Miles Jennings

Entrepreneur & Startup CEO, Founder & Investor in Web & Mobile Apps for Recruiting, Internet Technology, & Social Media

Professional bio website for Miles Jennings

Recruiter.com Launches Professional Recruiting Course

I'm proud to be involved with the launch of a professional recruiting course with Recruiter.com! Recruiter.com, announced today the opening of the pre-registration period for the Recruiter.com Certification Program, a comprehensive online education portal designed to teach anyone, anywhere how to become a recruiter.

The program aims to introduce people from all walks of life to the exciting field of professional recruiting, giving them the opportunity to learn the business and earn money. Designed for maximum accessibility, the Recruiter.com Certification Program can be completed by anyone, including those with limited time, those who have stayed at home or been unemployed for lengthy periods, and military veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce.

Read about the full release about the certification program here...

We're Partnering with YEC

I've very much enjoyed being a member of YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council) for a few years now. It's a fantastic community of vetted entrepreneurs and business owners. There are tons of special membership resources, but really the most important benefit is the community itself. Their Facebook community is very active and engaged, and they hold special events all over the country to connect their members offline. 

I'm especially happy for my company, Recruiter, to be able to offer their members special services on recruiting employees. A lot of the companies are very fast growing, and are 100% run by super motivated, dynamic entrepreneurs. We announced the partnership today and look forward to working closely with their members to help grow their companies. 

I am also giving a (very) unsolicited shout-out to YEC as an exceptional community of entrepreneurs. If you are looking for a peer group for mentorship, networking, or mental support (lol), I would definitely recommend YEC. You would be hard-pressed to find a group of more exciting, caring, and dynamic individuals online.    

Next-Level Networking

Selling part of your company is a lot like seeing your child walk off to their first day of kindergarten and start a life without you. It’s an important moment, a time for reflection — and a little terrifying.

Finding and then attracting the right investor can feel impossible, especially if it’s your first time raising capital.

The investment community can seem like a secret, opaque society, but it’s important to realize that investors are just people. You should be vetting them as much as they are you. Ideally, you’ll want to find an investor who can offer you a lot more than money and take your business up a few notches in every area.

The process of finding the right investor will likely take at least six months and involve a lot of travel and late nights. With diligence and hard work, you can network your way in — even if you don’t live in Silicon Valley or New York City. Here are five tips to get you started:

Leverage your network. To begin the process, you’ll want to look to the people closest to you. Your circle often turns out to be a lot larger than you think when you add in your alumni networks, colleagues, relatives, clients and social media connections. Look for people who are involved in investments or have started companies themselves. Start the process of reaching out to them for ideas. If you don’t already, start having regular lunches and coffees with old friends and colleagues.

Target the right kind of investor. The first step in identifying the right investor is to step back and evaluate the stage of your business. Do you have a great idea? A marketable product? Predictable and growing revenue? Your business stage will dictate the proper kind of investor. A friends-and-family round might be appropriate if you are looking for a small amount of capital to build your first product. Angel investors (primarily comprised ofindividuals and groups of individual investors) will most likely want to see real traction and a business valuation of no more than a few million dollars. Venture-capital and private-equity firms have a very broad variety of themes and preferences; you’ll want to determine the size and stage that each individual VC focuses on by examining their past investments.

Start with the insiders. The investors that you target should first be within the broad category of your business (e.g. business software). Your real homework, though, is to find the real insiders: people who have invested in your exact business segment (e.g. social analytics software).

Find out every major investment inside your industry within the past five years, including the investments in your competitors and partners. These investors are ideal first contacts, because they already understand the mechanics of your business model and the scale of your market. Because investors want to diversify their portfolios, these insiders may not end up being your final investors, but they could be the perfect starting contacts to build your network.

Branch out, and then branch out again. When you contact an investor, your job is just like a salesperson’s: get a meeting. During the meeting, until you hear a definitive yes, the investor is saying no. Your job is to get to yes on one of two things: an investment or a referral. Investors usually love to help entrepreneurs start out — many were in your shoes at one point. Let them help you. Follow up with every referral, even if they don’t appear to be good leads at first glance.

