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Why So Many Millennials are Becoming Entrepreneurs

Generation Y is entering the traditional work force with unconventional expectations. Instead of finding satisfaction with the typical 9-to-5 routine, they are either looking to start their own businesses or molding the corporate world to fit their demands. They’re not happy with the status quo, so they’re making their own way.

This sudden surge in entrepreneurial chutzpah can be attributed to many factors, including the mobility and speed afforded to them by rapidly evolving online technology, growing up in a time of major economic and political uncertainty, and facing staggering unemployment and student debt. Perhaps desperate measures call for daring life choices; this generation can’t afford to play it safe.

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A Desire for Flexibility Coupled With Impatience

The technology that Millennials have grown up with has created a group of people who are accustomed to a lifestyle that is drastically different from their parents and grandparents. Their relationship with technology has instilled a desire for mobility and flexibility, creating the impression that they should be able to access and complete their work anywhere and anytime.

Technology is also behind the demand for instant access and ability to collaborate with others at any time. Those in their 20s and early 30s are used to downloading and streaming music, movies, not to mention shopping, communicating and even dating online. Millennials have also been able to text, call, and interact with friends on phones, Google any information desired and remain generally connected for the entirety of their teenage and young adult lives, so their impatience shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Confidence Laced With Fear

Although this generation is considered one of the most optimistic and confident, they seem to have lost faith in corporations, and the government, likely a result of witnessing their parents losing jobs and pensions due to corporate scandals and the global financial meltdown. They have seen older friends and siblings graduate and struggle to find work. The last several years have seen unemployment rates in the double digits for people between the ages of 18 and 29.

Many Millennials feel that the only possible job security they will find must be through creating their own. This uncertainty has fueled a desire to succeed along with the willingness to make sacrifices and take risks at a level that Generation X just hasn’t been willing (or forced) to do. These aspirations are propelled by the confidence and optimism of this generation.

Millennial Entrepreneurs

This past decade has been indelibly impacted by the Millennial startups that now dominate our social and business landscapes. And it’s arguably been the most entrepreneurial decade in recent memory, with some key people from this generation having achieved immense success. This is especially impressive considering that many of these game-changers are all under the age of 30. This is just a short list of a few of the most victorious high profile Millennials to burst onto the world stage.

Mark Zuckerberg – 28

Let’s start with possibly the most successful entrepreneur of this generation. Zuckerberg was behind the launch the social media site: Facebook in 2004, and is estimated to currently have a net worth of at least $10 billion. He’s changed the face of the Internet, is giving Google a run for their money and completely altered the way businesses interact with their customers.

Dustin Moskovitz – 28

Moskovitz started out as a part of the Facebook team and has a 7.6 percent share in the social media site. He also started Asana, a website that uses web and mobile application that allows people to collaborate in one place. It has an estimated value of $280 million and his overall net worth is around $5 billion.

Drew Houston – 29

This former MIT student came up with the idea for Dropbox, the online file-sharing application that ushered in an era of cloud-based collaboration and pushed Houston’s net worth up to $600 million.

Ben Silbermann – 29

This innovator went from designing products for Google to putting together the groundbreaking social platform, Pinterest, which has filled a critical visual niche in the social media space. While it took a few years to gain popularity, the company is now valued at $1.5 billion and Silbermann’s net worth is at about $100 million.

Peter Cashmore – 26

The creator of Mashable, one of the biggest news sites on the web and valued at more than $200 million. Cashmore has an estimated net worth of $95 million.

All of these young minds are inspirations to the hordes of young business owners, talented programmers and innovative activists seeking to make their way in a new economy. I can’t wait to see who the next big name is—and how they shake things up.

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and author seeking to drive real-world change using profits from his many profitable business ventures. To learn how to make your own business a success, and to hear more about Mike’s charitable vision, read or download his book.

Why You Should Publish a Corporate Blog

The benefits of having a corporate blog are countless. Among them are the advantages of building corporate brand, enhancing customer loyalty, getting customer feedback, accumulating an email list for a newsletter, fresh content that generates link love for SEO purposes, crisis management and even the cultivation of your internal corporate culture.

Having this type of dynamic presence online is a way for a company to harness the power of the Web for a multitude of purposes and help shape the way the public interacts with your brand. Perhaps the most compelling proof that corporate blogs work is in the fact that many very successful companies have been producing corporate blogs with very positive results.

