Archive for the 'Strategies' Category

Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Topic: Startups, Strategies, Top 10| Comments Off on Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Let me start by saying I didn’t write this, I saw it on one of the blogs I subscribe to and thought it would be a great addition for my readers.  In it’s entirety, here is the article:

The next couple of weeks will bring many students back to school. This time is bittersweet for many. There is the foreboding of classes and homework balanced with the enthusiasm of a fresh start. What if you could keep that “fresh start” feeling all semester long?

Here are the top 10 ways to keep your enthusiasm high after returning to school:

  1. Get your books early – One of the most hectic times of each college school year is that crazy few days in the college bookstore before the semester starts. Who needs it. Get your books early. If your professors haven’t posted them online, call the bookstore and see if they have a list. If still no luck, give your professor a polite e-mail stating you’d like to get your books early so you can prepare for the class. Ask which books you need to buy.
  2. Skim and review before class starts – Review is one of your best weapons against challenging exams. Since you have your books early, spend a few hours skimming and reviewing each one. Familiarize yourself with the table of contents, summaries, bolded text and sidebars. Get the edge.
  3. Do not change your diet – eating more or less can change your concentration, energy level and ability to stay alert. Presuming you are satisfied with your current mental chemistry, avoid changing your diet. P.S. Studies show 75% of college freshmen put on 7lbs their first semester – keep lean and mean.
  4. Decide your main goal – Do you want straight A’s, B’s ? Before you can get anywhere you have to know where you are going beforehand. Choose before the semester starts what grades you want and write it down. By putting it in writing, you are setting an agreement with yourself – after that, all you need to do is not break that agreement. 😉
  5. Decide why you want to make A’s in your classes – why do you want to be a good student? Write up a list of reasons and then hang them in a prominent location in your living quarters. When the going gets tough and you don’t feel like studying or going to class, review this list. Add to it if you can. Reasons are what keep enthusiasm high.
  6. Keep your exercise program going – Hopefully, since you are reading this blog, you have adopted an exercise program. Going to class is no excuse to stop. Stick with it for increased self-esteem, concentration and enthusiasm for learning.
  7. Sit in the front row – Studies have shown sitting in the front row is an easy way to improve your grades. Why? You hear better, you have more interaction with the professors and there is no possible way to doze if you are in the front row. So choose the front row and win.
  8. Reward yourself after small accomplishments – When you get an assignment or test deadline, right then and there, decide on a reward for completing it successfully. I am not saying you have to get an A. Instead a small reward for simply getting through. Some ideas: A new video game, a toy, tee shirt, DVD. Pick something just for you and do not buy it until you finish your assignment. The fun reward will carry you through to the finish line.
  9. Make a habit of studying at the same time every day – Humans function better at different times. When do you study the best? Early morning, afternoon or evening? Work on finding that out and then make a pact that you’ll study at that time every day. This works because 1 you’ll be in your zone naturally and you will be developing a habit of high quality study at that time of day.
  10. Get enough sleep – Staying up late at night watching TV, goofing off or drinking might be fun at the time, but leads to excessive tiredness during classes. It’s tough to be enthusiastic if you are dead tired. So pick a time your fun and serious side can agree on, then stick to it. Set a reminder on your cellphone or computer if you need to. Just get some sleep you look tired.

Brad Isaac is a lead software programmer and blogger. You can read his motivational strategies every day on his goal setting blog, Achieve-IT!

Again, just to be clear – I didn’t write this one and I encourage you to check out the contributing author’s blog.  Class dismissed.

Disasters Are Not Fun

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Security, Strategies| Comments Off on Disasters Are Not Fun

I live in Orlando, FL and am a native Floridian.  Suffice it to say I’ve been through my fair share of hurricanes.  We lucked out with Dean thus far, but it serves as fair warning of what could happen to any of us.  For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a disaster preparedness plan for not only yourself but for your business as well.  Below are a few pointers for making sure you and your business survive whatever comes your way:

  1. Backup your files.  I’ve made this point a dozen times.  For more information, check out this article.
  2. Print out hardcopies of important documents – invoices, articles of incorporation, financials, contact information, etc.  Take it a step further and put these and other important documents such as insurance and personal information in a fire/water proof safe.
  3. Pick up a battery powered surge protector, this will give you a few extra minutes to save and shutdown when the power goes out.
  4. This tip is more or less for your safety.  Be sure to keep extra batteries, water, canned goods, blankets, clothing, and a weather radio in a safe place.
  5. Keep abreast of the latest happenings before its too late.  Watch a few minutes of evening news or the weather channel each night.
  6. Consider geting disaster recovery insurance.  This holds true especially for those of you with offices and warehouses outside of your home.  But remember, your home owners insurance might not cover the business happenings occuring inside your place of residence.
  7. Make sure others outside of the “danger zone” know where you will be and have the appropriate contact information if you are displaced during a disaster.
  8. Hang on to old reciepts and take photos of important equipment and other valuables inside your home, home office, or place of work.
  9. 9.  Stay sober and aware during the storm or natural disaster.  We like to have hurricane parties for the smaller storms (tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes), but anything bigger than that and you need to be in a proper state of mind to handle any situations that may arise.
  10. 10.  Inform your clients and customers ahead of time (if possible) of the impending situation and make plans to assure their orders are delivered accordingly.

