation of cities that the area has business costs that are 18% lower than the national average, and the labor pool is far more educated than the national average of 30%, standing at 42% of adults with a college degree. Des Moines, Iowa also ranks highly, with a much lower cost of living, standing at 6% below the national average, with the business costs at coming in at 17% lower. Utah has traditionally been a favorable state in which to do business, and has three cities in the top ten metro areas most favorable for business, with Provo coming in third in the list issued in the Forbes report. Colorado has two metro areas that come in fourth and fifth in this list, with Denver in fourth place and Fort Collins listed as the fifth most favorable.

USA Today used a different set of criteria to come up with the top five cities most favorable for starting a business, listing Shreveport, LA, Tulsa, OK, Springfield, MO, Chattanooga, TN, and Jackson, MS. The criteria used in naming these areas did not take into account the education level of the area, which may not be important, depending upon the type of enterprise. This list measured costs of office space, cost of living, and access to resources.

Choosing the location for business requires that you weigh all the factors that will have a potential impact upon the success of your venture, but there are other factors to consider. Your family and “roots” may be in a state or metro area that is tough for business, but your connections and quality of life are not something you are willing to sacrifice. Your new venture may not require that you have a manufacturing facility, in which case a more expensive metro area may not be such a concern, particularly with regard to the cost of real estate. The most expensive cities in which to start a business in the USA, according to USA Today, are Anaheim, CA, San Jose CA, Santa Ana, CA, Oakland, CA and Ontario CA. In fact of the top ten worst cities, six are in California.

Starting any business takes determination, money, and the willingness to devote the time to get the enterprise off the ground and into the black. An interesting fact is that the success of any enterprise is in large part the direct result of the actions of the owners, and the ability to overcome challenges. Corporate structure is a critical point, and ensuring that your new enterprise is legally protected from threats, and that the corporate structure suits the type of enterprise early in the process also gives a new business a better opportunity to become a success.

Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

All businesses have to start somewhere. There isn’t one huge corporation out there that didn’t start out as a small business. The key to success for a small business will undoubtedly derive from a solid business plan that revolves around 100% customer satisfaction. Many may aim for this, but few actually achieve it. One way to achieve that customer satisfaction is as easy as getting the service or product they paid for to them in a timely manner.

Popular Shipping Systems

Timely shipping is something larger corporations have deciphered, and it is a big reason why they continue to excel. The ability to get your product out to consumers effectively without breaking the bank is key, and yet often overlooked by most start-ups. There are numerous shipping services and software that help small businesses integrate shipping systems to their business plan. Services like Veego, Orderbot, Uship, Ordoro, Shipstation and Shiply make it easy for small businesses to set up shipping systems through USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL. These cloud services offer a way for businesses to not only ship orders using a desired shipping service, but also provide a way to manage orders and keep a detailed history of every item purchased.

Orderbot – All in One Hub

Orderbot for instance, allows businesses to centralize all sales channels. It will keep track of all your sales channels in one hub. With a very user friendly interface, Orderbot makes it easy for you to keep track of invoices and to fully manage your orders from beginning to end. What really makes Orderbot stand out from the rest is their comprehensive inventory management feature. It keeps track of your inventory in real-time ensuring that you do not oversell; which can be key when attempting to keep customers happy. Consumers expect to receive what they pay for, and they want it as soon as possible. Ensuring that you do not bite of more than you can chew, the unique inventory management tool offered by Orderbot ensures that you receive orders for the inventory you actually have in stock.

Shipstation – One Stop Shop

Alternatively, Shipstation is a one-stop-shop for all of your ecommerce needs. They offer a free 30-day trial and can integrate sales channels such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Bigcommerce and more. They make it easy to ship from any desired shipping service such as FedEx, UPS or USPS among others. They also offer very competitive monthly plans that do not cost an arm and a leg. With the cheapest plan starting at $25 a month, small businesses can set up a strong foundation for effective shipping. Logistics are more important than what people give them credit for. A strong and solid foundation can propel your business to the top and set it up for success.

