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Business ‘How-To’

Deploy This Strategy to Map Out Your “Best Year Ever” for 2019 

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Every year, we turn to those fancy year-end lists and retrospective reviews of all that happened in the year. 

It’s an irresistible deep-dive into those memories you cherish and some you may have forgotten. Did you marvel over the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle? Did you wonder if North Korea’s vow to denuclearize was real? Did you root for the brave rescuers to free the 12 boys trapped in the Thailand cave? Who didn’t? 

From Bitcoin’s fall from grace to the instability of the stock market to the midterm elections and the controversy over illegal immigration, the year filled with notable news and memorable moments. 

And when you turn to pop culture, it’s a reflective look that leads to a responsive debate. Wait, Vanity Fair called NBC’s The Good Life the top show on television? While we’re at it, how come Paddington 2 keeps popping up on best-of lists? And why didn’t Ella Mai’s Boo’d Up make Billboard’s year-end top 10? 

But after you read all the articles and watch all the shows that capture the good and bad of 2018, or maybe before you do that, you need to produce a show about your own 2018. Don’t leave it up to Facebook to put together one of those animated collections of top photos. 

If you really want to develop a clear image of your 2018 business venture and create a strategic vision for 2019, you’ll have to do it yourself. Yes, every business consultant stresses planning, but if you do it correctly, it can be fun. 

Here are five steps you can take to help you land on one of those “Best of” lists in December 2019. (Okay, maybe not, but at least your own, personal, “Best Year Ever” list.

 

Review Your History 

Remove the rear-view and side-view mirrors from your car, and then try to drive somewhere. You may arrive at your destination, but if the journey is of a considerable distance, you’ll find it difficult to make the trek. 

The point is you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from. How can you build a plan without a review of what you achieved in 2018? 

Professional development specialist Ellen Huxtable says look closely at the successes you enjoyed: “(Look at) the clients you especially pleased, the marketing channels and messages that worked, the processes which were efficient and effective, and anything else which was a winner, and which propelled your business forward.” 

This is a process that needs to be empirical, not emotional. 

Of course, just as those big-event lists contain highs and lows, so too may your business year. The question is what are you going to do about the bumps in the road that made your path more difficult? 

Everyone makes errors. Don’t ignore them, but don’t obsess over them. 

“Take the lessons you learned last year and apply them to the next,” said Louis Mosca, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of American Management Services. “Don’t dwell on your mistakes. It’s how you perform versus your plan, not versus last year.” 

 

Check Out the Trends 

Once you’ve figured out where you’ve been, turn your focus to where you want to go. 

There’s probably some market data and research that prompted you to launch your business. As you focus on 2019, it’s important to revisit the data, trends and inclinations that first inspired you to become a startup entrepreneur. What’s changed? What’s expected in the New Year? 

Crafting a plan and preparing for another year means embracing a life-long learning approach. Continuing education matters, from sales to technology to the rising importance of remote working and cowork spaces, it’s critical to read, watch and learn. Here’s one article from Business News Daily forecasting 20 business trends and predictions for 2019: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7605-business-trend-predictions.html. 

It’s equally important to continue developing specific expertise about your business. Consult with those who operate in your industry. What were their highs and lows? 

You also can benefit from developing relationships with mentors and those with more expertise. Let them help shape your plans for the future. Also involved key stakeholders, even assistants. 

As Mosca notes, if key people “aid in the development of your plan, they’ll be more invested in the plan.” 

If you don’t have someone who serves as a font of advice and information, identify two or three people and work to develop a relationship with them in 2019. 

  

Set The Business GPS 

To plot a course for continued success in 2019, you have to program your destination. Where do you want to take your business in the new year and what is it going to take to traverse the pitfalls and obstacles to get there. 

Setting the GPS must involve both the short- and long-term goals you want to reach. Maybe you need to address some pressing issues that created detours in 2018. Or, perhaps you need to make a U-Turn and steer your business in a completely different direction. Most business consultants will tell you goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). 

Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, advised dividing the goals into three distinct categories:  

  1. The Obvious: sales, costs, expenses, savings. 
  2. The Business Specific: repeat customers, renewals, leads. 
  3. The Milestones: Opening a new location, refreshing the website, reaching a specific number of customers. 

Berry added that it’s important not to over-complicate your plan. 

“Start with a simple plan that just covers your main goals or what you focus on first,” Berry wrote. “Don’t sweat making it perfect. Just get it started.”  

 

Create ETAs    

This is all about prioritizing. Some goals can be achieved in a relatively short time, others take longer. Targeting an estimated time of arrival for each goal heightens the possibility you’ll show up on time. 

Deadlines also will help you determine what goals can be achieved first and what goals need to be set aside for the future. It’ll also help you determine if you’re trying to move in too many different directions. Your business can’t be all things to all other people, especially if it’s still in upstart stage. 

Huxtable says it’s a matter of being realistic. 

“One or two specific tasks with deadlines you meet are far more effective than ten great ideas which you never implement,” Huxtable said. 

 

Be Flexible 

On the road to a successful 2019, you might hit a pothole. Or you could get a flat. Chances are something will go awry. Boxer Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” 

A solid plan for 2019, however, will allow you to get off the canvas and keep fighting. If (or when) something goes wrong, don’t look at the plan as a list of failures, see it as a motivational roadmap. Pat yourself on the back for realizing it’s better to dig a well before you are thirsty.  

Most of all, be flexible. Maybe the plan will need an adjustment. Maybe the deadlines can be set back. But the most important thing is to keep going.

“There is no such thing as a perfect business plan, and the closest anybody comes is a plan that helps you manage by laying out goals, tracking results, and highlighting the progress and problems along the way,” Berry says. 

If you’re not in the right environment to build a success plan for 2019, if you’re uncertain about the support you have for your business, consider joining the Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re all about maintaining a community that can help you create the right course in 2019.

As Drake would say, perhaps it’s God’s Plan.  

And in case you’re wondering, yes, that was the No. 1 song for 2018.

 

No. 1 Tax Tip for 2018: Hire a Professional to Help You With Your Biz

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Go Your Own Way may have been a hit for Fleetwood Mac, but it’s not good advice for small businesses and startups when it comes to dealing with taxes.

Theresa Turner, a certified public accountant who operates Tax Happens LLC in Tampa Bay, describes getting the help of an accountant or attorney as a priceless investment. Consider the expense of hiring a CPA versus the cost of fines if you make incorrect deductions or claim a business expense and the Internal Revenue Service comes back three years later and assesses fines and penalties.

“The cost of a consultation with a qualitative licensed professional is minimal in comparison,” Turner says. ”

“You simply don’t know what you don’t know,” Turner added. “At a minimal, have a consultation with a CPA and or attorney to assure you are in compliance and to know when you will need their services.”

The need to get professional help only heightened in 2018 with companies now operating under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new tax plan ushered in by President Donald Trump.

According to Fundera communications manager Shira Almeleh, the new tax code sets into motion new deductions and credits that will affect each small business’s tax liability differently. And what’s most important is that those changes have already kicked in.

Turner says expect the new tax laws to have a mixed impact.

“Some taxpayers are better off, and some are worse off,” Turner says. “It depends on where you live and if you have business expenses.

“My client base here in central Florida most negativity impacted are W2 employees with out of pocket expenses their employer doesn’t reimburse them for.  These are mainly sales people who incur travel and other expenses to make the sale. They can no longer deduct these expenses as a miscellaneous business expense.”

Here are six areas that need your immediate attention as tax season approaches.

Always Keep Separate Books and Records  

Inaccurate record keeping can lead to inaccurate tax returns and that can lead to fines and penalties. It’s that simple.

