Tips for Entrepreneurs Around the Holidays

It’s just about that time of year again; visions of delicious turkey dinners have begun to dance around in everyone’s heads, and Christmas is just around the corner.  The holidays will soon be with us, once again.  While for most people the holidays are a time of rest, relaxation, and celebration, for entrepreneurs it can often be one of the most stressful times of the year, as everyone’s relaxed work ethic gets in the way of meeting deadlines and obligations. We’ve got some tips that can help you keep your head on straight during the holiday season (or any other time that you’ll be out of the office extensively): If You Feel You Can’t Leave, Something is Wrong – Believe it or not, no matter how integral you are to the functioning of your business, it is indeed possible to create safeguards and processes that can enable to organization to respond just fine for a limited time without your input.  If you feel you just can’t leave work, you’ve likely not invested in creating the support staff your business will need in the long term. When You Unplug, Actually Unplug – Have you ever taken a vacation only to find …

The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

Today, we are going to take a look at a story that has been in the news recently, and reflect on a little discussed topic: the dark side of entrepreneurship. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, picture the child labor practices common during the Industrial Revolution, or think about the behavior of the robber barons during railroad times.  While capitalism and entrepreneurship are the major drivers of our economy, left unchecked they can ruin cultures and countries as well as enrich them. The event we are going to talk about is the ongoing case against the founder of the Silk Road online marketplace, one Ross William Ulbricht.  If you’re not familiar with the Silk Road, it achieved notoriety by its stance of absolute anonymity for users.  This led to organized crime and other undesirable elements populating the marketplace, and a person could easily buy drugs, prostitutes, or even contract killing services on the site.  Many users also accepted payment for these questionable services in Bitcoin, the basically untraceable cryptocurrency, making things even more difficult for authorities. How does this tie into online marketing? Well, for one, the Silk Road, despite the various goods of ill repute which ended …

Stay Away from Software and Service that Doesn’t Really Add Value

One trap entrepreneurs have been known to fall into is investing in software or equipment that they end up not needing.  Stories abound of new software platforms and packages purchased by enthusiastic management that end up negatively impacting the organizations they were intended to help.  One thing that should guide every purchasing decision an entrepreneur makes is whether or not the purchase will really add value to their services, and enable them to sell more of their own products or services. An example of a software product that just isn’t very good is ReportGarden.  It claims to help you produce ‘professional’ looking AdWords reports for clients in just a few minutes.  You would think this could be of value to small marketing agencies or people who need data visualization for their PPC campaigns, but you would be wrong. Take a closer look at these ‘reports’, and ask yourself if they are of any actual value.  Delving into the site features a bit deeper, you would have to be hard pressed to find any sort of real benefit to having this software.  When you take a look at the price points the service has chosen, things get even more ridiculous, when …

Advantages and Drawbacks of the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Today we are going to look at several integral characteristics that entrepreneurs must have in order to succeed in the modern marketplace, and examine how they can be advantages or drawbacks depending on how a person chooses to express them.  Entrepreneurs have to be careful to mitigate their disadvantages and play to their strengths whenever possible, in order to exploit their comparative advantage in the marketplace.  Think about how each of these characteristics can be beneficial or harmful, depending on circumstance: Agility – An agile business is an extremely adaptable one, and if you have a lot of agility it will be difficult for competitors to keep you down for long as you are able to adapt to new market circumstances quickly and easily.  However, this adaptability comes at a price; companies that stick to one thing and one thing only will often be able to leverage industry support and contacts in a way that a more agile business will not be able to harness. Versatility – Another core entrepreneurial characteristic is that of versatility.  When organizations are young, typically they are staffed by people capable of wearing many hats at once.  This gives the staff an incredible amount of …

Some Tips About Non-Compete Agreements

If you have ever started a company and then sold it to someone else, you are likely familiar with the non-compete agreement, which is the bane of serial idea entrepreneurs everywhere.  Usually, it is an arrangement legally binding the seller of the business to not act as a direct competitor to the person they sell the business to. While this makes sense, and is a common-sense protection on the part of the buyer, if you aren’t careful you can get trapped in an overly restrictive agreement; not all NCA’s are created equal.  Here are four tips that can help you negotiate a fair NCA with prospective buyers that won’t prevent you from moving on after the sale: Always Use an Attorney – Never, ever consider signing a non-compete without having an attorney look over the document.  You may even want to retain one for the negotiations themselves. Ask For Specific Exemptions – The more specific you are, the more likely it is to get what you want.  Try limiting the non-compete to covering extremely specific products, services, or customers, in a way that will allow you to still do something in the industry if you care to. Non-Solicitation – A …

