Finding the Courage to Ask

Amanda Palmer crowdsurfing at her Coachella performance in 2009. Photo by  Lindsey Byrnes .

Amanda Palmer crowdsurfing at her Coachella performance in 2009. Photo by Lindsey Byrnes.

In starting up and running our own business we step into new territories where we have little or no prior experience. While exciting, it can also be overwhelming to take on so many responsibilities at once.

Have you ever found yourself wanting to ask for help or advice, but didn’t? Or when you did, you felt uncomfortable?
Whether it’s a niggle of resistance or a complete block, we’ve all felt it from time to time –the fear of asking.

With our minds focused on success in a competitive society, it’s easy to forget the simple act of helping each other is what gave rise to society in the first place. Cooperation was as essential to the survival of early cultures as it is today. One could say interdependence is what makes us human. And yet, asking for help can prove difficult.

When considering whether to ask for help, our ego weighs in on how incapable, annoying or foolish we’ll look and may decide the exposure is too risky. We can make great efforts to ensure we ask for as little help as possible, just to prevent ruffling the feathers of the ego.

Even when we’re prepared to unmask our vulnerability, we face another obstacle. Oddly it’s not our ego, but the opposite, our compassion. We may question whether it’s fair on the other person to request their resources. When our compassionate self speaks, by all means, we should listen and investigate.

In certain scenarios, the answer is clear that it would be unreasonable to ask. But there are many situations where we simply assume the other person would feel put out, when in fact, they’d love to help.

Helping makes us feel connected, useful and trusted. Supporting another person can be empowering.

To find out whether our invitation to help would be a burden or a boon, we usually can’t know until we ask.

Indeed, there is an art to asking skilfully. The artist, musician and crowdfunding champion Amanda Palmer centred her entire memoir around this theme in The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.

We must ask in such a way that gives the other person space to answer truthfully. Easier said than done, Palmer’s guidelines are to ask without expectation and accept whatever the answer may be with gratitude.

While the theory is elegant, the practice is no doubt difficult. But the more we practice, the more skilful we become at asking, and the more graceful we become at accepting the answer, be it yes or no.

If the answer is yes, what happens next is connection and possibility.

Whether it’s a contribution of time, finance or wisdom, the fairness of the exchange is decided between the two parties involved. Even when the asker offers to provide something in return, the helper may insist on contributing without compensation.

If you find yourself wracked with guilt in these situations, recognise that your benefactor may value things you haven’t considered. Funding your project may fulfil a desire to take part in the community, mentoring you may encourage a dream to become a consultant, participating in your social media campaign may offer a fun creative experience, or helping you may just make them feel good inside.

The act of giving is often reward in itself.

When we read business articles evangelising buzz words like “grit” and “stick-to- it-iveness,” let’s not forget that it takes grit to expose our vulnerabilities when we ask for help, and sticking to our goals means getting the right support to achieve them.

So swallow the fear, reach out to your network, and put your request out there. Your question may be the key that unlocks an amazing opportunity for you, but you’ll never know until you ask.


Ariel Meadows CONTRIBUTOR

Ariel Meadows CONTRIBUTOR


Ariel Meadows is the director of Lotus Room and Kingii New Zealand.

Building the Right Team

As an entrepreneur, you will be the one to build your first team from scratch. The team members will become the nucleus of your business as everything will revolve around their ability to perform and to deliver and it is paramount that you select the best team because the success or failure of the company will rest on their capabilities. Read on to know more about building a team and what you should never ignore.

Create a hierarchy

Before sending out job invites decide on the management hierarchy. This will help you decide the experience level and number of people required at each level. You need not follow the traditional line of management like CEO, Head, Manager, Executive, etc. You can have a uniform system of consultants with a ‘no boss’ rule as well.

Entrepreneurs do not spend sufficient time on the hiring process, most of the time we're just amazed that anyone actually wants to work for us and sometimes we're too busy to put the proper attention into the process, often going straight for the references or speeding up interviews.

Create a checklist and see if you get answers to these questions:

  1. Have you defined all the roles?
  2. What is the minimum and maximum experience level required?
  3. What are you doing to maintain diversity?
  4. Do you have a skill chart for all the positions?
  5. What is your employee back-up plan?
  6. Where will each person fit in the team structure?

Ethical qualities

Often when we hire a start-up team, the focus is solely on professional attributes. We look for problem solvers, a decisive nature and strong minds. But a new venture is like a baby which needs to be taken care of every day. Bearing this in mind, whatever your first team will produce at work, is what your company will be all about. So look into the ethical aspects of people.

