Video Marketing Tips: Production Techniques for Planning a Shoot

Video marketers will find success in a well-planned production that boasts the same behind-the-scenes organization as a Hollywood production. The pre-production stage of your video is just as important as the filming stage. The more organized you are, the fewer blunders you will encounter on the days you shoot. A solid pre-production plan—crew requirements, location specifics and prop sources—will greatly influence the quality of your final product. Here are some essential pre-production filmmaking tips and techniques from which you can benefit:

Hire a Crew

Firstly, hire an assistant producer who will organize the small, but important, details that are necessary measures for a successful production. The assistant producer can help you assess which crew members are key — as an example, how many cameramen, gaffers and grips are necessary and whether or not it is imperative that you have a director. If you can utilize your assistant producer as a director, that would be ideal, as it would reduce labor costs. If the assistant producer cannot direct, find a cinematographer who has an intuitive eye and won’t need ample direction. Speak with your assistant producer about the vision you have for the film and iron out what the production schedule will look like. The assistant producer can create a succinct schedule and detail-oriented call sheets for the project, while you focus on the vision and creative content for the shoot.

Location Scouting

Decide what sort of site will work best for your script and visit the site at the time of day you will shoot your video. Assess the various factors that lie within the environment, like variance of light, volume of traffic noise, the volume and frequency of people who pass by and the amount of businesses and residential structures that are nearby. If there are nearby businesses or homes, make sure you have an official handout that will explain the site and times of your production so they can prepare. Assess how accommodating your site will be for your power supplies and where the nearest power source lies. Also evaluate the area for cell phone reception, parking, and the nearest electronic store in case you need an emergency cable or adapter. Make sure the location won’t require a permit or legal permission for a video shoot. Take photos of the location, with accompanying notes, and share them with your assistant producer, director and cinematographer.

Props

Enliven your set through the use of props. Arrange with your director or assistant producer what props you will need and how accessible they are. For a smaller budget production, utilize props that you already own. You can also find affordable props at a second hand store or may obtain permission to borrow merchandise from a local shop. If a retail vendor loans you their merchandise, make sure you have a contract that entails the ramifications if the item becomes damaged and an agreed lease period. If you require any food props, visit local businesses and see if they will donate their food for the project. Utilize the Internet for prop order, as it will be the most convenient method for your prop accrual. For example, if you must incorporate flowers, browse flower arrangements online and have them delivered. Etsy is another wonderful online resource, as you can communicate and work with talented artists for custom prop design.

Why Businesses are Turning to LinkedIn

With more than 300 million members, LinkedIn is the largest social media platform for career and business professionals. It’s known as a recruiting tool for employers, hiring managers and recruiters, but using LinkedIn provides many other benefits. It is a promotional platform for company products and services and corporate culture as well as a way to share valuable content and expand a company’s marketing reach. Your LinkedIn business profile is a valuable sales and marketing tool that is much more cost effective than many other forms of advertising. It’s free and available to millions of online viewers as well as search engines, groups, and forums.

Effective Recruiting Tool

A LinkedIn company page includes a careers section where you can post new job openings and promote your employment brand. Companies can use the LinkedIn careers section to point visitors to their website and other social media such as Facebook to further engage prospective candidates. LinkedIn’s paid feature, Recruiter, has a recommendation engine that matches posted job descriptions with qualified candidates and sends “People You May Want to Hire,” making sourcing candidates a more automated task.

Develop Business and Industry Credibility

As a social network, LinkedIn is a platform for sharing and communicating. With a business profile on LinkedIn, you have a way to share updates about what’s going on with your company, post a blog with relevant communications about your business and your industry and join discussions with other LinkedIn members and groups.

Expand Your Company’s Marketing Reach

You can attract new clients with your company page. The overview section lets you describe your company and your business, including your mission and vision, industry and company size. LinkedIn company pages have sections to promote products and services where you can provide detailed information about what your company does. LinkedIn has promotional tools to target your audience by industry, location and other distinguishing factors, as well as provide coupons, banners, discounts, videos and recommendations.

Build Your LinkedIn Business Profile

Don’t put basic information about your company in your LinkedIn business profile and then just let it sit there. Build your LinkedIn business profile so that it’s an engaging, compelling destination for candidates, prospective clients, vendors and other players in your industry. Customize your page to your business demographic and look at similar businesses for inspiration. Add your logo, make your page attractive with a cover photo and add regular updates so visitors get a good feel for the personality of your company.