The IRS lists the expenses you should track on its site: https://tinyurl.com/hxdntxy. These include gross receipts, purchases, expenses, travel/transportation, assets and employment taxes.

StartUp Magazine suggests using online tracking software or — stop us if you’ve heard this before — or hire a tax attorney or professional.

Turner says the most efficient way to track expenses is to run the business through a separate bank account or credit card.

“Keep all receipts,” Turner says. “You will need them if audited.”

 

Track Those Miles

Business miles are deductible. There are countless phone apps that can do that for you. Remember, Turner says, business miles are not just to and from clients or customers.

“Miles to meet with your CPA, insurance agent or attorney regarding business are business miles,” Turner says.

 

Know the Definition of a Business Expense

Business expense must be “Ordinary, Necessary & Reasonable” or the IRS will not allow the expense. Turner says it’s important to understand the type of business you operate. That’ll help define the expense.

“What qualities for one business may not qualify for another,” Turner says.

 

Start Up Costs are Deductible

Make sure you track money spent before you started your business. This is particularly important in regard to large equipment purchases. The change in the tax law offers an increased benefit if you buy heavy equipment, a vehicle for work.

According to Jean Murray’s blog on The Balance Small Business site, “These accelerated depreciation deduction limits have been increased as an incentive for businesses to buy.”

 

Don’t Make It Personal

Personal expenses are not deductible. That suit you picked up from the dry cleaner closed the sale but unless it is a “uniform” that someone wouldn’t wear outside of work it is not a business expense.

“Yes, some of us wear makeup and get our nails done for business purposes, but it’s still not deductible,” Turner says. “However, clowns can deduct the cost of their makeup and clothing.”

 

Dinner and A Show?

Meals with a business purpose or related to a business event are now 50 percent deductible. Eventually, you won’t be able to deduct them at all. And, as of 2018 entertainment is no longer deductible.

“Enjoy taking your clients to that hockey game but you cannot deduct that business expense,” Turner says.

Some experts say the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act won’t be fully understood for at least a couple of years. It’s critical that businesses pay close attention to not only the tax codes but how the U.S. Treasury Department frames and rules on the legislation passed by Congress.

Handling your taxes independently through an app or web site might have made sense when you worked for another company, but now, it’s not personal, it’s business. Get some professional help, and remember, Go Your Own Way was about a breakup, not about being a solo entrepreneur.

 

5 Tips to Get More Out of Holiday Events than Cookies and Cheer   

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If you believe holiday events and parties represent a time to indulge, imbibe and ignore business opportunities, you’re totally missing why entrepreneurs and start-up owners consider this the most wonderful time of the year.

  

Sprinkled sugar cookies in December may have you baking up new business in January. Ugly sweaters can have you dressed for success after the new year. With the right approach, you can turn holiday events into business happenings.

  

Here are five actions you can take to get more out of your next holiday event. 

  

Have A Holly, Jolly Good Time 

It’s imperative you show up with the right attitude for holiday parties. If you arrive with thoughts of, “I should be shopping” or “I hope my mother-in-law doesn’t come early,” it will dent your efforts to not only network, but to have a good time. Wrote Uber Brands founder Jonathan Long in a blog for Entrepreneur, “It’ll be obvious to everyone around you that you don’t want to be there.”

 

Of course, putting on a happy face can prove challenging during the holidays, especially if you haven’t had a good business year. The experts, however, say a lack of success makes it even more important to be present and start building towards the next year.

 

“You gotta show up like you belong,” career coach Kathleen Brady told Inc. 

  

Wrap Yourself Up 

We don’t mean put on a jacket before you go outside.  We’re talking about playing to party themes and meeting expectations. If it’s an Ugly Sweater Party, wear an ugly sweater. That sounds so obvious, but every year you can find Scrooges at a holiday event who refuse to play along or underdress for more formal seasonal gatherings. Make the right fashion choices, and since it’s that time of the year, consider accentuating outfits with something special. The kids will say you’re being “extra,” but a Christmas tie or themed piece of jewelry can work to your benefit.

 

Sherry Alcorn, an author and entrepreneur, takes it a step further, suggesting in an Entrepreneur article that people don Santa hats.

 

The beauty of a Santa hat is that it tells the world that you’re approachable,” Alcorn said. “You’ll attract conversations by wearing it. Be bold, funny and cheerful by wearing your Santa hat and you’ll never know where a conversation will lead you. 

  

The Best Present Is Presence 

Networking always requires striking a balance between quickly sharing your aspirations while learning about the hopes of the people you engage. You need an introductory statement, an elevator speech, to initiate conversation. Make sure it contains those positive affirmations and avoids the negative buzz words.

 

 You’re not trying to start a new business, you’re not trying to develop a new app, you’re doing it. Full stop. Avoid a tone of desperation or uncertainty. Exude confidence and let the offers of help come to you. Be clear about your goals, but also be clear about where you want to improve. 

 

 The key is striking the balance between confidence and cockiness. The former should be authentic but positive and leads to gifts under the tree. The latter is defined by humble brags, fake boasts and will result in only a lump of coal. 

  

All You Want for The Holidays Is Dialogue 

Of course, after you serve up your hopes and goals on a silver platter, you want to pivot and invite the person on the other end of the discussion to deliver their own treats. 

 

Job search expert Alison Doyle says, “Your contacts can provide valuable information if you aren’t too busy doing all the talking.” 

 

Business consultant Molly St. Louis suggests taking it a step further and becoming a connector, learning of someone’s passions and then helping them connect with another person at the party who can potentially help them fulfill those passions. 

 

“People appreciate it when you do the networking for them,” St.Louis wrote in an Inc. article. “They come to know you as someone who is connected, and gets things done.” 

  

We Three Kings Travel Together 

The experts vary on if you should arrive at an event with partners or follow that North Start alone. St. Louis says bring a “wingman” because two people can cover more ground. Alcorn, however, says going it alone will keep you from congregating in the corner with your pal. Clearly, you want to make new connections. 

 

Perhaps, it’s best to bring a friend or two, but make a promise to each other to spread out and work the room. One of your three kings can arrive with frankincense at a moment when the conversation lags and help you ease out of the discussion. They also can find someone whose business interests may align with your goals. If you’re talking to a friend, others may be more inclined to approach you. 

 

But make sure you don’t sequester yourself in the corner and strike up a conversation only the two of you can enjoy. You can’t deliver the gold or receive.  

  

Make A List, Check It Twice 

So how do you avoid getting caught up in the revelry and failing to make the event pay off for your business? Enter the festivities with some specific benchmarks. 

 

Of course, be reasonable. You may come off as overbearing if you try to seal a new deal with someone downing eggnog. St. Louis cautions to never ask for money. Restraint will come if you look to plant seeds for a future harvest. 

 

“You’re trying to create on-ramps to build relationships,” Brady said. 

 

Targeting a specific number may seem to take the joy out of your holiday spirit, but it fuels the focus needed to walk away with more than just a sugar high after overdosing on homemade fudge and gingerbread. Long, the Uber Brand founder, says goal setting can help determine how long you stay at the party. 

 

“For example, you might want to establish three connections that can develop into business relationships. Do the same with holiday parties. Go in with a goal and work the crowd until you meet and exceed that initial goal.”

Holiday celebrations

5 Marketing Ideas to Make December a Month to Remember

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It’s more than the season of giving.

When it comes to new business, it’s the season of receiving.

It is not uncommon for service-based entrepreneurs to grow disenchanted with December, assuming no one wants to invest in services during the holidays.

However, savvy business leaders insist you can develop new leads, new conversations and, most important, new customers during the season.