Look for:

  1. Positive thinkers who will keep the spirit alive during tough times
  2. Loyal people who understand the importance of sticking around
  3. Modest people who trust the other member without a motive
  4. People with personal and professional goals so that you know what drives them
  5. People without any conscious or (even) unconscious bias
  6. Creative minds who have a unique outlook on the business

Communication policy

How will you ensure people go beyond small talks at work and actually come up ideas and solutions? In a start-up, a team member’s knowledge about the company and clients is the same. But as every member of the team is new to
the company, you should have a plan where your team will get opportunities to have open talks. As a leader, you can set up communication programs and decide how the team will interact. This will get the ball rolling for the team. You will see a change in how people react to each other, decide quickly and respect conflicts.

When building up a team, you can try the following ways to communicate:

  1. Have more talks and less work on the first day.
  2. Conduct an orientation program with new joiners held not by the HR but by fellow team members
  3. Have a morning catch-up every day during the first few months of the company
  4. Have Friday treats, a lunch or random coffee meet-ups
  5. Start a feedback plan where team members gather their feedback from everyone
  6. Maintain an 'open-door' policy

Have a backup

Attrition is a common enemy of start-ups. So when you are building your first team, hire a few people who can be master of more than one trade and are capable of replacing a member. Another good way of a backup is having casual workers, contract jobs and freelancers. So a crucial element of a backup plan is to know which positions need a back-up and for how long. So often, it is the entrepreneur themselves who jump on the wagon to replace ex-employees.

This is only a good idea if they know they have the skills to perform the job or they can keep the work going till the gap is filled.

Take suggestions

When creating a team structure, take the opinion of your advisory board (if you have one) or of the people you consider mentors. The thing is, you are dealing with people here and your decisions will not only build their future but the destiny of your business. It is wise and safe to take suggestions. Even if you will have a team of 10 members, each one represents what your company will be in the near future. So believe in the people you go to for suggestions and make an informed decision.

Your first team is like impressions on wet cement, which will stay on forever until you start breaking the mould. Your ideas will be implemented by your first team. Your clients will know about your business through them, so spend some time to research the great talent in the market and hire those who will serve your business the best.

 
Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR

Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR

 

Entrepreneurship Tips

Launching a new venture is a tricky thing, it's complicated, it's time consuming, it's energy draining and downright difficult but it's also amazing, empowering, fulfilling and oh-so-worth-it.

Here are our tips for those just getting into entrepreneurship:

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Entrepreneurs are creative people. We see or think of ideas and feel the need to leap at them, throwing caution to the wind. The downside to this is that our other projects are left in the dust to clamour along by themselves without our attention and this is how so many businesses fail. It's important to focus on one venture at a time. Create a plan for that business, allow for growth and how you'll handle it, grow the business and implement an exit plan so that once you have that business up and running, you can either move away from it or hand over the bulk of the management duties to a trusted second, allowing you to jump to the next venutre knowing the first is in safe hands to continue its expansions arc.

Know what you do. Do what you know.

Yes, starting basically any business centred around weight loss, health , money making or cars will net you a profit and a large following but is it something you enjoy? Carrie Green of the Female Entrepreneur Association made her start with a business in cellphone unlocking and while she was netting large profits from it, she knew next to nothing about it in the beginning and had no passion for it and so she left it to begin her real passion, the Female Entrepreneur Association. If you don't love what you do, you won't be in it for lnog, you won't be able to sustain the level of interest and cheerleading required to keep it going. Find something you love and make a career of it and ensure that you have the knowledgebase to back it up.

Act like a startup

In the beginning, whether you have start-up capital stashed away or you're starting from scratch with next to nothing, here is the bare fact: YOU. ARE. BROKE. You need to be frugal, you need to cut all unnecessary expenses and perhaps even some necessary ones and ensure that any money earned from the business goes back in to it. Starting out in a fancy office may 'keep up appearances' for the kind of clientele you hope to attract but the sad reality is that that unneccessary expense probably means you'll be out of business faster than you can get the photocopier installed.

Educate Yourself

No one can tell you how to run a business, sure a mentor can guide you and tell you what worked for them but equally so, you could meet another mentor who tells you they tried that exact thing and failed. What matters is how you learn and how you implement your findings. You need to train and plan, speak to those in the industry, learn the industry, create and cultivate relationships with industry partners, vendors, suppliers, customers, media, and ensure that you are constantly learning. Education is never done. You should be constantly seeking out new learning opportunities.

Lotto is not a financial plan

If your idea is beyond your singular capability, scale it down. While there are the odd angel investors around willing to pour money into an exceptional idea, don't plan for it. The likelihood is similar to winning Lotto. You can't plan on winning this weekend's Powerball so don't plan on an investor. Scale your idea down and start from a more mangeable early-stage venture. You must demonstrate your idea's worth and your worth as the ideacreator before seeking investment.

