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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.

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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

 

 

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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.

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The Must Do’s Of Any Business

These are the must do for any business and its plans.

You must understand your weaknesses and learn how to overcome or manage them.

The business plan is an instrument that changes over time and must be constantly updated.

To use promotion, advertising and direct selling effectively, you must consider two elements, what are your products or service and how will you deliver the message?

For a statement to be at goal it must be achievable, measurable, and time-oriented.

The Operating Costs are the cost of being in business that must be paid whether or not you sell a single unit.

Operating Expenses is the cost of being in business and must be paid regardless of the level of sales.

Current liabilities are financial obligations you must meet within the next year.

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Defining your products/services.

Products and Services

It is important to write a clear, concise description of the products and services you offer, for yourself as well as for others. The process is helpful in clarifying what you offer; identify the number of products and services offered, and for planning changes in product offerings.

  • How are you going to scale your product/service, if so how?
  • How will you sell your product or what is your channel of distribution?
  • Is a product? Do you need or have you chosen a co-packer?
  • Have you considered licensing your product?

The most important reason for describing your products and services is to help you communicate with your customers, suppliers, ad visors, employees, and provide focus for your business.

If the focus is unclear or too general, people cannot identify what you do, and therefore, do not know when to call you or come to your place of business.

For example, a retail clothing store offering expensive, high – quality dresses and suit, plus bargain-basement plastic shoes, would have a difficult time communicate its different product lines. Potential customers might be confused, not trusting the quality.

If the focus is too narrow, you risk losing business to more full time service businesses. For example, a janitorial service offering only vacuuming and dusting services and no window-washing, floor scrubbing, or waxing services risk losing business to others offering more.

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In My Wildest Dream…

…I live in a loft downtown, against one of the most beautiful lakes in the state…

…I have a chauffeur…

I like to dream and when I dream, I dream BIG! I do my research in preparation of that dream (goal) and then I dream as if it’s happening right now.

..Yes I go there, Live that dream…then come back and keep preparing for it…

Yes, I can have my dreams and you can too!

NEVER STOP DREAMING!

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How to Analyze & Define Your Market Clearly

Carefully analyze and define your market clearly. Provide demographics on who the major customers for your product or service are, where they are, and why they buy. Are you offering a seasonal product or service? What is a geographical coverage of your market?

Your markets refer to the people at whom your products and services are aimed. In marketing terms, it is your “target market” or the customer that are the target of your sales efforts. You may have more than one target market.

For new businesses, your target market may be people currently buying similar products or services. If you have an existing business, your target market maybe current customers; it may also be people you have not yet reached.  In either case, finding your target market often requires some experimentation of trial and error.

Target markets are described in terms of their share characteristics. For example, if your product/service is aimed at individuals, you can describe them by age, income, geographic location and lifestyle. If your product/service is aimed at organizations, you can describe them by number of employees, sales, geographic location and industry.

It is very important for you to choose a particular segment of the market and concentrate on its needs, with your products and services. No product or service can call its target market everyone.  It is not enough just to produce the product or offer the service.  Customers are constantly bombarded with sales to buy products and services. You need to aim at a particular market and inform the market that your product or services is meant for them and why. To do this effectively, you need to know who your market is and what their other choices are.

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Have You Heard the term, Location, Location, Location?

Have you heard the term, location, location, location? Location is everything when it comes to business.  Think through how IMPORTANT location will be for the success of your business. For location is the most critical decision you will make. For other business, location may be important in order to project a particular image. See it through the eyes of your customers. Do they shop online, why or why not? Many businesses choose to be online only and others only want a physical location. The recommendation is to have both, an online and offline presence in the marketplace. For some business, choice of location is important. Remember to be aware of any local zoning regulations that may affect your business.

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The 1 pg. Business Plan

Developing a good business plan provides entrepreneurs with DIRECTION, PURPOSE and ASSESSMENT of needs. A good plan can also be the key to unlocking financial resources to start or expand a business.

YouTube: How To Write a 1 Pg. Business Plan

 

 

#entrepreneur #smallbusiness #networking

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Technology impact on Your Business Model

 

 Keeping up and Getting Ahead:

The Impact of Technology on Your Business Model

Adapting your business to meet changing market needs is challenging, but necessary—especially if you have achieved great success in your current business model. Modifying existing products or services, or creating new ones, is a great way to stay relevant while achieving greater growth. Just ask companies such as Blockbuster, which neglected to adapt to new business models that emerged from technological advancements and, as a result, has all but disappeared. Technology is constantly evolving; every 12–18 months, computer capabilities increase exponentially, as do the information technologies.

Most seasoned business owners know that regardless of appeal, a product or service won’t sell itself. Rarely will products or services see success without a business model that relieves customer pain points, meets customers in their place of convenience, and does so more effectively than the competitor’s model. Ultimately, a business model can be an opportunity—or the end of a company. Understanding changing technologies is paramount to ensuring that your business falls at the end of the spectrum marked “opportunity.” Here are some ways to stay abreast of changing technologies within your industry.

#1: Follow the trends.
——Simply catching technology buzzwords in the news will not be as impactful as identifying a few consistent, credible news sources reporting on technologies in your industry. Sources should follow niche-specific trends and changes, such as new online purchasing platforms or methods, but also keep a finger on the pulse of overall technology changes outside of your industry.

#2: Tap into a team of advisors.
——After assessing and identifying trends that can be a threat or an opportunity, look within your network to see who is already familiar with similar technologies. Provide them with an understanding of your business so they can help you decide where to make business model adjustments. Try not to be defensive about new pathways, but instead, take advantage of opportunities.

#3: Test the waters.
——Deciding to implement new technologies can be expensive, but you can explore options that let you pay as you go, or pay in smaller increments during the testing phase. Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”. This service can allow you to try things out for less money up front.

#4: Adapt to change.
——As you research and follow changing technologies, be sure to digest and distinguish between technologies that are overhyped and the new ideas that you foresee impacting the industry. Do you remember the Net PC? Likely not. But we all certainly remember the introduction of cloud computing. Don’t just jump into the hype. Take your time to assess the viability of new trends.

After assessing new industry trends, make business model decisions to maximize your return on investment, perhaps by meeting your product or service’s distribution needs. The following technology-based business models are thriving in 2017.

Direct online sales.
——The e-commerce business model is well known for eliminating the middleman, and can even do away with the need for wholesalers in retail industries. Service industries also benefit from this model, using a variety of websites that enable skilled professionals, from therapists to editors, to serve as quick-turn consultants. One of the greatest benefits of this business model is the direct business-to-consumer interaction that can help you garner information about your customers, allowing you to tailor and enhance their buying experiences.

Subscription services.
——Also in the realm of e-commerce, this service offers added convenience for consumers and clients with a recurring revenue stream by allowing them to skip a repetitive checkout process. Subscription services provide automation enabled by advanced technology platforms. Services can be modeled after companies that use monthly commitments, such as Netflix, or annual commitments, as with Amazon Prime.

 The ever-evolving technology industry can seem overwhelming, but learning how to stay abreast of change is half the battle. As you notice new trends and technologies, take time to assess how your business might benefit from them, and what business models will support such changes.

Join us each month as we share expert tips, insights, and resources to grow your business. Visit www.mbda.gov/grow.


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