Tailor your message. Networking within the investment community is the opposite of cold calling. Forget about efficiency or speed. If you’re emailing a new contact, treat it almost like a job interview. Take great care to personalize every communication and do heavy research on the people you’re calling. For every investor you contact, you should understand their past investments, industry focus, investment philosophy or thesis if they have one, published works, associates, and academic and work history. It’s not enough to pitch. You need to make it personal. Understand exactly why that particular person might want to invest in a company like yours, and use that in your initial contact. Even when contacting larger venture-capital firms, contact the people individually, not the company.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed during this journey. If you compare yourself to the people you meet along the way, you will shake up your confidence. You’re dealing with smart, successful people with great connections. Contrary to the media portrayal, however, you are not swimming with sharks. You’re meeting with lots of interesting people and talking about a business you believe in — and hopefully love. This is just next-level networking: a challenge hard enough to be fun.

This article, authored by Miles Jennings, was originally published on The WSJ Accelerators Blog.

Claim to Be the Uber of X. Enliven Your Company With the Right Analogy.

Except for the embarrassing whirring of the one laptop in the room without a solid state drive, the room is completely quiet. The first slide pops up and a company logo is animated with light for a second, invoking a fish’s wet back glinting in the sun as it struggles against a line. The pitch is on.

“Picking a present for your girlfriend is hard, right?” the presenter begins. Two people in the room wince and exchange glances with the lone woman in the room. A few people nod in agreement.

“And you always wait until the last second, right?” he continues. “Well, worry no more. UGift.ly buys presents for you and brings them right to your door -- all through a simple smartphone app. You just connect your Facebook friends, tap a button and the perfect present will be delivered in a few hours.”

“But I don’t understand,” says an investor, who, in his irresponsible youth, was editor of the Harvard Crimson. “How do you make money?”

“Oh, simple .We’re like Uber for gift giving,” the presenter replies.

There's a collective sigh in the room and quite a few smiles. The next slide shows a cartoon lightbulb that's immediately understood. All is right in the world.

Everyone these days uses analogies to describe a business model. A stadium could be filled with the founders of startups who have used Uber to create a business analogy (Uber for pizza, Uber for flowers and Uber for dates). And this is for good reason: Invoking Uber calls to mind all that's beyond cool. Uber summons with a tap, a future that is convenient, polished and without pain. It’s no wonder that it’s now also a massive cliché among startups.

That doesn’t mean that invoking another company as a business model is wrong or trite. Picking the right analogy isn’t just for informing weary venture capitalists. Choosing the right analogy can inform an entrepreneur’s choices and decisions and opens up up new ideas. 

In a Harvard Business Review article "How Strategists Really Think: Tapping the Power of Analogy," authors Giovanni Gavetti and Jan W. Rivkin wrote that analogies are “imperfect but useful. The challenge is to get the most out of them.

The right analogy frees an entrepreneur from being trapped within his or her own industry for inspiration. Instead of sticking an analogy into a slide presentation and forgetting it, try bringing it deep inside the business strategy in these areas:

1. Revenue.

How does the model company make money? Look beyond its stated products to see how it earns money through partnerships and third-party integrations. The real revenue sources may be very different than the consumer-facing products.

2. Key metrics.

What key indicators does the model use to forecast and plan against? Uber might consider number of app downloads or drivers or the average cost of the ride. How do these translate to the new startup's market?

3. Content. 

How does the model company market itself and generate search traffic? How does it engage its audience?

It’s easy to figure out a company’s content strategy because this is mostly public. Can this strategy be applied to the new startup being launched? 

4. Hiring.

The business being followed as a model can give an idea about the most important hire to make when scaling up the startup effectively. Does that business rely on heavy customer support or lots of salespeople in the field? Use this example to hire proactively based on a similar pattern of operational growth.

5. Exit.

The model company is likely years if not a decade ahead of the new startup. When did it take outside capital and how did it plan its rounds of investment? Was there an exit by the founders? Who is that company's potential buyers and who might be potential buyers of the new startup? The capitalization strategy may mirror that of the model company.

The analogy picked may dictate the future of the startup so pick carefully. But after finding that great model that resonates, be sure to make the most of it. Use the analogy to build a new business wisely and fulfill its ultimate purpose. 

This article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com

Why You Should Hire Only Flexible Minds

I was in the conference room using a proprietary Ikea tool to piece together a heap of parts into something that resembled a chair. It was the day after my company had hired its first salesperson and he was working in a nearby room. Instead of listening to the radio, I listened to his phone calls.

By the time I had finished making two or three chairs, he called out, “I think I just made a sale. How do we invoice people?”

I got up and said -- or thought; I can’t remember which -- “This is going to work out just fine.”

At that point, my company didn’t have any kind of training procedure. It didn’t have sophisticated marketing materials. The company's services weren’t that tightly focused and pricing was sometimes ad hoc. There was no intranet, customer relationship management system, elaborate current client lists or testimonials. There wasn't much. Yet somehow it all worked, without his even asking for much help from me.