Cultivate your vision

Your vision - whether that be for your personal future or that of your business is your main goal. You have to constantly be refining and focusing on that vision because without it, the business stagnates on the bottom rung. You need to be a vehement believer in yourself and in your company's future, consistently reflecting on that vision to choose which direction to steer.

Be courageous

You will have roadblocks, you will have criticism, you will have failures and you will have wins, you will struggle and you will drive yourself near insane trying to stay afloat but if you have the courage to press on, you'll find the bigger, more sustainable wins past the push. Keep going, Perservere, there is success waiting just beyond the struggle.

Make a plan, but be flexible.

You need a plan. A business plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, an expansion plan - something that encompasses it al but you also need to be flexible enough to change tact when something isn't working. If your financial plan says you should be making a minimum of $20,000 per month based on the bare minimum of 6 clients per month which at the beginning you decided was ridiculously easy and yet can't even lock in one client per 6 months, you need to change your plan. Conversely, if your business grows like wildfire and you need to recruit, your plan needs to include recruitment costs, overheads, FTE expenses and a premises among other costs. These plans map out the way forward for your business, they don't need to be so indepth that alterations are wildly laborious but they do need to allow for the majority of contingencies and some that can't be foreseen.

Don't try to be all things

Yes, it's your business, you're the brains, the creator, the financier, the everything but if you're trying to be all things to all elements of the business, you're going to burn out way too fast. Choose one aspect of the business to embrace, if you're the creative side, then that should be your focus, hire contractors or employees to tackle the oghter aspects that you're not as strong in or where you don't need to be wasting your own time like administrative or website maintenance roles that can be outsourced to a virtual assistant.

Enjoy the ride

Of course it's difficult, if it wasn't, anyone would do it. It's also incredibly rewarding though and allows you to be creative and master your own destiny in a way that so many people only wish they could do. Enjoy it, enjoy learning about your business, your industry and even yourself in this process, enjoy seeing how your actions either better or worsen your business, enjoy the benefits of your hard work. This is an opportunity so many people want but rarely pursue so really push for it, really enjoy it and really be proud of your achievements.

Key Principles to Building a Brand

When it comes to building your business and your brand, there are a few key principles to help get you going and keep you in business:

Keep it Concise

You need to be able to explain what it is you do in as few words as possible. Be that your tagline on Linkedin or a killer elevator pitch on hand ready to pull out as required, you have to be able to boil it down to something simple and concise.

*JAGGAR's elevator pitch is as follows: * JAGGAR International is the ultimate online resource for the discerning, ambitious woman and seeks to mentor young women and seasoned executives alike in the pursuit of success and entrepreneurship.

Here's another one: Rosie Remotely is a virtual assistance and web design service offering clients exceptional, professional assistance - worldwide and on any timetable, allowing your business to reclaim lost time without the HR headache or FTE expense.

Even go shorter if you can! It needs to be easy to memorise and pull out at a second's notice. A tagline is always great too, like Nike's "Just Do It" or Harlow Garland's "Happily Ever After Starts Here" - they're concise, to the point, and give a view to what the company stands for and is about without the need for extensive description.

Keep it Simple

Our generation and the one following are notoriously lazy. We have everything at out fingertips already but every day we complain that we need things faster, smaller, bigger, stronger, more flexible - contradiction after contradiction but there it is. You need to make it easy or you're not going to get buy in and that applies regardless of what your selling and especially so if you're internet based. Dumb it down, make it obvious, make navigations on your site blatantly obvious and minimal. Make it logical, make it obvious, make it easy.

Tell Me Why

Why should anyone work with you? You need to differentiate yourself from the pack and make it obvious what that difference is. If you're a luxury service when your competitors are on the lower end, you have your market cornered and you're telling people that you're there to offer the higher end. If you have a fabulous reputation for something - service, price, quality etc, leverage that - that's what you should be pitching. People need a good reason to pick you or they simply won't.

Constantly Improve

You're never 'finished'. Your business is never done. Even the giants continue to churn out new ideas, new extensions, new partnerships to grow and build on their company's foundation. Launching a company with one product and no plan for expansion is generally foolish with the odd exception but even the exceptions irk out new ways to reach people, and draw in repeat business. You must be constantly looking for ways to improve or expand or your competitors will leave you in the dust.

Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

Entrepreneurship has long been thought of as something inherent, a mindset you're born with, but can it be cultivated through formal education?

In high school, the closest we had was Business Studies, a class focusing partially on economics, partially on accounting and partially on the marketing and HR side of business. In one particular term, we were assigned to groups and asked to create a product to sell, the end products being marketed and 'sold' to other classmates. No clue what it was that my group made, this was almost two decades ago, but the theory of entrepreneurship was already there, starting to be taught, the seed planted for these kids to grow with or walk right over.

