You Don’t Need to Be Mark Zuckerberg to Gain Business Insight

As an ambitious entrepreneur, you want your business to become as successful as physically possible. This is why you’ve already analysed the stories of Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, and other world-famous entrepreneurs. But there’s no reason to limit your source of inspiration to those people. In truth, you can often gain even greater ideas from companies that are far closer to yours in both size and industry.

You must accept the fact that your company is far from perfect. With this fact established, you must make the necessary upgrades in a host of business areas. Focus on the four areas below by borrowing ideas from others, and the results will begin to show in no time.

Cashflow Management

Money is the most important to any modern business, and yours is no different. The early stages require immense maturity, especially when you spend money. For starters, this is why you must always go the extra mile to find the best deals on all investments. Take this approach when you hire staff, choose insurance deals, and purchase key assets. However, you cannot afford to stop there.

There is a huge desire for ownership in this world, but it isn’t always needed. This is especially true in the world of business. Learn when to lease key items rather than buy them, and you’ll see a major boost to efficiency. In turn, that should allow you to grow the business with an increased volume of additions and reduced level of danger.

The ability to utilise assets to their full potential separates the good business owners from the great. Rent out some of the equipment or business spaces to other companies to recoup some of the investment. It’s another source of revenue that can make a world of difference. Many of the best startups make good use of those ideas. Yours should too.

Image Credit: Pexels

Marketing

Zuckerberg and company work wonders in the realm of marketing. Your business probably doesn’t have the resources to emulate their campaigns. Still, there is an opportunity to gain huge inspiration from previous success stories. Before doing this, though, you must acknowledge the need for individual personality. Take 30 minutes to search social media for the best performing businesses, and you’ll notice that the bond with an audience is key.

You must avoid the trap of focusing solely on marketing firms. After all, their goals vary from those of every other company. It’s far better to analyse the success of companies that aim to grow visibility and awareness in the same way that you do. Le-Vel have achieved huge progress over the past few years by utilising multi level marketing. Take note of their methods, and put a unique spin on them to win over your unique market.

It’s easy to assume that a lack of funding spells disaster. It doesn’t. Instead, you must use this as an opportunity to get more creative. You’ve seen stories about graduates hiring billboards to land careers, and that type of ingenuity is key. The competition out there is fierce. But with the right approach, you will find a route to increased sales.

Image Credit: Pexels

Staff Development

Every business owner appreciates the need to build a great team. Many companies focus on the quality of staff members on day one. However, you can achieve far greater results than most. Hire capable employees and sculpt them through staff training. Do this, and long-term success is virtually assured.

Facebook, Twitter, and other tech giants use this idea. The ability to empower staff has helped companies from Bleacher Report to local restaurant chains. Invest in the best staff training for your employees, and they’ll drive the company to a far better destination.

A lot of business owners worry that they’ll lose talented staff to competitors. On the contrary, your investment will inspire positivity. Employees love feeling valued, and that loyalty is another incentive to stay. Besides, show them that they can climb the career ladder while working for you, and they’ll have no reason to leave.

Customer Care

One sale is great. However, if you can convert a one-time customer into a loyal one, the long-term results become far greater. Show that you see clients as more than a sale, and those gestures will generate sustained success for the business. While you cannot compete with the global giants in many aspects of business, this is one where you can surpass them.   

Take note of the bad businesses as well as the good ones. You’ve probably stopped using at least one company in your personal life due to a bad experience, and those sentiments could harm your venture too. Fit Small Business has produced a guide on the don’ts of customer service. Avoid them at all costs, and you’ll instantly stand a better shot.

You must also do the right things to keep customers coming back for more. Use telephone and email support to give clients a way of contacting you at all times. Combine this with a friendly nature and a fair returns policy for guaranteed success.

What Red Bull Can Teach You About Effective Branding

Red Bull did the seemingly impossible.

Founder Dietrich Mateschitz started from practically nowhere in the mid-1990s to become the only successful new entrant into the soft drinks market for more than a generation, baffling experts in the process.

Red Bull grew its sales from six to 300 million cans between 1996 and 2006.

It makes for the perfect case study to examine, piecing their story together and learning lessons from their successes in branding.

various-cans-of-red-bull-on-display

Of course, Red Bull isn’t the only company to try to enter the soft drinks market. Virgin attempted to do the same with its brand of cola 20 years ago.

But despite having the genius entrepreneurial backing of Founder and CEO Sir Richard Branson and a well-established marketing and logistics infrastructure, the company wasn’t able to break the market.

