Three fatal mistakes for fledgling entrepreneurs starting out

Three fatal mistakes for fledgling entrepreneurs starting out

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Do you ever find you’re so busy with your fledgling company? Maybe you don’t work normal hours, take holidays or even have time to attend your own birthday party? If so, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. But it’s fixable.

 

The launch of any new business is bound to make life unusual for a while. In those early months, you probably work later and sleep far less than the 7-9 hours that adults should really be getting.

However, if this becomes “the norm” after several years, then something is going badly wrong. You may pay the price in terms of your personal life and harm to your business too. The good news is that you can do something to solve the issue.

Here are three common mistakes that small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can make during the first three years of business — and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Waiting too long before seeking external help

As a business grows and evolves, new challenges crop up. Although business founders usually have a broad skillset, it’s unrealistic to expect you can handle everything. Press on regardless, and you could start making poor decisions in areas where you lack expertise, or you could become a bottleneck for the business.

Solution: Focus on your core skills and managing the company. It’s essential to seek outside expertise in areas that will help your business to develop and run smoothly — from strategy and marketing to operations and accounts. Get recommendations, set a budget and then trust people to do a good job for you.

Mistake #2: Forgetting you need an evolving business plan

There are two extremes for SMEs to avoid:

 

Please read the full article on SME Web.

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Why staff reviews are essential to growing your business

Why staff reviews are essential to growing your business

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Many see staff reviews as an outdated method of measurement, but they are essential to keep on top of business growth and see where your employees are excelling.

The key to useful staff reviews is not to make it entirely target oriented but to focus on how staff are meeting those targets.

As an example, company objectives should be defined and tightly linked to the vision, mission, and values of the company. They determine the objectives of each staff member, from the production line and admin staff, through to strategists and even the CEO.

The company values also define other personal goals and evaluation (on issues such as ethics, client-centricity, change, effectiveness, teamwork, and initiative).

It’s not just “what” – it’s also “how”

However, success isn’t determined solely by whether everyone hits their objectives. It’s about striking the right balance between performance and growth culture.

Meeting goals accounts for 55% of someone’s final evaluation. However, the company allocates remaining 45% to how they went about it.

So, for instance, a ruthless achiever who doesn’t care about their colleagues does poorly within the company. Goals sometimes relate to personal performance and completing specific business activities, but they can also extend more widely and adapt over time.

For example; staff members ‘own’ objectives can serve as a reference point for a period; many goals feed into agendas and meetings, so they are continuously discussed; management and staff may split objectives into two, drop them, or add new ones as priorities change.

Trust your employees

In my experience, it’s about trusting employees: this is the approach that delivers results. It’s not without pain:

 

Please read the full article on Real Business.

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How can small businesses punch above their weight when attracting talent?

How can small businesses punch above their weight when attracting talent?

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Are the brightest people always attracted to large enterprises? And if so, how do smaller companies stand any chance of winning and retaining their talents?

If you’re a small business owner, then hiring the right people can make a huge difference to the success of your company. However, you’ll probably be competing for talent against more prominent brands with more kudos and higher salaries, which can feel intimidating.

That said, it’s possible to punch above your weight and add exceptional people to your team — if you think carefully about crucial stages in the hiring process and beyond. Here’s what you need to bear in mind.

  1. Understand your audience

Some humility is needed here. You may be excited about your business, but the people you want to attract may have no idea you even exist. Many people think joining a small company could mean a dead-end job in the business backwaters. You need to recognise and overcome fears like these.

  1. Position your brand

Your target audience will want to know about your vision, mission and values. They’ll look on your website and maybe LinkedIn too. It is an excellent opportunity for you to tell your story clearly and creatively. Avoid bland, corporate-wannabe jargon. Sound different. Project energy and direction.

  1. Play to your strengths

Some people hate the suffocating politics of the corporate world and dread being a small cog in a giant machine. So you could use this to your advantage and position yourself as the plucky outsider, the free-thinker and the agile risk-taker. You may want to talk about your open culture and how people are listened to — and have access to your CEO.

 

Please read the full article on Business Advice.

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How important is education for business owners and entrepreneurs?

How important is education for business owners and entrepreneurs?

