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Tag Archives for " Start-up "

14 What Kind of Business Should I Start?

The title to this post is a question I receive often. So many people want to start their own business these days but, are at a loss as to what to do.

It’s a tough question really and one that needs to be approached as many things in life – from a strategic standpoint first.

See a lot of folks just want to jump right into tactics – what’s hot, what can I make money doing, what are my skills, what’s my background – but that’s only part of the equation.

The first thing you must answer is this – What do I want out of life?

I know, I know, it’s only the biggest, scariest, hardest question on the planet and that’s why so many people just skip it.

Here’s how that applies to your business though.

There are two kinds of businesses, generally, from a strategic standpoint – the business of passion and purpose and the business of profit and practicality.

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12 What a Business Makes

I’ve owned my business now for over twenty years, I love it, wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve worked very hard to make my business what it is, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that, after years of hard work in this endeavor – you don’t only make a business in this process; a business makes you.

Boulder FlatironsBut, there’s the ironic rub. As a business makes you, it also borrows much from you. The fears, baggage, sabotage and hesitation that manifest themselves in your inner, daily life, will likely show up in your business as well.

That’s the raw, joyous, scary, freeing thing about owning a business really.

The relationship between what a business owner does in a business and does in a life is not something that can be balanced, only recognized. You can plan, strategize, map, vision, plot and document yourself a clear, concise business, but the only certain way to be wrong is to believe you can control what happens all along the way. But, letting go is maybe the hardest business skill to learn.

As something that will leave a long, deep and permanent mark on your life, detachment from much of the “known how” is essential. The need for control is often based in fear of the unknown.

If you find that your business, for example, surges and retreats, over and over again, only to remain locked on an invisible plateau, it’s a sure sign that something inward is holding back your outward reality.

you don’t only make a business in this process; a business makes you.

For so many business owners this hold back is based in an inability to give in to love. Now, this isn’t something that’s addressed enough in business terms so let me clarify. By love I don’t mean the romantic, soft, Hollywood kind of thing. I’m talking about the strong, brave, intuitive kind of love that takes guts to live and more guts to acknowledge in a business. It’s the kind of love that manifests itself in fair decisions, a desire to change things for the good, a letting go of the ego long enough to learn from your mistakes, and a passion for things that sells and attracts in and of itself.

Looking deep inside for clues to things that are holding your business back is tough work, but it may indeed be the best kind of strategic work you can engage in. I find a hike up a mountain can be a great way to get the process started. Careful though, it’s not always pretty up there.

There’s nothing simple about what I’m suggesting, but if you are to make this thing called a business serve this thing called a life – let it glimpse a piece of the best of what resides inside and you just might find that you more easily manifest something stunning outside.

24 The Best City for Entrepreneurs

Austin SkylineI am doing an interview today with a journalist writing a story about entrepreneurial cities.

You’ve probably seen these kinds of articles before, but to me this is such a tough question. What’s the best place to be an entrepreneur? Most of these types of polls take a look at tangible things like access to capital, learning resources, mentoring facilities, focused government programs and the presence of universities and incubators.

While I think these tangible assets are indeed important, there’s another very large factor that I’ve found as I travel around the globe speaking to groups of entrepreneurs. It’s something I can only classify as a vibe. What I have found in some cities is the entrepreneurs there simply love running a business, are passionate about learning how to do it better, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. For these folks this is not a job and they are willing to come together and support each other in that mission.

I’m not sure how to bottle that and tell you why it exists, it’s like telling you that in some cities entrepreneurs just seem happier, but that’s my experience.

Recently I’ve found this to be the case in Boston, Austin, San Diego, Phoenix, and Portland.

So my two question to you today are:
1) What cities are great for entrepreneurs?
2) What makes a city great for entrepreneurs?

1 Free Guides from SCORE

SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” is a offering two free workbooks to the first 1,000 people to sign up.

The two workbooks are comprehensive guides to starting and structuring a business, and are great resources for any entrepreneur. To get your free copy of How to Really Start Your Own Business and How to Really Structure Your Own Business, visit the SCORE Web site, and click on “How-To Workbooks Giveaway.

4 Great New Tool for Start-ups

Start me upStarting a new business is exciting, scary, exhilarating, confusing, and freeing. But, mostly it’s a lot of work. There’s a bunch of steps you need to do in order to get started right. You can do some research and discover most of these steps, but what if there was a way to get a free, hands-on consultant to walk you through all of the various start-up related tasks.

Well, and you knew I was going to say this, I’ve found one for you. In conjunction with Resource Nation, Duct Tape Marketing is proud to introduce StartMeUp.

The program pairs you up with a consultant who can help you create your start-up schedule, you get weekly advice and how to articles, advice on choosing vendors for things like setting up your legal entity and accounting. If you are just starting or thinking about starting your business this is a pretty cool road map. Let me know what you think.

To launch this new service I asked my favorite Startupologist, Rich Sloan of StartUpNation (another must visit resource for starting a business) to record a message introducing you to the StartMeUp service and inviting you to check it out from his vast experience in working with start-up businesses.

14 Who don't you want as a customer?

I often write about defining a narrow target market and communicating only with what I call your ideal customer.

