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10 Habits of Incredibly Successful Entrepreneurs

10 Habits of Incredibly Successful Entrepreneurs

We all want to be the most successful version of ourselves, whether it be a top athlete, business owner or a good mother. The most successful people have one thing in common: good habits. Bad habits cause stagnation and a sense of dissatisfaction, whereas good habits can help create a life that is full of purpose and accomplishment.

While having good habits will not make you perfect, because, let’s face it, no one is, practicing them will get you closer to your goals more than anything else.

Here are 10 of the most important habits of successful people. (You’ll notice that none of them are expensive or require drastic life changes, but when done together can result in big payoffs toward your goals.)

1. Be Specific with Your Goals

The way you describe your goals is going to have an impact on how successful you are at reaching them. Saying “I want to be happy” or “I want to be rich” is too vague. Successful people are not afraid to dig deep. Try asking yourself “Who? What? When? Where? Why” questions about your goals to help improve their specificity.

 2. Be Persistent with Your Actions

Successful people fail. A lot. Success is not inevitable. Failure is. The more you can anticipate it, plan for it, and learn from it the more likely you are to keep going, which is the only way to succeed at anything.

 3. Be Positive in Your Day

Cynicism is easy, especially in today’s world. But, successful people practice positivity and the result is that more people want to work with them.

4. Be an Excellent Listener

Successful people listen more than they speak in an effort to continue learning about the people around them, instead of using conversations as a way of reiterating their self-worth. Try filling any awkward silences with a question, instead of a personal anecdote.

 5. Be Willing to Go Above and Beyond

If you want to meet your goals, whether it’s in business or your personal life, you’ve got to be willing to exceed expectations; go the extra mile. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

6. Be Diligent with Your Sleep Habits

Research has found that the human brain can only be at its best after a good night’s sleep. Bad sleep habits can cause our bodies to wear out. We also can suffer memory lapses and cognitive delays, become irritable and moody, and even resort to substance abuse. There are numerous ways to get a better night’s sleep. The best place to start is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

 7. Be Still

Studies have shown that meditation, when done properly, can alleviate depression, anxiety, and even pain. It can also improve the ability to focus and not get overwhelmed which is a common obstacle people face when moving toward their goals.

8. Be a Bookworm

Everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey recommends reading to increase the likelihood of success. In 2015, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledged to read a book each week. No time for a trip to the library? Many have digital lending programs that allow you to check out books for free that can be read across a variety of digital devices.

9. Be a Planner

Set weekly and daily goals. Write them down and cross them off. Don’t get bogged down if you get behind, just keep going. Perfection is not the goal. Consistency is. Do the hardest things when you are at peak energy and focus, which for most means in the morning right after the coffee kicks in. 

10. Be Active

Successful people from President Obama to Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour look at exercise as a way to increase focus, attention, and alertness, among numerous other benefits. They prioritize exercise by scheduling it into their day, oftentimes first thing in the morning. (See #9.) 

Not a morning person. No problem. It doesn’t matter when you exercise, what matters is that you do it consistently several times every week.

Most people will read this, get excited, and try doing all of these at once. Then they will get discouraged and give up, because it’s impossible to implement 10 new things simultaneously. The best way to achieve success at changing habits (after you’ve clearly defined what your goal is) is to implement them, one at a time, then build on it. Goal stacking, if you will.

For example, pick a goal from the list, like #6 “Be Diligent About Your Sleep Habits.” Let’s say you’ve decided to start waking up at 6 AM every day. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that - it takes three weeks or more - try stacking another goal on top of it, such as exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, or meditation.

Bottom line – It’s common to get frustrated at all that needs to be done to reach any large goal. If you focus on building good habits every day, you have a much better chance at success. Use these 10 habits to build whatever success means to you.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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10 Habits of Persuasive People

10 Habits of Persuasive People

Persuasive individuals possess an uncanny ability to incline one’s thinking. They have the upper hand since they can use their persuasiveness for their success or happiness.

Persuasiveness has become crucial for any career or business. In fact, it has become a managerial tool in business today.

Persuasive people can get you to like their ideas and to like them, all at the same time. Here are some of the habits that persuasive people possess:

They are bold in their position

People prefer advice from a confident source, and when a speaker is able to stand behind his/her position. He/she will naturally persuade the masses.

Confident speakers have the ability to convince even the most skeptical person, sometimes to the extent where their poor track record is overlooked. They know they have the ideas and tools to take a position.

