4 Ways Startups Get Started

Starting a business is more complicated than setting up a store front and offering a product or service. Most startups fail withing the first year or two. Those that fail, often fail for very basic reasons. Many of the startups that fail could have succeeded had the owners looked beyond the dream to the reality of not just starting a business, but also knowing how to run a business on a daily basis. Here are four way

s to help businesses not only start, but also succeed.

Research
While having a dream is positive, a potential owner must go beyond an idea. The potential business owner needs to research the idea to see if it has viable market potential. Potential owners need to ask and find the answers to the following questions:
* Is there a large enough market need for my product or services to work?
* Who is the customer base?
* Who else offers this service or product?
* How fierce is the competition?
* How is my approach different or unique?The answer to these questions may mean the idea needs fine-tuning or discarded in favor of another idea. It may mean going ahead full steam or changing the focus. Good research provides a solid foundation on which to start a business.

Create a Business Plan
A business has no orientation without a plan or goals. Startups most likely to succeed create a business plan that incorporates all aspects of the business. This includes business type, finances, marketing and legal issues. A business plan lays down the goals and a practical way to achieve those goals in a reasonable amount of time.

Finances and Marketing
Starting a business means knowing what needs to be done and doing it.
* Financing–
Use all possible resources for funds–personal accounts or home equity, friends, family, banks and more.
Gather enough to run the business for at least a year.
Have a timetable for showing a profit.
* Marketing–
Know what your customer base is and how best to reach this base.
Decide if you require the services of an outside marketing service, such as a tech PR firm to make sure the potential base is adequately reached.
Marketing includes word-of-mouth from family and friends, press releases, ads, social media and more.

Make it Legal
Starting a business has legal ramifications that include contracts, taxes and following federal, state and local laws. It also may include certain licenses or certifications. Successful startups cover their basis legally.

3 Practices to Avoid in the Food Industry

Restaurant BusinessStarting a business in the food industry is difficult and rewarding. Restaurants and artisanal food manufacturers can become anchors in a community. Guiding one of these businesses toward success is not easy. Innumerable hurdles are placed at every point from acquiring initial financing to dealing with critics. Success is based as much on skill and talent as it is on luck in some cases. There are still several common mistakes in the food industry that must be avoided. Business owners are likely to have to deal with one or more of these problems many times between initial startup and eventual success.

A problem many people in the food industry experience is a loss of focus. Losing focus means a restaurant known for serving great Italian food suddenly starts offering Indian and Chinese food as well. Even food manufacturers experience this problem. Over-diversifying the brand will make customers confused. It will also devalue the core foods in the minds of customers. Restaurant owners make this mistake by creating menus with hundreds of low-quality options instead of just a dozen great items. Businesses that need to expand and diversify a menu should play towards the strengths of the popular items instead of abandoning what made the brand successful in the first place.

Starting a restaurant or a small condiment manufacturing business is a dream for many people. Starting any business is very rough for the first few years. Some owners need to cut corners or make informal alliances. One practice that should always be in place is defining the legal connection between everyone involved in the business. Partners, investors and employees need to have clear contracts that state exactly what the relation is to the business. This will prevent disputes after becoming successful where a waiter claims co-ownership or where a partner claims 100 percent ownership.

Every business in the food industry needs to balance cost with service and quality. An area that is often underrepresented in a restaurant business plan is labor. Some new owners believe that an entire restaurant can function with just one chef and one server. Under-staffing is a practice that should be avoided at all costs. Under-staffing leads to poor customer service which will drive customers away. Under-staffing also creates unhappy employees who present a bad face for the business. Every restaurant should plan for an adequate level of staff in the front and back halves of the establishment.

What Movies Have Taught Me About Business

Robots: See a need, fill a need.  My Interpretation: See where there is a need and find a way to capitalize on that need.

Field of Dreams:  If you build it, he will come.  My Interpretation: If you build something good, people will use it.  Yes, marketing is important, but only great marketing mixed with a great product/service will bring you and help you to retain customers.

Gone with the Wind: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.  My interpretation: Know when to care and know when not to care.  Sometimes caring too much can be detrimental. (Sometimes caring too little can also be detrimental.

Wizard of Oz:  Toto, I have a feeling we’re in Kansas anymore.  My interpretation:  Have a vision and a mission.  If you find yourself outside that realm, ask yourself if you want to be where to are, or if you should redirect).

ET: ET, Phone home  My Interpretation:  Its all about work-life balance.  Don’t live to work.  Work to live (and of course love what you do, or at least eat Reese’s Pieces while doing it. . .)

Jerry McGuire:  Show me the money.  My Interpretation: Dream big.  Raise your expectations

Newsies:  Now is the time to seize the day.  My Interpretation: Do it now.  Don’t be afraid to make change happen.

Casablanca:  I think this is the begnning of a beautiful friendship  My Interpretation: foster relationships

Pursuit of Happyness: Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. . .you got a dream, you gotta protect it.  You want something, go get it.  Period. My Interpretation:  I think this one is self-explanatory.

 

Top Four Ways to Impress Your Interviewer

After you have submitted your MBA application essay, then you will probably be called in for an interview. Getting into a top MBA program is hard, but impressing your interviewer will greatly increase your chances of being accepted. Below are four ways that you can impress your MBA interviewer:

Have A Couple of Practice Interviews

Practice really does make perfect. That is why you should have a couple of practice interviews with a co-worker or friend before you have a real one. Practicing will help increase your confidence. Interviewers are always looking for a confident person. Before you have your practice interviews, make sure that you research the questions that are frequently asked during interviews.

