How To Stay Alert And Aware As An Entrepreneur

What makes a successful entrepreneur? Of course, the answer to that is many different things but one of them is definitely their ability to know what is going on within their own industry, within the world of business in general and especially with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

Successful business owners keep up on what is going on and stay informed of the latest trends, market shifts and opportunities so that they can take any advantage they can get to make their business grow. So, how they stay in the loop so successfully?

#1 Successful Entrepreneurs Talk to Other Entrepreneurs

People there in business for themselves don’t exist in a vacuum. Besides their customers, suppliers and all of the other support systems that they have around their business, they also have friends and colleagues that are also entrepreneurs and keeping up with these people is one of the best ways that they have a staying informed.

Whatever the virtual water cooler happens to be of these entrepreneurs – usually a forum or social media network – they share information, give advice and keep each other updated about entrepreneurship.

#2 Successful Entrepreneurs Read (A Lot!)

One thing that you will notice about those successful in the business world is they tend to read publications, websites or even social media posts about their business – and that includes books by some of the most successful motivational authors.

The successful people like to stay informed and they like to learn new things. There is so much information on the Internet that you could spend decades learning about a subject and still not know everything about it and being as informed as possible is equal to being as successful as possible.

#3 Successful Entrepreneurs Use The Insider Intel To Improve Their Business

All this information that they gather isn’t just going to sit stagnant, either. They are going to use this information to improve their business, increase their revenue or bring in more customers. Successful entrepreneurs know when they learned something useful and work to implement it as quickly as possible.

#4 Successful Entrepreneurs Help Others Succeed Too

Another thing that you’ll see is that the more successful entrepreneurs they become, the more willing they are to help other people succeed at the same time. They have been where the budding entrepreneurs currently are and remember what it was like to enter the fray with only the basics. Most successful entrepreneurs are more than willing to share their knowledge and mentor the newbies.

Employee Entrepreneur Mindset – Which One Do You Have?

What I want to talk to you about today is something that gets a lot of conversation and is tossed around a lot. That is the Employee versus Entrepreneur mindset. The problem as I see it though is that most times this topic is discussed it is not a conversation that is used to enlighten people about the different ways of thinking, but to look to convince someone what the right way of thinking is. How they should think. How they should act. What they should do. It`s usually in a manner to convince them to buy or sign up for something. Have you been there before?

To me that isn`t the point of the Employee Entrepreneur Mindset discussion; why? Because not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur and not everyone is meant to be an employee! Plain and simple! The thousands of businesses that exist today could not exist if everyone wanted to be an entrepreneur and run their own business. Conversely there has to be some entrepreneurs to start the businesses to create products and services and the livelihoods that go along with them.

What I’d like to do today is simply walk through the basics of the Employee Entrepreneur Mindset discussion and ask you questions along the way. Not questions about signing up for something, or buying something, no, just questions about do you really know what mindset you have? Or what it is that you are looking for.

I read an article today that discussed how entrepreneurs are born the way they are. That it can’t be learned, it can’t be taught, and it has to be an instinct! I am a very well read individual and that means that I’m not always going to read things that I agree with. This is one of those cases. While I agree that there are different types of entrepreneurs with different skill sets and instincts, I do not think it is something that can’t be taught. The author in my opinion, contradicted himself by saying, the “entrepreneurial instinct can be a latent one, and awoken upon seeing someone else using the skill.” To me, that is being enlightened, being educated and coming to terms with the fact that you want to be an entrepreneur. To close out my point, according to the author, mathematicians are born with the ability to differentiate second order differential equations. It is just in the years of Calculus courses that awakens their “latent” ability! Ya right!

I digress and know that you can learn to be an entrepreneur as I am living proof that it can be done. Once an engineer in the automotive industry, yes I had my “latent” ability to differentiate second order differential equations awoken somewhat reluctantly over the years, I now run a very successful multi-national organization that I have built over the past 6 years. Did I have the skills I needed? No. I learned those. Did I have the desire, and I think this is where that author made a slight mistake, it’s the desire that can’t be taught. That is the burning in your belly that motivates you to do what it takes to get the job done, regardless if you are an employee or entrepreneur. When my engineering career wasn’t getting the job done for me personally, I made the switch and here I am. Enough about me though, the question is what do you want? Do you want to be an employee or entrepreneur?

For some people the thought of being an entrepreneur scares them, where others it confuses them. It confuses them as they really don’t know what being an entrepreneur means. Simply put an entrepreneur is term applied to a person who is willing to launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome. Sounds simple right but let me tell you don’t under estimate the simplicity of that definition.

