Blog

Photo courtesy of Ryan McGuire

How Acting As-If Is Invaluable For Your Confidence And Professional Growth

I recently read this article written by Thomas Edwards, in which he discusses how the “fake it ’til you make it” phrase is pretty much garbage. While I understand some of the sentiments, I think it would be good to talk about where this phrase comes from, and why it works to improve your confidence. 

The Edwards starts as follows:

“Wikipedia says the purpose of faking it until you make is “to avoid getting caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy related to one’s fear of not being confident.” On the other hand, Harvard Professor and best-selling author of Presence, Amy Cuddy defines it as, “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”

There are lots of problems with both versions. Being fake is disingenuous, and getting caught implies you were lying. Crippling fear, lacking confidence, and becoming what you fake, all are things you wouldn’t want your employees, investors, your spouse or anyone else to associate with you.”

 

Okay, this is correct that it is better to be genuine and imperfect than fake and mask your humanity. However, the purpose behind this phrase, and what Dr. Cuddy is getting at, is that our lack of confidence and fear of failure actually work against our genuine self. It can be shown pretty easily as well. Think of the last time someone asked you a question where the honest answer made you squirm. Did you tell the truth and deal with the repercussions, or did you blunt the truth in order to avoid an argument or embarrassment? 

Where does this come from?

The fear of failure, our lack of confidence in ourselves is what causes us to be fake in our professional and personal lives. I would actually argue that this phrase, or what it is trying to achieve, is an attempt to be more authentic. What do I mean by this? 

The phrase, “fake it ’til you make it,” is a hyped up version of the empirically-base therapeutic technique called “Act As-If.” 

Act As-If is a technique used in multiple forms of therapy in which a goal has been identified – such as exercising more, or speaking up at work – and there is a disconnect for the client between desire and achievement. The technique is simple, yet powerful. Let’s take the example above of speaking up at work and look at how it works.

 

Client (Ct): Whenever we are in a meeting and the boss asks for ideas, I freeze. 

Executive Coach (EC): What causes you to freeze? Do you have ideas to offer?

Ct: Oh yeah, I have a few ideas. Actually, I have one that I think could really work out.

EC: What do you think gets in your way?

Ct: I just don’t have the confidence. I’m always worried someone is going to shoot it down or find some reason it’s a stupid idea. I wish I was someone who could just…talk.

EC: Okay, this week I want you to act as if you were someone who could just talk. 

Ct: I don’t even know where I would begin. How can I act as if, if I don’t know where to start?

EC: Do you know anyone who is good at speaking their mind?

Ct: Well…Christa is really good at saying what’s on his mind. Each time she says something in our meetings, I think to myself how much I would want to be able to do that.

EC: Then act as if you were Christa. In your next meeting, when your boss asks for suggestions, act as if you were Christa and say what’s on your mind. 

 

And that’s it. That the technique. You might say, “Now wait! The coach asked their client to act like someone else! Isn’t that them being fake?!” 

Not at all. The technique of Act As-If acknowledges that the tools being used by the individual aren’t effectively helping them meet their needs. The coach simply used a tangible example, given by the client, to make the action more easily conceptualized. We may think we don’t know how to do something, but we may know someone who does. Just because we use their example to better meet our needs does not make us any less genuine.

It’s about becoming equipped for success

Act As-If gives us the chance to connect who we want to be with who we are now. We are always improving and growing as individuals and professionals. If we wish to be better public speakers, then we emulate great speakers to grow in our skill. We aren’t fake for taking tips from more skilled professionals. 

Act As-If isn’t just useful for improving upon our abilities, but also for changing habits completely. Take, for example, the common desire to live a healthy, fit life. If we were to Act As-If, we would live as though we were already living a healthy, fit life. This challenges us to question, what do fit people do? how do they eat? how do they take care of themselves? Once we have those answers we simply put those habits into practice. 

Fit people exercise once a day? then act as if you are a fit person and exercise daily. healthy people eat more greens? Then act as if you are healthy and eat more greens. 

There is nothing fake about this. If an individual who Acted As-If was disingenuous, then anyone attempting to improve their lives would be also.  

Personally, I would say that this technique can be invaluable in a professional setting. For those who are coming up on an experience where they need to muster a massive amount of courage, then acting as if they were someone with that courage can unwittingly give them the strength they need to get the job done. After all, they didn’t become someone else and use that person’s courage. That courage was inside of them the whole time.

It would seem to me that the Thomas Edwards has taken an effective tool and associated it with the behavior of manipulative chameleons who shift themselves in order to become more attractive to those around them. Acting As-If achieves just the opposite. Where we feel our behavior does not match our genuine selves, and we continually get in our own way, we Act As-If we have already achieved what we seek. 