Having a strong shipping process enables you to get your product out to customers quickly. It no longer requires owning your own cargo trucks. These new methods of transporting goods have become so cost effective that even startups and small businesses can turn a profit. These systems allow you to get products out to customers quickly, and help grow your business into large corporation easier than ever before.

Working From Home: Does Telecommuting Add or Detract From Professional and Environmental Efficiency?

Working From Home: Does Telecommuting Add or Detract From Professional and Environmental Efficiency?

The touch of a button can unite a cross-continental conference call, and the allure of a decreased dry-cleaning bill is enough to tempt many hard workers away from the world of grim cubicles and endless vapid water-cooler banter.  . . but are the merits of working from home/telecommuting really worth giving up on old-fashioned face-to-face office life?

Red Asphalt and Black Skies

Each gallon of gas we use emits around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Commuters driving cars and trucks amount to one fifth of carbon emissions in the U.S. alone, and carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of global warming. It also doesn’t help that the more difficult gas is to extract, the more resources it requires to process. Not to mention nearly 1.3 million people die in auto accidents globally each year.

If you think about it, it puts a whole new spin on tires that need not needlessly wear down their tread. Rush hour is also one of the most dangerous times to be on the road and injure yourself, even a seemingly mindless whiplash can turn into a work-crushing nightmare. The environmental and safety hazards of reducing your driving time doesn’t stop there, in fact, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates that current telecommuters are already saving enough energy to power one million U.S. homes for an entire year.

Productivity City

Although many surmise that the allure of sleeping in and being pajama-clad all day might end up in distracted disaster, however studies show that simply isn’t the case. A study by Stanford University found that employees that telecommute can boast 13 percent more productivity that their in-office counterparts. Fluorescent lighting, pretending to laugh at innocuous jokes, and being forced to sign birthday cards for people you don’t know don’t look so bad now, do they. A study by the University of Austin also found that telecommuters work 5-7 hours more than their counterparts, proving that traffic isn’t just horrible for the environment, it’s also a productivity-sucking waste of time.

More Gratitude and Giving, Less Stress

The larger, more altruistic impact of working from home can not only be beneficial to our external environment, but your own internal environment. Working from  place of tranquility and comfort allows employees to be free from distraction mentally and physically. A University of Pennsylvania study found that telecommuters not only feel more valued when they are allowed to work from home, but they also experience less stress. The lowering stress levels correlate to better work life balance.

Employees that work from home can spend more time on hobbies. Instead of white-knuckled traffic jams from 5-6 PM, they can enjoy gardening or a walk with the dog. Furthermore, working from home can cut costs for both employees and employers. Office clothes, gas money and obligatory restaurant lunches are out of the picture, and  it is estimated that companies may save up to $11,000 annually for each employee that that telecommutes. In an earth-friendly nutshell, telecommuting can save you and your employer time, money, resources, frustration and delay . . . what’s to lose? Except maybe a less hasty onset of global warming and a grumpier workforce.

When Brands Miss The “Social” Part of Social Media: Tips to Stay on Your Game

When Brands Miss The “Social” Part of Social Media: Tips to Stay on Your Game

In the award-winning film, “The Truman Show,” there is a moment where Jim Carrey’s character is having a revelation bordering on a breakdown. In the middle of his crisis, his wife stops him, smiles sweetly and proceeds to interrupt his authentic conversation with a plug for cocoa. If you are unfamiliar, “The Truman Show” is a film based on a man’s life that he doesn’t know is a reality TV show. Of course, the sponsors of the fictional show keep it bankrolled largely through product placement. How is this relevant to your brand’s social media presence?

Well, it’s a prime example of a brand taking the “social dialogue” out of context. Many brands push so hard to plug their products and services that they forget to appeal to simple human interaction, the primary purpose of social media. Through case studies, monitoring the evolution of trends and becoming a proxy for your demographic, any brand can maximize the opportunity not only to grow customers, but build loyal fans.