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Self Promotion

37 Signals is a textbook example of successful self promotion. While effectively highlighting the company philosophy, it mystically takes otherwise boring subjects and transforms them into engaging content. Here is an example of the writing style that captivates their readers:

As we watched Apple unveil iOS7, the 37signals Campfire room quickly turned to awe of what they had achieved. A redesign so shocking and deep bestowed upon a product so popular left many mouths agape. Whether you happened to like the final product wasn’t as relevant as marveling at the vision, drive, and sheer determination to pull it off.”

How is that for engaging content? Talk about tooting your own horn by tooting someone else’s! This isn’t just Apple fan boy syndrome; it’s a demonstration that 37 Signals recognizes and appreciates good design, and that they can speak poetically and competently about it. It makes me want to know more about their company and the type of corporate culture that inspires words like this.

Personal Interest can Engage Readers

One of the best large corporate blogs around is that of Bill Marriot, founder of one of the world’s largest hotel chains. He proves that a corporate blog can talk about unrelated topics and yet still build brand. The key is to make the content dynamic and interesting. One of his latest posts is somewhat of a personal human interest story:

“One of the benefits of being an old guy and living in Washington, D.C., is that I have had the privilege of meeting almost every U.S. President since Eisenhower.  Each is a remarkable leader in their own way, right for their times, endorsed through election by the American people.”

He then goes on to tell about his recent get together with Bill Clinton and many of his wonderful leadership attributes. You have to be careful about this type of name-dropping to not sound like a complete narcissist, but when done right you can establish yourself as a leader and authority; just have something relevant to say other than you’ve met some famous people in your sphere.

New Product Development

Starbucks has taken the blogging platform and made it into a global focus group. Imagine the power of having a huge brainstorming platform that invites customers to submit their ideas for new product offerings. To date, over 100,000 food, drink and other ideas have been submitted. With each new concept, additional comments from readers are added to refine the idea and test it against a huge audience. They are successfully crowd-sourcing product development through their blog, and probably even harvesting some great corporate talent that way.

Getting Inspired and Starting Your Own Corporate Blog

Writing a corporate blog can turn a lot of people off at first. This is partly because the content is not just flowing from an individual that is sharing life experiences or information about a specific interest or passion; anyone writing is also acting as a mouthpiece for the company, which carries its own risks. But managing those risks is doable, and worth it in my opinion.

One of the best ways to get inspired and to start the creative juices flowing is to analyze what makes other blogs so successful. In addition to the samples provided above, these successful corporate blogs are prime examples of companies who are doing it right:

  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods
  • Ice Cream Journal
  • Zappos
  • Bigelow Tea
  • BMW
  • YouTube
  • Zillow
  • Disney Parks
  • Dell

Any Size Company Can Benefit from a Blog

Regardless of the size of your company, a blog can be a productive way to communicate internally and externally. Write a few sample posts and run them by trusted associates and even some customers. As you begin to amass a following, the blog will probably take on a life of its own. Who’s to say what it will evolve into?

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and author seeking to drive real-world change using profits from his many profitable business ventures. To learn how to make your own business a success, and to hear more about Mike’s charitable vision, read or download his book.

Real-world Entrepreneurship: Why Hard Work isn’t Enough

A lot of people find refuge in buckling down and getting busy with a project. They’re often called “workaholics,” lumped in with the passionate, the driven and the desperate souls who populate the entrepreneurial landscape. There’s a mental kind of release in feeling like you’re actually getting something done.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t get that same feeling from some of the less concrete parts of startup life, like planning, researching and analyzing. So they try to lose themselves in solid work. Yet all those other things are absolutely critical to my point, which is that you can’t get by on hard work alone, not for any project, not ever.

Stressed Businessman

“you can’t get by on hard work alone”

A Successful Business isn’t Built on Just One Thing

Just like an idea alone can’t bring you real success, work alone isn’t going to help you succeed if you don’t have the other elements required for your business to succeed. This is one of the reasons that you need a good team; different working personalities fill in gaps in one another’s abilities, which helps to make the idea reality. The key aspects of your business need to be ensured by someone:

  • A killer business idea that sets you apart from the competition
  • A growing customer base for your product or service
  • The talent required to create and deliver on those products or services
  • The ability to manage and attract said talent

Really, those are the broad strokes, but there’s not much else to it. And you can’t get this stuff covered if you fly blind, just buckling down on grunt-work tasks.

