Bitter Versus Better

In my 15 years in the business world I have both seen and experienced my share of struggles and obstacles along the way.  Although some were more difficult than others, at each point there was a lesson to be learned.  Whether you are starting your first business or you are an experienced entrepreneur, obstacles can and will come out of the blue when you least expect them.  The question isn’t if you will encounter obstacles along the way, but instead the question is what will you do?  How will you respond? 

What do you do if a deal falls through?  What happens if an employee quits?  What about that potential client that just won’t move forward?  What is your next step if you and your partner decide to part-ways?  These are all very real possibilities, and you might encounter some or all of them along the way.

In the Start-Up & Entrepreneurial space if and when we encounter some of those obstacles we all have 2 very simple choices;

  1. Do we get bitter, or
  2. Do we get better?

I wish I could say that I always chose to get better, but that’s just not true.  There were many times in business that I was hurt, upset, frustrated, disappointed and even times I felt betrayed.  I could easily have justified my own actions to react and lash out – but that would not have been my best decision.

Over the years I have been extremely fortunate to have my own coaches and mentors that were there to help guide me.  I believe that successful people from all walks of life rely on others to help them along the way.  It might not be easy to ask for help or to humble youself to do so – but it is worth it.

  • So when your next challenge hits you, don’t react.
  • Take a moment to reflect, think, and speak to a mentor or a coach before you respond.
  • Remain disciplined, and when you do respond – do so in a positive and professional manner.

It might not be easy, and you might not want to – but the next time you have the choice of being bitter or better, always choose better!  

By,
Christopher J. Wirth

President
NO QUIT Living, LLC.

 


This Way will help you find your passion!

I hear this statement all the time from people who encourage others to get into business for themselves:

“Find your passion. Do what makes you happy” or This is another very common one. “Do what you love to do.”

But what if someone doesn't have a clear passion or purpose and is lost about finding his or her true purpose in life.

If you are seeking to find your passion or to find what makes you happy you might be waiting a long time, or you might never find it at all.   

 So how do you find your passion?

How about letting your actions guide you. Through action you will learn what you love to do and what you are good at. Those “aha” moments can present themselves when you are just busy doing other things.

For example, I never knew I would become a podcaster until I recorded my first podcast. I didn’t know I would be working with my father, until I wrote my first plan with him. See, if I never tried those things, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.

Put yourself in situations that put you out of your comfort zone. Read different books that you never thought that you would like. Experiment with new activities.

If you have never tried something before, how do you know if you will like it or not? Your passion can be found in any of these newfound small discoveries.

Thinking about it, wondering about it and even planning about it will not get you there.

Your change starts when you start taking action. Take action, be committed, and changes will come.

 

 


Start Up Funding - The Power of Accelerator Programs

There are four groups that support Start-Ups:

  1. Business Incubators
  2. Angel Investors/Venture Capitalists
  3. Accelerators
  4. Hybrids - a combination of the above.

Business incubators will provide support to your start up business by offering:

  • Coaching and mentoring,
  • Office space for you to work from
  • Access to legal counsel and networking opportunities and
  • Potential sources of funding

Angel Investors/Venture Capitalists will offer you both money and expertise; however, in return, they want a piece of your business.

Business Accelerators in contrast will fund your start-up with money or seed capital or loans.

Accelerator programs are very attractive to start-ups; in particular, young innovative companies who want to take their businesses to the next level.  They are not only a source for financing; but also they provide advice, resources, events, connections and mentoring programs to help push young businesses to the next level in a shorter period of time.

All have different services and some only specialize in certain industries or technology, so you do have to do your research to find the one that suits your new business.

For example, in Toronto, DMZ at Ryerson University helps start-ups succeed by connecting them with customers, advisors, influencers and other entrepreneurs. Communitch Rev helps product-ready companies with help on sales and marketing. BrightSpark Ventures invests in early stage tech companies. MaRS in Toronto helps early stage technology companies launch their new products. Each region will have similar options available to the entrepreneur.

When working with an accelerator for a period of 3-6 months you can kick-start your business at a relatively low cost and access valuable information and contacts. You can get access to free co-working space and resources. Some will even offer programs to help you find investors in the early stages of your business.