It’s competitors, the Coca-Cola Corporation and PepsiCo, continue to dominate to this day.

Although Red Bull’s target market was more open than the cola market — it was making energy drinks rather than direct Coca-Cola substitutes.

Today, it’s still lauded as a shining example of what is achievable in competitive markets on a small budget.

Red Bull showed that it was possible to enter the energy drinks market — just like Elon Musk demonstrated that it was possible to get into the automobile market and win with Tesla Motors.

Before long, others followed with energy drinks (Monster, Rockstar, NOS, AMP, etc.) and a whole new segment of the market was born.

For marketing companies, like AMW Group, none of Red Bull’s success is surprising in hindsight. The company essentially did what many modern marketing gurus today would recommend: forget about the product, just do something interesting and it’ll advertise itself.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, this sort of thing might seem counterintuitive, but in the case of Red Bull, it worked.

Remember, Red Bull’s core product was little more than a fizzy cup of coffee in a can. The company knew that if it was going to get recognition, it had to go beyond the drinks and sell something else: an idea of what it meant to be a customer of Red Bull.

Red Bull decided that to make a name for itself, it had to literally give itself “wings” and so it started putting its branding all over extreme sports, including the spoilers of Formula One (F1) cars.

This set off a chain of events in the minds of its consumers and admirers (followers).

People witnessed stunning acts of heroism, like the best pilots flying planes around obstacle courses, jumping off mountains in wing suits, and smashing up against the crash barriers at the Monte Carlo race course.

They then associated the brand with incredible feat of athleticism, daredevilism, and fearlessness. This, in turn became associated with the drinks themselves.

Red Bull’s product was a shortcut — a quick fix — to achieve the same level of concentration and ability required to do what their favorite daredevils were doing in competitions, on TV and across the web.

If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s worth taking some time to do what Red Bull did.

First, think about the psychology of your target market/audience. Ask yourself, what is it that they really want? Is it the product itself? Or is it something more fundamental than that like an experience and a lifestyle?

If you get the formula right, like Red Bull did, you stand to make a lot of money.

Fun Fact: Founder Dietrich Mateschitz has led by example, learning to fly classic airplanes and even encouraging his employees (10,997) to do the same.

Make Employee Engagement Your Number One Goal

The main function of any business is to make money. You already know this, and commit yourself to making this happen. But have you got your priorities in order?

You make sure that your business stands out from the crowd. You offer great products at great prices. However,  success is still limited. Want to know why? It’s because you haven’t empowered your staff. Employees are your greatest asset, and it’s time to start appreciating this fact.

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Image Credit: Virgin.com

Famous entrepreneurs like Richard Branson have regularly cited this tactic as the key to success. Ultimately, an engaged and motivated staff will always pass that positivity on to the customer, and it will bring greater results. Essentially, a stronger team equates to a stronger business model. Here are three simple steps to getting it.

1. Be A Better Boss

You can’t expect employees to perform if you don’t lead by example. Research shows that bad bosses are the main source of staff resignations. So by doing your job well, the influence of your great work will filter through to the team.

Don’t be afraid to mentor your employees. They all have aspirations of climbing the career ladder, and you are the person to help them. Not only will this provide personal inspiration, but that support will make them want to work for you too. In turn, this will ensure that employees connect to the business in every aspect.

Above all else, completing your work to the highest standard puts you in a more confident position too.

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Image Credit: Pixabay
2. Don’t Be Shortsighted

Focusing solely on immediate success is a common mistake made by new businesses. This is particularly true when regarding the staff. By building a team destined for sustained success, staff engagement will soar.

Invest in your staff with training and development. Seeing that you have long-term plans for them will ensure they have no reason to leave. When they eventually get promoted, your senior staff will possess experience as well as skills. This can only be great for the business.

More importantly, staff members need to know that you respect them as people. The best 401k plans for small business ventures will underline that you care about their futures as well as their time in the company. Moreover, removing their financial fears will allow them to dedicate themselves fully.

3. Build Team Unity

Your business team is a family. Like any other family, working together is the only way to tackle problems. Arguably your greatest skill as a boss is to know when a problem is surfacing. Whether it’s bullying or any other type of division, fixing it is essential. The only way to achieve this is through better communication.

Tackle the problems head on by holding a meeting between both parties. Airing those feelings will often find a solution. Moreover, regular team building exercises and activity days are a great way to repair that damage while developing skills. If nothing else, it drums home the rewards connected to working as one.

Employees can spend upwards of 40 hours per week in the company of colleagues. That’s a long time to feel unhappy, and those negative thoughts will disrupt productivity. Underline that need to strive for joint success with group perks, and you will see progress that lasts.

