What is Machine Learning? A definition

Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves.

The process of learning begins with observations or data, such as examples, direct experience, or instruction, in order to look for patterns in data and make better decisions in the future based on the examples that we provide. The primary aim is to allow the computers learn automatically without human intervention or assistance and adjust actions accordingly.

Some machine learning methods

  1. Machine learning algorithms are often categorized as supervised or unsupervised.
  2. Supervised machine learning algorithms can apply what has been learned in the past to new data using labeled examples to predict future events. Starting from the analysis of a known training dataset, the learning algorithm produces an inferred function to make predictions about the output values. The system is able to provide targets for any new input after sufficient training. The learning algorithm can also compare its output with the correct, intended output and find errors in order to modify the model accordingly.
  3. In contrast, unsupervised machine learning algorithms are used when the information used to train is neither classified nor labeled. Unsupervised learning studies how systems can infer a function to describe a hidden structure from unlabeled data. The system doesn’t figure out the right output, but it explores the data and can draw inferences from datasets to describe hidden structures from unlabeled data.
  4. Semi-supervised machine learning algorithms fall somewhere in between supervised and unsupervised learning, since they use both labeled and unlabeled data for training – typically a small amount of labeled data and a large amount of unlabeled data. The systems that use this method are able to considerably improve learning accuracy. Usually, semi-supervised learning is chosen when the acquired labeled data requires skilled and relevant resources in order to train it / learn from it. Otherwise, acquiringunlabeled data generally doesn’t require additional resources.
  5. Reinforcement machine learning algorithms is a learning method that interacts with its environment by producing actions and discovers errors or rewards. Trial and error search and delayed reward are the most relevant characteristics of reinforcement learning. This method allows machines and software agents to automatically determine the ideal behavior within a specific context in order to maximize its performance. Simple reward feedback is required for the agent to learn which action is best; this is known as the reinforcement signal.
  6. Machine learning enables analysis of massive quantities of data. While it generally delivers faster, more accurate results in order to identify profitable opportunities or dangerous risks, it may also require additional time and resources to train it properly. Combining machine learning with AI and cognitive technologies can make it even more effective in processing large volumes of information.

Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur is someone who attempts to dream with a strong vision and finds ways to actualize it through innovative ideas and hard work. As Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Beginning with courage followed by hard work, strategic planning and ways to execute them systematically is the foundation for business success. Striving hard and not surrendering to failures but instead learning from them should be the motto that every entrepreneur should follow. A successful entrepreneur not only satisfies his creative ideas but also contributes to the society at large.

If you are young entrepreneur venturing into a new business and are looking at what you should know before putting yourself out there, here are five things you ought to keep in mind

Know your market and your product

If you are truly passionate about an idea, the first step is to spend time on market research. Understand your target audience, their needs and challenges. Interact with potential customers to know more about how your idea can help solve a problem. Take the time to understand if your product will stand out in a crowded market. If there are too many competitors, find your niche. Work towards creating a product or solving a problem that’s unique.

Find a mentor

When you are starting out young, it’s easy to get carried away with your idea and lose focus from the larger picture. Find a mentor who can guide you with business strategies, crunch numbers, connect you to the right group of people and provide insights about the market. An experienced mentor can play a key role in the success of your business.

Networking

Networking is a must if you want more people to know about your company or generate business leads. Identify networking events that are specific to your industry and make it a point to attend these events regularly. Participating in these events will help you build connections, identify new trends in your industry, helps you hire the right talent and build visibility for your business.

Transparency

Maintain transparency across all the stakeholders involved in the business especially customers. Don’t fool your customers just to satisfy sales. Be transparent about what your product is good for and what it is not good for. It’s not easy to maintain transparency across all aspects but once you start practicing it, positive results are bound to follow. Additionally, it also helps to build great brand image.

Perseverance

Perseverance is an important trait for an entrepreneur. Never give up on the idea that you are passionate about. When you start out young, you have the advantage of time. If the Plan A does not work, be ready with a contingency plan. The concept of overnight success rarely works in business. There might be multiple rough moments in your entrepreneurial journey, dust it off and keep working towards your goal.

 Marketing

While running the day to day operations, it’s easy to ignore the other aspects such as marketing and branding. A great idea is just an idea if no one knows about it. People are only familiar with a brand if they’re made familiar with it. Marketing is an important and an essential tool for reaching out to the desired market. It’s important to effectively explain why people must buy your product or invest in your idea.

Risks That Every Entrepreneur Must Take

Risk-taking is almost synonymous with entrepreneurship. To start and support your own business, you’ll have to put your career, personal finances and even your mental health at stake.

For most, the prospect of making your own decisions and being in charge of your own destiny is worth it. But if you’re going to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be prepared for the risks and challenges that come with it.

The following are seven risks that every entrepreneur must take, from ideation to ongoing development:

1. Abandoning the steady paycheck.

Before you venture into the world of business ownership, you’ll first have to say goodbye to your current job, and in some cases, your career. Some people have the luxury of a backup plan — an option to resume your career in case things don’t go well in your independent business.

