Posted on

Brian Tracy’s Best Advice for Young People: It’s Never Too Early to Find Your Purpose

by Dave Lavinsky, Guest Writer, Entrepreneur Mag

The average entrepreneur reacts to the term “business plan” with distaste, seeing it as a necessary evil when starting a business or seeking funding.

While the process of documenting your plan might not be enjoyable, the results you can get from it can be, as numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between a written business plan and a company’s success. Equally as important, creating your business plan forces you to build many good habits.

Goal setting
Your business plan forces you to set goals. You need to forecast what your sales will be this quarter, this year and in five years.

Creating goals is the first step to achieving them. And when you create them in your business plan, you are forced to support them. Specifically, you must explain how you will achieve those goals. Who must you hire? What type of marketing promotions must you implement? While you may not ultimately follow all the strategies outlined in your plan, you will assess multiple options and determine the best path to follow.

Focus
The biggest fault of most entrepreneurs is that they lack focus. They start down one path, learn of a new idea and then pursue that new path. This is rarely a strategy for success. Rather, it typically results in multiple “partially built bridges.” Importantly, 100 partially built bridges are worth nothing, while one fully built bridge could be all your business needs to be successful.

Your business plan forces you to focus. It does this most specifically in the “Milestones” section. In this section of your plan, you should document what your milestones are by month for the next three months and by quarter for the following four quarters.

Once you have these milestones documented, you’ll gain the habit of judging all new ideas with regards to whether they’ll more effectively allow you to attain your milestones. If they will, then pursue them. If not, table them so they don’t distract you.

Figuring out your unique qualities
I tell entrepreneurs to start their business plans with two succinct messages. The first is a clear definition of your business. That is, what it is that you do. This is important since if readers can’t clearly understand what kind of business you’re in, they’ll stop reading.

The next key message is to explain why you are uniquely qualified to succeed. The answer to this question varies. For instance, maybe your management team has incredible experience. Or you have patented intellectual property. Or you have unique relationships with customers or partners that your competitors don’t. Or market trends have shifted and now require an approach upon which only your company can execute.

If your company is not uniquely qualified to succeed, then at the first sign of your success, you will have lots of competitors and nothing to keep customers from flocking to them. That’s why in creating your business plan it’s not only critical to think about why you are already uniquely qualified to succeed, but what can you do in the future to cement that position. For instance, should you seek patent protection? Would hiring this person allow you to gain an unfair advantage? And so on.

This is an important habit to form. You should always be thinking about why your company is unique and how to make it more unique, particularly if competitors are gaining on you.

Posted on

4 Trademark Tips to Protect and Build Your Small Business

By Melissa Thompson
Founder, HarcourtHealth@MelThompson88

When you’re building your brand, there is a lot to consider. Choosing your business name, logo, and brand slogan is a painstaking process. The choices you make today could define your brand for decades, and if all goes well, for centuries. During the process of building my own brand, I sought out the advice of some trademark attorneys, and what they taught me saved me a lot of time, stress, and money.

In the eyes of the public, your trademark is your brand, and it’s important to plan in advance and take steps to protect your intellectual assets.

Here are four tips I’ve used for creating and protecting my trademark that will work for your small business as well.

1. Be original.
If your business’s name is unlike anything else on the market, it will be easier to defend, and also easier for your customers to distinguish. If you name your business, say, Pizza Delivery, every pizza place will have those words on their website.

Joseph Mandour, managing partner and an intellectual property attorney with Mandour & Associates, stresses the importance of choosing a unique trademark. “You want your trademark to be memorable, and from a legal standpoint, distinctive names are ideal,” he says. “Generic and descriptive names, especially in a global market, are more difficult to defend.”

When you register your trademark, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will reject your application if your name is too similar to a trademark already registered in relation to similar goods or services. Before you finalize your name choice, do a trademark search.

You can use the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System on your own or hire a trademark attorney or service. I was fortunate in naming my business, because no one else had ever filed or used a similar name. The USPTO database does not include unregistered trademarks, and you could potentially face a challenge from a business that was the first to use the name you choose, even if they have not filed a trademark application.

2. Apply for a trademark.
Once you’ve settled on a name or slogan and verified that there are no conflicts, it’s important to apply for a trademark. Your trademark is industry-specific and only applies to the business you are involved in. You’ll be asked for a list of goods and services you intend to provide under this brand.

3. Respect the mark.
When you have established your trademark, you need to respect it. Renewal fees come due every 10 years and must be paid on time, and there is also a renewal to file after the first five years. Filings with the USPTO are not all there is to protect your trademark. On your website and all marketing materials, include the appropriate trademark symbol for each reference to your trademark. Visible documentation will help you if you are challenged in court.