They connect

They will let people know the kind of person they are before conveying their message. In a study that required students to reach an agreement in class, 55% of them reached an agreement without instruction. However, after the students interacted (shared their background and introduced themselves), 90% of them agreed successfully.

Persuasive people try as much to connect to the person they are speaking to. After all, the person that you need to talk to is not your enemy.

They know their audience

They have an extensive understanding of their audience, and they use this knowledge to speak to their audience in the right language.

They know when they need to tone down their assertiveness or when they need to be aggressive.

Choosing the right medium will win you more trust. According to research, women tend to focus on relationships, and in-person communication is effective for them. However, men tend to feel competitive in person and can turn a conversation into a contest.

Therefore, if your audience consists of men, you need to tread careful or look at other options.

They employ a positive body language

You need to be aware of your expressions, gestures, and tone of voice if you are looking to engage people with your arguments.

Persuasive people will maintain eye contact, use a positive tone, and uncross their arms as a way of winning their listeners. A positive body language convinces your audience that whatever you are saying is genuine.

How they say it is more important than what they say.

They acknowledge other points of view

Admitting other people’s point of view is a powerful tactic for winning their trust. Persuasive people agree that their arguments are not perfect, hinting that they are open minded and ready to make adjustments.

Sticking to your position means you do not have your audiences interest at heart and you are forcing your ideas on them. Persuasive people allow other parties to share their opinions and treat those opinions as valid. It is also a way of showing respect and encouraging others to talk.

Persuasive people understand that pushing their ideas without concern will make their points less likely to be accepted.

Make others feel important

Persuasive people will make others people feel important as a way of winning their trust. If you can show others that they are equally important, they are more likely to be persuaded by your arguments.

They are genuine

Everyone hates fake, and people are more inclined towards genuine people because they can be trusted. People will believe you if they know who you really are and how you feel.

Persuasive people understand themselves and are comfortable in their position. For this reason, they are perceived as trustworthy.

They are motivated

Persuasive individuals tend to be self-motivated and resilient. Since their mission is to convince others in what they believe in, they strive to be better every day. They are determined to fight for what is right.

Apart from being motivated, they are determined and prepare beforehand to fight any adversity or negativity.

They communicate clearly

They know what they are talking about and they are good at explaining in a way that is easy to grasp. They do not just speak without a clear message.

They share both the positives and the negatives

Daniel O’Keefe, University of Illinois professor, revealed that sharing opposing views is more persuasive than sticking to a single argument.

Persuasive people talk about the things that their audiences are already considering (bad or good). They will discuss all the negatives and advise on how to overcome them.

Conclusion

Persuasive people do these ten things, and they do them on a regular basis. If you start practicing these principles, you will become persuasive over time and your conclusions will be irreproachable.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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10 Persuasive Words to Use in Crucial Conversations

10 Persuasive Words to Use in Crucial Conversations

In business, you have to know how to persuade your customers, your competition, and those you have other business relationships with. You have to be able to tell people why they need to buy from you or why they have to work with your company. The number one thing you need to remember, always answer the “why” of things.

You can use an approach similar to “Why is our product top of the line? We use [insert reason here]” and in that reason, include a powerful keyword to draw in the attention of your audience.

1. Because

The word because generates context that answers the “why” in conversations. A study showed that 93-percent of participants responded positively to context including the word because. You are providing a reason, which takes out part of the guessing of your audience.

2. Free

The word free, in general, is persuasive. Using it in business conversations tells your audience that they will be spending money; there is something they will obtain at no cost. Society likes free things and some consider anything free to be better simply because it was free. The actual value is psychologically increased in an individual’s mind because it was a zero-cost expense.

3. Fact

Using the word fact in conversations can help you get what that you want. Saying something is a fact solidifies that what is being said is truthful. Consumers, and businesspersons alike, prefer information. Statistics and facts are common deciding factors in regards to forming business relationships and generating sales.

4. Believe

Believe is a bit trickier to implement into crucial conversations in a persuasive way. You can tell your audience that you believe in a product and believe in your company. This persuades the audience to consider working with your company, or you exclusively, because you have pride and stand behind what you are describing to them.

5. Limited

Limited is a very special word. It means that something is obscure, small quantity, or is not intended to last. This immediately draws attention to the product, service, or brand. In business discussions, using terminology regarding a product being limited to one exclusive company only is likely to start a contract bidding war. This can help your company achieve large sales numbers and increased client opportunities.