A Bunch of Random Insight, Advice, and Inspiration For Budding Entrepreneurs

This past October, I gave myself the challenge to write and publish an eBook in just two to three weeks. I’ve always wanted to take my writing further and publish a book and I’m happy to report that I pulled it off. It’s now available via Amazon.com and Lulu.com as we speak for a “whopping”… $4.99!

In all honesty, the real purpose was to share some of the lessons and experiences I’ve had since I started my own graphic design business. I’ve pretty much been a one-man band since October 2010, but I’ve managed to generate some substantial revenue as a freelancer.

I’ve met some remarkable people who were initially my clients, who have now evolved into really good friends. As a freelance graphic designer, I’ve also met some bad clients and in those experiences you learn some of the best lessons the hard way.

Cover 04 copy
Dedicated to the budding entrepreneurs

However, this eBook explores the journey involved in starting a business from scratch and highlights successful entrepreneurs (Richard Branson and James Dyson) with their own individual stories. It also shares a little bit of inspiration that’s needed to keep our spirits and our dreams alive.

I wanted you all to have the opportunity to read it this Christmas, so consider this my gift to you for supporting my blog this entire year. I’ve been overwhelmed by just how many visitors stopped by and read my posts. They were all written to share knowledge and I’m glad they were so well received.

Also, leave me a comment below or send me an email and let me know what you thought of the eBook. If you feel like purchasing it for your Kindle or iPad, here’s the link:

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017HXEBK2

Lulu Bookstore

http://www.lulu.com/shop/phil-rodriques/a-bunch-of-random-insight-advice-and-inspiration-for-budding-entrepreneurs/ebook/product-22510625.html

Thanks again.

 

Editor’s Note: Updated on January 3, 2016

A New Group of Satellites Could Bring Internet to Billions in the Future

Virgin Founder Richard Branson announced an ambitious project to create the world’s largest ever satellite network that will make high speed internet and telephony accessible to the billions of people. OneWeb Ltd will implement and operate. The Virgin Group and Qualcomm Incorporated are the principle investors. The project could transform lives and fast-track the creation of business opportunities.

Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme will help with frequent satellite launches
Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme will help with frequent satellite launches

10 Ways for You to Approach a New Year of Business

The start of a new year can be both exciting and daunting (mostly the latter) as you again set out your goals for the next 365 days.

I prefer latching on to the excitement of a new beginning as it comes with energy, positivity and a renewed purpose. Look ahead to the unforeseen and relish the thought of the innumerable opportunities that await you and your business venture.

Appreciate each day that you are given and use every minute to cultivate new habits that will help to propel you forward. Read more.

Life is filled with unpredictable moments and even the best laid plans sometimes get thwarted. Do not be deterred by disappointment. It’s all a part of the journey and the upside is, each one of those bad moments comes with its own valuable lessons.

In my previous blog I shared entrepreneurial lessons I had deciphered from Virgin Founder Richard Branson’s autobiography, ‘Losing My Virginity’. Here are 10 more that I picked out to help both you and your business thrive in 2015 in no particular order:

  1. Your reputation is the most valuable asset you will ever acquire; protect it;
  2. In order of importance, your employees come before your customers;
  3. Know when your luck has run out and walk away with your life intact;
  4. You will be more passionate about a business venture when it involves fun;
  5. Part ways with business partners and save your friendship when your singular vision for the future become different;
  6. A parachute and a life jacket are good for longevity in business;
  7. Start small and scale as you see the opportunities;
  8. Bootstrap (fund) your own projects when you cannot get any loans or raise venture capital;
  9. Build a brand, not just a company;
  10. Growth is not achieved in a straight line, but a series of short advances and retreats.

12 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Richard Branson’s Autobiography, Losing My Virginity

As some of you who follow my blog and social media accounts (via Facebook and Twitter) would realise, I am a big admirer of Sir Richard Branson. I’ve been a loyal reader of his blogs on the Virgin.com website, tweets, YouTube videos, and magazine contributions through Entrepreneur Magazine. I have learned, like many others in the world, a great deal of valuable business lessons that have helped me to grow my own start-up, Phresh Ideas and Designs established in October 2010.

The updated autobiography is available on Amazon
The updated edition is available on Amazon

I have never been so big on receiving gifts as much as giving them, however, this year I was willing to be the receiver after catching sight of what was to come my way. This was the first time that I had read one of his books and my wife was gracious enough to get it for me as a Christmas gift. Add ‘Losing My Virginity’ (The Autobiography) by Richard Branson on your list of books to read. It’s an incredible combination of life and business lessons. Having spent the past three days leafing through 573 pages of text and private collection of photographs and a few cartoons, I completed the book. I can happily say without reservation that it was time well invested. There’s nothing quite like acquiring knowledge from those more experienced in a specific industry or space than you are.