Other Ways to Improve Your Business Profile

Improve your LinkedIn business profile to ensure visitors to your page are interested and always leave with information that is valuable and encourages them to come back or contact you. Use LinkedIn’s Developer’s page to create a Follow Us button for your website. Offer sponsored updates to reach more readers and gain more leads. Get people involved by asking questions and replying to them, or using them to create better content. Use your business page to highlight your products or services, especially when you have sales or special offers.

4 Tasks At-Home Business Owners Should Consider Outsourcing

If you run your small business out of your house, you are probably used to wearing many hats. To keep your home-based business afloat, you are a combination of chief executive officer, human resources manager, accountant and overall organization expert. You might also juggle other responsibilities related to your home office, like general cleaning and outdoor maintenance.

While you like being involved in every aspect of your home business, there are days when you struggle to get everything done. In addition, some tasks are not in your proverbial wheelhouse, which means you spend too much time trying to master these important jobs when you should be tackling other projects.

In cases like these, it definitely pays to outsource. In addition to being a cost-effective way to get everything done, it’s also a terrific way to ensure that you do not stretch yourself too thin and that all tasks are completed in a competent and timely manner. For example, check out the following four suggestions:

Accounting, Bookkeeping and Finances

As The Self Employed notes, accounting, bookkeeping and related tasks tend to be very detailed and time-consuming projects. As a work-at-home professional, you also have to keep very detailed records to complete your taxes. Rather than tearing your hair out trying to keep tabs on all of your finances, it makes sense to hire an accountant who can help with this important area of your business, and also complete your typically-complicated tax returns for you. In order to make sure your sensitive financial information is not being compromised, you may also wish to enlist the help of a monitoring service. Instead of spending tons of time watching your accounts looking for possible problems, a monitoring service constantly watches your business checking, savings and credit card accounts and will alert you if anything is amiss.

Website Design

In order to reach as many customers as possible, you should definitely have a snazzy-looking website. While your local bookstore probably has plenty of books that will teach the average Jo or Joe how to make a website in one weekend, in reality it’s a pretty challenging task. Consider hiring a website designer who can create an eye-catching site for your business, and also provide ongoing support services. This way, if a customer calls in and says she cannot place an order because the site has crashed, you don’t have to drop everything you are working on to fix it — the website designer will handle it.

Virtual Assistant

If you find that you are spending hours a day answering emails, preparing and sending out invoices and other necessary but time consuming tasks, it may be time to hire a virtual assistant. As Kashoo notes, virtual assistants can handle these necessary “time suck” tasks with ease, leaving you free to tackle work projects, client meetings and business proposals. Most virtual assistants are independent contractors who work from their homes for a variety of clients; if you wish to have in-person contact, you might find a local assistant who will come to your home office and tackle time consuming tasks in person.

Housekeeping and Yard Work

If you have clients coming to your home office on a regular basis, you want to be sure your home’s exterior is well-manicured and you don’t have stacks of dishes in the sink. In order to make sure your home is looking clean and clutter free — which will also help to keep you feeling calm and relaxed — consider hiring housekeeping and landscaping services. This will free up some much needed time in your schedule and help you to spend your downtime relaxing and not feeling the need to de-clutter the coffee table or mow the lawn.

What to Know If You’re Buying a Car for a Small Business

The United States Small Business Administration reports in 2014 that the United States economy generated the best year of job growth since 1999. More jobs means more cars on the road. The Wall Street Journal reported 2015 U.S. car sales set new records, overtaking sales last reached 15 years before, with factors such as lower gas prices, employment gains and low interest rates causing the boom. Those circumstances also make purchasing a vehicle for company use more feasible for a variety of small businesses.

For prospective and current small business owners who are considering purchasing a car for their business operations, many factors must be considered to ensure it’s a wise investment. From purchasing the vehicle to keeping track of expenses for taxes, keep these issues in mind as you buy a company car.

Look for Affordability to Reduce Expenses

As a small business grows, cutting down costs is essential to maintain momentum and scale. Thoroughly examine your small business budget to determine which car you can realistically afford and which one garners the biggest return on investment. Carefully consider how important the appearance of a vehicle is to get the job done, and think about vehicle wraps that convey branding to spruce up the look of an older vehicle.

