When Your Startup Business Plan Needs to Be Revised

How will you know when to revise your business plan? The short answer is that plans are living documents and should be constantly evolving. That being said, there are certain times when major, rather than incremental change, is called for. How do you distinguish between the two? Below are unmistakable signs, or forks in the road, that should prompt you to substantially rethink your plan. 1) Your market has changed — Whether due to technological, regulatory, or competitor driven factors, key market dynamics you envisioned when you came up with your idea, did your research and developed your business plan, no longer apply. Whether you targeted an industry with plenty of existing competitors, or believed that your business would be the only one focusing on this previously unaddressed market opportunity, things have drastically changed. Maybe a major company with deep pockets has embarked on a product line extension and is …
read more >

8 Marketing Rules It’s Safe to Ignore

Previously published in The Agency Post Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should, too. There are marketing rules and practices that some consider tried and true, but these eight entrepreneurs try to look past them. For them, tradition, page views and SEO aren’t the only way to run things. Read on to find out what practices they ignore and why. The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). 1. Play the SEO Game We don’t give too much thought to SEO. Rather than create content for specific keywords, we create content that is interesting and helpful for the startup community. Ultimately, if you’re going to offer content (via your blog, social media, etc.), we think it’s better to focus on creating meaningful content rather than playing the SEO game to move up in rankings. — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services 2. Grow …
read more >

6 Tax Preparation Tips for First-Time Small Business Owners

This guest post was contributed by Michael Lewis of Money Crashers. With the April 15 due date for tax filings looming, first-time small business owners and their advisors may be working down to the wire to complete tax returns or readying their requests for an extension of time to file. Here are some tips that will help you finalize your 2013 taxes and make next year’s tax filing less onerous. The taxes for which you may be liable and the forms used to file them depend upon the legal status of your business. Many sole proprietors use Schedule C from Form 1040 to report profit or loss from business. Partnerships use Form 1065, and incorporated businesses use Form 1120. Be sure you have the proper form before calculating any taxes owed. Tax Tips The goal of tax planning is to pay as little to Uncle Sam as is legally possible. …
read more >

How to Make Social Media Work for Your Startup Business

These days no business, whether a startup operating out of a garage, an established small business, or a major corporation can afford to be without a social media presence. That said, there are ways to cultivate social media as a sales channel that adds value, helping to build your brand and deliver sales. Here are some key steps. Be strategic — Come up with a plan at the outset for what goal(s) you want social media to help you reach. Be as specific as possible. For example, are you looking to generate 10% of new sales leads through social media outlets or maybe your expectation is that 1% of total sales will come from social media efforts? Once you know where you want to go, it’s time to figure out the best route to get there. Allocate resources — Even though social media is often viewed as “free” marketing, there …
read more >

Should Your Startup Business Use Debt Funding?

Originally published in All Business It’s a Catch-22: to start your business you need capital, but in order to raise capital, you need to have a business. For those of us who don’t plan to raise venture capital anytime soon, is debt (like a bank loan) the right route to take? To find out, we asked eight successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question: Q. What pros — or cons — should you weigh when considering getting startup capital in the form of debt (whether in the form of bank loans or even friends & family)? Their best answers are below: 1. Debt Capital Because debt doesn’t dilute your company, debt capital is a great choice for many startups. One downside to debt is its lack of added value. Although venture capital funding leads to connections, networking opportunities and mentorship, debt funding is money only — no added …
read more >

5 Expenses Startups Cannot Afford to Cut

You have probably already absorbed many obvious caveats about setting up your own startup; don’t blow money you don’t have on fancy equipment or splash out on expensive rental space. But what about expenses you’re tempted to cut, but shouldn’t? While not investing in certain areas may seem like a good idea in the short-term, not spending enough on key elements could shortchange your business, leading not only to headaches but requiring expensive fixes down the road. Here are some areas where it pays to make the necessary investments to get it right the first time: 1. Insurance — Whether it’s a killer software or physical inventory, don’t leave yourself open to a major loss or legal claim with no protection. At a minimum, you should have liability insurance and a commercial property/business policy. The latter would include coverage for assets such as physical inventory and equipment as well as …
read more >

Stress Management Tips For Startup Entrepreneurs

Previously published in Fox Small Business. Managing stress is the $64,000 question for entrepreneurs. Below are some of the best ideas we’ve heard on how to handle it effectively. What’s your favorite strategy to manage stress while in the office? Remove Distractions “For me, stress builds up quickly when I’m not accomplishing as much as I should or could. That usually means I’m getting distracted by emails, phone calls, unnecessary meetings, or in-office visits. Luckily, this can be somewhat controlled if you just remove the distractions when you sit down to accomplish a task. Productivity will improve and as a result stress levels will tend to fall.” Phil Frost | Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Main Street ROI Trivia “Everyone talks about closing your eyes, breathing deeply, going for a walk, etc. But in my experience, that just lets my mind wander back to the stressful subject/task. In times of high …
read more >

How to Bounce Back from Startup Failure

We’ve all heard some variation of the quip that overnight success actually involves years of striving, with presumably several failed efforts and false starts along the way. But when entrepreneurs experience failure, whether it’s their first encounter with it or an especially spectacular failure, it can be a major blow financially as well as emotionally. Here are my thoughts on how to recover from a significant business setback. Following these six key steps can mean the difference between a failure that becomes an inflection point on the way to bigger and better things and one that leads to the end of the (startup) road. 1) There is no disgrace in honest failure…—Henry Ford Be forthright about what happened. Instead of avoiding or downplaying your failure in the hopes that others, potential new business partners, investors, or acquaintances won’t find out about it, explain what happened and own up to your …
read more >

How to Hit Your Crowdfunding Goal

Previously published in Upstart Business Journal. The UpTake: Crowdfunding is a great way to collect money for your startup. While there are risks involved, these strategies will help steer your business in the right direction—and hit your financial goal to deliver a new product. What’s your #1 tip for raising your target funding amount using crowdsourcing? Reward the Media “With a compelling offer to your backers, anticipation is built, and a great story is created. You’ll attract more backers and give the media something interesting to cover.” Eric Corl | President + Co-Founder, Fundable.com Provide Crowd Value “Kickstarter and Indiegogo have provided a huge platform for companies looking for pre-sales because they provide huge value for the person funding the project. If you can produce something that others want, then promise your funders early access to your product, and they’ll be thrilled to give as long as they get something …
read more >

When Startups Don’t Follow Their (Financial) Plan

Why spend time creating a financial plan if you don’t use it to guide your business? If creating a financial plan is one of the single most impactful steps entrepreneurs can take in creating a thriving business, following it is critical to making sure a business stays on course. A good financial plan literally serves as roadmap to establishing and growing your startup. If you’ve gone through the trouble of setting priorities at the outset, your plan will be a powerful tool for assessing performance as your business grows. Treating it as a one-time “to do” while ignoring it on a day-to-day basis, means you risk flying blind, potentially losing everything because of a lack of vigilance. Below, I’ll cover a few of the pitfalls that can result from ignoring your plan. You won’t be able to accurately measure progress—If you’re not working to a plan, how will you monitor …
read more >