The key here is that he’s a special kind of person, the only kind of person that startups should ever hire.

In a somewhat different context, some people call this having a flexible mind. It’s about what Leo Baubata called “developing the ability to cope with change, to be flexible to simplify.” 

At a startup, the rate of change is extremely high across all areas. The services, pricing strategy, focus and even the marketing message may and should undergo refinement every day. It’s not enough for employees to try to keep up with this change. They need to own and effect change themselves.

Ben Yoskovitz wrote in a blog post “How To Design a Successful Interview Process for Hiring Top Talent” that he looked for people “who had that special extra gear; the few people with the determination to plough through, take chances and be capable of clearly and confidently explain what they did after the fact.”

Said another way, seeking the startup team is not a search for people who ask where the manual is. Rather it's a hunt for people to write the manual.

A startup typically does not have the processes in place to accommodate people who want to read from a script. Working for a startup requires improvisation, an ability to come up with a new line when the other actor drops his. Screen for this adaptability through role-playing real-life scenarios during interviews and by searching for people who seek out change and challenge.

It’s not just startups that need to value and promote flexibility. Adaptability may be the defining trait of successful 21-century companies. In a post on the Harvard Business Review site “Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage,” the authors write, “Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning how to do new things.”

Some of the largest, most entrenched industry titans have faced massive disruption that has challenged the very essence of their business models such as Hollywood moviemakers confining themselves to making movies delivered through the cinema or the news industry's defining itself by the media of delivery instead of by the product. These big industries could perhaps use some startup thinking.

Adaptability matters when it comes to communication. Employers are now beginning to value intercultural adaptability as much as experience and technical knowledge. It’s not just because of globalization or outsourcing. The innovation that successful companies must create demands diversity. That diversity requires flexible thinkers who are open to challenges and new ways of solving problems.

All companies must now assume the inevitability of change, if not disruption, for which there is no manual. It’s imperative to hire for this challenge, which can only be met with agile, adaptable and flexible minds that are capable of constant learning. At my company, Recruiter.com, no matter what job I'm hiring for, these traits are the only must-have requirements.

First appeared on Entrepreneur

The Big Lessons I Learned From My First Entrepreneurial Job

I don’t remember how I got the interview. I met with a recruiter in my college's library.

Instead of interviewing me, he pitched me on the opportunity: Running a College Pro franchise was a great way for college kids to learn to run their own business over the summer, painting houses and earning tons of money. 

I remember my College Pro training fondly. There were PowerPoint presentations about the positive and negative qualities of oil and latex paints and role-playing exercises about pitching house-painting services and answering homeowner objections.

The training culminated in having to paint an actual house. It rained, however, and all I remember doing was eating pizza with the sales manager while he talked about paint-sprayer pricing.

Summer began. I started my own little mini enterprise under the umbrella brand of College Pro. I put an ad in the paper declaring “Hiring Painters Now” and I was in business. The folks at College Pro weren’t kidding when they said a person would learn a lot about business. It was trial by fire with pretty high stakes for a college kid. 

Here are some of the lessons that I learned that might be useful to anyone running a business or looking to start one:

1. Marketing works.

One of the first things I did was buy a ton of lawn signs with my number. I enlisted my sister to help me blanket the town. It turns that it was illegal to post in half the places the signs went, and I received a notice from the city to cease and desist my guerrilla-marketing tactics. What did I know?

But in any case, the calls started coming in. Marketing is powerful.

2. Well-developed brands deliver.

After pitching my company's services to homeowners, my success rate was pretty high, I was surprised to find. I didn’t know anything about painting, my prices weren’t the lowest around and I’m sure that I was up against very experienced local pros.

But I wore a nice clean shirt with a logo, gave prospects solid marketing materials, a well-documented quote and had the right insurance. Having all the branding done correctly counts for a lot.

3. Fire fast.

I hired people from newspaper ads after meeting them in the local strip mall. I hired some people who had never picked up a paint brush -- basically folks who were motivated to try a new job.

Some employees just weren’t going to work out. One man spent the entire day smoking. Another person painted around a bicycle that was leaning against a house, instead of moving it.

I learned that it's better to let go of people quickly and not let them drag down the whole team.

4. Don’t overextend resources.

About halfway through the summer, my business ran away from me. I had multiple teams working on multiple houses at the same time. I started losing money that I didn’t have to lose.

So I downsized the operation, keeping my best employees, and from then on, I only took on one project at a time. It was a better fit for my level of experience and helped me avoid any major disasters.

