business lessons http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/12733/all en-US 5 Game-Changing Business Models to Learn From http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-game-changing-business-models-to-learn-from <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-game-changing-business-models-to-learn-from" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-game-changing-business-models-to-learn-from</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-game-changing-business-models-to-learn-from" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000016287487Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Your business model is simply how your organization creates, delivers, and captures value. It's how you go about creating something that customers want, giving it to them, and then making money from it.</p> <p>Most of the time, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/innovation/a">the business models</a> in our organizations remain the same&mdash;but that doesn't mean we can't change them.</p> <p>In fact, business models can always be tweaked and adjusted. Often, those small tweaks can help us gain an advantage in the marketplace.</p> <p>So, whether you're looking to make an adjustment to your business model or not, it's always helpful to step back and look at how others are going about it and perhaps learn from and use in your own companies.</p> <h2>1. Spotify</h2> <p>The <a target="_blank" href="http://www.spotify.com/us/hello-america/comb/">music-sharing service</a> has been loved in Europe for years and is now taking the United States by storm. Spotify seems to be on a mission to figure out how to offer music for free and make money from it.</p> <p>Around 90 percent of Spotify users stream any song, on-demand for free. Those users are exposed to occasional audio and text advertisements. The other 10 percent of users pay a monthly fee for a premium version of the service, which offers mobile-streaming, no advertisements, and other upgraded features.</p> <p>In essence, Spotify has combined many of the features of services like iTunes, Pandora, and Grooveshark to create a unique music playing platform. It remains to be seen whether Spotify's business model will be sustainable over the long-term, but the service has already gained over 10 million users.</p> <p>The lesson?</p> <p>Using a business model that offers a range of options can be an excellent way to grow your user base.</p> <h2>2. Box.net</h2> <p>Just as the consumer-focused tidal wave was coming into shore, Box.net took their boat out to sea.</p> <p>The hot new startup companies&mdash;Facebook, Twitter, etc.&mdash;were all focusing on individuals. Instead of trying to create the next Carbonite or Dropbox&mdash;which focus on digital storage for consumers&mdash;Box.net founder Aaron Levie decided to transition into the B2B space.</p> <p>It's paid off. The other services receive lots of press, but <a target="_blank" href="http://box.net/">Box.net</a>, which was founded in 2005, is now valued at $500 million.</p> <p>The lesson?</p> <p>Unsexy can be very profitable. Consumer-based software seems to get all the buzz, but B2B markets have deeper pockets.</p> <h2>3. Cutting Edge Group</h2> <p>There are lots of people and things in a Hollywood Movie&ndash;script, actors, director and crew, costumes, sets &mdash;and for a film to make it to theaters, each piece needs to be funded.</p> <p>In the past, everything that went into a film was usually paid for out of one large pool of money. <a href="http://www.cuttingedgegroup.com/">Cutting Edge Group</a> has decided to join the funding party in a unique way. The company invests in the musical scores of new movies.</p> <p>In essence, they inflate the musical budget of films. The result is that movies with Cutting Edge funding can hire better music producers, composers, musicians and so on.</p> <p>For its investment, Cutting Edge receives film royalties, music licensing deals, and movie soundtrack sales.</p> <p>The lesson?</p> <p>Most industries have a profitable niche that new companies can carve out and use to their advantage. Sure, the movie industry wouldn't function if everyone only invested in the musical portion like Cutting Edge does ... but that's not going to happen.</p> <h2>4. Charity:water</h2> <p>When founder Scott Harrison started<a target="_blank" href="http://www.charitywater.org/"> Charity:water</a>, he decided that 100% of public donations would go towards the cause. It would take extra work, but he was committed to covering operating expenses through separate, private donations.</p> <p>Little did Harrison know how difficult landing those private donations would be. At one point, the company was only a day or two away from financial failure and Harrison was prepared to walk in and tell his employees to pack it up.</p> <p>A saving donation came through, of course, and now Charity:water is one of the most successful charities in the world.</p> <p>The lesson?</p> <p>Creating a business model that makes things more rewarding for your customers isn't always easy, but it can definitely be worth it.</p> <h2>5. Umphrey's McGee</h2> <p>This <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umphrey's_McGee">rock jam band</a> took a page from the video game playbook and allowed their fans to &quot;unlock&quot; different tiers of bonus packages by pre-ordering their album, <i>Mantis</i>.</p> <p>For example, if 100 fans pre-ordered, then everyone would get Bonus A. If 1000 fans pre-ordered, then a new level would &quot;unlock&quot; and everyone would get bonus A and bonus B. If 10,000 fans pre-ordered the album, then everyone would get bonus A, bonus B, and bonus C. And so on.