In traditional business qualifications, the majority of the study is simply common sense, much like a firearms license application quiz, where they ask you to answer the question:

When Should I Drink Alcohol?

a.) While shooting

b.) Before shooting

c.) Once the guns are unloaded and safely stored away

I wonder what the answer could be?

The business studies seemingly gift you the answers so easily that there seems no point in doing the study which is likely why so many people had been running successful businesses long before the first university offered an MBA as a course option.

But while the vast majority of business start ups in the United States are by those in possession of a degree, the question is really whether a formal business education is actually a requirement? - can it truly be taught or is the introduction in early education business studies enough to spur the inherent entrepreneurial spirit in burgeoning startup founders without the necessity for formal education?

What's Holding You Back?

Entrepreneurship isn't for the faint hearted. You will likely spend your nights panicking over your depleted budget, frustrated that clients aren't taking the bait, working for pittence or working so hard you have no time to digest what day it is, let alone provide quality work.

There are three things we've found hold wannabe-entrepreneurs back so we thought we'd address them here:

You Don't Know How You Personally Define "Success"

If you're a creative, it's likely your vision doesn't include mansions and yachts like the standard entrepreneur, success to you may be far simpler - the luxury of being able to do what you love as a job or if you're an eco-warrior, perhaps it's to feel that your work contributes to the world in some way. Whatever it may be, craft a vision in your mind of what success means to you and only to you and then hone that vision into a mantra you can return to each day, each time you're feeling lost, each time you need an extra boost or a reason why you're struggling or just to give you an extra burst of motivation each day. It's not about anyone else, it's about you and your own personal definition.

You're Waiting for the Right Time

There is no magical time where you'll all of a sudden have an abundance of money, knowledge, experience and time to pull it all together an launch successfuly. There will always be something holding you back - if you allow it. You need to choose to pursue it, even if it's going to be messy (which it will), even if you'll be eating noodles for a year (because you might), even if you'll drop your social calendar near entirely and be breaking out into panic attacks left right and centre as you freak out about how you're going to pay rent (because this will absolutely happen...likely in a supermarket or somewhere equally unexpected.)

You’re Afraid of Failing

Starting a business is knowing there's a great possibility, even an inevitability that you will fail...and doing it anyway, still believing that you can succeed. Edison failed repeatedly, Branson made unwise decision, Trump has been bankrupt more times than I can recall yet they get right back up, sometimes they even bankrupt on purpose to contribute to the greater strategy of the company. The perception of failure is not failure. The possibility of failure is a motivator, not a drawback and failure, is only failure if you stop trying. If it's outside your comfort zone, it's probably amazing, and most definitely worth pursuing.

Balancing Your Business and Your Day Job

Sometimes, when you think of an idea for a side business, it's when you have time spare to take action. Other times, it's when you're far too busy and demand that things could be done far more efficiently and that's when the idea comes about.

For most of us, the idea is closer to the latter - we're way too busy in life and believe that our idea could change the world for the better, simplify common everyday processes to create the world's most valuable asset - time.

But how do you manage to explore or better yet, launch this grand idea when you're juggling a full time job that usually eats into your spare time too, a family perhaps and other commitments?

For most of us, the answer is - you do it anyway. The luxury of time is something the great majority of entrepreneurs just do not have. We are all battling multiple jobs, scarce income and overwhelming stress and self-doubt all in favour of the belief that what we are building is worth it, that it will work out, that it will become everything we've imagnied so that one day, we won't have to work so hard - the reality is that we'll always work that hard though, it's not in the nature of an entrepreneur to sit back and relax, it's our nature to build, succeed and build again.

There are certain things that can help though:

1. Get Organised - as in OCD organised

Whether you're coordinating family schedules, your business, your blog plan, your appointments or all of the above, post it notes and traditional calendars aren't going to cut it. Utilising something like Google Calendars where you can synchronise multiple calendars into one place is your best bet and allows you to visually make sense of a busy week or month.

2. Don’t be afraid to say “no”

If you're one of those people who has always invested themselves in their work to the point of taking work home and working until midnight or staying exceptionally late in the office, in order to successfully launch a business, you will have to learn how to say no and draw back to enable you to apply that passion for work to your own business. It's the same with social engagements, now is the time where you need to start assessing what is important and what isn't.

3. Get help

If you have a partner, here's where those wedding vows get to work, "honey... this is poorer" - work together, coordinate, ask hubby to arrange pick ups if you have meetings, order the groceries online to save 2 hours at the supermarket, just remember that there needs to be an element of compromise. Hubby won't be happy taking on all the responsibilities all of a sudden so make sure that for the health of your relationship at least, that you're both finding a way for it to work equally.