For business owners who will often be driving clients around, save money on an attractive vehicle by perusing high-quality used car lots. Or, reach out to those in your network, and tell them you’re looking for a top-notch used car. People may not have even considered selling but may be willing to help out their contact for a good deal. Choose fuel-efficient over gas-guzzling vehicles for more business savings.

For businesses unable to cover the whole payment of a car, obtain a commercial vehicle loan from a qualified lender.

Keep Track of Possible Deductions

Get more bang for your company car buck by monitoring all expenses related to your business car, including the initial cost. The Internal Revenue Service has clear expectations about what can be deducted from taxes, including how to calculate mileage rates.

American Express Open Forum reminds business owners that leasing a car for your business may have more tax advantages than buying a car. Leasing or purchasing an electric vehicle also provides tax benefits that make these cars ideal options for small business owners.

Business owners who don’t use the standard mileage rate on a leased car are able to deduct the full amount of the monthly lease payment and other costs to operate the vehicle if they use the car solely for business. Green Car Reports states tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 will continue to be given to those who purchase an electric vehicle in 2016.

Protect Your Business

Insurance is an essential safeguard for both your company car and anyone who drives it. When searching for commercial vehicle insurance, consider these coverage options to protect your business and eliminate unexpected high costs caused by accidents:

  • Personal injury to you, your employed drivers or passengers, including medical expenses and lost wages
  • Property damage liability
  • Liability for bodily injury to others
  • Bodily injury coverage for injuries occurring outside your home state
  • Collision coverage for costs associated with an accident, regardless of who is at fault
  • Comprehensive coverage for damage other than collision
  • Towing and labor costs
  • Medical payments and coverage for hospitalization, treatment and funeral costs
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
  • Liability for loading and unloading
  • Substitution transportation when a commercial vehicle is being repaired and a loaner from the repair shop.

Boost your peace of mind by protecting your company vehicle, those who drive it and your business.

How to Find the Best Employees

Employees are the lifeblood of a company, and a few bad hires can make or break a small business.  Hiring is a hard problem.  Even Google admits that they haven’t found a single best predictor for hiring the right person.   The normal approach companies take to deal with the problem is to try to attract the highest quality applicants in the first place so they have a higher probability of finding a good employee.  For this reason, companies have been showering their employees with perks: Cisco Systems offers free physical therapy and acupuncture, Southwest Airlines provides free flights for all employees and their families, and Yahoo gives discounts to ski resorts and amusement parks for their employees.

But what makes hiring such a difficult problem in the first place?  Neither parties on either side of the interview table have perfect, or even good information!  Hiring managers find it difficult to isolate qualities that tell them a candidate would be a great employee.  Applicants find it difficult to know whether or not they would be a good fit at and enjoy working for the company they’re applying to.  As Paul Oyer and Scott Schaefer put it in “Personnel Economics,” “the fundamental economic problem in hiring is one of matching with costly search and bilateral asymmetric information.”  Basically, the process is expensive and uncertain.

The goal for hiring becomes where can you find good employees as well as how to identify metrics that accurately predict the success of an employee.

Using Personal Networks

Networking, especially for startups and small companies, is often the most effective way to find qualified candidates for open job positions.  Networking presupposes a familiarity with the candidate in question, giving the interviewer more insight on them.  Implementing an employee referral program, where employees are rewarded for bringing successful job candidates to the company, is a fantastic way to improve the quality of your hiring practices.  Studies have shown that referred candidates outperform normal candidates at every stage of the hiring process and experience better cultural fits at companies once hired, setting the stage for future success at the company.  In fact, referrals now result in more than a quarter of all hires at large companies, a startling number when you consider that referrals compose only 6% of nationwide job applicants, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and MIT

Turning to Online Resources

Once a company’s personal networks have been combed through for applicants, it may be necessary to find other sources of applicants.  One of the most common solutions is to turn to a job board, such as HotJobs.com or Monster.com, to expand your company’s outreach.  Job boards can advertise your company to a lot of different candidates at once.  More sophisticated ones help you implement screening questions that will automatically filter unqualified candidates from your posting.  There is also less of a chance for discrimination when compared to networking; job boards are available worldwide 24 hours a day whereas personal networks have a tendency to attract similarly thinking people to certain companies and reduce diversity.  However, job boards flood a company with potential candidates, and if you don’t have a recruitment department or enough time and resources to evaluate all the candidates the process quickly becomes unmanageable.

Is this a “job”?