Someone has to be aware of economic conditions affecting your industry and your customer base. Someone has to research new technology and competing products that may be putting you behind the times. And someone needs to be watching the way your entire organization works to ensure that you’re actually getting done what needs to get done, that you have the capital and the plan to make it six months, a year, five years. And when you’re living the startup life, that someone is you.

Fighting the Desire to Disappear into the Details

Being consumed by work may be psychologically rewarding, but it can distract you from things that really matter. You can’t just charge ahead, single-minded and taking no stock of the shifting business climate around you. You need to be the vanguard, the person blazing the trail for your entire organization, whether you’re the whole show or the head of a growing team.

There’s a reason we retreat into mindless busywork when there are real strategic and conceptual challenges to be tackled. It’s the procrastination bug that causes us to look for something else to do—anything else—than the hard stuff. But isn’t that why you became an entrepreneur, so that you wouldn’t be doing someone else’s gopher tasks, grinding away at the mindless minutiae of it all?

The truth is that we’re tempted to avoid that stuff because we’re scared of fully investing ourselves and then failing and having nothing left. It would be a confirmation (not really) that you aren’t good enough. But if you’re not willing to take that risk—to put all of your energy, hope and emotional force behind an idea you believe in—then you may need to ask yourself if you’re really cut out to be an entrepreneur.

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and author seeking to drive real-world change using profits from his many profitable business ventures. To learn how to make your own business a success, and to hear more about Mike’s charitable vision, read or download his book.

The Most In-Demand Degrees for Business

A lot of entrepreneurs are discounting the value of college, and they have a lot of good points. But not all degrees are created equal, so it’s natural that some graduates are going to walk away wondering what their diploma is worth. Still, certain degrees give you skills and qualifications that business need badly.

Picking a degree program is an important step on your path to success, and you should select it with care. Degrees tend to fall in and out of favor for all types of organizations as business needs and trends cycle through.

Welcome To The Future Green Road Sign

However, there are some degrees that have been in demand for quite a while, and the need for these majors is likely to remain steady or possibly increase in the future.

Engineering

This may be the strongest candidate for the most in-demand degree in the United States. A significantly smaller number of students major in engineering here than in countries, such as Japan, India or China, despite the high demand. Although companies need engineering majors, there are two areas that top the rest:

  • Electrical Engineers: Qualified engineers, especially those with a degree that surpasses the bachelor level, are in high demand because of the impact electrical engineering has on nearly every other type of engineering. This can range from petroleum refinery equipment to computer and mobile device design. With the amount of electronics we use to run our lives, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people with this degree are a prized asset.
  • Computer Engineers: The demand for this degree is due to an increase in wireless technology, information security and data processing in just about every sector of the economy. Computers are now essential to most businesses, and this dependency has led to a greater need for people with the right skills and training to help design all sorts of connected devices, from smartphones to internet-connected mining equipment and more.

Computer Science

Notice any trend in demand for science degrees? Not only are computer science majors much sought-after by all businesses, but this degree offers a lot of flexibility in job choice due to the ubiquity of demand across all industries.

Graduates in this field have the option to work for large financial firms, software companies, healthcare organizations and other firms to whom harnessing data is increasingly essential. Fields such as animation and graphics, scientific research, marketing and many others are hungry for individuals that can help them manage their existing technology and build tools to get things done. Computer science students are taught to use creative thinking and engage in problem solving, which are two very desirable qualities in an employee.

Accounting

 Employment opportunities for accountants, from 2010 to 2020, are anticipated to grow by 16 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is expected to be especially concentrated in international finance as a result of the growth of businesses globalization. Since accounting students are required to learn about every feature of a company’s finances, the skills they acquire can easily be transferred to help their employers achieve goals for investment, budgeting and regulatory compliance. Possible careers for graduates with an accounting degree include financial managers, bookkeepers and budget analysts.

Business Administration

This skills gained through this degree program can be implemented in many different industries and can either be used to gain specialized expertise in areas such as human resources, or broad range knowledge that includes all aspects of a business. If you have a specialization in a field such as finance or computer information systems, an MBA can position you for critical administrative roles where you’ll need the business acumen as well as the technical knowledge from your bachelor’s.

Communications

The effects of globalization and information sharing have impacted the prospects for many graduates, including communication majors. Specializations in the areas of public relations and advertising, as well as new media studies are some of the top degree required by employers. Marketing with an emphasis on social media is a possibility for these graduates in addition to media relations and writing.

