Zebraheard

Helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into a business

My Grandfather once said, “Don’t Plow The Field Without A Horse.”


Plowing the field with a horseI am not sure what exactly that meant either. What I think it might have meant, at least in the case of entrepreneurs, is that you can’t start a business by yourself. You have to be open to discretionary listening and take advice of selected information sources.

Entrepreneurs are known for either operating with blinders and ignoring everything except the finish line or without blinders and noticing everything but the finish line. Neither one are  good for the new entrepreneur.

When thinking of starting a business everyone will be giving advice. Choose who you ask wisely. Look for people with experience with entrepreneurs or start-up companies. Not everyone who is successful in business is a good source of advice for the new entrepreneur. Find a core of mentors to access for advice. They will probably give you, at  times, differing opinions. That is also good. Your job as a new entrepreneur is to do your own due diligence, listen to your core mentors, and then make a decision on how to proceed. Ultimately you are the one accountable for the success or lack of success for your business.

The article“Start-up Tips I Didn’t Believe at First” written by Eileen P. Gunn, is spot on when discussing her account of ignoring some advice given to her as she started her business.

Here is a little excerpt: “Before I launched FamiliesGo! I spent the better part of a year talking to people, reading articles and blogs, and taking classes on starting and running a business. I heard a lot of the same advice over and over.”

To read the whole text from this wonderful article here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/3q4d72v.

To find a location with real life information and products for entrepreneurs go to http://www.zebraheard.com/featured-topics/entrepreneurship/ 

May 27, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economic Challenges Creates Innovation Caution


InnovationThe recent economic challenges faced by businesses in the last couple of years cannot happen without changing the way business is accomplished. One change is the way companies approach innovation. Faced with trepidation about the future, thinner margins, and limited resources Senior Management and Board of Directors are requiring an increased sure certainty in innovation initiatives.

The article “Why Some Companies Successfully Innovate and Others Don’t” written by Christine Crandell, discusses what 280 product executives have found are the best practices in today’s economy to continue to be innovative.

It is a great article and here is a little excerpt:

“In a survey commissioned for our company, involving more than 280 product executives in 17 different industries, we found common patterns among the study’s top performers. Among the good management habits of innovative, high-performance companies:…”

To read the whole text from this terrific article here is the link: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/mar2011/id20110318_758366.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories

To discuss this article with other innovative and thoughtful entrepreneurs go to LinkedIn and join the group Zebraheard – Helping Entrepreneurs Turn ideas Into A Business. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Zebraheard-Helping-Entrepreneurs-Turn-Ideas-3845731?mostPopular=&gid=3845731

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , | 3 Comments

Recent Paper Suggests Bias Against Female Entrepreneurs


When the topic of entrepreneurship is discussed the elephant in the room is often the bias against women entrepreneurs from venture and angel investors. Personally, I have not seen this bias. However, I am not naive to believe this does not happen.  Venture and Angel investors are human and subject to the same frailties and biases we all fight against. The first step in resolving any bias is to admit there is one. Everyone who is in the in the entrepreneurial sandbox is responsible to become  hyper vigilant so this does not happen. Bias toward any group is detrimental to us all. The below article describes a recent experiment which, although not conclusive, leads to concern.

Below is a small excerpt from the article which hyperlinks to the abstract on this subject.

“…a recent paper by Lyda Bigelow and Robert Wuebker of the University of Utah provides some solid evidence that investors are biased against female entrepreneurs.”

Here is the link to the full article which will give the reader pause and perhaps start discussions on that elephant in the room.

http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/02/are-venture-capitalists-and-business-angels-biased-against-female-entrepreneurs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SmallBusinessTrends+%28Small+Business+Trends%29

 

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping The End In Sight


   
Marketing Tool or Distraction

 

To paraphrase Stephen Covey, keeping the end in sight, or in the case of an entrepreneur the goal in sight, is vital to a businesses success.

 

 

 

An important tool to help an entrepreneur ‘keep the end in sight’ is to use their pro-formas as a rudder. Much like a ship being thrashed about by unruly waves, which can throw a vessel off course, so too can every day distractions. Social media, although an important tool in any entrepreneur’s tool box, can also serve as a distraction that slowly eats away at an entrepreneur’s time.

The article linked below does a superb job of outlining the steps an entrepreneur can take to use social media while still keeping the goal in view. 

“Staying focused on the measures of success which have the highest impact on sales and profits is a daily battle. Working harder, going faster, writing more, socializing more, and Facebooking more might actually become a dead-end. Social media allows a person to feed their own ego and gives them a sense of control.”

http://tinyurl.com/6g7lyot

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , | 7 Comments

Entrepreneurs Using Effective Video Marketing


entrepreneur video marketing

Marketing tools change over time. As different and more marketing tools are identified the small business owner and new entrepreneur need to embrace these tools. One of the current marketing tools of choice is online video marketing. It is now an important arsenal in any marketing strategy.  The benefits that one receives from online marketing are many.