In Canada, alone there are 150 incubators and accelerator programs.

The very first accelerator program introduced in North America was in 2005. Over the past ten plus years the number of incubators has grown in response to the rapid growth in the number of new business start-ups in the marketplace.

Do they work?

We talked to one of the co-founders at CoSign and he had a very positive experience in an accelerator program called F6S.

The co-founders of CoSign started developing their app while they were working their full-time jobs.

Co-Sign is essentially a technical platform that allows influencers or brand advocates to tag products within the photos that they share socially. The people who read or view the content can then click on the photo and buy the product. Their company gets a commission anytime that product is sold and then splits that commission with the person or site that shared the photograph. It is a brilliant concept.

The owners initially tested the market with a rough beta version of their product in 2015 and proved within a one month period that their product was clearly in demand. They raised $41,000 in 30 days and attracted 5,000 users. So due to its successful beta launch, the owners wanted to expand their tech platform to allow everybody to leverage their product including publishers, mobile apps and major brand companies who wanted to white label their technology.

They needed money and knowledge to do this; so they reached out to an accelerator company F6S.

F6S was a perfect match for them in terms of their market and their needed resources including design, marketing, execution and financing assistance.

F6S helped them relaunch their new product with added features including a publisher tool. This tool enables anyone who owns a Website including Bloggers and publications to turn their photos into shopable posts as well. Instead of traditional static banner ads, their platform allows their viewers to click on interactive engaging photos to buy.

So the owners had a great experience and being a part of an accelerator program worked for them.

So let’s get back to Accelerator Programs!

There are Pros to using Accelerator Programs

  • You meet people who can help you and understand where you are at with business; so you will feel that it is not "you against the world".
  • You will meet mentors and advisors and people and former companies who have been through the program. You are starting to network.
  • You will meet people in the programs who are going through the same fears and weaknesses that you might be feeling before you start. By working together you can help one another solve the various problems that they may have been coping with. So you are getting different perspectives.
  • You will learn new things.
  • It will make you accountable because you will be given projects and timelines to work with.
  • It just might give you an advantage over your competitors.
  • You will be given the opportunity to pitch your business to their roster of investors.

And there are cons

  • There is a lot of research that you will have to do to find the right program.
  • Unfortunately, they are very difficult to get into; and if you are lucky to be one of the chosen companies, you will have to uproot your life for a period of 4-6-8 months.
  • Unfortunately, not all accelerator programs are created the same. For example, TechStars, one of the popular programs only accepts a limited number of entrepreneurs into their program; so competition in top accelerators is fierce.
  • The big one here is - like Angel Investors and VCs; they will want equity in your business.

Everything is a process and if you have a product and a team of at least 2 founders, and passion to succeed then I would definitely consider looking into these programs.


How to Use Body Language to Your Advantage

Frequently, in business, we are presented with opportunities. Whether they are opportunities to gain a new client, meet a mentor, or speak in front of a group of people, we must learn to put our best foot forward.  The first 30 seconds in any interaction is crucial. We must learn to make people feel comfortable, and in doing so, we will gain their trust.

Recently, I spoke with Mark Bowden, the Co-Founder of TruthPlane and the author of, Truth & Lies What People Are Really Thinking. He is an expert in body language, nonverbal communication, and human behavior. In our interview, he offered one great tip for how we can all use our body language to our advantage.

He introduced me to a new idea - the open body concept.

He explained it in this way. Imagine you were outside on a really cold winter’s day and you come inside to a room where there is a warm fire. You would naturally stand in front of that fire with your palms out and chest out, trying to welcome the warmth into your being. This is called an "open body language" position.

Now, picture yourself if you came inside from the cold and there was no fire burning in the fireplace. You would most likely tighten your body and curl up trying to protect yourself from the cold. This is called a "closed body" position.

First impressions are crucial and we all know how we are when we form an opinion about someone. Most of our opinions are snap judgements and they rarely change.