 

I agree with Edwards that disingenuous individuals do themselves, and those around them, a disservice by attempting to change themselves for others. However, I would tell those people to Act As-If who they truly are is enough. Because THAT is a genuine truth.

 

Photo courtesy of Viktor Hanacek

How To Get Practical Leadership Advice From Marriage Therapy

We hear people joke that they are married to their job. They spend nearly all of their time at work or working from home, and think of little else outside of their duties. We may laugh at the concept of being betrothed to your place of employment, but there is some truth to the intimacy that we have with our workplace.

In fact, through my experience studying marriages and families, I have found many striking resemblances between a workplace and a family, and employee-employer relationships and marriage. Sounds weird? Just take a look.

The Second Family

Full-time work often requires us to spend about 40 hours completing our responsibilities each week. Some people work less, and many people work more, but the sentiment of a full-time job indicates about 40 hours per week. That is a lot of time to spend at a place without developing some kind of connection with it.

Events at work can often be brought home through stress, anger, depression, or joy, and vice-versa. Relationships develop in workplaces that can last a lifetime. People share intimate details of their lives with their co-workers. In many respects, work teams can become a second family, however dysfunctional.

Everything we experience in a family is experienced at the workplace. And many theories that help improve the functioning of a family are directly applicable to a workplace. Healthy families succeed under democratic rather than authoritarian parenting. Similarly, workplace culture is healthier when employees feel they have a voice as compared to workplaces where orders must be followed without question.

The Second Marriage

The same similarities occur when comparing our relationship with leadership and the functioning of a marriage. A healthy pattern of communication and positive interaction between staff and leadership is vital to the health of a workplace and the longevity of employee engagement.

When there are an unhealthy balance between leaders and their staff, the turnover rate increases. Similarly, in a marriage chance for divorce increases when positive interactions reduce and communication becomes limited and hostile.

Disclaimer

Okay, at this point I can feel a question building up in many of you. Let me take a moment and say that no, not every aspect of the employee-employer relationship is similar to marriage. The most important difference is that a marriage does not have the hierarchy found in a workplace. A marriage is between two equals while a workplace maintains a clear staff-supervisor separation.

This connection between marriage and family theories and workplace culture has its limitations, so don’t go down the rabbit-hole trying to connect every single aspect of a family to a workplace. Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s continue.

 

Kinds of Leadership

When it comes to effectiveness, not every leader is created equal. Some demand much and give little, some give too much and demand too little. Maintaining healthy, effective leadership can often seem just as challenging as finding your true love.

Similar to a marriage, you need that perfect balance of care and challenge to be an effective leader. Employees require challenging work that connects them to their job but need to feel supported and safe within the workplace. Leadership needs to be challenged to continually improve the workplace and maintain the vision for the company. Similarly, in a healthy marriage, the two people challenge each other to continually improve and support each other when times become difficult.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 9.46.55 AM*

This grid expresses the outcomes of a leader-employee relationship, depending on the behavior and attitude of the leader, over time. Basically, you have four kinds of leaders, as labeled above. They are separated by how much they care for their staff and how skilled they are in responding to workplace issues and within their interactions with their employees. This is how each of the four leadership styles would hypothetically act within a workplace.

Unskilled and Uncaring

An unskilled and uncaring leader will utilize forceful behaviors to obtain the submission of their employees. Cooperation is not the desired outcome, but rather the unquestioning following of their orders. Their behavior is chaotic and unwieldy; often changing to maintain an immediate sense of control.
For these leaders, not looking like a fool is the most important aspect of their job. They don’t know how to effectively accomplish their job, thus they attempt to distance themselves from their staff by being forceful and unapproachable. Through this behavior, they are able to maintain an appearance of control.

Skilled and Uncaring

A skilled and uncaring leader will use manipulation to gain supremacy over their employees. While these individuals are skilled at connecting with their employees, control is still the main desire. Due to this, they often manipulate their staff into doing their bidding. They lack the empathy to care for their staff’s experiences.

These leaders often seem approachable, but through your conversations with them, they look for ways to improve their standing. If you benefit from their actions, it is often unintentional. An example would be you receiving a promotion after they were to get promoted. Most likely, you were promoted only because there was an opening left by this individual’s promotion rather than any strings they may have pulled on your behalf.

Unskilled and Caring

An unskilled but caring leader will often waste precious time attempting to support their staff. They often struggle to understand the needs of their staff, but sincerely desire to improve their experiences at work. In their eyes, this is the most important aspect of their job; to cure the woes and ease the suffering of their staff. Sadly, they will struggle to effectively meet their team’s needs.

They repeatedly fail to meet the staff’s needs because they are unable to truly understand the issues and they lack the skill required to provide powerful change. This is often indicated by their attempts to fix an issue themselves rather than working with their team to develop a lasting shift.