</p> <p>The result was that fans pressured each other to buy, so that everyone received more bonuses.</p> <p>The idea created a flood of pre-orders and Reuters claimed it was the &quot;perfect way to implement a pre-order campaign.&quot;</p> <p>The lesson?</p> <p>Making the experience more engaging and introducing some game-oriented tactics (&quot;gamification&quot;) can make a big difference for your business model.</p> <p>How can these brilliant business models help your company?</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/james-clear">James Clear</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-game-changing-business-models-to-learn-from">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-personal-guarantee-on-a-business-credit-card-mean">What Does Your Personal Guarantee On a Business Credit Card Mean?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-your-small-business-targeting-the-wrong-customer">Is Your Small Business Targeting the Wrong Customer?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-build-business-credit-when-youre-self-employed">5 Ways to Build Business Credit When You&#039;re Self-Employed</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Small Business Resource Center B2B business lessons business models gamification persistence revenue streams small business Sun, 25 Sep 2011 23:26:54 +0000 James Clear 713553 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Business Lessons I Learned the Hard Way http://www.wisebread.com/7-business-lessons-i-learned-the-hard-way <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-business-lessons-i-learned-the-hard-way" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/1562479562_9095801eab_z.jpg" alt="tired man" title="tired man" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I started my own copywriting and creative consulting business two years ago, I wasn't prepared for all the stress that came with it.</p> <p>Naively, I thought I could name the business, create marketing materials (like a website and business cards), and start working.</p> <p>Not so much.</p> <p>There were several hurdles that I had to jump to get the business up and running, and I'm still encountering hurdles to this day. Perhaps if there were a blog post for newbies, like this one, many of these situations could have been avoided.</p> <p>If you have <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-daily-habits-of-successful-entrepreneurs" title="5 Daily Habits Of Successful Entrepreneurs">entrepreneurial aspirations</a> like I did, this one's for you. Study my mistakes to (hopefully) avoid your own. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-questions-to-ask-when-starting-a-business" title="3 Questions to Ask When Starting a Business">3 Questions to Ask When Starting a Business</a>)</p> <h3>1. Research the legal aspects of starting a business.</h3> <p>My first blunder was creating marketing materials based on a business name I hadn't registered. As it turned out, the name I chose, <a title="Paper Rox Scissors" href="http://www.paperroxscissors.com/">Paper Rox Scissors</a>, was already being used by another incorporated business, but I didn't know that until I had already established the business as a sole proprietorship with New York City and sought incorporation after the fact.</p> <p>I had several meetings with the Small Business Association and one with my local representative to try to convince New York State to let me incorporate, but the powers-that-be wouldn't budge on their decision to deny my request &mdash; despite the fact that the other business whose name was similar didn't offer the same services that I did, and their business name was spelled differently from mine. To this day, I'm still registered as a sole proprietor. It was an unnecessary headache that could have been avoided if I had known what to do from the start.</p> <h3>2. Contracts are 100% necessary 100% of the time.</h3> <p>For some dumb reason &mdash; usually when the project was small &mdash; I chose not to draft a formal contract for a client because I didn't think the project warranted one. Surely the client won't stiff me on a few hundred bucks, right? Dead wrong. Not drafting up a contract for even the smallest project is practically begging for the client to walk away without paying for the final product. I've skipped the contract a couple times, every time to my dismay. As they say &mdash; fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, somebody punch me.</p> <h3>3. Don't be timid when it comes to getting paid.</h3> <p>In the beginning I was afraid to ask clients to pay overdue bills. I didn't want to embarrass them or cause friction in our relationship. But after six months of getting the run around, I got over it. I will work with clients who communicate about late payments, but if I've sent several emails and placed multiple phone calls to no response, I have to hit where it hurts.</p> <p>Recently, I took to Facebook to let a client's fans know that he doesn't pay his bills. I didn't want to do that, believe me, because that's absolutely burning a bridge. However, I deserve to be paid for my work and, at the very least, communicated with if there's a problem. I received no response to my queries for more than six months, yet it took less than six minutes for someone to respond to me after I took the issue to a public forum. Sometimes you have to play hardball. Of course that client won't work with me again, but whose loss is that? I'm doing just fine with the clients who actually pay their bills on time.