Whether we’re entrepreneurs, realtors, CEOs or managers, it’s really important to do everything in our power to help our start-ups thrive. Believe it or not, there’s no need for business people to have an MBA from a reputable university to do well in their field of activity. Sometimes, all we need is something to motivate us to move forward and stay focused on our goals. Here are some books to help you boost business wisdom and possibly improve your life.

“Crucial Conversations” - Ron McMillan, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, and Joseph Grenny

When there’s a lot at stake and you want to achieve something, you must strive for success. Opinions vary a lot in business, particularly because people have strong perceptions and different principles. To reach agreements you have to engage in fruitful conversations otherwise you’ll have to deal with the consequences. In “Crucial Conversation” the authors are trying to help readers achieve positive resolutions through dialogue. By reading this book, business people will learn to be persuasive not rude. The key to proper communication is active listening, and the more involved you are in a dialogue the higher chances you have to be admired and appreciated by counterparts.

Blog post (Books) 1

“Linchpin” – Seth Godin

Do you have what it takes to be a linchpin? Is your work better than everyone else’s? Does management think you’re indispensable? Seth Godin released “Linchpin” in 2010. As a business person he wanted to help readers make themselves indispensable in their working domains, and thus achieve greatness. In today’s business environment it is almost impossible to build a career if you can’t make yourself noticed. That being said this book is about teaching readers to become linchpins. Taking risks and having the courage to speak when nobody else would are all actions you will have to undertake if you want to make yourself noticed.

“The Tipping Point” – Malcolm Gladwell

The smallest changes in life can have the greatest impact. Even though this theory is not new, it has been beautifully highlighted by Gladwell in “The Tipping Point”. This book is meant to inspire readers to think big and dare to dream about a better career future for themselves. If you have an idea worth exploring you shouldn’t hesitate to put it into practice. Even if you make a mistake, at least you’ll learn something from it.

Blog post (Books) 2

“Drive” – Daniel H. Pink

Here’s an excellent book about what really motivates people to succeed. What’s your trigger? In spite of conventional perceptions that argue people are motivated by money and fear, Pink’s updated “Drive” explores a whole new way of perceiving motivation. The authors have included several concrete examples, too. Google for example, was one of the first companies to give employee freedom of speech and open offices. The company’s approach went beyond the norm, and that was the reason it worked. Google now allows employees to choose their projects, thus keeping them engaged and boosting motivation at the workplace. Would you be willing to adopt such innovative business strategy?

Blog post (Books) 3

“The Millionaire Next Door” - Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko

First published in 1996, “The Millionaire Next Door” is not your average type of book about how to become a millionaire. Don’t expect to read about five-star restaurants and famous people, but about ordinary people who have worked hard to attain wealth. These people don’t like to show off and they live in the shadows. They could be your neighbor next door. The authors focus on the importance of hard work in life, and they talk a lot about making the right decisions to make money.

Books can have a great influence on our perceptions. They keep us motivated and they might help us attain our goals. Business books in particular, can be extremely influential. Aside from being convincing, they could change and improve our lifestyles completely. We all want to be wealthy and have a successful business; sadly, it’s easier said than done. All sorts of challenges will appear down the road, so it’s important to find a way to stay motivated no matter what. Business and self-help books can help us maintain our focus. Which of the ones we mentioned would you like to read first?

Pinterest is one of those social media platforms that many people struggle with using as a marketing avenue at first. It differs significantly from the more familiar Facebook, and looks nothing like the often used Twitter.

I’m going to start by giving you the basic tools for success on Pinterest as a marketing platform, and then build up from there to more advanced ideas. If you can’t market on Pinterest by the end of this article, you may want to take a look at whether or not you’re the right person for the job.

The basics of what Pinterest is, and how to start an account

Interaction on Pinterest takes place on a virtual bulletin board. Think of it as a Facebook wall that doesn’t scroll down, but expands. Users ‘pin’ items they like to their Pinterest boards, and can have multiple boards at once sorted by topic.

The successful businesses that you’ll find on Pinterest right now are using it to:

There are two ways to start a Pinterest business account:

You wind up with the same thing in the end either way. Converting an existing account, which already has content and followers, is obviously going to give you the biggest boost. Once you have your account going, be sure to use Pinterest’s dashboard to start the learning process about your audience.

The best content to share on Pinterest

First, you need to establish what it is you want to do with your Pinterest account as a whole, with each board, and with each pin. The three basic goals of any social media marketing campaign are:

  1. Push visitors to your website
  2. Expand your reach on the platform via shares
  3. Increase brand awareness

Each goal is met via different means. Therefore the best content to share to meet those goals will also have to change.

To take the numbering from above, the basic way to accomplish each of these goals is by:

  1. Including a call to action to visit your website in the pin description, along with the link
  2. Including a call to action to share your content in the pin description, as well as being sure to share content that will prompt people to do this
  3. Using company logos on all photos shared, and sharing images of your product or service.

