Category Archives: Business Strategy

Basic Rules of Branding: Crafting Your Image in the Public Mind

A lot of people spend time merely trying to mimic the business models and ad campaigns of iconic brands without really looking deeper into what makes those brands stick. Whether you’re putting together a new brand for your start-up idea or you’re conducting a brand refresh to focus your messaging after major market shifts or changes in leadership, it’s vital that you stick to some basic rules.

Metal Branding Brand Perspective

Your Brand is Built upon Core Principles

Contrary to popular belief, your brand is about more than your name and logo, or it should be. Your logo, slogans, product presentation and especially your company name are critical to the impact your brand has, to be sure.

Your efforts to build and manage a brand need certain fundamental ideas and values that anchor it. It’s when brands forget those key values that their brands are based on that they stop projecting an image to customers and the public that resonates.

Those core principles need to be more than just empty platitudes, though. Ask yourself and your executive team just what is important to them about operating in your industry, what sets them apart from competitors and what kind of presence they want your brand to communicate.

You Have to be Consistent

This means you have to defend your brand against erosion by bad marketing or just the variety of minds working on your campaigns. Inconsistent graphic design, colors, logo presentation, haphazard marketing copy that doesn’t project a consistent tone or follow central brand principles—your brand manager needs to corral all of these disparate messages into a consistent brand representation.

It’s much easier to maintain brand consistency if you’re able to launch your brand internally, getting buy-in from all of your staff and ensuring that branding gets consideration in everything you do. When everyone is aware of—and reminded of—your core principles and branding standards on a regular basis, they’re more likely to maintain a consistent brand representation collectively.

Customer Experience Must be Controlled

If you properly present your branded messages to customers in every instance, you’ll be successful in creating a consistent impression within just a few impressions. But if your messaging, styling and tone are all over the place, they may fail to remember your brand at all.

This is the reason for your obsession about consistency in graphic design, messaging and everything else. Not every customer will see every display ad, every commercial or every business card. But that’s all the more reason to keep them tightly controlled, so you get the same effect no matter where the customer is exposed to your brand. You’re controlling the image of your brand in customers’ minds by controlling the contexts in which they experience it.

Follow the KISS Rule

I don’t want to fall into the cliché of simply saying that you need to “keep it simple, stupid!” because it’s easy to dismiss. Yeah sure, you should keep your brand simple, but why and what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that you should dumb down your brand; just the opposite, in fact.

The principles around which you’re organizing your brand should be basic, but they shouldn’t be communicated in a cliché or tired manner. For example, everyone wants to say that they provide good service to their customers; you’re not going to impress anyone just by making sure you mention it in every branding message or slogan. But you will impress people by getting that message across elegantly, and in a manner that almost communicates that your brand is about service without actually saying so. This can happen in the tone and style of a branding message, right down to the way a brand tweets.

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

Focus on Recruitment Strategies that Really Attract Talent

It should be continually astonishing to anyone paying attention the way that many HR departments and hiring managers operate when trying to fill key positions. It takes way too long, often happens rapidly or not at all, and displays a large degree of incompetence all around.

This is a serious vulnerability that a lot of firms don’t even know they have. Talent starvation can be death for a large company, let alone a new startup, but many companies don’t even bother thinking about hiring new talent until they’re already feeling hunger pangs. And when the urgency to find new talent hits them, any cogent recruitment strategy is usually nowhere to be found. That’s why so many recruitment efforts fail.

Recruitment Strategies that Fail

Your company’s recruiting policies have a direct and indirect impact on its ability to perform. But those effects are often delayed, so you’re actually being impacted by strategies that failed you six months ago. That’s why it’s vital to recognize your errors now so you can begin to turn it around. Here are a few failing strategies you should remedy right away:

  • Single Platform Searches: If your entire hiring strategy for some or all of your positions is to simply to throw a job description on Indeed.com or some industry-specific job board, you’re casting a small net, to be sure. You need to get the position out there in multiple venues, multiple sites and social platforms to make sure you’re capturing a wide audience. The number of resumes you get should be a good indication, but the variety of candidates will increase with your variety of posting venues, too.
  • Plain Job Postings: This is usually a result of pure laziness on the part of the hiring manager or recruiter, but a boring, short job description is a surefire way to signal that your company isn’t serious about seeking good talent. Spend some time on it, make it look sleek and get your brand all over it to let people know it’s worth sending in a resume.
  • On-demand Recruitment: This might work for your entry-level positions, but you’re kidding yourself if you think you can fill key positions with highly talented individuals in just a few weeks. Finding the right developer, designer or rock star manager to fit a hole in your organization takes time. And if you wait until you’re hurting for a replacement to recruit them, you’ll be under pressure to accept subpar candidates that could turn into disasters for your company.

