• Your Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business with Student Loan Debt December 5, 2018 4:15 pm
    As higher education becomes more and more expensive, student loan debt is becoming an increasingly daunting figure — $1.5 trillion in fact. Most students incur anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 in debt. This number is only going up as tuition levy rises. Nearly 11 percent of borrowers are missing payments. Our collective student debt as a nation is also on the rise due to a higher college attendance rate. So, how can you fulfill your entrepreneurial endeavor with all of this shackling debt? Some two million American college graduates delay starting a business due to the hindrance of student debt. While we can’t change the hiking trend in tuition costs, there are some ways to handle debt before it gets too out of control. To responsibly and efficiently manage your student debt you can consolidate loans, qualify for income-based repayment, refinance, and defer. While you’re working on this you can seek small business funding and good advice. Together, these three components are the keys to starting a business with student loan debt. Here are some ways to implement them: Find funding from angel investors, crowdfunding, or small business loans. Stay frugal by lessening and keeping track of your spending. Absorb any tips a mentor or financial advisor may offer. Famous founders and CEOs such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Steve Jobs of Apple have proven with their rags to riches backgrounds that being a successful entrepreneur is possible. Even if you’re starting your business out of a garage, perseverance can propel you forward. For more information on how to start a business with debt, check out the infographic from  Fundera below. The post Your Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business with Student Loan Debt appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • Litigation As a Last Resort: How Mediation Can Help Small Businesses December 3, 2018 3:15 pm
    People assume that running a small business means that you have to deal with less stress and have fewer problems, but it’s not the case. Challenges of being in charge of small business are many and keeping up with them can have a bad impact on your health. Owning a business is a great responsibility and when you’re in charge you have to think about many things, and effective dispute management strategy is one of them. When faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, mediation can be of great help. When You’re Damaged Even though small business lawsuits can really help you with a legal dispute, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. They can truly be long and expensive and by the time things are finished, you can find yourself looking back and thinking about whether you could have avoided it. There are many types of damages that can occur when you’re dealing with a small business, and each and every case should be specifically identified and evaluated before it gets to court. When you’ve actually suffered damages, a lawsuit might be a good idea, but there are other things you might want to try as well. There are many drawbacks of lawsuits and the most important ones involve time and money – your business will suffer if lawsuits take too long and you’ll have to spend a lot of money on lawyers. Find the Right Mediator Mediators are here to help you resolve civil disputes but unlike lawyers and lawsuits, they will do everything in their power to preserve the good relationship between both sides. You should find a company that’s willing to offer trustworthy small business law advice and that can explain the steps necessary to smooth things over. Not only is mediation often quicker, but it’s also significantly cheaper than a lawsuit, and you’ll be able to save a lot of money as well good relationships with your employees and/or business partners. Finding a good mediator is also very important and you should give it a lot of thought because the right mediator will mean a shorter and more effective mediation process. There Aren’t Strict Rules While people usually choose litigation because there are strict laws to abide by, mediation offers an alternative. There aren’t strict rules here – mediation is an alternative problem-solving process that involves both parties and requires full commitment to finding a solution. Not only is it efficient, but it’s also cost-effective, which means that both sides will likely manage to save money they would otherwise spend on court proceedings. They aren’t lawyers that are going to fight for your case and cause while navigating strict rules of law. Mediation is simply a means of communication that doesn’t involve filling out documents or appearing in court. It’s less formal and more flexible, and both parties work with a mediator. Understanding the Other Side When you choose to use mediation instead of litigation, you’re ensuring that your side has direct input as well as the other, and Read more The post Litigation As a Last Resort: How Mediation Can Help Small Businesses appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • 5 Ways to Successfully Manage Today’s Hyper-Connected Workforce November 29, 2018 11:00 am