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Sometimes entrepreneurs consider further study in the hope it can prepare them for the future. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to education for business owners.

An engineer by education, and a product manager by role, I had built up a variety of skills and experience by the time I moved to London. I knew that it was time to find a way to piece all that I had learned into a single value proposition that I could use throughout my career.

I’ve never been someone to stay stagnant and decided to complete the Executive MBA with the London Business School, after quite a few years in the corporate world.

I have a good understanding of the corporate world, expertise of commercial strategy, a technical and engineering background and a strategic commercial outlook. Combining these means that clients who are looking for someone who is truly able to understand their environment get what they need through my ability to perform cross-functionally.

I wouldn’t have achieved this without an MBA.

A firm grip on professionalism

Business owners, as well as employees, should always keep a firm grip on their professionalism. While employees shouldn’t delegate their professional growth to their employer, business owners should be careful about their business creating a glass ceiling for them. Busy with running their own company, they might lose sight of their development and become the barrier to grow for their own business.

However, business-related higher education shouldn’t be looked at in isolation as a panacea. In my case, for example, the MBA was, though essential, complements my professional experience and technical skills. And I’m probably not finished yet!

 

Please read the full article on SmallBusiness.

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The secret to successful staff reviews

The secret to successful staff reviews

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As a business owner, tracking and keeping on top of company growth is a number one priority, especially in the early years of the business. However, it’s important to focus on how those results come to be as opposed to focusing solely on what the results are.

Many see staff reviews as an outdated method of measurement, but reviewing how your employees are performing is essential to keep on top of business growth and to navigate where your employees are excelling as well as in what areas they need more training and development, primarily as an SME. The key to useful staff reviews is not to make it completely target oriented but to focus on how staff are meeting those targets.

To put this into perspective, I have introduced objectives settings and performance evaluation in a small family-owned manufacturing business in the South of Italy.

Here’s a quick summary of what happens in the business now. Company objectives are defined and tightly linked to the vision, mission, and values of the company. They represent the goals of each staff member (from the production line and admin staff, through to strategists and even the CEO); the company values also define other personal objectives and evaluation (on issues such as ethics, client-centricity, change, effectiveness, teamwork, and initiative).

However, success isn’t determined solely by whether everyone hits their objectives. It’s about striking the right balance between performance and growth culture. Meeting goals accounts for 55% of someone’s final evaluation. However, the company allocates the remaining 45% to how they went about it. So, for instance, a ruthless achiever who doesn’t care about their colleagues does poorly within the company.

 

Please read the full article on Angel News.

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Business culture wars: Who wins?

Business culture wars: Who wins?

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If you’re a CEO or senior executive, here’s a big question for you: Are your employees frozen by a fear of failing to meet specific goals? And if so, is there an alternative to the performance-based culture that’s so common across the corporate world?

What are you obsessing over?

I’ve been an avid reader of Harvard Business Review (HBR) ever since completing my Executive MBA at the London Business School. And I was intrigued by a recent article from a company president and CEO that suggested companies create a growth culture, not a performance-obsessed one.

HBR’s articles are always fascinating and very useful for my work. In fact, I have applied some of their theory to my clients’ businesses many times. What’s more, I think this particular article hits on a crucial business issue.

The article by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project makes some compelling arguments: In a competitive, complex, and volatile business environment, companies need more from their employees than ever. But is a culture focused on performance the best, healthiest, or the most sustainable way to fuel results?

Schwartz encourages us to think about a growth culture that blends an environment where it feels safe to be vulnerable, with a focus on continuous learning, includes time-limited manageable experiments, and applies constant feedback to help individual growth.

Avoiding blind spots

The article makes some excellent points. But I think we need to reframe the issue. Rather than choosing between cultures based on performance or growth, I think we need something else.

To my mind, the most pressing need is for companies to avoid making objectives become the end and not the means.

 

Please read the full article on SME Web.

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Is the B2B newsletter dead?

Is the B2B newsletter dead?

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Are you discovering that B2B email newsletters are generating fewer leads than you’d hoped — or maybe none at all? If so, then it’s time to change tactics if you want to breathe life into your marketing.

