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The Stages of a Start-Up

by Ed Frazier

I have always been involved in starting companies or acquiring them. This post however is related to the start-ups. I have been involved in over 20 start-ups in my career, working 20+ years in the media industry but also some in wind power, solar, real estate, and Internet technologies. In all cases, they have had some common patterns.

1. THE CHAMPAGNE STAGE  

This is the initial planning stage where the math goes something like this.  If we offer a product that everyone in our market loves and we capture 3% of the market we will make a lot of money. The model will also include some underestimated cost and time lines. However, as partners we are all excited about this prospect so we launch.  It will include a plan to capitalize the venture, and some division of responsibility. This stage will last until the Champagne is gone.

2. REALITY IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE MODEL

This is the period when the venture partners and their investor watch the financial resources begin to deplete. There will be a realization that it’s going to take longer than planned. It is important to look at the end of year one and evaluate if there is a business to be built. The test of the concept can be determined by how much business has been secured related to the idea.  If there are no customers it may be time to change direction.  My experience has been that if I have some good clients by the end of year one the business has promise.  If I don’t have some good clients its not a good sign.

3.THE HELMET AND FLAK JACKET STAGE

This stage of the business runs from year one to year three. It’s the time when the initial capital is close to being consumed and the profit line has not been obtained. The danger of running out of cash or calling on investors to contribute more is a real possibility. It’s the point in time when everyone  questions the wisdom of the venture and self esteem can hit a low. It’s time to hunker down put on the flack jacket and persevere. About the end of year three you have been in business long enough that those potential clients you called on in year one are ready to trust you with their business. It comes at a time when one might considering giving up. Then a call from a client you called on two years ago comes in and orders.  This is a sign that you have a future in your chosen business. Its also a good time to go back to all your previous prospects and touch base.  Let them know you are still going.

4. ALWAYS KNEW YOU WOULD MAKE IT STAGE

This is the stage where all those skeptics that doubted you could ever succeed will start to say.  “I always knew you would make it,  everything you do turns to gold”. This is the point in time when you can go to family gatherings and instead of them asking when you will get a real job you can proudly say I own my own business and I love it. The most important thing at this stage is to remember the sacrifices that have been made share the wealth with those who helped you and extend a supporting word or resource to the pilgrims that are embarking on their journey. Above all, enjoy your success.

About Ed Frazier

Ed has been involved in media and Internet technologies for over 30 years. He was one of the founding individuals of the Regional Sports Networks that make up Fox Sports. Following Fox sports Frazier was involved in a joint Venture with Coserv Electric in the deployment and creation of advanced fiber networks. Through the CoServ Joint Venture he supplied advanced Internet technologies, for design, development and Internet marketing. Frazier has years of experience in Internet marketing and media, including, pay per click advertising, video streaming, banner advertising, Google adwords, Yahoo, MSN, and other directory and Internet marketing systems including direct e-mail, and user targeting advertising. His interest in Internet technology management for his clients is targeted to insure best practices in Internet marketing and ecommerce. Ed is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington. He provides consulting services in the field of Integrated Media. This involves traditional broadcast media and emerging media via satellite and the Internet. He has served on the boards of publicly traded companies, privately held corporation and non-profit organization.

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5 Things to Look For in a Mentor

A mentor is an invaluable resource for the young entrepreneur. A mentor is someone who has taken the journey you want to take, someone who’s been there before. They are a valuable resource who you can turn to when you’ve hit a stumbling block. So, how do you get one?

There are plenty of places where entrepreneurs gather: conferences, MeetUp groups, online communities.

Here are our top 5 things to look for when trying to find a mentor:

1. Chemistry

If you’re going to be working with a mentor, you want good chemistry. You want someone you feel comfortable talking to and confiding in. Before you consider an specific entrepreneur as your mentor, do some research on them. What do they value? What kind of business do the have? What do people have to say about working with them? Chances are, if they’re in a similar business as you, they’ll have similar values.

Before you ask them to be your mentor, meet with them for coffee. See how you get along.

2. Availability

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are busy people. When looking for a mentor, you need to find someone who is available to help you. When searching for your mentor, do fool around. Ask them if they’re interested in mentoring. Ask them if they have the time to take that on. There is another person involved here. They should know their limitations. In that same vein, figure out what you want from your mentor. Do you want to meet for coffee once a week, once a month? Do you want to go out to dinner twice a week? Do you want to be able to call them at any time? Figure out what your time demands are and see if their availability matches.

3. A positive attitude

This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised. Feel out your potential mentor. If you’re sensing some hidden resentment, it’s probably there. You want someone who will encourage you and help you grow. Don’t let a negative mentor drag you down. On the flip side, be careful that you don’t mistake cautious optimism and a realistic thought with negativity. Even if a mentor has a reserved opinion, they can still be helpful for your navigation of the startup world.

4. Respect

Does your new mentor treat you as an equal? Or are they condescending? Even if you’re a young or new entrepreneur, you still deserve respect. Find a mentor that will treat you as an equal. They should hear you out; all your thoughts, fears, concerns, and plans are valid. You should also have a high level of respect for them. If not, why did you want them to be your mentor in the first place?

5. Open mind

Just because your mentor has been through the startup/entrepreneurial process, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it. You want to find a mentor who can recognize there are different ways to achieve a goal. Someone who says, “This is how we did it. Your way might work, too.” You don’t have to take every piece of advice they give you as gold. You want someone whose experience you can learn from, not someone who will just tell you what to do.

What do you look for in a mentor? Where did you find your mentor?

Share in the comments below!

The World’s 20 Hottest Startup Scenes – Are you in one?

the-worlds-20-hottest-startup-scenes

Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, on TWiST

Essential Startup Toolbox [INFOGRAPHIC]

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5 Ways to Invest in Yourself

Are you working in a job you hate just to make ends meet? Are you afraid of taking that leap into becoming an entrepreneur? You can work in a job you love and still save for retirement. Here are our top 5 ways to invest in yourself and in your job future.

1. Go to a conference

If you have an interest in something, chances are there’s a conference about it. Getting to that conference is a great way to invest in yourself. You’ll meet people who share your interests, and, better, you’ll meet people who are working in the job you want. Talk to people. Make it known what your interests are. Don’t just walk the exhibit hall. See if you can find a group going to lunch or out for drinks. This is a great way to meet some people, but don’t forget to follow up with people.

Networking tip: Monday is the only bad day to follow up with people. Your email will be lost in the shuffle of the new week.

2. Participate in local events

Whether it’s a local performance, a gym class, or a local Meetup.com group, you should find ways to get out into your local community to start making connections. If you don’t tend to be a very social person, set some goals for yourself and ease into it.

3. Take a class

Improving yourself is a great way to invest in your future. What’s something you wish you’d learned but never did? Find the time to take a class or get a tutor. It doesn’t have to be applied astrophysics. Language tutors are everywhere. Community colleges offer a variety of classes to choose from. Pick something you think you’ll enjoy and dive in.

4. Earn a certification

If your dream job is in a field that requires a certification, there’s no reason to wait. It’s just another way of investing in yourself and your future.

5. Take a Myers-Briggs test

The Myers-Briggs personality test was developed as a career placement tool. It can give you insight on where you draw energy from, how you best interact with people, and what kind of working environment you’re best suited for. Finding your personality type will give you a glimpse of yourself and can help you grow.

What are some ways you have invested in yourself? Share in the comments!

How to Host a Successful Work Retreat

Sometimes, a startup is only as good as the team you’ve built. In honor of the team and the dreaded team-building exercises, today we talk about how to host a successful work retreat.

1. Gauge and/or excite your team’s interest

When you mention “work retreat,” many people start to figure out their excuses on how to get out of it. While that may not always be the case, before you start planning a work retreat, mention it around the office. Find out what kind of work retreat people would actually want to go on. If you open up a dialogue about the possibilities rather than dictate what is going to happen, your team will already start to feel the excitement.

Remember, you want your retreat to improve morale, not destroy it.

2. Bring good food

This may sound odd, but you want to get a good food spread. It’s important to keep you team fueled and fueled in a way that they want. Get some stuff for the health nuts as well as the food junkies. Make sure the coffee flows free. This isn’t a seminar or a conference, this is supposed to be a time for you and your team to get to know one another. They will congregate around the food table.

And, on that note:

3. Encourage social time

A work retreat is not a lecture.

Read that again.

You don’t have a work retreat to lecture your team. You can lecture your team at any time. Make the retreat something different. Throughout the day, have times planned when people can sit down, relax, and socialize. Lunch is obviously a big opportunity for socializing, but also try to think of other times when you can break for some social time.

4. Make an agenda

Of course, you want to know what you’re doing at your work retreat. You should make out a schedule to determine what you’ll be doing and when. But, don’t be afraid to throw out the agenda. If something is going well and people are connecting, let them lead you where you want to go. You can always pick up the other stuff later.

What are your tips on throwing a positive work retreat? Do you have a great work retreat story? Share in the comments!

Inspiration: What Does It Cost to Run a Startup? via Staff.com [INFOGRAPHIC]

staff-com-cost-to-run-startup

Visit Staff.com for more!

4 Things to Remember When Writing a Business Plan

You need to write a business plan before you get started with your business. It’s not just a document to pitch your idea to investors. It’s a way you get set goals and PLAN for the running of your business (funny how that works, isn’t it?). If you’ve never written a business plan or you’ve written three dozen, here are our 4 tips to remember when you write your business plan.

1. Cut the fluff

Remember when you were in high school and had to make that 5 page count? Remember how you pulled out the thesaurus and made every word as long as possible just to make the requirement? Even if you didn’t, somewhere in your past, you are guilty of pumping a paper with fluff. Be concise. Get to the point.

Plus, any potential investor will see through the fluff anyway. Don’t make them hunt through the clutter.

2. Be realistic

We all know that you have great expectations for your business. Great expectations don’t belong in your business plan. You need realistic expectations. I’m not trying to knock you off cloud 9, but if you’re putting your plan in front of potential investors, they’re going to want to see something plausible. Don’t try to sugar coat your numbers. If a realistic business plan looks like a mess, maybe you need to rethink how you’re organizing your company.

3. Break the template

It’s easy to go online, find a nice business plan template and fill in the blanks.

Don’t.

It’s okay to start with a template, but at some point, you need to incorporate some aspect of what makes you, your company, and your brand unique. Find a way to get that unique feel without pumping your plan with fluff.

4. Do your research

When you have the next big idea, you’re excited and want things to get moving. Don’t just jump into a business plan without doing your research. What are other people in your market doing? What do their numbers look like? What’s their business model? Another thing you can benefit from is looking to similar businesses that have failed. What did they do wrong? How do you plan to tackle the same monsters that defeated them? Even if answering all these questions doesn’t fit in a business plan, it’s still a good thing to know.

What are your business plan tips? What are things you would avoid? Share in the comments!

4 Business Expenses You Can Reduce Today

pennyBusiness expenses can get out of hand quickly. Sometimes, you forget to budget for things that can add up. We’re here to tell you what four business expenses you can reduce today.

1. Energy costs

Do you work in an office? How old is it? When was the last time the insulation was updated? Do you turn all the lights off when you leave?

As a Texas based company, we know that you can’t get much work done in the heat. But, if you use heating or air-conditioning in your office, you should make sure your air-conditioning and heating units don’t have to work as hard when no one’s there. Turn the thermostat up or down when you leave and adjust it again in the morning when you get it. Make sure you turn off computers and lights when you leave. And, if you’re just starting out an office, think of investing in  energy saving equipment, like more efficient monitors, modems, and even light bulbs.

2. Payroll

As an entrepreneur, you are working with a limited budget. Before you go out and start hiring employees, take a look at the projects you want those employees to handle. Are they all permanent or long term? If not, you might want to hire out on contract rather than having a permanent employee.

3. Research

Small businesses and entrepreneurs get a whole range of tax breaks, deductions, and benefits. We’ve mentioned some on this blog, like hiring your children. But, think about all the business expenses you incur, like travel, or business lunches, or conference fees. Are you making sure those are all reflected in your taxes? Take some time to research the benefits available to you and make sure you’re taking full advantage.

4. Shop around

If you find that you are in need of something for the office, don’t settle on the first price you find. If you’re looking for something like office furniture, you can always buy secondhand. If you need a modem or router, check more than one retailer. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever. You can also look for places that offer small business rewards programs or discounts.

What are some ways you save money around the office? What’s your biggest business expense you forgot to budget for? Share in the comments!

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