But for most starting entrepreneurs, the choice is a risky plunge. There’s no guarantee of your personal income, especially in the first few months and years of your company’s existence, and you’ll probably be too busy to secure or sustain an alternative line of income.

2. Sacrificing personal capital.

Some entrepreneurs are able to start their ventures relying solely on external funding. That usually means a collection of angel investor contributions, government grants and loans, and results from crowdfunding campaigns. But many entrepreneurs also have to dive into their own bank accounts and personal savings to get things started.

You may not need to completely liquidate your nest egg, but you will have to front at least some personal money — and that means abandoning, or at least diminishing, your safety net.

3. Relying on cash flow.

Even if you have a line of credit, securing a regular cash flow is difficult and stressful. You can position yourself for a profitable year, but still struggle with the day-to-day necessities if your revenue doesn’t match or exceed your costs in a timely manner.

Bills can add up quickly, and if you don’t have enough revenue to support your outgoing cash flow, you could run short of money for paychecks or be forced to dip into emergency funds. Be prepared to address it daily, or at least weekly.

4. Estimating popular interest.

No matter how much research you do or how many tests you complete, you’ll never be able to estimate popular interest in your business with perfect accuracy. People are somewhat unpredictable, which could put a giant hole in your otherwise sound plans.

Even when all the data appears to be in your favor, there’s a chance you’re overestimating the interest in your company, and if your projections are off, your entire financial model could implode.

5. Trusting a key employee.

When you first start a business, you won’t have a full team of employees working for you. Instead, you’ll probably have a small, tight-knit group of people working tirelessly together in an effort to get things up and running. You’ll have to put an overwhelming amount of trust in them, especially if they have special skills that are hard to find and are willing to start work at a lower salary than the industry standard.

For example, if you hire a single, experienced lead developer to work on your product over the course of a few months, you’ll need to have absolute trust in their ability to get the job done on time. Otherwise, your timeline (and your product) could be fatally compromised.

6. Betting on a crucial deadline. 

Startups are, by nature, forced into strict timelines for their product launches and milestone goals. Their finances are fragile, and their investors are eager to start seeing the wheels turning. As a result, most entrepreneurs are forced to make multiple goals contingent on a handful of deadlines, and those deadlines become absolutely critical.

Be prepared to stay up at night worrying about your ability to hit those deadlines, and coming up with contingencies if you cannot.

7. Donating personal time (and health).

Entrepreneurship takes a toll on the average person. You’ll spend countless hours doing work to make your company successful, and your remaining hours worrying about what you have or have not done thus far. You will lose sleep, you will miss out on personal time, and you will experience much more stress than usual.

The rewards of entrepreneurship often outweigh these personal risks, but you have to be prepared to live this type of lifestyle.

Risks shouldn’t steer you away from pursuing entrepreneurship. Instead, see them for what they are: necessary obstacles on a greater path. There’s no way to avoid the risks you’ll face as an entrepreneur, but by recognizing them, you can prepare for and mitigate them.

 

 

Know More About Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a form of financing a project or business venture by raising small amounts of money from a collective of individuals. There are over 600 different crowdfunding platforms in the world that make it easy for entrepreneurs, investors, and people to connect. Anyone with an idea has the chance to pitch it to available investors. It’s a young, yet popular form of both crowdsourcing and alternative financing.

It’s growing exponentially—so much so that the crowdfunding industry is predicted to grow to $300 billion by year 2030. Crowdfunding is completely transforming the way companies raise capital, how consumers behave with their money, and the market as a whole.

How to Use Crowdfunding for Your Business or Startup

The crowdfunding definition may be simple, but using this financing option isn’t always as easy. Crowdfunding is not as simple as posting your project and reaching your goal of $10,000 the next day. It takes strategy, a lot of preparation, and a clear understanding of which crowdfunding type and platform is right for you. Here are some initial steps and general guidelines on how to set up your crowdfunding campaign.

  • Choose the right platform for your business. Each crowdfunding platform is unique to a specific type of crowdfunding, niche, or industry. This helps determine which potential customers you will attract.
  • Make your idea enticing. Define who your audience is and what they need, and cater your messaging toward them. Keep it simple and digestible, but add compelling visuals or videos to intrigue people and tell your business’s story.
  • Offer rewards for people. Provide value for backers to support your crowdfunding venture by offering a valuable reward they’ll love. Just be sure not to break the bank.
  • Offer a range of investment levels. Give people options to invest so they can find the level that works for their budget. Offer tiered rewards to pair with each investment level.
  • Make it easy for people to share. Use social media to your advantage. Supporters will be more motivated and willing to share with their friends and family if it’s easy to do so.
  • Spread the word. Organize your contacts for outreach. Put together a compelling pitch that you can communicate to press, bloggers, or your network. Go offline and throw an event or share your idea with people in person.