</p> <h3>4. Trust your gut.</h3> <p>Every now and again a prospective client will contact me whose demeanor doesn't sit well &mdash; just something about them I don't like. Against my better judgment I took on a client who, during our first meeting, badmouthed a former freelancer she had hired because that person posted unflattering comments on a few blogs about the client's work ethic. I gave the client the benefit of the doubt because I understand how petty some folks can be and because she made a great case for how she was the victim.</p> <p>She should have won an Oscar for her acting skills. Months after we started a project it still wasn't finished because she was unresponsive, bossy, and downright rude. When we finally finished and I billed her, she threw a fit because she didn't think she should be billed for research and time spent emailing her, billable hours that were discussed prior to the start of the project and clearly stated in a contract. After days of haggling, she then told me that she was going to bill me if she had to print out the invoice on her own. Lady was crazy, and I should have trusted my instincts. As soon as she paid me, I let her know she was fired. She was way more trouble than her account was worth.</p> <h3>5. Don't get suckered in.</h3> <p>These days, people want to pay as little as possible for high-quality work. There have been several times when I've presented a proposal with fees to a prospective client and they audibly scoff &mdash; and then go into their sob story about how the economy is affecting their business and they can't afford my services. Guess what? The economy affects my business too, and if you can't afford my services, seek someone else.</p> <p>I did give in once, though. I agreed to take on a project for far less than it was estimated because the client was a master of flattery. As a man of my word, I stuck with the project until eventually the client stopped using me because he couldn't pay even the lowest of fees. On the bright side, at least he didn't stiff me.</p> <h3>6. Hire an accountant.</h3> <p>Once I started signing clients, I was invoicing left and right in addition to spending money on business expenses. When tax time rolled around, I had a binder full of invoices, an accordion-style folder full of receipts, and several 1099 forms from clients. I had no idea what to do, and if I had done the taxes myself I'd probably be in jail right now. To cover my bases, I hired an accountant who knew what he was doing in terms of filing the necessary documents and making the most of my deductions. The $225 I pay the guy every year is worth every penny.</p> <h3>7. Pay quarterly taxes.</h3> <p>Mo' money, mo' taxes. This year my tax bill was fairly hefty, even with the attention to detail my accountant has when it comes to deductions. After I paid the lump sum back in April, he set me up with estimated quarterly taxes, which will help soften the blow when it's time to file next year. I'd much rather pay several hundred dollars four times a year than several thousand at once &mdash; especially when it's unexpected.</p> <p><em>Do you own a small business? What are some lessons you've learned the hard way. Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-business-lessons-i-learned-the-hard-way">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/six-tips-to-good-business-management">Six Tips to Good Business Management</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-real-deal-what-to-expect-when-starting-your-own-business">The Real Deal: What to Expect When Starting Your Own Business</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/starting-your-dream-business-is-easier-than-you-think-heres-how">Starting Your Dream Business Is Easier Than You Think — Here&#039;s How</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-the-one-skill-you-need-if-you-want-to-work-for-yourself">This Is the One Skill You Need If You Want to Work for Yourself</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-start-a-business-with-your-401k">How to Start a Business With Your 401(k)</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship business lessons starting a business Tue, 16 Aug 2011 09:36:17 +0000 Mikey Rox 660057 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Business Lessons from Billionaire Investors http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-business-lessons-from-billionaire-investors <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/5-business-lessons-from-billionaire-investors" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/5-business-lessons-fro...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-business-lessons-from-billionaire-investors" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000009169510Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Think you've got nothing in common with the likes of billionaire investor Warren Buffet? Think again. Turns out you can glean some important business understanding by taking a close look at what makes billionaire investors successful in what they do. Success: that's a nice thing to have in common.</p> <h3>They Choose Proven Industries</h3> <p>Buffet, and others, can well afford to take a risk or two, but their hallmark is not investing in risky new ventures and unknown industries. Rather, billionaire investors tend to put their money into industries which have proven themselves both in long-term demand and profitability. While the newest, most innovative, and interesting option is always tempting &mdash; who doesn't want to be smart enough to know about the next big thing, and make huge sums of money from it? &mdash; it isn't a sure bet, nor even a good one.