Entrepreneurship

The Small Business Administration makes it known that 50 percent of startup businesses fail within the first 5 years. It’s higher for restaurants. And of those that survive, only about 4 percent ever reach $1,000,000 in revenue. It appears that small businesses are somewhere between...

What Is A Freelancer? A freelancer might moonlight - test the waters before going it alone and on your own. Typically freelancers are employed by another company full-time and simply take on extra work for clients at night. A lot of business owners get their start...

If you want people to meet your expectations, you have to communicate what you expect. Otherwise, you could fall victim to a miscommunication. As author of the book, Managing Expectations, I’m my own best case study. Here’s an example. A faraway friend named Jack and I...

Entrepreneur or Working For The Man? This is part of Startup Advice series from our friends at Both Sides of The Table.  Mark Suster is a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company...

Marketing content is not a science, more like part art and part science. With ever changing regulations, algorithms, and industry trends, it is difficult to pin point what you should say and when you should say it.  Here are some things that we wish we...

Much of what happens at a startup happens out of sight of journalists and their readers. It's not the stuff of compelling reading, either. Running a business involves a vast amount of logistical work, stuff that has to be learned step by step if you don't already know how to do it. You don't find this out in business school. The only way to learn it is by doing it. That's why, if you've got a killer business idea, you should go out and do it. You don't find this out by being a journalist, either. Back in the dot-com era, another writer and I got together, decided we had a pretty good grasp on this digital publishing thing, and started a company. We probably did have a good idea. Our plan was to write and syndicate how-to content like tips and tricks, starting with tech products and then expanding into other categories. We figured we'd sell advertising, and syndicate our content to sites that needed to make themselves stickier, like e-commerce sites. A better-funded competitor, eHow, went on to dominate the how-to category before getting acquired. It's still around. Meanwhile, syndication turned out to be a decent model for making money from content. We were just 10 years too early. At least, that's what I like to tell people. In reality, we had a great idea but no clue how to execute it. Despite great advice from more experienced business people and investors, we were good at the writing and editing business but not so hot at the generating-revenue and organizing-a-team business.
As entrepreneurs and founders of businesses we have a great many balls in the air at any given time. The average day finds many of us actively managing a team, communicating with investors, raising funding, performing HR chores, recruiting, keeping the books, executing marketing plans, performing customer service, and taking out the trash. To accomplish all of this, we struggle mightily to stay efficient and to increase our own productivity, all the while struggling to find the personal capacity to do it all and to do it all well. Keeping focus is the critical component in our days and our ability to do so can impact not just on how much work we can get done on a given day, but can also seriously effect the ultimate success or failure of our business. One of the ways that I have learned to manage my own capacity, and maintain my own focus in the face of mighty of all manner of interruption, disturbance, interference, and hindrance is with a simple tool: the checklist. It is as low tech as low-tech gets: a piece of paper (in my case a Moleskin notebook) and a pen is all it takes to manage your own time, improve your efficiency, and increase your capacity. Here are 5 thoughts on why a checklist works and some tips for their use.

1. Efficiency has an ebb and a flow.

Face it: some days you are just better than others. We all have days when we are rocketing along, firing all cylinders and hitting one home run after the next. These are the great days when we can accomplish just about any task we have set for ourselves and these are the days that matter. Of course there will be the less-than-great days and these are the ones that require you to focus all the harder to maintain your productivity. On bad days I am even more dependent on the simple unadorned checklist I use to keep me focused, force me to be task-oriented, and drive me through in spite of that low-tide of efficiency.
I’m all for determined do-it-yourself careers. There is something almost awe inspiring about strapping on your boots and thrusting yourself into a competitive career with only your experiences and the world as your teacher. It really takes courage to take a passion and simply say, “I am going to do this for a living.” Unfortunately, far too many aspiring designers get caught up in the dreamy ideals of do-it-yourself career building and try to throw themselves into the design world. They spend thousands of dollars on high-end design software and equipment, thinking that only these tools and their determination (and perhaps a little help from blogs and other internet educational resources) will allow them to stand toe to toe with the design giants of the internet.
The retired four-star U.S. Army general overhauled communications for troops in Afghanistan. Today, he's a speaker and educator who thinks business leaders have a lot to learn from military management styles. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is best known as the retired four-star U.S. Army general who served as commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He's credited with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and is known for speaking his mind—both when other military leaders were reluctant to challenge decisions, and in off-the-cuff political remarks to the press. This tendency toward over-communication may have been the beam that buckled, crumbling Gen. McChrystal's career. However, during his military tenure, bolstering in-force communications was arguably one of his greatest achievements. And in recent years, the skill has helped him build another career as an author, public speaker, and educator (that job may seem counterintuitive, McChrystal joked: "I could have never gotten into Yale; now I'm grading their papers"). McChystal spoke at the Inc. 500 Conference in Washington, D.C., about his leadership style, wide-ranging career, and what leaders in the business world can glean from military management styles. We've broken down the most intruiging lessons the general shared during his speech and an exclusive interview with Inc.com's Christine Lagorio.
One of the key distinctions between an entrepreneur and an operating executive is an entrepreneur’s almost seamless agility in the face of changing circumstances versus an operating executive’s intense execution focus on a plan. World-class entrepreneurs learn how to combine both. Driving home over the mountains from a Coastal Commission hearing, I had time to ponder an email I received from a city official as the road wound through the Redwood trees. The Coastal Commission had found that a zoning change his city requested didn’t conform to the Coastal Act, and we denied it. I felt sorry for him because he had put together a project that depended upon the property owner, developer, unions, hotel operator, local neighbors, city council, weather, wind speed, phase of the moon and astrological sign all aligning just to get the project in front of us. It was like herding cats and pushing water uphill. Reading his email I was sympathetic realizing that if you substituted customers, channel, product development, hiring, board of directors, and fund raising, he was describing a typical day at a startup. I felt real kinship until I got to his last sentence: “Now we’re screwed because we had no Plan B.” Say what?