4. Work on the go

The benefit of smartphones and tablets is that you can work anywhere and at anytime. Most entrepreneurs will be sending emails in the early morning and late into the evening, you can be updating your online store in the line at the supermarket (if you missed the point above about ordering online) or writing blog posts on your lunch break in the local cafe. You may not have a lot of spare time, but it's all about leveraging what little time you do have.

Creating Authority in Your Brand

It's so easy these days to create a website using a user-friendly template and platform, throw up some basic information, a shiny Shopify tie-in store and some social media shares and call yourself a business but unfortunately, with such ease of set up, there's a vast number of businesses out there that are simply looks with no substance. They're businesses that have been set up to make a quick buck rather than out of the authority of experience.

While some of these businesses will see rampant success due to an overdilution of brand bombs through social media and brand alignment, your business - which is likely to be more authorative, may not stand a chance because people get used to solely seeing the 'show' and not the substance.

Your brand needs to be an authority on its industry. It needs to offer something that others do not, it needs to come from a foundation of honest-to-goodness hard work and determination and the experience of establishing relationships with clients and suppliers to reflect this.

Other than the exceptions above, a well-crafted web presence will only get you so far, there needs to be value behind the work, behind the brand. You also can't launch onto the industry scene and call yourself an authority right away either, you won't win friends in the industry and you won't win the right clientele either. Focus more on establishing the right industry relationships, partnering with other industry businesses where possible to create a kinship that clients will relate to and from which you can get good word of mouth from those industry insiders.

Focus on education - learning everything you need to know about the industry, the business, your competitors and create a business model that reflects the values you want your business to emulate and the experience you can contribute to the industry.

You also need to ensure your business has a point of difference. So many businesses these days effectively just copy what someone else has created - jumping in at the entry point instead of putting in the work, trying to poach clients, but again, this kind of business isn't going to last long. Your business needs to achieve a level of respect and credibility that is only achieved through establishing relationships and making a name for yourself associated with professionalism and quality.

Commit to the work on your business' foundation before you launch unprepared and spend time educating yourself in as many ways possible to ensure that when the time comes, you can begin establishing yourself as a credible authority in your industry. You can't build a skyscraper without a solid foundation and you can't create credibility from a pop-up business.

Good things take time. Authority is achieved not awarded. Cultivate your brand image and the clientele and industry respect will come.

Choosing Your Brand Name

You've decided to go out on your own and forge your own way in business, you have a plan, you have your product or service and you have the passion, for your business, now - what do you call it?

This is where so many people get stuck and delay launching because while you can give yourself a nickname if you don't like the name you were born into, for your business, it's a lot more difficult - logistically, practically and just in terms of maintaining business.

Here are a few tips for choosing your brand name:

Make it clear what you actually do

A brand name that doesn't actually include any detail about what service or product you're providing, is just downright confusing and may mean you lose out on valuable business, just because they don't understand what you do or who you are. If you're adamant that as business partners, you want to combine your names, then make sure you add in something relevant to your industry ie 'Pearson Specter Law' or 'Harlow Garland Weddings'. Once you're well known enough, you may have some play with the name and be able to drop the decscriptor but keep it there until you're a household name.

Don't use someone else's christian name as your brand name

Speaking of using names, something learned from Rosie Remotely Virtual Assistants and Web Design is that every client addresses them as 'Rosie' when they email in, even though the name is pluralised and references the reason why it is called 'Rosie Remotely' (after 'Rosey the Robot' from 'The Jetsons' who was their loyal assistant). Not only is it irritating to keep getting called by the wrong name but it's also just widly confusing for your clients to think they're contacting someone who doesn't exist.

Choose a name that resonates

Your name needs to be consistent with your brand and what your brand represents. Imagine you're considering plastic surgery and your options are between 'Insert Name Here Clinic" and "Jim's House of Noses", you're not likely to choose the latter because it conjures images of a sweatshop style surgery practice that appeals to no one. You're looking for a superior service, you're paying out the nose for it (excuse the pun) and so you're going to go with the brand that most resonates with quality.

Choose a name that is relevant and allows for expansion

I read a case study online about a business called something along the lines of 'Reusable Bags' which, you guessed it, sold resuable bags. but when it came time to expand into additional eco products, the brand name didn't reflect it. If you're planning to expand (which all business do at some stage), you need to prepare for it. Expansion should be part of your initial business plan in how you will grow the business 5 years, 10 years from now and so you should have an idea of what your future offering will be.

Make it easy to find

If a potential client hears about you through word of mouth and doesn't necessarily know that you spell 'Free' with a '3' instead of an 'e' or that your company uses NZ spelling rather than US spelling, you're going to run into issues when it comes to online searches, urls and SEO. Online, you can combat this by purchasing domain names that include alternate spellings and rerouting them to your actual domain but it's easier to start out with a brand name that is easy to pick up and find in the first place.