Crankset Group founder Chuck Blakeman told Inc. it’s a mistake to think people are so focused on gift shopping and parties they have no time to conduct business. Blakeman said while holiday obligations fill the nights and weekends for potential customers, the days stand as remarkably quiet.

“I used the holidays to push my business forward significantly while other businesses were focused on opening and throwing away fruitcakes,” Blakeman said. “In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s I had three to four high-quality appointments every day, and in most cases, I was the only business activity those people had on their calendar the whole day.

“They were glad to get out of the house for a cup of coffee and I had their full, rested attention.”

With planning and preparation, you can turn the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day into Happy Holidays. Here are five steps you can take unwrap success before Jan. 1.

 

Leverage Your Email List

You’ve spent all year making connections and building your email list. Now enlist the holiday season to make those connections count. It’s a reflective time of the year and people want to be greeted by genuine sentiment. Reach out and touch someone. Thank them for being a valued supporter, express hope that you’ll strengthen the relationship in the new year.

Then, consider one of those added bells to turn the friendly email into a business generator.

Utilize the Subject Field with a special holiday greeting.

  • Extend an email invitation to meet for coffee or hot chocolate. As Blakeman said, they’re not as busy as they think.
  • Craft a series of promotional emails with a special discount to boost business. Count down to the special day and tie inspirational messages to the promotions. Marry the holiday spirit with special offers.
  • Offer solutions like, “How to handle the holiday rush?” or “Great gifts for great prices.” Even if they aren’t related to your business, people will remember you helped them ease the strain of the holiday season when it comes time to do business.
  • Aim your messages towards connecting in the new year. Be specific in setting a date in time, if possible.

 

Holiday-Themed Promotions

The holiday sale comes across as remarkably unoriginal but change your mindset. There are ways you can frame your business solutions to make a connection. Consider these:

  • It may sound trite, but the “12 Days of Christmas” approach can actually work. It fits into the theme of the season and can boost business. Wrote AppInstituteblogger Chris Meier: “A ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign might seem cliched, but aside from being thematically fitting, it lends itself very well to time-limited offers, and the ability to create a sense of urgency. Alternatively, style it like an advent calendar.”
  • Another approach can opt for building brand over building business. Some companies use the holiday season to generate donations for a specific cause or nonprofit. You can promise a certain percentage of your service fee to an organization looking to service the needy.

 

Have An Event

Sure, people already have a lot of holiday parties on their list, but if you wrap your event in the right theme, it can be a fun time for customers and prospects and a business generator. Certainly, it requires a deft touch, and you need to get a return on your investment instead of just feting people for the fun of it.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Partner with a related company to minimize costs. Consider teaming with other coworkpartners who are not competitors but compliment what you offer.
  • Keep the length short. Sure, partying from “7 p.m. until the cows come home,” worked in college, but a more measured approach is required here. A simple happy hour or reception from 5-7 p.m. will do the trick.
  • Create a good mix. An accountant shouldn’t invite only accountants. Look to bring together people from different businesses who might benefit from connecting. If possible, including a media member or two who might be receptive to a pitch (see below).
  • Give away raffle prizes that include discounts on your services. Of course, mix in a prize to draw folks in, but also include lures for your business. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be a grand give-away. People are as enamored with the since of winning something as the actual value.

 

Make Greeting Cards Meaningful

A lot of folks send greeting cards with all the zeal of taking out the trash, and consequently, that’s where they end up. If you’re going to send them — and it’s a questionable practice given the environmental impact — make them count. Here’s how:

  • Be thoughtful. A hand-written message will carry more weight than a scribbled signature. Personalize it with words that reflect appreciation, even if it’s a potential customer and not a regular customer. If it’s a customer you lost contact with, use the holiday card to re-establish the relationship.
  • Create a better photo bomb. A picture related to your business or services, themed for the holidays, will be more effective than a cliched Hallmark artwork. Remember, people are receiving a lot of greeting cards. Distinguish your piece. Have fun. Maybe feature you and your pet or you and your family. Even consider being goofy.
  • Include a small gift card. A slight discount can, again, distinguish your card from others, and they serve as a reminder to think of you in the coming year.
  • Tie your greeting card to a nonprofit effort. Like the aforementioned ideaabout a promotion tied to a nonprofit, it also can work with a card. ValPak, a St. Petersburg-based direct mail and digital marketing company, once sent out holiday greeting cards made out of a special biodegradable paper and embedded seeds that you could plant in your backyard and nurture. The fact a company that deals often in paper products delivered a card that reflected a care for the environment did wonders for its brand, even if few actually planted the card.
  • Forgo the Christmas card. How about a New Year’s greeting? From a business perspective, it makes sense because people will begin to assess where they are and where they want to go in 2019. “Don’t get lost in the Christmas card shuffle,” Blakeman says. “And everyone celebrates New Year’s.”

 

Push for Earned Media

The holidays possess the reputation for being a slow time for business, but it’s dreadfully slow for media outlets. Staffers at newspaper and television stations often take vacation during the holidays, and those who work through December long to find a story that hasn’t been done before. The opportunity to win over a reporter or editor may be the highest during the holidays, but you need to have the right pitch.

  • Be unique. Every reporter out there has grown weary of doing the story about the Christmas tree tent and the mall Santa Claus. If your greeting card features a unique photo, if your holiday event benefits a nonprofit, if your holiday-themed promotion stands out, it’s a potential opportunity to be the subject of a story.
  • Media outlets are undermanned all year and even more so in December. If your promotion or business idea represents a trend, include other businesses engaging with similar practices in your media release. It saves the reporter a step and backs your assertion that this really is a trend.
  • Include empirical data. If your unique holiday offering addresses a rising issue or taps into a burgeoning trend, reflect that with a little research. It may be as simple as surveying your customers and presenting the reporter with a percentage: 68 percent of the respondents surveyed believe the holidays is a good time to generate new business.
  • Make your pitch personal. In the release, which should be emailed, include a couple of asides that indicate you’re a regular reader or viewer of the media outlet’s content. Go beyond the standard compliment and offer details from a specific story or report the person you’re pitching recently produced.

 

At Rising Tide Innovation Center, we can help you parlay the holidays into a happy season of business success. And in case you’re wondering, our ugly sweater party is Dec. 7.

 

Thank you!

Can ‘Thank You’ Notes Change Your Business and Your Life?

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Thank you, take-out restaurants who put two spoons and two forks in the bag, for being nice enough to assume that all this food I ordered is for two people.

— Jimmy Fallon, May 23, 2014

Comedian Jimmy Fallon’s reoccurring routine of writing “thank you” notes on the Tonight Show stands as one of his best trademarks.

Fallon regularly brings attention to the mundane and the trivial by pretending to write notes on fancy stationery to everything from cotton candy to delayed flights to the comic villain Venom.

They lead to big laughs, but entrepreneurs may not realize the comical expressions reflect the importance of weaving gratitude into their daily lives. A focus on what motivational speaker Curtis Zimmerman calls an “attitude of gratitude” can lead to greater personal and professional growth.

From a personal perspective, new age leaders like Deepak Chopra point to research that indicates gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing.

“Gratitude magnifies the spirit and promotes well-being,” wrote authors Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine in their book The Power of Thanks. “In good times and bad, authentic appreciation creates perspective, literally stepping back from the distractions of the moment and affirming something more lasting than passing circumstance.”

How does the existential focus translate to more business success? When people who embrace a positive attitude and transfer it to those they encounter, they attract people who can help build their success. It’s not just about possessing a positive attitude about yourself, it’s about possessing positivity about those you work with and those you encounter.

