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Entrepreneurship

17 Growth Hacks to Help Your Startup Scale Faster

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Startups are everywhere on the internet today. It doesn’t matter if your expertise, service, or focus is on technology, business, social media, content creation or even applications — this space is extremely saturated! Everyone has ideas, but only those who know how to implement them and turn their efforts into actions will see real results. Just like it’s easy for anyone to start a website or blog, it’s not so easy to get real traffic and make money.

The same is true for starting any type of business online. It’s all fun and games in the beginning, as you are likely starting from zero… but how long can this immediate growth last?

Rapid startup growth is a common goal for many business owners, but it’s one that is tricky to achieve. You need the right marketing tactics, customer support and operational infrastructure — and you need the resources to sustain it all until the sales start rolling in. This is where the opportunity of running an internet-based business really comes into play.

So, what’s the secret to scaling up with speed? Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their best growth hacks for businesses looking to expand quickly. By following any of the growth hacks for businesses below, you should start to see improvement across the board in a matter of a few short weeks.

1. Create Your Brand

Start creating your brand as quickly as possible. Your brand is an important asset for a startup. People need to know what you do and why you do it in order to use your product or service. The faster people know your brand, the faster you will be able to scale up your business.

Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS – Integrated Marketing Solutions

2. Learn How to Delegate

The fastest way to scale is to optimize your time. Start with the things that are taking up the majority of your time and find someone to manage them. Hire, outsource or create daily efficiencies, and scaling will feel easier than it should.

Corey Eulas, Factorial Digital

3. Focus on Your Processes

Experiencing rapid growth can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how prepared you are. We experienced and are experiencing this growth currently, and it helped expose areas of improvement in our processes. If your processes are broken and you grow fast, it will only emphasize those weaknesses. If you focus on shoring up processes first, you’ll be prepared for fast growth.

Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting Group

4. Draw Attention to Your Brand and Product

Ride on your competition’s research through SEO and advertising. Use Quora as a platform to answer questions related to your product. You will get immediate traffic. Use video marketing on LinkedIn to draw attention and increase followers.

Trish Agarwal, V Synergize Global Solutions LLC

5. Keep Reminding Your Audience About Your Brand

You have to get out there and get your name out. The more people you know who keep seeing what you do, the more they will think of you when they need what you do or know someone who you can help. This is a big reason why people buy from top brands — their marketing is all over the place reminding you.

Jacqueline Marrano, Marrano Solutions, LLC.

6. Grow Your Team

The rate-limiting factor of growth of any organization is leadership. Entrepreneurs need to scale themselves as well as their teams. When the team is more effective and growing, the business will automatically grow to greater and greater scale. Nothing matters more than human capital.

Eric Mathews, Start Co.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Accept Help

If you insist on rapid growth, you’re going to need help. And once you get that help, you are going to need to trust their abilities. Too many entrepreneurs think they can do it all and they end up exhausting themselves/failing. Let those around you help you.

Adrien Schmidt, OpenBouquet

8. Put the Customer First, No Matter What

The bigger your business, the greater the need for a solid customer support infrastructure. Prioritize customer communication early on. Each interaction is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s voice and values. Cultivating loyalty and customer satisfaction is a result of having the right solutions and experts to guide your customer service strategy.

Eng Tan, Simplr

9. Know Your Sales Funnel

Sustainable, fast growth requires every part of the acquisition funnel to be in top shape. This will look different for every business, but it’s always important to pinpoint exactly what isn’t working, whether that’s acquiring leads, converting them or upselling them.

Jacob Drucker, Supply Clinic

10. Learn How to Get the Right Traffic

You’re great at what you do, your service is wonderful and your prices are well worth the value you provide. The only thing is, nobody knows you and they can’t find you. If you know how to generate foot traffic or web traffic at a good cost, you’ll be able to scale up quickly. Find the right help, or roll up your sleeves and figure out how to do this for your industry.

Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

11. Build a Strong HR Team

Most entrepreneurs do not pay enough attention to HR. To scale up quickly, you need to rely on people. You can’t do everything yourself and let your department heads rely on you in order to move forward. HR comes into play and lets you hire people that you can rely on.