The use of the word limited helps you get more people to say yes more often as they see the product as more in-demand with a smaller supply.

6. Simple

The word simple tells an audience that the process to use, construct, or install a product or service can be done by anyone. The word simple works into sneaky strategy speak to make sales, helping consumers become informed, and generating more interest in a specific product.

7. Save

Every consumer and every company likes to hear the word save. Saving time and/or money are both important. Spending less money on your product or service with the same features/performance as the competition helps consumers make informed decisions. It can also help you generate more business relationships as company owners learn that your product/service can reduce spending overall.

8. Guaranteed

Guarantees sell items. When consumers notice that something comes with a guarantee for performance, durability, or overall use, they are more likely to listen to information about it. The word guaranteed can get your company more sales as it comes across as a limited risk.

9. Now

Now generates action. It tells people that they need to make a decision now, rather than later. A missed opportunity comes from waiting too long to make a decision. The word now is a powerful word that almost instantly gets you what you want. When society is commanded to take action, most will at least make the effort to look into what you have to offer.

10. Open

Open is a persuasive word that can be used in several different methods. First, it can be directed to tell people to open a pamphlet or presentation. A command is persuasive because the entire group will follow suit. It also tells your audience, when used in alternate context, that your brand is “open” for business, accepting new clients, and is approachable. It also displays the character of an open-minded person.

Closing Thoughts

Some of these persuasive words can be highlight in written speeches or presentation notes as keywords. These keywords should be used more than once if you really want to reel in your audience. Do not stuff your presentation full of these persuasive words. It will leave your audience feeling hoodwinked and it may actually work against you. The art of persuasion is learning how far is too far without crossing the line.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

 

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11 Ways to Become a Better Blogger Now

11 Ways to Become a Better Blogger Now

Blogging can be a full-time job that can come with a lucrative income. It takes time to get to this point, of course, but you can get started now by making a few changes to your current blogging strategy. The eleven tips here will help you rethink your strategy and create content that grows audiences.

1. Start an Ideas List

If you want to become a better blogger, you need to have a list of topics available. You need to start an ideas list if you do not have one already. When you are drawing a blank, visit your list and come up with a content strategy for that specific topic.

2. Create a Content Calendar

A content calendar will help you organize your posts for a week or month at a time. If you have a specific topic that you need to publish on a specific day, complete it ahead of time and schedule it. A content calendar helps you keep your blog updated routinely and will help you stay on top of important topics.

3. Be Consistent

Some bloggers like to throw in a random post every now and then. This is not the best thing to do. Readers expect consistency. Your voice, all of the time.

About 54-percent of bloggers spend less than 2 hours creating their content. This can lead to inconsistencies in voice, presentation, and blog theme.

4. Schedule Posts for the Right Time

Part of becoming a better blogger is changing some of your posting habits. The time of day that you post matters. It is important to know when the majority of your audience is online and viewing social media networks. Run a test with two important topics. Post one before 8 a.m. and another around 7 p.m. See which post performs better.

5. Be Unique

You cannot attempt to compete with or copy another blogger. Your blog has to be unique, so you should have at least one feature that sets you apart from other bloggers to increase your readership. It is important to work on creating a unique voice and a unique way of delivering your content.

6. Build your Audience

Building an audience takes time, but you need to work at it. This means that you will want to encourage your readers to share content. You could also create a contest and reward the user that brings the most followers with a small gift too.

7. Pay Attention to Topic Selection

You may have a great idea for a blog post, but what do you do if it doesn’t fit your theme? Network, and consider trading posts with another blogger while giving credit to each other on your respective blogs. If you go off-theme, it may confuse your audience and may cause some of them to stop following you.

8. Market Everything You Post

A good tip for part-time bloggers is do not forget to market your own content. This means that you should be using social media advertising opportunities and should promote/boost your posts. Doing so helps you build your audience and improve your blogger reputation.

9. Become an Influencer

Consider becoming an online influencer to transform your blog. There are several angles to take, as you could be a niche influencer, trend influencer, or industry-expert influencer. Audiences are more likely to follow those that are considered to be influencers than simple bloggers.

10. Use One Display Avatar

Whatever profile picture you use on your main blog, should be used on all channels where your content is published. For serious, full-time bloggers, this should be your logo. Your logo is part of your online identity.