Finally, think critically about the job position you are looking to fill.  Is this an integral part of the companies mission?  Would this position fit well into the company’s structure and culture?  Building a department or new team can be expensive and difficult.  Before you choose to hire an employee, determine whether or not it may be better to outsource the work.  Lots of roles can be easily outsourced: marketing, manufacturing, digital marketing, advertising, and more.  Although there is risk associated with the lack of control, outsourcing can be a quick and cheap option for accomplishing a company’s tasks.  

Who is a good candidate?

Although it’s difficult to isolate specific qualities that indicate who is and is not qualified, remember that good employees exhibit several key traits.  The first is a strong work ethic.  You want employees that take pride in their work and perform at a high level, putting forth their best effort.  Also look for a positive attitude and exceptional communication skills.  Work is a collaborative environment where all employees work together to serve their market.  Employees that can interact easily and positively magnify their efficiency and create a more satisfying work environment.  Additionally, previous experience and a demonstrated expertise in the skillset you need is often the most valuable characteristic of a qualified candidate.  Experience is very valuable as it saves your company money during training and increases the value a candidate can bring to their department.  Finally, loyal and reliable candidates often become the best employees.  They are consistent, stable, and show an interest in developing a long-term career with your company.

Hiring practices are often the most important processes at a company.  Who you hire affects your company culture and the productivity of your departments.   It sets the future course of the business and can often be the difference between success and failure.  For this reason its important to have a robust process in place that effectively screens candidates and makes sure you have the right people walking in the door.

The Entrepreneur Authority is a group of franchise consultants dedicated to helping you own and operate your own franchise.  There are a lot of perks that come from becoming an entrepreneur and engaging in the franchise business model.  If you would like to explore opportunities in franchising and know more about the possibilities, contact the Entrepreneur Authority today for a no-cost, no-obligation, no-pressure consultation or call 866.246.2884 to speak with one of our FRANtastic consultants.  You can also attend our free monthly webinar, “Franchise Ownership as a More Stable Career Path.” Just click on the link to register!

The Profitable Side of Passion for Business Entrepreneurs

As someone who many might consider having an uncommon passion for what I do, which is bio-hazard clean up, it is not unlike any other business entrepreneur who wants to take what they love and turn it into a thriving business venture that will allow them financial stability for the long haul and security for their family for years to come.

That means not relying on passion alone to carry you to the highest levels of success and profitability. I seem to be telling myself more often than I care to admit that Passion is not going to blind me to the practical aspects of how to make my business successful. It seems to be turning into my entrepreneurial mantra.

Any good business person needs to incorporate their passion for their business with a dose of reality about some of the most important ways in which harnessing your passion can help make your venture successful:

1. Use Your Customers as Your Guide

If you love your work, then you have a certain level of respect for the people that you service every day or will service when your business is up and running. This includes valuing their feedback about your work. So, get as much feedback from them as you can through post-service surveys through surveymonkey.com that are free and can be sent via email to every customer. This will give you a visual perspective via a graph or chart of what your customers think you need to improve on when it comes to your overall service. Without knowing what may be wrong in the field, passion can deteriorate rapidly, and to be able to find out from the servicing source and fix it is an exciting element of your business that keeps the passion alive.

2. Don’t just Say you’re an Expert…BE one

Many individuals talk about passion for their business or a love of a hobby that would like to turn into a business, but it isn’t reflected in the most intricate details of their product or service. If you exude passion then it must show in even the smallest details of the product or service that you will offer.

Make sure you are knowledgeable about the latest technology in your industry and how you can offer it in the most cost-effective way. No one who is passionate about what they do offers outdated technology or services to their clients—especially if a customer is more aware than you are of the latest developments. Then, make your customers aware of what you have to offer in a new product or service through advertising mailers or an open house to tout your new discovery! This works wonders for generating new business or renewing business that has not used your services for some time.

3. Find Others with Passion

We have all worked at that job where we love what we do but we work with someone who is the “Debbie Downer” in the office and constantly complains about their job duties, the company, and usually their career in general. This is not a person that has a passion for their job. So, make sure that before you open for business that you interview potential employees with great care and ask about their reasons for wanting to join your team.

This means not just choosing someone because they took the time to go through the entire hiring process that you ask them to do because this could just simply mean they are desperate for a job! But, it means sitting down with them in a one-on-one in-depth interview where you can observe their enthusiasm for the position and for the product or service that is offered and more importantly, that they show an interest in knowing more and learning more within the scope of their duties on the job to grow with the company. This will more than serve to keep your passion alive and growing as well.