</p> <p><em>Business Take Away:</em> Invest your time and money in what has proven to have a strong ongoing demand and/or a strong ongoing returns for your business. You can apply this principle to everything from employees to strategies, innovation, and products. Marketing, for example, continues to morph as we continue to refine Internet marketing methods. You should track your ROI in the online marketing you do, then invest more of your marketing dollars into efforts that work. The same goes for managing people; if a position opens up in your company, look at the employees you already have who have proven capable, trustworthy, and productive. Would one of them fill that spot? If you have an employee who has proven worth to your business, then it's a low risk to invest in a higher salary and higher level of responsibility for that employee.</p> <h3>They Are In It for the Long Term Investment</h3> <p>Investing in the stock market is not a get-rich-quick plan, and rarely does it work that way for investors. Billionaire investors look at stocks that will grow in value over time, and put money in early on, not expecting to pull a profit from it in a few months or even in a few years.</p> <p><em>Business Take Away:</em> You may find yourself with a runaway product, bringing in more profits than you ever imagined within your first year or two, but those scenarios are rare. The more common scenario is months and years of building slowly, finding investors, tracking money, building a brand, delivering on promises, and moving into profitability with a steady climb from the beginning. Climbing, by the way, is tough work.</p> <h3>They Know Where Their Money Goes</h3> <p>When you've got billions to invest, it seems like it might not be a big deal to toss a few million here, a few million there, and not worry too much if you lose some. But the smart investors &mdash; the ones who continue to have that kind of money to invest, year after year &mdash; are not careless with their money. Carelessness in small amounts of money is a sign of carelessness in general, and when money is your business tool, you've got to treat it with respect and care.</p> <p><em>Business Take Away:</em> As a business owner or manager, or as a sole proprietor (freelancing, anyone?), you have to know where your money goes. This matters in terms of your time &mdash; are you spending hours on jobs that you could outsource or assign to an employee? &mdash; and in terms of the actual money flowing through your business. You need to track income and expenses, spot disparities, and continually check for holes where money may be slipping away, taking profit with it. That doesn't mean that you have to be money-driven, but it does mean that you have to be money-aware. You simply can't run a successful business and be ignorant about the money involved in it.</p> <h3>They are Constantly Learning About New Opportunities</h3> <p>While billionaire investors are not going to be swept away in the next big fad (see Choosing Proven Industries, above), they are in the habit of constantly watching the market, learning about new opportunities, and staying aware of technological developments, political changes, and other trends that impact the market, the economy, and how they can best invest in it.</p> <p><em>Business Take Away:</em><b> </b>The parallel is rather obvious. You have to be aware of what is happening in your business, among your competitors, and with the market demand in general. If your main competition has just released a smashing new product that could threaten the survival of your business, you'd better know about it. If a shift in the economy, or a new development in technology, can cause your target market to shift into new buying habits, you'd better know about it. Your business survival depends on your ongoing, continuing knowledge of what you sell, what your competitors sell, and what your market wants to buy.</p> <h3>They Don't Rest on Past Successes</h3> <p>If anyone could rest on their laurels, these folks could. As a billionaire, do you really need more money? But most of big investors continue to watch the markets, to learn, to share their knowledge, to invest in new businesses and old ones, to plan for the long-term returns they may not even be around to see.</p> <p><em>Business Take Away:</em><b> </b>You've got to keep moving forward. Innovation is a key to business success. Peter Drucker says &quot;systematic innovation&quot; is one of the &quot;universal entrepreneurial disciplines,&quot; and a &quot;condition for survival.&quot; After a tough climb up the business mountain, you'll be tempted to sit back, take a break, and just let things roll long. Do that, for, say, two or three days. Then get back to work. The challenge of running a business is that the formula that worked for initial success is not going to be the formula that works for ongoing success. Unless you are leading the business forward, you'll find yourself failing merely because you're attempting to repeat the past while everyone else is marching into the future.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/annie-mueller">Annie Mueller</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-business-lessons-from-billionaire-investors">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-personal-guarantee-on-a-business-credit-card-mean">What Does Your Personal Guarantee On a Business Credit Card Mean?