Oftentimes, when we are in new settings and around new people, we tense up because most of us are nervous, and even a little stressed. We then naturally close our body and by doing this we may appear to be disinterested, unapproachable or even indifferent. We have all been in situations like this and recognize how uncomfortable we feel. (Think of your first school dance).

So let’s look at some open body techniques that we can use.

  • Keep your head up
  • Smile – this is our quickest and best fix when we get nervous
  • Make eye contact
  • Listen intently
  • Add the eyebrow flash – It triggers this universal signal for “I recognize you, I know you
  • Relax your body by breathing deeply
  • Hold your arms in a relaxed manner

Next time you are meeting new people or just meeting your neighbors or friends, try and consciously open up your body language. Listen intently - Practice being more open.

Watch the results. You will be amazed. People will warm up to you. They will trust you and unconsciously they will want to be around you.

Mark Bowden believes that if we don’t make these conscious choices in the way we interact with people we will miss out on opportunities in our life.

Use body language to your advantage and not a disadvantage. Be the person in the room people want to approach and speak to. New opportunities will surely follow.


Fear Or Control?

New Entrepreneurs operate either out of a place of “fear” or out of a place of “control”.

That’s a powerful statement.

So let’s look at the difference.

I believe the reason why so many businesses fail is that they did not open with a plan. I can only imagine the fears that these business owners faced every day. They didn’t have a benchmark for sales and profit targets to let them know if they were on track or not; so of course, they always assumed that they weren’t.

When your business is going well, everything is looking rosy. You have customers and money in the bank.

But still as a business owner, you wonder when things are going to take a turn for the worse.

One person we spoke to, who is a successful entrepreneur in his own right, believes that entrepreneurs operate from a place of fear or strength and that it is based on the amount of money they actually have in the bank or have access to. Spencer Thompson is the founder and CEO of Sokanu a platform for millennials wanting to discover what career best matches their talents and skills. Spencer is a real thinker and a voracious reader; so when he said that he researched this subject, I listened.

After analyzing the traits and backgrounds of people who run successful start-ups, Spencer found that almost all of them come from wealthy backgrounds and almost all of them went to Ivy League Schools or institutions like Stanford. They also come from a group that are largely male, white and elite.

The point is this:

When you have money, you are operating from a better place than when you have none. Having money takes “fear” out of the equation and allows the entrepreneur to focus on the task at hand.

In most instances, start-up entrepreneurs - especially in the beginning phase of their businesses – are operating with little or no money. When this happens, you can fall into a trap. You start berating yourself and even may start asking yourself questions like:

  • How am I going to survive without customers?
  • What if I can’t find employees?
  • What do I do if people don’t like what I offer?

Believe me I have been in your shoes.

When I opened my first business – and I was busy from day #1 - I was always thinking that “today” is the day that customers will stop coming. In hindsight, it was a ludicrous thought; but just goes to show you how fragile we as entrepreneurs can be.

I created a problem that didn’t exist except in my mind. Cash flow does that to you.

If you find yourself in this situation now, it is somewhat comforting to know that most business owners have been exactly in the same position you find yourself in now.

There are strategies to help you get back in control of your business so let’s explore a few:

  1. Review your goals and if you do not have any I suggest that you get some in a hurry. Ask yourself why you went into business and where you want to be going forward – say 10 years from now.
  2. Review your governing philosophy.
  3. Review your Business Plan.

That last one is a real stickler. Yes, you need to be constantly re-visiting your business plan and making changes to it as your business matures and you become more familiar with both your business and the marketplace in which you operate.

The financial forecast should be up-to-date and should mirror what is happening in the daily grind of business. So if there happens to be a downturn in your business you can look at your financial forecast to see if you predicted a slower period of activity during this time.

OR you can adjust the financial forecast to mirror what is happening. This will refocus you and help you adjust your sales expectations and costs.

It could be that your tactics and processes need to change to allow you to get to your goals. When you realize this, you are now putting yourself in a more strategic frame of mind rather than letting the fear get the best of you!

Wherever you are in the business process you first must realize that you must embrace change. There is a lot of competition out there so you need to adapt or you will die.