Written and verbal communication skills are needed by almost any business, which gives these graduates the opportunity to contribute in many different fields. These days, you also need to be savvy in online marketing, social media and web analytics to measure the effects of your various communications and plan for the future.

Graphic Design

Visual communication is another area where businesses really need qualified people. Graphic designers use their creativity to produce visual concepts that can be used for many purposes including advertising, design services, public relations, publishing, and web design among others. Designers can help a business distinguish itself and create brand awareness.

The most in-demand degrees at this time are focused in several areas such as math and science, as well as art and communication. Although a broad major, such as communication, can be useful for employment purposes it is wise to focus on a specialty within your major. This will give you a specific skill set that you can use to market yourself to potential employers in addition to more generalized abilities.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

3 Business Tips for Success in 2013

By now you should know that there’s no magic bullet for succeeding in business; every industry is different and you have to find your niche. The only keys to business success you’ll find are sound principles that you can learn to apply in your daily life as an entrepreneur and professional. As we lay 2012 to rest, it’s time to start thinking about how we’re going to reform ourselves and our companies to compete in a business landscape where the ground seems to be constantly shifting beneath our feet.

Get Serious about Data Security

It can be hard to drive home the gravity of the world’s current vulnerability when it comes to technology. So, to drive the point home, let me frighten you a bit:

A friend of mine who works for a public accounting firm told me an IT security horror story about one of her clients. This company, which had millions a year in revenue, was running their entire accounting operation from a single computer running Windows 98. All their sensitive customer data was contained in unsecured Excel spreadsheets, on an outdated computer with absolutely no anti-virus software on it. The PC wasn’t even password protected.

Anyone with access to the building could have stolen all of that information, including client bank account information. If the company had been publicly traded, and it was known that this was their level of IT disaster preparedness, their stock would be worthless, and the shareholders might even sue.

The future is bright for businesses who take on the right strategies this year.

The future is bright for businesses who take on the right strategies this year.

My friend’s story is an extreme case of negligence in the IT world, but even large corporations with sophisticated IT security measures are experiencing significant data breaches. And the root cause of these problems is usually traced back to an improperly configured server or some other security flaw that could have been caught with a simple IT audit. Lax security is putting everything from your customers’ identifying information to your individual trade secrets at risk.

As your company grows, it’s essential that you have regular audits. You can’t simply trust a single IT professional to take care of all of it. A single significant data breach can expose you to huge liability that can easily sink a small or medium-sized business. You simply can’t afford not to be serious about protecting yours and your customers’ data.

Make Your Business a Marketing Extrovert

Many successful business people are accused of being narcissistic, but it’s that very trait of putting yourself out there on a consistent basis (hopefully in a non-obnoxious way) that helps you spread ideas, establish yourself as a leader and make sure people know your name. The same goes for companies. If your business only toots its own horn through traditional marketing channels, you’re going to get left behind. An increasingly digital world requires that we all become online marketing extroverts, spreading our message through web ads, PPC advertising, social media marketing, SEO and content marketing. If you’re not involved in these things, you might as well not exist to huge demographic swaths of would-be customers.

Start a company blog. Begin touting your products and your brand in social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and anywhere else where your customers will start looking for you. A slick website and an online ecommerce platform aren’t enough for businesses to compete in the marketplace anymore—they’re the price of entry.

Start Defining Your Best Practices

Productivity is through the roof in most businesses around the country. And those where it isn’t may soon find some other, leaner, more agile company is coming up from behind to eat their lunch. While you’re first starting out, growing fast and just making sure everything runs smoothly, it’s easy to just let everyone do what works. But that can’t last once you’re past the startup phase. You have to define your critical operations and develop best practices for them.

In my book for entrepreneurs, I make the analogy that best practices are like weapons. The idea is that defining and reforming the on-the-ground tasks that are your everyday business, from one end of the company to the other, cuts the waste out of your organization. Taking a microscope to the way each department—each person, even—operates will help you identify week spots in your best practices, weak spots that your competitors may also have. Then you can reform your own processes and start to exploit that former weakness in your competitors in the marketplace.