4. Sharing Your Passion

If your business stems from a particular skill or hobby, more than likely there are other people who share the same interest about the product or service. Many people who are passionate about their hobbies form clubs or organizations to interact with like-minded people who are also passionate about the same thing. Research and find these organizations so that you can network with them to gain a greater customer base right out of the gate. You can also utilize these types of groups to gain knowledge about new technology in your area of interest and how it is being used as well as the possibility of networking with experts to gain greater knowledge about what you do. In turn, as these individuals get to know you as someone who is as passionate as they are about your shared interests, they will be a great source of referrals to grow your business for years to come.

Raymond Magno is the owner and lead cleaner of a bio-hazard cleaning business in Los Angeles.  He grew up in a small farming community in Maine, worked as a radioman in the Coast Guard and as a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska before falling in love and following his wife to her hometown of Los Angeles. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and two dogs and rooting for the Patriots football team.

5 Simple Ways to Ensure That Your New Franchise Succeeds

5 Simple Ways to Ensure That Your New Franchise Succeeds

 

Buying a franchise and starting off on your own can be a life-changing decision. For one, you will be committing a great deal of money, possibly a good portion of your savings. You would probably also borrow from a financial institution or a bank.

 

The pressure on you to make a success of your franchise would be great. Your ability to meet your repayment obligations to the lender would depend on how well your new venture does and the amount of cash that it generates. You would also have to commit your time and energy to the franchise. It is quite likely that you would have to work long hours, especially in the initial stages.

 

Most franchise owners are willing to do everything that is necessary to ensure that they get off to a good start and meet their business targets. But your success often depends on how carefully you have selected your new franchise and the manner in which you have conducted the due diligence exercise.

 

Here are some steps that you can take to shift the odds in your favor.

 

1.    Select the franchisor carefully

 

There are literally thousands of options that are available. How will you make a choice? Don’t make the mistake of using only financial considerations. Say, the budget that you have in mind is $100,000 (including the sum that you intend to borrow.) Your choice should not be limited to only those franchises that you can afford.

 

Instead, find a business that appeals to you. More importantly, you should have some skills or expertise that will give you an edge over the competition. This could even mean that you select a business that only requires half your budget.

 

Visit an existing franchise and see how the business operates. Can you imagine yourself running a similar enterprise? It is also a good idea to speak to several existing franchisees to gain an understanding of the issues that they face.

 

2. Select an appropriate location

 

If the franchise involves renting a physical retail location, your choice will play a large role in determining your business volumes. An outlet in a high-traffic area could cost more, but the greater sales could more than justify the expense.

 

Selecting a location should be a carefully considered process. If you happen to see a large number of people in the area that you are considering, you may think that the location is an ideal choice. But it may be wise to dig a little deeper. Are the crowds seasonal? Or are there a large number of students? A university or an educational institution in the vicinity may result in low footfalls for several months every year.

 

3. Seek advice from an expert

 

When selecting a franchisor, the range of options before you can be overwhelming. You could shortlist five or ten companies and then try to make a choice after studying their brochures or websites. But if you do this, you would be severely restricting your options. Additionally, it would be highly time-consuming to conduct a due diligence of even a handful of companies.

 

Remember that selecting the most appropriate franchisor is critical to your success. How can you make sense of the multitude of options before you?

 

Using the services of an expert can help you in making your decision. The Entrepreneur Authority, a franchise advisor, uses a structured process to guide you in selecting a franchisor that best meets your needs and your skill profile.

 

An added advantage is that the service is absolutely free. The Entrepreneur Authority is compensated by the franchisor if you decide to sign on.

 

4. Develop your people skills

 

The results that you achieve will depend to a large extent on your communication skills and your personal effectiveness.

 

You will need to develop leadership skills and learn how to motivate your employees. Carry out a frank self-assessment. Do you know how to build trust and inspire your team? Are you a good listener? Will you take out the time to train your employees?

 

Cheerful workers who are willing to put in their best can be your greatest assets. On the other, disgruntled and sullen staff will drive customers away.

 

Don’t neglect this vital requirement. If you are unsure about your ability to manage others, it may be worthwhile to spend some time in acquiring the skills that are needed to lead and inspire your team.