Overall, just use your common sense and stay alert.  It’s not a question of if, but rather of when this will happen to your small business so it’s best to be prepared early rather than late.  If you have any other tips, let me know!  Class dismissed.

Traditional Advertising Isn’t Dead

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 1 Comment »

I’ve made the assumption that most of my readers are internet entrepreneurs – that is they conduct the majority of their business on the web as opposed to in “real life”.  That’s fine and great, in fact I’m in the same boat (obviously).  But that doesn’t mean you and I should stick to internet based advertising.  I agree 100% that if you work online you need to participate in SEO, PPC, Insert Abbreviation Here, but I feel you are really missing out on a large market segment by ignoring what I would call the more traditional advertising channels.

Below I have put together a list of the traditional media outlets along with some advantages- I hope it helps!

  •  Newspapers
    • These are pretty old school.  You will benefit, however, from the ability to target specific geographic regions.  It’s also nice because you have very short-term commitments and can easily gauge the responses you receive.  And, unlike other print media, you can submit your ad on Monday and have it appear in the paper by Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Magazines
    • You’ll benefit from full color, professional looking advertisements – but remember that it comes with a hefty price.  What’s really great about magazines is the long shelf life and high chance that it will fall into the hands of many (think doctors office).  My recommendation is to target trade magazines as opposed to general interest publications, that way you minimize the so-called shotgun effect.
  • Radio
    • Radio is accompanied generally by a low cost, immediate result.  It also adds a touch of professionalism in my opinion.  Problem here is your market is not well targeted, but the cool thing is you might start attracting customers you never thought would be interested!
  • Television
    • Diverse audiences like radio, except at a hgher cost.  You’ll benefit from the ability to get creative and leave a lasting impression however.  I found this site called Spot Runner a while back that has prebuilt, entertaining comercials for your use.
  • Outdoor Media
    Again, you’re going to run into some costs here.   I had a buddy who used this method to some success and that’s why it’s on the list.  You’ll benefit from repetive views without any additional costs and you can also place it where you want.

That’s all for today, if you have and questions or comments, please feel free to post.  Class dismissed.

The Art of Prioritization

Topic: Characteristics, Helpful Ideas, Self Exploration, Strategies| Comments Off on The Art of Prioritization

Good evening startup students.  Sorry about the lack of posting, I’ve been crazy busy with school, work. and my startup’s business plan.  And that’s what lead me to writing this post.  Let me quickly take you back in time to last Saturday.

Things were going great, readership on Startup Students has really picked up, school was going well, and all my clients were at bay.   I took Sunday off, then Monday rolled around.  That’s when things started spinning out of control.  I had two finals this week and needed to complete my 45 page business plan in addition to putting together a 20 minute presentation.  On top of that I was hit with two rush order projects that absolutely had to be completed according to their schedule.

I managed to survive, but was forced to neglect this blog in the process.  In fact, I think things worked out okay because I’m still getting great responses to last Friday’s post.  At any rate, today I’d like to talk about geting your priorities in order – including  saving time to accomodate for urgent or surprise issues.  Below are a few points to thing about.

  • Maintain a calendar.  You can use Outlook, an online equivalent, or regular old paper.  I use a combination of Mozilla Sunbird and Notepad.  Before I go to bed I scribble down the next day’s priorities.  No particular order, I just try and get everything down.  In the morning I’ll take a look at my list and prioritize based on a couple of factors, namely urgency and value.

Keeping a schedule and not just going at things blindly is really the only advice I should need to offer, but here’s a few more…

  • Ignore time wasting activities.  Stay away from your inbox, or instant messenger.  Turn off the tv and iTunes, focus on the task at hand.  It’s really amazing how much time this will save you, enough time in fact to actually enjoy those time wasters at a later point.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew – unless you can handle keeping it down and not letting it spew all over the floor.  Don’t get me wrong, have a full plate is great – in fact I think I get more done because of it.  But there comes a point of diminishing returns where it simply doesn’t make since to take on any more assignments.
    • One option here is outsourcing.  It’s a technique I employ and it’s highly recommended.  In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about it more.
  • I’m betting a good portion of you are perfectionists in at least one aspect of your life.  It’s appropriate to be a perfectionist at some things, spelling and grammar come to mind, but in general it’s a complete waste of time.   I picked up one of my clients because their previous developer was too caught up in assuring his code was 100% perfect and in turn neglected what the clients really wanted – fast and reliable service.
  • Remember to resist the temptation to do small and tedious tasks extremely well, it’s the big picture that counts.  This goes hand in hand with the above point.
  • Nobody ever said you have to please everybody, and in fact nobody expects you to (other than your professors maybe).