What are the criteria that you should use to understand if becoming an entrepreneur is really what you want to do? As an individual who has gone through this change already, and having helped many others do the same thing, the following 5 items are what I feel are the key factors you should look at:

Your current level of satisfaction

How badly do you want to change? Are the items that you want to change situational based or more systemic in that they are all encompassing (i.e. need to generate more income). Can you pin point where the dissatisfaction is coming from. This soul searching can be very revealing so pay attention to what you discover!

The effort that you put into this will pay off in the end that much I guarantee. You will get a true understanding of what you “Why” is, and that will lead you to what you need to do. It may tell you that being an entrepreneur is not right for you and that just a simple job change is all you need. Great! That just saved you a lot of time and possibly money. However if you see that becoming an entrepreneur is really what you want, having your “Why” clear in your mind will make you unstoppable!

Your Personality

This is not about being an introvert versus an extrovert, this is more your risk tolerance. What types of risks are you willing to take? Are you the kind of person that is OK with looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you and only you are responsible for your success? To be disciplined enough to do the tasks that are required every day to build your business? Are you motivated by more than just money? While most successful entrepreneurs are wealthy, very few of them started simply because of the desire to earn more money.

Remember that money as a motivator will not work. As an entrepreneur your first few months may not generate a lot of money, and if money is the only motivator, the lack of it coming in may get you discouraged quickly and start to doubt your resolve! The number one entrepreneur killer, self-doubt!

Planning

Being an entrepreneur requires you to obviously plan and run your new business venture, but what a lot of people forget to pay attention to is their personal lives! This is where your planning comes in. You have to be able to run your new venture, and yes, it will take up the majority of your time when you first start. If it doesn’t something is wrong! You may not think so at the time, but before you know it your business is not growing, it’s not producing, and the money is not coming in!

You have to be able to work with your loved ones to create the proper balance. To know that there will be sacrifices made in order to get the business off the ground, and then as the months go by and you get more efficient at your business, maybe even hire a few employees, your time is not so crunched and you start to see the fruits of your labor.

Financing

Yes this is always a must! You need to have this in order to start your business venture. Now how much financing is required? Well that depends on the type of business that you are looking to get started in. It could be anything from a few hundred dollars to start a home based network marketing business part-time, to a few hundred thousand dollars to start a franchise, to an unknown amount to bring a new product or service to market. Either way, you will have to know and understand what the amount your business venture will need to be financed so you can put together your plan of action.

Implementation

So now that items 1 through 4 are in order and ready, the last step is to get it going, to start, to take that first step, crawl outside of your comfort zone, walk into the world of being an entrepreneur and run at full speed and never, ever quit! That’s right… that one of the secrets… that one of the reasons why the very first thing that I always ask people who tell me they want to be entrepreneurs is “How bad do you want it?” Their level of commitment will pay off when they hit their inevitable speed bumps, and roadblocks along the their journey to success! Enough metaphors? I’m thinking the same thing…

All metaphors aside it is very empowering knowing that you are never going to quit. Instead of using a metaphor I’m going to use an example. The level of commitment that you need to have to be a successful entrepreneur is similar to the dedication and commitment that you have to your children. Those 2 AM feedings, followed by being woken up at 3AM because someone got sick, or spending all night with them until a fever breaks without ever thinking, I quit, someone else can do this, this isn’t for me. Think about that commitment to your kids, and I apologize if you don’t have any, but that level of commitment is on the same level of what you need to have to be a successful entrepreneur.

My intention here is not to scare anyone away from being an entrepreneur. I know the benefits. I understand the changes that I had to make in my life to be successful doing what I’m doing. My goal is simply to bring the information to the fore front of your mind, so if you are thinking about making a change, about changing from an employee to an entrepreneur, you clearly understand what is involved. You can do this given this is something that you truly want.

Remember that there is no one that knows you better than you. Be truthful to yourself and to your wants, and the answer and direction to take will be made clear you.

Doing Deals With the “Big Boys” – Ten Tips For Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs often find themselves in high-stakes negotiations with big, savvy players, with significant negotiating power (referred to herein as “Big Boys”) — whether it be a venture capital firm in connection with a financing or a private equity firm in connection with the sale of the entrepreneur’s business; the situation can indeed be daunting. Below are ten tips for entrepreneurs to help them through this process.

1. Retain a Strong Team. In dealmaking as in business, you are only as good as your team. Accordingly, the first step for the entrepreneur is to retain a strong transaction team — and the quarterback of the team should be an experienced corporate lawyer. Indeed, an experienced corporate lawyer will not only add value to the transaction, but also can help the entrepreneur build-out the team and tailor it to the particular deal (e.g., in an acquisition, a strong tax lawyer is imperative to help structure the deal or in a licensing transaction, a strong IP lawyer is often necessary, etc.). The Big Boys are generally represented by large, aggressive law firms, and the entrepreneur must ensure that his/her team is up to the task.