Let’s explore the benefits, challenges, and four types of crowdfunding.

The Benefits of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows individuals to support the projects or companies that they believe in. On the entrepreneur side, you have the opportunity to test your idea and get valuable feedback from potential customers before going to market. Let’s dive into four key benefits of crowdfunding.

Market Validation

A challenge for many entrepreneurs or early startups is validating whether their idea or concept will be successful in the market. While you can always test it out among a close network of coworkers, family, or friends, it’s a good idea to expand beyond this group.

The early stages of a business idea is the best time to conduct testing, gather data, and make changes. From there, you can scale. Determine whether a stranger is willing to spend money on your product, and if not, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.

Valuable Insights

By starting a crowdfunding campaign, you have the opportunity to connect and engage with your customers on a direct or personal level. With access to comments, questions, and feedback, you can quickly figure out if something’s missing from your idea.

Individuals have the chance to poke holes in your concept, so you can take the feedback and improve your product or service with ideas you previously hadn’t thought of. This direct feedback and data is truly immeasurable.

Free Exposure

A popular crowdfunding platform will have a large community and existing network you can tap into. Kickstarter alone has over 17 million backers on their site. A community like this gives you an engaged group that’s more likely to support your idea and spread the word.

Not only this, but you’re typically vetted before you’re accepted to a platform, so it gives a level of legitimacy to your new business. If you go the more traditional route in raising seed money, you won’t have the advantage of this exposure from the get-go.

Early Adopters

Investors in the early stages of your business usually become your most loyal customers. People who contribute money toward getting your idea off the ground often feel more loyal, engaged, and like they have a part in your success. Early investors are also more likely to become brand advocates, spread the word, and get other people in their network involved.

The Challenges of Crowdfunding

There’s no question that launching a crowdfunding campaign takes a lot of work. You have to put in the time and effort to build interest and buzz around your idea, which may require additional resources like a team and money. Here are four key challenges to crowdfunding.

Many Campaigns Fail

The average success rate of crowdfunding campaigns is 22.4%—which means that while this can be a viable solution for funding your startup, many campaigns fail. They require a ton of planning and work before your campaign even launches. You need early traction and attention, along with a variety of great rewards, to get people interested and keep your campaign momentum.

Not only that, but the market is very crowded. Ensure your idea isn’t already being pursued by someone else so you can stand out as unique among the noise. Keep in mind, if you fail to reach your target, it can affect your brand reputation or image and investors may be less likely to support you down the line.

It’s All or Nothing

Raising money is just the first step of many to starting your business or company. Typically, if you don’t reach your funding target, money that’s been pledged will get returned to backers. The good news is if you hit the 20% mark, it’s likely you’ll reach your final goal. Almost 80% of Kickstarter campaigns that raised more than 20% ended up being successful. Strategize before you launch your campaign, build in all potential expenses, and set a realistic goal and timeline for your project to improve your chances of success.

Platform Fees

Whether you’re launching your crowdfunding campaign on a tight budget or have the savings to help promote it, it’s important to understand that most crowdfunding platforms charge fees of their own. They typically generate a percentage of revenue from campaign funds that are raised. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, for example, both charge a 5% fee of total funds you raise, on top of a 3% to 4% card processing fee.

Fraud Can Happen

There may be competitors or individuals that can steal your idea and beat you to market. Always keep in mind that with crowdfunding you’re exposing your idea on an open platform, so you may want to monitor who’s involved. Take advantage of private chats with investors to discuss not just your project but potential non-disclosure agreements. Consider talking with a business attorney to ensure your idea is patented and legally protected.

4 Types of Crowdfunding You Need to Know About

In what can seem like a complex industry of investment and banking, crowdfunding makes it easy to have the opportunity to grow your idea or business. Depending on your business and goals, you’ll want to choose the type of crowdfunding that’s most relevant for you.

Each type of crowdfunding has its own advantages and each platform is particular for a specific type, niche, industry, or project. Let’s break down the four types of crowdfunding, so you can determine which is the best fit for your business and decide which platform to use when launching your campaign.

Rewards-Based Crowdfunding

The most popular type of crowdfunding is rewards-based, where individuals lend small amounts of money to a project in exchange for a reward or incentive. Funding can range anywhere from $1 to $1,000 and the reward can range from the product or service, perks, or simply recognition.

Crowdfunding was brought into the mainstream by two popular rewards-based crowdfunding platforms: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These two platforms are more common with creative and newly innovative ideas or projects.

Equity-Based Crowdfunding

With equity-based crowdfunding, investors lend a larger amount of money in exchange for a share, percentage, or, like the title says, equity in the company. They then become stakeholders or part owners. Entrepreneurs can even set investment caps and minimum amounts if they choose. Equity-based campaigns are typically used to launch a startup and last a few months or longer to raise larger funding amounts (up to $100,000 or more).

