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

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

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

CAPITAL FUNDING OPTIONS FOR ENTREPRENEURS


  

 

Dollars

Funding Your Business

As they launch their business entities, entrepreneurs frequently have trouble grasping the various types of capital funding they may be able to secure to run their business operations. The following piece explores several of the more frequently utilized capital sources and discusses the positive and negative aspects of each type of funding.

After you have concluded that your business is in need of external funding, you must determine which kind of funding source to seek. There are several options available to business owners, and all of them come with good and bad elements. Let us now investigate the available choices as well as our impressions of the benefits and drawbacks of each one.

Per usual, it is my suggestion that you consult with your accountant and attorney with regard to these kinds of matters.

Bank Lending

Many refer to this as debt financing. Under this type of arrangement, you will be indebted to the bank for money borrowed. The loan terms will determine the amount of interest which will attach to the principal amount you must repay to the bank. Debt financing can be used at various stages of a company’s evolution, from its earliest days to the time it reaches full capacity. Different phases of a company’s lifespan will call for different loan terms, based on several factors.

 Positives:

* The business will remain under your ownership and control.

* You will be able to deduct from your taxes the interest paid on this kind of borrowing.

Negatives:

* Collateral is likely to be a requirement for securing this kind of funding.

Factoring of Accounts Receivables

This is an alternative which many fail to consider. This is an option offering you instant cash availability, though it will require or strenuously recommend that you sell a portion of your accounts receivable to a factoring firm, which works to collect money from your customers.

Positives:

* This is perhaps the quickest method of obtaining funds.

Negatives:

* Should you have customers who are unwilling or unable to pay money owed, you will be responsible for paying their outstanding balance.

Friends, Family and Acquaintances

This is an alternative in which a business owner turns to friends and family to provide money for their business enterprise, ranging from a small amount to several thousands of dollars.

Positives:

* There is no trading of equity for funding.

Negatives:

* Possibility of harming relationships with friends and family members.

Revolving Credit Card Usage

While there are surely cases in which a business owner managed to succeed through funding his or her operations with credit cards, this is, to my mind, one of the last alternatives a business owner ought to select. However, the option does exist, and the fact that it is selected fairly often merits further exploration.

Positives:

* There is no security requirement.

Negatives:

* This type of borrowing can easily get out of hand.

Borrowing Against Home Equity

Prior to the recent economic downtown, this was an appealing possibility for many. But, in recent years, this type of solution has become far less available. That is not to say that you should forget about the possibility altogether, but banks are sure to have fairly stringent requirements in place. At the time this article is being produced, banks still require good to superior credit in order to grant credit to applicants. With that stated, we should examine the positive and negative aspects of this solution.

 Positives:

* If you can gain approval, you may secure a longer term loan at a more advantageous interest rate than several of the other alternatives discussed.

Negatives:

* Your home is at risk should the business fail.

* If you have a spouse, he or she will likely need to serve as a signatory on the loan as well. You may think this is not a problem at the present time, but what happens in the event of divorce? What would happen with the loan? It is my suggestion that you speak honestly about this possibility in advance in order to avoid potential difficulties in the future.

Assistance from Angel Investors

Angel investing is a funding method which is frequently misunderstood or overlooked by entrepreneurs. But, if you can show evidence of a great concept, a solid management group, the ability to endure, as well as a viable exit strategy, it is possible that you will be among the 1-3% to win funding.

 Positives:

* These investors are ready with the money necessary to launch or build your fledgling business. The total funding amount will be disbursed incrementally. Different angel groups prefer different levels of direct oversight. It is likely that they will require a position on the company’s Board of Directors.

Negatives:

* You will have to trade a portion of your business in exchange for the investment you receive. What proportion of the business you must trade will probably be determined by how much money you receive from the investors and the level of risk they have assumed. Keep in mind that investors are concerned with making money. You must conduct an appropriate amount of research in advance. It is vital that you seek the expertise of attorneys and accountants before you enter into any agreements.

The Bottom Line

 It can be difficult and taxing to obtain business funding. This article has explored several alternatives open to entrepreneurs. You must always conduct due diligence when considering possibilities. After you have narrowed the options a bit, talk things over with your lawyer, accounting, business acquaintances and professional contacts. Remember that you have various alternatives, and do not necessarily need to choose one to the exclusion of all others. You must always make decisions carefully, taking all of the negative and positive aspects into consideration.

Author Box

Brenda Collins is a seasoned business coach with vast experience helping entrepreneurs launch and nurture new business enterprises. Ms. Collins’ background includes collaborations with firms of all types and sizes all over the globe. Most recently, she worked with a successful launch within the internet technology business sector. Focusing on business strategies and marketing techniques, she has collaborated with politicians, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors to help fledgling business owners secure funding opportunities.

Her interest in aiding business owners began long ago. She started as an employee in her father’s business while still quite young. “My background is almost entirely based on my experiences with business owners,” says Ms. Collins. She believes that the education she received while earning a teaching degree from the University of Cincinnati has been tremendously helpful in her work with entrepreneurs. Ms. Collins’ most recent project involves serving as an owner and founder of a web-based group named Zebraheard –Turning ideas into businesses. The Zebraheard group is an extremely valuable outlet for anyone contemplating launching a business. She is always accessible through the main social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Anyone desiring to connect with Ms. Collins to discuss business issues can write to her at bcollins@zebraheard.com.
 