I’ve got a few more pointers tucked away, but I’ll save them for another day.  Don’t forget to share this post with others if you enjoyed it and I look forward to everyone’s comments.  Class dismissed.

Dealing with Client Concerns

Topic: Competition, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

I was rummaging through my old lecture notes, and came across one that I really wanted to share. It’s a great bit of information that will be very useful once the customers start rolling in. Below is a list detailing customer objections along with an appropriate response to keep the gates open. It’s much more difficult to make a sale once you’ve been shot down, but by keeping the dialog going, you’re more likely to come out on top.Calling

Just to note, these can be applied to current customer’s as well as cold calls. And, before we get started, I wanted to point out a great article I stumbled across entitled The Fine Art of Telephone Prospecting over at Freelance Switch.



“I had problems with a similar product before, and I don’t want to go through that again!” “Yes, I understand your attitude, but have you considered…”
“I’m too busy.” “That’s why I’d like to explain how I can save you time [and money] by…”
“The last salesperson I dealt with caused me all kinds of problems.” “That is a regrettable situation. It’s a shame that all members of my profession aren’t honest, but…”
“I like what I’m hearing, but I need to hold off for now.” “Let’s figure out how much you can save by acting now.”
“Your product sounds just like your competitors.” “There are similarities, however we have… and at a better price.”
“I’m not sure if I can risk a changeover to your product.” “Let me tell you how one of your competitor’s successfully made the switch to my product.”

That’s all for today startup students. Remember, tomorrow is Field Trip Friday so be sure to stop by. I’m putting together a great post about my home office. Class Dismissed.

Tuesday Top 10: Improving Your Workflow

Topic: Strategies, Top 10| 2 Comments »

I almost didn’t post today because I’m feeling pretty sick.  But I figured it would be easy enough to put together a quick top 10 on ways to improve your workflow and overall organization.

  1. Plan your day out the night before.  I just use notepad and outline the core responsibilities I have for the next day.  Too many people don’t have any idea what they should be working on because they don’t take the time to write down what it is they need to do.
  2. Use a calendar like sunbird, google calendar, or iCal to do more long term planning.  It’s easy to set reminders and keep yourself on task this way.
  3. Knock out the more tedious tasks like cleaning your workspace or organizing your filing cabinet before moving onto the more interesting things.  Otherwise the boring stuff never gets done.
  4. Brainstorm or Mind Map once every two weeks.  You don’t have to make a ritual out of it, but this helps you to think long term as opposed to living in the moment all the time.
  5. Build your own whiteboard.  I did and it has helped me out a ton already.  I’ll have a post on Friday showing off my home office along with steps on how I constructed everything.
  6. Utilize online services for keeping up with your contacts.  High Rise by 37signals is perfect.
  7. Carry a day planner with you.  I scribble down notes and todos between classes and during boring lectures, then transfer them to my computer when I get home.  It’s also a nice place to store a stack of business cards and other essentials.
  8. Set aside time for sidetracking.  It’s all too easy to hit your Stumble Upon button or check your RSS feeds.  I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying plan ahead because it does happen.
  9. If you’re like me, you check your inbox constantly.  When I’m away from my desk, I still check constantly from my smartphone.  Checking and responding to emails is incredibly unproductive.  I’m trying to limit myself to 4 times a day – and even that is too much – when I wake up, lunch time, 5ish, and before bed.
  10. I’m leaving number 10 open to your suggestions.  I’m looking forward to your comments to see what other methods you use to increase productivity.

5 Steps To A Rock Solid Promotional Plan

Topic: Analysis, Startups, Strategies, Top 10| 2 Comments »

Good morning Startup Students. While we have not yet explored the core aspects of a bullet proof business plan, I’d like to take today to discuss with you the benefits of your promotional plan. Without marketing and promotion, the idea, management, and financials of a business plan won’t take you anywhere. Here’s a quick list of 5 easy steps to rock solid promotional plan.

  1. You must first determine your sales and marketing objectives. Utilizing a matrix is ideal for this type of analysis. I discussed using a matrix analysis to select your opportunity, but the underlying techniques still apply.
  2. Develop strategies to achieve your goals. Brainstorming and mind mapping are ideal solutions for coming up with these goals.
  3. Create a well defined method for carrying out your strategies. Use your best judgment for now, but we’ll explore this a bit more at a later date.
  4. Determine a budget and then enact a program to assure the success of your promotion.
  5. Continuously evaluate the results of your promotional objectives and adjust your strategy as needed.