Zimmerman’s trademark response when someone greets him is, “I’m living the dream.” Chopra says colleagues will be more interested in helping someone who is optimistic, constructive and encouraging.

Tim Askew, founder of the sales firm, Corporate Rain, makes a habit of saying, “thank you” not only to the CEOs and business leaders he deals with, but to their assistants and receptionists.

“Research increasingly shows that thanking folks not only results in reciprocal generosity (where the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker), but stimulate eleemosynary (charitable) behavior in general,” Askew wrote in an Inc. article.

Gratitude also can help managers build more successful teams in the workplace. Vibe communications president Lori Worth said practicing and showing thankfulness helps the manager connect with more people and be more receptive to learning.

“Our business and personal lives collide, like it or not, and one affects the other,” Worth wrote for the Thinking Bigger blog. “The ability to be grateful is key to life balance and happiness, and this transcends into business.”

The question becomes how you go about infusing positivity into your life. Here are four “Be’s” to Being Big on Gratitude, with a little help from Fallon.

 

Thank you “everything bagel” for being the only breakfast food that looks like it was dropped under the couch two weeks ago.

— Jimmy Fallon, July 20, 2018

Be Mindful

You may not want to start the morning with an “everything bagel” from under the couch, but you should consider a moment of reflection that both unclutters the mind of stress and anxiety and refocuses it on positive attributions.

Many consider meditation a key step to generating the positive attitudes that can lead to peace of mind and happiness. ABC News anchor Dan Harris, who once had an on-air panic attack, touts the virtues of meditation in two best-selling books, including 10% Happier.

“I would say the biggest difference for me is not being so owned by my emotions,” Harris told the Washington Post. “I still experience plenty of difficult emotions – most notably for me is anger. But it’s like you have an inner meteorologist who can see the storm before it makes landfall. You’re less likely to be carried away by it. That makes a huge difference.”

A lot of tips exist on how to begin a meaningful meditation routine, and there are a lot of different forms of meditation. Harris said a good way to start involves sitting in a reasonably quiet place and focusing on the feeling of your breath coming in and out.

“Every time you get distracted, you start over again – and again and again,” Harris said. “For many people, the moment they get distracted their ego tells them that they are failed meditators. What you need to know is that the moment you notice you were distracted, that’s a victory. It means you’re doing it correctly.”

Another misconception is that meditations requires an inordinate amount of time. Yet Harris and other experts believe 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference in your life.

Chopra recommends starting with what he calls “The Four Soul Questions:”

  1. Who Am I?
  2. What Do I Want?
  3. What Am I Grateful For?
  4. What Is My Dharma or Purpose in Life?

Along with meditation, visualization can help. The related practice focuses on envisioning your success and how you need to reach out.

Sometimes success can stem from doing something visual. Robert Emmons, a University of California-Davis psychologist and author of, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says simply keeping a gratitude journal — regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful — can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.

Two studies cited by HappierHuman state a gratitude journal increases optimism anywhere from 5-15 percent.

The gratitude journal is essentially a version of Fallon’s “thank you” notes, just without the sardonic wit.

 

Thank you clogs for combining all the frumpiness of slippers with all the discomfort of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.

— Jimmy Fallon, Oct. 12, 2018

 

Be Positive

Of course, the positive person learns to appreciate the slipper-like quality of the clogs instead of the sensation of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.

A simpler application involves appreciating the blessings of life.

Zimmerman, who has delivered his motivational musings at Florida State University’s freshman orientation sessions for more than 10 years, says his motto of “Living the Dream” stems not from a desire to be catchy or cute, but a sincere effort to be positive.

“After realizing the amazing opportunities I’ve had in my life, I began saying ‘I’m Living the Dream’ every time someone asked me how I’m doing,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t say this out of blind optimism. I say it because it’s a constant reminder of how blessed I really am.”

Such greetings seldom fail to elicit a smile from the greeter. There’s a positive energy that connects with strangers and coworkers.

According to a HappierHuman.com article, multiple research efforts have revealed that gratitude makes people kinder and friendlier, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated.

The research also indicates that gratitude demonstrations lead to less pressure, stress and anxiety. Those who embrace gratitude also feel more supported by their peers and colleagues.

Business coach Michael Jacobs told Entrepreneur that changing his mental attitude led him from several failed startups to a successful app business.

“Being thankful for what you currently have immediately releases any negativity that you might be holding onto,” Jacobs wrote. “Gratitude instantly puts you in touch with the feeling of love. Where love resides, fear and all other negative emotions cannot.”

 

Thank you, unused chip clips in my kitchen for letting me pretend I don’t finish the entire bag of Fritos all at once.

— Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 28, 2018

Be Aware

Meditation and positivity should lead to heighten awareness on a number of fronts. It’s awareness of your God-given gifts, awareness of life’s positives and awareness of how opportunity can arise out of crisis.

Chopra said the answers people seek during meditation may come later in the day, when awareness and appreciation of inherent gifts begin to materialize.

“Pay attention and notice when time seems to stand still, when you feel completely absorbed in what you’re doing as you use your talents to serve yourself and others,” Chopra writes. “Following these steps will expand your ability to follow the trail of your destiny as it unfolds before you moment by moment.”

Gratitude for blessings and gifts will help shape your purpose, and the sense of purpose will allow you to more successfully take on challenges. There’s a spirituality associated with this level of awareness, but it’s practical applications in business cannot be ignored.

Sharing your gifts can boost your purpose and capitalize on the advantage positivity delivers to your entrepreneurial effort.

“If someone is looking for advice, help them out,” Michael Jacobs writes. “Do not hesitate or doubt your value. Even the smallest of gestures or thoughts shared can cause a massive shift in another individual’s perspective.”

 

Thank you, hard taco shells, for surviving the long journey from factory, to supermarket, to my plate and then breaking the moment I put something inside you.

— Jimmy Fallon, March 24, 2014

 

Be Driven

Yes, even after you incorporate mindfulness and meditation, re-enforce your attitude with positive admonitions and grow more aware of your purpose — even after you do all of those things — you may sit down to dinner and have your hard taco shell break the moment you put something inside it.

It happens.

Just as we suggest beginning the day with meditation, you can end it with a fair and upbeat assessment of what you achieved in the last 24 hours.

Start with all you have to be grateful for on that day and every day. It’s particularly good to identify different aspects that merit appreciation. The emphasis on gratitude should shape your actions.

“In my experience, if you have a goal to improve something in your life, starting with gratitude can be extremely effective,” wrote therapist Ryan Englestad for the website Shine. “I have noticed in my own practice that if I acknowledge being grateful for my wife first thing in the morning, I am more likely to make her tea or get a chore done that she then won’t have to do.”

Next, review specific goals and tasks you set out to meet that day, whether it’s meeting a deadline, appreciating your wife or simply extending your gratitude to others. A hand-written or electronic to-do list can help with the assessment.

Idealist.org author and nonprofit expert Allison Jones found herself bored keeping a gratitude journal, so she shifted to setting specific goals and sharing appreciation with others.

“Instead of focusing on the idea of gratitude, I’m much more specific about completing acts that demonstrate gratitude,” Jones wrote on FastCompany.com.

Celebrate the good deeds done and commit to completing the unfinished acts.

Weaknesses are not to be ignored. Everyone possesses areas of improvement. As Zimmerman says, optimism doesn’t have to be blind. But shortcomings shouldn’t dominate your thinking.

“If you focus solely on what you’re not, you’re not going to experience joy or success,” Zimmerman writes in a blog. “Don’t let the world define you by your weaknesses, and don’t define yourself by them either.”

