Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1001 Serial Articles for Entrepreneurs & Startups

As of today, I will have published an article here for entrepreneurs and startups every day for the last 1001 days, since I started Startup Professionals Musings near the close of 2008. It’s been a great ride, but it’s now time to dial it back a bit, and focus on some other priorities. I still plan to publish on this blog occasionally, as well as more frequently on my blogs at Forbes, Huffington Post, and others.

In my traditional notational style, I’ve taken a nostalgic look back over the ground covered and lessons learned in the past almost three years. Here are ten key messages that I would like to leave you with:

  1. I continue to gain respect for entrepreneurs. After working with literally hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’m continually impressed with their vision, commitment, and determination to succeed, despite the obstacles. For all of you who live with an entrepreneur, my congratulations and my condolences. I’m sure you know what I mean.

  2. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Many believe that entrepreneurs are born and not made. But that is far from the truth! Studies show that anyone can be an entrepreneur, but many won’t be happy as entrepreneurs. Check yourself against this list from a while back “Ten Quotes Never Spoken By a Happy Entrepreneur.” Be happy.

  3. Finding funding for startups is a tough process. Too many people still believe the urban myth that you can sketch your idea on a napkin, and people will throw money at you. Fundraising is indeed brutally tough at all stages. The simple answer is that if you need funding, do your homework and start networking early.

  4. You learn more from failure than from success. It’s the learning; not success or failure, that makes the difference. Failure is a condition that all of us experience. It’s our reaction to our failures that distinguishes winners from losers. Wear your failure like a merit badge, and investors will love you.

  5. Social media is a huge resource for entrepreneurs. Sadly, too many entrepreneurs still think social media is only for play, rather than work. They don’t yet realize the low-cost potential for lead generation, branding, customer loyalty, direct marketing and e-commerce. It’s been essentially my only resource, and has paid off handsomely, for example, with almost 380,000 followers on Twitter.

  6. Blogging is a learning process as well as a sharing one. You may think you are an expert in your domain, but until you try to write things down in simple terms in a blog for other people, you don’t realize what you don’t know. Doing the research to clarify allows you to share effectively. I learn something new every day in blogging.

  7. Gen-Y has come a long way in the last three years. My own perspective is that the recession has been good for Gen-Y (Millennials), because it has forced them to face reality, often for the first time in their life. In the last few years, even college grads with advanced degrees don’t have job opportunities waiting. But I’m happy to report that I see more and more of them eschewing entitlement to become real entrepreneurs.

  8. Every entrepreneur should work first on his elevator pitch. The elevator pitch should be the first few paragraphs of your business plan, your executive summary, your investor presentation, and the first page of your web site. A different message everywhere is no message. You only have once chance for a great first impression.

  9. Don’t plan to get rich from your startup. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. On the average, the entrepreneurs I know are struggling financially. Remember, it takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success.

  10. Successful companies are all about the execution. A startup begins with a great idea, but all too often, that’s where it ends. Ideas have to be implemented, good implementation requires a plan, and a good plan and good operational decisions come from good people. That’s why investors invest in entrepreneurs, rather than ideas.

There are many more lessons available from all of you who have “been there and done that,” and share your experiences on your own blogs. If you have been reading and learning for a couple of years, it’s time for you to “pay it forward,” like I have, so others can learn from you. I’ll be waiting to learn from your insights.

Marty Zwilling


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Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Get Your Startup from Point A to Point B

By Bob La Loggia, CEO StormSource Software

I enjoy the ride on a good commercial airline flight. It’s time that I can use to catch up on tasks that require focus. I throw the headphones on, listen to the best music ever created by mankind (70s music - as if I needed to spell that out), and get to work on the laptop. Nary a thought is given to the route the plane will take to get from point A to point B. Once we do our initial turn after taking off, it seems like a pretty straight shot to me.

Well, it’s anything but a straight shot. The auto-pilot is correcting constantly the entire route. It is being temporarily taken off course the whole trip. And, each time the elements take it off course, it corrects and gets back on the right path.

It’s the same with your startup business. You’ll be blown off course every day. And each time your path starts to take you in the wrong direction, you must correct and get back on course toward your goal.

There are three elements that can lead you in the wrong direction. Beware of these and don’t let any of them steer you astray:

  • Great ideas. Every startup has an abundance of ideas. That’s okay. Creative and innovative thinking are signs of a healthy culture. But, so is focus. If you change direction every time you or someone in your organization comes up with a better idea, you’ll never be successful.

    Great ideas don’t make you a success. Execution and persistence make you a success. Great implementations start with a plan, and a great plan and great operational decisions come from great people. Success requires all of these.

  • Interruptions. One of the top productivity killers is interruptions. Phone calls, emails, chats, meetings, and people stopping by your desk all temporarily push you off course. It has been proven that productivity is highest when there are long periods of uninterrupted work.

    Only answer your phone and return calls during a designed time, have specific times throughout the day for checking email, and encourage your staff to keep meetings to a minimum. If you absolutely need to get something done on a given day, work at the coffee shop on that day. And if you do get thrown off course, get right back in line as quickly as you can.

  • Challenges. Problems, issues, obstacles, challenges – different terms, but the same result. They take your mind and your time off the important tasks you need to be doing to achieve your objectives. In a startup environment, oftentimes there is no one else to take care of the problems, so it’s up to you.

    Every company has issues. But, how you handle the issues will play an important role in whether or not you succeed. The main concepts to remember when addressing problems are 1) gather as much information as you can about the problem and clearly define it, 2) write out the possible solutions, and 3) select a solution and act swiftly and decisively. Address the problem, then get back on course.

Yes, just like an airplane flying from New York to Los Angeles, your path to success will look like an EKG line. But as much as you’ll be blown off course temporarily by great ideas, interruptions and challenges, you must always get yourself back on track. If you don’t, you might take a left turn and end up in Cuba.

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Today’s guest post is by Bob La Loggia, who is the founder and CEO of Appointment-Plus online scheduling software. He is a veteran of four startups over his 22 years in the technology arena, and admits to his share of left turns. He can be reached directly via email or through his blog.


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