It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur—in the last decade, technology has leveled the playing field and propelled an entrepreneurial revolution. As an entrepreneur, you now have more access to information that enables you to make more intelligent choices more quickly. You have an advantage over big businesses in that you’re lighter, more flexible, and faster on your feet. You can target new markets more quickly, and you can turn on a dime.

But being a successful entrepreneur requires that you look at the big picture and follow a plan through from beginning to end. Rieva Lesonsky, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine gives some practical guidelines that can help you when beginning your enterprise:

1 –  Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Consider starting your business part-time, especially if it’s online, while you’re working and have a steady income. It usually takes six months to a year to get a business going, and you don’t want your ability to make your house payment to hinge upon your company being an overnight success. Start with what you can manage, financially and time-wise, and scale up as your business grows.

2 –  Find Your Niche
The days of general stores are over. Particularly online, consumers are looking for stores that specialize. You have to find a need—something a specific group of people want but can’t get at the big chain stores—and fill it. Advises Lesonsky, “You can’t compete with the big guys, so you have to find where the big guys aren’t and go into your niches.”

3 – Have an Online Presence
Even if you’re not planning to start an online retail business, consider that the internet can still play a valuable role in your company. Having an online presence eliminates the limitations of physical location and broadens your customer base by, literally, millions. It’s also an excellent tool for promoting yourself and letting people, even in your area, know that you’re there, and what you’re doing.

4 – Refuse to Quit
Successful entrepreneurship requires creativity, energy, and a drive to keep going when you fail. Few people realize that before Bill Gates created the hugely successful Microsoft 3.0, he created a Microsoft 1.0 and 2.0, both of which flopped—but he kept at it. And that determination and refusal to give up is what will separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. Says Lesonsky, “Arm yourself with optimism to get beyond the ‘No’ or the trouble. There’s nothing wrong in failure— don’t repeat the same mistake!”

Regardless of the reasons for your lack of energy or passion, there are specific, predictable ways to get past the funk. When you apply these suggestions, you will lift both your spirits and your productivity, and begin to give you your rhythm back.

We’ve all been there. Ballplayers call it a slump. Some call it a lull or a funk. These are the times when you don’t seem to have as much energy or passion for your work. You can’t seem to get as excited (or excited at all) about the tasks in front of you. You are less productive, and you don’t feel as good about your work either. Beyond that, the quality of your work you are getting done may be slipping as well.

Many things can cause this situation, and it can affect both individuals and teams. Regardless of the reasons for the position, there are specific, predictable ways to get past the funk. When you apply these suggestions (and some of them you can use within one minute of finishing this article), you will lift both your spirits and your productivity, and begin to give you your rhythm back.

Since there’s no reason to wait any longer, let’s get started!

Get started. The action is the essential force we have. Taking action, whatever it is, will make a big difference. Often our energy is drained by procrastination. Lou Holtz, the longtime football coach, said, “When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done.” Stop talking about it or thinking about it and get started. Do something. Do anything. Get started!

Fake it. Dale Carnegie taught us that if we “act enthusiastic, we’ll be enthusiastic.” His fundamental truth. If you don’t immediately take action, you can begin by getting yourself excited about the task. If you are having trouble getting passionate about the work, get excited about getting over your slump. That will motivate you and help get you going.

Start small. The first actions we take don’t have to be large. We may even feel a bit daunted by what is in front of us. If the slump is due to the size of the project or obstacle in front of us the size of our actions doesn’t matter. Take a small step right now.

Think big. While you may start small, you can still think big. Having a big vision can help motivate you and get you excited. It can be incredibly helpful to have a big view.

Set a goal. Of course, the “think big” suggestion is related to goal setting. But you can have a big vision without genuinely having a purpose. Again, at this point, the size of the goal is less important than having a clear endpoint that is something you want. I didn’t make this the first suggestion, though you could argue it should be. Why didn’t I? Because sometimes people procrastinate in setting a goal! You need this step, and if you can get that clear focus at the start, all the better.