Case Study One: Interact, Don’t Blast

The top 35 brands on social media report an average of 35 posts per week, contingent on their product, service or brand persona, reports The Social Examiner. The behemoth, yet wonderful brand, iTunes posts an average of more than 60 pieces of content on their Facebook page per week, while Subway posts only around nine. iTunes then experienced a slow growth of fanship by only around 0.04 percent, while Subway boasted a growth of 0.10 percent. Those may seem like small numbers, but that’s a huge difference for brands with such a heavy international reach.

What made this staggering difference? Although there are a number of factors, the boldest difference seems to lay in Subway’s devotion to answering poster’s questions. Subway responded to 61 percent of all inquiries, while iTunes responded to zero. Instead of playing it like a numbers game and blasting fans with constant updates, Subway took a more targeted and personal approach, making social media a two way street.

Case Study Two: It Doesn’t Matter Who You are or What You Do, There’s a Niche Waiting for You

Social Media today has written about the importance of befriending and embracing local communities before, and the importance of this extends to any brand, no matter the size or industry. Embracing local communities and interacting with them positively is a wonderful way to build brand loyalty and demonstrate attentiveness. However, this can quickly backfire with insensitivity.

For example, the culinary powerhouse, Epicurious, embarked on an unintentionally offensive social media campaign to show local support for the tragedy of the Boston marathon bombing. However, instead of appearing as empathic and sincere, their tweets backfired because they used them to promote their own products. One tweet read “In honor of Boston and New England: may we suggest whole-grain cranberry scones (with a link to their page)?” Instead of generating traffic to their scone section, all they did was create an uproar of offended former-fans eager to point out how self-serving the tweet was.

Meanwhile, even law firms can create local engagement through looping in both local and national trends. Take Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, based in Louisiana for example. Their ability to make their Facebook page relevant and informative has helped expand their reach and secure their reputation as more than a group of stuffy lawyers, but people who are interactive and keep their finger on the pulse of pertinent happenings.


Whether or not your brand is a Law Firm, a sandwich company, or you just want to peddle some cocoa on the big screen, the impact of tailoring your social media to speak with your demographic, instead of “at” them, can make a world of difference.

How to Make Your Business More Productive

How to Make Your Business More Productive

Take Control of Your Habits

When you run a business, especially a small business, it may feel like you’re always behind. At the end of many long days at work, you may feel like you should have gotten more done. You’re not alone; most small business owners would love to have a few extra hours in the day. Unfortunately, like everyone else, you only have 24. But, you can take control of your day-to-day habits in a way that will help you get the most out of the hours you have. The following is a list of basic practices which, if you make a conscious effort to adopt, will eventually become second-nature. The little things really do add up. Soon, you’ll find that your business is more efficient, more productive, and that you are less stressed.

Productivity-Increasing Practices

  • Focus on a single task at a time. When it feels like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, it’s tempting to try to put out every fire at once. In reality, the idea multitasking is a bit of a myth. If you’re doing many things at once, you cannot do them well. Better to attack a single task thoroughly, and….
  • …Delegate the rest! You hired talented employees; let them lead on tasks that play to their strengths. It will leave you more time to focus on your own workload, and many employees find the increased autonomy to be motivating. Satisfied employees are more productive.
  • Plan out your schedule and your to-do list, every day. It may feel silly, if you think you already know what needs doing, or overwhelming if the list gets long, but it’s worth it. An organized plan helps you budget your time and prioritize your tasks.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate software for your business’ operations. In one study by Microsoft, 55% of respondents directly linked their productivity levels to the quality of their software.
  • Similarly, consider using an external or remote-access drive for all your employees. It’ll cut down on back-and-forth emailing of attachments, and miscommunications: everyone will literally be on the same page. Many online drives allow plenty of free storage space in the cloud, or offer other services for quite low fees.
  • Make sure lines of communication are always open, and streamline your meetings. You and your employees will be more efficient if you can access information quickly, and reach each other easily. You may find that more frequent, quick updates are more productive than long, general meetings.