The businesses that nail down a process for self-reflection and reform set themselves up to be on the bleeding-edge of innovation in their industry. That’s a good place to be. (This feeds back into being an extrovert. If your company has the leading experts in the field, make them blog about what they know; use them as a marketing resource to establish your authority in online spaces and build your brand.) When you’re constantly improving, you’re gaining on the competitors who are resting on their laurels, and the competitors who are behind you can’t catch up. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

As the New Year approaches, it’s likely that we’re about to experience a serious amount of growth in many sectors of the economy. If you’re ready to buckle down, refine your processes and start getting over the growing pains that so many new businesses suffer from, you can ride that wave through a year of prosperity and progress. Good luck.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals

3 Reasons Why Your Business Plan Stinks

There’s a problem with your business plan. I haven’t read it. I don’t know what your product or service is, or what problem it solves. But I know this: there are holes in what you think is an amazing business plan, and you need to fix them if you want anyone to read it, let alone invest.

Most people never even finish reading poor business plans because they have learned to recognize instantly when an idea hasn’t been fully fleshed out, the entrepreneur doesn’t understand the problem they’re trying to solve, or when there’s just no evidence to support the claims being made in the business proposal. I go over how to write an effective business plan in my book on business success, in which I lay out the principles you need to know to write a convincing proposal that really does your idea—and the work behind it—justice.

Your Idea Gets Lost in the Details

Any good idea you have is lost in an overwritten business plan. Sure, people want figures and facts that will back up your business plan (market research, competitive analysis, budget estimates, financial projections for the first few years, etc.), but these elements should be referenced in your business proposal, not spelled out in full like a master’s thesis.

Unless you avoid common mistakes, people will spot you as a entrepreneurial wannabe.

Unless you avoid common mistakes, people will spot you as a entrepreneurial wannabe.

Hide the details elegantly; you don’t need to front-load everything into the proposal. If an investor is intrigued, they can drill-down into that cost analysis to see your staffing plan, your materials estimates and your projected revenue. Put those things in separate documents and keep the main proposal itself as a birds-eye view of the business plan essentials, as laid out in my book, MakeMillions.Com:

  • The problem that needs a solution.
  • Your solution to that problem.
  • Convincing evidence that your solution will work.
  • A non-sugar-coated assessment of the risks associated with your venture.

If you lay these things out in a simple, easy-to-digest form that doesn’t try to win readers over with jargon, your idea will be able to stand on its own. You’ll really have a good chance that people will read the whole proposal, and your research will show through in the organization of the data you’ve collected.

Your Market Research is Light or Nonexistent

If it’s evident that you haven’t done an exhaustive amount of research on the niche you want to occupy, people will simply pass your proposal over. In fact, I’d say that a proposal without research isn’t really a proposal at all; it’s just wishful thinking on paper.

No one will believe you can compete without understanding the current players in the market space you want to break into. No matter how impressive your product is, investors will want to be reassured that established players don’t already have something better in the pipeline. If you’re entering an already competitive niche, you’ll really need to spell out why you’ll be able to compete with the big players in the space, and that your idea is unique enough not to get lost in the crowd.

The worst thing you could do is leave out analysis of some of your obvious competitors in the space or ignore similar products to yours from even smaller players who may be poised to eat your lunch. If someone can find out more about your competition with a simple Google search than they can reading your proposal, they’re not going to take you seriously, and they shouldn’t.

You Don’t Talk about What You Don’t Know

Experienced investors and business people will be able to see blind spots in your plan. Do you? If so, you’d better spell them out in detail, describing exactly what information you don’t have that could impact the likelihood of success, and why you think you’ll be able to succeed anyway.

Every business plan involves some basic assumptions (about the economic climate, about customer demand, about competition, etc.), which you should spell out logically in order to show your investors and potential partners that your plan is firmly based in reality. Avoiding these subjects makes it seem like you’re either unprepared or being deceptive about the actual risks associated with the proposal.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals

How Your Startup is Like a Relationship

As you begin putting so much time and effort into your startup, the amount of time and energy you’re putting in can start to feel a little overwhelming and confusing, but you may have more insight into the process than you think. Trying to get a new business off the ground has some uncanny similarities to being in a long-term committed relationship. Here are a few dating business tips to make your start-up successful.

Investment of Time and Energy

If a relationship is going to work you have to be fully invested, putting in enough time and energy to help the budding romance thrive. It has to be a top priority, and you have to be dedicated to its success. The same goes with your start-up. If you are going to start a business you need to be willing to devote the resources needed to get the job done, because nobody else will. You need to be committed to this business, and only this business. Don’t let your eye stray to other opportunities. Focus on always making improvements and you’ll both grow together.