 

5.    Track your finances carefully

 

The cost structure in a franchise operation is higher than in an independent small business. You will have to make regular repayments towards the loans that you have taken to finance your franchise fee and to purchase fixed assets. Your employees will have to be paid and there will be a number of other administrative costs.

 

All these expenses will strain your finances, especially in the initial months when sales volumes are low. You will have to keep a close watch on your cash flow and ensure that you have the liquidity to meet all your commitments.

 

Even if you use the services of an accountant, it is essential that you remain completely involved in all financial matters. Monitoring your cash flow on a daily basis will provide you with the information that you need to cut costs and strengthen your financial position.

 

Follow the rules imposed by the franchisor

 

Finally, remember that you must follow the conditions laid down in the franchise agreement. Don’t try to save money by taking shortcuts or deviating from the franchisor’s stipulations.

 

It is your legal obligation to stay within the terms of the agreement. In extreme situations, breaking the rules could lead to your franchise getting terminated and result in large financial losses. 

Five Tips for Creating Work Life Balance


If you are a new entrepreneur with a small business, then you must learn how to balance your home life with your work responsibilities. Having a new business can monopolize your time, but you can change that with several simple ideas. There are great reasons for making changes to your lifestyle while operating a new business. Begin by using these ideas for wellness while opening your new business. 

1: Have a Weekly Schedule That Includes Family Time

The best way to balance your home and work life is by having a schedule each week. When you schedule time with your family, make sure to focus 100 percent of your energy on them without responding to cellphone calls or text messages. If you find it difficult to stop thinking about your business, then arrange activities with your family that will require going somewhere interactive. Take your family to the golf course on a weeknight, or you can plan a weekend camping trip. By taking time for your spouse and children at scheduled intervals, you will have healthier relationships. When your home life is happy, your business is more likely to succeed. 

2: Give Up the Activities That Waste Your Time

Begin to analyze your days to determine how much time you are wasting on worthless activities. If you are monitoring your text messages on a 24-hour basis, then you are not using your time effectively. Think about how much time you spend on the internet or watching television. Don’t waste time talking to friends throughout the day at your business because it can keep you from completing important tasks. If you tend to procrastinate while working, then set the timer on your cellphone to finish writing a report or contacting a customer in a certain amount of time. 

3: Outsource Some of Your Home and Work Tasks

If there are certain jobs that are too time-consuming, then hire someone to perform the tasks for you. When you don’t have time for keeping your home or business clean, hire someone to vacuum carpets or take out the trash. Hire a teenager in your neighborhood to shovel the snow from your sidewalks or driveway. Have an assistant work for you on a part-time basis to complete errands such as picking up office supplies. Outsourcing the tasks that require too much time or that you dislike is the best way to maximize your time each day. 

4: Take Care of Your Physical Health While Operating a Business

Make sure to take care of your physical health while running a business and caring for a family. To remain healthy, you must continue to eat three nutritious meals each day. If you don’t have time for cooking, then learn how to prepare extra food to freeze for quick microwave meals on busy days. Create weekly menus for meals and snacks so that it is easier to shop at the supermarket. In addition, get enough sleep each night to remain alert along with preventing illnesses. 

5: Stay Energized Throughout the Day At Work

Your brain will function better while you are working when you take regular breaks. Take a break every two to three hours to go on a walk outside or to meditate. Exercising is one of the best ways to increase your mental energy, and you might perform yoga poses in your office, or you can join a fitness studio. If you enjoy listening to music, then play your favorite CD to increase your energy levels. Staying energized at work is an excellent way to reduce your stress to avoid developing burnout.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Faxage a leading company that provides Internet fax service for individuals and businesses.

Are Entrepreneurs Made or Born?

The ages-old nature/nurture debate has gone on for decades. Is a person the product of their environment (nurture) or the genetic traits and qualities passed down to them from their parents (nature)? Applying this question specifically to entrepreneurship – are entrepreneurs made or born? In other words, what is more important to your entrepreneurial success – your genetic endowment or what you do and experience out in the world?

In one sense, the way I posed the question isn’t fair. I asked it in the form of an either/or question. The reality, not surprisingly, is more complicated because it’s really a both/and situation. Both matter, and knowing where you fall in the mix will help you be more successful in your entrepreneurial efforts. 