 

Networking in St. Petersberg, Florida

St. Petersburg’s Best Business Networking Opportunities

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Networking over lunchJessica Rivelli can stand in a ballroom filled with 400 women entrepreneurs and business leaders and, seemingly, know them all.

It’s a reflection of how the Working Women of Tampa Bay founder has built her organization into one of the state’s fastest growing women’s business groups. In nine years, Rivelli’s group has risen to include nearly 1,000 members, and she’s expanded with a second chapter in the Orlando area.

Through monthly events, periodic seminars and annual conferences, Rivelli has managed to foster an atmosphere of motivation, education and inspiration.

Yet it’s Rivelli’s natural ability to enter an event teeming with people and emerge with new friendships that serves her so well.

Rivelli knows all too well the importance of networking, and she encourages those to engage with fellow businessmen and businesswomen, even when it can be daunting.

For the shy, the introverted and the increasing number of young people more accustom to communicating via emails, texts and social media, the idea of stepping into an organization’s luncheon or happy hour can be an intimidating challenge.

“If you’re new to the networking world, no need to be nervous,” Rivelli says. “Just remember everyone in the room is there for the same reason you are: to make new connections.

“One tip to make connecting easier is to ask people about the things they are passionate about like family, food and what they do for fun.”

Rivelli identifies approaching every opportunity with a genuine and authentic attitude as an important tenet, and the networker must go beyond what they can gain from the connection.

“Caring about others and creating value for them is the key,” Rivelli said. “Ask them how you can help them. Offer to make a connection for them or send them a referral. When those kinds of relationships are cultivated over the long term, you now have a network of people to draw upon when you have a need.”

But with so many networking options in Tampa Bay, and so little time to invest in events, how does one go about choosing the best opportunities?

Kyle Parks, principle and co-founder of B2 Communications in St. Petersburg, said he aims to go macro and micro. He frequents chamber of commerce events on both sides of the bay to connect with a diverse group of businesses. However, he also targets smaller events that focus on his specific interests.

“We stress to our clients to go narrow and deep with their involvements,” Parks said. “Don’t obsess about how many events you go to in a week. Instead, think about picking groups that match your interests, and also will help your business.

“Get on a committee, get involved,” Parks added. “That will get you a lot further than just going to events and hoping you meet the right people.”

Whether you’re looking for an organization that features broad collections of professionals, or smaller groups that target folks with similar interests, here are six great networking recommendations (in no particular order of preference).

No. 1: Rising Tide Innovation Center

Founded by the attorneys of the Fletcher and Fischer law firm, the cowork space burst onto the scene earlier this year and quickly established itself as a go-to for those looking to connect with a supportive community.

But it also hosts a multiple networking events including a monthly gathering staged by Rivelli.

The center’s other monthly events range from learning events to guest speakers. It also serves as a gathering spot for specific groups. Located in downtown St. Petersburg, the center sits in the heart of the business district and offers a smartly appointed environment in a convenient location.

Says Rivelli: “I admire what the founders of Rising Tide are doing by creating a gathering space for entrepreneurs and executives to connect and create together.”

No. 2: St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

The chamber continues to reinvent its traditional role as a networking organization. Executive director Chris Steinocher says innovation is key.

“We’ve learned our members want unconventional opportunities to collide,” Steinocher said.

The chamber’s efforts include a weekly “Million Cups” event staged every Wednesday morning where it offers Kahwa coffee and two 9-minute presentations from local entrepreneurs.

At its “Member Appreciation Nights,” the chamber spotlights a new hotspot foodie/beverage place to check out. “Now Trending” is the lunchtime opportunity to network, eat and learn about the next hot topic in the burg.

Of course, the chamber still maintains one traditional approach: ribbon cuttings are a weekly if not daily occurrence. It introduces new entrepreneurs/businesses to the community, maintaining a mission it first started as the Board of Trade in 1899.

Steinocher, however, says the chamber has made a concerted effort to move into the 21st Century with an emphasis on diverse events and times.

“We’ve learned some want to connect in the morning, some at lunch and some after work – so we offer it all,” Steinocher said.

Learn more at www.stpete.com.

No. 3: Network Professionals Inc., South Pinellas County

This group provides a platform for small businesses to expand their salesforce by networking with a diverse group of professionals. It’s on the micro level, with one person exclusively representing a specific professional category. The group maintains a reputation of being friendly and outgoing, but it’s focus is definitely on business.

The strategy? Members refer business to each other, effectively becoming each other’s sales force. Meetings are weekly and structured for maximum results. Members join to grow their business, cultivate business resources and expand their networking sphere of influence.

In South Pinellas, the organization maintains a number of geographic chapters with some meeting in the morning and others gathering for lunch. For more information, visit https://www.npiflorida.com/chapters/?chapter=4

No. 4: Keystone Mastermind Alliance 

Co-founded by small business owners Liz M. Lopez and Tracie Thompson, the Keystone Mastermind Alliance touts itself as an organization that provides a high-quality and active networking environment. It’s particularly focused on helping professionals of all backgrounds.

The KMA Network offers a variety of events that combine networking opportunities with marketing information, access to business leaders and educational workshops. It strives to replicate a corporate support system for small business owners.

“Big companies don’t just have one person making decisions,” Thompson wrote on the KMA site. “They have an executive leadership team and a board of directors. Together they make healthy decisions for the growth of the company, bring new ideas to the table, and join forces to overcome challenges.

“Through our … events, we offer business owners a trustworthy and effective source of guidance and support that actively contributes to their growth and development.”

The networks stages events throughout Pinellas and routinely holds gatherings in St. Petersburg on Fridays. For more information, visit https://kmanetwork.com.

No. 5: LinkedIn

Okay, this isn’t a macro group or micro interest organization, but for those seeking the convenience of a targeted audience, this social medium can prove valuable. It’s not the face-to-face encounter of a traditional networking event, but LinkedIn often gives entrepreneurs the chance to make a direct connection with someone in their field.

“Social media can be incredibly helpful throughout the networking process,” Rivelli said. “I especially love LinkedIn. I consider it my digital Rolodex. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be helpful as well especially for small businesses with small marketing budgets.”

If a specific person could serve as a cog with a major business goal, bid to link with them, but remain open to a future face-to-face meeting.

No. 6: Working Women of Tampa Bay

We end where we started. Rivelli continues to offer varied meetups in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. The former television producer prides herself on the geographic diversity of her meetings as well as the size and scope. Working Women may offer a simple morning coffee or a luncheon with 200 people and a well-known speaker all in the same month.

It helps that Rivelli strives to make the group all-inclusive.

“It embraces everyone, every woman is welcomed,” she said. “There aren’t criteria on how much you make; you don’t have to be at an executive level.  It’s all women who work. That’s what makes it special.”

Yet it’s the supportive nature of the group that helps it thrives. In a world where women can, at times, be their own worst enemy, Working Women fight against the broad-brush assertion and genuinely fosters strong relationships between its members.

“I’ve experienced situations where a woman wasn’t always my best advocate in the workplace,” said Rivelli. “We want Working Women to be a place where women can be each other’s best ambassadors.”

We second that sentiment at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re striving to create a team of ambassadors for those who join our cowork collaborative. Every successful entrepreneur and business person rises with the aid of a community, and we enhance our community every day at Rising Tide.

 

Start-up business

How to Side-Hustle Your Way to a Successful Start-Up

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Collaboration to start a businessWhen Forbes magazine anointed Clearwater native Sara Blakely as the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012, the Spanx founder proudly boasted on her website: “Putting her butt on the line pays off.”