Choose Your Co-founder Carefully

If you are looking for a business partner or co-founder, choose wisely. You may initially be searching for the person with the right college degree, the most experience, or the best sales skills you’ve ever seen. You may want to think again.

Obviously you want a co-founder with skills, but if you look at your start-up like a long-term relationship, you’ll realize that you are going to be spending a lot of time with this person. You need to find someone you get along with and has personality traits that match or complement yours. It should be someone who can work through emotional difficulties, sort out financial problems, and be someone who you aren’t going to get sick of seeing day in and day out.

Like your relationship, neglecting the needs of your startup could mean the end.

Like your relationship, neglecting the needs of your startup could mean the end.

Ups and Downs

Every relationship has ups and downs, and so does every startup. One minute you are positive this business is taking flight and going to make you the millions you always dreamed of. The next minute, everything comes crashing down and you wonder if you are going to be able to keep your head above water.

The best advice I can give regarding the ups and downs of a start-up is to know they are coming. A couple should not end their relationship because they had one argument. Likewise, when you hit a bump in the road or a few problems with your startup, hold on. They pass—usually. You can overcome the hardships and the company will be all-the-better for it.

The Small Stuff Matters

In a relationship, the small stuff matters. It matters if your partner saves you the last piece of chocolate cake. It matters if they offer to rub your feet after a long day at work. And, alas, you realize that the whole reason the relationship is working is because of all the small stuff that added up to mutual attentiveness and caring.

A start-up is the exact same way. You begin with a big picture and a huge goal, but you find that the daily grind is what takes over. You have so many small tasks to cover to make sure things get rolling and keep running smoothly. They may seem tedious and often uninteresting, but they are what will keep your business moving, growing and succeeding.

Sometimes You have to Play Games

Without compromising honesty, sometimes you have to play games. If you want someone to be interested in you, you may have to play a little hard to get. You may have to flirt a little then, seem a little uninterested at your next encounter.

Startup founders sometimes have to play similar games to find success and drum up interest. Whether you’re trying to attract new customers or court investors, a little (ethical) game playing may be required. Remember that your presentation is just as important as your product. Your attitude, staging and performance are often big selling points. Flirty sometimes and backing off at others can make a big difference in how you’re perceived.

Cut Your Losses

Not every relationship ends with a marriage proposal. Even if both people are great, sometimes things just don’t work out, and it’s better if they just go their separate ways. The same goes for your new company. Sometimes things just don’t work out, despite all your best efforts. This doesn’t mean things won’t ever work out for you in busines, or that you will never have a successful idea take off. It just means that you need to know when to cut your losses and move on to the next project.

Relationships require a lot of work, and if you’re not committed to seeing it succeed in the long run, you’ll end up facing problem after problem. If you’re ready to jump into a new business, be prepared for all the ups and downs, stay focused, and be ready to compromise when the situation calls for it. And above all, cut your losses before things become dysfunctional.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals

Why Persistence and Luck are the Keys to Success

Success in business requires that you follow a few sound and well-tested principles and nurture some important traits. Throughout the years, we’ve seen the same things over and over again – truly successful entrepreneurs can be characterized by their determination, knowledge, persistence and… luck?

We hear it a lot. Someone will claim that a certain business leader was just lucky – that he or she was simply in the right place at the right time. What is luck in business, though? Is it really a defining factor in success, or does it go beyond that? Without a doubt, luck can play a big part in how we see opportunities, but perhaps there’s more to it than mystical chance. It might just be that with some persistence and the right attitude, you can make your own luck and take control of your own success.

What is Luck?

Luck, in a way, is really just a personal awareness. It’s not a special chant or tasty elixir. When we say someone is lucky, it might just be that they have a level of attentiveness that other do not, and they pay attention to specific impressions they get in every circumstance or event, letting them recognize opportunities that others miss. So how does that help you with your business?

Everyone sees and describes luck differently. Just because one CEO climbed to the top faster or more efficiently than another company president doesn’t mean he had more luck; there are a lot of other factors, and luck is one. You can’t control luck, but you make it more likely that you can take advantage of it by controlling the level of creative thinking, hard work, and tenacity you bring into a business project.

Hard work and luck can unlock real success, if you know how to use them.