When you compare online marketing with old school marketing you find video is more effective in engaging your customer or viewer.  One of the most important benefits you will gain from using video marketing is credibility. The speaker or person speaking in the video  is viewed as someone who is knowledgeable. As a business owner you should be conscious of the need to build an online presence. If you want to build an online presence then use video marketing.

The key business differentiator for anyone on the web is video marketing.  Think about it. Once the viewer has landed on the website their attention is drawn to the video.  A carefully constructed video can do more in introducing a potential customer to your company then static web content. Don’t misunderstand text on a website is important and of value. The text helps augment the video and is used by certain elements of your audience who prefers text to video, although this element s shrinking every year. Video marketing is an equalizer for small business and new business owners. It can help level the playing field. Many business owners are moving to it or mixing their marketing techniques which includes YouTube. What one of the best features of online videos is that they continue to work for you while you are sleeping.

For businesses with a small budget the good news is that you do not need  a big budget to be successful at video marketing. As in all marketing strategies they do not act as a single event, nor should online video marketing. It should be a major part of your marketing arsenal. As in all marketing strategies video marketing is not difficult when you have a plan of action and know what to do.  It does not cost much to obtain the necessary tools to produce an effective video. The sticking point seems to be is that most marketers or business owners do not understand or appreciate how to create a video and use the video successfully.   A couple of ways video marketing is used is to aid in credibility, and online presence.

Marketers are scrambling to understand how to seize this new opportunity. Whether you have a small business or a large corporation video marketing is becoming an important marketing tool to communicate with current customers and potential customers. This tool will also drive traffic through video search results as well as organic web search results. 

Producing online video does need effort, but this effort pays off because video marketing leads to increased brand awareness, and traffic. Since video marketing has grown each month it has become a ‘go to’ marketing tool.  Tools, such as, webcams, smart phones and hand-held camcorders can create and distribute online videos in just minutes. Anyone who puts forth any effort can create a good video to be distributed.  When creating a video the rule of thumb is the average online video is about 3.5 minutes. This equates to the online video viewer devoting a significant amount of time to watching videos online.

Beacuse of  incresed viewership there is not one busienss that should not be seriously considering online video marketing in their marketing strategy.

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elevator Pitch Tips


The Elevator Pitch

Believe it or not networking is one of the most important activities for an entrepreneur. To network effectively, an entrepreneur must have a compelling elevator pitch. The ability to communicate what your business is in a memorable,and succinct manner is important. An effective way to reach your audience, the elevator pitch serves as an introduction to your business highlighting the differentiating aspects. Underscoring what differentiates your business from your competition is what makes an elevator pitch memorable. The elevator pitch can be used in many situations from seeking capital, partners, customers, sales situations and, of course, networking opportunities. Don’t confuse an elevator pitch with a sales tool. The elevator pitch is more of a relationship building tool.

One common mistake made is to not adjust the elevator pitch to reflect the changing needs and wants of the target market. What differentiated you in the past may not be relevant now. Keeping current with your target market needs will help you know when your ‘pitch’ needs to be adjusted. Rarely, what differentiates you now will differentiate you in the long term. Constant and clear communication with your target market is the only way to know when that ‘shift’ occurs.

The elevator pitch should be under 30 seconds to be captivating. Thirty seconds is enough time to achieve your goal of having the listener, at the end of your elevator pitch say, “Really! Tell me more.”  That is the effect you want your elevator pitch to have on your audience. Keeping your elevator pitch to under 30 seconds requires an economy of words. To perfect this economy of words practice using Twitter. Twitter requires using as few as characters as necessary to convey your message.  Although Twitter is helpful in sharpening your skill to form concise messages the elevator pitch has to be complete, and logical in its presentation.  A concise, well delivered message shines light on a good message and glare on a bad message. An Angel investor once took aside to express his belief that a good idea clearly shines though when expressed succinctly, but the opposite is also true. A terrible idea is brought to light when expressed in an equally succinct manner.  So you may ask is an elevator pitch really important? Really, it is.

Most importantly understand the elevator pitch is not about you, but your business and what it can do to solve a need. Practice, practice and practice your elevator pitch until it rolls off your tongue making your delivery sound natural. The adage we never receive a second chance to make a good first impression is especially true when delivering your elevator pitch. Make a great first impression!

January 8, 2011 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Meaning of Entrepreneurs for the New Year!


 

Entrepreneurs

Upon reading a blog by Virginia Postrel,  “In Praise of Irrational Exuberance. Does a flourishing economy depend on delusion?” spurred me to reflect on this soon to be past year and in anticipation of  the new. This reflection draws me to thoughts of the entrepreneurs I have met and will meet. How many hopes, dreams, and aspirations have reluctantly been put on that “back burner”? How many dreams have died only to be replaced with the reality of another 50 hour a week job working for someone else? Who knows? What I do know is that for every ten dreams that had to be set aside there is a dream that is well on its way to becoming a reality. 