Michael Hsu, DeepSky

12. Aggressively Network

My advice to startups looking for quick growth is to get the word out about their business or service by any means necessary. Spending a lot of money on marketing and promotion may not be possible in the early stages, but one of the cheapest and most effective methods of doing so is to connect with other professionals. Foster healthy relationships with professional peers.

Bryce Welker, Crush The LSAT

13. Focus on SEO

SEO is still one of the most effective growth strategies, but it’s hard for founders to execute because it requires content development and the ability to build systems and processes effectively. Double down on content and guest blogging to get backlinks. Stick to it for a couple months targeting niche keywords and you’ll see exponential growth. Most give up too early, but it requires time.

Matthew Capala, Alphametic

14. Make Time for Strategic Planning

Every year, I make a vision board of what I want in my life. Then, I break it down to the top three goals that I feel I must accomplish for growth. Furthermore, I break it down into weekly actions and daily activities. Once a week, I outline my priorities for that week. I analyze what last week’s activities were, and if I find that I was off track or started another project, I cut it.

Klyn Elsbury, Landmark Makers

15. Get to Market Quickly With Your MVP

It’s critical you get to market as fast as possible to test your assumptions. The concept of the minimum viable product (MVP) is the fastest way to support rapid scaling. It allows you to quickly test your assumptions, iterate your product and accelerate the never-ending work of building a product that remains a must-have to your target consumers.

Eyal Ronen, Puls

16. Create Value

Nothing ethical and good is done without creating real and meaningful value for another business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you a bottle of Uncle Tom’s magical formula. Focus on value and how to make that something that can be shared and promoted.

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

17. Proceed With Caution

Scale up based on demand, not just because you want to. If you scale up too quickly, you run the risk of overextending your resources and potentially losing your company. Concentrate on the quality of your product and look long term. If what you provide is really worthy of massive growth right away, the market will dictate that naturally and you won’t have to force it.

Justin Lefkovitch, Mirrored Media

How to Start Your Startup in the Right Direction

Having read through each of the actionable and expert tips above, you likely already have some good ideas for launching or improving your startup. With all of this in mind, it’s important to take advatage of the many benefits the internet has to offer — especially in terms of connections and online tools.

Take some time to run through our list of recommended business tools and resources, and if you are currently having a hard time with raising the necessary funds for your business, this is also a great resource. No matter what direction or method you take, just be sure to take action daily and always progressing in the right direction.

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Entrepreneurship

What Every SMBs Need to Know About Debt and Growing their Business

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Starting a business in the world might seem easy, thanks to the power of the internet, automation, and lowered costs — but that isn’t to say it’s easy to find success and profitability with that same business. With more businesses starting daily, this leads to a larger increase in competition, and a great number of SMBs who aren’t potentially ready for the fierce competition, compiling costs, and debt that might be right around the corner.

While most aspiring small business owners would love to launch a passion venture and not worry about how to pay for it, this is not the reality. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 27.9 million small businesses in the United States compared to 18,500 firms with over 500 employees. Those small businesses took out a combined $600 billion in business loans in 2015, and another $593 million from alternative means like finance companies and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

At the same time, it’s also important to take a look at the number of startups and closures, and survival rates for businesses in the world today.

But despite the various loan options that exist, securing enough of the right debt is challenging. Yet, as the old adage says, ‘you need to spend money to make money,’ and without borrowing, it’s difficult for any business to grow their operation.

To ensure your business borrows for long-term success without jeopardizing long-term cash flow, here are six things to know about debt.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Generally speaking, good debt refers to debt that can yield long-term income or growth in value whereas bad debt will not. For consumers, good debt might be a mortgage where bad debt would be a revolving credit card balance. In the business landscape, it’s a little more nuanced and dependent on the specific company. You can learn more about the differences between these two here.

An example of good debt might be a company taking on debt to invest in certain employee programs, as the implementation of the program could lead to improved morale and better retention. It could also be debt used to do research and development for a new product since a new product line would generate more future income. A bad-debt scenario could be the result of a business taking out a loan for a larger business space that they don’t end up filling or using adequately. Or a double whammy: paying for nice office space in a prime location when clients never see the office.

