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Common Mistakes When Starting a Business

Every entrepreneur makes mistakes along the way when making their business dreams become a reality. Some rookie mistakes may be easily overlooked and may not be more than a blip on the radar. Unfortunately, other mistakes may be costly both in a financial sense or may harm your reputation as you attempt to make your business grow and mature. Knowing what the potential problems could be may help you strategically avoid them. Top entrepreneurs were questioned on what mistakes they made along the way to business success. Here are some of the most common mistakes.

  • Compiling the Wrong Team – When hiring for a new business, it is important to hire people that understand that start ups can be stressful. It is also important to find employees that can juggle several skills at once since most start ups do not have a budget for specialized positions. For example, a web site company may have to ask a graphic designer to also handle customer service as well as his/her primary job responsibilities. According to Entrepreneur, choosing the wrong team is the single costliest error entrepreneurs make, resulting in not only lost income and time but depleted morale.
  • Marketing Mistakes – Many new companies don’t know what to spend on Marketing or, worse yet, under-budget to save money. Most successful start up leaders suggest aiming for 10 to 20 percent of your targeted gross revenue.
  • Doing Too Much Too Soon – Most business leaders know that launching a company, no matter what the field, is HARD work. Yes, there will be late nights and tons of paperwork. Unfortunately, too many young business leaders take on too much, too fast. Burning out mentally and physically is a real risk. In addition, growing too fast can put a strain on a young company. Be sure to have solid legal and financial advisors who can guide you as your business grows.
  • Not Planning for All Contingencies – All new businesses should have a business plan. This doesn’t just mean a rough idea of your business pricing, financial goals, marketing plan and employee guidelines. It should be a well thought out plan. Your business plan will change and evolve but a well thought out one can help you as you encounter tough times or grow too quickly.
  • Financial Mistakes – Fifty percent of new businesses do not survive the first five years. Ninety-five percent of businesses will not make money when they first open, and a large proportion of new businesses will not make significant money for years. These stats are scary unless you have done your homework when it comes to financial backing, support and a budget.

 

BLS Provider CPR (1-day Initial or Renewal Course, multiple sessions available)

(Initial or Renewal Course based on the 2015 AHA Guidelines)
Basic Life Support (BLS) is the foundation for saving lives after cardiac arrest. This course teaches both single-rescuer and team basic life support skills for application in both in-facility and prehospital settings. This course is designed for healthcare professionals and other personnel who need to know how to perform CPR and other basic cardiovascular life support skills.

In addition, BLS training can be appropriate for first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, as well as for laypeople whose work brings them into contact with members of the public, such as school, fitness center, or hotel and restaurant employees.

Students must pass a written exam and skills test in order to qualify for a BLS Course Completion Card.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will receive a completion cad valid for 2 years.

Conveniently scheduled on Saturday, please choose the session that works best for you.

REGISTER NOW!

Pros and Cons of Drones for Business

Drones have been all over the news as of late.  They are a hot button topic that has stirred up may questions about their use.  How will they impact business?  What kind of safety issues should businesses and individuals be concerned about?  Are they a violation of privacy? How can my company use drones?  The federal government has been looking at just these kinds of questions to formulate regulations that will allow for business development while at the same time providing safety and privacy guidelines.  Let’s look at some of the potential pros and cons of drones in business as this fledgling service “takes flight”.

Pros

  • Better for the environment – A single, battery-powered drone traveling to bring your order versus a large emissions-spewing delivery truck is a vast improvement when it comes to emissions and energy efficiency. (TreeHugger)
  • Positive Economic Impact – A recent study estimates over the 10 year span from 2015 to 2025 UAV integration within national air space will account for $82.1 billion in job creation and economic growth. Over a ten year span, job creation from commercial drone use will consist primarily of manufacturing jobs. Notably, commercial use of drones will predominantly affect agriculture and public safety more so than commerce. Due to the ability to cover large areas, drone use in agriculture is anticipated to effectively feed and hydrate plants while also limiting exposure to diseases. (Investopedia)
  • Physical Access to Hard-to-reach places – Drones can assist in law enforcement, farming, media coverage, and maintenance to areas that are difficult to reach manually.
  • Business Growth – Depending upon the industry, business can grow exponentially whether it is in the area of providing service, delivery of products, photography or just for fun!