When you have your display images created, make sure to request a thumbnail size file to use on social media profiles for consistency while posting on multiple networks. Using larger images may cause your logo to stretch or distort making it unrecognizable to your audience.

11. Branding

If your blog does not have a logo or other visual identifier, it may hurt you if you are trying to survive an economic recession when sponsors are spending less money. Your brand should be identified by one logo across all channels, including letterhead or contracts. Your audience and potential sponsors should be able to look at your logo and immediately recognise you.

Final Thoughts

You must realise that focusing your blog on a single niche or topic is necessary. Too many different topics leave audiences confused as to who you are. If you aren’t a great self-editor, hire one because a human editor is always better than a program. Take your time on your content and make sure it delivers the message you need or want it to.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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13 Essential Tools to Being a Successful Entrepreneur

13 Essential Tools to Being a Successful Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have limited resources - regardless of how successful they are. When just starting out, your money supply may be low. Even after launching a successful business, time becomes a concern.

There are thousands of tool out there that can help solve most of your startup problems or daily business headaches. But, here are my fifteen personal favorites that I’ve found to be essential.

1. Canva

Do you want a custom Twitter header, business card, infographic, or slideshow, but don’t have the design skills to do accomplish these tasks? Canva takes care of these problems by offering a wide variety of templates for free - there some templates and features that cost $1.

2. Slack

Communication is vital for businesses. In the past, we relied on emails and instant/direct messages, but now there’s Slack. This tool is basically a virtual chat room where you can send messages, notifications, or files to individuals or the entire group. You can try Slack for free, but after that, monthly plans start at just $6.67.

3. Insightly

Inisghtly is an easy to use Customer Relationship & Project Management Software that helps small businesses run their businesses smoother. Now at the flip of a button you can manage leads, contacts, organizations, partners, vendors and suppliers. See everything from background, email history, events, projects or opportunities.

4. UpWork

As you get your startup up and running, you’ll have to give-up control on certain tasks and hand over the reigns to people who have the skills that you may not possess. If you’re not in the situation to hire even part-time employees then you can use UpWork to locate talented freelancers in fields like writing, web design, customer service reps, or virtual assistants. If you can’t find a freelancer on UpWork, there are hundreds of other freelance marketplaces to explore.

5. Inspectlet

This is a popular tool that records how visitors are using your website by seeing task like mouse movement or scrolling. This gives you a better understanding about what users are looking for and which parts of your site they’re looking at. It may not seem like a big deal, making small changes on your site that your customers prefer, but these are the small and fairly easy changes which can eventually lead to revenue growth for your business.

6. SaneBox

Staying productive as an entrepreneur can get challenging when you’re busy going through non-essential emails like social media notifications. SaneBox allows you to create separate folders for various recipients. You could create a folder for investors, family members, and employees. This allows you to prioritize your emails so you know which messages deserve your immediate attention and which once you can delete or ignore.

7. Intercom

Intercom is a handy tools that actually gives you the opportunity to talk with your customers and potential customers. It comes equipped with features like a live chat, marketing automation, and customer support. You can try Intercom for free for 14 days. After that, you’ll have to select a package, such as the cometel set for $61 per month.

8. Surveymonkey

With Surveymonkey you can can send out survey's to your customers or leads so that you can gain valuable feedback on your products or services. Even after you’re used Surveymonkey to conduct market research, you can keep using it for things like determining customer satisfaction. You can send 10 questions for free and plans then start at $26 per month.

9. IFTTT

This awesome service creates “recipes” for you that end-up saving you a ton of time and money. For example, if you wanted to keep track of new contacts then every time you add a new contact into your iPhone it will automatically add that contact to a Google Spreadsheet. Another “recipe” would be whenever you add a new Facebook profile image it will automatically change your Twitter profile image to the new image.

10. SEMrush

SEMrush is one of the most popular and recommended tools for online marketers because it allows them to conduct an SEO audit, provides social media analytics, monitor brand mentions, and find the keywords that competitors are ranking for. For entrepreneurs, all of this information can be used for research and how to determine the effects of a marketing campaign.

11. Gusto

Formerly known as Zenpayroll, Gusto takes care of payroll, employee on-boarding, and tax-filing in one location. It was designed specifically with small businesses in mind so it’s affordable ($36 per month plus $6 per employee), easy-to-use, and handles all of your payroll, benefits, and HR needs so that you can focus on growing your business.