Skilled and Caring

A skilled and caring leader is able to effectively hear the true needs of their staff. This ability to empathize with those under their care allows them to better connect with them, creating a safe and authentic relationship for the staff to openly communicate with their supervisors. However, the most important quality of a skilled and caring leader is their understanding that they don’t need to hand out band-aids to their staff.

These leaders view the most important aspect of their job as maintaining authentic and open communication. They know that they are not the heroes of the office, saving their staff from the evils around the building. Instead, they understand that their employees want to be included in making decisions that directly affect them. Thus, the collaboration between staff and management creates the lasting change and healthy work culture being strived for in each business.

 

Like I said before, similarities between marriage and family therapy theories and healthy workplace culture and leadership can be striking. There are aspects that absolutely do not translate, but that is the greatness and challenge of personal or professional growth: to apply truths where you find them and leave the inapplicable aspects behind.

 

 

*Grid from: Miller, S., Miller P., Nunnally, E.W., & Wackman, D.B. (2007). Collaborative marriage skills: couple communication I. Evergreen, CO: Interpersonal Communication Programs.

You Need To Adapt With Sales Fail. Remember It's Not The End Of The World

You Need To Adapt When Sales Fail. Remember It’s Not The End Of The World

Living in Minnesota, we come to expect freezing weather in the winter. When February rolls around, we don’t question whether or not it will be cold outside. We grab our thermal base layers, sweaters, and heavy jackets, and prepare for the tundra warfare. No matter what nature throws at us, we Minnesotans know how to adapt to the climate. 

Today was just like any other February day. I prepared to exit my warm house and wade through the sub-zero winds to warm up my car, dreading the bite of winter with each layer I put on. What may today unlike any other February day, however, was what happened when I stepped outside.

I grabbed my keys and hustled to my car, whipped the door open, plopped down in the seat, and started the engine. I didn’t realize through that whole process that one thing was missing.

It wasn’t cold.

There was no bite of Jack Frost on any skin exposed to the elements. The wind was low, the sun was shining, and there was no shiver to be felt. 

I checked my phone’s weather app only to realize that, where we had a high of 7 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday, it was already 25 degrees at 7:30 this morning and it was expected to get to 40.

I had prepared myself for a -30 windchill and was presented with a thaw. What’s more, the weather was expected to stay this warm for at least two weeks! I guess expectations and historical data doesn’t always meet reality.

I ran inside and got into a more weather-appropriate outfit and headed for work. Listening to the radio, the host was talking with a tech expert about Virtual Reality (VR) and the abhorrent sales trends occurring throughout the product line. 

Products like PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR, have been an incredibly popular talking point this past year. Tech blogs, magazines, and company ads have been rampant touting the tech as expected to explode with popularity. The only problem is, reality didn’t meet expectations.

It was expected that the PlayStation VR would sell 2.6 million units in 2016. At the end of 2016, it was reported that this forecast was missed by nearly 2 million units. That’s right; only 750,000 units of PlayStation VR was sold in 2016.  

The other VR units didn’t fare any better, with sales flatlining for the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift in 2016, shown in this Steam survey.

In the end, the tech expert didn’t have any saving grace to give the VR industry. All that could be said was, “wow…that was unexpected.”

It brings up a good question, though. What should you do when expectation and reality differ to this extent? How does a company come back from a loss as big as what the VR industry is experiencing?

While there is no universal answer for every company, there are some perspectives you can maintain while recovering from the loss. Here are just a few things to keep in mind while you work to do damage control and put a positive spin on your situation.

1. It’s not necessary to make heads roll.

The first reaction most companies have when an issue this big happens is to find out who is to blame. I’m not going to say mistakes weren’t made in more scenarios, but sometimes it’s just bad luck. Statistics will always be just that: statistics. Yes, the numbers may show an 85% chance of growth in your industry, but that still leaves a 15% chance for anything else to happen. 

Think of it this way. If you were to have brain surgery and the doctor gave you a 15% chance of dying on that table. How much more seriously would you take that percentage? Don’t be overconfident when it comes to your statistical research. Your team can do absolutely everything right and still get it wrong.

It’s unhealthy for a workplace to have the management look for a way to attribute blame whenever issues arise. People won’t feel safe, and worse yet, when someone does make a mistake, they definitely won’t want to admit it. 

Instead, remind yourself that the damage is done, and now it’s time to repair that damage. Instead of thinking “who’s fault is this?” Think to yourself, “what needs to be done now?”

By changing this behavior, your employees will feel more comfortable being honest about each issue. They will see mistakes as growth opportunities and will not fear repercussions for coming clean about any gaffs that may have occurred. Seriously, keeping your anger in check is good for everyone.