“What goes up must come down” was said by Isaac Newton and has since become easily one of the most popular quotes to date. This quote can be applied to everything that happened to Richard Branson through the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial career. From the day he started his first magazine, Student as a teenager in 1968 to creating a very “hip” (cool) record label, Virgin Records in his twenties was all very impressive. Consider too how he started Virgin Atlantic by leasing a single Boeing 747-200 for a year within two decades became one of the world’s favourite airlines. Virgin even successfully challenged “monopolies” like British Airways (10 years their senior) while they were at it.

Richard Branson in a take-off pose with one of his Virgin Airlines plane in the background
Richard Branson set for take-off with Virgin Atlantic in the background

It seems following your instincts has tremendous value and being extremely decisive on what looks like a worthwhile project or business opportunity is the characteristic for success or failure.

These days he spends his time exploring the limits or lack thereof in the future of space travel and space through his company Virgin Galactic. While pursuing “the final frontier”, Branson manages to focus on global warming and climate change issues exploring new sustainable fuels for aviation and cleaner energy through Virgin Green Fund. Through his interest in using his influence to solve social, economic and political challenges on a global scale, he was able to gather some of the world’s most influential leaders, The Elders. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was an original supporter in this initiative up until the time of his death.

The future of space tourism travel unveiled
The future of space tourism travel unveiled

To most, the model of the Virgin Group almost seems to be as unorthodox as any Fortune 500 company that has ever existed. It’s an ecosystem of companies in there hundreds as opposed to one gigantic entity. In hindsight, a combination of destiny and design makes Branson’s empire perhaps one of the best approaches to growing a start-up.

I sometimes look at my own life and wonder if I will ever learn to take more risks and go against the status quo, all while following my interests. So far I have accomplished a great deal as an entrepreneur through freelancing as a graphic designer. I can see where maybe I should pivot from being primarily a service-oriented business to one that is largely product-oriented. That way I can pull off earning more revenue even when I am asleep.

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Branson sits in the window of one of the earlier Virgin Records store, London

Sir Branson started off the first Virgin business in 1970 (Virgin Mail Order) selling discounted vinyl records with a small team of two and grew his business pursuits into a team of 50,000 people strong in just 40 years. Here are 12 lessons I learned from Richard’s autobiography:

  1. Lead by example in everything you do.
  2. Learn to negotiate good deals.
  3. Welcome competition, but never let them walk all over you.
  4. Follow your interests and make them a reality.
  5. If there is a market with two dominant players, it can use a third “to stir up the pot”.
  6. Understand the value of your influence as a person and use it for good causes.
  7. Some of the best business deals are done outside of the business environment, like over lunch.
  8. Keep reinventing yourself.
  9. Trust your instincts; that gut feeling you get will steer you in the right direction.
  10. Life is better with family and great friends.
  11. You must take a lot of risks to get to where you want to be.
  12. Always keep a notebook and pen handy to take notes;

Bonus lesson – always protect the downside (risks) of a startup venture.

We should all make a go at growing our businesses. We have nothing to lose, but opportunities. The Christmas holiday was here and then it disappeared without a trace. Here’s to hoping you all enjoyed yourself with family and friends and got the gifts you wanted. The New Year is just a few days away, so here’s to wishing you the very best for 2015.

James Dyson: His Inventions Have Never “Sucked”!

When you think of the word innovation, which entrepreneur comes to mind? Was one of those names Steve Jobs? Maybe even Richard Branson or hot-shot modern day “Iron Man”, Elon Musk? But there’s one man who is a leader in innovation and who in my opinion doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves.

Sir James Dyson is a British inventor, engineer, designer, and business leader and perhaps best known for his vacuums that it “will never lose suction” and his bladeless fan under his private company, Dyson Limited (founded in 1993). The mere thought of both inventions is enough to end this blog at this line. There are very few entrepreneurs and industry leaders cooler than Dyson.

The Ballbarrow in what looks like a '70s advertisement
The Ballbarrow in what looks like a ’70s advertisement

In his early years he realised how everyday problems could be solved by coming up with better and more practical solutions. Take for instance his “ballbarrow” invented in 1974, after watching a traditional wheelbarrow get stuck in muddy ground. Why didn’t I think of that?! It was pure genius. Such a “simple” idea, but yet it required complex thinking.