Recruitment

Strategies that Work

Talent recruiting and cultivation takes time. A long-term strategy to incentivize referrals, advertise for valuable positions and craft a favorable online view of your company is mandatory if you want to maintain the health of your company. Here are strategies that work:

  • Personal Networking: After everything, the method through which most people are finding their jobs is still through personal connections and networking, by a landslide. Exploring the connections of your existing, high-value employees online, in social media and by directly soliciting referrals from your top performers is where you’ll find the concentration of talent. Some of my best managers and creatives came to one of my companies through an existing employee.
  • Multi-channel Searches: Post your well-crafted, colorful and comprehensive job and company descriptions on all the major job search sites and specialty boards. Make sure your company’s LinkedIn profile (You do have one, right?) projects an attractive image, and make sure the careers section of your website is more than just a listing of job openings; you have to sell yourselves. Then go offline. Enlist agencies and recruitment services, get a presence at job fairs and industry events, and get into your local colleges and universities. This is where the talent is found, and you need to be there.
  • Landing Pages: Is your website set up to preach the value of working at your firm, or is it just talking to your customers? People need to know what’s actually going on at your firm, what type of clients you serve, you processes—anything that isn’t giving away your competitive advantage, but provides a window into your company culture and inspires confidence in prospective recruits.

Your Recruiter is the Problem… or the Solution

I can’t emphasize how much of a liability a poor HR manager is to a company, especially in a startup environment. They can also be the key to landing the big fish that are worth their weight in gold in the productivity, creativity and vision that your company needs to thrive.

Don’t wait until you start noticing a high turnover rate among high-value people or notice that your productivity numbers are slipping to take a look at your recruitment strategy; these are trailing indicators. Know what your recruitment strategy is, pay attention to the people it brings in and fire your hiring manager if they aren’t getting it done.

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. His many successful companies focus on generating profits to direct them toward charitable endeavors. You can read more about Mike’s proven process for creating profitable businesses and using profits to change the world for the better in his book, MakeMillions.Com.

What is Your Company Culture?

Experts claim that company culture can have a huge impact on the success of a business. A healthy, vibrant company culture makes for better employee performance and satisfaction. But, what makes company “culture” and how do you create one that is enjoyable?

What Makes Up a Company’s Culture?

Vision – A company mission or vision is a great way to guide business decisions and directions, and give employees a purpose and a common goal to strive toward. Having a mission statement sets the tone for attitudes, choices and professional performance. A vision statement or mission statement gives the company a purpose and shares it with the world.

Values – Values are the core of company culture. They provide a tone which employees should take on to achieve the company vision. They give a set of rules for how the company behaves and performs. Values are a necessity to keep employees on track with company goals.

Being different – Define what sets your business apart from your competitors both internally and externally and what gives you the leading edge in your industry. Everyone wants to have that special ‘wow’ factor and showing your employees and customers that something that makes you different will make them want to be a part of that and will create loyalty.

Being consistent – Once you have defined your culture, stand by it. Employees and customers should know they can always count on you to be consistent. Your company should always respond the same way to problems and maintain the same values and focus.

Why does Company Culture Matter?

A company with a positive and healthy culture will make employees excited about their jobs. It creates an environment where people like to be. Creating a culture that makes employees happy increases productivity, lowers turnover and draws more talented individuals to your company. In turn, it will make customers and clients excited about what you have to offer.

businesswoman thinking

What does a Healthy Company Life Look Like?

Employees know the company’s mission and values – Employees should be well-versed in the values of the company, which can be done through experience and example, not necessarily memorizing a mission statement word-for-word. This way the culture is alive and part of the company. Employees should be able to naturally parallel the company values in their daily work. In a positive work environment, employees aren’t just there putting in hours, rather, they are there as part of the mission. They know the purpose and want to live it.

Employees work as a team – Healthy culture happens when employees are seen as a team instead of individuals with separate goals. A healthy establishment works as a cohesive team with one goal in mind. While tasks may vary, the purpose is the same and everyone should be playing on the same team.

Employees have a voice – To establish a healthy culture, employees should feel that they are heard and that their opinions and ideas matter. No idea should be overlooked and no opinion should be minimized. Employees are the future and growth of a company and should be seen that way.

Cultures to Emulate

There are companies out there that have well-known company cultures. Their cultures make them strong and successful.

Zappos dedicates space on their retail website to sharing information about their company culture. It is fun and innovative. So much so, that they got special attention regarding their positive work environment on 60 Minutes.

DreamWorks is all about innovation. Employees are encouraged to take risks and their ideas are valued. DreamWorks employees have a 97 percent retention rate.

Google’s culture keeps employees around for years. They love innovation and ability over experience. They also create a place where employees feel comfortable. Their headquarters, for example, is stocked with amenities making it an enjoyable place for employees to be. It has cafes, an on-site doctor, snack rooms and child-care centers, to name a few.