  • Again, don’t be fearful.
  • Get ahead of your problems by taking action and you’ll be a smashing success.

How to Find Clarity in a Foggy World

Finding that something in your life that makes you happy and fulfilled is something we are all seeking for as human beings. Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, we all have to work in order to live in this world.

We all know this and every single person I have met wants to feel like what they are doing is making a difference. Whether they are unhappy in their current situation, every single person feels they are destined for something greater and more meaningful. Yet, interestingly enough, very few actually do anything because they don’t know how or what to do.

The single most important trait to have in this life, according to many of the successful people I have spoken with, is self-awareness and to understand:

  • what you are good at
  • what you are not good at
  • what makes you tic, and
  • What tics you off.

Becoming so self-aware of who you are leads to what we all are seeking, “clarity” –

Clarity of what we should be doing and how to do it and

 Clarity of not only how to do it but when to do it and why we are doing it!

When we are clear, we become focused, attentive, and assertive. We begin to see what we have been searching for and more importantly how to get it.

So, Colin, how can I become more self-aware?

Simple, start paying attention! Stop hiding from your problems, stop trying to avoid confrontation, stop blaming others, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and start opening your eyes.

You have the answer, whether you choose to seek the answer is up to you.

 

 


How Generosity Leads To Prosperity

A common message from successful entrepreneurs is: "learn from those who have come before you".

We can learn from their mistakes.

We can learn from what they did correctly and what they did incorrectly.

By doing so, we can avoid the pitfalls they encountered and accelerate our own careers in entrepreneurship.

However, we must learn to not only be open to being helped; but also, to be open to helping others. Now, you’re probably thinking, I can’t help everyone, there just isn’t enough time in the day. You are absolutely right!

So, I will share a simple exercise to help you with this process.

  1. Think of 5 people in your life, who you want to help.
  2. Write down their names in order from 1-5.
  3. Beside those names, write down their biggest goal for 2018.

You may not know the answer to this question, I didn’t, and that is okay. Nevertheless, I challenge you to figure out what those goals are and then actively try and help those people reach their goals. Ensure you take time out of your day and send them words of encouragement, meet them for coffee, talk to them on the phone, and become that person they can lean on.

What you will find, is that not only will these acts of support and generosity help those who you are supporting, but also, those people will return the favor and dramatically help you in your journey.

The message: Help others, be selfless, be generous, and be a person you can be proud of.

 


How to Structure a Winning Day for Your Start Up Business

Oftentimes business owners and entrepreneurs stick to what they know when running their business and get caught in a mundane routine. They get so caught up in this routine that they eventually, unknowingly, become an employee in their business.

We all want to see growth, but we all struggle to grow. The fact is that few businesses and entrepreneurs actually see the types of growth they want. Whether it is because they are comfortable in their situation and/or fearful of change, this often is the biggest roadblock to their business’s success.

Most people wake up and the first thing they do, is check their email. They think this is ok and it is just a part of doing “business”. It becomes such a habit, it turns into a routine. This is what successful entrepreneurs call a bad routine. A good routine instead is designed to prepare you for the day, allowing you to be productive and most importantly creative. It is creativity that leads to change and that change that leads to growth. So, instead learn to structure a winning day for your start up business.

Here is an example of my morning routine:

7:00 am: I wake up, give thanks, and check the sports scores from the previous day. This gets my mind focused on something outside of work. 

7:30 am: Enjoying a Bulletproof Coffee, I write down my goals and reflect on the past day. What went right, what went wrong, and how I could have changed things?

8:00 am: I review my “to do” list and prioritize my tasks from most important to least important. I pick the 3 most important tasks to do first and ensure they are completed. 

8:30 am: I listen to a podcast, and prepare my mind for the day to come.

As you can see, my routine is designed to ensure that before I start working, that I am in the right frame of mind, and am set up to have a productive day.

Take time every day to look objectively outside your current space and see if there is something different you could be doing. This allows you to become opportunistic and to change things that aren't working. View your business as a customer would.

Learn to ask yourself - “Can I do something differently? What else could I be doing? Am I spending my time valuably?”

On opening your start up business make sure you are a business owner and not an employee.