As with any investment, there’s always a possibility that you can lose a portion or all of your return, so it’s good to keep in mind not just the potential, but also the risks. AngelList, Fundable, and Crowdfunder are popular platforms for equity-based crowdfunding catered more toward venture capitalists.

Donation-Based Crowdfunding

Donation-based crowdfunding is when a large number of individuals donate a small amount of money toward a project. Because it’s based on donations, contributors don’t expect anything in return, other than gratitude from the organization and the satisfaction of supporting a cause they’re passionate about.

Many charities, social causes, and nonprofits lean toward donation-based crowdfunding to raise money so funding targets are generally lower (typically $10,000 or less). GoFundMe, Crowdrise, Tilt, and Kiva are all popular donation-based platforms.

Debt-Based Crowdfunding

Debt-based crowdfunding is somewhat similar to getting a loan from a bank, except that a large amount of individuals lend you a small amount, with the expectation that they will be paid back the principal along with interest. Contributors don’t receive a reward or equity in exchange for their investment.

Many entrepreneurs, startups, or small businesses use this as an alternative to a traditional bank loan, since they have more flexibility and options to get funds and resources. It’s most helpful to give a company the financial start they need to go on and continue fundraising.

The crowdfunding industry continues to double year over year, proving to be a valuable form of raising capital for new new startups or entrepreneurs. It helps put decision-making power into the hands of individuals and helps to fill the void in the traditional investment world. Any local business or entrepreneur who is willing to work for it has an opportunity to succeed with crowdfunding.

Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of crowdfunding, as well as the types of crowdfunding, can help improve your chances at success, and ultimately guide you toward the next steps of building and growing your own company!

Paying Taxes on Crowdfunding Income

Once you successfully raise money through crowdfunding, it may be easy to forget that you still may need to pay taxes on this money. Depending on the purpose of the campaign, the IRS still may consider those funds taxable.

There are three categories that your crowdfunding campaign funds may fall into:

  • Taxable income
  • Charitable donation
  • Gift tax

Taxable Income

If your crowdfunding campaign is dedicated to raising money for some type of business project or venture, then the funds are subject to income tax. Anyone with this type of campaign should receive a 1099-K form from the crowdfunding platform that they are using.

  • In short, a 1099-K identifies that the entity running the campaign has either received over $20,000 in funding or has acquired over 200 transactions on their campaign. However, even if you do not receive a 1099-K (i.e. your campaign earns less than $20,000 or less than 200 transactions), you are still responsible for reporting the income.

Charitable Donation

In the case that the crowdfunding campaign is run by a charitable organization or nonprofit, then the funds that are raised are not subject to taxes. It is important that if you are looking to raise funds under a charity or nonprofit, that the organization is qualified—otherwise, the funds may be subject to taxes.  For anyone who donates to a charitable campaign, the donation is seen as tax-deductible in the eyes of the IRS.

Gift Tax

Individuals with a crowdfunding campaign that is not associated with a business or charitable organization could be subjected to paying gift taxes on the funds that they raise. However, gift tax is only applicable to total funds of over $15,000. As long as your total gift tax exclusions for the given year do not exceed this limit, then the funds you raise will not be subject to gift tax.

Raising Funds for Start-Ups

A new entrepreneurial journey can be pretty unnerving especially during fundraising. With dynamic changes and formalisation of the economy, start-up businesses have to avoid traditional bottlenecks like inconsistent balance sheets, and lack of collateral, or detailed business plans, or financial estimates for business cyclicality or preparation around fund requirements.

An entrepreneur must own his/her business plan, analyse capital movements and investor requirements, be ready to answer the tough questions from investors and create a strong and structured organisation with capable people who will deliver under adhered timelines.

Before considering fundraising, an entrepreneur must consider budget planning for a year, the kind of funding one should seek and who the ideal investor should be. Funding can come from many sources – family, winning at pitch competitions, working capital loans, bootstrapping and even revenue for regular operations.

 The nature of funding varies from business to business and the stage of the business is critical.

Why raise capital?

A start-up business is meant to grow fast. Such high growth companies nearly need to burn capital to keep the wheel of growth moving before achieving profitability. Some start-ups prefer to bootstrap (self-fund) themselves. All start-ups entrepreneurs must introspect and decide how fast they want to grow which will determine whether funding is required or not.

When to raise capital?

Every new entrepreneur must know that investors will lend them an ear only if they have a very compelling idea backed by a fantastic founding team and a realistic business vision. The market opportunity has to be real and sufficiently large enough for entrepreneurs to give that product/service in terms of customer adoption.

How much to raise?

Fundraising is primarily done to check market feasibility and scope of growth for a product/service. When negotiating a fundraising amount, an entrepreneur should consider the kind of progress one is looking at, if the funds raised will be sufficient for growth and profitability or there would further rounds of capital or equity dilution one may be comfortable with. Ideally, an entrepreneur should look at raising an optimal amount of fund in the first round which will help one decide how many months of business operations can that take care .

There are no mathematically accurate answers to any of the above. But a few thumb-rule fundraising lessons don’t hurt.

