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/ 

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

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

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

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

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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

Entrepreneurs, Multi-tasking, and Focus


Entrepreneur multi-tasking

Making the decision to start a business is easy compared to actually performing the many tasks needed to get the business off the ground.

One of the top reasons so few businesses succeed, in my opinion, is not that the business isn’t viable but the entrepreneur gets overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks they must do, many at the same time and like an over loaded electrical system crashes and burns.  When three, four, eight or twenty tasks need to be completed simultaneously you can almost see the brain overload. Without the skills necessary to meet these keeping and growing your business could be difficult.

Successful entrepreneurs learn the art of multi-tasking to cope with the demands of starting a new business. Prospective entrepreneurs, if not already proficient at multi-tasking, need to become proficient at that skill.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Make lists. As a beginning entrepreneur there will be so much information thrown at you that you will not remember everything  needed to be accomplished. Making a list daily keeps your mind focused on what needs to be done and keeps you from stressing…too much.

 2.  Remove as many distractions as possible. I know this is not easy.  However, the more distractions you can remove from your work environment then the less chance of tasks being interrupted.

 3. Take notes. Even with today’s electronics that help in many ways for us to become more efficient I still believe you need to have a pad and paper close by to quickly put down notes or thoughts. This may be a generational issue, but I find it is helpful in organizing my thoughts.

 4.  Delegate (when you can). This is a difficult skill to learn.  Sometimes it is not practical to delegate plus the make-up of entrepreneurs often make this difficult. None-the-less the earlier in your entrepreneurial career you learn this skill the better off your business will be and you will have less sleepless nights. Start small so you can build confidence that someone other than you can do the job.  This is a skill that requires an effort to obtain.

 Along with multi-tasking the ability to stay focused in your objectives for your business is critical.  Many of the things you do to aid in your multi-tasking overlap to your ability to focus.  However, here are some more tips on focus:

 1. Have your goals visible. When in doubt or feeling a little overwhelmed look at your goals and ask yourself if what you are doing is moving your forward toward your goals or away from your goals?

 2. Time wasters. When you go into business for yourself you begin to notice there is a group of people called ‘time wasters’. They are not just content to waste their time but yours as well. If you don’t learn to say No, or I’m busy. The main point is do not allow them to get you off task. It is your responsibility to guard your time not theirs.  Avoid these time wasters.

 3. Always move forward. This is something I believe if you can always move forward toward your goal not matter how big or small you will accomplish your goal.  

 4. Perseverance and Persistence.  Moving forward will require these two qualities. When things don’t go your way, and that will happen, then persevere.  Stay persistent in your desire to move forward and if what you’re doing isn’t working try something different that will get you to your goal.

 Of course these are many tips on how to multi-task and focus and I urge you if you are having difficulty with ether one to learn more about how to improve. Remember that although tips and suggestions are great they will do nothing if you don’t have the wish to change and put forth the effort to make it happen.

June 30, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Starting A Home Based Business


Home Business

Home Business

There are nuances that a Home Based Business encounters that is a little different then someone who starts a business and operated away from home. I suggest speaking with your accountant or attorney. If you don’t have one you will need one. The biggest obstacle you will have to overcome if you work from home? That’s an easy question to answer…you! You will be the biggest obstacle to working from home. Trust me I speak experience. If you have never worked from home before  a couple of things you should know. My own experience and the experience of other entrepreneurs I have seen tell me that very few of us are cut out to be the ‘work from home’ entrepreneur. I thought I was several times and it is more difficult than you would imagine to get yourself motivated and into your home office at a specific time. If you are distracted, a home based business is more than likely not the way you should go.

I have had some surprises and have seen a few entrepreneurs prove me wrong. But not very many have proven me wrong.

Set Boundaries

Lastly, if you have a hard time saying no this may not be the best way to start you business. Once you are working from home and you have the other two areas covered – you are a self-starter, and you are not easily distracted then you must overcome one other impediment to your success … your friends and family. Once your family and friends know you are working from home you may find they have requests of your time to run errands require your time away from your business. Start from the beginning establishing your boundaries. Friends and family must understand that even though you are home you are working at your job.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Entrepreneur | , , | 3 Comments