Get some help. Sometimes a task is easier if you work with someone. Get a co-worker to share the load on your project and offer to help them in return. Ask a neighbor for a hand. Their helping hand or their camaraderie may be what stimulates you, or maybe it is the accountability that comes from another person saying, “I’m ready, where do we start?”

Get some advice. Talk to someone who knows about your project or task. Ask for an opinion. Help will be beneficial, and you will likely feel some support for your actions.

Have a daily plan. Do a little bit more each day. A significant effort today is excellent, but you might find yourself right back where you started emotionally and psychologically. Have a daily plan and work that plan. Consistently work on the task or project, and you will find your energy and enthusiasm growing. Soon your slump will be a distant memory.

Set a reward. Maybe you will reward yourself with your favorite dinner, or a night out, or a new CD. Pick something to commiserate with your task and something that is motivating to you (or your team). It won’t be long until you are enjoying the rewards you set for yourself.

Johnny Cash wrote and sang a song called “Get Rhythm,” and the last chorus goes . . .

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Get taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

All these suggestions come back to that musical advice. When we get into a rhythm, we get out of our lull and into greater joy and productivity.

Go ahead, get rhythm today!

The simple answer to the seemingly complex question of “Who needs a business advisor?” is … everyone responsible for operating a business. That’s right. The Fortune 50 CEO to the one-person show needs an advisor.

The CEO of a public company has mentors as well as a board of directors. They often don’t have a choice of who their advisors are, but small business owners do. Unfortunately, with this choice of advisors comes another option that is not to get any help at all.

Not getting any help at all is very often the cause of business failure. The small business owner will usually think there’s not enough time or money for an advisor. Think about that comment.

How can you not have the money to get help from someone that can potentially save or make you more money since you are not getting it done on your own? Or how about that time you are lacking? Maybe if that owner sat down for an hour with an advisor, they would be able to see why they don’t have time and do something about it with the help of someone who has already been in those shoes.

A coach or advisor gives to small business owners something most of them don’t have; a sounding board and a board of directors to turn to for advice. These are two great resources to use when trying to avoid “trial and error” decisions and processes.

I’m not knocking trial and error as the way to learn things. I’ve personally used that method and fared well in many cases. But that is a case-by-case basis, not for on-going daily concerns. Don’t forget that this method is also very costly and time-consuming. Why not ask someone who has probably already faced the problem?

What many business owners do not realize is that they rarely go through many trials and tribulations that someone else has never dealt with and 70-75% of their business is the same as every other business including HR, finances, sales, marketing, and funding. The other 25-30% is industry specific.

Small to mid-sized business owners take away much more from an advisor than big businesses. Because the owners wear a lot of hats, many of those hats take time away from the things the owner needs to make a priority to see their company succeed.

These are the things they should be doing and don’t have the time or things they are taking care of and have no experience. These situations take away from them doing what they do best. That’s a problem.

The question now is how to find an advisor. There are many types of business advisors out there. Some are pure “coaches,” and others are true developers and implementers that will roll up their sleeves with you when asked. It’s up to you to pick the type of person you want or need. Here are a few things to think about:

– Do they click with your personality? There are many good advisors out there but if they don’t click with you as a “business friend,” don’t bother with them because you will end up fighting them even when you agree on the advice.

– Have they owned a small business before? Gray hair does not equal business ownership knowledge. I promise you that the ex-CEO or Senior manager from a large company knows very little about successfully operating a small business. These are two significantly different worlds.

– Don’t worry if a potential advisor doesn’t know your specific industry. Remember that a lot of your troubles have nothing to do with your industry. It would help if the advisor had contacts/resources in your industry for you when specific problems arise.

– Look for flexibility. A potential advisor that pushes for more than 20 hours a month of your time from day one is probably out for money. Until they start working with you, there is no way of knowing that they need that much time per month to meet your goals and timelines. A good advisor will understand that you have committed to getting back on track just by the fact that you are talking to them. They shouldn’t need to try and get a ridiculous time/money commitment from you if they want to help.