    Like all technology, connected tech has both its positives and negatives. Connected tech is allowing more and more employees the ability to work from home, which can in turn allow them to be more present in the lives of their families. It can also cut down the need for business travel, which can also help both employees and business owners be more present with their loved ones. It can also allow employees and business owners to stay more connected to both their work and their loved ones when they do need to travel. Conversely, however, connected tech can also have a downside. Like all business tools, connected tech requires careful management and that also means careful managing of your connected workforce. Here are 5 steps to managing today’s hyper-connected workforce. 1. Set and Respect Boundaries People love having the comfort and security of knowing that no matter where they are, they can be reached in an emergency. When it comes to business, however, this same accessibility also creates a conundrum. When your boss emails you in the evening, it can be difficult for many employees to feel they have the freedom to simply ignore it until the next day. This is where setting boundaries for yourself is highly important. Just because you can send an email to your employees or direct reports at 10:00 pm doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t actually need an immediate response, a far better course of action is to set it to automatically send early the next morning. 2. Encourage Your Employees to Unplug It is an interesting conundrum that it is often businesses that expect employees to be accessible at all times during working hours. Yet, conversely, the need to be accessible at all times may actually cause employees to be less productive than ever before. A recent study showed that in the last two decades, the amount of time spent by employees in collaborative activities of some kind with their managers has increased to 50% of the workday and in some cases as much as 80%. Employees are spending so much time in collaborative activities, that it often leaves them little to no time to actually get their own work done. Allowing (and even encouraging) your employees to turn off their phones or put them on “do not disturb” may actually be one of the best things you can do for your business. 3. Take a Digital Detox Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the World Health Organization believes that “The wealth of business depends on the health of workers.” Workers who are drained, exhausted and spent can’t give their best to anything, let alone your business. Sometimes just the vast number of ways in which we are expected to be “available” can get overwhelming. Therefore, we just need to shut everything down and reconnect with what really matters to us. Whether you take a corporate digital detox retreat or simply encourage employees to take a digital vacation now and again, encouraging a Read more The post 5 Ways to Successfully Manage Today’s Hyper-Connected Workforce appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • Becoming Your Own Boss: 5 Tips for Beginners November 27, 2018 10:56 am
    Being your own boss is just one of many perks when starting your own business. There’s no one to boss you around, shout at you, or breathe down your neck while you go on about your daily tasks; what’s not to like, right? Yet, despite this newfound freedom, it can also be a double-edged sword as you rely solely on yourself for encouragement and motivation. Likewise, you’ll need to take full responsibility for all your business interactions, especially the poor decisions you make during your entrepreneurial career. Now, are you still with me? Excellent, that means you’ve got the necessary resolve to become a successful entrepreneur. So, give yourself a good ol’ pat on the back and take a look at these five awesome tips before making your first step on this new and exciting journey. 1. Do Your Homework You’ve probably had your fair share of eureka moments, yet how many of these have actually become viable business models? Just the one? Let me tell you why. Market research is perhaps the most commonly overlooked business step with new entrepreneurs. Having the passion to start your own business isn’t enough if the only thing backing it up is a half-baked idea. This is why you need to consult experts in the field, test the demand for your products, and get a close look at the competition. Also, you need to conduct online surveys and engage your followers on social media to get a good idea of who they are and where they reside. Additionally, you need to keep an eye out for current industry trends so you don’t lag behind the competition too much. 2. Know Your Limits Another thing budding entrepreneurs tend to neglect is knowing their own limits; more specifically, their financial resources. Now, seeing how you’re the author of your own paycheck, it’s easy to get carried away with dreams of grandeur, new cars, and swimming pools. Yet, you have to ask yourself one fundamental question: can my business afford it? Thus, before you go on your shopping spree, you need to determine precisely how much funds you need to allocate for the week-to-week operation of your business; what’s your starting capital; and what’s your projected profit. Only then will you know how sustainable your new enterprise really is and whether you’ll be able to actually make a living off of it at all. 3. Consider Your Options  When you take into account the amount of money you need to spend on marketing, building your brand, and creating a general business infrastructure, you’re left with nothing. As a result, you need to consider your options carefully before deciding on whether or not you should go as a fully-fledged startup, or try your luck with franchising. What’s franchising though? In short, franchising is when you operate your business under another company’s trademark or brand. This then gives you access to an already-developed business model, a brand name, and instructions on how to grow your business. For example, Read more The post Becoming Your Own Boss: 5 Tips for Beginners appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • Protecting Intellectual Property: Strategies for Startups November 26, 2018 1:50 pm