Make sure the size of your company fits the opportunities and challenges that you take on.

5. Fight back.

For one project, a crew member dripped paint all over someone’s roof, and some other problems emerged. The homeowners were furious: They sent a letter threatening legal action for the damage. They still owed the last deposit, which was for thousands of dollars.

Instead of immediately caving in and offering to pay for the damage, I sent them a bill. They were incensed, but it changed the conversation. They started arguing, “We don’t owe you any money” instead of “You owe us a fortune.” I ended up canceling their last deposit that was due, the homeowners had their house painted for cheap, and I didn’t end up in court -- a happy ending.

It goes to show you don't be afraid to negotiate and play a little hardball. That can go a long way.

6. Finish the job.

When you finish painting a house, it’s easy to call it a day after the last brushstroke. But you’re not really done until you’ve touched up every little corner, cleaned up your mess, vacuumed up the paint chips and received a final sign-off and a completed customer-service questionnaire.

You’re really only done when you’re driving away with the final deposit in your hand, paid by a happy customer who will give you referrals. Finishing the job is something much more than covering a house with paint.  

What was great for me about running this painting business was the perfect antidote to my philosophy major. In the end, to be successful, you don’t need to think much. You need to pick up the brush and climb ladders. You need to paint a lot of houses. You need to get the job done. 

You need to make more bucks than you lose. You need to not get sued. I ended up coming out a bit ahead that summer, probably with about as much in my pocket as I would have had after running a large paper route. But as I remember, at the time that was more than alright with me.

What I learned that was so crucial was that victories and setbacks are both equally important parts of an entrepreneur's journey in business. Looking back on it, the things that were the most challenging were really the most valuable. If you recognize this and make the most of each day, you'll come out ahead every time and have some fun along the way. 

This first appeared on Entrepreneur

7 Must-Dos Before the End of the Year

Now that December has arrived, it's time to make some smart moves to set up your company for an even better next year.

Here's my seven-point checklist for entrepreneurs at the year's end:

1. Set the stage for growth.

Can your company accommodate the growth forecast for next year? Review your projections for next year and be sure to plan appropriately in each area of the budget.

Do you have the sales staff to meet the revenue goals? Have you adequate office space to accommodate the hires? How will an increased number of clients strain customer service? Will an increased amount of traffic affect Internet costs?.

2. Get the books in order.

If you haven’t been doing your books monthly and paying taxes or setting aside money, you’re on the naughty list. Perhaps you haven’t spent enough time reviewing the numbers and the company's performance.

Be sure to examine the financial reports carefully and compare the changes from years past. Note if any results are off and make a plan to push the numbers in the right direction next year.

3. Gather with staff.

You might be thinking about your business all the time, but it’s easy to not communicate your thoughts with staff. You might have changed the company's direction or added services without bringing everyone to the table.

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on the company's performance, talk about challenges and accomplishments and plan for the year ahead. Have a meeting before your holiday party so that the festivities don’t have to involve talking business.

4. Seek out savings.

Big expenses that hold the promise of significant growth dominate your thoughts. Look at any big-ticket items for next year and figure out if you can pay them off for a guaranteed savings.

Monthly software services, for example, often grant 20 percent off to those who pay a year in advance. Likewise a landlord might offer a 10 percent discount if rent is furnished for the entire year. Spot these savings and make an investment now. You’ll save money over the long haul.

5. Evaluate the company's technology.

When you review the year, be aware of how staffers have used existing systems. Probably members of your team live and die by certain software programs but use others infrequently. Sometimes if employees aren't using a certain software program, a system or a piece of equipment, they don’t understand it.

Other times, the use case isn’t real and your team just doesn’t need the software. Consider eliminating any unused systems next year.

6. Set goals.

The best goals are framed to be actionable. But it's easy to forget this when setting longer-term objectives.

Well, it might be nice to say you've adopted a goal to increase sales 40 percent. But how? Know that adopting any goal requires a change in behavior. So what are you and your staff about to do differently? Are you shifting your approach to focus on products that sold well this year?

Will the company do more marketing? What will you and your staff do differently next year that will effect enough positive change to reach your goals? Create a specific action plan and arrive at a consensus and an understanding of the new behaviors required.

7. Contribute.

Arrange for charitable giving for the selfish reasons of a tax write-off or good publicity. Or do so unselfishly because you’re an awesome person. But take time to contribute something before the year's end.

Consider matching employee gifts to a charity that's engaged in a similar area as your company is. Making a donation of your time or money helps build a sense of purpose for your staff and your company.