 

Cons

  • Privacy Concerns – The drone will use GPS to find your house and will almost definitely have a camera in order to safely land and navigate its surroundings.  It is unlikely that this information will be used in nefarious ways but privacy protections may need to be implemented.
  • Physical Safety – Questions have been raised about using drones near airports and causing dangerous situations.  Other questions have been raised about the impact on predatory birds that may see drones as a threat.
  • Legal Issues – Permits and Logistics may be costly or time consuming depending upon the guidelines that will be put forth by the FAA and the Federal Government.

Getting Your Business Idea off the Ground

BeanManIdeaLightSteve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Fred Smith.  Just a few of the  business leaders who started their careers with merely an idea and a dream.  Do you have an amazing idea for business that you would like to see grow into fruition?   Great!  Unfortunately, having a brilliant business idea is only the first step on a long road to getting your thoughts turned into profits.  The sobering truth is that it takes, capital, business know-how, organization, and a ton of hard work.  How did the great business entrepreneurs do it?  What was their secret to getting their business idea off the ground?  Let’s look at some tips and suggestions from Forbes, Inc Online, and other business leaders as to how they managed to take their idea and turn it into reality.

  • Research – Just like you did before you started a big project in grade school, research should always be the first step in any business proposition.  Before you start developing your core business idea do some market research.  What other companies have a similar product or service?  What do they do that works/doesn’t work?  What type of audience do you think your idea would appeal to?  Research if there would be a need or niche market for your product/service.  During this process you will find out about pricing, potential partnerships, capital needed and the never-ending minutia of the business.
  • A Plan – Once you have done some very thorough background research, you will want to solidify the idea you have into a business plan.  This formal or informal plan can be used to gather investors or grow support for your idea.
  • A Prototype – Whether your idea includes something tangible (like a product)  or intangible (like a service) you will want to have something to show supporters, partners or investors.  This may mean you have to build the object or possibly create a website for the service.
  • FUNDS!  – Finding the right investors or bank to support your business idea may seem daunting but now that you have the research and plan under your belt this is not be as hard as you imagine.  There are a large number of options to consider when dealing with needed capital for your idea.  The Small Business Association in your area may be a big help in pointing you toward an institution that can help you.  There are also other ideas such as bank loans (especially local), crowdfunding(like kickstarter) , Bootstrapped businesses or possibly by finding investors willing to be partners or supporters of your idea.
  • Legalities – Yes, there are always legalities involved in setting up a new business or launching a business idea.  As early in the process as you can, seek counsel who can guide you through the process of the legalities associated with your idea such as insurance, a tax id, a business license and so on.
  • Marketing – Once you have your ducks all in a row you will want to come up with a marketing strategy and plan how you will spend your marketing budget.  Some people prefer to outsource this at the beginning to a consultant who can get you going and fast!  You will need a PR campaign and someone who knows how to use traditional and digital media to attract attention to your business.

Taking your amazing idea and making it a reality doesn’t have to be scary or daunting but rather a step-by-step process that can be exciting an thrilling.

 

Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

Guest Blogger, Jenn Livingston – I’m a business consultant and writer who specializes in business technology, customer relationship management, and lead management.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather team them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

The journey from manager to leader is tangible. There are so many examples of leaders who have shared their journey. A manager is someone who tries to control people, resources, supplies and customers to hit targets. A leader inspires others to control themselves and take care of resources, supplies, and customers in full motion toward the mission, goals and vision. There are certain personal characteristics that leaders seem to have in common:

  • They are proactive instead of reactive-Good leaders always think ahead and works to prevent problems instead of react to them.
  • They have good initiative and a strong drive. They immediately take care of problems. They are decisive and lead with passion.
  • They have ability to inspire others with honesty, humor, and a positive attitude.

Not everyone can be a great leader, but everyone can aspire to lead.
In order to grow from manager to leader, there are important steps to take. When managers take these steps they walk toward the goal of being a leader.

