15 Tips for Your Start-Up

January 11th, 2021 | Posted in How To Start, Uncategorized

A lot of people walked into new year with a big dream– to start a company doing what they love.

I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely possible. And I’m here to tell you it’s not scary. In fact, I only wish I’d started sooner.

In 2005, I got together with some friends, put $72 on my debit card, and started up my first company. We had no idea what we were doing. But we learned quick, grew quick, and in 2008 we sold that first company.

Flash forward to 2011. I joined up with another friend to jump in as a partner on another start-up. And while we always wish we were doing a little bit better– what entrepreneur doesn’t– we’re doing great.

I don’t have a business degree. I don’t really want one.

As I learned in Good Will Hunting:

See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a f***in’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

With that in mind, I wanted to share some tips for those thinking of taking the plunge, I’ll save you the buck fifty at the public library.

15 Tips for Start-Ups

  1. Follow your passion– the money will follow. A lot of people are passionate about making money. But the simple reality is that money will follow what you’re passionate about. You don’t stay up late dreaming about working for the man, do you? If this is a dream worth chasing, it better come from a place of passion.
  2. Don’t worry about having the biggest or best idea, worry about delivering quality. Over and over again people have beat me to the market with their better financed ideas, bigger brand name, or deeper marketing budget. But I win out in the long run for two primary reasons: quality of productand quality of business model.
  3. Google Everything. Really, everything you could ever need to know about starting a business is available online for free. “How do I…” is something I Google a lot. Read a few articles, follow a few links, there’s tons of free and fantastic advice out there already.
  4. Ask the government for help. In both Michigan and California, where I’ve been involved in start-ups, I’ve found people working at the city and state levels to be extraordinarily helpful with questions If I can’t find the answers to by Googling stuff, I ask an expert. Think about it like this… it’s in the best interest of your state for you to start a business so they really want to help you. Politicians LOVE to talk about job growth and business start-ups– so you aren’t bothering them to ask your questions. In fact, most states have an Economic Development department just for this purpose. Ask them lots and lots of questions. They will help you! And even if you’re doing it wrong I’ve found that they’ll help you get it straightened out before you’ve got a big problem.
  5. Don’t hire a lawyer. There are things down the road which you might need a lawyer for. But most start-ups really don’t need to go through the hassle. In a lot of states, you can file all the necessary paperwork yourself. I’ve found LegalZoom to be a great resource for things that do require an attorney. When we started up and eventually sold our first business in Michigan I never hired a lawyer. (Though I did ask advice of a friend who was an attorney.)
  6. Pick a business structure as soon as possible. Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, non-profit… the list goes on and on. It all starts with a simple question: “Who owns this thing?” I don’t care which one you pick, just pick one.
  7. Get right with the state and federal government right away. Get an EIN. And don’t you dare pay someone to do this for you. You can do it online. It’s free and takes 5 minutes. You’ll need that EIN for about 100 other things… get it.
  8. Separate your money. Don’t ever use your personal accounts for business. Even if you’re a sole proprietorship and all the money is ultimately yours anyway, it’ll help you to not get emotionally attached to or get tempted to start using that money for personal business.
  9. Don’t quit your job. I’m of the opinion that you should keep your “side business” on the side of your main job for as long as possible. Heck, if you could keep doing whatever you’re doing right now and make 50% more money on the side forever… do it.
  10. Don’t pay yourself until you absolutely have to. This is so simple but so many people mess it up. The more you can re-invest in your business out of your profits before you have to pay yourself, the better. Buy equipment, buy more product to sell, invest in marketing, invest in employees, or just stock pile profits for a rainy day. Everything but that last option is good for your taxes while helping you build your business. Always take free money.
  11. Jump when you get to about 200% of your monthly income needs. The scariest part in starting up is needing to make money to feed your family. My advice? Put off jumping, if you can, until you have the first 2 months of income in your business bank account. (On top of your personal savings.) I’ve found that if you don’t jump off when you have the money… your little start-up will sputter along but never take off. But if you do jump off the cliff and need it to work… you’ll put in that much more effort. Just give yourself a couple months buffer if you can. (I keep at least 2 months reserve income in a business savings account at all times. Took me a while to get there, but it’s a HUGE confidence boost and allows us to take some risks without worrying about going homeless.)
  12. Take accounting seriously from day one. I kind of suck at my own personal finances. For instance, I balance my checkbook annually when I do my tax return. But I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t do that with your business. I’d suggest setting up basic accounting from day one using a Google Spreadsheet (super basic) or something like Freshbooks. (a little more complex) I actually track one of my business accounts with a personal edition of Mint. I’d highly suggest doing it all online.
  13. Anywhere you can automate, do it. I eliminate tons and tons of paperwork (read, busywork) simply by picking stuff that automates. For instance, when someone buys something from our online store, the store software automatically puts that transaction into our accounting software, our payment processor automatically deposits that money in our bank account, the transaction is automatically logged and our system automatically tracks their purchase, sending them a follow-up email a few weeks later to make sure they’re happy. The same is true with our payroll system. I login to process payroll, but that system handles everything at the bank, with our accounting, the state, and IRS all automatically.
  14. Don’t do a business plan. People get hung up on this because it’s a ton of work. You only need a business plan if you plan on borrowing money from a bank or the Small Business Administration. I’ve never done one. To me, it’s kind of like a resume… I don’t have one of those either. I feel like if I do things right I don’t need either. While I do think the exercise of a business plan is ultimately necessary (and useful) I just don’t think you should start with one because you really don’t know what your plan is when you’re just starting out. I think it’s way more important to get whatever your product is to market first, start the money flowing, then worry about formalizing who you are and how you do business later on.
  15. If at all possible, bootstrap. Every business idea can’t get started for $72 and sweat equity, I get that. But I think most of the time you can figure out ways to get things going, generate some cashflow, without taking on a bunch of start-up debt. That won’t work if your big dream is to open a bar. But it will absolutely work if you want to start selling at the local farmers market. I think it’d be way better to seek a personal loan from family or a friend than to take on a start-up debt from your bank or the SBA. (Which would put you in a hole financially, plus all the effort of getting the business plan done, etc.) Basically, you don’t want to be owned by debts when you’re just getting going. Further down the line debts or a line of credit will be useful. You just don’t want to start-up being owned by the bank.