This article first appeared: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240330

The Software Tools in My Company's Arsenal

Startups need to do a lot with a little. The right software can make a big difference and picking the right “stack” to handle all your company's key functions is a critical decision.

The end of the year is a great time to look at your technology systems to see what’s working. My company, Recruiter.com, recently made some software choices to help our team of 15 in multiple locations stay in touch, collaborate and be more productive. 

I've shared my thinking about the software that my staff and I selected in the hopes that some of these choices might be helpful to you.

1. Customer relationship management software.

I choose Insightly mostly because of its very tight integration with a range of Google apps (now called Google for Work). It was  easy to learn and to deploy through the Google log-ins and fairly priced.

“One of the most important aspects of purchasing a sales system is the number of people using it," TechnologyAdvice advisor Cameron Council tells me via email. "Some sales software systems are specifically designed for smaller teams, while others work great in larger organizations."

"Interoperability with other systems is key, but not every add-on and special feature is always necessary or useful," Cameron adds. An add-on might be a marketing-automation function to schedule "distribution of content that will continue nurturing your relationships.”  

2. Help desk and customer-support software.

For my company's help desk, I chose Freshdesk, a product that feels like a robust, feature-rich service.  

Freshdesk provides an intuitive on-site chat function, a ticket-logging feature and customer-service-agent management. One worthy feature is the ability to set up a custom toll-free number, replete with a phone tree that logs support tickets for the correct agents.

Support software becomes expensive when multiple licenses must be purchased, so spend some time on your decision. Pay attention to the quality of the design and user interface. Decide how your staffers wish to interact with customers via online chat, ticket logging, email or phone, and then choose a platform built around it.

3. Cloud storage and backup and file-sharing tools.

I choose Google Docs and Google Drive for the strength of their real-time collaboration possibilities. Developing documents in Google Docs seems more like chatting than writing, which is amazing for working in teams, especially remote ones.

A Google Drive makes it easy to comment and collaborate on documents and files. The only downside is that the drive can become impossibly disorganized without a clear file organization. Also the folder-sharing features can be somewhat nonintuitive for new users.

“Many free platforms are easy to implement and use, but organization can often become a challenge," Cameron explains. "The size of the team is a key factor in the type of file-sharing system purchased" or how a free platform is organized.

Whether you select free or purchased software, opt for something that can be customized as the business grows, Cameron writes, adding, "Understand the types and sizes of files you’ll be creating and how you’d like to share them to account for storage space and accessibility."

Cameron adds that some cloud storage systems offer server backup and encryption so identify the company's needs so as to not buy unneccessary functions.

4. Issue tracking.

Tracking bugs seems like a small aspect in a company’s workflow until it has a lot of users. Effective issue tracking is vital to the ongoing development of a product. My development and testing teams chose DoneDone for its simple design, robust reporting feature and strong user management.

A ton of issue-tracking tools exist: Decide whether your company can track issues by using a function inside another tool, such as a project management or collaboration tool. If you opt for a standalone tool, decide if you want an open source or a software as a service product. If your company has a technical staff, open source tools might suffice.

5. Project and task management software.

I chose Wrike for its user-friendly design, Facebook-style, real-time activity feed, easily organized and nested folders and granular control over the permission levels of users.

Wrike offers a nice balance between ease of use and on-demand complexity for more technical users. The only downside is that certain new features are limited to a costly enterprise edition.

“Most startups would probably benefit from the online collaborative workspace provided by project management software, especially those with multiple teams and projects" or widely distributed staffers, Cameron writes by email. 

After a company identifies a project-management setup that's suits each department, Cameron says, "most platforms can be modified to work with almost any methodology and any size team, while a few are designed specifically for visual engagement." 

6. Social media management tools.

Buffer solved the problem of scheduling social-media updates through simple browser extensions, which is why I chose the company's software. My firm uses the business version of the Buffer tool in order for multiple users to access and update our key social-media networks.

"If you are simply trying to post content and increase visibility," tap "free tools to help manage and schedule your accounts," Cameron says. Expanded social-media suites provide more comprehensive strategies for businesses "interested in tracking analytics, driving leads, or engaging in social listening," he adds.

"Many of these larger suites also have free basic plans," he notes.

7. Web analytics software.

I chose Google Analytics for its real-time traffic data and goal conversion tracking and it’s completely free. Plus its iPhone app  feeds my unhealthy addiction to web traffic data.