Take Initiative and Make Decisions
To take initiative, a good leader is always looking at the big picture to see if there are problems or barriers that are keeping the company from attaining its goals. From this, develop strategic initiatives that work today and down the road. If there is a problem, a leader makes sure the problem gets solved.
Decisions need to be made judiciously and quickly. Avoiding making decisions really diminishes the appearance of leadership. It is important first to carefully survey the facts and information around a decision. Then comes the analysis of the problem through a cost-benefit analysis or other problem solving technique. Finally, a decision is made by choosing the best option with the least risk and the most benefit. It is important that decisions are communicated to everyone with a need to know, quickly and completely.

Communicate both Receptively and Expressively
A great leader is a great listener. A good leader is often the last to speak in a meeting, taking care to hear and understand the points that others are making. It helps significantly in decision making when a leader understands what the employees are thinking and feeling. Good leaders know how to use this information to formulate strategic goals and initiatives. Often sales men who have had corporate sales training excel in this area and make good leaders.
One of the biggest employee complaints in surveys is lack of communication. When employees don’t have good communication, they believe that managers aren’t good leaders. When leaders don’t learn employee respect they can’t lead. There are many ways to communicate in an organization. Good leaders strategically organize communications with meetings, emails, reporting, newsletters, etc. to assure that everyone understands the goals and initiatives.

Be Accountable
The most important thing that a leader can do is walk the way they talk. Don’t over promise and under deliver. It destroys morale. If you say you will do something always make sure that you do it. Failure to be accountable is failure to lead.
Lead by example. Leaders show that they are not above doing anything an employee will do. They come to work early and leave late. They communicate their whereabouts and work hard. They are the example of what they want their employees to be.
Leaders can admit when they make a mistake. A smart leader will admit they make a mistake in front of employees fairly often to create an open environment where employees feel free to make mistakes and then learn from them.
Do more interesting work, grow employees and improve productivity by starting down the path of leadership. “Given the right circumstances,” says Hock, “from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”

Building a Strong Staff

2676859-A-group-of-people-team-up-in-a-pyramid-to-celebrate-success-teamwork-cooperation-winning-etc--Stock-Vector“People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps.” Mary Kay Ash – Mary Kay Cosmetics

It’s no secret that high-performing companies have high-performing teams.  How can business leaders ensure that they are building a strong staff and team to make their business successful?  According to Insight Assessment Online, building a strong staff to help your company consists of three key components:

  1. Hire Smart – Don’t hire someone who is not highly skilled for the position you need filled.  Ask yourself several questions before hiring:  Does this person have the ability to expand or build on the skill set they already possess? Does this person have the self-motivation needed to be a contributing member to the team? Is the person a thinker and problem solver or do they require hand holding? Can you envision this person meshing with the rest of the team with a personality that fits with the rest of the company and ultimately your brand image?  Does this person have skills that compliment the skills you already have in the office or do they have skills that fill a void in your team?
  2. Identify strengths and talents of team members – This may take time and some level of trial and error but place team members in positions where they can perform the best.  Once you have identified each staff member’s strength or weakness, build off the positives through professional development, conferences and incentives that will make them more productive and invested workers. Position your top performers in positions that will make them shine.  Match people with certain talents with others to build on their own natural strengths.
  3. Foster a positive environment – Encourage team members to be creative and work productively by valuing the great job they are doing.  Be connected and communicative with employes so they know you are aware of their hard work.  Be sure that everyone knows the ultimate goal and has clear responsibilities.  A lack of clarity and purpose can confuse and frustrate teams.
  4. Be Flexible – Not all employees are the same.  Realize that home and family life can be complicated.  Team members will be more invested and possibly more productive if they worry less about what is going on at home.  Does your company have a flex scheduling, telecommuting or other incentive policy that could make for happier team members?  Building a strong team can sometimes mean understanding the needs of the team both at work and at home.

Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

Looking for ways to stay organized in your business?  Many companies use document management tools, password tools, and financial tracking apps to stay orderly.  If you need a way to manage content such as your business blogs, publications, and social media postings, an editorial calendar may be the right choice. An editorial calendar is an excellent place to brainstorm, track and arrange the content your company publishes. Let’s review the function and benefits of an editorial calendar whether it is a simple spreadsheet that can be shared online through your company cloud or a purchased app to keep your company headed in the right direction.

What exactly does an editorial calendar do?