These situations can go on and on, and really hinge on the execution that does or does not take place after a loan is taken.

Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratios

Every business—even two competitors—have differences that affect what a healthy debt-to-income (DIY) ratio should be. Businesses might need different levels of debt depending on a multitude of factors.

So, while not a hard-and-fast guideline, generally speaking, businesses with DTIs under 1 have more stable debt levels while a ratio above 1 indicates that a company is more reliant on their debt. Calculate your business’ DTI at any time by taking your monthly recurring debt payments and dividing it by your monthly gross income.

You Have More Leeway with Creditors Than You Think

Many business owners and individual debtors never try to improve on their existing terms or ask their creditors for any kind of compromise, even if it means falling behind on loan payments. But at the end of the day, banks want to see you succeed, if for no other reason than it means they’re getting their money back. If you’re proactive about needing aspects of your loan modified before you encounter difficulty paying it, you’ll stand a much better chance of striking an agreement.

It’s important to remember that creditor negotiations are a case-by-case basis. Whether you’re trying to lower your interest rate, get a one-time payment grace period, or extend the repayment cycle, communicate how changing the loan will impact your business positively.

You Can Consolidate Your Debts

Even if you’re keeping pace with your loans, juggling too many of them can be taxing, not to mention increase the chances you miss a payment date or don’t have the cash flow you need at a certain time of month. Debt consolidation loans condense your monthly payments, due dates, and potentially, can net you a lower overall interest rate.

To learn more about this, also see my article on line of credit vs taking out loans.

Small business owners can attempt debt consolidation by taking out a private loan (though, a high credit score will be needed for favorable interest rates), opening a balance transfer card with interest-friendly (possibly free) introductory period, or seeking assistance through companies like Andrew Housser’s Consolidation Plus, part of the Freedom Financial Network.

Layoffs Are Always a Consequence

Small businesses are like tight-knit families. Limited bandwidth and resources mean that employees develop a sense of pride and camaraderie in working together (at least, when a business does well). And unlike a large company where turnover is rampant, employees tend to work for small businesses much longer.

Of the 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016, organizations with fewer than 100 workers accounted for over 98 percent of the workforce. When small businesses take on debt to scale the operation, they need to understand that they’ll need to cut costs if the investment doesn’t pay off. Layoffs are a realistic consequence. And when a SMB starts laying people off, company morale will take a dive and could lead to lost productivity and even further turnover.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016.

  • Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses.
  • Firms with fewer than 100 workers accounted for 98.2 percent.
  • Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent.

This also isn’t just limited to small and medium sized businesses. Statista just recently had a report on big name companies like Tesla, eBay, Paypal, and more — all of which are leaving their employees hanging on whether or not they might have a long term relationship with the company.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Is a Last Resort

The thought of your hopes and dreams culminating in a bankruptcy court proceeding is certainly disheartening. However, chapter 11 becomes a viable strategy for business owners whose personal possessions are entwined in their business as it aims to restructure business debts to make repayments more manageable going forward without it sinking their business.

Just because taking debt is a necessary evil the majority of small businesses must face doesn’t mean it should be done so lightly. Leave no stone unturned in your search for a small business loan and consider these things above as you do so.

The Best Ways to Approach Debt Loss and Management for Your Company

No matter what position you might find your business in today, it’s important to realize that the first step in cleaning up an potential messes, is to ask for help.

This can be from people within your company, outside advisors, and of course — financial and legal institutions.

To learn more about managing company funds and debt, be sure to check out my other resource guide on paying off company debt.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Effective Methods to Goal Setting for Business Growth and Success

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Have you made resolutions to get your business to the next level?

Are your goals SMART enough?

Are they inspiring your employees to take action?

Goals are the observable results of achievement. Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to achieve, identifying the required resources, and developing an action plan.

If you have yet to set your business goals, consider the benefits of goal setting below.

Five Top Benefits of Goal Setting

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of goals setting to your business. Goals are important in providing direction and focus to grow of your business.

This is especially true for anyone who might be working from home or stuck in a cubicle all day. When you are working on your own and not told exactly what to do, you need to be setting your own goals and the determination to get things done.