Acknowledging that every corporate website is unique, Cameron says identify the data vital to your organization. Google's free tools "help you track to see which keywords your business is ranking for in its search engine," he adds, noting that other software products specialize in search engine optimization and offer services such as A/B testing and heat mapping.

8. HR software

My company was using TribeHr to manage employees' time off and for certain performance-management functions. But my employees now just use a Google Doc to enter their time off and don’t input any kind of further reporting.

My company has adopted many of the principles of a results-only-work-environment or ROWE and I thought it made sense to keep things simple. Our company is small enough that the results recorded usually speak for themselves. We handle performance issues with conversations.

“If you do want to implement a full HR platform, you need to decide what you want to track and what you want it to control," Cameron says. Some platforms offer personal time off, health insurance, payroll tracking features. "You’ll want it to have an easy-to-use dashboards," for the users.

This article first appeared: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240442

5 Questions the Right Investor Will Ask You

There's no doubt that finding someone interested in investing in your business can be tough. In fact, raising money can feel like trying to scale Mount Everest with your hands tied behind your back.

To make it even harder, you also have to find the right kind of investor for your business. You shouldn’t take money from just anyone. You need to find someone who will help in ways beyond providing money and become a long-term partner.

It might sound like I’m talking about marriage rather than business but how you know when you’ve found the right investor might be answered in part by the questions asked.

My company, Recruiter.com, is in the middle of seeking a seed round of funding and I can tell you that my comfort level has varied, depending on the investor.

Based on my experience, I'm sharing below the types of questions that you'll want investors to ask:

1. What’s your story?

Meeting with the wrong investor will feel like you’re back in college writing a thesis. The questions will center around projections, the size of the market and the client acquisition plan and, of course, you must have answers to these items nailed down.

But the right investor will evaluate your ideas about these questions quickly and then focus squarely on you and your team. Meeting with the right person will feel more like a job interview, almost more personal than professional. You want a potential investor who cares about the things that matter the most.

2. Can you hire?

Finding the right employees for your business is a critical element for growth and success.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you're likely passionate about your business. But can you inspire other people to be passionate about the company? Do you love your industry and find meaning in it?

The right investor wants to know that you can find and nurture strong talent because he or she knows this is an important predictor of a strong outcome.

3. Can you fire?

Not every employee hired will work out. In a startup environment, you can’t afford to have any dead weight. Do you have what it takes to let go of people who aren’t working out? The right investor looks for guts -- not just wild enthusiasm. He or she knows the realities of managing employees and wants to make sure that you’re up to the tasks ahead.

4. How do you get along with X?

Looking at it from the outside, a business can resemble a set of numbers and projections. But regarding it from the inside, it’s a web of relationships and personalities. If there's bad blood or personality conflicts between founding members or key employees, you can forget about success. The right investor wants a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with your business and demands a healthy rapport with every partner.

5. What happens when you’re not around?

A lot of small business owners never delegate tasks for day-to-day operations. The effect of this is that the business is overly dependent on the work of the founder. If you don’t move away from this dynamic, the business lags in creating value.

Your business is your baby: You should push it to walk on its own. The right investor will encourage you to work on your business not in it. He or she understands the function and role of your labor in the business.

A very successful and experienced businessperson once told me that when he looks back on the handful of really great partnerships that he has had over the years, he realizes that it wasn’t the little things that mattered.

Although it’s good to have strong agreements and terms, the details of an arrangement are not what makes a great business. It’s the people.

Perseverance, shared values and a strong commitment from all partners are what will ultimately drive the success of your business. Look for an investor who can serve as the right kind of partner for you. 

This article first appeared on Entrepreneur

 

Don't Make These 5 Mistakes in the New Year

Yes, it’s that time of year and indeed this is a resolutions post. But January is a natural time for an entrepreneur to look back, evaluate what he or she did right and wrong in the year past and make decisions about how to move forward. 

Over the holiday season, I had some time to reflect about how things went last year and what I want to change going forward. Here are some of the mistakes I made this year that I’m going to do my best to not repeat.

1. Taking business too personally.

As a business owner, it’s easy to sync your emotions to business metrics as I did last year. There is, however, a real mental and physical cost to tying yourself emotionally to something that you don’t absolutely control.

Also, as a business gets larger, the stakes get higher. Although the fluctuations in business tend to stabilize on a relative basis, on an absolute basis, the numbers seem to grow by an order of magnitude.

If you tie your emotions to these changes, it’s easy to turn a tough quarter at work into a personal disaster. I’ll never remove myself from personal investment in the success of my business, but this year I’m going to try to keep things in perspective.