Make your choice of brand name an intentional decision, one that you've put thought into and haven't just had spring into your mind. Research it to make sure it's not the same or similar to other brands to save yourself a headache later down the track when it comes to trademarks and make sure it's a brand name that has longevity. Your brand name will be with your forever (or until you sell) so it's important that your business' name really resonates with you, with what you're selling and the audience you're targeting.

Three Business Basics

When operating a business as a solopreneur or small entreprise, it's important to make sure you have the basics covered to enable your business to function efficiently and effectively and to ensure you can focus on what's important - the actual work.

Here are three areas that are most important in the back end business side of things to have handled:

1. Hire Well

When you are first building a business, you'll find it incredibly hard to delegate tasks to anyone because no one has the passion and the need for success that you have and therefore they're unable to do as good a job. When it does come time to finally hire though, it's usually in a frazzled state from rapid expansion or simply exhaustion from trying to do it all yourself and here is where the bad hiring decisions are usually made. You're so desperate for help by this point that the first person to show an interest, speak the same language and dress nicely seems like a winner and you take them on with the idea that you'll be able to delegate so much to them and thay'll tackle it with the same fervor that you would. This is more often than not, not the case and you find yourself stuck with an employee who neither particularly cares about the success of your business nor takes you seriously as a manager as you're still working out of your home office or you're similarly aged and thus the partitioning of manager vs friend isn't there. Take your time to hire. Don't get too excited that someone wants to work with you - of course they do. It's better to wait now than regret it later. If you're really not sure, consider also using Fiverr to get those animations and presentations done or contract a virtual assistant for the odd job or on a monthly basis to provide as little or as much work as you need completed at a far higher level of quality and without needing to hire an FTE.

2. Go High Tech

The world is no longer planted in pens and paper - as much as the scrawling on the notebook beside my laptop would conversely suggest. There are apps for everything these days, to sign documents online, organise remote teams, or handle the business' expenses, there's cloud computing and storage to replace USB hard drives. There are so many software pacakges no that are far more readily available to you and on shorter subscriptions. You can trial software before you buy it to ensure it's going to work for your business - there are so many options at your disposal to make life dramatically easier and more time efficient.

3. Watch Your Finances

If you're monitoring your finances solely through the pile of receipts in the jar on your desk or the money coming into your account, it's not enough. Xero and MYOB offer online accounting packages for monthly subscription rates and you can do a 30 day free trial at the start to see if it's going to work for you. Both include the functionality to photograph receipts and store them immediately so that you can skip the rummage at the end of the month to collect them all for your reconciliations. Xero also integrates automatically with a lot of e-commerce providers meaning that if you run an onlin store, you can effectively take all the labour out of monitoring your finances and focus on the actual work.

Turn Your Passion Into Profit

"Choose a Job You Love and You'll Never Have to Work a Day in Your Life" - Confucius

The old adage is semi-true. Technically, you’ll work more hours per day, every day without a break than you’ve ever worked under someone else but because you love what you do, it won’t feel like ‘work’.

Being able to immerse yourself in your passion day in and day out without the monotony of the traditional work day, is liberating, motivating and wholly fulfilling.

So how do you make your passion, your profit?

Starting a business is surprisingly easy. There are no age limitations, sometimes even no funding limitations, depending on the type of business you’re launching. The success of the business however, is wholly dependent on you and how much you’re willing to persevere even on the cusp of financial, social and emotional ruin.

Research

Figure out whether you can feasibly turn your passion into a profit. Research who else is doing it, who has successfully made it a career, how have they done it, what do they do well? What do they do ineffectively? What will be your point of difference? - Research the costs involved, the price points, the logistics of sending and receiving stock components or if you’re looking into drop shipping, the reputation of the company you’re wholesaling from.

This phase should be your main focus. Other than working out the profit margin and who your competitors are, you need to eat, sleep and breathe your business so you should use this time to learn as much as possible about your potential business, your industry and your product or service. Write (and rewrite) your business plans – how will you obtain funding / stock / clients? How will you sustain business and yourself with limited funding?

Plan for expansion

It’s not enough to merely launch a business and stick to that plan for the next however long, there needs to be an expansion plan in place so that the business (and with it, the client base) doesn’t go stagnant. Takeaway restaurants are always launching new menu items; larger businesses expand into franchises or expand their service base.

As an example, Harlow Garland started solely as a wedding planning and styling service before expanding into offering floristry services (wedding flowers). They are currently launching an online store selling quality wedding and event supplies as well as their own custom luxury and calligraphed stationery line and have additional plans for expansion that will grow the business exponentially.

Your business (as well as your own skillset) should be forever growing, and at a pace that is sustainable.

Build a brand and manage your reputation

Prior to launch, you need to be building hype for your business, identify your target market by researching the market of your competitors and tailoring that to suit your product, service or locale.