12. Google Docs

Google’s office suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, slides, and forms so that you can create, share, and collaborate with others on files. It’s basically free, secure, and allows you to store files, photos, and videos in one convenient location. By downloading the app, you can also work from any device so that you can continue working no matter where you are in the world.

13. Typeform

As you grow, it’s harder to stay close to your customers. That’s where Typeform comes in. Conduct market research, execute a lead generation campaign, or tell a captivating story. Add some personality using images, gifs, and video to keep people hooked. The beautiful chat-like interface engages people in a conversational way. Data collection never looked so good. Explore it for free—no email required.

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3 Business Skills They Don't Teach in College

3 Business Skills They Don't Teach in College

College is a place where you can learn a lot of things, but business isn’t something that falls into that category. On the contrary, it’s something that you’re least likely to learn in college. Look at a lot of successful CEOs and you will see that they started their first businesses in college.

What you may also notice is that they didn’t learn those skills in the college itself. This guide is going to show you some of the key skills every successful entrepreneur must master, but isn’t taught in the college environment.

1. Communication Skills

Entrepreneurs often have the problem of trying to communicate their ideas. They have to make sense of the jumble inside their heads. That’s what will carry a startup to high levels of funding. Knowing when to communicate and when not to communicate is the difference between a business that succeeds and a business that fails.

College is one place where you are unlikely to learn this. It’s the ultimate soft skill that will build your confidence and help you to bring together your team. Some people just seem to be charismatic in this way, but it’s also something that you can learn over time. 

But for one moment you need to think back to what it is to be an entrepreneur. Communication isn’t about running over people and talking over them. It’s about listening to them in equal measure. The best entrepreneurs tend to listen more than they speak, and that’s why when they do speak people tend to listen.

2. For Better or For Worse – Multitasking 

There are lots of views on multitasking and whether you should be multitasking, with some studies saying that 40% productivity is lost every week. Some people believe that it’s better to concentrate on one task, whereas others believe it’s better to try to do multiple things at once. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it’s useful to have this skill at your disposal.

Entrepreneurs have to be everything all at once, so usually this is something that’s thrust upon them. Until you grow into a large company, you will wear many hats.

Again, this is something you’re never going to learn at college because you are one thing and one thing only. In the beginning, it may be overwhelming to try to take on everything at once. You have to be able to take on so much at the same time. You have no choice in the matter, so you best get good at it fast.

The easiest way to train yourself to multitask is to start at home. Get your own life in order. Make sure that you’re able to pay your bills, keep your clothes clean, and eat right. Stop relying on any parental support and learn to stand on your own two feet. Life is all about multitasking! 

3. Paying Attention to the Little Details

The details are what separates a successful company from a failing company. Managing details is absolutely crucial, and if you fail to do it you’re going to pay the price. People who are weak in business tend to ignore the little details because they believe their business idea is enough to carry the day.

This is a huge mistake because what they don’t realize is that it’s getting harder and harder to stand out as a startup. There are already lots of people who have the same idea as you, and the chances are they are doing it better. Missing out on the details can add up, and soon that can add up to huge problems. 

The little details in business include emailing people with little notes of gratitude, measuring your daily financial report, and the thousand other tasks that come with operating your own business. 

You need to embrace change and reinvent yourself. Too many would-be businesspeople are content to mope and get depressed about the fact that they don’t possess this skill or that skill. If you don’t have the expertise, swallow your pride and ask someone to help.

Hiring a consultant or a life coach may seem like a bad decision at this early stage in your life, but it’s actually the best time to do it. You may not have a lot of money or time, but investing in yourself is the best investment you can make because you know that you are the only person you can rely on 100% of the time.

Start learning about yourself now and start finding the areas that you’re weak in. If you can make yourself a better businessperson now, there’s no telling what you might go on to accomplish.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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3 Reasons Why Companies Are Going Remote

3 Reasons Why Companies Are Going Remote

The American job market is in a state of transition. Fewer people want to work in the framework setup by the generations that established the rules. There is a sense of unhappiness when it comes to working 40 hours a week, locked in an office from 9:00 to 5:00 every day. And it goes much deeper than just muttering around the water cooler. It’s estimated that approximately 38% of Americans are working as freelancers – a figure that’s expected to grow

There is a sense of unhappiness when it comes to working 40 hours a week, locked in an office from 9:00 to 5:00 every day. And it goes much deeper than just muttering around the water cooler. It’s estimated that approximately 38% of Americans are working as freelancers – a figure that’s expected to grow to 50% as soon as 2020.