It’s a line you might expect from someone who dabbled in stand-up comedy and once worked as a chipmunk at Disney. But what you may not realize is that Spanx — the multi-million dollar brand that Blakely initiated as “legless panty hose that offered control without the leggings — started as a side hustle.

According to various reports, including the Tampa Bay Times, Blakely was selling fax machines for Danka in Florida when she originated her idea. She cut the feet off of her stockings in order to wear them under her white pants for a more flattering look.

With only $5,000 in her savings account she first pursued her dream, she continued to work her day job—even after a transfer to Atlanta. It took her two years to fully develop the product and she stayed at Danka even after landing deals with Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

It wasn’t until she scheduled an appearance on an episode of Oprah, anticipating a huge boost in sales, that she quit her day job.

The story, however, illustrates that a side hustle can turn into a success, even if you’re not steep in industry knowledge.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know,” Blakely told the Tampa Bay Times. “That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Everyone aspires to be Blakely, seamlessly slide into a side hustle and eventually enjoy success. Here are five factors that can help you “get it done.”

 

ONE: GET STARTED

Rebecca Livermore, who turned her side hustle into Professional Content Creation, says one of the nation’s common surnames is “Someday,” noting that Mr. and Mrs. Someday always talk about starting a side hustle, pursuing a passion or elevating above their “soul-sucking job” but never do it.
We’ll address some of the foundational blocks needed to get started—priority, plan, passion, pay—but the side hustle will remain an incomplete endeavor if those elements remain stuck in your mind.

Blakely employed a learn as you go approach but made sure she embarked on the venture even with limited financial resources and scant knowledge about the textile industry. A willingness to learn from early failures and a drive sustained her effort. It took two years just to persuade a hosiery mill to even make an initial run of her product.

“Trust your gut,” she said.

Another great piece of advice: stay mum. Blakely purposely did not tell anyone about her initial legless pantyhose idea for an entire year because she did not want to have to defend it or be talked out of it.

Sure, you want to share your hopes and aspirations with a few friends, but it’s probably best to hold your side hustle cards close to the vest, especially regarding the co-workers at your day job.

 

TWO: GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER

The side hustle requires that it stays on the side in the beginning. You have to maintain a focus on your daily duties, so you don’t jeopardize your primary source of income. Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing line and a co-star on television’s Shark Tank, worked at Red Lobster for five years while getting his business off the ground. He says his nights as a server helped him serve up security at home in case his fledgling business went belly up. And even after he started bringing in money, he continued to wait tables.

Of course, that doesn’t remain an option if you lose the steady pay of you regular job. Follow these three admonitions to avoid that pitfall:

  • Don’t let the side hustle become a distracting daydream but take a minute when you can to write down reminders about your side hustle.
  • Don’t do work for your new venture while you’re on the clock at your existing job.
  • If the businesses are related, don’t plot to steal clients and make sure you won’t be subject to a no-compete clause.

The bottom line is while you can maintain two separate jobs, you can’t mix business with business.

 

THREE: GET TIME ON YOUR SIDE

The best way to separate work from your side endeavors is to hustle in the off hours. So many people say they don’t have time to initiate an outside effort, but it really boils down to making the most of your spare hours.

One key step involves routine. If you get accustom to focusing on your side hustle during a specific time every day, you’re going to generate more efficiency.

Livermore said she made a point of doing specific client work for her side business in the morning before she reported to work. John worked only when his Red Lobster stints allowed time to focus, and he admits to sewing together some of his initial apparel offerings after midnight.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to put in three hours on this business a week,” John told Fortune magazine. “If I can last, I’m going to put in eight hours a week.”

Novelist Michael Connelly also spent late-night hours writing his first crime fiction books after covering crime stories for the Los Angeles Times. Interestingly, he had to purchase black out curtains and dim the lights in his home after leaving the Times because he needed the mood to generate the dark, gritty feel of his works.

Now Bosch, the Amazon Prime series in its fourth season, is based on one of Connelly’s most popular characters.

The routine, however, cannot lead to over-working, stress and potential burnout. The side hustle requires work and determination, but it also necessitates a focus on your physical and mental well-being.

“In the early days when I was working around the clock, I reached a point when I nearly cracked,” O2E Brands founder Brian Scudamore wrote in a piece for Inc. “I started having panic attacks and suffered from severe anxiety. I realized overworking myself wasn’t doing me or the business any favors: our growth had stalled and I wasn’t having fun anymore.

“It was only when I learned to delegate to my team that we started to pick up momentum again.”

 

FOUR: GET A PLAN

Julius Davis, co-founder and owner of Tampa-based Volt Air engineering firm didn’t start his business as a side hustle, but he did spend long hours planning a transition for his independent bid. While working for an engineering firm, Davis started acquiring knowledge to venture out on his own.

“My business partner and I, when we were working at another firm together, we would go in on our lunch breaks or our coffee breaks and sign up for classes at the (University of South Florida) Small Business Development Center,” Davis told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had classes on how to start the business … and we attended all those classes they had to offer.

“The key thing was writing that business plan because that forces you to set the roots and foundation for everything you need. It asks questions you really don’t have the answers to, and it forces you to go get the answers and make sure you know what you’re doing.”

Some of the answers must revolve around key financial decisions. If your monetary resources are limited, avoid debt and spend only on the items that are truly necessary. Inc. contributing writer Jeff Haden recently wrote that side hustle entrepreneurs need to be judicious.

“Before you spend money, always ask yourself one question: “Does (this) touch the customer?” If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.

For all of her success, it’s worth nothing that when producers from Oprah reached out to Blakely, she didn’t have a web site. She told Forbes she worked tirelessly but didn’t spend money on marketing and business tools until after the product took off.

 

FIVE: GET PASSIONATE, GET PATIENCE, GET PAID

One of the biggest keys to generating success with your side hustle involves determining your self-worth.

The business plan must involve setting an incremental schedule for income. You may start with a lower price for your product or services, and then increase it as you gain experience and clients gain confidence in your services. However, be careful not to undervalue your work. The long hours and added effort need to pay off eventually.

Patience may prove as valuable as pay in getting your business off the ground.

“Making the decision to pursue your passion is exciting and rewarding,” Scudamore said. “But try to resist the urge to do too much, too soon. Building a business from nothing is a long, arduous process and it will be slow (at least in the beginning). If you try to grow too fast, you’ll set yourself back.”

Finally, passion remains another key ingredient. Davis, the Tampa engineer, now maintains one of the nation’s leading firms with multi-million contracts at Houston Hobby International and Tampa International Airports. But the business wasn’t always a bed of roses.

His love of the work sustained him in the early days of his independence.

“You have to make sure you have the passion to do what you want to do,” Davis said. “It can’t be money because if you have a passion, the money will come. It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be frustrating. You may get discouraged and that’s how a lot of businesses (get derailed).

“Some people say, ‘I went out on my own because I want to be my own boss.’ That doesn’t work. You have to find something you really have a passion for and then everything else will fall into place. If you have a passion for it, you’re not going to let it fail.”

 

The Rising Tide Innovation Center can prove a viable option as you look to find your passion, establish a plan and build your side hustle into a success. In our cowork space, you can find the tools, support and community spirit needed to launch your effort and sustain it through the early days. Pay us a visit when you’re ready to get started.

 

Small business strategy

4 Big Biz Behaviors That Can Benefit Small Businesses

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ideas for small businessEvery episode of Shark Tank comes with a B2B tutorial, and it’s often building that impossible bridge that connects big, successful CEOs to small, ambitious startups and entrepreneurs.

As each shark assesses the pitch, they often disburse advice that the hopefuls can take away even if they don’t come away with an offer. Whether it’s Lori Greiner telling someone how to cut down on shipping costs, or Kevin O’Leary explaining how to boost profit margins, the knowledge disseminated helps make the show popular.