Your reputation is your meal ticket. If you constantly provide exceptional service, address issues before they come up and treat your customers as if they’re the most important person (because they are), you'll establish a positive reputation. Never badmouth any other companies or people in the industry – you’ll find your industry is far smaller than you think and that word travels fast if you choose the negative path.

Even if a competitor chooses to badmouth you, if your work is consistently of a high standard and your brand continually positive, you'll continue to find success. Their negative remarks only reflect badly on themselves and as people deal with them and work out that they're the kind of person to badmouth or behave less than professionally, they'll find they don't make it very far.

Don't rush into recruitment

It's incredibly difficult at the start to do everything yourself - the day to day, building the brand and producing high-quality work and you may be tempted to hire as soon as you can, even be ecstatic that someone wants to work for you and seems too good-to-be-true in your interviews. But from experience, we've found that hiring too soon or hiring a friend of a friend who is looking for work, is never a good idea. You're too often dramatically let down by their less than professional behaviour or lackadaisacal approach to the job and your business suffers for it. Work for yourself as long as you can, delegating some tasks where possible to professionals (sites like Fiverr can be a great resource for cheap outsourced work) and when it does come time to recruit, prepare and extensively interview until you find someone as fanatical about your business as you are, someone who wants a future in the company or is willing to go the extra mile, not watch the clock and get by with doing the bare minimum.

Hone your craft

Just as an accountant must clock up a certain number of training hours per year, so too should you continue to hone your craft. Whether that be through courses and mentoring or through just diligently practicing away in your (rare) free time, your aim should be to remain the authority in your field, producing consistently high-quality work.

The Basics of Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business may seem the perfect way to attain the freedom you desire, the ability to work for no one but yourself, to make your own hours, travel and embrace all the liberties working solely for yourself provides and while occasionally - a long way down the track, that may be the case, the reality is that you'll be working far more than you ever worked before, barely getting any sleep, struggling to pay bills and not drive yourself entirely to the brink of madness and exhaustion, all while trying to build a brand and with it, a reputation. 

The good side of it though is enough to make you forget the bad parts, to gloss over them as if they were your 'blue period' among the chronology of your starling historic rise to success. Waking up each morning raring to go, having no such thing as a mondayitis, or dreading the weekdays - you'll work everyday and work ridiculous hours because it's for yourself. 

Being able to see how each step you take each day affects your overall strategy is empowering and motivating and pushes you that much further. 

Now that you're mentally prepared, let's chat. 

So! - You want to start a business, you have a great idea and no clue what to do with it, here goes: 

Research: 

Conduct extensive research before looking into domains and company registration - your idea needs to address a gap in the market that isn't being filled or could be filled by your idea in a much more effective way. It has to be feasible and profitable (yes, even non-profits are required to be profitable). Ask how you will make money, the kind of money you can bring in, what will you charge? Who is your competition? How are they doing it? What are they charging? What is your point of difference?

If it seems like there's an obvious gap that isn't being filled, research potential reasons why as you'll usually find one. Don't be afraid to actually ask your competitors, especially the big ones who won't be phased in the first instance by your one woman band (until you overtake them in your significantly swift rise to the top of course) and will be willing to share more information than a direct solopreneur competitor who relies on every cent on her income.

Read business books, read biographies of people in business, read what works, research what works and what doesn't, read people struggles and the necessities of business. Prepare and overprepare and then overprepare some more. Make sure that you know your business and your industry inside out. Live it. Eat it. Sleep it. Breathe it. Know it.

Overbudget

What will it cost you to start the business? What will it cost you personally to survive through rent, bills, living expenses etc for say six months to a year? How long did it take for your competitors to get a steady income? 

You will need to be financially prepared to rely solely on yourself and your savings for a while....perhaps a long while. Initial surges in customer activity make us think we're ahead of the game so we pick up our spending accordingly, but initial activity can often die off just as swiftly as it came in so you should be as frugal as possible during this first year. Most small businesses will fail within 18 months - within 6-12 months if it's a hospitality business - due to poor financials so make sure you're prepared - overprepared for all contingencies and work in a failsafe as a precaution, for instance, taking on part time or contract work to fill low-income periods while still allowing you enough time to work on your businesses.

The Logistics

Once you've done your research and you've decided it's a legitimate business idea with profitability and financial backing, it's time to get organised. 

Firstly, register your company name through the Companies Office. It's $25 to reserve a name while you make sure it's what you really want to call your business and to check it doesn't already exist and then $150 to actually register it. 

Detemine what kind of business you'll have - will it be a Limited Liability Company? (Ltd)? a Partnership or will you be a Sole Trader

You can select here whether you want to register for GST - which you don't have to do unless you'll be earning $65,000 per year or more but having a GST number does lend more credibility to your business and some clients will even require it in order to pay you so just tick the box.  It'll be the same number as your company's IRD number so it's very straightforward. 