2. Don’t force the issue

Yes, I know that this project was your baby. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into bringing your vision into reality. That doesn’t change the fact that it hasn’t worked out yet. 

You may find yourself saying a lot of ‘yeah, but…’ statements, trying to justify why it should have worked. I know, your research said it should have sold. It didn’t. This market just wasn’t ready for the product. Maybe your product will be a knock-out hit in the future, but right now you’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole. 

Take the lesson to heart and stop forcing the issue. 

Look at it this way, do you want to keep throwing money at your project until it hopefully catches on when you know it was too soon, or do you want to redirect your money toward more sound investments; at least for the time being? Nothing says you can’t return to the project at a later date. Which leads to the third and final point.

3. You can always come back to it

That’s right; I mean it. store that project away and work on something else. Now turned out not to be the right time, and you have too many other great ideas to work on for you to waste more time on this project. Just remind yourself that making it happen now can be a disservice to the future when the time is more ideal. 

You can always return to your baby. With fresh ideas for additional features and a new set of eyes for the project, you never know what could be accomplished if you give yourself the space necessary to return to the project objectively. 

So put it in your warehouse and get working on another vision. Keep your eye on the climate and strike again when the market is more favorable. It’s not about being seen as a rerun of a failed experiment. It’s about making the sale and gaining customer backing. I could go on the number of companies that went bankrupt on their ideas before they were successful, but that’s for a later day. 

Listen, just because I expected it to be -30 outside today, doesn’t mean I was going to keep every layer on in the event the climate suddenly changes its mind. No, I’m going to change my behavior to go with the current circumstances. My jacket will always be there when the temperature decides to drop. 

So, in the end, all I can is this:

Keep adjusting. Keep adapting. But above all, keep going.

 

If you have any questions, stories, or suggestions, then please comment below!

Inspiring Words: Entreleadership will make you a better leader

Inspiring Words: Entreleadership will make you a better leader

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post about a helpful leadership and entrepreneurial resource. Now seemed like as good of a time as ever to get back on the horse. So this installment of Inspiring Words will be about one of my favorite podcasts for the aspiring leader: EntreLeadership.

EntreLeadership

Hosted by Ken Coleman, EntreLeadership is a podcast built out of Dave Ramsey’s book of with the same title. The podcast discusses various topics within the entrepreneurial world, focusing on developing effective leadership skills. Coleman runs a fantastic show each week, interviewing a wide variety of business executives, marketing gurus, and even military leaders. 

I love Coleman’s ability to ask probing questions which propel the conversation in a way that can teach even the most seasoned veterans. For topics you feel have been reviewed to death, Coleman is able to find a refreshing approach to the discussion. It doesn’t hurt that the star-studded line-up of guests brings their unique approaches to each topic. 

When I am in the mood for EntreLeadership, I find myself deciding which episode to play like I’m at a buffet. Some podcasts lend themselves to a linear process. EntreLeadership provides individual experiences with each podcast episode. Where one day I may be interested in what Tim Ferriss has to say December 12th of this year, the next day I may be interested in Daniel Pink’s wisdom.

EntreLeadership has a topic for any day and any issue in business. I hope it is as helpful for you as it is for me.

 

Do you have any must-subscribe podcasts for growing as a leader? Write your suggestions and thoughts in the comments section below!

5 Of The Best Project Management Tools On The Market

5 Of The Best Project Management Tools On The Market

I love working remotely. I also love working in a team. So when it comes to project management with teams that are not working in the same place, getting anything done can be complicated. 

Luckily, the internet and all things technology are here to help. Honestly, there are a plethora of project management tools out there at your disposal, but only a few outshine the rest.

So, just for you, here is a list of the project management tools I have used or currently use. Plus one that I hear is absolutely great, but have yet to try out.

 

Slack

My experience With Slack has been nothing but positive. Team communication is smooth, making project management that much easier. You can have chat rooms for individual team members and full teams. It makes separation of project discussion a breeze by allowing you to create new chat rooms for as many topics as you would like.

You can also upload and share files easily through slack. Up until now the majority of the files I trade with team members are google drive docs. If the integration of Google Drive coordination is a sign of slack’s crops-app cooperation, teams using slack will not be left wanting.

 

Google Drive

Google Drive is a great tool to create and coordinate several types of projects. Included in the free tool you have google docs, spreadsheets, and a slideshow presentation tool. All of which allow for multiple users to work on the file simultaneously. For remote teams working on a project, simultaneous task actions is a dream come true.

On top of that, you can upload any file format, in case you have team members with several different operating systems and favorite programs.

Google Drive is a great, free option for teams either remote or in the same room to work on projects quickly and efficiently. Schools around the world are using Google Drive in in their classrooms to teach cooperation and task coordination. Sound like attributes you want in every team? I thought so.