The reality show helps people understand a specific reality: small business novices can learn from big business success.

Here are four big business hacks any small business can use to take a bite out of everyday entrepreneurial challenges.

Behavior #1 Create Team Buy-In

Entrepreneurs and small businesses focus on creating a foundation that will help them launch the business. Sometimes, however, they fail to lay out how the business will grow. In a Goldman Sachs YouTube broadcast, the company’s CEO and chairman, Lloyd C. Bankfein said while it’s important to focus on product and customers, entrepreneurs also need a strategy.

“Don’t forget to think about your business,” Bankfein said. “What your plans are, what you want to do next, how to take your business to the next level. Think about being in your business but think about your business as well.”

In short, you need a strategic plan that focuses on increasing customers, generating revenue and putting your company in a better competitive position. It sounds obvious, but many don’t create plans that are written, detailed and thoughtful. A rising trend involves the SMART approach of goal setting, making each target:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The most important key, however, may involve getting fellow employees, as well as investors and customers, to buy into the mission. The plan must be shared and understood by your support players, even if it that’s just a small group.

Martin Jones, a senior marketing manager with Cox Communications, recently wrote that business leaders can follow the lead of CEO giants like General Electric’s Jack Welch by being, “the driving force behind everything you do. No one will ever care about your business as much as you do, so it’s on you to be the source of ambition and drive.”

That seems to be advice heeded by Well+Good media platform co-founders Alexa Brue and Melisse Gelula. Brue says getting buy-in from their team helped them emerge in a competitive field.

“Uniting everyone around why we do what we do is the most important thing,” Brue said. “I think that people want to make a difference, and so all of us feeling like we’re putting out information that’s making a difference and that our company conducts itself in a way that is demonstrative of our core values is really important. That sets a lot of cultural tone.”

Behavior #2 Figure Out the Financing

Everyone seems to hold a different theory about financing new businesses. Some say you have to spend money to make money, while others insist don’t spend money until you start making money.

Part of that strategic growth plan involves understanding how to fund your startup and when to seek outside dollars. The traditional model typically involves borrowing money from a bank. Small-term and medium-term loans remain an option, but other possibilities have emerged as the economy has rebounded. As Dallas doctor and Forbes contributor Amir Baluch notes, the business community finds itself surrounded by lenders hungry to put capital to work in small businesses at low rates and with simple qualifications. The sharks are eager.

The options include lines of credit, working capital and strategic partnerships.

  • A line of credit can be set aside for emergencies or specific needs and the interest may accrue only on the money drawn from the line and the amount you draw down on.
  • A working capital loan generally aimsto cover operational costs for a short moment in time, usually an anticipated period of slow growth. In some instances, they can be paid in smaller daily payments as opposed to larger monthly sums.
  • Strategic partnerships are at the core of the Shark Tank For the promise of a percentage of profits, investors are willing to lend capital as well as advice and connections. Earlier this year, Fox Business News featured Chef’s Cut Real Jerky co-founder Dennis Reidel credited the growth of his business to a partnership with marketing whiz Rohan Oza and Halen Brands. In four years, the business grew from $460,000 in profits to $47.5 million in profits.

Start-up capital can help ignite a startup business, and it allows the owner to focus on other needs.

Behavior #3 Prioritize Tasks

Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes to tell entrepreneurs, “Choose something that you both love and you’re good at doing.”
However, between creating and implementing a growth strategy and finding the funds to fuel the strategy, it’s easy to see how a small business owner could get lost in pursuit of what they love and they’re good at.

There are several keys to avoiding this pitfall. Just as big businesses craft processes to streamline production, small business owners must do the same.

  • Create goal lists and categorize what needs to be done annually, monthly, weekly and daily. Create synergy with the growth plan. Troy Dye, Capital One Chief Marketing Officer, Small Business Credit Cards, recently wrote in an entrepreneur blog that, “If tasks do not align with goals, they should be eliminated.”
  • Delegate to team members; hire an assistant. Some tasks, while important, need to be handled by others so the leader can focus on growing the business.
  • Outsource; utilize contractors. This not only allows some tasks to be lowered in priority, but the contractors often bring knowledge and expertise to the task.
  • Take advantage of technology; With each advance, marketing techniques continue to benefit small business owners and help them curb work demands.

In the final assessment, entrepreneurs are required to put in the work, but New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff told entrepreneur Ryan Robinson, “Hustle is an act of focus, not frenzy. Hustle is about subtraction and addition. It’s not about doing more, it’s about focusing on the things that you need to do, in order to move your business forward.” He advises: “Hustle the right way.”

Behavior #4 Be a Sponge

Small business owners need to realize they can learn a lot from big businesses, and that big business CEOs never stop learning. Even after building up his Lifestyle Fitness Centers from one club to a chain that annually enjoyed revenues of more than $100 million, fitness club magnate Geoffrey Dyer still made it a point to attend trade shows with pad and pencil.

“You should always want to be learning, otherwise I would be very fearful of what’s around the corner,” Dyer once told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think the thirst to learn is inherent in an entrepreneur.

“The passion to learn, I don’t think that ever goes away. I hope it never does.”

The lessons he gathered paid off. After selling most of his Lifestyle Fitness centers to LA Fitness in 2012, Dyer got back in the business as a partner with Crunch Fitness West Florida and Atlanta in 2015.

 

The Rising Tide Innovation Center offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their business, implement big business lessons and even network with successful CEOs. Engage with the community at this St. Petersburg cowork space and experience how a rising tide lifts all boats.

 

Small business marketing

5 Marketing Elements to Turn Moments into Movements 

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Small business marketingSamyr Qureshi and his partners launched their business, Knack, in 2015 with a belief a peer-to-peer college student tutoring app akin to Uber would enjoy success.

Just as Uber connects passengers with drivers, the app Qureshi and his University of Florida student partners developed linked tutors who had earned high grades in specific courses to students struggling with the same courses.

Yet they knew they had to connect their idea to the students and tutors to make it flourish. They knew they had to have a marketing plan. They decided to do more than employ traditional approaches.

One approach was to incentive the tutors.

“We launched a tutor rewards program,” Qureshi said. “Essentially we built a tutor store for them to order personalized marketing collateral they could use to kickstart their marketing efforts on-campus. After a Knack Tutor’s first session, they’d get free credit to spend in the store.”

The tutor store not only helped them grow the business at UF, it played a key role in spurring its development into a national company. Now Knack is active on 40 college campuses across the country and considered a top start-up.

Marketing remains a key tool in helping entrepreneurs turn moments into movements. A strategic plan creates a network of connectivity that attracts and retains customers, creates buy-in and spurs business development. Here are the five elements of marketing you must master if you want to grow a thriving, sustainable business beyond the start-up phase.

 

#1. Master the Message

Your message is your magic; it’s how you solve your prospective client’s wake-up-in-the-morning problem in a way that is unique. You must be able to communicate your message powerfully and effectively whether you have an hour and 100 PowerPoint slides, or only 30 seconds in a rickety elevator. Too often the message gets muddled in fuzzy acronyms and what Inc. contributing writer Geoffrey James calls “corporate speak.” It’s best to build your brand around a message with familiar concepts, clear analogies and concise language. When Qureshi says, “It’s like Uber for tutoring,” he capsulizes the aim of Knack in seconds. His prospects know exactly what Knack and for whom. It may be tempting to skimp on this part because you think “Eh, it’s only a few words.” The fewer the words, the greater the impact. For example, test yourself and see how many of these messages you immediately associate with a brand (Hint: some are no longer used, but are so powerful they have become part of the American lexicon.):

  1. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  2. “Always low prices.”
  3. “Where shopping is a pleasure.”
  4. “We try harder.”
  5. “Think different.”
  6. “For life.”
  7. “Imagination at work.”
  8. “Just do it.”
  9. “Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onion-on-a-sesame-seed-bun.”
  10. “Have it your way.”