2. Do Your Diligence. Due diligence is often a critical component to any deal. One form of diligence that is often overlooked, however, is an investigation of the guys on the other side of the table. What’s the reputation of the Big Boy — e.g., is this a venture capital or private equity firm that treats its portfolio companies well or is this a firm that squeezes the little guy? What about the particular individuals with whom you are dealing? What are their reputations? Are they good guys with whom to partner or are they jerks? Indeed, the web is a good starting point for the entrepreneur who needs background information on a particular firm/individual. At a minimum, the entrepreneur should track down other entrepreneurs or CEO’s who have done deals with the guys on the other side of the table and make an informed judgment as to whether they are guys with whom the entrepreneur wants to do business.

3. Create a Competitive Environment. There is nothing that will give the entrepreneur more leverage in connection with any negotiation with a Big Boy than a competitive environment (or the perception of same). Indeed, every investment banker worth his salt understands this simple proposition. Accordingly, a start-up seeking a Series A round financing from a venture capital firm, for example, will clearly be more appealing if such firm learns that other venture capital firms are interested in the start-up. Not only does competition validate a firm’s thinking, but also it appeals to the human nature of the individuals involved. Indeed, everyone wants what he doesn’t have and/or what someone else wants. The entrepreneur will have strong leverage with respect to price and other material terms as competitors are played off of each other and will thus strike the best possible deal. One caveat: as discussed below, it is probably best left to a strong corporate lawyer to play this game on behalf of the entrepreneur; indeed, this strategy must be played carefully and is better-handled by someone with experience.

4. Run the Negotiations Through the Lawyers. The entrepreneur should do what he does best — i.e., build companies — and leave the negotiating to a strong corporate lawyer. Entrepreneurs are generally no match for sophisticated venture capitalists or private equity or corporate development guys who do deals for a living. Accordingly, a smart entrepreneur will stay above the fray and let his corporate lawyer run the deal. The Big Boys may try to do an end-run around the entrepreneur’s lawyer (and may even criticize the lawyer and try to turn the entrepreneur against him), but the entrepreneur should remain disciplined and avoid “side-bar” negotiations with the principal(s) on the other side. This approach is particularly important where the entrepreneur will have an ongoing relationship with the other side post-closing; the goal is thus not to poison that relationship with testy, acrimonious negotiations (i.e., let the lawyers fight it out).

5. Develop a Game Plan. Every deal is different — different players, different negotiating leverage, different risks, different timing — and it is thus critical that the entrepreneur sit down with his transaction team and strategize; in short, he must develop a game plan and then attempt to execute the plan. Indeed, doing deals is no different than any other project: the entrepreneur must think through the issues with a smart, experienced team, set reasonable milestones and then monitor the progress. Rigorous analysis throughout this process is paramount.

6. Be Careful with LOI’s. A letter of intent (an “LOI”) — sometimes referred to as a term sheet or memorandum of understanding — is often executed in connection with all types of deals. The entrepreneur must understand that, depending on the deal and the context, there are different LOI strategies and considerations that must be addressed. For example, in the acquisition context, a selling entrepreneur should try to negotiate all of the material terms of the deal in the LOI when the entrepreneur’s leverage is the strongest; on the other hand, a buying entrepreneur’s main goal with respect to the LOI is merely to lock-up the seller and prohibit it from shopping the deal for a reasonable period of time. Another major concern with respect to LOI’s is that they may be deemed enforceable by a court of law (i.e., be deemed a binding agreement) — despite express language in the LOI to the contrary. The lesson here is simple: an LOI should not be executed without the advice of competent counsel.

7. Check Your Emotions at the Door. Big Boys are masters at taking their emotions out of transactions and being extremely disciplined. Indeed, Big Boys will generally walk from a deal if they get out of their comfort zone (e.g., with respect to the risk profile, price, etc.) — regardless of how much time and money they have expended. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand (particularly those who haven’t had much deal experience), often become emotionally wedded to a particular transaction and are unable to maintain their objectivity the further along they get in the process. Too often, an entrepreneur will fall in love with a particular deal — like the first-time home buyer — which will lead to poor decision-making and risky positions. (“I don’t care if it has termites or there is a cesspool problem, I love this house” becomes “I don’t care if I must personally guarantee all of the reps and warranties without a cap on liability, I love this deal.”) It is critical that the entrepreneur understand this dynamic and address it accordingly.