Hard work and luck can unlock real success, if you know how to use them.

Be Original and Inspired

Let’s be clear, first of all. Most success in business comes by following sound business principles and being consistently serious about their endeavor. You begin with an idea, service, or product and create a solid plan around it. Surround yourself with other creative and resourceful people and come up with a detailed concept and business model. That’s the bulk of the foundation that successful businesses are built upon.

You could say that if you’re “lucky,” all of these things will fall into place, and your business will be up and running in no time. Or, you could be smart, be objective, and be ready to take on any task or project that you believe in. If you go out on a limb, try new things, and offer a unique perspective, you will inspire others to help you succeed. It’s the act of putting yourself out there that allows you to take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of opportunities that naturally occur. The luck occurs when your efforts coincide with favorable conditions and things catch fire.

Be Positive and Work Hard

Luck seems to hover around those people with a positive attitude, and this is not a coincidence. Be bold and approach jobs with confidence, then you can motivate others and share a passion for getting the work done. A positive attitude can be contagious, which encourages others to work harder and more effectively. Do not sit back and watch things happen around you. Don’t wait for luck. Be the kind of businessperson who has the mental strength to survive the tough times.

Keep Moving Forward

Everyone makes mistakes. Is that bad luck? No, it just means there may have a situation that was beyond your control. Bad luck is merely when those mistakes cascade into other consequences and magnify the mistake. There may be many roadblocks or setbacks, but businesses that overcome these things and, in fact, use the experiences to find even greater success down the road. Someone else may call that “good luck,” but by then you’ll know the difference.

Take the time to learn from other innovative and hard-working businesspeople. They most likely struggled along the way but maintained a vision and reached a goal. The person who believes in himself or herself the most, irrespective of their nominal brainpower, is usually the most successful.

Luck is for the Lottery – Persistence for the Entrepreneur

Luck comes to those who make room for it, and by being serious about success and always following sound business principles there will be plenty of room for great things to happen. Watch for these opportunities as your business grows. Be ready to take a chance because routine is the anti-luck. There’s no room in routine for anything but the ordinary. In a way, luck does have a formula, and once you discover it in your own business, it will be easy to replicate time and again.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

3 Things You Should Never Say in a Meeting

If you are very familiar with my work and the principles I teach, you know that I believe the primary motivation for making lots of money in high paying jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors should be based on the desire to make the world a better place to live in. Those who make money without any social responsibility attached to their actions often worry and wonder if karma is going to swing around and slap them upside the face, and well they should.

When it comes to karma in business, one of the most important things you can do to position yourself as a leader with a persuasive persona of success, is to choose your words wisely in meetings, times when you can make or break your image with the people that matter.

Building a Persona of Success

Each of us is building our own business persona by the words we choose to speak and who we speak them to. Just as major corporations like Nike, Coke, Apple and Starbucks have powerful brands that evoke specific thoughts and emotions; each of us also has our own brand or persona that we are building with our words and actions.

We seldom realize how powerful our own words are and how much of a positive or negative effect they have on others, not to mention our own careers. What kind of a brand are you building? What do people think of when they think of you? These are questions worth pondering. If you want to avoid poisoning your images in the minds of your colleagues, there are some things you should never say in a meeting or even out loud in the office—ever. When these things are said, they destroy morale, stifle creativity and damage your personal brand.

1- “It can’t be Done”

Truly successful personalities never focus on why something can’t be done; they thrive on the challenge of figuring out how it can be done. This is why lateral thinkers and those that live outside of the box often rise to the top of innovative organizations. The truth is that virtually anything can be done if the necessary energy and creativity is backing up the effort.

A businessman who should have held his tongue.

Don't commit career suicide by saying the wrong thing.

Even if a challenge has exhausted you and your creative juices just aren’t responding to a given task, it is better to simply focus on finding a better way to approach the problem than to publicly admit defeat to the current method being used. “I think there may be a better approach to this problem” is an alternative that puts a positive spin on your opinion and doesn’t associate you with negativity in the minds of others.

2- “It’s Not Fair”

Truly successful people refuse to view or characterize themselves as victims. Even if you are being unjustly targeted, it is simply bad form and uninspiring to others that are looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Never, ever—ever— say “it’s not fair”. Pointing out the obvious brings little to the table and it makes you look defeated.