  1. A new entrepreneur must ideally have an appropriate business name that should ring well with employees, business partners, investors and potential customers.
  2. A ‘NO’ from investors is not the end. It means still following up with updates, calling them and continuing to work because you believe in it.
  3. An entrepreneur should not compare with other businesses. An entrepreneur should cut the noise and baggage around what others think about them or their business acumen, or what they can/should do against their success or lack of one.
  4. A new entrepreneur should make informed decisions when raising capital. They should spend more time acquiring customers than attending meetings to acquire debt.
  5. A new entrepreneur should take time to celebrate their assets and resources, customers and teams, community and revenue.

 

 

Entrepreneurship Development

Entrepreneurship development is the process of improving the skills and knowledge of entrepreneurs through various training and classroom programs. The whole point of entrepreneurship development is to increase the number of entrepreneurs.

By doing this, the pace at which new businesses or ventures are made gets better. On a wider level, this makes room for employment and improves the economy of a business or country. The steps below will explain how to create an effective entrepreneurship development program and how to go about enhancing it.

Outline the objectives of the program and focus on the venture development

Entrepreneurship development aims at individuals who want to start or possibly expand a business. Entrepreneurship development also focuses a lot on enhancing the ideas and potential of an entrepreneur.

The aims of a program have to be clearly explained otherwise the program will never reach its full potential. The development of a venture also has to be outlined in the program. Without these two, there will be no clear goal.

Select educated people who have high entrepreneurial potential

An entrepreneurship development program requires that various people be selected. However, most programs tend to look for a specific group of educated people rather than target everyone. Ideally, you have to look at the education and traits that you are looking for, in an entrepreneur, and match them with the people who have applied for the program.

Most people say that public funds should be spent on people who need the most help. The resources of an entrepreneurship development program are usually (and unfortunately) limited. It is hence better to choose people who will prove to be really useful and benefit the entire community.

Select uneducated people who have high entrepreneurial potential

A development project on women’s entrepreneurship in Nepal was recently conducted. It was found that women who couldn’t meet the essential needs of their family or themselves were usually more eager to learn about different ways to earn money as compared to women who were better off. However, such women usually face many problems.

Even though such women are not educated, they have great entrepreneurship potential because they have the right motivation. Such people need to be aided by assistance packages where training can be given on entrepreneurship. This will instill confidence and teach them the skills they need in order to provide for their family.

Identify the local market and search for people who have potential in it

Entrepreneurship development programs should first identify the local market and aid potential entrepreneurs who know a lot about it. These people need to be able analyze and then design unique ideas based off the needs of their surroundings.

By concentrating on select local entrepreneurs, the effects of the program can be easily and quickly seen within the community. Later on, programs can help improve their knowledge in their sector. In fact, it is creativity and the thirst for innovation that truly matters rather than the market’s size. In later programs, the introduction of new products and product features can be added. This will add value and increase the size of the market

Provide support through private sector-based organizations

Support should be obtained from private organizations that are both financial and knowledge-based. This helps reduce the cost of the entrepreneurship development program and increases its effectiveness.

Private organizations that could support entrepreneurship development programs include universities, consulting companies and various NGOs. Large enterprises are also encouraged to support entrepreneurship development programs as this their sponsorship that will help reduce unemployment.

Provide an easy yet detailed methodology that will help entrepreneurs improve in the short and long-run

Entrepreneurial development programs aim at being simple to understand and teach skills that entrepreneurs can use after the program. It also contains courses that aim at developing their skills and ideas. These are required if entrepreneurs wish to successfully exploit the local market.

They also need to be taught how to gather the required resources in order to meet the goals of their venture. The program also needs to have outlined methods through which entrepreneurs can improve the performance of their business in the long run.

Entrepreneur development training proves to be highly effective when finance, quality assurance, marketing and productivity are linked to the training program. As an example, when development banks are involved earlier in the process of training, an entrepreneur will easily understand credit processes and the also praises the bank’s business plan.

Implement special measures to improve the usefulness of trainers and facilitators

The Success of an entrepreneurship development program also relies on the commitment and quality of the many facilitators and trainers. Any trainer or facilitator in the program needs to understand the culture and lifestyle of the group in order to better integrate themselves and serve the group.

The selection of proper trainers is based on the amount of business experience they have and the how much knowledge they have about their local business environment. Training facilitators can significantly improve their usefulness in tackling the needs of entrepreneurs.

The selection of areas for pilot programs must be right

Entrepreneurship development programs are usually too restricted in terms of where it is done and what people are involved in the program. Selecting pilot target areas will usually depend on the ease at which support institutions are available.

It will also depend on the interest people take in entrepreneurial development programs. These facts can never be the same for any two geographical locations and hence must be considered carefully.

Launch pilot ED programs and develop as needed

Analyzing pilot feasibility is an effective way of launching a major entrepreneurship development program. If the program shows signs of high promise, it can be launched on a national level. By relying on the sponsors for support rather than donor support, the program will be able to expand past local development while maintaining high quality. This is especially important when the support of donors starts to fade.

