Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Networking is Supported by Repetition …

imageThis article was written by Robin Noah, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor

Face to Face (F2F) networking is still one of the best ways to find and build the network of business people that will enhance your ability to have a successful business. Yes, I know Twitter and Facebook is built on a “network” of contacts but I am finding more and more business people like and appreciate the F2F contacts. They like the human touch.

I believe that is the reason F2F business networking is so popular. In actuality networking is really the process of selling people on you. You want the people you are interacting with to have a sense of trust, that you are genuine and have a real interest in them so that you can continue the interaction.

Since the true F2F networking purpose is building business relationships then it is incumbent on persons doing F2F networking to build familiarity through the networking. You need to start with a good impression. You also need to be consistent creating a repeated vision of who you are.

Repetition promotes quick recognition of your brand, your product and your services. In F2F networking you have a potential of the networking group.

Consider that in most networking meetings the room will be filled anywhere from 30 to 60 people (average). If this is your first time you may not know anyone of them. They also do not know you; however, they each have networks of contacts, so the potential for you to increase your business connections is meaningful.

And so the first impression: the first step is you. You can enter the room with your ego at the forefront… all about me, me, and me. Or you can enter ready to engage with other people, to learn about them. Are your ears at the ready and your mouth at rest?

The potential customer or person that you are connecting with is going to form an impression of you, you the “person”, as soon as you walk into the room. Your self-confidence will be in tact if you have taken the time to be prepared. Preparation includes these key points:

˚ Know your purpose/goal for this meeting

˚ Establish your presence

˚ Be consistent, engaging, and positive

˚ Be a good listener

˚ Tell your story in short terms – an elevator speech or brief statement of who you are and what you do will help.

˚ Make notes about the people you meet so the next time you meet you can reconnect.

Good business networking practices take time to master. Repetition of good habits will ensure you take advantage of your opportunities.

Lastly, remember that people remember only a small amount of what they learn in any given day. You are lucky if one of the messages they remember is yours. So if you are going to do F2F networking put some effort into it. After you meet your networking group several times they will come to recognize you as one of the persons they would like to establish business relationships.

Good business networking practices take time to master. But repetition of good habits will ensure you take advantage of your opportunities.

Market Research Mistakes to Avoid for Product Ideas and Inventions

imageThis article was written by John Rau, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor

When conducting market research for a product or new idea, here are some common mistakes that you should try to avoid (compiled from a variety of sources including www.allbusiness.com):

· Not knowing what you are looking for –you need to formulate a “game plan” in terms of what you think you need to know and then layout the specific steps you need to follow to identify the sources of this data/information and where and how to find it

· Poor choice of reference materials and/or using limited sets of data, or for that matter using outdated information—here’s where librarians can help you to at least get “pointed in the right direction” and to make sure you get the most currently available information

· Not thoroughly researching the competition—just because you didn’t find any information about potential competitors, don’t jump to the conclusion that there isn’t any competition, which is rarely the case

· Relying solely on the guidance provided by unscrupulous invention marketing companies—there are many documented horror stories where inventors have been mislead by such companies only to spend money and get nothing in return

· Failing to find out that you’re in the wrong “ocean” and not correcting for that, that is, failing to “paddle fast” and change course

· Not performing a thorough and complete analysis/ interpretation of the information that you obtained in conducting your market research—that is, having gathered the “raw” information is only the first step, making sense out of it is what really counts

· Not taking advantage of “free” services and advice through credible organizations such as the Small Business Administration and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) that provides free counseling services (over 340 chapters in the United States)

· Not contacting local inventor clubs such as attending their seminars and members only type meetings to get guidance and advice—here is your best opportunity to talk to those people who “have been there” and “done that”, some with success and some with failures, all a “learning experience”

· Probably the most important mistake of all is to ignore the market research results—“don’t toss the results aside just because they did not support the answers you wanted to see”

The bottom line is that you have to do “your homework” in order to have any chance of success. What you can expect from market research includes an assessment of the potential market for your idea, identification of potential competition and competing products or businesses, perhaps some insight into barriers regarding introduction of your idea into the marketplace, and you may even find additional markets you never considered before. You must also be prepared that the market research results may “NOT PROVIDE THE ANSWER YOU WERE LOOKING FOR”.

Commit Yourself to Success

imageThis article was written by Harvey McKay, from his blog, May 16, 2013, reprinted by permission

Eugene Orowitz was a skinny, awkward kid from New Jersey. Painfully shy, very self-conscious, and lacking self-confidence, when a high school coach half-jokingly asked him to try out for the track team, Eugene took him up on it, according to author Glenn Van Ekeren.

“Ugy,” as his friends affectionately called him, discovered a talent for javelin throwing and committed himself to being the best that he could possibly be. What Ugy lacked in self-confidence, he made up for in commitment.

By graduation, Eugene had achieved a national high school record for throwing the javelin over 193 feet. His commitment also resulted in a college track scholarship at the University of Southern California.

A torn shoulder muscle ended his javelin-throwing career and any hope of making the Olympic team. However, while watching a play, Eugene became intrigued with acting. Again, he committed himself to being the best. He was determined to make it as an actor, so he enrolled in acting class. And he changed his name.