B2B marketing has its fashions — and its vested interests. Sometimes various services promoted actively by marketing agencies will chime with target audiences. But sometimes there’s a dull thud as a trustworthy communications channel finally keels over and expires.

And it’s my sad duty to report the death of the B2B newsletter.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that B2B newsletters have disappeared entirely. There will be signs of life in your inbox – and more likely in your spam folder too. But they’re as good as finished in mainstream business when it comes to open rates and quality leads.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Information overload: Today’s target audiences have too much to wade through already and have many other channels they prefer as a way to find their news — and better news.
  1. Micro tasking: People’s busy lives are now peppered by zillions of small actions, completed in a few clicks. Reading a newsletter is too big a time investment for the payback anticipated.
  1. Irrelevance: Newsletter content is broad (“something for everyone”) which often means that 80 to 90% isn’t attractive at all. How many of us would watch a TV show that was only 10% interesting?

What shall we do instead?

Social media gets masses of attention for a host of reasons. Some marketing agencies will love to work with your budgets and keep the posts coming. With B2C marketing, this may

 

Please read the full article on Business Advice.

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Autonomous vehicles’ after-shocks will open doors for business

Autonomous vehicles’ after-shocks will open doors for business

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The arrival of autonomous vehicles will disrupt the world in more ways than we realise — but it’s the after-shocks that ambitious companies should be thinking about and urgently. Over the next decade, we’ll increasingly start to view car ownership as quaint and inefficient, especially for city dwellers. But it would be a mistake to think the autonomous vehicles’ revolution is only about changing how we get from A to B.

Autonomous vehicles will shake up the business world, far beyond the obvious implications for car sales, taxi services and haulage contracts. And if you’re running a technology company, then now’s the time to start thinking, designing and planning, because the doors will be opening to new business opportunities.

Autonomous vehicles won’t merely change the auto industry. Related sectors and adjacent markets will be impacted too, while niche new services will purr into action.

Here are seven big changes we’re likely to see – that could create the space for a host of bespoke products and services, created by forward-thinking companies:

1. Entertainment

With the tech doing the driving, the hours people spend travelling will become quality time. Cars will become an extension of the living room or meeting room. So imagine the products and services that consumers and executives may want, whether relaxing or working? Think screens, food, comfort, apps and smart ways to make the best use of compact spaces.

2. Cityscapes

If driverless vehicles become standard, then it makes sense that engineers will start to design roads and cities in an entirely different way. This could affect street signs, bus stops, Wi-Fi technology, buildings and planning regulations. For example,

 

Please read the full article on IoT Now Transport.

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Company Strategy? I’ll have mine “to go”, please …

Company Strategy? I’ll have mine “to go”, please …

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Do you hate boardroom brainstorms— with those over-excited colleagues, the bizarre ideas and a whiteboard covered in random words? The great news is that strategic decision-making is changing for the better at smart companies.

Most of us have lost many hours of our lives to heavy-duty strategy meetings that failed to deliver much at all. Years ago, we probably saw these sessions as a necessity as we set budgets, identified priorities and carefully steered the course of our companies.

But that drizzly Wednesday you spent last October holed-up with ten other people may not be the springboard for success that everyone imagined anymore… it could be your downfall.

The simple truth is that the world doesn’t stand still long enough to lock ourselves in a room for a day and decide what’ll happen over the next 12 months. And here are just a few reasons why:

Customer expectations will evolve quickly and rise considerably. New competitors will emerge — from start-ups or larger businesses expanding aggressively into your marketplace. And disruptive technologies may present opportunities for you to enhance your products and services.

And don’t forget, your company dynamics can shift profoundly too. Changes to personnel, investors and offices can mean you’ve got suddenly double or half the resources you had before. Illness and other unforeseen factors can change everything too.

The world can look very different… even a few months later.

Sticking rigidly to a detailed strategy can create ‘group-think’, lead to blind spots and prove fatal for a company if you can’t respond to unforeseen challenges.

Relying on consultants to come up with all the answers isn’t the solution either. Most will follow the same point-in-time approach — and not be around when the storms hit home.

So what’s the best way forward for strategic decision-making?

 

Please read the full article on The Executive Magazine.

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