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-your-small-business-targeting-the-wrong-customer">Is Your Small Business Targeting the Wrong Customer?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-build-business-credit-when-youre-self-employed">5 Ways to Build Business Credit When You&#039;re Self-Employed</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Small Business Resource Center business lessons investment advice small business warren buffet Wed, 04 May 2011 22:00:42 +0000 Annie Mueller 532484 at http://www.wisebread.com Business Lessons from a Triathlon http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/business-lessons-from-a-triathlon <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/innovation/article/business-lessons-from-a-triathlon-julie-rains" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/innovation/article/business-lessons-fro...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/business-lessons-from-a-triathlon" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000004890344XSmall.jpg" alt="Cycling" title="Cycling" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I competed in my first triathlon in the summer of 2010. Though I have significant experience in competitive swimming and track plus a fair amount recreational cycling <em>and</em> the race was a beginner-friendly, female-only, short-distance event, I found that there was much to learn about combining three sports (swim, bike, and run) in one event.</p> <p>Many of these lessons apply to business:</p> <h3>Focus and Agility Are Essential</h3> <p>Proper focus in racing is so well-touted that mentioning it may seem like a cliché. But the mental component of triathlon is magnified compared to an individual sport. Dealing with multiple but interrelated components (swim, transition from swim to bike, bike, transition from bike to run, and run &mdash; plus nutrition, hydration, and pacing) can be unnerving.</p> <p>Very often business success is dependent on greatness at a core competency, but a high level of performance also requires strength in multiple disciplines. Being able to focus on a critical area and the agility to switch that focus effortlessly are keys to excellence.</p> <h3>Old Rules Don&rsquo;t Apply</h3> <p>Oddly, rules relevant to individual sports were contrary to the rules of this sprint-distance triathlon. For example, participants were not required to touch the wall in the last length of the swim but told to exit the pool on a ladder <em>before</em> reaching the lane&rsquo;s end. Even as the race was in progress, participants with a competitive swim background discussed this nuance, one finally convincing the others to break the swim-only rule by explaining that there was no touch sensor at the lane finish. The bike portion was also very different from recreational outings in which my teammates and I alternatively pull and draft each other; such actions would lead to disqualification in triathlons.</p> <p>Sorting through all these differences was a challenge for me. I cautioned myself to avoid making assumptions about any aspect of the race, and instead seek out and interpret new rules.</p> <p>As business owners, we often have fixed ideas about how we should reach, cultivate, and engage customers. We need to remember that while ethics are unchanging, arbitrary rules can be ignored without negative consequences. In fact, discerning essential rules only can boost results.</p> <h3>Details Matter</h3> <p>Elite athletes know that split seconds can make the difference between status as a world champion and a tenth-place finish. Even a few seconds in community races can make a significant difference in final standings.</p> <p>By attending a special training session, I learned about the ladder-exit instruction pertaining to the swim portion, which saved me 30 seconds or so. My personal experience told me that riding my road bike rather than my hybrid would give me an edge in minutes during the cycling portion. However, I think I could have improved my performance had I worn a tri-suit and race belt rather than more traditional gear and ignored volunteers who shouted general instructions to all participants.</p> <p>Customers, employees, and investors often notice details that affect their decisions to choose your business over competitors. Understanding what details are significant (and require resources) and which can be safely ignored can differentiate average performers from stellar ones.</p> <h3>Coaching Can Address Specific Areas of Concern</h3> <p>I joined a group training program led by a <a href="http://www.tricoachvaughan.com/">certified coach</a>. He designed a custom training plan, led group workout sessions and transition clinics, and answered loads of questions. Having access to an expert (who also had firsthand racing experience) was helpful.</p> <p>Coaches can guide first-timers and more experienced competitors, giving both basic and advanced insights, demonstrating methods of overcoming weaknesses, advising on realistic goals, and focusing efforts on training techniques that will yield specific results.</p> <p>Businesses can benefit from outside expertise, including those who can address well-defined needs. Before contacting a coach or consultant, consider what you hope to accomplish through the engagement; for example, enlist assistance to enter a new market segment, deal with a problem, or streamline effective but inefficient processes.