– Make it a local thing. This suggestion is a two-part issue. First, the advisor would agree that when you need face time that they come to you. Second, there is entirely no reason why a small business with locations in one state needs a business advisor that must fly in or travel more than 2 hours to see them. These companies somehow find suckers to take their common advice and huge reports full of fluff and pay for travel costs. There are plenty of advisors local to every company in this country. Yes, even in Hawaii.

Once you made the well-informed decision of getting help in making your business a success, keep a few things in mind. You should commit to working with your advisor for a good six months. Nothing gets fixed overnight. Also, since you are paying for it, please do yourself a favor and be open to suggestions, bring important things to your advisor for help in deciding and make the use of your time with the advisor a priority. Don’t forget that an advisor or coach should never choose for you. It’s your company; they are there to make suggestions and guide you.

Working with an advisor can be a very enlightening experience. You will start to see the forest from the trees and not feel like you are the only person on the planet going through tough times as a business owner.

All business owners eventually need help. The successful ones put aside their pride and desire to be at the center of all aspects of the company and get the help. Do yourself and your company a favor and be one of the truly successful business owners. Get an advisor and get all you can out of them. If your advisor loves what he/she does for a living as such as you love what you do, you can’t go wrong.

Do you ever wonder why some home-based businesses are outrageously successful while others barely get off the ground? It’s no secret that some work at home mavericks have cracked the code. Discover 7 Habits of creating your work at home empire.

You’ve read the ads or seen the infomercials. “Build a six or seven-figure income while lounging in your pajamas in your work at home business.” For many people who hear this, their scam detector goes up, and they become defensive. Why? Because they have heard countless horror stories of people, who have lost their shirt trying to create a business from home.

However, the truth is there are thousands of home-based entrepreneurs around the country who have cracked the code, created their place in the world and taking it to the bank. So how did they do it? Why do some people struggle and never break even while others create outrageously successful home-based careers?

There are certain habits which I believe are consistent with all these enterprises. Here are seven habits or traits when implemented work to ensure an outrageously profitable venture.

  1. Find a hungry target market and look for a product or service to meet their needs. I am surprised how many frustrated entrepreneurs miss this. What often happens is someone gets excited, hit by an entrepreneurial seizure and tries to start a business with a product or service and feels it will sell just because of their emotional attachment. Keep your mind open when looking at home based business income opportunities. Before you jump in, make sure someone wants to buy whatever you must sell.

Don’t get me wrong you want to have a passion for what you do. However, if you love eight-track tapes, it might be a problem. And depending on your age, you might be thinking, “What’s an 8-track tape?” Get my point? However, if you find a group of people who are hungry for what you have is like shooting fish in a bucket. When a group wants a problem solved, they will pay you to do it.

  1. Until a sale is made nothing happens. I am amazed at how many budding entrepreneurs say they hate sales. It is unfortunate because everything else in a business is an expense. If you don’t have sales coming in the door, eventually the doors will close.

Sales and marketing if done correctly is the engine to a company’s success. The key is to add value to the customer at every opportunity. One of the vital things to remember is the first time you obtain a client is the most expensive. But the real wealth is built when you can sell to a customer repeatedly. Some companies even take a loss to get the customer in the pipeline because they realize the real money is on the back end and the actual profit is in the lifetime value of the customer.

  1. Develop a strong team. One of the traits that will accelerate the success of any business is the leverage generated by the help of others.

Robert Kiyosaki Author of Rich Dad Poor Dad says, “Business and investing are team sports.” Financially speaking, the average investor or small-business person loses because they do not have a team. Instead of a team, they act as individuals who are trampled by brilliant teams.”

While you are building a home-based business, you don’t want to do it alone. There are only 24 hours a day, and you can’t do everything. You want to look for opportunities to outsource all non-revenue generating activities. Successful proprietors don’t waste time on filing and organizing.

  1. Focus on the business not just working in the market. The focus is what separates you from being able to create a company that provides you with significant income and lifestyle versus one where the doors may close. Successful entrepreneurs focus on the big picture.

It’s sad to me when people say, “No one can do what I do.” It might be true however it presents a great challenge. You are now a slave to your business. The business no longer serves you. The goal must be to take “you” out of as much of your business as possible.