A successful entrepreneurship development program requires government policies

Entrepreneurship helps the economy of a country grow and creates new jobs. Government policies usually have a substantial impact on the number of entrepreneurs in a country.

While there are many governments that say they do support entrepreneurial businesses, they usually do not have many specific policies and programs that effectively support entrepreneurial development.

Creating an effective entrepreneurship development program may not be easy but then again, it is not impossible either. By carefully following the ten points above, you are well on your way to creating an entrepreneurship development program that not only benefits your company in the short run but in the long run as well.

MANAGING SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESSFULLY

If you’ve taken the plunge into owning a small business, then you might harbor dreams of growth and wealth. While ambition is crucial to successfully running a small business, you should use it as a motivator and not as an end in itself. The key to any successful small business is a well-crafted business plan. Playing it by ear will doom you from the start.

Good business planning entails putting yourself on the right footing for losses as well as growth. If you don’t position yourself for growth from the beginning, you might find yourself struggling to deal with it if your business does begin to take off. Considering growth and how to handle it from the beginning might put you in a better position to manage growth successfully.

Start with a Strong Management Model

Even if your business starts out as a one-person operation, you should write a plan that forms the basis for expanding management roles. Knowing how to fragment oversight and accountability can help you navigate growth smoothly.

As a business grows, its internal logistics become more complex. You can’t do it alone, so you’ll need to hire people to help you. You should define their roles from the beginning. Knowing how to implement the fragmentation of roles and responsibilities could make your business operate more efficiently.

Communication is also important in this area. In addition to knowing the roles of your management and their subordinates, you should also make certain that each person understands their roles, too. Communicating these roles can ensure that everyone plays their part without creating confusion or chaos.

Trust the People You Hire

No business can succeed without attracting talent. Employing talented and able people can aid your business through growth. Ideally, these are people who understand your business, how to cultivate consumers, and how to satisfy your customers’ needs. Finding the right talent is important for any business venture.

Equally important is the trust you place in the people you employ. Constantly challenging or undermining them could create a toxic work environment that restricts your employees’ abilities to perform their tasks. It might even prevent them from implementing new ideas, which could stagnate a new business. You must trust their judgement while approaching it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Don’t embrace every new idea or tactic; instead, weight the pros against the cons and give your employees leeway to implement the best strategies and tactics.

Existence, Survival, Success

The three most crucial stages to successfully running a small business entail establishing its existence, maintaining its survival, and managing its success. When you establish your business, you must be certain you’re offering goods or services people actually want. Just because something interests or moves you, it doesn’t mean that it’ll interest or move other people. The best route to establishing a successful small business is to find a need and attempt to fill it. This decision, more than any other, could put you on the right footing to success.

Struggling for survival is another necessary step on the way to success. Once you’ve established your business, you must navigate its early stages. Most businesses expect to operate with minimal funds at this stage. Some manage to break even and some even run at a loss. The point during this stage is to grow your business in increments. If your business is operating at a loss but you are confident in your business model, do not give up.  You can secure financing for things like equipment financing to keep your company running.

If you’ve managed to grow your business in increments, you must tweak your management models, pricing models, quality control, inventory control, and so on to coincide with the growth of your business. The key is to maintain efficiency while growing. You must also understand how to calculate your sustainable growth rate to help guide your business through its stages of growth.

Running a small business entails many duties and areas of expertise. You must consider every possibility before you establish your business. While you should harbor a sense of confidence, you can’t allow any delusions. You’re not a genius. You need other people. They can help you understand facets of business you might not fully understand or appreciate. They can also approach your business with fresh eyes, offering input that you may not have previously considered.

You must allow your position to maintain a level of malleability. As your business grows and changes, so should your approach to it. Understanding the pitfalls of a growing business and how to navigate them can put you on the right path to managing small business growth successfully.

 

BUSINESS PROFESSIONALS LACK IN CREATING GREAT POSTS

Social media is filled with friends, business professionals and companies all trying to have their voices heard. Friends and family may be on social media trying to express their recent political concerns, trying to create a conversation that has an impact.

But there’s a world of difference between personal and professional posts. Business professionals need to make sure that their posts do not tarnish their professional images.

Whether posting to the 2.2 billion users on Facebook, Instagram’s 1 billion users or Twitter’s 325 million users, it’s difficult for business professionals to create great posts.

Why?

OVER-PROMOTION IS A FINE LINE

There’s a threshold of how much promotion followers will handle before they’re turned off by a professional’s social media posts. We see this often with our friends and family that seemingly go on a hiatus from social media because they’re tired of:

  • Political posts
  • Negativity
  • Friends trying to sell diet programs

Business professionals need to make sure that they’re not overly promotional, and one way to do this is to focus on education. Let’s assume that you’re an injury lawyer that is posting on Facebook every day. If all of your posts are trying to get followers to retain your services, you’ll quickly lose followers.

