These 5 Skills Are More Important for Entrepreneurs Than Any Fancy Degree

By Bill Green

One of the great fallacies about building a professional career is believing where you went to school dictates how successful you become.

This is one of the most heavily debated topics in the business world: the effective return on investment for attending college and/or pursue an MBA. Now, I’m not saying formal education is a poor investment, by any means. For many people, school is an opportunity to “know what you don’t know,” and that in itself makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Where people make the mistake, however, is in thinking the degree itself is all that’s needed.

They believe that because they attended the classes and passed the tests, then where they went to school will carry them to professional success–and that’s simply not true. As someone who didn’t end up graduating from college, I can tell you firsthand that over decades of building businesses, it’s the working skills I value in my partners and employees over a fancy resume. I would much rather hire the kid who has tried and failed, than the one who passed his or her classes with flying colors, but never attempted to put their theoretical knowledge to the test in the real world.

This is a topic I speak about at length in my book, All In. Again, I’m not saying a formal education or an MBA is a waste of time or money. Just make sure that, in addition to building your resume, you make it a point to acquire the following 5 skills.

These are the things that ultimately make you a professional success story–whether you climb the ladder of a larger organization, or you build your own from the ground up:

1. Honesty (With Yourself)

Lots of people have ideas.

Students, especially, before stepping into the real world, tend to get caught up in their ideas. They love thinking about them, brainstorming them, and sharing them with their friends and family. Unfortunately, ideas without execution don’t go very far. And while there is absolutely value in coming up with great ideas, an idea cannot become “great” until it faces its first customer.

One of the most valuable skills you can acquire early in your professional career is knowing the difference between what sounds great in theory, and what holds real value to a paying customer or a loyal user. And the only way to acquire this skill is to try a lot of different things. The more you create, and the more you try to build yourself, the faster you will learn what people are willing to pay for and what they would rather do without.

You’ll learn how to be honest about whether your idea has real potential or not.

2. Leadership

Entrepreneurship, working within a startup, or being part of a smaller team within a larger corporate environment, all require some capacity of team interaction.

Many entrepreneurs or “intrepreneurs” (those who bring massive value inside larger organizations) tend to forget that the best business ideas in the world require more than just plug-and-chug execution in order to be successful. All execution requires teamwork, and all teamwork requires a lengthy list of soft skills in order to keep people motivated, focused, and loyal. One of those soft skills is the ability to communicate your vision and lead those around you to victory.

The best way I’ve found to acquire the skill of leadership is to put yourself in environments where you either have the opportunity to learn from a talented leader, or to be forced to step up and become a leader yourself. Ideally, you’ll have a number of both of these experiences in your professional career.

3. Discipline

The kind of discipline school encourages is not the same discipline the real world asks of you.

In school, the punishment for not being “disciplined” with your work is quite inconsequential, all things considered. You might fail a test, or get a bad grade for the semester. But when you’re starting a company, or working within someone else’s company and handling paying clients, suddenly the consequences become very real. Your mistakes can be measured in cash.

Taking the idea of discipline a step further, school plans the path out for you. What is much more difficult is determining where you want to head on the path, while simultaneously dealing with unforeseen challenges at the same time. Persisting in the face of uncertainty, pressure, or the potential of failure, requires a level of discipline that cannot be acquired in a semester.

Discipline is something that takes years to master.

The best way to get started, then, is to find as many things in life to become disciplined about. If you can become disciplined with your finances, your daily schedule, your health, etc., then you are creating the habits that will set you up for success.

4. Optimism

This is a skill many don’t consciously acquire.

But the truth is, entrepreneurship and professional advancement is tough work. Every day isn’t great. The wins are far less frequent than the losses. And it can be very easy to fall into a state of mind where your day to day is seen as stressful, overwhelming, and a pain.

Listen, if you want to make it to the summit, remember this: it’s all in your head.

The ability to be optimistic and positive, even in the face of great obstacles, is not to be undervalued. You’re the one who chose to pursue a path of success. You’re the one who wanted to build something great. You’re the one who chose this life, for yourself. So, don’t look for the bad, the ugly, and the stressful. Instead, look for things to be thankful for: like the fact that you even have the opportunity to pursue what you’re passionate about in the first place.