I have been challenged several times because of certain images I’ve used on my website from stock photo or creative commons sources. I’ve won in every single instance because I always visually document and attribute the proper marks on all images I use.

The terms of use for some websites specifically define how their logo, name, and trademark may be used. For example, Google forbids, in no uncertain terms, using its trademark as a verb. “Use the trademark only as an adjective, never as a noun or verb, and never in the plural or possessive form.” Oops. We have ALL been doing it wrong.

4. Police your trademark.
The protection granted by registering your trademark exists only in the court. There is no trademark police prowling the web looking for violators. It’s up to you to locate violators and take action. As a trademark owner, you have a duty to do so. Use the USPTO database to watch for others applying for trademarks similar to yours. If you find a violation, a cease-and-desist letter from your lawyer may be enough to convince them to choose a different name.

Some companies will choose to fight it out in court. Mandour says most will back down from aggressive actions, though. “We like to litigate fast and aggressively, which often leads to positive outcomes for our clients,” he says.

Protecting your trademark is a big responsibility. While you’re diligently searching out people infringing on your rights, other people will be looking at ways to challenge your claim. A strong, unique name and a thorough search for similar names will help you avoid trouble from the start, but you should always be prepared to fight for your rights.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

PUBLISHED ON: DEC 12, 2017

 

 

Posted on

If You’re Not Serious About a Business Plan, You’re Not Serious About Business

Tallat Mahmood,Guest Writer, Entrepreneur, January 4,2016

The debate around the relevance of business plans is one that continues to divide opinion. Although conventional wisdom suggests a business plan has a role to play in determining company success, increasingly, and especially in the startup world, some are shunning it.

However, business plans are an essential component of business success, especially when you consider that many businesses fail. A good business plan is where an entrepreneur interprets results from tests on his or her business idea or business so that they present a strategy that has the best chance of success. This validation is one of the key differences between a powerful business plan and a document that is irrelevant.

If you want your business to succeed, whether it is to attract customers, raise funding, or hire the right team, you need to get serious about implementing a strong business plan.

Why a strong business plan Is still relevant
Beyond the business plan acting as an instrument that banks and investors use to make funding decisions, it also serves a number of other key purposes. Primarily it allows you to think through your business and proposed strategy in a way that talking about it never can. The only real way a business plan can be put together is by testing assumptions and interpreting the results. There is no escaping the fact that the business plan will always remain inaccurate to some degree given you are trying to predict the future. However, the margin of error will be smaller, the higher quality the business plan is. Validation leads to quality.

Who your exact customers are, what they want from your product or service, how much they are willing to pay and what the competition is doing are questions you cannot answer by sitting behind a computer. Face-to-face interactions with potential customers, suppliers and competitors are what will confirm or dispel initial assumptions. Even if your initial assumptions are correct, talking to your customers will inform you immensely, and the value it will bring to your business will be immeasurable.

This is exactly what the founders of Airbnb did to create their home-share platform. The assumptions you test can be fed through the entire business plan, including the financials, to develop a plan that has real context layered in.

Related: 4 Reasons Why a Traditional 40-Page Business Plan Is an Insane Waste of Time

How to get serious about your business plan
To prevent your business plan being full of untested assumptions that render the business plan irrelevant, focusing on validation, as discussed above, is the best way to show intent. Given much of that validation will come from face-to-face meetings, there are a number of tools you will already be familiar with in order to “find” your customers and competitors to validate. Using Twitter search, Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, are a great way to seek out people you want to talk to.

Beyond this, all niches have leading publications focused on serving their community. For example, if your target market was coffee lovers, sites such as Coffee Lovers Mag would be a great place to start to find your audience.

Once you find them, the right questions to ask to get the right information and inform your businessshould focus on understanding what the main pain point is for customers and to identify how you could provide a solution. So listen to what they say and probe further to get to the root cause of their problem. Then develop a solution and iterate with the customer until you get it right. This structures your “market research” to get information in the right way and analyze and interpret in a meaningful manner. This information can then be populated in the qualitative and quantitative parts of your business plan.

Posted on

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Sales Smash Record With $25 Billion Haul

 

(SHANGHAI) – Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, said on Saturday its Singles’ Day sales extravaganza hit $25.4 billion, smashing its own record from last year and cementing it as the world’s biggest shopping event.

Once a celebration for China’s lonely hearts, Singles’ Day has become an annual 24-hour buying frenzy that exceeds the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, and acts as a barometer for China’s consumers.

As tills shut midnight on Saturday, Alibaba’s live sales ticker registered 168.3 billion yuan, up 39 percent from 120.7 billion yuan last year. The dollar figure was up more steeply due to the strength of the yuan against the greenback this year.

The event began soon after a star-studded event in Shanghai late on Friday. As midnight hit, a deluge of pre-orders helped drive a billion dollars of sales on Alibaba’s platforms in the first two minutes and $10 billion in just over an hour.