 

Trello

Trello is a communication/project management which helps to streamline project discussion. Using a notecard layout users can separate projects, break projects down, and manage multiple teams simultaneously. Trello’s minimalist design makes navigation easy and fluid.

Trello also includes the ability to add checklists to projects. This is very helpful for keeping closer tabs on the current level of completion within each team.

Trello is also a great tool for discussions about any topic. I use Trello for philosophical discussions with a group of friends. It was a fantastic medium for hashing out the finer points of issues. How can this help with business? Well, just look at the time you spend each day talking about business projections and trajectory. 

Trello also has apps for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire. It also has integrated apps for wearables, such as the Apple watch.

 

Skype

Skype is a great tool for adding the face-to-face factor to conversations. If your discussion requires more real-time responsiveness, but your team is working remotely, Skype is a great way to fill that need.

It can work very well in conjunction with any other tool recommended here. Specifically, I have found the Skype+Google Drive process incredibly useful. By being able to talk through what is being completed in real time, the precision of the work accomplished is fantastic.

Skype provides both audio and video calls, group calls, and group chat. With cash on your account, you can even call cellphones and landlines. So, if have wifi but no cell service and you have to make that conference call, try Skype.

 

Asana

Asana is a great project management program for any team. It provides the user with the ability to create teams, add and remove members as needed, and maintain a checklist of all tasks. One great feature of the checklist is the ability to assign each task to individual team members or an entire team.

I have heard many great experiences with Asana. I’m not surprised to keep getting great feedback; it’s a must-have for any team. Oh, and they also provide iOS and Android apps.

 

 

 

While nothing can truly match the benefits of face-to-face interaction, I have found that these are all great tools for getting the job done at any distance. I hope these tools are of use to you and your team!

 

Have you found any of these tools useful for your teams? What tools have you found particularly useful for project management? Please comment below!

 

Photo courtesy of Viktor Hanacek

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Make Money Freelancing

A lot of entrepreneurial success requires previous experience to provide a foundation of competency. It can be paralyzing trying to find a way to get that experience without spending all of your time and money. Do you get a mentor first? Do you offer your services for free as you gain your skill set? Since I like to get paid for the work that I do, even as a novice, I chose to freelance.

Being a freelancer has some great benefits. You get to choose the jobs that you do and pass by the jobs that aren’t interesting, you get to name your price (within reason), and you get to work whatever schedule is best for you. 

For part-time entrepreneurs, freelance work can also provide the opportunity to start your business while keeping your full-time job. 

So, in that light, I have listed a few of my favorite ways to get freelance work for you to review and try out. Keep in mind, there are a lot of options for getting jobs as a freelancer. These are just my personal favorite tools.

 

 

Upwork

I’m going to start with one of my favorites. Upwork is an easy-to-use freelancing website that provides companies the ability to hire by contract and for freelancers to find one-off jobs or consistent work. Simply upload your training and examples of your previous work, if you have it. You can even take tests to prove your skill level, which is then reflected in your profile.

Once your profile is complete, start sending offers out to jobs that interest you. Upwork, like many freelance sites, works on a bidding process. The hiring party describes what they need to have completed and you tell them how much you would charge. It’s definitely helpful to be able to send the hiring party some examples of your work, as well. 

 

Freelancer

Freelancer is another great way to either hire for jobs or get hired for jobs. However, they add an additional feature where you can look for jobs near your location. Where other freelancing websites focus on telecommuting jobs, Freelancer adds the ability for companies to hire nearby and freelancers with hands-on skill sets to find work. 

 

Fiverr

I love Fiverr. I don’t use it half as much as I would like, but the options for developing a business are fantastic. There is nearly no limit to the number of services people are able to provide through Fiverr. All you will need is a sellable skill and ambition to start a business.

Do you have can voice-acting skills? Do you give good advice? Can you guide people through meditation practices easily? Set up a storefront on Fiverr and start advertising. 

Creating a storefront is easily done in about an hour. Simply list the service you will provide, add extras people can choose to pay for, and hit submit. For people wanting to start a fee-for-service business, Fiverr is a great way to gain attention and experience with little-to-no investment. 

 

Craigslist

Now, hear me out. While Craigslist has gotten a bad wrap for a number of things, it is still a great classifieds resource. You would be surprised how many companies, even bigger companies, use Craigslist want ads. Just the other day I found ads for Amazon, Days Inn, along with multiple freelance jobs under the “Gigs” category. 

 

Classifieds

Yes, indeed. The classifieds section in your local newspaper does still exist. While the jobs are mostly limited to local jobs, freelance work options have become more common. Personally, I have not found anything worth pursuing in a newspaper classifieds ad, but I have had ideas come from my perusing of the ol’ fish wrap. 

I hope these tools help you as you develop your businesses. 

