Are You An Entrepreneur Or Innovator?

You have your own business. Sales are growing and you have lots of ideas on where the business should grow next. So, are you an innovator or an entrepreneur?

The world is full of innovators. In the words of Nolan Bushnell, who founded both Atari, Inc., and Chuck E. Cheese, “Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference.”

Those people are entrepreneurs. They’re the people who make things happen. You see, it takes a lot to move a concept from the idea stage to a real, viable product or business. It takes focus. It takes diligence. It takes flexibility. It takes a willingness to persevere against obstacles, refusing to give up long after others would have become distracted or lost hope. That process requires a certain kind of personality. Not every innovator has what it takes, which is why many of the world’s greatest ideas remain just that. Ideas.

Entrepreneurs don’t always have the best ideas. It’s a big misconception among innovators that in order to be an entrepreneur, you have to have the very best idea out there. There are a ton of mediocre ideas that people have turned into real, live, operational and sometimes even profitable businesses. It really, really isn’t about who has the best idea, or who did the most market research or tested the best in a focus group. The only difference between an innovator and an entrepreneur is the wherewithal to continue marching forward long after everyone else has lost sight of the goal.

Entrepreneurs aren’t always original. Do you want to be an entrepreneur, but don’t have an idea? That’s okay! Just go find an innovator and offer to make their idea happen. Now, tread lightly here. Intellectual property is a real thing, and stealing other people’s protected business ideas, product plans or brand elements is against the law. That’s what trademarks and patents are for. But there’s a difference between exactly copying another entrepreneur’s business idea and creating something that solves the same problem in a different or better way. You’re not going to invent the wheel. It’s already been invented. But if you try, you might improve upon what other innovators have already done by turning your idea into action.

So, as an entrepreneur, stop worrying whether your idea is the best, or if there’s something else already out there that is similar. Just make it happen.

Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of risk. But what if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too hard? What if we can’t break even? Yes, all of those things are possibilities. The unfortunate truth is that while you can endure many bumps in the road, the possibility does exist of reaching a deal-breaking, insurmountable challenge. That’s a reality that entrepreneurs have to face every day. The difference is that the kind of folks who make things happen are excited by those risks. They see potential risks as challenges, as adventures on the pathway to success. Instead of being held back by the risk of failure, they are motivated and inspired to try even harder.

Based on these definitions, are you an entrepreneur?

Source: Meredith Wood is the editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Wood was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident finance advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. She is also the senior financial and B2B correspondent for AlleyWire.

Do You Want A Staff Of Perfectionists?

Everything must have its place. Every meeting must be run in a specific way. Every project detail must be exact. You know who I’m talking about … the perfectionist who sits two cubes down from you. Or, perhaps you are the perfectionist.

Do you want perfectionists in the workplace? Some managers say “yes,” whereas others respond with a resounding “no.” The informed answer is, “it all depends.”

Perfectionists possess many traits that provide great value in the workplace.

  • Produce quality work: Perfectionists tend to produce high-quality work. They take pleasure in excellence and find satisfaction in a job well done.
  • Exceed expectations: If the boss expects a short summary, the perfectionist will submit a report. If achieving a 99 percent rating is admirable, the purist will aim for 99.9 percent and then 100. Being above average is not good enough; being the best is a self-imposed requirement.
  • Go the extra mile: Perfectionists often give more than asked. If a report needs to be five pages long, they will turn in six. If a product needs to have three new features, they will add a fourth and maybe a fifth. If they set a record last month, they will strive to better it this month. In sports, this results in shooting free throws while the rest of the team showers or taking 30 minutes of extra batting practice—every day.
  • Set high standards: Another trait is that perfectionists set high standards, both for themselves and others. As long as the standards are reasonably attainable, it is acceptable, and even admirable, for perfectionists to set a bar high—for themselves. (However, foisting faultlessness on others does little more than establish the groundwork for future frustration, disappointment and conflict between the precision-minded and the rest of the world.)

Of course, there are counterparts to these traits. One is procrastination. It is said that perfectionists subconsciously reason that the results of their work will never be just right, no matter how much time is invested, so why start? In fact, the project is often delayed until the last possible moment, so there is a plausible excuse as to why it’s not perfect: “I didn’t have much time to work on it!” Taking this to an extreme, some perfectionists miss deadlines and blow past due dates, often agonizing over some trivial or irrelevant detail.

Another side effect associated with perfectionism is a problem in making quick decisions. Sometimes, they need to “sleep on it” to be assured of the correctness of their judgment. Other times decisions can be agonizingly difficult for them to reach. They fear coming to the wrong conclusion; that is, a less than perfect one. They delay a decision while awaiting more information so they can conduct an informed analysis. Unfortunately, this mental paralysis is seldom cured by amassing more data.

So if you work with a perfectionist, be assured this individual will deliver an outstanding product, even thought it might be a day late!

Source: Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Sign up to receive his newsletter, read his blog or connect on social media.

Three Ways To Attract Top Talent

Employing top talent can be a big challenge for small businesses. At a certain point in the lifecycle of your business, you simply need to invest in employees so you can take your business to the next phase of growth. But how do you compete for top talent when large corporations are offering perks you can’t, such as flex time, stock options and more? And how do you find the time to source top talent when you wear multiple hats as owner, operations and human resources?

Today we share these tips from executive search firm, Naviga, for sourcing talent for your small business.