Whether it’s writing down such goals on a piece of paper and then checking them off, or using a mobile or online application, it’s all about getting your actions into motion to simply get more done.

Other benefits and methods to accomplishing this include:

1. Inspire and Sustain Progress

The importance of goals setting lies in the ability of goals to inspire and sustain focus. When your business sets SMART goals, your employees know what to do and they can gauge their performance.

As they achieve the smaller steps, they grow in confidence to work towards achieving bigger results. This results in the constant growth of your business. Your employees will grow in their skills and get motivated to keep improving as they see results.

2. Using Video to Increase Productivity

With so many different productivity tools and applications on the market today, it’s important to know where your strengths lie when trying to increase productivity or motivating others.

Through the use of an online creation tool like mysimpleshow, the ability is there to create interactive and engaging whiteboard animation videos to better portray your message.

You can see a clear example of this in the video example below.

At the same time, there are many personal benefits for creating your own whiteboard video to accomplish more and hit your goals.

As mentioned on the simpleshow website, creating such animation and explainer videos aren’t just for marketing and teaching others, they are also great for inspiration, mind-mapping, and hitting your own goals as well. In addition to goal setting, they’ve also seen massive engagement improvement with school students and professionals when delivering information in an audio and visual platform.

Their site went on to say, “Our illustration-style simpleshow explainer videos are most effective if you”:

  • need to tackle complex tasks
  • want to explain difficult topics in a simple and digestible way
  • have to explain almost inexplicable information

Before taking on your next big project, be sure to consider your options with laying everything out in video form, and them working your way through it and sharing it with team members along the way.

3. Increase Productivity and Profitability

When setting goals for your business, you’re aiming at getting more work done and increasing your earnings. Setting goals defines what exactly you want to achieve, and how you’ll get there.

The process also includes identifying the needed resources, skills, and competencies. With this knowledge, you can train your employees or hire skills, which keep your business on track for consistent growth.

Setting goals also improves the decision-making abilities of the organization. The information you collect during the goal-setting process helps you identify where the business is at and chart out a path for the future. Informed decisions will eventually result in business growth.

4. Measure Progress

Your business can’t ignore the importance of goals in measuring progress. Good goals are measurable both in the time it takes to achieve them and the results achieved.

Monitoring is a crucial part of goals setting through which your business measures how far it is at achieving its goals.

Here, the business identifies areas for improvement as well as weaknesses. This way, your business can adjust accordingly to fit into the changing economic times, and you can set bigger goals if you have achieved the previous ones.

This same task can also be accomplished by using the Seinfeld Strategy as well.

To measure progress in your achievement of goals, you need to build a monitoring system such as recording the progress of a task.

5. Collaboration Among Employees

Your employees will work together more when they have a common goal. They can share resources, expertise, and insights. Eventually, your business grows from the harmonious working of the employees.

Goal setting should be a regular practice for your business. You can learn more about how goal setting can improve your business’ performance on this blog.

Six tips that were laid out in this article for improving productivity and collaboration with other employees are:

  1. Stretch your outlook.
  2. Know the key steps of the goal-setting process.
  3. Create a nimble goal development team.
  4. Gain buy-in.
  5. Communicate, communicate, then communicate some more.
  6. Remember to celebrate achievements.

Grow Your Business In 2019

Goal setting builds the foundation of your business, which employees refer to for inspiration and direction. The above benefits of goal setting should provide you with enough reasons to set goals for your business.

However, the most important task in this whole process is making sure you have a goal in place and are taking action to achieve it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. I’d love to hear from you and see how we can start working together.

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Entrepreneurship

Top Business Expenses (and Deductions) Entrepreneurs Need to Know

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The internet has made us all potential entrepreneurs.

And the dream and reality of owning a business is one of the most liberating feelings that you can have. After all, there’s a reason why 27 million people are entrepreneurs.

While there are many benefits to owning your own company, there’s also plenty of crucial information you need to keep in mind. This is especially true when it comes to finances.

Every business is different, and so are the many ways they can save money, write off expenses, and funnel money into different companies or investments. The best way to approach any of these topics of concepts, is to first consult with a financial advisor or attorney. However, there are many resources out there to learn from before you next legal and accounting meeting.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about common types of business expenses (and deductions). Be sure to read through the list below, take a few notes, and also have some questions in mind for the next time you meet with your financial and legal consultant.