The idea behind this is that, if taken to heart, you will find that you are able to attract the perfect customers without succumbing to the pressure to compete on price alone.

Many times, when I mention this notion to small business owner they have a tough time coming up with the description of the ideal narrowly defined customer until I suggest that we start by describing who they don’t want as a customer.

It’s just human nature I guess, but we seem to have a much better grasp of what we don’t want in our life than what we do. So by first categorizing things like the types of customers that you can’t serve well, the kinds of people you don’t work well with, or the size of projects that don’t fit you may be on your way to better understanding your ideal customer.

Now, while you are at this exercise you may discover that you are currently working some of these customers you now admit you don’t want. Do what you can to move them to someone who can serve them better and begin the process of narrowing your focus only to your ideal customer profile.

1 NYC doing small business right

NYC Department of Small Business ServicesIt’s amazing what having an entrepreneurial mayor can do for the focus on small business in a city.

I’m speaking at the Small Business Summit today in New York City. The Summit is a gathering of Federal, State and Local agencies that serve small business such as the SBA, SCORE, SBDC and the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

The conference opened up with a brief presentation from Robert Walsh, Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services. While I’m sure that Mayor Bloomberg’s influence has not allowed them to solve many of the problems small businesses face in working with government agencies, several of his remarks got my attention.

1) They have created dozens of Small Business Solutions Centers and the most successful one if run by a for profit organization. (mixing govt and for-profit?)

2) They pro-actively reach out to employers and offer to bring them 5 qualified, trained candidates for every job opening. In the past, efforts amounted to begging for people to hire their trainees with ads in subways right next to the wanted posters. (They placed 359 workers with Whole Foods this quarter)

3) They are working on an initiative called Business Express to bring together all 18 agencies that small businesses might need to meet with, file with and comply with in a one stop shop – if they get that done every city in America should take note. (In another ungovernment like move, the web site for this effort, still a work in progress, is open to the public – Business Express)

9 Thinking of starting a small business?

I started my own business 22 years ago. (Hey, I’m not as young as I look!) At the time it felt more like insubordination than anything else. Today, it’s a full out revolution. Have you joined? Why not?

I created this little, perhaps corny, mix that I hope pushes people thinking about starting to do so and inspires those who have started to do more.

If it speaks to you, feel free to email it to a friend or hit steal this and embed it on your blog or web site. Viva la small business.

1 Thinking of starting a business?

Just StartI hear from lots of folks kind of, sort of, maybe wishing, they could start their own business. To them I say, Just Start! There has never been a better time to start a business, period.

In fact, the folks at Intuit just made it an even better time to start a new venture with a national campaign aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs get into to business now. The highlight of the campaign is a $50,000 grant awarded to one lucky start-up.

Enter the “Just Start” Contest

Aspiring business owners can enter the “Just Start” contest by submitting a letter or video to, or by visiting one of the local “Just Start” events in four major cities. Entrants will describe their business dream, what they need to do to make it happen and how they would use Intuit’s “Just Start” business grant to get started.

Experience the “Just Start” Feeling

Budding entrepreneurs can experience “Just Start” in four busy commuter hubs across the country. At each “Just Start” Lounge, they can enter the contest by sharing their business dreams on video. They can also draw inspiration from local entrepreneurs, obtain expert advice from local business experts and get a free copy of QuickBooks Simple Start.

    Cities include:

  • Seattle – Oct. 24-25, Westlake Center.
  • Chicago – Nov. 1-2, Union Station. (I will be at this event, come by and say hi)
  • New York – Nov. 7-8, Grand Central Station.
  • Boston – Nov. 13-14, South Station.

Visit the I will just start page to get a feel for the types of entries. Scrolling through some of the video entries is a great way to get fired up about your dream.

The contest entries are due by December 15th and the winners will be announced in January 2008. I have been asked to judge the entries, along with Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and Ramon Ray of We will review the submissions and select five semi-finalists. Those entries will be posted on the site in mid-January, when visitors can view and vote for their favorite.

I can’t be bribed so you must go to the site and just get your entry posted!

5 Build Your Boats Before You Need Them

A lot of folks thinking about starting a business spend all their time doing the typical start-up stuff like incorporating, finding office space, and designing business cards. All good and needed steps mind you, but don’t neglect the most important step.

If you are employed today and thinking about going out on your own, start talking to prospects first, start exploring your ideas with them, start asking them to become clients – before you ever open the doors. In fact, if you can swing it, offer to work for some potential clients for free, before you take the leap. (If you have a job I am certainly not talking about moonlighting at your employer’s expense.)

The thing that many start ups neglect most often is market research. Many failed businesses are so because they never figured out how to get profitable customers. I’m not saying that you spend all your time on research, you know I want you to take action, but you’ve got to start hanging out with your prospects and seeing what it takes to earn their trust and you should do this way before you must do it to eat.

Too many potential small business owners are waiting around for the day when they have a big enough nest egg built to jump right into the deep end while they try to figure out how to build their boat. If you play your cards right you might just get to wade into the safe end of the pond with a sea worthy boat in hand the day your open sign turns around – that’s the leap you should be looking to take.