Must Have Business Software for Entrepreneurs

Today we are going to take a look at some specific pieces of business software that are increasingly considered must haves by those in the entrepreneurial world.  They make the list for a variety of reasons, including utility, excellent pricing, innovativeness, and more.  We will discuss some of the common uses they have and how most any business can gain an advantage by learning how to use it properly: Skype – Skype, or other communications software, is the communications bedrock of many entrepreneurial efforts.  It combines the features of a traditional telephone along with text messaging, file sharing, and even webcam integration for video chat.  Best of all, communication between users is free, as is the software itself. Dropbox – Cloud storage services are another integral digital tool that entrepreneurs can really derive significant advantages from using.  Alternate products are Google Drive or SkyDrive, each of which has their pros and cons relative to Dropbox, which is the oldest service and considered the standard.  Imagine being able to share files with customers and team members across the globe as simply as you can across your own computer network.  Dropbox and other cloud storage software makes this possible. HelloFax – Believe …

Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Take from the Obamacare Website

If you have been paying attention to the news, the glitches and problems associated with the new Obamacare website are making big news all across the nation.  While we will have to wait and see whether or not they are able to fix the site and the problems people are having with the new online health care marketplace, the whole episode served to emphasize a few points of particular interest to entrepreneurs: Importance of Building a Positive Brand Association – Most people are not particularly upset with president Obama over the site glitches, and trust that he will work them out in a reasonable time frame.  This serves to demonstrate the power that a positive branding has within the minds of consumers; they trusted Obama, so they were willing to trust his product even in the face of glitches and problems. New Online Marketplaces Work – People are more and more willing to buy just about anything online, and this has led to the development of a variety of online marketplaces as organizations pop up in an attempt to fulfill the needs of customers.    If people are willing to buy their health insurance online, you can most likely find ways …

We Need Ideas for Entrepreneur Month

Based on input from readers, we have decided to make November Entrepreneur Month here at the blog.  This means we want input from you on topics you would like covered, problems you would like addressed, news or developments you want commentary on, and anything else related to entrepreneurship that you can think of.  So far, we’ve got plans to cover the following possible topics: Best Practices – We’ll have some articles that look at some standard best practices in the entrepreneurial world, with a focus on very small companies and startups. Running Your Own Business – We want to focus on some common issues entrepreneurs face related to running their own business and keeping the organization they build healthy from day one. Virtual Business – We’ll take a look at the technology and trends that are affecting business, with an emphasis on how virtual connections are changing the way things get done across the world, particularly for small business. Software/Gadgets – We plan on evaluating both software and hardware that are essential for doing business in the hyper connected business environment that exists within most industries. New Marketing Models – Looking at new and alternative marketing models that apply to …

The Next Big Development in QR Codes

Quick Response codes are kind of an interesting case study in the marketing world.  The possibilities and applications they can be used for are seemingly endless, but they haven’t really caught on in a massive way just yet.  Sometimes this is ascribed to smart devices not having reached a level of critical mass in the general populace, other times it is attributed to the difficulty of scanning the codes themselves, particularly when they are presented as digital media. However, this may be changing, as there has been a major development that could alter the nature of QR response codes in general, and will almost certainly cause a Renaissance of sorts in their employ over the coming months. The development comes to us from the University of Nottingham, in Great Britain.  Developed at the University’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, it has been dubbed ‘Aestheticodes’.  What makes this new technology so different? In a nutshell, it enables the information normally carried in a typical QR graphic to be encoded or displayed in visually pleasing pictures, instead of that strange looking black-and-white square we’re all used to seeing. While this does not seem revolutionary at first, you have to consider the applications …

Wal-Mart Believes Enough in Digital Marketing to Change Business Plan

If you have been following the news recently, you have likely read something in your local newspaper about the ongoing battle between retail giants Wal-Mart and Amazon.  Both are fixtures in everyday life for much of the population of the country, and yet they serve very different niches commercially.  Amazon is typically held as the king of online retailers while Wal-Mart is (debatably) king of the retail superstore. The big kerfuffle is over Wal-Mart’s plans to break into the sphere of online and digital marketing; earlier this week the New York Times ran a piece about Wal-Mart’s recent hires and developments in their infrastructure as they prepare to make this leap.  This will place them in direct competition with Amazon as they both try to capture more of the ever growing digital sales market. On the surface, this is just another conflict between two large retail companies, but for the shrewd observer there are some important lessons to take away regarding the future of marketing and sales in general.  What is perhaps most interesting about this confrontation from a marketing perspective is that is clearly demonstrates that the big money knows that online retailing is the way of the future.  …