 

As I type these words there are many would-be entrepreneurs contemplating taking the leap. I say kudos to them. For without entrepreneurs the world would be black and white with only shades of gray. But with entrepreneurs taking the risk of beating the odds they help create a world which is full of vibrant and soulful colors. So let’s encourage future entrepreneurs and say thank you to those who dared to paint with a palette full of color.

An excerpt from Virginia Postrels insightful and beautifully written blog on the meaning of entrepreneurs is listed below and a link to her full post is also included.  

“Through the whole of his life,” writes Smith, “he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquillity that is at all times in his power.” The man is deluded by the glamour of wealth, tricked by an illusion. Yet his achievement is not only real but socially beneficial: “It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind.”

“Many entrepreneurs aren’t even that lucky. They wildly overestimate their chances of success. But this second delusion, suggests economic historian John V.C. Nye, may be essential to maintaining an entrepreneurial culture.”

To view this beautiful article on entrepreneurs click on the link below:http://www.bigquestionsonline.com/columns/virginia-postrel/in-praise-of-irrational-exuberance

To view more valuable information helpful to entrepreneurs go to www.zebraheard.com.

To all entrepreneurs Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Five Things To Keep In Mind When Writing Your Business Plan


The first thing an entrepreneur encounters when considering starting a business is the business plan. A significant number of people will say the sole purpose of a business plan is to obtain funding. Not so. In my opinion, the most important reason to produce a business plan is to make you a better entrepreneur. The processes you must go through when producing a solid business plan is invaluable to laying a1.      Although it is good to relay a positive tone throughout your business plan, it is just as important to present the downside. Remember, be realistic. No one expects your business NOT to have a downside.  Entrepreneurs who fail to present the downside are obvious “rookies” in entrepreneurship and this causes investors to get nervous.

Business Plan Complete

strong foundation to start your business.

 

 

 

2.      When writing a business plan, be thorough in your effort. There are good business plans and there are bad business plans. Anything other than a good business plan is a failed one. The most important way to ensure your business plan is good is to avoid blind spots in your plan. The blind spot occurs because an entrepreneur is so involved in their idea or concept that they fail to see other perspectives … hence the blind spot. To avoid “blind spots” conduct thorough research on every assumption you proclaim and provide the appropriate supporting data.

 

3.      Long is not always better. The question is often asked, “How long should my business plan be?” The quick answer is, “As long as it needs to be.”  It needs to be as long as it takes for you to concisely convey your business idea. The key word is concisely.

 

4.      Weak revenue model. Entrepreneurs love to write about their idea but fail to focus on the age-old questions, “How are you going to make money?” Your business plan MUST convey the answer to that question. The answer needs to explain from the beginning as to where the customer initially comes into contact with your product/service all the way through to follow-up after the sale. In other words, how are you going to bring in revenue?

  

5.      Please, no grammatical errors. Having grammatical mistakes in your plan is another big red flag to investors. If you don’t care enough about presenting a plan without grammatical and punctuation errors, why would you care to manage a business (and their money) correctly? Make sure your article is well written and please do not rely on any grammar software to check for mistakes. If necessary, hire a professional editor. A mistake-free business plan is that important!

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , | 7 Comments

Entrepreneurs – Keep the “WELL” full!


There is a saying, “Don’t wait until you are thirsty before going to the well”. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs, when starting a business often lose sight of their current business relationships and ignore networking to develop new ones. As the saying above indicates, you should not neglect your network of business relationships. It is critical to your success and your business success to keep active in your industry, and community.

You are excited about your new venture. This is understandable. However, in your excitement to launch a business you must not forget to keep attending networking events. Take someone new to lunch. Not just once a month, but several times a week. Networking is as much of launching and sustaining your business as is building a web site, but often overlooked.

An article that illustrates this very point is http://tiny.cc/islua. This site underscores the necessity to stay connected and gives you guidance on how to continue networking.

 

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election is Over – Let’s Create Jobs!


 

Jobs

Job Creation

The election results are in and it has been almost a week since it became clear that the public wants job creation to be a top priority.  It appears the message was heard by the White House as exhibited by the White House leveraging the Monster.com community to communicate with job seekers using Monster’s Facebook Page.  More on this action by White House can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/2gxgsf8Although it is admirable the Administration is seeking the comments of the unemployed the facts indicate that successful job creation must focus on developing an environment conducive to entrepreneurship.

One fact emerges with clarity. Start-ups and young companies dominate net job creation in the United States – and have done so for the last 30 years as stated by The Kauffman Foundation in press release in September 2010 http://tinyurl.com/3433xpf.   If that is the case then why, has so little been done to encourage and support current and would be entrepreneurs?

In all fairness, perhaps initiatives have been implemented that are not immediately clear. Let me offer an apology in advance if that is the case. However, I suspect that is not the case. Too many years have come and gone with entrepreneurs struggling for the assistance and help needed to facilitate and transform their ideas into viable businesses. The current crop of politicians along with the newly elected could help job creation by quickly ( I know –  what am I saying?) creating legislation that is favorable to business, current and future.

If the preponderance of jobs are created by start-ups and emerging companies common sense dictates that we provide the requisite resources for entrepreneurs to succeed.   

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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