Expenses

Whether your company has one employee or a whole team at your disposal, your business is going to have ongoing expenses. Here are some you need to keep an eye on that many people forget to consider.

Utilities

Just like when living in a home, it’s impossible to avoid utility expenses when running your business. While all of us are accustomed to paying our utility bills, business owners sometimes focus too much on tangible costs (equipment, rent, etc.).

Gas, electric, and sewage expenses are all staples when it comes to budgeting for business utilities. Additionally, you’ll need to consider your Internet service expenses, including Internet service and server hosting (if necessary).

Advertising/Marketing

You could have a product or service that shakes the foundation of your industry. But, it won’t mean much if nobody knows about your business. Whether it’s through Facebook ads or an extensive multimedia campaign, you’re going to have to allocate money for marketing as an entrepreneur.

Even if you’re a smaller, local business that doesn’t have the need for large-scale advertising, you still may need to employ the services of an SEO specialist to help get your name on the front page of Google.

If you forego including this in your budget, most of your other work will go unrewarded.

Office Supplies

As previously mentioned, entrepreneurs often focus on tangible expenses when conducting their financial planning. But, these often include larger purchases, such as furniture, computers, and company vehicles.

Office supplies, however, are a necessity that can quickly add up to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars.

Common items that can add to the cost include:

  • Filing cabinets
  • Office chairs
  • Printers/printer ink
  • Staplers
  • Pens/pencils
  • USB thumb drives

Necessary office products can include intangible goods, as well, such as software or monthly fees for necessary applications.

Insurance

To avoid going bankrupt in the event of a catastrophe, it’s imperative as an entrepreneur to have the proper insurance coverage.

In general, liability insurance and property insurance are vital policies to budget for. For example, liability insurance will help protect you financially if someone (an employee or non-employee) experiences bodily harm on your property.

If a fire/natural disaster were to occur or if someone steals property from your business, your insurance coverage will help you cover the costs.

Deductions

Luckily, with expenses come deductions. While they vary depending on the type of company that you run, there are many most entrepreneurs can take advantage of.

For anyone running a business online, purchasing a domain name and web hosting are two examples of common deductions.

Legal Fees

When many people think of the term “legal fees”, they often picture the inside of the courtroom. They may even imagine a consultation with a lawyer.

But, legal fees can stem from many more scenarios, including accounting, bookkeeping, and consultations.

Fortunately, however, you’re able to deduct these expenses as a business owner.

But, the cost must be reasonable for the supplied service. For example, you can’t overpay a friend for their legal services and then expect to write off the entire expense.

Home Office

If you happen to run your business from home, you’ll be able to secure a significant tax deduction. This is calculated by determining what percentage of the property in square footage is used for business.

There is a catch, however: this space must be used exclusively for business.

In other words, if you have a desk in your bedroom that you use for your company, you won’t be able to claim this space as your home office.

Furthermore, there needs to be a legitimate reason to have this designated space other than as an area for productivity. Thus, if you’re not meeting with clients or conducting administrative tasks, you may not be able to get the deduction you want.

Travel

For business-related trips that require an overnight stay, you’ll be able to deduct various expenses when filing your taxes.

These can include:

  • Housing
  • Airfare
  • Meals
  • Auto expenses
  • Luggage and shipping

This is especially useful when traveling over long distances or for an extended period of time. When it comes to international travel, though, there are different rules to keep in mind.

Entertainment + Meals

This is perhaps one of the most popular deductions that entrepreneurs file for. But, this doesn’t mean that every meal or outing can result in a tax deduction.

The expenses must be necessary and business-related, and there must be a chance of an actual payoff. In other words, going to a casual lunch with friends is not a deductible expense.

Going to a bar for food and drinks with a client, however, often is. You can also deduct meals/entertainment that you provide for clients or employees on your own property.

Understanding Types of Business Expenses Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about the different types of business expenses in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making sure that you can scale your business as fast as possible.

Want to learn more about how to run your business efficiently? Make sure to check out this article.

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