The freelance mind-set has seen unrivalled individual prosperity and a better quality of life for employees who manage to pull it off, but until fairly recently companies seemed hesitant to adapt their thinking. Thankfully there seems to have been a movement to not only embrace remote work, but to adjust corporate and contractual structures so that companies benefit too.

If you’re a business owner, or perhaps an inspired employee looking to convince the powers that be that your company should follow suit and go remote, you should keep reading as we explore 3 reasons why going remote is so much more than a fad – it is the future.

Happy Employees Perform Better

There has always been a fairly obvious connection between the happiness of your staff and their productivity levels, but until recently it was more of a hunch. The great news is that happier employees have been proven to be as much as 20% more productive. But how do you keep people happy when they’re working? The introduction of flexi time, greater benefits and office perks may help, but few initiatives are as impactful as allowing your teams to work remotely.

The idea of working from your favourite coffee shop or on a beach is immensely appealing as it excels the mid-set that you’re actually working. A fresh space can inspire creative solutions to problems, a new perspective and a sense of empowerment that shouldn’t be overestimated.

Keeping your team happy by allowing them to work on their own terms means you’re likely to not only get more work from them, but better work. And that’s just the beginning.

Reduced Overheads

Staff that have the freedom to work remotely have a massive impact on your operational bottom line. They take fewer sick days – a sneaky white lie that costs the American economy an estimated $576 billion. You don’t need to think about the space you need to have your team working, let alone the cost of computers, equipment, electricity and miscellaneous costs like stationery and perishables. Furthermore, you can cancel the company car because your team is ready and willing to work from wherever they are.

While there may be some argument that freelancers cost more when used in the long run, this is not always the case. There is a tendency to offer these hybrid employers contracts as opposed to paying them per hour, meaning salaries become far more manageable.

However you choose to structure payments, the power of remote staff is that you can tailor their skills and times to suit your needs instead of locking yourself in to a permanent agreement with a staff member who does little to contribute to the growth of your operation.

Great Opportunities

Another reason why more and more companies are going remote is that it delivers an array of unexpected communications. Freelancers and remote operators exist in a network that is constantly sharing new ways of working and opportunities. For example, you may use a freelance graphic designer who is based in Beijing. They might have a business of their own that can be linked to your own. As any business owner will tell you, opportunities spring up in the strangest places.

Many freelancers also offer a number of diverse but related services, especially in the creative space. Web designers can write copy, graphics masters can create 3D wonderment, and business consultants often make great trainers. It is in this availability of diverse skills and talents that the greatest opportunities – hybrid creativity is immensely powerful.

Final Word

Although working remotely is not possible in some industries, there is more and more merit in allowing your employees to choose their path. Maximizing their happiness and freedom is risky if you’re dealing with those who aren’t trustworthy it can have truly dire consequences, but selecting remote employees is the same as choosing a permanent on-site staff. Embrace the risk and try it out – you never know whether or not it might be the injection of excitement that your business needs to build its reputation.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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3 Things to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

3 Things to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

In the United States alone, more than half a million businesses are started every month. Depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, this is either really encouraging or a little scary to say the least. But regardless of how full or empty you believe the glass of opportunity to be, you need to be aware that more businesses close than are opened on a month-to-month basis.

Starting a business is one of the biggest financial, personal, and professional decisions you can make, and regardless of the scale of your plan, you need to be sure that the decision is taken with as much information and objectivity as you can muster.

Problem is that when you start investigating the pros and cons of becoming a business owner, you’ll soon discover that there are mountains of information out there. While it can help to read through everything, what you really need is a list of golden guidelines or absolutely essential considerations that you need to make.

And here they are.

Consideration1: Is There a Market?

If you take a step back and do a high-level analysis of businesses that do well – Apple, Uber, Tesla – they all have one thing in common: they met a need. It may feel overly simplistic, but if you have an idea that you think could become financially viable as a business, then put your consumer hat on and ask yourself the all-important question – Is there a market?

You may instinctively feel that any great innovation could capture the imagination of your target market. But as countless failed business owners will tell you, conducting market research before you invest is absolutely crucial.