So those are my tips for those taking the plunge in 2015. I’d love to hear what you are planning to start-up.

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5 Important Things Every Home Office Needs!

November 26th, 2020 | Posted in Loud Mouth

If you work from home, then you’ll need to set up a home office. Find out the five most important things every home office needs:

1.   Computer

You need a computer to help run your business. In this day and age, computers are essential for the running of any business. But, you’ll need to purchase a computer that has good work performance. A great work computer can perform at high speeds and have multiple programs open without any fuss. You should also get one with plenty of storage as you’ll more than likely be keeping a lot of files on there. Also, I’d recommend that the monitor for your computer comes equipped with a webcam. Webcams can come in handy if you want to Skype clients or carry out meetings online.

2. Desk

You’re going to need somewhere to conduct all your work from home, so purchase a desk. Don’t just buy any old desk, you need to get one that’s good for working on. It has to be a suitable height and have enough room for your computer and other stuff like your business cards and stationery. There should be enough space for you to conduct all your work without any problems. Get something with storage too, like draws or a small cupboard. That way you can store things in there and minimize desk clutter.

3. Chair

Don’t forget about buying a chair when you’re setting up a home office. Seeing as you could be sitting for long periods, acquire a chair that’s high in comfort. Hard chairs, like wood, metal or plastic can be very uncomfortable when sat on for a long time. Buy something that has enough cushion and doesn’t hurt your back. Back problems are common among people who work at desks all day, but you can help prevent this with a comfy chair. The last thing you want to do is develop chronic back pain.