Dyson is renowned for being meticulous,  he once created a total of 5,127 prototypes for what later became the DC01, his first machine, the vacuum cleaner, developed in a workshop behind his house between 1979 and 1984. You do the math on the annual average of prototypes!

Most recently, Dyson released its Dyson 360 Eye, a robot vacuum cleaner capable of cleaning any space effectively and efficiently by tracking its own movements from where its been to where its going next.

I was good just drying my hands in a public restroom with the hot air from those hand-dryers and I accepted that as the norm. Then Dyson creates the Airblade! Just like that, everything else seems mediocre. That’s what I admire most about James Dyson — he has a way of creating solutions to everyday problems. Like he once said, “you have to distinguish between what people say they want now and what people might want when they see what it can do”.

I’ll say this much, I couldn’t imagine living in a world without bagless vacuum cleaners.

You Are as Strong as You Tell Your Mind

Every day we are faced with challenges and hurdles that we can either go over or have them stop us in our tracks. It is in those moments we question our own mental and physical strength. Just how strong are we?

Have you ever seen metal forged into a samurai sword (a katana for instance)? I’m guessing not a lot of hands went up and as you’d have guessed neither did mine. But, it has been said in the Japanese culture that the samurai’s sword was his soul. Many claim that an authentic katana is folded over 1,000,000 times to create steel of the highest quality. Keep that in mind as you continue to read this post.

After watching the journey of people around me (family, friends and colleagues) and personalities in the media that you see, hear or read about almost daily, like Sir Richard Branson, an important revelation has come my way. In order to get where you need to be (especially as an entrepreneur), you have to be put through a series of tests (or be folded over a million times) to see if you are ready to receive your blessing; your destiny; that which is rightfully yours.

You are not as strong as you think you are. Let me put that another way; you are not as strong as you need to be just yet. By this I mean to be the best that you can be, you have to be at your very best and strongest.

Sometimes we put so much effort into getting where we envision our start-up businesses, professions, whatever the ambition and it feels like our best isn’t nearly enough to get us to our desired destination. That’s simply because we’re not as strong or as great as we can be.

When we discover our inner-strength and greatness, all that we wished to accomplish will suddenly start to fall into place. Don’t be overwhelmed and don’t fear your success. We both know that at this point, you’d have worked hard for it and everything that comes your way going forward would have been well-deserved.

Hold on to your dreams and aspirations with all your might. You’re very close to being the best you that you were meant to be.

Content Marketing Is No Buzzkill, but the New Buzzword!

Buzzzz....

It’s so weird how we see buzzwords floating in cyberspace all the time, but you never stop to really understand some of them until you come across just the right article.

The new buzzword for me (and I’m certain some of you reading this) is ‘content marketing’. Simply put, and this is a definition of my own, “content marketing is giving useful information to your customers that can add value to their lives and businesses.”

Perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve learned since starting and running a business has been that you have to give to get. We owe it to our customers to not only offer them a premium product and service, but to help them outside of the sphere of a business transaction. Ironically, adding value to your customers’ lives can translate into further business opportunities for you.

Right now the concept of content marketing is fashionable. Tomorrow it still will be, but perhaps we’ll be calling it something else. In any instance continue finding an outlet to help your customers like giving tips over social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Better yet, add visual tips too via Instagram and Pinterest. Blogging is phenomenal as a foundation for content marketing and I would encourage you to start your own blog whether you’re a business owner or freelancer. A useful tip is to try and write on topics you’re familiar with (tips, advice, lessons learned, etc.); tell your own story too and try to do so on a daily or monthly basis.

Or perhaps micro-blogging is ideal for you and this will allow you to post bit size pieces of digital content that varies — text, pictures, links, short videos, or other media via the Internet. Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Mogul) does it well and his blog site is a great example of mixing blogging and micro-blogging to create great content. I try to give useful information to both entrepreneurs and freelancers that include topics and tips around graphic design, trademarks, branding, and marketing.

Content marketing is not just for BIG brands or marketers. Research shows that 82% of the people who blog on a daily basis, see a return of investment (ROI) when compared to the 57% who blog monthly (see infographic, via Entrepreneur Magazine). That data just inspired me to make the effort to blog daily and I hope it does the same for you.

Whatever the medium, make it interesting and valuable. I’m sure your existing customers and prospective ones will be grateful. Ultimately, all your efforts will end up becoming a win-win for the both of you.

What kind of value are you adding to your customers’ lives? I’d appreciate you leaving a comment below.