You know Eugene Orowitz as Michael Landon, who went on to star in three of the most popular shows in television history: “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven.”

Eugene/Michael demonstrated the difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

Comedian Bill Cosby dropped out of Temple University as a junior and became a starving comedian. But he was committed to becoming successful, staying up all hours of the night to talk to seasoned comics, research material and work on new routines. I had a chance to play tennis with Bill many years ago and he told me: “Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made the commitment, then your blood has that particular thing in it and it’s very hard for people to stop you.”

Commitment is a prerequisite to success. Commitment is the state of being bound – emotionally, intellectually, or both – to a course of action. Commitment starts with a choice and is sustained by dedication and perseverance. Actions speak louder than words.

If you want something, but you’re not motivated to do the work required, you will be frustrated and unsuccessful. So take action!

  • Make a list of everything you want. Write it all down. Don’t leave out anything that you want, from becoming a CEO to getting a date. Then rate each item according to its importance.
  • Consider your investment. Examine each of the items on your list and ask yourself: “Am I willing to invest the time, energy and resources necessary to achieve this?”
  • Make a decision. Look at your list and identify the items that you want the most with the highest score for “willingness.” Then start working on a plan for success over the next weeks or months – and be sure to set a deadline.

Rev. Robert Schuller says there are four kinds of people: “First, there are the cop-outs. These people set no goals and make no decisions.

“Second, there are the hold-outs. They have a beautiful dream, but they’re afraid to respond to its challenge because they aren’t sure they can make it. These people have lost all childlike faith.

“Third, there are the drop-outs. They start to make their dream come true. They know their role. They set their goals, but when the going gets tough, they quit. They don’t pay the toll.

“Finally, there are the all-outs. They are the people who know their role. They want and need and are going to be stars: star students, star parents, star waitresses. They want to shine out as an inspiration to others. They set their goals. . . . The all-outs never quit. Even when the toll gets heavy, they’re dedicated. They’re committed.”

To be committed, you must be “all in.” You can’t just do the best you can. You have to do everything you can. Remember, the difference between 100 percent all in and 99 percent all in is 100 percent.

When I think of commitment, I think of the story of the Pig and the Chicken who are walking down the road. The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

The Pig replies: “Hmmm, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘Ham-n-Eggs?’”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

Mackay’s Moral: An ounce of commitment is worth pounds of promises.

Why Raising Capital Is a 4-Step Process

This article was written by Peter Cohan, May, 2013 issue Success Magazine, reprinted by permission

Entrepreneurs care most about turning their vision into a real business, but often lack sufficient capital. Yet going hat-in-hand to investors asking for money could lead a startup CEO to lose control of their company. Sell a big stake in your business to an outside investor and that investor may decide your vision for the company is wrong or that you lack the capabilities needed to realize that vision.

Is it possible for an entrepreneur to both raise the capital needed to fund their startup's operation while retaining control of the business? In order to achieve their full potential, startups must evolve through four stages -- seeking a different source of capital at each one. Let's look at each of these stages:

1. Prototyping. In this stage, entrepreneurs listen to potential customers, develop simple and cheap prototypes, get customer feedback and try again. At this point, it is best for the venture to be financed through the founder's cash, credit card borrowing or invested labor.

Trying to raise venture capital at this stage would unlikely produce any interest unless you can show that you have previously made a significant profit for investors. Even so, without establishing a clear business model, you are in a weak bargaining position with venture capitalists.

2. Customer base. Once you've found customers who want to use and pay for the final version of your prototype, you may want to seek capital from friends, family or angel investors who would generally buy a small stake in the company.

At this stage, an entrepreneur can often raise money from many individuals -- none of whom own enough of the venture to oust the founder. While some entrepreneurs raise VC at this point, it is generally better to wait until the third stage in the venture's development.

3. Expansion. Once you have gained a significant share of a market segment and your growth there has begun to slow down, you may want to expand into new markets, countries and customer segments while updating and developing products.

In this stage, a startup CEO is in a stronger position to negotiate with a VC because the venture is profitable and could continue to grow -- albeit more slowly -- without taking in outside capital. At this point, if you can make a compelling case for how your venture can achieve higher growth with the help of a VC investment, you could receive significant funding while still maintaining control of the way your business is run.

You should think of raising VC as similar to hiring a boss. That's because the partner from the venture firm is likely to be joining your board and exercising some control over your business decisions in the future.

In that case, how can you hire the right boss? Make sure the VC partner shares in your vision for the company. Check with other CEOs who have worked with this partner in the past to find out how a particular VC reacts when a startup is under stress.

4. The exit. Few startups actually reach this point. Here, the entrepreneur sells the company to an acquirer or leads an initial public offering. While startup CEOs I have interviewed talk about an IPO as a relatively minor step in the company's development, the reality is that most entrepreneurs leave their business soon after the initial public offering is made, bored with the challenge of administering a slower-growing publicly-traded company.

So while you may want to raise as much money as possible right away, in order to balance a need for cash with a desire for control, you need to match the right source of capital with the proper stage in your company's development.