Have you used any freelance tools? Leave your experiences in the comments below.

Understanding Market Research: Do what needs to be done, but no more

Ensuring that your product development process goes off without a hitch can be difficult.

If you are a small business, then a large amount of your product development can often occur outside of your firm. While this process of communicating with development and production teams can be a big headache, it’s important that you have confidence in the selling power of your product in the first place.

To confirm that the market has a pace for you, make sure you complete the necessary market research. To help you with the research process, we will review the kinds of market research, and how to balance between quality and quantity.

Understand The Kinds of Market Research

Generally, market research falls into two forms: primary and secondary. Here’s what each looks like.

Primary research is completed by speaking directly with the consumer. Conducting questionnaires, product reviews, and focus groups are examples of primary research.

Primary research can be really helpful when you have the product available. By allowing the consumers to use the product you can gain vital information about the nuances of the product.

“I like it, but if this button was on top it would be easier to use while shopping.”

Information gained from primary research is unique information only from consumers themselves.

Secondary research is everything you can learn about the market itself. Statistics, stock reports, market predictions, and business reviews all fall under the category of secondary market research.

Secondary research is mostly important in the earlier stages of the product-development process, as this is when you will be able to discover gaps in the market and what competition will look like once you enter the market.

On many occasions, ideas for products may actually come from your secondary research. You may be researching the market as a whole in order to gain a better understanding, and suddenly realize either that there is a large gap in the market where you could develop a product, or the products in the market are lacking in their design.

 

Don’t Underuse Market Research

Market research can provide an absolute treasure trove of information about the current market if you know how to look. Don’t stop with just seeing where the money is going (ie. reviewing highest sales and popular products). Take the time to understand why the money is going there.

Are there few products to compare, causing a funneling of profits? Is there a lack of knowledge in the consumer base that reduces the willingness of the consumer to branch out? Is the market new, filled with 1st generation products and few innovations?

 Don’t Overuse Market Research

Yeah, I know I just told you not to underuse the research. And now I’m telling you not to go overboard. That’s just how it works, so let me explain and hopefully, it will make sense.

While there is a fantastic amount of information you can glean from market research, it’s very easy to fall into the rut of too much information.

John Oliver has a great segment on scientific research from his show, Last Week Tonight. In it, he shows how you can get pretty much any information you want if you ask the right questions.

There are a lot of ways that you can mess up market research. Don’t make the mistake of taking too much information and just focusing on what you want to see.

 

In the end, you just need to be sure that you have enough information that you are confident in your product development and market entrance strategy. Don’t overthink it.  Do the necessary research and then get your feet wet.

 

Opinions? Questions? Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below!

4 Traits Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs

When it comes to an entrepreneurship, there is an endless list of important skills that can help you get the job done. Often, it is how entrepreneurs use these skills that either make them useful or a waste of your time. Nevertheless, there are some skills which are fundamental to a successful entrepreneur.

Here are just a few from the “gotta have it” list of entrepreneurial skills to help you know what separates entrepreneurs from truly successful entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs can turn it on

It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. If you are driven to be an entrepreneur, you must learn how to turn on the charm.

Now by turn on the charm, I don’t mean become some sleazy car dealer speed-talking toolbox. I mean learn to truly connect with people. Your first thought may be that extroverts will be better at this than introverts. And on the surface, you would be right. Many extroverts find it easy to talk with people.

Part of connecting with others is that you do, in fact, have to speak with them. However, this is where the extrovert’s leg up ends. It doesn’t matter if you can talk circles around someone. If you can’t connect with that other person on a real level, leaving them with the impression that you were sincerely interested in them, you will have wasted your time.

Simply put, successful entrepreneurs know the difference between talking and connecting, and they know how to turn it on when they need it.

Entrepreneurs know when to outsource

A lot of the time, entrepreneurs can feel like they need to do it all. Many times, they are right. However, successful entrepreneurs know when they are outside of their wheelhouse and need to bring in someone to help out.

I don’t mean you need to get someone onto your payroll. I just mean someone that can do the side work so that you are freed up to focus on bigger-picture issues.

For example, if you love developing products, but hate writing about it on your company blog, then pay someone a few bucks to write the articles for you. Good articles can take a few hours to research and write out.

Those are hours you can have back to get into your skillset and really grow your business.

Entrepreneurs can move on from “no”

This may come as a shock to you, but a big part of being an entrepreneur is selling.

Whether your product is a tech device, car, toy, or idea, you are always selling it to others. As a salesperson, successful entrepreneurs know how to move on from hearing ‘no.’

For example, I was just listening to an interview with Tim Ferriss of the 4-hour work week. In the interview, he said that the important thing is not to know how to get a ‘yes’ from people, but to move on from a ‘no.’ The best way to do that is to have educated confidence rather that uneducated confidence in the product you are trying to sell.