    In the rush to get your business off the ground, you might neglect the need to protect your intellectual property. But if your intellectual property is original and differentiates you from your competition, it will be one of the most valuable parts of your business. In many cases, the law around intellectual property rights can be unforgiving of early mistakes. Here are a few strategies to consider embracing as you build your brand and develop your intellectual property. Register Your Trademarks, Protect Your Brand In many jurisdictions there is a degree of protection in brand names, logos, and other trademarks, regardless of whether the owner of the mark has applied for a trademark registration. Generally, this protection extends throughout the area in which the mark has been used and has become known. However, a registration can take this to the next level. In addition to providing a presumption that the registered owner of a mark is the true owner, in most jurisdictions a registration gives the owner the exclusive right to use the mark throughout the jurisdiction. In many ways a registration can be thought of as a way to make a mark known throughout the jurisdiction without having to actually operate throughout the jurisdiction; it allows an applicant to legally indicate an intention to use and protect a mark more broadly then they are using it in practice. A registration also provides several enforcement options, which are not available for a mark which is unregistered. Be aware that if you plan to launch in multiple regions and wish to protect your mark in each, you may need to independently register the mark in each. At least for the time being, each jurisdiction governs its own registration process. Consider Copyright Most countries offer robust copyright protection for original literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works. Examples of copyright-eligible works include original software code, marketing materials, written or performed music, books, and movies. Copyright protection is largely automatic; as soon as an original creative work has been rendered in a fixed form, copyright subsists in that creative expression. However, like trademark protection for a mark, copyright protection for a work can be enhanced by way of registration. In the case of copyright protection, a registration is a way to notify the public of the ownership of a work and provides for easier enforcement of the copyright owner’s rights. Navigating copyright rights with independent contractors and others you obtain services from as a start-up is also tricky, and can involve issues of ownership, assignments, licences and waivers of moral rights. Advice from intellectual property lawyers such as those at Heer Law can help you avoid missteps when dealing with service providers in the early stages of your new business. Patent Your Innovations Many start-ups are based on an improvement of an existing product. Even if your improvement is not breathtakingly ingenious, there is a good chance it is patentable if it is new and has at least one material benefit over the existing product. Read more The post Protecting Intellectual Property: Strategies for Startups appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • Link Building Strategies That Drive Viable Results November 21, 2018 1:38 pm
    Many businesses today leverage search engine optimization (SEO), in order to boost their online visibility, credibility and awareness. Nowadays, competing on the overcrowded market has become increasingly difficult and many businesses simply need SEO, in order to stand out. It’s safe to say that SEO is becoming mandatory instead of just optional these days. The main advantage of SEO is that it doesn’t just help companies rank well on search engines, but it also helps them improve their reputation online. One of the SEO activities, link building, helps businesses boost their domain authority and drive more qualified traffic back to their website. According to Google, backlinks and content share the first place of being the most important ranking factors. Not only that, but through effective link building, companies can easily position themselves as industry professionals, which allows them to extend their reach on the market. However, not just any backlinks will do the trick. As a matter of fact, only high-quality backlinks drive the desired results, while black-hat link building only results in penalties. That being said, here are a few link building strategies that drive viable results. Determine Your Goals Link building is much more than simply creating backlinks for your website. As any other SEO activity, link building can drive results. Which results it will drive depends on what you want from your link building campaign. For example, the most obvious result you can get from backlinks is increased website traffic. However, do you want website visitors looking to gain more information or do you want visitors that are willing to buy from you? There’s a big difference between the two, as both leads are on different stages of their buyer’s journey in this example. That’s why it’s important to determine your goals and what you want to achieve with backlinks. That way, it becomes easier to develop a good strategy that will drive desired and viable results. If you plan to improvise, you should be aware that things may not turn out as you planned. Know What Content Is Best for Your Links Link building and content marketing go hand in hand. If you don’t promote your content, you can’t build high-quality links. That includes content on your web pages and not just content you publish. The better the content a page contains, the more linkable it becomes. For example, pages containing content such as videos, images, guides, webinars, free incentives, downloadable content and so on are the most linkable pages. If your pages don’t contain enough elements that will make it linkable, then you must first attend to those issues before investing time and resources into your link building campaign. Other than that, when deciding to publish content, it’s also important to determine which content is best suited for backlinks. In fact, whatever you decide to publish, you must ensure that it’s top quality and highly relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. Understanding Link Queries to Find Link Building Opportunities As mentioned before, black-hat Read more The post Link Building Strategies That Drive Viable Results appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • How Much Cash Should My Startup Designate to Digital Marketing? November 19, 2018 6:12 pm