Do Something To Reduce Your Stress Prior to Your Interview

It is normal to feel a little bit jittery before your interview. However, if you are extremely nervous, then you may not be able to answer the questions as well as you would like. You can de-stress by taking a walk in the park or having a cup of herbal tea.

Explain To Your Interviewers Why You Are a Good Fit

Admission officers often get hundreds of applications to one program. One of the key things that they look for in a potential student is someone who is different from the other people who are applying to the same program. That is why you will need to thoroughly explain why you are a good fit for the program. For example, if you have experience in business, then you should tell your interviewers that.

However, you want to make sure that you do not come across as being overly confident. Furthermore, you should tell your interviewers things about yourself that are not on your resume.

Do Not Beg

Your interviewer already knows that you want to get selected for the program, so there is no need to beg. Your application will most likely end up in the reject pile if you beg.

Again, getting accepted into a MBA program is very hard. However, if you have a couple of practice interviews and de-stress prior to your interview, then you can increase your chances of being accepted. Additionally, you will need to explain to your interviewers the reasons that you would be a good fit for the program, but you should avoid begging.

 

Why Customer Experience Counts

Intuitively, we know customer service counts. But we can point to a few ideas how it shouldn’t: if you’re a monopoly, you don’t have to care. If you make a great product, the product should sell itself. If you have neither of those things, all you have to be is better than the next guy and you’ll succeed. Do these hold true in the real world? Let’s take a closer look.

Cable companies are typically monopolies or duopolies. Also typically, they are reviled for their customer service. Cable service, once the lines are run, is enormously profitable, and because of the huge initial investment, there are few players in the market. Cable companies rake in the dough while getting low ratings. Yet they advertise extensively. Why? Advertisements provoke good fuzzy feelings in the minds of consumers. Why do they advertise? The cable companies are looking at the customer lifetime value from Optimove, and trying to avoid a disruption in the marketplace that would cause them to lose that customer.

Internet companies are trying to hustle control of your living room. If you cut your cable, you’ll save a lot of money, and as time passes, you get more and more television content. For what reasons would you keep your expensive and wasteful cable service, then? The answer is the fuzzy feelings you have for your cable company. They advertise preemptively to mitigate those future losses. One hopes they have a backup plan.

What if you have a great product that sells itself? You still need customer service. It’s again a preemptive tactic; you might need customers to buy your next product, a mediocre one, so your business can survive until your next great one. Customers invest themselves in a company through customer service, and a customer’s lifetime value is huge to a company.

The marketplace is more competitive than ever. If you don’t have the luxury of monopoly, you must find another way to reach out to customers. Even if you have monopoly now, you may not in the future. Customer service is expensive; it requires a human touch. For that reason, the first thing companies typically cut is customer service. Research and development is the second. These companies are shooting themselves in the foot because customer service and research and development are the primary long term determinants of success. Your business is a long term investment; treat it as such.

Making The Leap From Self-Employed To Being An Employer: Things To Keep In Mind

When the workload for your small business becomes too much for you too handle, you need to make a decision. Do you hire subcontractors or contracted employees to handle the parts of your business that take too much time? Do you bring on salaried full-time or part-time employees? Do you form a partnership with another equally qualified entrepreneur and share in the profits? Answering these questions about the future of your business is a difficult proposition.

Subcontracting And Contract Hires

Many business owners, especially those who run online businesses, run into the problem of secretarial work taking up much of their time. Tasks such as answering customer e-mails can eat up a large portion of your day that could be spent doing much more productive activities. In a case such as this, hiring a virtual personal assistant would be a great move; VPAs are telecommuting workers that do online secretarial work for you on a very inexpensive contract basis. The time freed by hiring a VPA can help make you more productive so that you can grow your business.

Contract

Other parts of your business may be subcontracted out as well; for example, unskilled labor. If some tasks that you perform do not require specialized training, you may consider hiring contract workers to perform these tasks. Contract workers do not require you to pay much in the way of taxes. They can also be paid on a commission basis. For example, if you have a small business making handmade jewelry, you can hire contract workers to do unskilled tasks such as threading beads onto necklaces; these workers would then receive pay based on how many necklaces they created that were up to your standards.

Salaried Positions Are A Huge Leap In Complexity

If the main problem in your business is that there is more profit to be made by hiring skilled workers to help you do your job, your best choice is to hire salaried employees. When you need to go through the process of training employees in order for them to be productive, you need to focus on employee retention. Taking time out to train employees as a self-employed person making the jump to being an employer can be expensive in terms of lost revenue. If the employee leaves, your training costs have been wasted.

Hiring salaried employees is a much more complex process than contracting. Compared to contracting out parts of your business, the increased overhead in terms of taxes can be debilitating. The paperwork for salaried employees is more complicated, and you will have to pay additional payroll taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes for salaried employees. In addition, you will have to offer employees competitive salary and benefits commensurate to the degree of their position. This is important for retaining employees so that you do not waste training costs. Overall, salaried employees are a huge expense but may be a necessary one.

Will It Increase Profits?

Determining if the increased revenue brought about by hiring skilled or unskilled workers would outweigh the expenses of hiring them is the main decision that needs to be made when determining whether or not to make the move from being self-employed to being an employer.

Increase Profits

If you are unsatisfied with the results of contracting work out, you can easily find another contractor or stop altogether. If you hire a salaried employee, the decision is a much harder one to recover from if it does not work out. Depending on local labor laws, you may need to give employees generous advance notice before you can fire them. You also have spent time training them, which means a loss of revenue for that period. The decision of whether or not to hire employees for your small business is one that must be weighed with careful consideration as to whether it is the right choice to help your business grow.