Optimism isn’t a weakness. Optimism is the state of mind that will give you endurance for the long road ahead.

5. Resilience

Last but not least, I firmly believe it’s imperative that every young individual find opportunities, any opportunity at all, to build the skill of resilience.

For me, I gained this skill-building my first company, Wilmar, starting as a teenager in a flea market. There I was, selling hand tools off of a fold-up card table prices–I heard the word “No” dozens of times each day. But when I would eventually hear a “Yes,” I learned the importance of resilience and persistence. Had I accepted the first, or second, or twenty-third “No,” I might never have built Wilmar, a company that ended up eventually being acquired by Home Depot.

The reason why I always take fancy resumés with a grain of salt is because a resumé doesn’t always show you how resilient someone is. Sure, I want to know where you went to school, but I also want to know about a time in your life when someone told you, “No, that’s not going to work,” and you pressed on anyway. Regardless of whether you were successful or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you tried, and you became a little more resilient in the process.

This article was first published at Inc

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Launching Your Business in 2019? Consider These 5 Tips

By Young Entrepreneur Council

If your New Year’s resolution is to launch a business, then keep reading. More and more people want to ditch their 9-to-5s and take control of their futures by starting their own businesses.

But starting a business isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter whether you want to start a small business from your spare room or create the next multimillion-dollar global phenomenon — if you’re not prepared, your business won’t succeed. Luckily, though, there are a number of tips you can adopt that will make the likelihood of your success that much greater.

If you’re launching your business in 2019, here are my tips for success.

1. Stop aiming for perfection.

When launching a new business, it’s natural to want everything to go smoothly. But if you want to be triumphant, you must let go of your perfectionist tendencies. While you might think that being a perfectionist will be beneficial to your new endeavor by making you more motivated and pushing you to strive for success, that’s not always the case. In fact, as reported by Harvard Business Review, perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

Stop aiming for perfection. When starting a new business, you’re bound to experience bumps in the road. If you expect them to happen, you’ll be better prepared. Mistakes don’t make you a failure — they help you learn and become a more successful entrepreneur when you overcome them.

2. Build a support system.

Building a business is difficult and you can’t do it alone. And I don’t just mean financially. Having a support system in place when you dive into your new business venture will make all the difference. If you think you already have a support system — after all, your parents and your spouse are supportive of your business — that’s great. But you also need to need to surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

If you don’t have that type of support system yet, build it. Start networking with other local business owners in your area or get online and join some LinkedIn or Facebook groups for entrepreneurs.

Plus, according to Psychology Today, being a part of a group is motivating and increases feelings of warmth. This can be incredibly beneficial to you on the rocky road to starting a business.

3. Think about the long term, not just day to day.

As reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, only about 50 percent of small businesses survive five years or longer. This statistic can typically be attributed to business owners getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia of the business.

Make sure to take some time each week to think about the long-term health of your business. Think about the goals you’ve set and how you’ll get there. Do you need to invest in marketing or employee development and training, for instance? Planning for the future will help ensure that your business is around for a long time.

4. Grow your skills.

As a business owner, you never stop learning. You may be starting a business because you have a lot of knowledge and experience in a field, but running a successful business requires a wide variety of skills and expertise. So, as a new business owner, you’ll need to be a jack or jill of all trades.

Spend some time growing your expertise in marketing, writing, SEO, bookkeeping, sales, general management, etc., to develop a well-rounded entrepreneurial skill set. There are a number of free resources online that can help you boost your skills. For example, HubSpot offers free courses on SEO, content marketing and more.

5. Start small.

Your biggest dream might be for your business to become a multimillion-dollar enterprise overnight, but that probably won’t be your reality — at least not immediately. Many new business owners try to do too much too soon because they think it’ll bring them success faster, but it won’t. Instead, start small and grow.