I’m not a big fan of telling without showing. Here an actual examples from Pinterest for each of the three points above.

1: Pushing visitors to your website - Nike Women

Yes, I know we’re talking about small business and solopreneurs, but on social media everyone is level. You can do exactly what Nike have done with this pin by having a simple call to action; “Get a boot, a wrap and a ribbon in the Nike Studio Mid Pack.” The link is the “Found at store.nike.com” part. Click it and you’ll go right to the product page to purchase.

2: Expanding your reach - CarbSwitch

CarbSwitch is a niche website for those looking to lower thier carb intake, as well as those looking to lower their gluten intake. They simply say “Please repin” at the end of their description for this pin. Over 360 repins happened, putting them right into the boards of relevant users. All it took was two extra words.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is all you have to say. Pinterest users know when they’re being scammed. Write an accurate or insightful description along with your pin.

3: Increasing brand awareness - GE

Take a look at nearly any photo shared on GE’s boards. All of them, including the above pin, feature the GE logo. They also frequently share photos of their products - and they have some pretty exciting products! This is all done in the name of brand building and awareness.

Use Pinterest as a link building sales funnel

Each Pinterest pin has 500 characters available for you to describe the image, and insert a link or two. Having a link plan from the top down can help you build links not only in the SERPs, but in the minds of you fans.

To start from the top and work down, use your keywords in:

As an example, a brand which is selling the new Nike Air Jordan 7 retro in the ‘Hare Jordan’ colorway (available in May and I’m so anticipating it) can:

You can see how each step down towards the product page includes keywords. You need to build a sales funnel like this in order to truly use Pinterest for your business.

Using Pinterest for small business promotion isn’t complicated

From the biggest mega-corporations, to the crafters with homemade scarves, Pinterest can be a powerful tool when used correctly. Be sure to establish goals for each board and pin, share appropriate content, and create sales funnels of keywords that lead naturally from Pinterest to your a sales page on your website.

Ed. Note - You probably already know that we're all about the bootstrap here at SBT. Still, we also know that some kingdoms aren't built from sweat alone, and some ideas require a boost to get off the ground. So here, courtesy of SBT contributor Ivan, is a piece all about attracting investors to get going. Enjoy! -Seth

Many entrepreneurs dream of launching a wildly successful startup. Although the odds might seem slim, there are some entrepreneurs who experience a great amount of success with their business idea.

ABC’s Shark Tank turns many of these entrepreneur’s dream into a reality. Over the course of five seasons, Shark Tank gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to launch the business of their dreams. The Sharks (otherwise known as investors) offered to invest more than $20 million in over 109 companies.

While it appears that many of these startups receive funding, there aren’t very many that succeed. Since 2012, only one in 17 startups from Shark Tank have seen a profit and and only about a third of the deals closed.

Launching a startup involves a lot a risk, but if you know the right business strategies, you’ll be able to launch a very successful business. Let’s take a look at some of the lessons entrepreneurs can learn about launching a startup:

Know the need for your product.

The only way you can launch a successful business is if your product or service provides value for your target customer. Regardless of how great your idea for a product is, it won’t be successful unless you have a defined target audience who will benefit from your product.

Always be prepared.

There are a lot of hoops entrepreneurs must jump through when launching their business and pitching to investors.

Whether you’re pitching an investor or creating a business plan, you must be prepared for anything. Be confident in your numbers and have a good idea of how much revenue you plan to produce. This type of information will be valuable to your success as an entrepreneur.

Remember, every successful startup begins with an idea, a goal, and pitch. By following advice from Shark Tank, you’ll feel more confident when launching your business. To learn more about the Shark Tank formula for success, check out the infographic below:

SharkTankD2

This week's guest post comes with a slick infographic. While the infographic is a fun way to self-assess your own motivation as a business owner, I know serious business owners aren't going to let an infographic push them around. So enjoy the exercise (there's always room for improvement), but don't let it go to your head. -Seth-

ownerSo you want to ditch the nine-to-five life and be your own boss, but how do you know if you have what it takes to be a success on your own? You might be surprised to learn that the deck is mostly stacked against you, but if you have the right motivation you can deal yourself a winning hand.

Since the recession in 2005, self-employment rates have dropped but they are expected to be on the rise again. Small businesses are still the backbone of our great country and most of those were started by the self-employed.

But the numbers are pretty dismal since eight out of every ten new businesses fail in the first two years. Most often they simply run out of money, but often they crash and burn right from the top, self-sabotage through founder dysfunction. That’s right, the boss!

Forbes gives these five reasons why new businesses often end up in the tank:

  1. Not in touch with their customers
  2. Lack of any unique value
  3. Failure to communicate
  4. Leadership breakdown
  5. Lack of a profitable business model

Maybe your boss makes it look easy, but it is actually a lot tougher than it looks especially when you are in charge of yourself. In order to be successful, you must be:

Even if you don’t have all these skills, it doesn’t mean that you are a “bad worker”, some people function better as part of a team. Others are more productive if they are in a structured environment. Some people are leaders and some are followers, not everyone can be the boss.

Much in the same way that some learn better by listening, others would rather read instructions and there are those that like to take a more hands on approach.

So do you have what it takes to be your own boss?

Using the infographic below, you can do a quick tally to see if you are best suited to stay in your current position or if you would be more successful as your own boss. Answer all the questions honestly, keep your score and compare your results with the recommendations at the end.

Be truthful, no one knows you better than yourself. By looking deeper into each of these categories you can better see where your strengths are weaknesses lie. Where do you excel and what areas are in need of improvement?

Thanks to this infographic, designed in part by Gryffin.com, you can take this test to see if you should be writing a new business plan or if you are better off punching a time clock:

 

Great-grandpappy Rasmussen tending to his store

Great-grandpappy Rasmussen with a customer

Editor's note: If you've been following along, then you already suspect what I'm about to tell you, that this is another excerpt from our work in progress. Why else would it have a note from Seth at the head of the article, right?  Right.  

Glad you're paying attention. -Seth


 

So you’ve done your homework, asked fifteen kazillion friends about your big idea, and are convinced that you have a business. Well, you’ll have a business when you get your first customer. Only then are you in business.

Before we dive into all the tactics you can use to unearth your first customer, let’s clear a few things up:

Real Customers Pay with Real Money - no trades, equity agreements, etc… Those can be useful, but customers by definition generate revenue for your business.

Customers vs. Clients vs. [insert noun here] - the definitions here truly don’t matter. The only important thing to distinguish, is that when working larger companies, that you’ll likely have multiple customer/clients, i.e. the woman cutting the check, and the man receiving the service / product.

The Amount of Money Customers Spend with You DOES NOT MATTER - some of my best clients have only spent a few hundred bucks with me in the past 5 years combined. But they referred me $25K+ in new business.

So how do you get your first customer?

1) IDENTIFY THE LOW-HANGING FRUIT

2) START CONVERSATIONS WITH ALL OF THEM

If I were to list off all of the steps required in building and growing a business in sequence, this would be the task that EVERYONE screws up the first time around. Until you’ve put in some heavy repetitions off that first conversation, it will come off as salesy, or weak, or overbearing, or confusing, or spammy, or uncomfortable.

Here’s some guidelines to help take off some of those rougher edges:

  1. CHOOSE THEIR MEDIUM … if you prospective customer communicates with you via LinkedIn Messages, then use that. If texting, then use that. If in-person, then use that.
  2. DEFINE WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM … this can take many forms: lively conversation, satiating curiosity about ‘what you’ve been up to these past 4 years’, they want to pick your brain on one of their ideas, they want to connect with someone in your network. Uncovering human motivation is art and science - avoid over-thinking it, just remember that have to have a good reason to talk to you - even your mom.
  3. THE GOAL IS RELATIONSHIP … if you open up conversation with a prospect with the sole intent to make a sale, then you will fail, or succeed weakly. The absolute best outcome of any business conversation is creating / strengthening the relationship where that person becomes your biggest fan and top referrer.
  4. BE FORTHRIGHT … even the most dense people can detect an incoming sales pitch. If they ask, “why should we talk?” sometimes the best approach is just to come clean. “Well. 
  5. DON’T SELL ANYTHING IN THAT FIRST CONVERSATION … “Interact first. Sell second.” - Seth Godin
  6. BE HUMAN … nobody cares about “solutions” that you can offer them. They care about you caring about them. I’ve never closed a deal that didn’t include some story-swapping in the initial conversations.
  7. BE VULNERABLE … you cannot expect someone to trust you with their money, buying something that nobody has ever bought before, when you can’t open up to them. If your product was created out of a ridiculous and highly embarrassing incident, then tell them that story. You open up, then they will open up. And when they open up, you can discover what motivates them to open their wallets.
  8. BE SINCERE … if you can’t find something sincere to say during conversation, then you shouldn’t be talking in the first place.

A good default approach, “Hey, Jim. Nate here. So I finally sucked it up and started that ___________ business I’ve been toying with for years. I’d love to get your insight on this - you know, sanity check it a bit. I’ve got some time on Thursday mid-morning. Does that work for you? Thanks in advance, and please let me know how I can return the favor. ”

If it goes well, they will declare, “I can use that … sign me up” … or better yet, “I’d focus more on XYZ. Do that, and I’ve got about 4 folks that could use that.”

That's all for this week.  There's definitely more to this chapter, concerning how you go from conversation to sale, though I plan on omitting it from the blog.  Maybe I'll post it if you ask really nicely in the comments.  Otherwise, look forward to next week's post, which will be about whatever we feel like.  Thanks for reading!

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Rowlett, TX
Oceanside, CA
Glendale, CA
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