4. Printer

I think I can safely say that here will come a time in your working life where you’ll need to print something off. Logically speaking, if you want to print stuff off your computer, you’ll need a printer. If I were to recommend any printer, it would be one that is incredibly versatile. An ‘all in one’ printer delivers much more than your typical printing services. It can also be used as a scanner and a photocopier. Chances are you’ll need to scan and photocopy documents as well, so this saves you lots of money! Buying a printer that does all three stops you from having to buy the other two separately. Make sure the printer you purchase prints at a high speed and can hold large ink cartridges. You don’t want a slow printer that runs out of ink every two weeks.

5. Shredder

Anyone who’s done any office work will tell you that there will be lots of waste paper lying around. Getting a shredder is a convenient way to get rid of any scrap paper and make it easier to recycle. Pick a shredder that’s big enough to handle multiple sheets of paper at once, so you save time when shredding.

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What You Need to Know to Reach New Target Customers

November 24th, 2020 | Posted in Marketing

So, your business is expanding, and you need to reach a whole new set of customers. This means having to identify who these new target customers are. Once you’ve done that, here’s how to reach out to them.

Not All Audiences Are the Same

This is a big mistake that far too many business owners make. They think that because they’ve understood and conquered one market, they can do the same with another one. But the essential thing to remember is that all audiences and all target markets are different. Therefore, they all require different approaches.

You should do your research and think carefully about what your new target customer want and need from a business like yours. Just because other markets have found your approach satisfying, it doesn’t mean all of them necessarily will too.

The Internet is Your Greatest Tool

Reaching new customers requires a lot of online legwork. You need to make direct connections with them and let them know that you know exist. The only way of doing this is by employing a slick internet marketing campaign and doing things that make your business impossible to ignore. If I were you, I’d use a digital marketing agency to make sure you reach as many new customers as possible.

Expand and upgrade your approach to social media so that you can attract more people and pull in more followers. Every additional follower you acquire is a potential customer, so don’t forget that! Another good idea is to start an email marketing strategy. Prompt people to sign up for regular newsletters by entering their email address when they arrive on your website.

Other Connections Can Help

Reaching new target customers in new markets needs you to raise your profile and be seen by more people. One way to make this happen is to make connections with other businesses or community organisations. Anything that can get your brand out there will benefit you and help you to reach new target customers.

If you’re thinking about reaching out to other businesses and building links with them, be careful to choose your partners wisely. You don’t want to approach a rival or a business that has a poor reputation with consumers. And think about how beneficial the partnership will be for your business.

Research is Vital

When your business is expanding, research is vital. Don’t be arrogant enough to think that you can step into an entirely new market without even doing research. A big part of your research will need to be focused on the share of the market you’re moving into. You need to know where your target customers are currently buying from.

Once you know where you’re customers are currently buying from, you should try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Then you’ll he able to put together a service and a marketing campaign that takes advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses to boost your own success.

If you understand the points above, you’ll be a step close to reaching new customers and making a success of your expansion.

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Fantastic Ways To Market Your Business

November 22nd, 2020 | Posted in Marketing

Do you want your business to be seen by more people? Do you want a place on the bigger market? Of course, you do. We all want to be successful but how do we get there. It all comes down to marketing. You have to know how to advertise your company. It has to seem like something consumers want and need. Both of these factors are vital. So what is the secret way of getting this? The truth is it is not a secret. You Have to know your way around the internet. Once you know that your company is going to start getting very profitable.

SEO Is Awesome

We recommend you research what this is in more detail. It is very important for the success of your company. Search Engine Optimization means getting your company to the top of an internet search window. If you did it organically, then no money was involved in this privilege. You did it all with hard work and a lot of tech skill. It is about knowing how to design a website and how to add keywords as well as links. You need to make it, so your company website is the most valid option when consumers type a phrase into Google. For instance, a consumer might type in “Comic Book Movie News.” If your website is about comic book movie news or just movie news, in general, it needs these words. But it is also about knowing what consumers are going to search and writing good headlines.