Starting small might mean bootstrapping your startup instead of trying to get a bunch of funding right out of the gate. It also might mean releasing one product or service first and getting some traction and experience instead of trying to put out an entire catalog of offerings. Starting small and giving your business time to grow will make things easier to manage.

Over to you.

Now that you’re more prepared for starting your own business, what are you waiting for? 2019 is yours for the taking. With these easy-to-follow tips, you can ensure that this year will be the year your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

This article was first published at Inc

How to Figure Out What’s Holding Your Company Back (And Push Past It)

By Ami Kassar

A significant part of that process should include taking the time to understand what is limiting the growth of your company. And because there are different constraints at various points in time, this is an exercise best done at regular intervals.

Every business has a constraint. It could be analytics, operations, marketing, sales or any one of multiple drivers that are slowing you down. And sometimes in the day to day grind of running our business, we lose sight of working on this restraint. We get stuck in our habits and accept our day to day grind as the norm.

Unless you understand your constraints and develop a strategy to handle them, you will always be a slave to it.

When I started my business, everything was a constraint. And over time we built processes and systems, the challenge became to find quality customers that we could help.

And then I became a popular speaker. I’ve had great success marketing my business by speaking to small CEO groups of 10 to 12 business owners around the country — probably 90 percent of my speaking appearances.

It worked: I’ve been able to develop my business and increase my name recognition around the United States.

But I confess that I got lazy. I accepted it as a norm that I would spend one day in Omaha, the next day in Dallas, and the next day in Los Angeles. I got into a rhythm. The constraint of our company became my complacency.

As I mentioned, things change. While it was okay for me early in my company’s life cycle to slowly build a name, I’m way past that point now. Not that I’m a financial conglomerate or a nationally prominent commentator, but my business is on sound ground, I’ve published a book and have developed at least a little bit of cachet.

Fortunately for me (although I didn’t know it at the time) I had a disagreement with the CEO groups parent company and am no longer speaking before the organization’s groups.

Since then, I’ve realized that I’ve been passing up opportunities to speak to much larger groups, as well as other opportunities to market my company. Not only are these new opportunities, but I’ve been invigorated, too.

A change will do you good.

In college, one of the first things I learned (and one of the few things I still remember) is that most conflicts throughout history are the result of old ideas clashing with new ones – in other words, change. In general, people don’t like change, especially if they’re comfortable with their current situation.

I’m the perfect example. It was comfortable speaking to small groups. In the process, I was passing up more significant opportunities.

Change can be a good thing. People like to talk about the good old days, but were they that good? For example, cars from the 1950s and 1960s are always fondly remembered, but anyone who drove them can attest to their poor handling, terrible gas mileage, frequent rusting and suspect durability.

You certainly don’t want to run your business like it’s still the 1950s or 1960s (or the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s or 2000s for that matter). That’s why you always need to be looking ahead – and to do that you have to figure out the constraints that keep you from reaching the next level.

Remember that it never hurts to be bold and look to get better. So what is your constraint and what is your plan to address it?

This article was first published at Inc

How to Strengthen Your Company From Within by Volunteering

By Tanya Hall

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” This quote from David Viscott may ring true for many of you on a personal level, though in the business world, giving anything away (time, earnings, or otherwise) may not mesh with your profit-driven nature.

However, incorporating volunteerism into your company culture will certainly reinforce its deserved role in your company’s overall values and esprit de corps.

For the business owner or executive with bottom-line responsibility, office-wide volunteerism may feel like a frivolous waste of valuable company resources and billable hours. Certainly, having half (or all) of the office off the clock for any portion of the day is a direct hit to the bottom line.

But if we look past hourly billings and productivity reports and consider overall culture, the cost to replace employees, the strength of a tight and collaborative team, and the fulfillment that comes along with volunteering, the business case for carving out dedicated time for volunteerism becomes clear cut. Here are a few benefits to consider:

Connection

Company-wide volunteer efforts allow your team to interact and connect with other employees who they may not often work with in the course of regular business. The personal connections that are forged during volunteer efforts create lasting bonds that build interdepartmental relationships and general camaraderie. The respect and human connection from that bonding will positively impact future collaboration, problem-solving, and crisis management.