A variety of promotional strategies exist, some more mainstream than others. Here’s a few to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Traditional media advertising – Not recommended for startups
  • In store displays – expensive yet effective
  • Creative packaging – High quality, memorable, and fun works best
  • Guarantees – Low cost and effective
  • Trade shows and conventions – Expensive, but professional
  • Direct mailings – Creative, memorable pieces
  • Catalog sales – A dying breed
  • Press releases, news stories, and other “free ink” – Holds more value than ads
  • One on one personal selling – Great for bootstrapping startups
  • Industry specific trade magazines – Every industry has at least one
  • Mailing lists – Utilize your web site or a paid list
  • Networking – Online and in person
  • Top notch customer service – Model after some of your favorite companies
  • Paid search results – Find low cost, effective keywords
  • Top quality web presences – A necessity these days
  • Adwords campaigns – Varying results
  • Stumbleupon campaigns – Highly recommended

If you have any additional suggestions you’d like to share, please comment! That’s all for today students, see you tomorrow.

Field Trip Friday: Free Resources for Young Entrepreneurs

Topic: Analysis, Startups, Strategies| 5 Comments »

With an entire web of information out there, it’s tough to sift through and find the things you need to really get your business off the ground. We’ve talked extensively about ways to hone your idea and gather valuable data to ensure your opportunity’s success. Today it’s time to put those ideas into motion with some top notch FREE resources to take your business from idea to fruition.

  1. University of Central Florida’s Venture Lab: You might call this a plug for the school I attend, but these guys have got some really incredible information and resources available to everyone. My favorite aspect of this site is the vast amount of free templates for the creation of your business plan. From market research tools, to financial pro formas, term sheets, employee documents, and of course business plans. This place is an absolute treasure trove of information for the development of your next great startup!
  2. Google, that’s right Google. But not just the typical search interface – we all know how useful that is. I’m referring to the University Search. Many major Universities offer Entrepreneurial programs and degrees these days, and the resources these colleges offer online is astounding. I recommend starting out with the University of Colorado which is one of the premier Entrepreneurial programs in America.
  3. Already got your business off the ground? I just came across this site yesterday from my friends over at Mind Petals and I’ve already put it to good use by sending out invoices worth over $2,000. Blinksale offers a free subscription if you send less than 3 invoices per month, which is perfect when you are just getting your feet under you.
  4. The Small Business Administration is terrific as well. Most of you are probably familiar with these guys. They specialize in guaranteeing small business loans. In addition to this valuable service, they offer tons of great information such as templates, sample plans, and other startup assistance.
  5. Since many of you are still students, you can gain access and benefit greatly from this cool site. It’s called the Business Plan Archive and it is an extremely valuable resource. They host hundreds of tried and true business plans submitted by companies who wish to help out aspiring Entrepreneurs
  6. Blogs. And lots of them. There are an astounding number of bloggers these days, and many are out there to help young entrepreneurs. Start with a search of the Mind Petals blogger network and start exploring some of their blogrolls. Be careful though, you might spend all day doing this one!

There are a ton more, but since I post every day I will save the rest for next week’s Field Trip Friday – so if you havent done so already, subscribe to the RSS feed and stay tuned!

And now startup students, it’s time for show and tell. First up comes from my brother Blaine. He put together a custom entertainment center for our 52” HDTV. It really turned out pretty awesome.

I’d also like to take a second and introduce you to a buddy of mine’s blog. He’s definitely got the entrepreneurial spirit and works at New York based startup Confabb: The Conference Community so be sure to check it out.

See you on Monday students, have a great weekend!

Implementing a Niche Stategy

Topic: Exploration, Startups, Strategies| Comments Off on Implementing a Niche Stategy

Good morning Startup Students, today’s post will discuss ways to implement a niche strategy, regardless of the industy. The days of “build it and they will come” are over (think manufacturing industry of decades past). What you should really be thinking is,

“Find your customers and then build exactly what they want.”

If you intend to dominate, not merely compete in a market, you must develop a niche strategy. Here are some quick pointers.

  • Focus on a single market segment, don’t try to take down the 300 pound gorilla!
  • Emphasize a single product or service, you’ll have time to become the global conglomerate sometime in the future.
  • Focus on a tight geographical region withing your market. Even if you run an internet business, you can benefit from having a clearly defined audience in a clearly defined locale.
  • Make your product or service superior to that of the competition. If your competitors are focusing on a larger segment of the market, determine the needs customers in your, more clearly defined, market require and cater to them.

I’d like to offer a quick example. I am currently developing an online solution for the management of full and part time event staff such as those employed by arenas and stadiums. Now, this solution would be perfect for a large spectrum of companies that employ hourly staff, but by narrowly targeting a certain set of facilities I am increasing my chances of success. As the business grows, there is no doubt I’ll begin to tap the secondary markets – but to start off it’s absolutely key to define your niche.