</p> <h3>Competition Is Fierce</h3> <p>There were many participants in this beginner-friendly race who barely finished. Nevertheless, competition for top spots is fierce. No matter how fit and nimble you are, unless you train and compete at the elite level, average performance is generally much higher than anticipated.</p> <p>The depth of competition is frustrating but inspiring. Seeing what others accomplish raises the bar and motivates us to greater excellence. These revelations can force us to candidly evaluate our capabilities, strengths, and areas needing improvement and ideally, provide impetus for discovering the niche in which we can rank #1.</p> <h3>Strategic Plans Can Guide Us in High-Pressure Situations</h3> <p>To develop a race strategy that tapped my strengths and dealt with my weaknesses, I practiced the bike-and-run route, noting major hills, slight grades, and flat sections. The pool wasn&rsquo;t available to me until the day of the event, but I did practice swimming under ropes to change lanes after each length as dictated by the event rules (longer-distance events involve open-water swims, but the swim portion of this event took place in an indoor pool).</p> <p>Knowing what to do at each juncture can eliminate last-minute, unnecessary, and destructive changes to a master business plan. Anticipating predictable problems stems panic when difficulties are encountered. Planning may seem to detract from spontaneity, diminishing the fun factor during the event. A plan should lead to better results. A strong finish can be relished forever.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/business-lessons-from-a-triathlon">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-personal-guarantee-on-a-business-credit-card-mean">What Does Your Personal Guarantee On a Business Credit Card Mean?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-your-small-business-targeting-the-wrong-customer">Is Your Small Business Targeting the Wrong Customer?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-build-business-credit-when-youre-self-employed">5 Ways to Build Business Credit When You&#039;re Self-Employed</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Small Business Resource Center business lessons competition small business training regimen Sun, 23 Jan 2011 01:57:07 +0000 Julie Rains 455954 at http://www.wisebread.com 11 Business Lessons from the Heart http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/11-business-lessons-from-the-heart <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/11-business-lessons-from-the-heart-tom-harnish" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/11-business-lessons-from-...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/11-business-lessons-from-the-heart" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000002578990XSmall.jpg" alt="Business heart" title="Business heart" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="157" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Here are some lessons I learned while attending the Business School of Experience. Keep in mind, &quot;experience&quot; is really just another word for mistakes. Learn from my experience, so you don't have to learn from yours.</p> <h3>Do Your Homework</h3> <p>Bright ideas are common; people who can turn them into a business are not. Don't let your enthusiasm keep you from doing your homework.</p> <p>When starting a business, ask yourself:</p> <ul> <li>Is there a real market? Can I really create this product/service?</li> <li>Can I win? Can my company and product be competitive?</li> <li>Will it be worth it? Will it be profitable? Will it support my philosophy, strategy, goals, and objectives?</li> </ul> <p>Build a low, likely, and high model in your spreadsheets, and do some sensitivity analysis. If start-up or roll-out takes longer and costs more than estimated (it always does), what effect will it have?</p> <p>A clear view of reality, more than anything else, will determine your future. Business is no place for wishful thinking. Dreams, yes. Fantasies, no.</p> <h3>Dig Deeper</h3> <p>Google is your friend. If you think what you have is unique, think again. Dig around and find out what else is out there that's similar to what you're contemplating. Learn what works (or doesn't) from others who have tried it. Indirect competitors can be as fierce as direct ones, and they don't even do it on purpose.</p> <p>Find an association that covers what you do, join it, and wring out their reports and statistics. Order a franchise package for a company or product similar to what you have in mind. They're required by law to tell you the downsides and upsides of the business. Ask for advice; you'll be surprised how willing people are to help.</p> <h3>Think It Through</h3> <p>Play a movie in your head about how this all will work, and write the script to make it happen. The written document isn't the point, the thought process is. If you can't envision success, how can you achieve it?</p> <p>It's very easy to become enamored with an idea and focus on the product, not the market. Spend a lot more time thinking about the market than you do on developing intricate details for your product/service. Who are you going to sell to? What do they look like? Where are they? How will you reach them? Will they buy? What will they be willing to spend? You probably will improve your concept because of this thought process.</p> <p>Keep in mind that you are a bad market sample; if you like it or your family likes it, it doesn't matter. Will other people be willing to spend real money to buy it? That's different than someone saying they like the idea if you ask them on a street corner or in a meeting. Hold out your hand and see if they put money it. If they do, you're on the right track.