What can you do instead?

  • Educate followers with informative posts.
  • Create posts on your blog that can be linked to for further information.

But this is just the start. You’ll also want to start digging into your own data. Let’s assume that, as a lawyer, you receive a lot of questions about slip and fall accidents.

You can repurpose these questions, and your answers to them, on social media to create great posts that people want to read.

Digging a little deeper, also take a look at your site’s traffic and where visitors are going most often. Perhaps you have a post on how to handle a slip and fall properly. You can start taking snippets of these posts to generate a stronger following on social media.

What else can business professionals post to stand out in a crowd?

  • Trending topics. Google Trends can help you find topics that your audience is talking about.
  • Business professionals can be great teachers, so they should share tips with their followers. This can be a personal trainer sharing a tip on how to build more muscle, or it can be a landscaper explaining how to take care of azaleas this year.
  • Behind the scenes. Elon Musk is a social media success, and it’s because he is not afraid to show people some of the behind-the-scenes moments in his life. From working 100 hours a week to dealing with investors, he shows what makes his businesses a success.
  • Posts on how to use a product or service. Business professionals have a story to tell, and one of these stories should be how you helped a customer find success. A tax professional can share how much money they saved a client, or a landscaper can share their before and after pictures of a project.

If a business professional sits down and analyzes their posts, they’ll be able to find what works and what doesn’t work. Being raw, educational, professional and not being too promotional is a great start.

 

 

Essential Entrepreneur Skills

Developing a small business into a successful enterprise demands more than passion. Unfortunately, over half of new businesses fail; mainly because the entrepreneur is unable to translate their passion into practical business skills. Here are five essential skills all entrepreneurs need to build success.

Studies show that 30 percent of new businesses fail during their first two years of being open, 50 percent during the first five years and 66 percent during the first 10 years.

However, as an entrepreneur having the tag name, chief executive officer, you have to wear all different types of hats. I like to think of these hats as masks. Whether it is your sales mask, marketing mask or being able to manage your financial status; for effective growth and brand exposure of your company you have to be able to pivot quickly to each role in a decisive manner.

As we all know that success demands more than hard work, resilience, and expertise in your field. To succeed, you need to understand and to become proficient in a set of fundamental business skills.

Here are 5 essential skills all entrepreneurs need to build a successful business career.

1. Cultivate Better Financial Management Abilities

The first step in a successful business career is the ability to maintain and multiply your business’s financial status. The basic reason for going into business is to have effective management of money to accomplish your company goals. Studies have shown that over 29% of startups failed because they ran out of money.

The following are tips to build your financial management skills.

  •  Understand your income: Where is your income coming from? And how often is your income coming in? Is it daily, weekly or monthly? If you understand how your income comes in, it will help you in planning the most important aspect of your business.
  • Skip unnecessary budget: Avoid spending money on less important things and cultivate the habit to spend on something that will propel your business. spend less and save more.
  • Invest your income: Invest your income into what will bring good returns for your business. A lot of people make the mistake of investing in items that will not appreciate, which will affect their business growth.

2. Focus on Effective Communication

As an Entrepreneur aspiring to build perfect business skills, your ability to communicate has a large impact on how successful you will be. know that ineffective communication with your client will let you miss opportunities from time to time.

You should have a flow of interaction with customers and business partners. Even when things go wrong, you must be able to communicate effectively in hard situations.

Effective communication increases strong negotiation ability, allows companies to be productive and operate effectively, build a good working relationship between you and your workers. All these skills are essential to increase the growth of your business.

Effective communication increases the ability to pass information clearly about your services. 80 percent of customers are looking for assurance and confidence in your product and they’ll need someone who can convince them by giving out detailed information about your product. All these skills are essential to increase the growth of your business.

3. Improve your Marketing Skills

Marketing tactics are one of the important skills you need to sell your product and to let people know about what you offer.

This area is more crucial because the way you market your product will reflect on how people will buy and react to it. Gone are the days where online marketing is ineffective you need to improve your marketing skills by building a strong online presence especially in the area of.

  • Content Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media Management

Most importantly, you must develop your product with an attractive design which will create a serious desire in the heart of your customers.

Have the mind to find the perfect location for your product, an area where most people want what you produce, which should be accompanied by a promotional program of your products.

4. Be Time Conscious

Just as how important is time management in business skills? Without proper time management, it will be difficult to build a strong successful business. More reason why time management is one of the most important skills to have a successful business career.

The priority you give to how you manage time will reflect on how fast you get things done, and how fast you get things done will reflect on fast your business will grow.

Effective time management will help exercise control over how you spent time on each activity — especially when it comes to increasing business productivity and effectiveness.

Not putting much consideration in how you manage your time will surely bring about financial loss. And this can be dangerous for the health of your business.

5. Ability to Solve Problems

Aside from the fact that every business has its ups and downs, the ability to solve the problem and go through hard times is essential in every business career.