    In business, you have to spend money to make money. When you’re starting out, you probably have a low budget and are unsure about how you should spend your money. One thing you should be spending your money on is marketing. You have to get the word out somehow. But how much should you spend on marketing, particularly digital marketing? In this post, we will dive deeper into this concept. Digital Marketing Is Important! Many people realize that in the current age, you must have an Internet presence if you want to get the word out. In the next few years, it’s estimated that around $120 billion will be put into digital marketing. It doesn’t matter who you are. Even if your business is in a one-horse town, having a digital presence can – and will –attract some people. We should also emphasize that digital marketing is not a monolith. There are many types of digital marketing, as well as different technologies behind each. Types of Digital Marketing When marketing, you need to use different types of digital marketing to get the most out of it. Here are a few types. This should help you figure out where your budget is going to go. SEO (search engine optimization). This is when you try to get your company to the top of the search results when people try to look for keywords related to your business. SEO is ever changing, and many companies pour money into making sure their company is the top on Google and other search engines. Social media marketing. Having a page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms can make people see your business. Some people pay money to have their business advertised to its users, while others try to make compelling posts that will get shared. Email marketing. If you want to retain your customers and want them to come back, having them sign up for an email subscription isn’t a bad idea. They can get updates, offers, new products, and other news related to your business. Influencer marketing. This is the new version of celebrity marketing. A company pays someone who has a big following on Instagram, YouTube, or other platforms to showcase their product. Their followers will hopefully want to try the product out because of this. Content marketing. These are unique blogs, videos, or pictures that can engage both your regular and your potential customers. Many companies pay big money to have a good content marketer. Viral Marketing. These are campaigns, videos, and other content designed to go viral and attract many viewers. Often, they are creative and not just limited to the business itself. These are just a few examples of digital marketing. To many newcomers, this is overwhelming. Not a lot of people in startups have enough money to implement all forms of digital marketing, so one often has to look at their business and see which form of marketing would benefit their company the most. Or they experiment a little Read more The post How Much Cash Should My Startup Designate to Digital Marketing? appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • When, Why and How to Buy a Car for Your Business November 16, 2018 1:59 pm
    If the nature of your business requires a substantial amount of driving from you or your employees, perhaps the time’s come to purchase a company vehicle. For some business owners, owning a company car conveys prestige and success in the eyes of their customers and competition. However, rushing to buy a car before you need it or before you’ve considered all the factors might be a foolproof way to drain your company of cash in its early days. So, here’s an elaborate list of company vehicle buying tips. What Does It Mean to Afford a Car? Once you decide you need a business vehicle, you’ll need to decide how to pay for it. If you don’t have the cash ready, you’ll need a loan. For a small business owner, it implies completing a commercial credit application, which also requires a personal guarantee, probably yourself. Alternatively, if you think you’d have trouble getting a loan, leasing is also a good option, as it requires much less money upfront. When applying for a loan, lenders will evaluate your company’s credit rating, as well as your credit rating as a guarantor. If you’ve never applied for business credit, start by getting at least one company credit card, and use it for purchases. Prompt monthly payments will establish a track record and start building your credit. Lease verses Buy While there’s no magic formula to come up to the decision, every business situation is different and needs to be considered as such. One of the most important factors in leasing a company car is how long you plan to use it. If you expect to put a lot of miles behind you, you’ll probably want to turn it in sooner than later, which implies a lease is a better deal than purchase. Also, mileage is an important cost and must be accounted for. Company cars are usually used more than personal cars, which can increase maintenance costs. The best course of action is to calculate for both leasing and buying, including the cost of the lease and the loan, expected mileage, maintenance and upkeep. Finally, consider the value of your car at the end of the lease and the ownership period. Insurance Options Like other vehicles, company cars must be insured to meet at least the minimum insurance requirements for your state. Unlike private owners, businesses are responsible for their vehicles, as well as the employees who operate them. Also, most fleet and company car policies insure every employee whose job description includes operating a vehicle. Due to all these reasons, it’s highly advisable that you purchase a better car insurance that doesn’t only cover accidents, but also natural disasters, fire, theft and damage to someone else’s property. Timing the Purchase It’s nothing new that when the economy loses momentum, the automotive industry cranks out the offers, cutting down on sticker prices and offering attractive loan term. If your business manages to remain strong during one of these crises, it would be a perfect Read more The post When, Why and How to Buy a Car for Your Business appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • Should Your Startup Be an Agile Company November 14, 2018 4:17 pm