Company culture is made up of many aspects, and a strong healthy culture can help a company go the distance. If your employees are happy, they are working hard for you which results in success and growth.

Mike Mann is the founder of numerous successful companies and charities. His focus is on generating profits and channeling them to charitable causes. For more of Mike’s tips on creating successful businesses and using them to make the world a better place, download his book, MakeMillions.Com or tune back in to the blog for new stuff weekly.

Choosing a Brand Name: How Not to Screw it Up

I’m a little tired of people saying that groups come up with a brand name as an afterthought. If that’s true, those businesses are run by idiots. People put plenty of thought into their brand names, but it usually doesn’t go much further than picking a stylish name and dreaming up logo concepts. The truth is they’re actually shortchanging themselves and possibly even sabotaging their branding efforts by not going deeper.

Before you jump deep into the details of your logo, color schemes and the legalistic rituals of solidifying your brand, you need to do your homework and make sure you come out with a brand name that will be the foundation for everything else you do. Here are some rules to follow so you don’t fail colossally at choosing the right name for your brand.

Nametag Hello I am Your Brand Marketing Yourself Networking

 

Keep it Short

This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure people get just how short a name should be in order to remain memorable, and I do mean short. I’m talking, like two or three syllables at most. Think of the big brand names you know (“Google,” “Apple,” “Coca-Cola”). Short names resonate; they have a verbal and aural texture that makes them stand out of the ordinary so they stick.

Organizations that have long names often resort to acronyms, but those are usually hard to brand. You should stay away from them unless the acronym itself is especially catchy. Even then, people will likely not know what it represents, like “M&M” or “IKEA”, for example.

What Connotations Does Your Brand Evoke

Think of naming your business like naming a band. It can really help to have some kind of impact; have some meaning behind it. Hearing it should fire off a host of other associations with other ideas and concepts in people’s brains, or at least not bring up any negative ones. Those ideas, feelings and concepts will attach themselves—however obliquely—to your brand, and they shape the first impression people have of it.

A lot of companies try to walk the line between being edgy and offensive/ridiculous, but it often fails because they’re going for a gimmick rather than thinking about the core values they want their brand to evoke. Don’t think you can beat a cultural or linguistic association, it’s a losing battle, and your branding energy is better spent elsewhere.

Watch Out for Unknown Slang

Our culture is an increasingly complex and fragmented one, with each subculture having its own slang, phrasing and terminology. Therefore, you need to be careful not to run afoul of bad associations with your brand name. Check the Urban Dictionary and do exhaustive web searches to make sure you’re not naming your company or product line after a dirty euphemism or otherwise embarrassing slang. Then your brand will be a joke and you won’t have a prayer of controlling your public image.

Check International Usage as Well

It doesn’t happen so often now that checking your brand name is as simple as Googling it, but you could be stumbling on a brand name that matches one in another country, even if the name has a different meaning there.

International translations and slang can also get you into trouble by associating your brand with inappropriate terms and concepts. It’s impossible to fully guard against this problem, but in our increasingly globalized marketplace, you should at least screen for the most obvious translations and associations to avoid future branding problems overseas.

Always(!) Shop the Name Around before Committing

As with brain surgeons and hair dyes, it’s usually a good idea to get a second opinion before you really commit to a brand name. Sometimes you’re just too close to the idea to look at it objectively anymore. Float the name(s) you’re considering internally first and collect as much feedback as you can from the people most familiar with what your business is. Then go external and find some trustworthy folks who will give you honest opinions and expert advice about whether the name matches your branding goals and values.

Following these types of rules can help you avoid the worst branding mistakes. Hopefully, they’ll help warn you off of conceptually flawed brand names and steer you toward a name that makes it easy to shape the brand, and its accompanying linguistic and cultural associations, in a way that pushes the image you want for your product or company.

What’s the worst brand name you’ve ever heard of?

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

How to Know Your Business Idea isn’t Ready for Prime Time

The odds are against any given idea for a product or service actually succeeding. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and common business mistakes sink new businesses even before they really get rolling. Assuming you have your wits about you, and you’ve learned from experience what mistakes not to make, how do you know your idea is a good one?

Since there’s no guarantee that even very well-thought-out business concepts will work, there’s no set formula for guaranteeing your success. There are some questions you can ask yourself to help give you a good idea whether your idea is ready for the big time, whether you need to go back to the drawing board or if you should scrap it altogether.

Take a Good, Deep Look at Your Competition

Your competitors are a good indicator of the barrier to entry for your idea to break into a tight marketplace. Are you doing it (your product/service) better than the current big players in the industry? Are you doing it cheaper? If you are, is it possible for you to get noticed, either through targeted marketing or through word of mouth?