Start by asking whether or not your product or service is something that people want, or something they actually need. Needs are always more likely to sell – think of essential items that everyone requires. But in the modern era selling desire may be equally profitable. The trick is to be honest. Not everyone wants your weird invention in their living room.

Remember that a Facebook page of people saying they’re interested in your idea means nothing – you need to dive deeper. Ask people you know, strangers and entrepreneurs, about your market potential.

Consideration 2: Is My Business Sustainable?

Once you’ve established, that there is a market for your potential business you need to start thinking long term, and that means facing up to the question of sustainability.

Thankfully the term itself has taken on a dual meaning that may help guide your eventual decision to go ahead or hold back. The first, and arguably most important, definition of sustainability in the modern business environment refers to ecological impact and longevity. Simply put, if your business idea has a detrimental effect on the world around it, it’s going to fail. Explore an environmentally-friendly avenue if you hope to succeed.

The second definition of sustainability refers to the ability to sustain and grow your enterprise in the long term. The question of business sustainability can be broken down into complex equations around value, profit margins and consumer trend analysis, or simply whether or not there is scope to excel and expand.

While there is obviously a lot of financial acumen required to do the math around long-term projections, there are easier ways to work it out. The simplest? Write down a three-phase approach to how you’re going to set up, stabilize, and expand your operation. If you can’t work it out, you’re not ready.

Consideration 3: What’s The Plan?

Remember that paper where you figured out how sustainable your business could be? Grab it quickly. That’s the foundation of your business plan, and without it your business will fail. Creating a business plan for an enterprise or company that doesn’t exist yet is arguably the best way to decide whether or not to take the plunge.

A basic business plan gives you the framework you need to make an informed final decision. You’ll need realistic information around your current capital, the logistics and costs of starting up as well as some kind of market analysis that you can use to forecast longevity. Remember that business plans that are more conservative or slightly less ambitious will be more realistic and effective in helping you plot a course to success.

Closing Thoughts

Becoming a business owner is one of the most exciting and terrifying decisions you can make. Follow these guiding lines and be honest about your position – there’s no harm in waiting until you’re more stable, or better positioned to succeed. Unless you’ve struck gold, in which case strike while the iron’s hot!


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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3 Ways to Be a Better Public Speaker

3 Ways to Be a Better Public Speaker

If you are one of the 10% of people who are absolutely terrified of public speaking, then you may feel completely helpless at the vision of improving. Thankfully there are a number of tips and tricks out there that can help you become a confident, eloquent speaker regardless of the size of the audience you face.

This article will give you an overview of suggestions designed to help you become a better public speaker.

Be Prepared

For many people the fear of public speaking is directly linked to a fear of making mistakes. The familiar nightmare of standing in front of a crowd, spluttering and frantically searching through notes is all too common.

The fear of failure can be overcome to a large extent by ensuring that you are thoroughly prepared for your speech, presentation, or interview. Often speakers find that their initial anxiety is lessened by the comforting cycle of writing, reading, repeating, and performing their speech.

If you have the time, start your preparation by doing as much ‘homework’ as you can. Start with the venue – pay it a visit before the time to get a sense of the space, and to make yourself a little more familiar with the building. This ensures you won’t be walking into a room you don’t know.

Next up, ask the organizer for any information you can get about the audience. If you can get some data about their gender, age, and ethnicity then you can steer your discussion in a direction that they find engaging, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Practice, Practice, Practice

From a young age most of us are encouraged to practice our speeches in front of the mirror, but jumping to that point in the process can cripple your self-confidence. They key to efficient practice that builds your confidence is to find a routine that works for you.

Some speakers like to start by writing a long, rough draft of everything they want to say. This is then edited, tweaked and improved like an essay, until the messaging feels just right. This process also helps the speaker to learn the speech, resulting in a better delivery. A few dry runs through a speech you already know will do wonders for your confidence.

Other people took a less structured approach and jot down bullets they want to discuss. If you find that this is an approach that works for you then you may have to do more rehearsals to make sure that you link the points you’re making in a clear fashion.

Whatever your approach, the key to staying calm is practice. You will find that the more familiar you are with your material, the more comfortable you will be with the second element of the public speaking interaction – the audience.

Coping with the Audience

Many people are confident and outgoing, even compelling speakers among their friends or colleagues, but find themselves unable to speak in public. There are a number of factors at play here, but the good news is that your fear of the audience can be overcome with a similar approach to the writing of your material.