8. Don’t Blink First. There comes a point in time in just about every deal where both sides have dug into certain positions and the question becomes which side will blink first; e.g., in a venture capital financing, perhaps the issue is control of the board or, in an acquisition, perhaps the issue is carve-outs to the cap on liability. Whatever the issue, the lesson for the entrepreneur is clear (albeit difficult to execute): in order to maintain negotiating leverage and credibility, the entrepreneur should try not to blink first. Indeed, if the entrepreneur has flatly stated that “this issue is a dealbreaker”, but then blinks and nevertheless agrees to go forward with the transaction despite not getting what he asked for, he will have completely undermined his credibility and will have his clock cleaned with respect to any other significant issues. Like poker, if your bluff gets called, it will be difficult to bluff again. Which brings us back to the important tip in #4 above: run the negotiations through an experienced corporate lawyer who does this stuff for a living.

9. Watch-out for the “Good-Cop, Bad-Cop” Routine. Big Boys employ all kinds of negotiating games, and one of their favorites is the “good-cop, bad-cop” routine. The Big Boy, of course, plays the good cop and is smooth, friendly and agreeable and makes the entrepreneur feel like all of his important issues are being taken care of. But then the documents arrive — chock full of bells and whistles and boilerplate provisions designed to protect the Big Boy and often with significant gaps on the deal points. When the Big Boy is questioned as to what’s going on here, the answer, of course, is “it’s my lawyer’s fault” (i.e., the “bad cop”). This game will continue throughout the negotiating process as the Big Boy charms the entrepreneur while his lawyers pound away on every significant issue.

10. Hire an Aggressive Corporate Lawyer to Watch Your Back. As a corporate lawyer at two major New York law firms, I have learned first-hand the importance of watching my clients’ back. Indeed, I have worked on billion-dollar deals where, prior to signing, emotions run high (as discussed above), and a few of the significant risks are minimized or pushed-aside by investment bankers and/or business guys in order to get the deals done. My job, probably more important than anything, is to sober the entrepreneur and lay-out all of the significant legal risks — and then push hard to negotiate appropriate protections. If the deal sours and lawsuits are filed, well-drafted documents become like an insurance policy to the entrepreneur — and what entrepreneur doesn’t have insurance?

Electronic Compass – How to Use the Internet As an Information Marketer

You have probably started your information marketing business and done all the requisite work. You created a web site, a blog, and a weekly e-newsletter. Now people are sending you e-mails asking about your information product. Your view of computers has gone from anger and frustration to calm and ease. You are now a digital pro, right?

Well, almost.

Like learning to drive or play sports, it never hurts to know about some of the roadblocks that exist out there.

Here are a few online issues to be aware of if you’re an information marketer:

Read absolutely everything: Now, I know what you are going to say next. “Everything…?!?” I understand: there is so much content on the Internet these days that the temptation to just pass over certain paragraphs of text is always at the front of your mind. But, especially if you’re conducting your own business online, you must be sure to read absolutely everything, especially legal material. Make copies of the content pages and save them to your hard drive for further reference. In this case, it is truly better to be safe than sorry.

Avoid plagiarism: Remember your high school English or history class and those dreadful essay writing sessions? While they may bring back bad memories, the teacher was correct about one particular matter: copying other people’s work is wrong all the time. Again, you may feel the temptation to “borrow” content or graphics from other people’s web sites. But, like books and all other intellectual property, this stuff is copyrighted by the owner. Taking it without permission is illegal and can result in several legal penalties.

Know your contacts: You might have occasion to be offered a joint venture with another information marketer over an e-mail exchange. And if the deal sounds promising for both parties, by all means, go for it. But be sure to do some checking to see if the company and/or marketers are legit and the company is sustainable. Do not waste time on people who are not as interested as you in doing good business. As well, one small problem with the Internet is that it is poor for face-to-face conversation. Don’t be afraid to offer to meet your potential partner for coffee and discussion.

Be frugal: A lot of flashy online entrepreneurs will make you an offer for a package or computer tool. Again, do your research. Don’t spend money on something that may be a waste and may not benefit your business.

Keep your host and provider phone numbers handy: If your Internet connection doesn’t work or your web site is down, make the necessary calls to remedy the situation. This is your business and it can’t function if your business tools don’t function

An elderly farmer friend of my dad’s family used to put it eloquently: “Those bloody things are just over-hyped typewriters.” While he was being, well, a tad crass, his stance was a good one. The computer and the Internet are really just tools. Knowing how to utilize them can only help your business succeed.