 

“In terms of scale it just dwarfs any other event out there,” said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group.

At just past the halfway mark, the headline gross merchandise volume swept past last year’s dollar total just shy of $18 billion. Shortly afterwards, sales surpassed the 2016 total in the local currency.

The event gets shoppers around China scouting for bargains and loading up their online shopping carts, while delivery men – and robots – brace for an estimated 1.5 billion parcels expected over the next six days.

“This is a big event for China, for the Chinese economy,” Joseph Tsai, Alibaba’s co-founder and vice chairman, said. “On Singles’ Day, shopping is a sport, it’s entertainment.”

Tsai said rising disposable incomes of China’s “over 300 million middle-class consumers” was helping drive the company’s online sales – and would continue. “This powerful group is propelling the consumption of China,” he said.

 

The final total – more than the GDP of Iceland or Cameroon – leaves other shopping days in the shade. Cyber Monday in the United States saw $3.45 billion in online sales last year.

Investors closely watch the headline number, though some analysts say the way it is calculated is too opaque. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched a probe into Alibaba’s accounting practices in 2016, including into its Singles’ Day data. That investigation is as yet unresolved.

Last year, the sales number rose by nearly a third at the eighth iteration of the event – though that was slower than the 60 percent increase logged in 2015.

SLOWER GROWTH?

At Alibaba’s Friday night gala, the company’s co-founder and chairman, Jack Ma, hosted guests including the actress Nicole Kidman, singer Pharrell Williams and Chinese musicians and film stars such as Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing.

 

The excitement around the shopping blitz, however, masks the challenges facing China’s online retailers such as Alibaba and JD.com Inc, which are having to spend more to compete for shoppers in a broader economy where growth is slowing.

“A lot of the lower hanging fruit has been picked and there’s increased competition for a share of consumer spending,” said Matthew Crabbe, Asia Pacific research director at Mintel. The sale did though beat his forecast of 20 percent growth.

Online retailers were being forced to push offline as well as overseas to attract new shoppers, and the overall online retail market was close to “saturation”, raising questions about whether current rapid growth could be sustained.

“They’re having to spill over out of the purely online realm into the wider consumer market,” Crabbe said.

 

This has sparked deals to buy bricks-and-mortar stores in China, and overseas tie-ups especially in Southeast Asia. Technology, too, has been key, with virtual reality dressing rooms and live fashion shows to attract shoppers.

Alibaba also said it had turned 100,000 physical shops around China into “smart stores” for this year’s event. Goods perused by people at the stores, but then bought and paid for on Alibaba’s platforms, were added towards the sales total.

China Market Research Group’s Cavender said brands were also increasingly making smaller price cuts to avoid “margins getting killed”, and were often asking for deposits in advance. In previous years, prices were often halved.

Fu Wenyue, a 23-year-old dresser in Shanghai, said offers this year were smaller but more “personalized” as brands used big data to hone their targets. Fu spent 4,000 yuan on clothes, cosmetics and kitchen utensils in pre-event sales, and kept shopping on the day.

“In actual fact, I think I spent even more than I did last year,” she said.

Posted on

How to Launch Your Business Without Having a Lot of Savings

Enter PLAN25 at checkout

 

Posted on

Writer’s Digest

YES YOU CAN WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN AND I’LL SHOW YOU HOW offers up a concise and well-organized how-to guide on an essential skill for any new or expanding business or enterprise.

Author Aun A. Anderson clearly explains the necessity for having a business plan, how to develop the various aspects of same as well providing easy-to-use worksheets and examples. She defines each aspect of the plan, giving readers a precise idea of what is expected. Basically this book hits the niche on the head.

Posted on

The Top 4 Ways to Beat Procrastination

 

 

Enter PLAN25 at checkout
Posted on

Science Of Persuasion

The Science Of Persuasion

This animated video describes the six universal Principles of Persuasion that have been scientifically proven to make you most effective as reported in Dr. Cialdini’s groundbreaking book, Influence. This video is narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, CMCT (co-author of YES & The Small Big).

Click here for YouTube Video

 

 

Posted on

13 Successful People on the Books That Changed Their Lives

Kristen Bahler, for Money
Sep 27, 2017

Need a book recommendation for a young, out-of-work, or fledgling wild-card on your Christmas list? Or some words of wisdom to pump up your own bookshelf?
We got you.

MONEY compiled a reading list of the books several CEOs, COOs and company founders say changed the trajectory of their lives. Some are tried and true career inspirations like The Art of War, while others are literary classics or feats of investigative journalism such as A Wrinkle in Time or The New Jim Crow. All helped launch some of the most inspiring careers of our time.

CLICK HERE To See Full Article

 

PLAN25
Posted on

Ready Steady Start-up Quiz