    In the very early days of any startup, the matters of company strategy, structure, culture and leadership are rarely formally addressed. They are allowed to develop organically which, unfortunately, can have some negative consequences well into the future. These days, one of the decisions that startup owners make (or at least should think about making) is whether to be an agile company from the very start, to try to adopt it later or to do things the more traditional way. The goal of this article is to look at this decision from a number of viewpoints and to try and guide startup founders towards a decision that will make the most sense for them. Agile 101 Most people are already familiar with agile principles to some extent, but just in case let’s go over the basics. As informed by agile software development, some of the basic ideas behind running a startup the agile way include: Welcoming change Improved adaptability Putting the product/service on the market early Adding to product/service in small, frequent iterations Constant evolution and improvement Importance of communication and feedback Strong, self-organized and cross-functional teams As you can see, most of these are quite common for the startup ecosystem, either due to the specific realities of the marketplace or due to the progressive mindset that most startup founders exhibit. However, to truly make your startup agile, you will need a conscious and unwavering commitment to these principles, which can sometimes be difficult. Hence, this article. What Are You Doing? The first factor when deciding how agile your startup should be is what kind of a company it is, in which industry it is and what kind of a product or service you will be offering to your customers. If you are a software startup, i.e. you plan on developing a software solution to sell, you will almost inevitably be agile. Pretty much no one develops software the old-fashioned way any more, and especially not small teams who want to get their product out fast, get user feedback and then improve it iteratively. In fact, if your start is going to sell any product that does not entail a superbly expensive and complex (e.g. due to regulatory requirements) development and manufacturing process, you will be better off as an agile company. In case your startup will offer a service that is too reactive and chaotic for any useful estimations and iterative delivery, you may find an agile approach less useful and impactful. The same is true for services where people work as individuals as opposed to teams (sales is perhaps the most cliche example) which are at the core of any agile experience. How Big Are You?  And How Do You Plan to Grow? Most startups are tiny which makes them perfectly suitable for the agile approach, even if we’re talking Scrum which (recommends) limits the number of team members to 9. Of course, one or two-person startups will probably not require any kind of a structured agile approach Read more The post Should Your Startup Be an Agile Company appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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  • 5 Hidden Steps to Startup Success November 12, 2018 12:48 pm
    When it comes to startups, there is really no one formula for success. Conversely, however, there are always going to be tried and true methods for being successful at anything, ranging from parenting to friendships to starting a company. Some of the best tips for success will stand you in good stead no matter what area of your life you apply them in. Here are 5 hidden steps to startup success. 1. Know Thyself – And Relentlessly Honor It Many people have successfully shepherded a startup from fledgling operation to global conglomerate and they most likely have some helpful hints for you. But what worked for them is not necessarily going to work for you. There are some highly successful people such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and former FLOTUS Michelle Obama that get their day started well before the sun rises. But for every successful person that gets several hours of work under their belt before the sun rises, there are just as many that are just finishing up their most productive hours at that same time. What it really comes down to is figuring out what works best for you, and doing it. 2. Know What Advice to Not Take Sometimes, the best advice is not always the best advice for you. Some advice will be absolutely sound and utterly reasonable. It may be advice that every business advisor in the world would agree on as being good advice – and it will be utterly wrong for you. Not every decision Steve Jobs made was a success and he experienced more than his fair share of failure. While many movies and books would like to portray him that way, it would most likely be a mistake to assume Steve Jobs never took any advice from anyone. What would most likely be far more accurate to assume, is that Jobs knew what advice was and was not right for him. In the end, it is Steve Jobs that will be most remembered for founding the world’s first trillion dollar company. Maybe because he knew what advice to not take, no matter how qualified the person was giving it. 3. A Solid Business Plan Has to Include More Than Just Statistics Today, having a solid business plan isn’t just about how you are going to make, market and sell your product, but how you are going to run your business. If you don’t strategically plan your corporate culture, it can derail you. Your business standards need to also apply to the businesses you do business with. In order to make that happen, you need to decide what your own standards are going to be in advance. Nike, H&M and The Gap may all be able to weather major sweatshop scandals, but your startup is unlikely to. 4. Don’t Do What You Don’t Have to Do One of the best things a successful entrepreneur can do is hire good people and then trust them to do their jobs. They won’t always Read more The post 5 Hidden Steps to Startup Success appeared first on Successful Startup 101.
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