Look for ways to remove you, automate and systemize the process. One of the ways to do this is to use the leverage of technology. You might want to use a website that allows people to order your product or service 24/7. Or write a book which sells while you are asleep. Get the picture.

  1. A highly successful home-based business has a central theme or mission. Many home-based businesses never reach success because they are trying to do too many things at the same time. You might be saying, “But I want to create multiple streams of income.”

The problem with multiple streams of income can be a nightmare if approached incorrectly. New entrepreneurs often make the mistake of trying to create several profit centers from nonaligned businesses. For example, you will find people who work to start real estate, network marketing, and internet marketing all at the same time.

The reason you will almost never have success with this strategy is you cannot build momentum. Each business has an entirely different business model, and you can’t leverage the energy of one to another.

However, the successful home-based entrepreneur understands the law of momentum. For example, if you were an author one of your products would be the book. However, you could spin that product into an empire by leveraging it into an e-book, tape set, workbook, seminar, boot camp, and coaching program.

Do you see the power of having one main product or theme and how you can leapfrog to success? You want to be focused and committed to a central idea. Once you have success, you can add another stream of income. This trait is one of the hidden keys to success.

  1. Resilient and quick to adapt to change. It’s one of the distinct advantages solo-entrepreneurs have over large companies. Often large corporations invest thousands of dollars in a project and even when they know it’s not working, they are slow to change. In Corporate America this may not kill a business because one mistake is just a cog in the wheel.

However, in small business your ability to change on a dime allows you to test things and when things work you do it with massive all out action. And when something is not working you let it go, check something else and move forward.

  1. Commit to continual education. Now, I am not talking about another degree or certificate. There are plenty of people with plaques on their walls that can’t create the income and lifestyle they want. However, I love the quote by one of the leading experts in self-development. Jim Rohn says, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

Personal development and specialized knowledge are often the difference between a fledgling operation and one that has a significant bottom line. Why? Because successful people know that the best investment they can make is in self.

Make sure that you are always staying ahead of the curve and immerse yourself in your area of expertise. You can do this by attending seminars, teleclasses, boot camps or participating in coaching programs.

Do you want to build wealth from home? Cut your learning curve by modeling one or all these traits from successful home-based businesses. You will find when you model those who have success you will too if you embody the same characteristics. Start today, and you will be on your way to outrageous fortune.

One of the hardest presentations to make is the entrepreneurial pitch. You have a great idea for a business, and you want someone to give you money to make it happen. The problem is getting over the predisposition against you by venture capitalists, angel investors, and even rich uncles. Why? Because 99% of the pitches they hear sound like sure-fire prescriptions to lose money!

If you are pitching investors to give you money for a new venture, you should subscribe to the following rules:

  1. Explain within 30 seconds precisely what your business is. Many entrepreneurs waste valuable time giving loads of data, background and other info—all the while investors are left scratching their heads thinking “What does this business DO?”
  2. Tell your audience who your customers will be. Paint a vivid, specific picture of these people.
  3. Explain why your customers are going to give you their hard-earned money.
  4. Explain who your competitors are. (And if you say you have no competitors, that is a sure sign you are unsophisticated and deserve no investment money!)
  5. Explain why you are the ONE to make this happen.
  6. Give your presentation with confidence and enthusiasm. Investors want a founder/CEO to be a chief salesperson; they want to see that you can convince the world of your dream—not just them.
  7. Hitch a ride to the moon, and you may land among the stars. Has Best Buy or Radio Shack agreed to distribute your new product? Investors feel much more comfortable knowing you have an established player willing to spread your wares.
  8. Ask for a specific amount of money. If all you do is ask for money, then you can’t complain if an investor gives you $3.25 for a cup of Starbucks coffee.
  9. Be specific when you tell prospects what you are going to spend the money on (hint: a trip to Maui for you and your friends will not impress)
  10. Dress well, act confident, and put on the air that you don’t need their money, but would be willing to accept it if they bring enough to the table to be a strategic partner for you. Sad but true regarding human nature, but people are much more likely to give you money if they feel you don’t need it.