It’s surprising how many people still hold to the belief that entrepreneurs are born, meaning that you’ve simply got to have a certain set of personality traits and inner characteristics to be a successful entrepreneur. Many such lists of traits and qualities have been posed over the years. Perennial favorites that seem to appear on most lists include the following:

  • Ability to spot opportunities.
  • Willingness to take calculated risks.
  • Tolerance for failure.
  • Strong internal locus of control (belief that actions taken affect outcomes).
  • High drive to succeed.
  • Tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.
  • Willingness to question and go against the status quo. 

It’s completely fair and accurate to say that if you’re born with all of these qualities in spades, you’re going to naturally have a whole lot easier time becoming a successful entrepreneur than someone who’s got less of them.

But the plain fact of the matter is that many of these traits can also be thought of as skills, which means they can be improved through education and training. You can learn how to get better at spotting opportunities. You be trained in how to tolerate failure (and learn from it). You can be taught how to not let uncertainty and ambiguity cause so much discomfort. You can be schooled in how to question the status quo. 

In a way, this both/and approach to entrepreneurship should come as no surprise. After all, most people know of a pair of siblings or friends where one was clearly smarter in terms of raw IQ but the other one always got the better grades because they worked harder at it. That’s why my answer to the nature/nurture debate when it comes to entrepreneurs is this: You’ve got to take what nature gave you and nurture along to reach your entrepreneurial goals.

There’s also an important implication here about self-knowledge. You need to know your natural baseline on the qualities listed above in order to come up with a nurturing game plan that will boost yourself in areas needing enhancement. Taking some time for honest self-assessment is one way to determine your baseline. Another way is to take any number of entrepreneurial self-assessment surveys. A great collection to choose from can be found in the article Entrepreneur Self Assessment: 9 Professional Tools and Tests. Armed with this kind of knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to entrepreneurial success no matter what your starting point. Good luck!

Top 5 Ways to Build Your Business Digitally

When you’ve got a small business, it’s sometimes hard to get the word out. While many small business owners depend on word of mouth to help drum up business, building leads by using the internet and the social feed is becoming increasingly useful. In this guide, we’re going to outline the top 5 small business internet techniques that you can use to create business leads.

Always Have a Site for Your Customers to Frequent
Even if you’re not technically inclined, having a portal for your customers to have access to your products and services is very important. Your site should be easy to navigate, have a good UI for your customers, and it should keep your potential customer’s attention. If programming and designing on a content management system (CMS) isn’t your cup of tea, there are a wide variety of companies that will set your site up for you so that you can convert customers online.

Keep Your Site Updated
Many of the small businesses that are converting visitors also happen to have blog content about their products and services. Nothing is more annoying for a customer than a site that has out-of-date information, other inaccuracies, or doesn’t look fresh and easy to read. Blogs are a great way to address the customer directly; you can make blog posts about the types of services that you offer, about the industry, about what makes your type of product stand out, or even about savings opportunities. Additionally, having a steady stream of new content will let your customers know that you care about your business.

Use the Social Feed
The majority of Americans access their social feed before they go to work, during work hours, and for about an hour after they get home. That’s a lot of time spent browsing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can use the billions of users of these platforms to boost your business’s performance. Facebook, for example, has an ads feature that will let you reach out to a certain number of Facebook users in a day. Your business will appear directly in their feed and it’s relatively inexpensive.

Keep Your Generalized SEO Game Tight
Search Engine Optimization isn’t going anywhere. Google and Youtube are the number one and two search engines on the internet, and when someone is searching for a business, they seldom ever go past the first page on their search engine. This is why you should use SEO best practices for your page so that customers can find it on the top search engines. It doesn’t take much; sometimes some search-friendly keywords are all it takes, but that simple change can help your business grow exponentially.

Use Local SEO to Bring in New Clients
SEO on sites like Google aren’t the only types of SEO. Local SEO capitalizes on local search so that, once again, customers can find your business more easily. You can provide your business’s information on sites like Yahoo Local, Bing Places, or even Google My Business, which will get you started. Next, digital word of mouth is very important; it’s imperative that your customers have a good experience so that they can begin leaving reviews about your business on the key sites like Yelp and Foursquare, where the good reviews can help you convert future clients.

Final Thoughts
The future is digital, which means that you’ll need to leverage the internet and social feeds in order for your business to grow. Utilizing these five steps will definitely provide you with palpable results and propel your business into the future.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. She currently writes for Checkworks.com, where you can get personal checks and business checks.