(The answers are at the bottom of this blog.)

Maybe your message won’t be a clever tagline. If you aren’t particularly clever with words and can’t yet afford an agency to help you come up with a catchy slogan, just start with this statement: “We help [describe who you help for example: “women over 40”] with [insert the problem you solve for example: “look a decade younger in just 30 days”] [hint at how you solve it in a unique way “without wasting hundreds of dollars on expensive department store lotions and potions that don’t work anyway.”]

 

#2 Manage the Media

Once you master your message, explore ways to propel it into the stratosphere through various social media platforms and generate buzz about your business.

There are three keys to success on social media:

1) Go where your prospective clients and/or referral sources hang out. If they are mostly on Instagram, you don’t want to be spending all day on LinkedIn or Twitter. If they love memes and lots of chit chat, don’t keep giving them soliloquys. Go where they are and speak their language.

2) Tailor your message for each outlet. The different platforms target different audiences, and the rules of each platform vary. Know the rules so you can play by them—and then disrupt them when you are ready. Words win out on Facebook, but it’s all about pics on Instagram and Pinterest. Everybody loves a good video—even LinkedIn is getting in the video game. Start with creating your own YouTube channel.

3) Don’t just “connect and forget.” Be sure to engage consistently and frequently. Don’t send the wrong signal with a Twitter account that’s grown inactive or a Facebook page that simply promotes your business without engaging others. Quality content can drive traffic and help build your Internet presence. Word of Mouth Marketing Association president Suzanne Fanning told Forbes, “Brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.”

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of traditional media. A story on a reputable web site or an appearance on a popular television or radio show lends credibility and authenticity to your content marketing strategy and your brand. Social media is great but learn to write a media release that catches a journalist’s attention as well.

 

#3 Meet the Mentors

Mentors can be key to not only offering wisdom but opening the doors to greater opportunities. An established business leader can help you master the message, manage the media, and then they can introduce you to key figures in your industry. Entrée into a networking group can lead to pivotal connections. A meaningful conversation over lunch, a round of golf, or during Wine Down Wednesday can be rocket fuel for your marketing. Think about how many entrepreneurs who have crafted winning ideas on a cocktail napkin. How do you meet a great mentor? Community involvement – such as professional organizations, civic organizations, or a cowork space – can provide the pipeline to sage advisors.

 

#4 Manufacture Ambassadors

A team of folks who champion you, your idea and your spirit can prove invaluable. Message, media and mentoring can get you in the game, but ultimately you must win over every day community members and get them talking about your product. Angel investor Neil Patel refers to this tactic as creating “brand evangelists,” people willing to go out and preach the word about your product or service. It’s certainly clients whose satisfaction you can convert into testimonials, but it’s also family members, friends Nielsen research indicates that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over every form of advertising. “Hey grandma, do you have a Twitter account?” Go beyond those who love you unconditionally and hire people with strong reputations who can meet your needs and promote your idea. And, connect with people who like you Facebook posts or heart your tweets. Let them know it’s appreciated and ask them to spread the word. There are countless stories about how companies got a bounce by creating a buzz among everyday citizens. If the United States has more than 180 ambassadors, you should aim to have just as many.

 

#5 Maximize the Brand

Whether you are a start-up with little budget or Nike, Inc., smart businesses find ways to leverage investments.  And, swag is a great and often, low barrier method to get your brand and messaging out to larger audiences.  First, internally, as the leaders at Knack knew – give your own team some swag that easily enables them to spread your message to prospective employees or clients.  People are (often) proud of where they work and likely to promote outside of the office.  Additionally, if you’re a company that’s working events, tradeshows or conferences – using your brand color creatively — from scarves, ties and shoes can be an easy conversation starter.  ChappellRoberts, a Tampa-based advertising and marketing agency, launched a big new brand for a financial services company, and one of the investments that company made was in well-made apparel and accessories for the team because they do so many client facing events.  More than five years later, the representation of this company brand at tradeshows is still a large differentiator for them. Second, externally, swag gives you opportunity to build brand loyalty and affinity with your paying customers.  Customers or clients want to know you get them, if you’re an innovation company – surprise your audience with something that relates to your unique industry and potentially makes their lives easier such as portable chargers or cell phone lights. If nothing else, get some company T-shirts and wear them everywhere you go. You might be surprised how many people ask you about what you do.

Need more ideas about marketing? Come hang out with us at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We believe in collaboration, community and the power of co-working for success.

 

1.FedEx 2. Walmart 3. Publix 4. Avis 5. Apple 6. Volvo 7. G.E. 8. Nike 9. McDonald’s 10. Burger King

Business Plan for Start-Ups

One-Page Business Plan to Jump-Start Your Start-Up

By | All Articles, Business 'How-To', Special Features | No Comments

Business Plan for Start-UpsBusiness plans come in all shapes and sizes, depending on their purpose. Lenders typically require much more formal and detailed business plans, complete with financial projections, tax returns, and other financial records and disclosures attached. The Small Business Administration (SBA), in particular, since it guarantees government-backed loans, expects to see a voluminous and detailed business plan and presentation. Just when you think you have it nailed, they are likely to ask for some more documents.

Venture capitalists and investors will eventually want to see all the details of your plan, but initially, they are going to want to see a presentation that captures their imagination. Some just want you to get right to the numbers—or at least that’s what they say. Read “Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff, though, before you buy that line.

Marketers and agencies who’ll be running your campaigns, on the other hand, will want to know all about your ideal clients/target audience, unique sales proposition, competitors and the like, but won’t care at all about your personal tax returns from 2008.

So, if you are getting ready to start a business, do you need a business plan? And if you do, what type of business plan, exactly do you need?

The answer to the first question is: Yes, you need a plan.

Think of it this way. If we were to start out on a road trip, let’s say from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas, and we just hopped in the car and began driving without a map or a GPS or any directions at all, we might eventually wind up in Vegas. Or not. Of course, if we did make it, it would take you a whole lot longer, and we likely would wind up going down many, many wrong paths and getting lost before we got there.

But, if we put the address to our destination in the GPS and let it map out the exact route, well, we still might take a wrong turn here or there, but we’d likely course-correct pretty quickly and get back on the right road faster. In no time (35 hours, exactly, if we didn’t stop), we’d end up in in Vegas, partying our asses off at The Bellagio.

It’s the same with a business plan. We could build a business without a plan, but with a plan makes a whole lot more sense.

The next step, then, is to decide what kind of plan you need. If you are seeking funding, then you need to find out from the potential source of your funding what they would expect to see in a plan because, as stated earlier, lenders and investors can be picky.

If, however, you just need a plan for YOU, and you really aren’t that great at planning or excited about it, then try this simple, one-page business plan to help you get started.

Set aside a morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and no distractions, to work on your simple plan. The purpose of this plan is to help you get your business idea down on paper and out of your head so you can start assessing its viability.

This is not a be-all-end-all plan, it’s a starting point. Over time, you may want to elaborate on this plan. When you are ready, you can check of resources like SCORE, a service of the SBA designed to help small business owners with issues like preparing business plans, or you can buy a few books (there are many on Amazon), or simply Google “business plans for small businesses,” and you’ll find lots of options.

Ready to get started? Click here for your plan.