Be Sociable

Now, for many this will need no explaining. It seems each year there is a new social site to add to the growing list we are all part of. They can be annoying. They can be an invasion of privacy but guess what? They can be the most effective marketing tool you will ever have. Have you been on Snap chat lately? Perhaps not. But if you have you will notice you can access bigger stories that are not personal. Rather they are a collection of different people attending an event. Businesses are starting to use these stories of snaps as free advertisement. It is very effective, but you can use virtually any social network to market your company. Be creative.

That Personal Touch

Customers like interacting with companies. They like knowing there are people behind them. But they also want to know they can be trusted. More importantly they want to know they have chosen correctly. Remember, whatever industry you are in you are going to be facing a lot of competition. What better way to stand out from the crowd then with business ecards. Companies like Ecard Shack provide this service at reasonable prices. Send your customers a message of thanks or encourage them to use your business again.

Get Blogging

One final suggestion? It is very well having a website, but you also need a blog. You can link it from your company website. Blogging is another form of free advertising. If you are clever, you can use it to market your company without customers knowing it is an ad. For instance, imagine you own a restaurant that sells a certain meal. You can use your blog to post a story about how healthy that meal is. It is free personal advertising. Smart. Fast. Simple.

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How To Make Your Business Computer Network Super-Fast!

November 14th, 2020 | Posted in Technology

If you run a business, chances are you’ll have a few computers in your office connected to a LAN or Local Area Network. The LAN, in turn, is connected to the Internet, so that you and your colleagues can surf the Web.

You might have a server attached to your network, responsible for sharing files amongst all the network users. That sounds like a good computer setup, right? The only downside to many computer networks these days is the speed. Or, should I say, the lack of speed!

Have you ever noticed that, when someone gets a large file, everyone’s network connections slow down? Especially if that transfer is taking place from a storage device attached to your network!

The good news is that you can turbocharge your organization’s network and computer systems. Want to know how? Keep reading to find out!

Workstation upgrade

Even if your network is super-fast, it won’t have much effect on a ten-year-old PC. It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses operate computers that got considered obsolete years ago.

Before you do anything with your network, you need to make sure your workstations are performing at their best.

Here are a few key upgrades you should perform in case they aren’t fast enough for today’s needs:

  • RAM – I recommend running at least 8GB of RAM if you’re using the latest version of Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X;
  • Processor – where possible, upgrade your CPU to the fastest one available for your budget. If you’re running an Intel Core i3 dual-core, consider an upgrade to a Core i5 quad-core;
  • Storage Drive – most systems won’t need a huge amount of storage space, especially if they keep their files on a server or in the cloud. With that in mind, upgrade each drive to a solid-state drive (SSD);
  • Network Port– computers usually have a built-in gigabit Ethernet port at the back of them. If your systems don’t, you can buy PCI cards that you slot into the motherboard that offer this functionality.

Server upgrades

If your workplace has a server attached to the network, you can apply the same upgrades to it as you would your workstations.

You might also be running a database on your server that your staff use on a daily basis. If your users are finding it slow to access or run queries on, you should consider migrating to an in-memory database.

Check out the FAQs over at Altibase.com to find out more about how they work. But, in a nutshell, they use your server’s RAM for data storage instead of a hard drive. Don’t worry; you can backup the data stored in RAM in case your server suffers from a power loss.

Network upgrades

The final thing you can do to speed up your network is to upgrade its technology! As mentioned earlier, gigabit Ethernet ensures faster data transmissions. You’ll need to change your routers and switches for models that support gigabit Ethernet.

Last, but not least, upgrade your Internet connection to a fiber-based one. Your network users will thank you for it!

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