</p> <h3>Do the Numbers</h3> <p>Figure out what your budget needs to be. Be realistic; if you don't have a lot of money, you can't just spend less on development, production, promotion, or staff. If you don't spend enough, quality, market awareness, or distribution will suffer.</p> <p>Ignore what you have in the bank, define an accurate budget, and <em>then</em> compare what you think you need with how much you have to spend. If you don't have enough, don't just do it anyway and hope for the best. And remember, when (if) you move forward, you have to stick to these numbers! If you spend twice as much on ads, production, or rent than what's in your plan, you're headed for trouble.</p> <p><a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/dont-let-your-cash-flow-go-down-the-drain-tom-harnish">Plan your cash flow</a>, not your profits. You can't spend profit. You can grow so fast, you go broke. If you don't understand how that can happen, visit <a href="http://findingmoneyadvice.com/">FindingMoneyAdvice.com</a>.</p> <h3>Make a List</h3> <p>Create an action plan. List the things that need to get done, and then make sublists for all the big things. Keep doing that until you can't break the tasks down any finer. Then put them on a time line. Some things have to be done long before others. There is no point in rushing off to market when your product won't be done for another six months, for example. This mental process is almost like a business simulator. It allows you to think through what it would really be like to run the business. Who's going to answer the phone? What if you need more cash for supplies or raw materials? Who will be the company spokesperson for TV interviews? Involve other people who will be working with you so they can help think it through too.</p> <h3>Prototype</h3> <p>Test, refine, test some more, and <em>then</em> build. Remember, when you test, a &quot;no&quot; answer is as useful as &quot;yes.&quot; Few ideas are perfect right out of the box. And many successes are discovered by accident. If your idea works and the market likes it...go! If people don't, make some changes, big ones if you need to. If you can't or won't...WALK AWAY. Don't be pig-headed and press on because you can't accept that the whole thing is a bad idea. You'll be tired, broke, and angry when you fail.</p> <p>Entrepreneurs are notorious for not taking no for answer. But two thirds of businesses fail within 10 years.</p> <h3>Promote It</h3> <p>Success isn't just about products and markets, it's about making sure people know you have a product that will solve a problem for them, it's worth the money, and you can be trusted to deliver it. Publicity is cheaper than advertising, so do something (tastefully) outrageous. Attract some attention.</p> <h3>Be Involved</h3> <p>You're a key member of the team. If you've convinced your spouse, a bank, or a VC that you have a good idea and you've created a company or launched a new product, your job has just begun. Sitting in your office pouring over spreadsheets won't build a success. Your enthusiasm, dedication, and knowledge will. Share it. It will rub off on employees, advisors, investors, and even customers. Then hire people who are smarter than you are.</p> <p>If you don't like the people you're working with, or if you don't trust them, something's wrong. Start by taking a careful look at yourself. Are <em>you</em> trustworthy? Are <em>you</em> a hard worker? Are <em>you</em> fun to be around? Life's too short; have fun and encourage the people you work with to have fun too.</p> <p>Measure performance based on results, not attendance. It doesn't matter where, when, or how people work as long as they get the job done. If you can't define what acceptable results are, how can your people possibly be successful? Remember, if they aren't, you aren't.</p> <h3>Look Both Ways</h3> <p>After implementation, look back at where you've come from and ask yourself what you might have done differently. Learn from mistakes and successes. And look ahead; the road may have changed while you were busy starting up. Make changes if you need to, be agile, and adjust. Managing change is the hardest job you'll have.</p> <h3>Celebrate</h3> <p>You only have one life to live, so enjoy it. When you have a little success, celebrate! Make sure the people who contributed have a chance to enjoy your success too. You couldn't have done it without them.</p> <h3>Share It</h3> <p>&ldquo;All who would win joy, must&nbsp;share&nbsp;it; happiness was born a twin.&rdquo; &mdash; Lord Byron</p> <p>&quot;Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.&quot; &mdash; Siddhartha</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tom-harnish">Tom Harnish</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/11-business-lessons-from-the-heart">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-the-one-skill-you-need-if-you-want-to-work-for-yourself">This Is the One Skill You Need If You Want to Work for Yourself</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-business-lessons-i-learned-the-hard-way">7 Business Lessons I Learned the Hard Way</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-personal-guarantee-on-a-business-credit-card-mean">What Does Your Personal Guarantee On a Business Credit Card Mean?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Small Business Resource Center business lessons small business start-up starting a business Thu, 25 Nov 2010 18:16:00 +0000 Tom Harnish 315711 at http://www.wisebread.com