Life is not fair. Get over it, get around it, work through it. Part of the intoxicating adrenaline rush that truly successful people get while slaying their daily dragons is the thrill of being the underdog that overcomes opposition. You need to have a “Bring it on!” attitude, walking the line between arrogance and competence. Be the leader that loves a challenge and never whines about unfavorable exterior circumstances. That is how you inspire those that follow your lead.

3- “I Don’t Get Paid Enough to Do This”

That phrase is a real downer and a dead giveaway that someone is just in it for the paycheck with no vision for the future. Such people are not passionate about what they do for a living. If that is how you are approaching your work, you need to have an industrial strength paradigm shift. Truly successful people always consider themselves involved in a passionate cause that leads to a higher purpose in life. If indeed you have an underlying desire to make the world a better place with the resources your success brings you, then in fact, you are involved in an important cause, no matter what you do for a living. Do the best you can, with positive expectancy, and the money will follow.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

Five Things About Best Practices That Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Your business idea and even your business model are only part of what it takes to get a company off the ground. Many a great idea has failed to take off, or the business built around that idea failed, because an entrepreneur didn’t develop the best practices that build efficiency and help a company to thrive.

The operating procedures and practices that you lay out can determine the success or failure of your business. Just by examining, refining and standardizing the way you do things, you’re gaining understanding of your industry and giving yourself a competitive advantage. Here are the guiding principles you should follow to develop best practices for your growing company.

Top-Down Hierarchies Can Stifle Change

Notice that I wrote that top-down management structures “can,” not “do,” stifle change. There has to be organization, but avoid the top-down approach whenever possible, especially when it comes to the best practices that make up the bulk of labor that’s actually being performed in your organization.

The inability for information to flow upward in a company is the bane of large corporations. They can’t assimilate feedback from the people on the ground, so they can’t adapt to the changing conditions in their actual marketplace; management and executives become disconnected from the realities of their business. They miss huge inefficiencies that their top-down changes to best practices create and demoralize their workforce by not allowing them the freedom to adapt those practices to the realities of their jobs. More flexible competitors, from smaller companies with better communication, step in to eat the lunch of these inflexible giants.

The antidote to this is to become less prescriptive with best practices as your organization grows. First and second-level managers should drive the bulk of change in best practices, coordinating between departments through the next level up to smooth over conflicts and prevent changes in one part of the company from sabotaging the success of another part.

Smart Best Practices Are Like Weapons

Efficiency and skill are what allow smaller competitors to undercut the big guys. Mike Mann sees the inflexibility that I just mentioned as an opportunity for you to use your superior best practices as weapons to battle it out with larger companies in the marketplace. Less adaptable companies simply won’t be able to compete with a team that has done their homework to develop a faster, smarter way of doing business.

Best Practices Aren’t Set in Stone

The marketplace naturally filters out inefficient business models and operating procedures that don’t improve a company’s profitability, similar to the way in which natural selection eliminates species that cannot adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Insightful entrepreneurs will develop new ways of doing business, and less efficient firms will simply be left behind. That’s just the way that the marketplace evolves, naturally selecting companies and ideas the work the best. The music industry is a good example, here.

Developing and implementing new best practices must be an iterative process, in which you review and revise your best practices continually, implementing new ideas on a regular basis. Trying to constantly change your process on the fly quickly becomes cumbersome as your organization scales. And immediately implementing every idea you have will quickly eat into the actual day-to-day work that you need to get done.

Best Practices Require Self-Examination

Developing a standardized set of best practices is a process that forces you to look at your own operations and streamline them in a way that maximizes the benefit/profit that you get from a certain activity. That process of detailed reflection and analysis also helps you discover the strengths and weaknesses of your particular business model. You can see what you’re doing right, and how certain activities could go wrong.

You can’t afford to be too optimistic or self-deceptive during this process, though. It’s tempting to ignore certain inefficiencies, or to put seemingly small problems on the back burner. But even small problems start to add up. Sooner or later, you’ll come crashing hard into reality, and your best practices need to be lean and mean enough stand up to real-world competition.

Measuring Performance against Standards

A company’s best practices help you set a benchmark against which to measure people on your team. There’s no use in having a standardized way of doing things if the people on the ground aren’t going to follow along. Mastery of best practices and standard operating procedures should be a prerequisite to advancement in your organization. And the feedback that you get from insightful team members about reforming your procedures can help you to identify talent that you otherwise might have overlooked in your organization.