2. Putting off management.

Toward the end of last year, I started planning for my company's reincorporation and raising of seed capital.

I became focused on big projects, so it was easier to let my staff try to take care of things on their own. They did a great job, but I left daily and weekly management conversations by the wayside. 

When entrepreneurs become involved in big things, they can lose track of day-to-day management. This year, I’m staying on top of management tasks and not letting anyone feel left out or unsure about work that needs to be done.

3. Complicating things.

Last year my company planned and executed a content strategy that took five months. It involved creating a taxonomy of relevant ideas, mapping pages to a complex hierarchy of themes and creating an encyclopaedic volume of content.

It would have been a fine project for IBM. But for Recruiter.com? That five months came at a massive opportunity cost.

It’s good to plan for future growth and have a map by which to steer your business.

But balance the level of project with the current state of your business. This year, I'll align the size of my organization's initiatives with its current capacities. I'll first evaluate projects by how fast the firm can successfully complete them.

4. Letting personal health slide.

Probably like many entrepreneurs, I can’t wait to arrive at work in the morning. This is one of the most productive, energetic periods of the day and it’s hard to take time off for anything else but important work.

The afternoon grows busy with meetings and pressing issues. The night is reserved for family and catching up on emails and other small business items. So there goes the day! Forget about exercise.

With competing priorities, entrepreneurs might find it hard to put exercise on the must-do list. During the busiest six months of last year, I almost purposefully let go of even trying to exercise.

The problem, however, is that when a business grows, always more work and even more responsibilities arise. You can’t wait for a quiet time to take care of your health because it won’t ever come. So this year, like tens of millions of others, I suppose, I’m resolving to prioritize my personal health.

5. Not getting out there.

Running a growing business is a huge amount of work, even if you’ve delegated day-to-day operations to others.

You still have to develop partnerships, strategy, planning and forecasting. Although networking continues to be crucial as a business grows, an entrepreneur might view personal interactions as a luxury. There's the temptation to substitute a quick Skype call for an out-of-state conference or business lunches. It’s efficient in terms of time but not in terms of value. 

Last year I chose efficiency over value in terms of networking. This wasn't the right choice. 

This year I’m promising to get out there more often. It means “wasting” a lot of time on trains, planes and automobiles, paying for conference tickets that sometimes won’t be worth the admissions price and being away from the office and all that entails. But I’m counting on realizing a big long-term reward from taking a more personal approach to business.

This post first appeared: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241421

 

What Young People Must Know About Entrepreneurship

Do young people view entrepreneurship as a viable career option? Not according to a recent analysis by The Wall Street Journal that showed that only 3.6 percent of households headed by adults younger than 30 owned stakes in private companies. This figure represents a 24-year-low in young entrepreneurs.

While media reports glamorize successful entrepreneurs such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, the WSJ article calls young entrepreneurs an “endangered species.” 

Competition is tough. Capital is scarce. The environment rapidly changes. Education is expensive. 

So what should society be telling young people about entrepreneurship?

In November I was involved in an entrepreneurship discussion at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in Hartford, Conn., along with some other business owners. The discussion was practical and informative, but afterward I realized that it might  have done little to inspire and may have inadvertently scared off the high schoolers by emphasizing initial struggles.

What do young people actually need to hear?

1. Youth matters.

It's been said, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Many entrepreneurs say they wished they started on their path sooner. 

Young people don’t need to wait for an opportunity or idea to hit them. They need to start building their future now.

The sooner you start working toward a goal, the sooner your knowledge, experience and money start compounding. Later on in life, commitments can intrude. 

2. Money adds up. 

It’s easy to want to divorce notions about launching a business from capital requirements to inspire young people. But it's better to tell them how much money matters to a business so that they don’t head into life blindfolded.

Many entrepreneurs finance their businesses on their own dime. A credit card can literally mean the difference between success and failure. Money, credit and funding matter to every kind of business.

3. Tenacity is significant.

Young people might view certain businesspeople as somehow inherently different, especially outliers like Apple co-founder Steve Jobs or Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. Everyone has ideas, creativity and skills. But not everyone applies them consistently toward goals. Geniuses go broke. Rich people lose their money.

The reality is that people are successful not because of what's bestowed them but rather what they do with the gifts they have. Young people need to look within, find their strengths and make the most of them.

4. Education carries weight.

Would Mark Zuckerberg have launched Facebook if he had dropped out of community college instead of Harvard? It’s likely that instead of showering his business with massive amounts of capital, top venture capitalists wouldn’t have met with him. The name brand of Harvard matters.