Values

Identifying volunteer efforts that are aligned with company values helps to reinforce the all-important purpose of why the team shows up each day. This is especially important for employees in roles that focus on a micro-aspect of the bigger picture, so that they are reminded of the bigger “why” around company purpose. For example, here at Greenleaf Book Group, we might choose to support the local public library by volunteering to clean and re-shelve books, reminding everyone on staff, from the receptionist to the technology team, of the value of making knowledge and growth available.

Career Advancement

Your team cares about career advancement and anything that helps to make their résumés a bit shinier. This can be a hard pill to swallow for a leader–you don’t want them to focus on the next step towards leaving! But realistically, career advancement is important, and even if you can’t promise an outcome, you’ll come out ahead if you can help boost your employees’ overall chances of demonstrating growth and contribution.

Volunteerism on a résumé is a strong indicator of someone who walks their talk. Your staff will value this résumé booster and will likely show more loyalty to you because of it.

New Skills

Certain volunteer opportunities can open a door for your staff to learn new skills that make them more valuable on your team. For instance, a volunteer role that requires someone with no management skills to oversee a project or launch can provide an experience for them to develop in that area, if it’s attractive to them. That experience may help them gain clarity around their future development goals without you having to take a risk on it in the day-to-day operations of your company.

Recruitment and Fulfillment

Getting out of the office to do something completely different is generally welcomed as a fulfilling benefit for your team. Breaking monotony, trying new things, doing work with purpose, and feeling like a part of a greater goal is important to any employee’s satisfaction. If you can’t compete on salary, offering up a culture ripe with the opportunity to give back may be the tipping point required to recruit the talent you need.

A company-wide volunteerism program may look like a waste of resources at first glance, but once you quantify the value of the benefits outlined above, it’s clear that giving back transcends the bottom line to create an environment of dedicated, purpose-driven teams supported by strong interpersonal connections.

Whether you think your culture is strong or in need of repair, consider the benefits of volunteerism and how you might use it to build a culture that is fulfilled, aligned, committed, and productive.

This article was first published at Inc

The Good News About How Much Money You Need to Start Your Business

By Maria Aspan

So you want to start a business. You’ve got the idea, you’re ready to hustle, but how much money do you need to launch your startup?

The good news: Probably not as much as you think. Ten years ago, the average cost of starting a small business was $31,150, according to one study. But that seems laughably large today: While some businesses still require lots of money to get off the ground, at Inc., we regularly hear from founders of fast-growing companies who started their businesses for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

“Today a smart entrepreneur with a website can start making in six months what we were making after six years,” says Bert Jacobs, co-founder of the apparel company Life Is Good.

Technology’s rapid advance is bringing down many startup costs, as Jacobs points out. He and his brother John launched the first iteration of their company in 1989, with $200 borrowed from another brother, Allan. The early days were scrappy, to say the least, as Jacobs told Inc.’s Leigh Buchanan in 2015:

We would have used that technology if we’d had it. Instead, we spent years building a company with employees we met at pickup basketball games; customers we joked with in the streets while keeping one eye peeled for the beat cop; and advice from retailers up and down the East Coast whom we dropped in on. It may not have been the most effective process. Definitely it wasn’t the most efficient. But a lot of our company’s values came out of that early need to do things cheap and in person.

Life Is Good now sells $100 million worth of apparel every year. And there are parts of Jacobs’s experience, especially the grit and patience, that remain relevant today.

If you’re dreaming of starting a business that could someday rival his success, you don’t necessarily have to spend money in the same ways. Today’s large ecosystem of tech services — what we at Inc. call the “instant startup kit” — can help you get your startup off the ground cheaply and quickly, as I reported in 2016:

Websites, billing, payment processing, cloud computing, communications, funding–all have been made simpler by the likes of Squarespace, Slack, Kickstarter, Dropbox, Amazon’s ubiquitous Web services division, and PayPal. … In the past ten years, these building blocks have greatly reduced the time–and cost–involved to start a business, especially high-tech ones. Thanks to “the emergence of the internet, open-source software, cloud computing, and other trends,” some experts estimate tech-reliant ideas “that would have cost $5 million to set up a decade ago can be done for under $50,000 today,” according to a 2014 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Good news: You probably don’t need $5 million to start your business. You might not need $50,000 or $30,000. In fact, you might not even need half of that: In 2018, 42 percent of Inc. 5000 CEOs responding to our annual survey said they used under $5,000 to launch their businesses. A combined 21 percent said they used between $5,000 and $25,000.