Finally, make each pitch performance serve as a focus group for your next presentation. When one group of investors asks you a series of questions after you pitch, write down all those questions and make sure most of them are answered in your next pitch so that the next group doesn’t have to ask them. Keep pitching and keep improving your presentation and eventually, you may get funded.

PR’s Only True Measure

Can we agree that managers MUST plan to do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of theirs that MOST affect their operation?

Sure, you could measure the rather narrow results achieved by tactical subsets of your public relations program like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs or press releases. On the other hand, you as a business, non-profit or association manager might better measure the results of your strategic efforts to alter individual perception among your key outside audiences leading to changed behaviors, which then help you achieve your managerial objectives.

I mean, can we agree that managers MUST plan to do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of theirs that most affect their operation?

And especially so when they persuade the key outside folks to their way of thinking by helping to move them to take actions that allow their department, division or subsidiary to succeed?

But it takes more than good intentions for any manager to alter individual, key-audience perception leading to changed behaviors, something of profound importance to ALL business, non-profit and association managers.

He or she needs a plan dedicated to getting every member of the public relations team working towards the same external audience behaviors which ensure that the organization’s public relations effort stays sharply focused.

The foundation looks like this: we expect that people act on their perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose actions affect the organization the most, the mission of public relations is accomplished.

Results can materialize faster than you might suspect — for example, bounces in showroom visits; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat purchases; prospects starting to work with them; membership applications on the rise, and capital givers or specifying sources are looking their way.

Watch the real performers at work. They find out who among their key external audiences are behaving in ways that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then, they list them according to how severely their behaviors affect their organization.

Next, they must determine how most members of that key outside audience perceive the organization. If the resources to pay for what could be costly professional survey counsel aren’t there, Ms. or Mr. manager and his or her PR colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions themselves. The PR folks should already be quite familiar with how to gather and assess perception and behavior data.

Doing so means meeting with members of that outside audience and asking questions like “Are you familiar with our services or products?” “Have you ever had contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience?” And if you are that manager, you must be sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. Watch for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. When you find such, you will need to take steps to correct them, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors.

Now comes the challenge of selecting the specific perception to be altered which then becomes your public relations goal. You want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies, misconceptions or false assumptions.

The core reality of the whole drill is that a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there is like corned beef and cabbage without the cabbage. It’s just not the same. So, as you select one of three strategies (specially constructed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,), you must ensure that the goal and its strategy match each other. You wouldn’t want to select “change existing perception” when current perception is just right suggesting a “reinforce” strategy.

Now the time has come when you must create a compelling message carefully constructed to alter your key target audience’s perception, as specified by your public relations goal.

Remember that you can always combine your corrective message with another news announcement or presentation which may give it more credibility by downplaying the apparent need for such a correction.

The content of the message must be compelling and quite clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Naturally, you must be truthful, and your position logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience and move perception in your direction.

Occasionally, folks in the PR business will allude to the communications tactics necessary to move your message to the attention of that key external audience, as “beasts of burden” because they must carry your persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears of those important outside people.

Luckily, there is a wide choice because the list of tactics is lengthy. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases, and speeches. Or, you might choose radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours or customer briefings. There are scores available, and the only selection requirement is that the communications tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just like the members of your key target audience.

Of course, you can always move things along by adding more communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.

Right about now, the subject of progress reports will arise, but you will already be hard at work monitoring perceptions among your target audience members to test the effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using questions like those used during your earlier monitoring session, you’ll now be on sharp alert for signs that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your general direction.

Throughout, keep your eye on the core of this approach: persuade your most important outside audiences with the most significant impacts on your organization to your way of thinking. Then move them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary prevail.

Thus, instead of measuring the rather narrow results achieved by the tactical subsets of your public relations program like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs or press releases, you will have discovered the only accurate measure of public relations: the results of your strategic efforts to alter individual perception among your key outside audiences leading to changed behaviors, helping you achieve your managerial objectives.