Solving a problem is easy if you know the proper steps to take and the necessary approach to take in each situation.

  • Before solving any problem, understand the source of the problem, and the reason for the problem exists. That will help you to know the necessary steps to take in solving it.
  • Plan step by step action you will need to solve the problem
  • Have backup plans.

Having good problem-solving skills can help you overcome a lot of challenges in your business career.

Conclusion

The skills that are important for entrepreneurs or others who might be starting new businesses evolve with time and are different from what might have been the most important 10 or 20 years ago, just make sure to develop your business skills to have a good business career.

 

The Need of Growth Managers for Startups

It’s a no-brainer that a disrupting idea or a category-defining product can not change the world until it reaches in front of the right audience.

While many start-ups and traditional businesses still place marketing in other/miscellaneous column of the balance sheet, they fail to account for the paradigm shift happening in the world. On average, an Indian is spending over 3.5 hours on apps every day, out of which 70 per cent accounts for social networks and entertainment.

At the same time, tech-savvy businesses have learned about the pulse of the generation and are spending billions of dollars on online marketing channels and digital transformation.

Hiring A Growth Manager

Hiring a growth manager rather than a digital marketer is best-suited to early stage start-ups who need massive growth in a short period of time on smaller budgets.

Andrew Chen introduced the term to a wider audience in an article, titled Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing, in which he wrote growth hackers “are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘how do I get customers for my product?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and open graph”.

How Growth Manager will Scale Your Business

Here are all the reasons why early stage start-ups should hire a growth manager.

Deriving product-market fit: A growth marketer helps in identifying early adopters of your product, putting your product in front of the right set of audience who will pay for the product/service. For the growth marketer, it’s not just about putting it in front of as many random people possible who might or might not pay. By gathering continuous feedback and using multiple iterations and significant revisions of the product, the aim of the growth hacker is to attain the stage where the product becomes a ‘must-have’. DropBox hacked its initial growth by providing additional storage to early adopters who referred friends; the ones who would refer for extra storage were the ones really looking for a product like theirs.

Rapidly testing persuasive copy, campaigns, viral strategies: Growth hacking is all about experimentation rather than a formula-based approach. Your growth hacker should be a master of writing persuasive copy. Running multiple simultaneous tests on the sales or ad-copy, running multiple campaigns at once to arrive at the best-performing ones is the job of your growth hacker. This will justify spending only on the best copy and the best campaigns.

Optimizing landing pages and campaigns: Your growth hacker is a UI/UX rockstar who will design highly engaging and converting landing pages. This is established by the ability to run multivariate A/B tests to optimise copy, images, email capture pop-ups, call-to-action, APIs and plug-ins. A white label SEO service company, The HOTH, tweaked their landing page to gain 844% increase in opt-in leads by optimising the value proposition and eliminating all unnecessary elements.

Udemy changed its course page design from a clunky three-column design to putting the headline, subheadline and promo video front and center, with a much more obvious CTA button to make the value proposition seemingly clear, which increased the click-through rate by 246%.

Qualified lead generation: A growth marketer will define the marketing funnel specific to your business by designing lead magnets that convert. Differentiating huge traffic from quality leads is the factor which helps lowering CPL (cost-per-lead). A growth marketer will be able to drive enormous traffic and generate qualified leads through a multi-channel strategy by integration of earned, owned, paid and shared media, in a way that optimizes costs.

AirBnB was able to drive major initial traffic by redirecting craigslist vacation rental traffic to their own site through a few Web hacks and setting up automated emails to visitors already looking for vacation rentals. The traffic and thereby booking conversion exploded when they ‘optimised’ their content by offering free photography services to listings.

Driving increased conversion rates: Traffic and leads become nothing but vanity metrics for your business, if they do not convert into a sale. A growth hacker will be able to nurture leads through email marketing or social, providing continuous value through case studies, webinars or even free consultation. A growth hacker is a conversion ninja who is able to use ‘retargeting’ to convert leads like a pro.

Marketing automation: Even the best funnels cannot explode growth at scale without marketing automation. A growth hacker will be able to design and implement viral loops which acquire leads through lead magnets, nurture them through conversational automated sequences with an end goal of making quality conversion with the prospect likely to retain.

Product design-marketing integration: The best growth marketers will design the marketing viral loop entwined with the very fabric of the product DNA. The product’s potential growth and the marketing funnel is built into the product’s features itself rather than building an infrastructure to do a lot of marketing. Growth marketers are expert in building product features that work as a marketing tool instead of ‘buying’ a customer.

Twitter’s ‘suggested users to follow’ feature is a quintessential example where the feature itself pushes the user to engage and hence retain (through data analysis, Twitter found out that a user is more likely to tweet and hence engage if she crosses a tipping point of following nine users).

You will see television advertisements and brand endorsements of Pepsi, Nike or Cadbury but a growth hacker will make you wonder, “Who does the marketing for Facebook, or Twitter or Airbnb?”

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