I love this statement.

Making the differentiation between getting the ‘yes’ and moving past the ‘no’ is vitally important to a successful career as an entrepreneur. This is because getting a ‘no’ is much more likely than getting a ‘yes.’ You need to know how to learn what you can from the experience and truly look at it objectively.

However, this is only useful if you have what he called an educated confidence in your product. This means that you can only be successful, and move past any ‘no,’ if you are fully aware of the quality of your product; that your confidence in the product is well founded.

If you just feel confident about a product, but have no actual knowledge of how good that product is, then any time you are trying to sell it will be wasted time.

So what can we glean from this trait? More than knowing how to get a ‘yes,’ know how to move past the ‘no.’ Also, be able to effectively move past the ‘no,’ by having educated confidence in your product.

Entrepreneurs know when to invest

We can all get excited about a product. Sometimes we come up with an idea or we meet someone with an idea that makes our head explode. Either way, it’s important to know when to separate your excitement from actual quality investment opportunities.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t invest unless they feel confident in the chances of receiving a return. They research. Not only the product, but also the product’s competition, the market interest, and all the strings connected to the creation and distribution of that product.

Yeah, it takes a lot of information to truly know everything you need to know for a confident decision. No, there’s no way around doing the research.

So don’t let anyone bully you into making a decision on the spot. You’ll thank yourself for taking the time needed to know quality from a waste of time.

Having a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) about an investment? Then make it a practice to do your homework ahead of time.

I’m not saying go see an oracle and find out what people are selling before you speak with them. I mean get in the habit of reading more books and research articles, listening to podcasts, and watching documentaries on anything and everything. You will never know when your acquired knowledge will come in handy.

 

Have any qualities of your favorite entrepreneurs you’d like to share? Put them in the comments below.

7 Insights For Running A Successful Business On The Side

“It could totally work,” you say; more to yourself than anyone else. You feel the excitement grow inside of you, only matched by the growing anxiety fighting to keep you thinking realistically about your side business.

It might work, but who would buy it? Do you even know how to run a business? What if someone else already thought of your idea and failed; maybe it’s old news. A thousand thoughts go through your head about why you shouldn’t pursue your idea.

Still…It could work.

Thus is the life of an entrepreneur. Constantly looking for needs unmet and markets unexplored. For the best in the business, starting a new venture can be challenging, expensive, and exhausting.

Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, said of the life of an entrepreneur that it is like “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.”

Not only is entrepreneurship incredibly taxing, it’s risky. Bloomberg states that nearly 80% of all new businesses fail within the first 18 months. Even for the full-time, serial entrepreneurs, success is a hard fought battle every time they pursue a new idea.

So, then, how does someone with an idea try to build upon it, all the while managing the responsibilities of a full-time job and a home life? How can you start a business while maintaining your main source of income and livelihood?

To help start the process of increased mindfulness, rationality, and encouragement, listed below are 7 insights every entrepreneur and aspiring entrepreneur would benefit from reviewing. While these insights or steps are neither linear nor exhaustive, they give helpful navigating points in the journey of building a business.

 

1. Research

Always always always understand the market into which you are about to embark. Not all business landscapes are created equal. Even if this is your first company, you will come into the business with certain expectations and assumptions.

Many times this is may be based on your professional experience. The business you are used to is the business you understand. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of assumptions. You can never research too much.

Take time here. Before you take any other steps, give yourself all the time you can to understand what the market looks like and how it behaves. Research similar companies and what they had to go through.

If your full-time job isn’t going anywhere, take it easy and soak in everything you can. If you can use your work as a reference, learning from your leadership, then learn everything you can.

2. Be realistic about what you and (and can’t) do

As stated earlier, starting a business is knuckle-grinding work. After you have obtained enough knowledge of your market and what it takes to break in, be sure to review what your full-time job requires of you.

Especially in the early stages of your new business, you don’t want your performance at your current job to suffer. Take stock of what it takes to maintain effective productivity.

The last thing you want to do is get too excited and take on too much too quickly, losing both your full-time job and your budding business.

3. Find a business mentor

One of the best ways to gain knowledge and experience is through mentorship. Find someone who has either started their own business or, better yet, started their own business in your market.

Use them as a guide through the wilderness and learn everything you can from their successes and failures. This osmosis-esque experience provides you insight into common pitfalls and shortcuts you may have otherwise missed.

Finding someone like this is easier than you would expect. If you did your research, you may already have come across some names of possible people to contact. They may even work with you.

Often it only takes a sincere message stating your interest in their expertise to start the relationship. The important part is the sincerity. Be sure to speak about your interest in their skills and knowledge; that you feel you could learn a lot from them.