All of these questions could send you back to tweak your idea or work on it a bit more until you’re sure it’s fully baked. If you feel like you’re ahead of the curve, however, it may be time to move ahead with your business idea and start disrupting the current status quo, as all good business models do.

Time is also a factor when it comes to competitors. Many ideas have a shelf-life, and you’re often competing against other entrepreneurs who are rushing to get the same thing, or an alternative, to market. Can you get there before they do?

Do You Have the Resources to Get it off the Ground?

Your idea might be phenomenal, but if you don’t have the capital or —perhaps more importantly— the startup talents to get it off the ground, it might as well be a dud of a concept. Acquiring financing is a pre-requisite, and having the manpower to make your idea happen is the key. Even more important is having the right people in place who have a similar passion and vision as you do for the idea.

Also, don’t ignore time as a resource. If your startup’s time and talent is already distributed to too many other projects or ventures, is this new business idea going to be starved of the attention it needs to succeed?

Find a Skeptic to Rip it to Shreds

Sometimes you need someone who doesn’t buy what you’re selling to show you where your weaknesses are. If your idea can survive the gauntlet of someone who doesn’t like the concept picking it apart, it’s less likely that you’re ignoring glaring flaws that could spell its doom.

This is where having a trusted mentor can come in; someone whose expertise and experience you trust, but who’s not so emotionally involved in you that they’ll be afraid to tell you where your concept goes wrong. Emotion doesn’t belong in business decisions, so having an uninterested, objective third-party vet the idea is a key step to determining whether you really have something.

Remember and keep in mind

After Everything, Trust Your Gut

No number of assessments or second opinions can make the decision for you; you’re the one who has to pull the trigger. That means you need to take stock of your feelings, your confidence and your willingness to move forward. Often your gut will tell you things your brain can’t quite articulate.

Don’t make emotional business decisions unsupported by good evidence; you can fool yourself into believing what you want to be true. However at a certain point you have to take what you know from research and experience and just make the decision to either go forward with it or dump your idea and go back to the drawing board.

The gut check is really a way to test your own enthusiasm for an idea; your passion for it. Are you willing to spend your time, energy and money on this project? Hard work isn’t the only ingredient in a startup’s success, but it’s a definite prerequisite. If you find you’re not excited enough to dive in head first, maybe this isn’t the idea you want to be spending your time on.

If you’re idea survives all this scrutiny, it’s likely that it—and you—really are ready to go after it. If that’s the case, best of luck to you!

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.

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.

Get the Right People on your Team

Once you have designed a profitable business strategy, it’s time to find the right people to execute that strategy. The right people will follow the plan and grow your business. The wrong people will only do enough to look like they are working and take home paychecks they haven’t actually earned. You will know the right people because of the enthusiasm and confidence they show. They will focus on how to make millions in profits.

Hire the Right People

The right people are enthusiastic about your business and internally motivated. They will push themselves to succeed before you need to push them. They will be teachable and also willing to learn new skill sets on their own. They will care less about their pay and more about getting the job done. They will be polite when suggesting alternatives and give you the final say. Most of all, they will respond well to your directives. The right people are not offended when you correct their work.

When you start a new business, your first employees are going to be partners. As exciting as it is to call a business your own, being a sole owner leaves you open to risk. Business partners assume some of that risk in exchange for a portion of ownership. When choosing partners, you must be extra cautious. You are unlikely to find highly motivated and committed partners through an ad on the Internet. Instead, look in your own professional network at people you have known for years. They often make the best partners or will have connections with other great potential partners.

Incentivize Hires in Your New Business

To ensure that only the right people apply to your new business, offer stock options along with modest salaries in your compensation plan. The modest salary ensures that the uncommitted don’t apply, and the stock options ensure that those interested in growing your business do apply. It may make sense later to change this compensation strategy, but it is an excellent one for starting out.

Bonuses for extra performance are also important. Employees who work extra hard to grow your company should be rewarded. Their efforts will set an example for others and raise the productivity of the whole team. Besides, it only makes sense for them to get a share of the profits that they personally made.

Avoid Corporate Politics

One thing the right people will not do is engage in political games. The last thing you need is to have employees competing with each other. You cannot beat your competitors if your employees don’t work together. Achieving success is a shared responsibility. You run a serious risk if you talk about your business as “mine” because it encourages employees to compete to be your “second.” I always say “we” when speaking about my businesses because that’s how to make millions—by uniting your employees behind the shared goal of making as much money as possible.

Fire When Necessary

At some point, you will have to let somebody go. Don’t let your resources be drained and fall behind the competition by keeping people on board that don’t enhance the organization.

To make millions, you need the right people on your team. You need partners and employees who will make growing your business their top priority. With their help, you can beat your competitors and achieve lasting success.