Once again, there are a number of different techniques available to help you cope with your discomfort. These range from ignoring the audience completely to embracing embarrassment – again, you will need to find an approach that seems to work best for you.

Having said that, certain calming and relaxation techniques can help you maintain your heart rate and manage your stress throughout the public speaking process. One highly-effective and easy technique that you can add to your public speaking ritual is a series of breathing exercises designed to reduce anxiety.

The idea here is to introduce more oxygen into your blood stream, which will help you slow your heart rate and stay focused. Also, taking a moment to calm yourself and regain your composure does wonders to help you find your inner speech skills.

Take a breath, remember that you are well prepared, and try to enjoy yourself – remember, it’s completely normal to make little errors and nobody in the audience is going to criticize you for the odd slip up.

Do What Works for You

Whether you seek the help of a therapist to find the cause of your anxiety, rely on routine learning methods, or become a master of breathing techniques, you can become a successful public speaker and overcome your fears. Everyone is different, but following these tips may help you surprise yourself and the crowd hanging on your every word.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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4 Examples of Awesome Social Media Customer Support

4 Examples of Awesome Social Media Customer Support

Of the estimated 3.2 billion internet users out there, approximately 2.3 billion are active social media users. In a little over ten years, the social networking revolution has changed the way we work, the way we document our lives, and even the way that we fall in love.

Despite a few stumbles in the beginning of the transformation, it didn’t take brands long to realize that social media would also change the way that people experienced marketing. The result was a gold rush as every company out there competed to build a huge following online, creating a virtual store front and trying to generate real human interaction in what is essentially an age of detachment.

However, as much social media offers businesses a way to push their message, it’s a two-way street – customer complaints are seen by prospective customers and can easily damage the reputation of a business if they’re not addressed.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, most businesses now use their social media channels as customer support lines, providing real-time responses, advice, and service in the digital world to keep their customers happy in the online space.

However, as with most business outputs, some brands seem to have the art of social customer support down, while others seem to struggle –we’ve all seen brands fail on social media. So what is classified as great social media customer support and what can you do to make sure your brand handles queries and complaints correctly?

Diffuse the situation

Social media users are often prone to getting really worked up. Because these websites are public forums, users often use them as soap boxes to voice their opinions for anyone who will listen. Whether people are complaining about a worm in their salad or simply bad service, many brands take a creative approach to diffusing the situation.

By speaking to the user in an authentic way – remember, you’re dealing with real people – and not using a generic redirect, you can calm the situation down and address the real issue. Your audience will see this happen and you can turn the aggravated party into a brand advocate.

Try an Apology

What most people are looking for when they start kicking up a stink about something a brand has done is an apology. Too many brands offer a generic response – “We’re so sorry to hear about this, please DM your details” – instead of taking ownership of the situation and issuing a heartfelt apology (provided the brand is actually at fault).

Worryingly, the rise of messenger bots suggests that apologies from an actual person with a passion for the business are going to be less likely. Don’t be the corporate giant who doesn’t have time to send a written letter of apology. Take ownership and fix the problem.

Calling Out Liars

Trolling is a huge problem on social media, and many people push brand’s buttons to try and get free stuff or simply smear a brand’s name. Brave brands are ready for this, and build a rapport with their audience. By creating banter, your brand also has scope to call out trolls and rebound false attacks or misinformation.

Be careful though – this is a particularly risky place to play in if you handle it in the wrong way. Think James Blunt’s Twitter account, not simple digital bullying.

Be the Brand

It sounds like a cheap business seminar cliché, but the easiest way to handle customer support in the social media space is to take criticism personally. There’s really nothing different between a customer complaining online and in your actual store; if anything, more people are exposed to social media complaints. Respond quickly, honestly, and personally because this kind of interaction is the way people see and perceive your brand.

Your social community managers are your front line in fighting your ORM (Online Reputation Management) battle, and it’s important that they live, breathe, and defend your brand. Reward them for what they do well and train them in your brand’s voice, because they are your brand.

Final Word

Social media is a powerful business tool, but it’s not a precise science. People make mistakes and brands get it wrong, but remember that things blow over – it’s an indecisive crowd. As much as your social pages are a window into your business approach, it’s highly unlikely that social media is all there is to your business. Do what you can to follow the best practice guidelines for social customer support, commit to your fans, and make sure you’ve got a plan to help customers get what they’re after.


About the Author

I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify

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