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Entrepreneurs Get Too Busy Making Money…


It sounds crazy doesn’t it?  How can you be too busy making money? The truth is you can and it will ultimately hurt  

Fundamentals

Focus On Fundamentals

your business. Why?  Because when you focus on making money you forget about all the little things necessary to continue making money. You are focusing totally on the prize and forgetting about the process.  

Basketball Goal

Focusing On The Result

 

Think of this as a basketball player focusing completely on making a basket and not developing his or her skills necessary to be a successful scorer? You might get lucky for a period of  time,  but eventually your lack of preparation and training will catch up with you and the player who did prepare and train will surpass you. It is the same in business. Prepare and train. In business training is putting the right processes, and people in place.  

Write down 5 to 10 questions you should ask yourself at a minimum once a week. Get in a habit of asking yourself these questions. Doing that will keep you focused on the little things that will make you successful as you grow. An example of a few of the questions would be: Am I getting the correct information to make the right decision?, Do I have right amount and quality of people in place that I need to move forward?, Am I delegating enough?, How can I make my company be more prepared for growth?. These are few examples and should give you the sense of the type of questions that you should ask yourself.  

My hero is John Wooden, the basketball coach.  He was a great coach and better leader of people.  His take on this is:

 “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”  

 John Wooden quote  

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why Aren’t Entrepreneurs In Government?


Politicians of today should be entrepreneurs.      

We live in a complex society. Individuals, groups, and countries face challenges daily.      

Politician in crisis

 

We must decide if our leaders are up to these challenges.  We find leaders failing to demonstrate their ability to lead.  Watching the oil spill and the feeble attempts to resolve the devastation this crisis has brought to our coasts I conclude our leaders need more entrepreneurial spirit and less ivory tower thinking.      

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary definition of entrepreneur is:      

en·tre·pre·neur – One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.      

My definition:      

en·tre·pre·neur – One who brings together the resources to get the job done quickly.      

If you use the Merriam-Webster definition one could argue at least some of our leaders possess the entrepreneurial spirit.  However, if you use my definition then finding a government leader with entrepreneurial fortitude is as difficult as finding a BP Executive with common sense.      

Entrepreneurs resources can include people, finances and most importantly an idea of how to solve a crisis.  It seems politicians have difficulty enlisting any of these resources but mostly having ideas on how to solve a crisis effectively.  Yes,  entrepreneurial characteristics are severely lacking in our leaders.      

It has become almost repetitive when every disaster is met with inadequate or ill-conceived responses.  The phrase ‘proactive’ is not in a politicians vocabulary nor is the phrase ‘exception management’, however, these are concepts, of which, entrepreneurs are well versed. Entrepreneurs understand the implementation and execution of proactive and exception management processes are at the core of running any successful business operation.      

The world today has increased in complexity so does it make sense to elect officials to run our country that possess little to no practical business experience? We must consider electing public servants with entrepreneurial experience and who can bring those skills to running our nation.      

Again, let’s look at the oil crisis.  One has to wonder where was Plan B? What contingency plans did BP have if a crisis occurred? More importantly where was the contingency plan from our government? Does anyone else find the absence of a contingency plan incredible? An entrepreneur knows the best laid plans can….and things happen and always, always have alternative plans.      

A quality of successful entrepreneurs is what Robert Sternberg calls, “practical intelligence”.  This is the ability to maneuver through situations based on ‘gut instinct’ vs. the standard analytical fare often seen in the higher levels of government.       

Entrepreneur in crisis

 

It is my opinion, until we begin electing officials that understand our government must be operated as a business and posses some amount of entrepreneurial make-up the term ‘crisis management’ will be an oft tossed around phrase, and the ability to quickly, efficiently and effectively resolve a crisis will continue to be a pipe dream.      

Going forward when I consider candidates I will vet each candidate to see if they possess an ounce of entrepreneurship and I will then vote accordingly.      

My recommendation to current politicians is to bring to the discussion table entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are experienced in confronting challenges and gathering the necessary resources to get the job done.  Fellow voter’s careful thought should be given when considering candidates.  Do they have the experience and resume to bring the necessary skill set to the ‘business’ of government?       

Theoretical and analytical thinking still play a part in running the government.  However times change and thus we must add another ingredient. The ingredient to be added for our government to run successfully is practical people – successful entrepreneurs.  It is clear that the running of the ‘business’ of government should be transitioned over to leaders who understand the workings of successful businesses.  Please keep this in mind when casting your votes in upcoming elections.   

I  thought you may find the information below of interest too!   

  • 10 essential business leadership skills – are you a leader? truth be told, not everyone is a leader. it’s just not meant for everyone. and that’s ok. but more people are leaders than they realize. leadership takes on many different faces; it’s just a question of understanding … 
  • Concepts of Leadership – I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. 
  • Flipping the Switch | LeadershipJournal.net – How far ahead do you plan your preaching? • I plan at least a year out. • I schedule six months to a year ahead. • I plan my preaching but not six months ahead. • I plan the next 3-10 weeks at a time. • I go week to week. … 
  • Leadership Skills – Leadership, a critical management skill, is the ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal. These items will help you develop your skills as a leader. What Is A Leader? This describes the characteristics and traits of a leader. 

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments