Saturday, December 31, 2022

9 Lessons to Learn From Being in the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Our biggest tips for entrepreneurs on what's worked and what hasn't in our first five years.

By Kyle Hermans


Once upon a time, my wife Jenna and I and our three kids under ten moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, had another baby, and bought our first house together. This, we thought, is the perfect time to quit our jobs and start a business! [eyeroll]

The idea of our company, Be Courageous, was born during the facilitation of a client session when the team was at odds with each other while exploring the future of their business. This quote from George Prince was on the wall: "Another word for creativity is courage."

I realized many of us stay trapped in old thinking and actions when we lack the conditions to be creative and courageous.

A question emerged for me, "What would a world with an abundance of courage look like? How can I help create it?"

With my experience in marketing, strategy and facilitation, and Jenna's in psychology, human resources and operations, we founded our business consultancy, Be Courageous. Every year we've grown. Every year our impact has expanded. Every year we've learned.

Here are some of our biggest learnings for those of you on your entrepreneurial journey.

9 lessons from five years of learning

As any reader here knows, starting and running a business is a piece of cake. Ha!

For real, here is what we learned, having grown our U.S. business of two to a worldwide organization with dozens of clients and 35+ network partners while positively impacting nearly 1 million people in 82 countries.

1. Agility

One of our most in-demand programs with Fortune 500 companies this year has been our training on agile leadership. When you own your own business — the unexpected will happen. A successful entrepreneur adapts to new challenges and situations and creates lemonade from lemons.

We have created programs we never thought we would in response to what the world has needed from us.

Have a solid plan, but be flexible.

2. Purpose

We aim to activate courage in companies worldwide and align them with a planet-beneficial future. Yours might be to improve humanity's mental health or lessen people's stress by building an easier-to-use product. Whatever your purpose is, make sure you're deeply passionate about it and that it fuels your actions.

Use the strength of your purpose to courage through challenges.

3. Superpowers (and kryptonite)

We found more success when we identified and focused on our greatest strengths. We aligned our strengths with our values and the services we wanted to provide to our clients to solve a problem they faced.

For example, my superpower is guiding businesses to realize their potential and future. My kryptonite is getting tripped up in the micro-details of spreadsheets. That's where Jenna comes in. She leads operations with her superpower of keeping our company financially stable, growing and on the ground. I'm the visionary, and she makes it possible.

Align your superpowers with your business goals and values. Find people who have superpowers you lack.

4. Curiosity

In an exponentially-changing world, having an open mind is the key to running a successful business. Be curious about skills you don't have and new ways to solve problems. Challenges will arise, but if your curiosity remains peaked, you'll always get to the solution positively. Ask, "What is the courage needed in this situation?"

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it feeds company growth. (We're a dog company, anyway, no offense to cats.)

5. Healthy company culture

Create a team that feels safe, strong, empowered and able to share and receive ideas. When you foster personal connections with your team and your clients (yes, business is personal), you will thrive beyond competitors who are only in it for the buck.

Develop a positive company culture to unlock the full potential of your team.

6. Operational foundation

While you don't want to get bogged down in systems and processes, your business won't thrive without a solid operational foundation. Get an understanding of legal, financial and team infrastructure.

Stay pragmatic and, as we like to say, "aggressively conservative." We make leaps, but only with a net.

Develop systems to streamline your business, so you can focus on serving your customers.

7. Integrity

Many people make empty promises, which erodes trust over time. It's far better to over-deliver on your word. Pay what you say you will, earlier than you say you will. We've established deep, trusting relationships with our clients. We foster community.

We get callbacks five years after doing one program with a client because we don't burn bridges; we build them.

Show up with your heart, don't be a jerk, and honor your word.

8. Optimism

Never doubt what you can achieve, yet don't be disillusioned. Approach everyone you can as a holistic human being, putting aside bias. Presume positive intent and look for positive solutions. Expect people to be their best until proven otherwise. And even then, be graceful about terminating any relationships.

Work and live from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

9. Mindful hiring

Be thoughtful about who you bring into your organization.

We hire a type of person — not only for the exact level of expertise we need. We hire people in love with our vision. A person who can be adaptive and learn with us. Who is willing to put in the work for a shared purpose.

Hire the right puzzle piece for your vision, not just how they look on paper.

Bottom line

Owning your own business isn't for the faint of heart. It's an ebb and flow of successes and learnings. But 20 years from now, if you look back, would you regret not doing something about your big and burning idea?

Fear will never go away, but when the desire to fulfill your purpose outweighs the fear of risks involved, that's when you know you're made to be an entrepreneur.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Happy Holidays 2022

Sending our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a successful and glorious happy new year!

Soledad Tanner, MIB


Friday, December 9, 2022

Deciding What Kind of Business to Start? Here's a Simple Approach Every Entrepreneur Can Follow

Deciding what kind of business to start begins with defining success, and then considering the role of variance.


Photo: Getty Images

While there are countless ways to decide what kind of business to start, for the sake of argument let's imagine there are two basic approaches:

Low variance. Decide to do what other people have successfully done, and with hard work and perseverance you should reach the 80th percentile of success in that pursuit, if only because most people don't work nearly as hard, or as smart, as they like to think.

An example of the low variance path -- lower risk, but lower return -- is a person with solid carpentry skills who decides to go into the deck building business. Lots of customers need decks. Then again, plenty of construction small business owners build decks. Choose that route, and with time and effort you might not get rich... but the odds are good you can make a decent living.

High variance. Think of this as the outlier path. Choose to do what few people have successfully done, and you might -- just might -- become extraordinarily successful. (And rich, if that's your goal.)

Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of the high variance path. Instead of taking a low variance approach and, say, starting a web design business, he launched a new and unproven venture. The odds of success in that high variance approach were naturally extremely low, but in his case the upside turned out to be astronomically high.

Sounds great.

At least for the Zuckster.

Starting a Business With High Variance

The Facebook founder isn't just a high variance outlier. He's also a good example of survivor bias, focusing on people or things that "survived" while overlooking those that did not.

Take Ryan Gosling. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 and moved to L.A. to pursue acting. It worked spectacularly well for him, but what about the thousands of kids who drop out and move to southern California in hopes of making it? Do they all become movie stars?

Of course not.

But you never hear about them.

The same is true for Steve Jobs. Jobs dropped out of Reed College so he could "drop in" on classes that interested him. It worked for the Apple co-founder. (Maybe not so well for this forgotten Apple co-founder who arguably left $75 billion on the table.) But what about the countless people who don't finish college? Do they all become billionaires?

Of course not.

But you never hear about them.

That's why Michael Shermer, the author and publisher of Skeptic magazine, says advice on high variance success distorts perceptions by ignoring all the businesses and college dropouts who failed. And why university of Waterloo professor Larry Smith says, referring to Jobs:

And what about 'John Henry' and the 420,000 other people who tried ventures and failed? It's a classic case of survivor bias.

We make judgments about what we should do based on the people who survived, totally ignoring all the guidance from the people who failed.

The problem with survivor bias is that it doesn't really indicate whether a particular strategy, or technique, or plan will work -- and specially whether it will work for you.

Take the high variance approach by basing your plans -- or your expectations of success -- on a blueprint that worked for an outlier, and the potential outcome may be extraordinarily high. But so will your level of risk.

That's neither a bad nor good thing.

But it is definitely a factor you should consider.

Starting a Business With Low Variance

The flip side is choosing a route with low variance. As Nassim Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness, "Wild success is attributable to variance. Mild success can be explained by skills and labor."

Keep in mind "mild success" can still be considerable. Say your interest lies in healthcare. The high variance approach would be to launch a startup based on a new wearable device: The odds are low it will capture the market, but if it does... yeah.

The low variance approach could be to go to med school. With time, study, and hard work, you could become a skilled physician. While the upside isn't unlimited, it's still pretty great, especially if you someday scratch your latent entrepreneurial itch and launch your own practice.

To evaluate the odds of success, Taleb advises considering "alternative histories." If you could relive a set of events 1,000 times, what would the range of outcomes be? In a high variance approach -- becoming Steve Jobs, Ryan Gosling, Joe Kudla, or Kirk Hammett -- the odds are (maybe) 1 in 1,000.

In a low variance approach -- say, starting a deck-building business -- the odds are likely considerably better than even. Assuming your level of effort and perseverance remain constant, you'll probably have about the same level of success, and make the same amount of money, 700 or 800 times out of 1,000.

Randomness -- or luck -- won't play much of a role.

And that's an important point, because luck always plays a role in extraordinary success. While if you out-work, out-think, out-skill, and outlast other people you are much more likely to be successful, research shows you also need to get lucky.

Right place, right time. Or right person, right time. Or right idea, right market, or right audience. As Mark Cuban says, "To make billions, you'll have to get lucky."

Bottom line? The lower the variance, the smaller the role luck is likely to play in your success.

Starting a Business Means First Defining "Success"

As you consider which business to start -- or which career path to take -- first decide what "success" means to you. If you want to make a decent living doing something you love, consider a low variance approach; choose a path where effort and skill tends to pay off directly.

If you want to get rich, you'll need to choose a path where effort and skill matter, but so does luck. While survivor bias -- and hindsight bias -- appears to explain success, no path, no plan, and no strategy is ever certain. Success in that case will only seem inevitable in hindsight. "Wild" success will always be at least somewhat random.

But keep in mind that where success is concerned, "mild" is relative. Start a deck building business with one or two employees, and your upside is largely constrained by the hours you work. Build that business by adding services, crews, and locations, and your "mild" success can become considerable.

Which leads to an even more important point. When you're deciding what kind of business to start, variance matters.

But the most important factor is whether you will get to do work you enjoy: Work that leaves you feeling fulfilled, and satisfied, and happy, and that allows you to control, as best possible, your own destiny.

The beauty of starting a business is that you are free to choose what kind business. Make sure you design and build your business not just on a potential outcome, but also on the process of achieving that outcome.

Then, no matter whether the outcome is mild or wild, you'll still be successful.

Because you will be doing what you love to do.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

What's the Difference Between a Startup and a Small Business?


By Erica Dushey Sarway

December 1, 2022

While they sound similar, there are fundamental differences.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

People often confuse startup companies with small businesses. Sure they sound similar, but the two have fundamentally different meanings and cannot be used interchangeably. They can sound alike because startups are new companies. But while they may begin as tiny in size, their goals and intentions may end up separating them from actual small businesses.

What's a startup?

It is a new company looking to quickly expand into a much larger and much more profitable business. Many times, a startup is looking to build up rapidly in a very short span of time. They're in the beginning stages, experimenting with different models and finding what works best for them to grow while outlining their future. They're finding ways to raise money and enlist backers to help them move their company up to the next level. It's almost as if they're rushing through the stages of growth, from a small enterprise, with few employees, to a larger corporation in a matter of a few years.

Startups are businesses that believe their product or service is in high demand due to analytics and has a lot of potential for disrupting the market. These companies hope that their product is going to see rapid success and become a fixture. They often are looking for investors like venture capitalists or raising money by crowdfunding to invest in the idea and get the company off the ground as soon as possible. From the early stages, the mission, goals, strategy and research need to be defined to anticipate the quick changes the company will endure.

When people think of startups, many think of tech companies and Silicon Valley. While it's true many startups emerge from that area of California, any person with an idea can start a company in their home and grow it from there. Some of the biggest and most well-known companies began as startups and are now publicly traded, including Apple, Microsoft and, more recently, Instacart along with GoPuff.

However, a major downside to startups is the high risk of failure. Many of them crash and burn within a few years of starting due to some reasons like lack of organization, inability to market correctly or running out of investment capital. From the beginning, everything from business plans and models to goals to strategies all needs to be clearly sorted. Long-term goals, shares and equity all need to be defined, key employees must be hired and financial backing needs to be secured.

What's a small business?

It is exactly what the name suggests. They are privately held companies, partnerships or sole proprietorships. Being a small business is based on the amount of revenue brought in and the number of employees. While the government considers companies with up to 1,500 employees to be small businesses, most of them have fewer than twenty. The Small Business Association (SBA) clearly defines everything needed to qualify as a small business.

[It is also worth noting that a recent survey, conducted by SurePayroll, of over 2000 taxpaying Americans found that a whopping 70% of those polled claimed they would skip a nearby chain and trek an average of eight additional miles to support their favorite local and independent business.]

A key element to small businesses is that they are not looking to dominate their market. They are companies that are independently owned and operated, most times selling to the local town while trying to maintain a stable income. There is much less risk of failure with a small business, making them sustainable for the long run.

A startup is looking to expand quickly and become a much bigger company, while a small business is more focused on creating and maintaining a constant and stable revenue stream. They are not necessarily trying to scale up in any way. A startup can eventually go on to become a publicly traded company, raising money from selling shares and scaling up in any way they see fit. Whereas small businesses start and remain privately held with the goal of sustaining while generating profits for as long as possible. Many times small businesses are passed down through families and remain active for generations.

It is also worth noting that a recent survey conducted by SurePayroll of over 2000 taxpaying Americans found that a whopping 70% claimed they would skip a nearby chain and trek an average of eight additional miles to support their favorite local and independent business.

Both types of projects start with a person and an idea. Depending on how said individual decides to go about the goal will determine the type of company they are. If they are looking to take their idea, shake up the industry, become a leader and be willing to take a risk? They're going to be following the startup track. If they want to keep their business small and local but big enough that it's a good source of income while staying at the same level? Then a small business is the way to go.

Monday, December 5, 2022

9 Time Management Tips That Will Boost Your Productivity

By Athalia Monae

Here are nine tips for improving your productivity through effective time management.

Time is of the essence when starting and running a business. It doesn't matter what stage you're at. Making the most efficient use of your time would be very wise. Working smarter, not harder, should be the goal. That takes discipline, patience and planning. On my journey, there were times when I had the motivation but wasn't sure what my next move should be. I'm very organized and find that I function better when things are in place and when I know what I'm doing and where I'm going. The benefits of good time management include greater productivity, less stress and more opportunities to do the things that matter. Utilizing the following tips will help boost your productivity:

1. Set clear goals

When creating a plan for your business, setting a timeline and setting goals are two of the things you want to consider. Setting timelines keeps me on my toes. While setting a timeline gives you an idea of how long it'll take you, setting your goals allows you to focus your energy on the things you want to achieve. Also, think about your long-term and short-term goals.

2. Prioritize

One of the best ways to stay focused on accomplishing your goals is by prioritizing. Knowing how to prioritize work affects the time you spend on tasks and your overall success. Start by creating a to-do list of tasks that need to get done. Make sure to order tasks by effort and begin planning your time accordingly. Creating a list will help you visualize your goals and determine what is most relevant, as well as what is most urgent. You can't go wrong with a to-do list.
3. Create a routine

The more you stick to your routine, the easier it gets. Whether you work better in the morning or late at night, plan your tasks in a way that you know you will be most productive, and keep it the same. I work better at night. There have been many times I pulled an all-nighter and felt like I moved mountains in that time. Your body naturally responds to repetitive behavior.
4. Avoid distractions

Honor the time that you've dedicated to working on that project, and avoid distractions — no television, social media or text messaging during that time. If you're working in a public space, find a quiet area. Some people like to work in silence, while others might like soft music. Whatever the case may be, commit to that time.

5. Practice the four Ds

Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate and Delete

Placing a task or project into one of these categories helps you manage your limited time more effectively and stay focused on what matters most to you. For anyone who's never utilized this: After you do it for the first time, you might get hooked.
6. Don't multitask

I had a habit of multitasking, which was productive, but since I started multitasking much less, I see how much more productive I've been. Instead of dividing your attention into three different things, it's better to focus entirely on one thing at a time. To make it more effective, try timeboxing them. That means allocating a time frame for every task which, as a result, increases the likelihood of its successful completion.

7. Sleep

Studies have shown that when we have good sleeping habits, we are healthier, more productive and less stressed. Sleep is a detrimental factor that could affect many things both positively and negatively. When we get a good night's rest, not only do we feel fresh and rejuvenated, but it also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. On the contrary, when we don't get enough sleep, we may also be increasing health problems, such as diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity and more.

8. Don't feel bad about failing

A lot of people fear failure — it's human nature. But spending time stressing about failing is taking time from you being productive. Just try to jump in, and conquer those fears. In my personal experience, failing wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I learned from those failures. I built on those failures. I grew from those failures. Believe in what you're doing, and focus on why you're doing it.

9. Use an online calendar

I swear by online calendars. They are so useful and are a great fundamental tool to manage time. You can easily manage your schedule, mark important dates and events, set up reminders, create time blocks, etc. The best part is that online calendars can be integrated with third-party applications and can be accessed from multiple devices. There are plenty of options to choose from, such as Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar and Apple Calendar, but the project calendar in ProofHub simplifies the way you manage your schedule, plan your events and keep track of the important dates and deliverables in the project, so you always stay ahead of the deadlines.

In conclusion, if you try all or some of these time management tips, you will very likely start feeling more in control, with the confidence to choose how best to use your time. And by feeling happier, more relaxed and better able to think, you're in a great place to carry on with your business.