The amount of money you need will vary depending on several factors, including what kind of business you want to start: What are you selling, and is it a product or a service?

Product-based businesses tend to be more expensive to launch. If you’re making T-shirts or baking cupcakes or designing mobile apps, you’ll need the raw materials to create your product, the equipment for the production, the people to perform the manufacturing or baking or coding, and the space to do the work.

Planning on doing it all yourself, at least at the start? Remember that you’ll also need to spend time actually selling your product and marketing it so you’ll have customers interested in buying it.

Service-based businesses are, in many ways, a lot easier and cheaper to launch, particularly if you already have industry expertise and contacts. If you’re a lawyer or an accountant or a digital marketing expert or have any other specialized business experience, you have the product (your expertise) and, potentially, the market.

You can start selling your services on your own to people and companies that may be familiar with you and your work. You don’t have to hire anyone else, at least at first. You don’t necessarily have to spend more money on office space, as long as you can work out of your home. And ideally, you don’t have to spend as much time marketing your services.

The downside: It may eventually be more expensive and complicated to scale your business, since your growth will depend on figuring out how to transfer your knowledge to other people.

Other factors that will determine how much money you’ll need to launch your business include how many people you need; where you’re starting your business, and how much space you need; how quickly you need to get your product or service to market; and finally, how long you can afford to live without a salary. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can take the next step and start to scrape together the money to get your business off the ground.

This article was first published at Inc

How to Reach the Right People


By Frank McKinley


What I learned about marketing after trying to do too much.

Do you want to win over the world?
That’s the dream we buy into when we have something to say or sell.

It’s appealing to have an office 10 feet from your bed. The thought of having my car’s tires dry rot from not having to drive over 100 miles a day to work is a big motivator. Being able to schedule coffee and a nap is pretty sweet, too.

That day will come.

The question we all want answered is, “How on earth do I make my dream come true?”

Then we start looking for shortcuts. Magic pills. Answers in a box. A one-size-fits-all solution that we can turn the key on and instantly find millions of dollars in the bank.

If only!

Here’s what some “overnight” successes have to say:

“I was 40 years old before I became on overnight success, and I’d been publishing for 20 years.” — Mary Karr, bestselling author of The Liar’s Club
“My dad told me, ‘It takes fifteen years to become an overnight success’, and it took me seventeen and a half.” — Adrien Brody, the youngest actor ever to win the Best Actor Academy Award
“It took about 10 years’ time for

Shopify to be an overnight success.” — Tobias Lutke, Founder and CEO of Shopify I’m not saying your success path will take forever. But it will probably take longer than you think and the path doesn’t come with a map.

My Story, Briefly

A few months ago, I made the mistake of buying Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It.
One of the first messages in that book is that if you want to succeed you should spend about 7 hours a night on your passion and sleep the other three. Since you’ll have to keep your day job while you’re waiting, you have to crush it.

I was already tired from doing too much, so I quit reading the book.
I asked my mentor for a book on marketing. He suggested one that on the surface doesn’t look like a marketing book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

It was just the message I needed. 180 degrees in the other direction. No more beating myself into a pulp trying to crush it.

I had some big projects on my plate I had to finish. So I immediately began to think about what really mattered and what didn’t.

Should I check Facebook, email, Twitter, and Medium 10,000 times a day?

Should I take my phone with me everywhere so I can get in one more news article, one more social media comment, or one more idea in my notepad?

Should I spend all day listening to books so I can learn something new?
No, no, and a resounding hell no.
What I learned has literally changed my life so much, I feel like I’m walking out of prison after a million years of self-sabotage.


This article was first published at www.medium.com