Finally, be willing to take denial and move on. While there are those movie moments, not taking ‘no’ for an answer and winning their begrudging approval, don’t put your money on one horse. learn when no really means no.

Also, if you have the money or motivation, a start-up coach is an invaluable tool to help launch your business quickly and efficiently.

4. Assemble your team

One important way to keep a handle on managing a full-time job and a side business is getting others in on the action. Delegation is a requirement after time, so learning it early on will only help you as your business grows.

Recognize when tasks need more attention than you can give and find partners who will help build your brand. This is also where having a mentor can come especially useful.

If your mentor is invested in your success, then they will be more willing to lend a hand when you need one. This doesn’t mean money, this means networking.

No amount of money will ever match the worth of a strong network. Use your connections to meet the right people and have the right conversations. (Side note, Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, has a great section on effective networking).

5. Something must be sacrificed

It has to be said, as the business grows, something will have to make way. Whether that is you sacrificing nights at home to build your brand or finally letting go of the steady paycheck, there comes a time that not everything can be in a healthy balance and sacrifices have to be made.

Maintain a mindfulness around your life and when these shifts need to occur. Ignoring them will only lead to greater issues down the road.

6. Never sacrifice self-care

While number 5 is true, I want to implore you that everything can be sacrificed, even the immediate growth of the company, but never allow yourself to sacrifice your own self-care. Understand what truly helps you relax and recover, and mandate time and money for yourself to regularly take care of yourself.

Make what is truly important to you, including family, a priority above any professional success you may have. The future of your business will thank you.

7. Know why

Finally, understand the purpose behind your business. If the reason you started your business is just for the money, then you chose one of the hardest ways to succeed. No, your purpose for starting your business needs to be more personal. What good are you trying to create? How are you bettering the world around you through your company?

By knowing the answers to these questions, your business decisions will be made through an authentic desire to improve not only yourself but the market you are in and the customers to whom you sell. This practice of purpose in business has created some of the most impactful companies in the world.

Microsoft, Apple, Harley Davidson, Tesla, and even countries have been built out of a sincere purpose to improve the lives of others. Don’t waste your time chasing money. Chase your purpose and money will follow.

 

Remember, use these insights as references rather than hard and fast rules. Always maintain humility and the ability to learn from your mistakes and successes.

 

 

 

Making effective business decisions

4 Perspectives You Need To Know To Make Better Business Decisions

 

We make thousands of decisions in our everyday life. Some larger than others, but all important pieces that make up the outcome of our days. When making business decisions perhaps you take action too quickly and find yourself having to pick up the pieces after a rash decision. Or maybe you overthink the big picture stuff and get stuck in analysis paralysis.

If you find yourself wanting to learn how to improve upon the critical choices you make, take some time and review these tips for how to get yourself into the mindset to make positive and effective decisions.

 

1. Ask yourself: What’s the point?

I’m not saying you should go full nihilist on your business decisions, but instead take moments before big choices or conversations to ask yourself what motivation is behind your actions.

What are you trying to accomplish in your business? What is the best outcome that could come from your decision? Are you speaking up or pursuing an opportunity because it truly benefits the mission, or is it to make a point to others about yourself?

The more times you challenge yourself to be honest about your motivations, the more mindful you can become about the decisions you ultimately make.

 

2. Stop worrying about who will be impacted.

If you find yourself avoiding broaching certain topics or making decisions that may negatively impact someone else, then give yourself a break. You will never be able to make everyone happy.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: If you agree with everyone, how can you stand for anything? For you, my tip is to stop worrying about how others will be affected and make the business decisions you know to be right.

There will always be nay-sayers. This is your time to be confident in your abilities.

3. Business decisions have to jive.

The correct answer will not always be perfectly apparent. You will come upon times when you need to make a decision on little to no information.

For those moments, you need to refer back to what you are trying to accomplish. Ask yourself if the choice is in harmony with your overall business purpose. If you’re trying to eat healthy, raw foods, then buying nacho cheese chips doesn’t exactly jive with the healthy persona you’re trying to put out.

Make decisions that make sense and act as examples of your mission.

4. What’s the worst that could happen? Will you survive?

Do you have a big decision to make? Can’t get yourself over the scenes of Armageddon in your mind if you mess this up? Take a minute, take a breath, and then honestly ask yourself: What’s the absolute worst that could happen? Okay, you got the scenario in your mind? Now ask yourself this next question:

Are you still alive in this scenario?

You see, we get ourselves so stuck thinking about what could go wrong, that we don’t think about what could actually go wrong. When you take the time to articulate the logical and possible outcomes of a negative situation, you often find that even the worst outcome is something that you will survive.

So take the step and learn from the outcomes. You’ll most likely be around to teach someone else from your experiences.

Decisions are only markers on a roadmap. Without them, you will never know where you are on your journey.