Yet education is just one part of a businessperson's path. Certain goals require education. Others don’t at all. It's important to develop a realistic understanding of when and why education plays a role.

5. Trends are significant.

Entrepreneurship is now being taught like a subject. High schoolers and college kids around the country are developing ideas for businesses. It’s not surprising that many of these ideas are for mobile apps. But unless you’re launching an app right this second, apps are the past.

In the early days of app development, people developing, say, a fake beer-drinking simulation app probably made a million dollars. But now the competition for apps couldn’t be higher. 

Instead of focusing on today’s framework for success, young people should be taught to pounce on and spot trends and think about the next 10 years instead of the past 10.

6. Concrete problems count.

A guy near me opened a business straight out of high school hauling away dirt. Everyone needing their property grounds leveled or cleared called him and he built up a big customer base. He then started selling the dirt.

Now that’s a business model: He got paid twice -- and for dirt. Twenty years later, he’s reaped a fortune.

With a media full of Zucks and Musks, young people might think successful businesses build only social-network, apps and rockets. The reality is all over, successful entrepreneurs have figured out how to turn dirt into gold. These stories should be shared. Entrepreneurship, above all else, solves problems. Look for problems and you’ll find answers.

This post appeared first on Entrepreneur

 

The 4 Best Ways to Keep Inspired

Late January is a time when it’s easy to lose inspiration. Some people may have already scaled back the goals that they've set for the year.  

A new entrepreneur might be already changing targets, pushing back dates and skipping the daily work that his or her resolutions required.

It’s not that he or she can’t do the things that are necessary. What happens is that people sometimes lose motivation and feel physically or psychologically unable to do the things they need to do to keep working toward their goals .

Whether you're trying to hit your first million in sales, launch a new product or run a marathon, the same formula for success applies: Apply hard work consistently over a long period of time. The difficulty lies in sustaining motivation.

Certain practices and habits can help keep you inspired throughout the year to continue working toward your goals.

Make the following practices a continuous part of your year in order to keep inspired and mentally fit to work toward your goals, no matter what they are.

1. Move.

Exercise not only pumps up your muscles, it pumps up your brain. A University of British Columbia study published last year found that aerobic exercise by elderly women boosted the size of thei hippocampus.

In addition, according to the Harvard Health Blog, exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells and the development of new blood vessels.

Exercise also releases endorphins, which can prevent depression and increases energy levels.

Health and exercise goals are common New Year’s resolutions. But it seems clear that people should not view exercise as simply a means toward fitting into their pants but also as an essential part of keeping their mind healthy and life balanced. Even if your goals don’t have anything to do with exercise, make physical movement a priority to stay positive and energetic.

2. Travel.

That great feeling evoked from looking outside the plane window or exiting a train in a new city? It seems that travel can help people experience peak emotional health. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013 showed that individuals who traveled to a different country experienced greater self-confidence, extraversion, openmindedness and conscientiousness.

The efficiency of travel is easy to criticize: Physically going places requires expense, time and precious hours away from Wi-Fi. Seeing different places, however keeps a person fresh and invigorated. Make traveling to new places and seeing new things an important part of your year to keep yourself inspired.

3. Read.

Reading a biography or business book is a great means to gain inspiration and think of new ideas. But the benefits of reading are more than mental: It turns out they're also physical. A study published in 2013 by Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy showed that reading changes the brain not only while someone is engaged in the activity, but afterward. The study demonstrated “heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language” that persisted long after the person stopped reading.

It’s easy to let consuming status updates and BuzzFeed posts supplant reading an actual book. But if you don’t take the time to read, you might be missing out on incredible benefits. Make reading part of your regular routine to keep yoursef inspired both mentally and physically.

4. Meet.

With the use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, people are more “connected” than ever to their friends. But is being “connected” the same thing as experiencing a true sense of connection?

(Indeed, social media use is being studied for possible links to increasing states of anxiety.)

These days many may find it easy to substitute online interaction with real-life meetings. After all surfing Facebook is a lot easier than arranging to take time out of two or more people’s busy schedules. But spending time with people you care about isn’t time lost. It's time gained. You gain perspective, happiness and new ideas -- all states of mind that are essential for inspiration. Make time in your schedule for friends and family. It’s a sure way to stay inspired.

Whatever your goals are this year, take steps to achieve them every day. Keeping a consistant state of energy, happiness and motivation is the best way to ensure that you'll be up to that task.

This post appeared first on Entrepreneur.com 

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Miles Jennings

Copyright 2017 CT Capital Partners, LLC

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