Form relationships with candidates. Small businesses need to be more hands-on than the big guys. They have to be proactive on LinkedIn and create connections for future potential hires. Form relationships with candidates during the recruiting process by giving them updates about what is going on throughout the process and checking in with them even if you don’t have any new information. Also, be sure they interview with all executive-level employees at the company. In a small business, they will most likely be working very closely with the executives anyway, but it also shows the candidates they’re valued enough for the CEO or VP to take the time to speak with them. Also, use creative approaches to reach out to top talent through networking events, referral programs, social media, job boards, postings, direct solicitation, etc.

Promote company culture and perks. Even though you won’t likely be able to offer a fully stocked employee cafeteria or rooms for napping, you can still talk about your own perks. For example, maybe your company actively promotes work-life balance and lets employees work from home twice a week. Or, maybe you have monthly team events where you go to happy hour or volunteer together. Company perks don’t have to be big and flashy as long as they are attractive to the type of employees you’re trying to recruit.

Offer the opportunity to make a direct impact. A major selling point for joining a small company over a big corporation is that top talent will have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line. Top talent is drawn to companies that are innovative and where they can make a real difference. Make sure to use this selling point to your advantage. Talk to candidates about how they will have the opportunity to grow and learn more skills with your company as opposed to working for a large company and being boxed in. The nimble nature of a small business is very attractive for a certain group of top talent. And don’t forget that while small businesses can get away with not having the highest salaries, your offer still needs to be competitive if you want the candidate to accept.

In a small business, every single hire is so critical that each new employee added has the potential to affect the bottom line. Make sure you hire the most talented person for your company by promoting the unique benefits of working at a small business.

Source: Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search is a professional and service-oriented provider of executive, sales, and marketing recruiting services to businesses across North America. It provides clients with the highest-quality and most-qualified candidates to fill their available executive, sales and marketing positions.
Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Five Forces That Shape Strategy

You can’t get through business school without hearing the name Michael E. Porter. More than three decades ago, this famed strategist and economist defined five key competitor forces that shape the development of a business strategy. In fact, strategy is, in essence, a workplan for handling competition. Today, we define Porter’s five key forces.

Bargaining Powers of Suppliers: This force assesses how easy it is for suppliers to drive up prices. This is determined by the number of suppliers of each key input, the uniqueness of their product or service, their strength and control over you, the cost of switching from one to another, and so on. The fewer the supplier choices you have and the more you need a supplier’s help, the more powerful your suppliers are.

Buyer Power: This phase determines how easy it is for buyers to drive prices down. Again, this is determined by the number of buyers, the importance of each individual buyer to your business, the cost to them of switching from your products and services to those of someone else, and so on. If you deal with a few, powerful buyers, then they are often able to dictate terms to you.

Competitive Rivalry: What is important here is the number and capability of your competitors. If you have many competitors, and they offer equally attractive products and services, then you’ll most likely have little power in the situation because suppliers and buyers will go elsewhere if they don’t get a good deal from you. On the other hand, if no one else can do what you do, then you can often have tremendous strength.

Threat of Substitution: This is affected by the ability of your customers to find a different way of doing what you do. For example, if you supply a unique software product that automates an important process, people may substitute by doing the process manually or by outsourcing it. If substitution is easy and substitution is viable, then this weakens your power.

Threat of New Entry: Power is also affected by the ability of people to enter your market. If it costs little in time or money to enter your market and compete effectively, if there are few economies of scale in place, or if you have little protection for your key technologies, then new competitors can quickly enter your market and weaken your position. If you have strong and durable barriers to entry, then you can preserve a favorable position and take fair advantage of it.

Source: Michael Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, based at the Harvard Business School. He is a leading authority on competitive strategy and the competitiveness and economic development of nations, states and regions. Porter’s work is recognized in many governments, corporations and academic circles globally. He chairs Harvard Business School’s program dedicated for newly appointed CEOs of large corporations.

Small Business Optimism Surges

Small Business Optimism Surges

U.S. small-business owners are feeling increasingly positive about the economy, according to a new, closely-watched survey. Optimism last month was at the highest level in nearly eight years, with owners anticipating strong sales growth in 2015, data from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) showed. The NFB’s Small Business Optimism index was up 2 points to 98.1, the highest reading since February 2007.

The optimistic NFIB data is in line with positive sentiment in the ad specialty industry. The latest Counselor Confidence Index, a measure of distributor health, was 112 in Q3 – identical to the six-month rolling average and a dozen points above the baseline that indicates industry growth. The majority of industry firms expect both their 2014 and 2015 sales to increase.

Similarly, according to NFIB data, U.S. business owners are bullish about conditions over the next six months, with expectations up sharply. Specifically, expectations for real sales volumes rose 5 percentage points within the survey. Despite the economic goodwill, small-business owners still held back on capital spending and hiring. Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist of the NFIB, says it will take several more positive readings before confidence build enough to translate into more hiring. He added, though, that the November optimism index is “a good sign that comes at a good time for small business.”

While NFIB data showed that small-business owners continue to expect sales growth, they believe it is likely to be achieved through price cuts, with many still cautious about raising prices and reluctant to ramp up inventory accumulation, according to the NFIB survey. Worker compensation was up slightly, with a seasonally-adjusted net 21% of those surveyed reporting higher wages, up 2 points from the previous index. The reported wage gains are in the typical range for an economy with reasonable growth, according to the NFIB. Labor market conditions are expected to tighten, which should put more upward pressure on compensation, the federation reported.

The NFIB Research Foundation has been collecting small business economic trends data through quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since 1986. Survey respondents are drawn from the group’s membership.