If you regularly publish blogs, email newsletters, or posts on social media, there should be central location where you list the topics, dates, and publication locations.  For example, if you blog weekly, a calendar would include categories that show what blog topic was covered, what date it was published and where it was published. This calendar could also have a link to topics that may be used in the future. Think of the many times an idea has hit you while working.  Now there is a place to jot down the idea where you will find it when you need it,  instead of on a stick-it note somewhere on your desk. Next time you sit down to write a post or blog you will have a list of topics handy to use. A properly updated calendar can also stop duplicates of the same content from being accidentally published.

An editorial calendar is also a great place to edit your content.  If you use Google Drive or other sharing sites, multiple contributors and editors can work on the same publications.  If there are many people managing your online community, it is a great way for them to chart the progress of the publication and add their “two-cents.” A final edit, copy edit, fact checking, and rewrites can be completed as a link to the calendar.

Editorial calendars are outstanding for tracking short and long term writing goals.  For example, with a calendar shared by many at your business, content can be aligned with major holidays, events and milestones significant to your field or company.  If your field of work has an annual trade show, content for publications during the weeks and months leading up to the event can reflect topics and discussions that will be held at the show. The ability to plan ahead and publish content relevant to current events shows the professionalism and organization of your business.

Creating an editorial calendar is not hard and will help keep your ideas, content and links to content locations in an easy-to-find folder right on your desktop or mobile device.  Use this spring as a time to get yourself organized and try using an editorial calendar for all of your businesses publications.

Challenges of Entrepreneurs

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates revolutionized the cyber world.  Oprah Winfrey changed how we view television. Henry Ford redefined the 20th Century with the mass production of automobiles.  These entrepreneurs, like most,  brought their talent and passion into their business.   Business entrepreneurs are great achievers who have the courage, determination and belief in themselves to pursue a dream even if it means overcoming  challenges and obstacles to see that dream come to life.  What are some common hurdles that have blocked the route to success for entrepreneurs and how have they resolved those problems to go on and be successful?

  • Financial Hardships – Many an entrepreneur have had to fight their way back from the brink of financial disaster. Some business ideas can be bootstrapped – meaning they are self-sustaining without an outside cash injection.  But most need investors or financial backing of some sort.  Seek professional guidance, someone fantastic with numbers who also can see your vision and wants to help you get there, while staying on course financially.  Raising money is complex and there are all sorts of ways to stay in the green including: loans, grants, crowd sourcing, investors, creative budgeting and maintaining good cash flow via strong relationships with vendors and clients.
  • Organization and Planning Issues – They say it is lonely at the top.  Doing all the organizing and planning can be overwhelming.  Professional planners and organizers would recommend making a goal list organized by priority and into categories such as annual, monthly and weekly goals.  Having a clear vision of where you want to be can help keep you from getting swamped in the minutia.  Find great employees who you can delegate some of the tasks to and help you stay on target.
  • Legal Questions – Many entrepreneurs struggle with understanding three key legal themes: How they should structure the business when incorporating. The licenses and permits required by their city, county, state and country. The level of protection needed for the business in terms of patents, copyrights and trademarks. Hiring a qualified attorney will save you the time you would spend researching and learning the legal ins and outs of starting a business.  While you may cringe at the expense, it may save you money and heartache later.
  • Marketing Strategy and Growth Issues – How do you learn the best way to find your target audience and convert them into loyal customers?  Website and SEO marketing can be self taught but you may want to consult with an expert to plan the best places to place your ads, how to attract customers, how to drive customers to your website, and how to get your brand name out there.  You will also want to plan how this strategy will evolve as you grow your business.

 

Business Breakfast – Economic Development on the North Shore: A Regional Perspective

The Enterprise Center at Salem State University has a big announcement and wants you to be a part of it! The Enterprise Center has been working with businesses on the North Shore for more than 15 years and is now expanding and offering new programs, workshops, and events that will be of interest to companies from all industries, revenue size, employee size and business type.

To learn more about the new and improved Enterprise Center, please join us for our introductory monthly Business Breakfast on January 8, 2015 at the Peabody Marriott. Check-in, networking and breakfast begins at 7:00AM with a speaker presentation to follow. The topic for January’s Business Breakfast is, Economic Development on the North Shore: A Regional Perspective, presented by Matt Smith from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.