There are a huge amount of fantastic resources available for helping you assess the feasibility of your idea and your readiness to launch.

Be Prepared

Like we mentioned right at the start, entrepreneurship is NOT easy. You will be working late basically every night, you'll forget what weekends are, you'll eat more ramen noodles and tap water than you'll ever want to see again and you'll likely get about as much sleep as a new mother, about two weeks home from hospital. If you're not experiencing these things, you're not working hard enough.

It may be that your idea is amazing, you have financial backers or investors and you can afford to order in pizza every other night and that's great - thousands of struggling solopreneurs are feeling pretty bitter right now as they hug their bowl of ramen for warmth - but you still need to be prepared for the worst. 

On the flip-side though, you need to mentally put yourself into a positive, fulfilling mindset built on a foundation of optimism and the strive for success. You need to believe you're already successful, that you're already surrounded by so much money and success, that you have clients banging down your door, clamouring to collaborate with you. This mindset will help dramatically when you're feeling low. 

Sign up to every motivational or inspirational feed you can find. Constantly surrounding yourself and seeing these positive images is a constant reinforcement of success and positivity. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it's actually highly effective.

Self-Promote, Sell, but Don't Sell-Out

Here's where it gets uncomfortable, if you're an introvert and the idea of working from home was great because of the solitude, you're going to need to develop your work face. An entirely different persona that is self promoting, self assured, self confident and sassy, and which can sell your services, your brand and you better than Ron Burgundy can sell the news.

It's a difficult notion to get your head around but it's an important one. There's a line too though between selling yourself and selling out when you find easier ways to make money that aren't particularly in line with your business plan. Marc Ecko wrote a great book for this, 'Unlabel': Selling YOU without Selling OUT. It's a very frank and honest look at branding and building a business and the person you need to become to make it a success but also the pitfalls, the easy ways out, the hard ways back and the importance of authenticity. 

Crafting Your Resume

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In high school, I was told by a Careers Advisor that employers receive hundreds of CVs and if yours doesn't stand out, there's a high likelihood that it won't even be looked at. She advocated the use of decorative borders and coloured pages to draw the eye away from the plain white paper and black Arial 11 font of the rest of the pile. 

I took the advice a wee bit too literally an submitted my first CV to multiple businesses right out of school with hand drawn blue flame borders and  stylised dragon on the front. Amazingly, my parents actually allowed me to mail it out and more amazingly, I got my first full time job with it - at a place I stayed through five years, four promotions and six payrises. 

While you don't need blue flames (and we certainly don't advocate it!) on your CV, a little extra attention can mean the difference between an instant no and placement on the maybe/yes pile. 

1. Spellcheck and Sanity Check

This should be an obvious one but I've received so many CVs in the past where he words 'Curriculum Vitae' were intentionally spelled out rather than abbreviated but were misspelled or where the company name was actually an entirely different company showing the person submitting the CV must be sending it out to multiple openings and didn't have the forethought to check that the previous submission hadn't carried over. If you are going to make a point of mentioning the company or the position in your resume or cover letter, ensure they are the right ones.

Don't use your computer's inbuilt spellcheck, read it out to check for readability, grammatical errors, typos, spelling and continuity errors before finalising.

2. Include Your Contact Information

Many times we've received CVs we loved but the person didn't include even basic contact information meaning we couldn't contact them to schedule an interview - these weren't low level jobs either, we're talking submissions for C-Suite roles.

If your email address is the same one you set up at age 13 when you were finally allowed one, change it - no employer wants to receive a CV submission for a high-level role from lilmissnaughty's Hotmail address.

Include your full name, contact address, email, phone and a Linkedin profile if you have one. Add a section immediately at the top to include a very brief overview of your skills and experience so the recipient has an idea of who you are before they look into the detail. 

3. Present Your CV to Stand Out

While MS Word and similar provide adequate templates for building your resume, buying a template online from Etsy,  a creative store or through JAGGAR's Online Services, can create not just a professional, well-presented CV but also a personal brand. Ensure that your chosen template is clean and easily readable and try your hand at creating a personal brand logo to set yourself apart. This is especially important if your desired role is in the creative field.

4. Make it Short and Sweet

Your CV needs to be succinct. Don't list all your bobbies or certificates and specific classroom studies. A simple note of your highest school and tertiary qualifications, the provider and date is sufficient.

Under each role heading, add a short two to three line description of your responsibilities. If you have more than this and find it relevant to the role you're applying for, add it in bulleted form and keep each point to one line maximum.

Eliminate irrelevant information and if your first language isn't English, don't use large words in an attempt to convey a deeper understanding of the language because this usually translates to a nonsensical resume..