By Gabriel Bristol

Whether you have one or two employees who work from your garage, a handful who work from a warehouse, or hundreds ensconced in different offices across the globe you face many of the same challenges and ultimately ask a variation of the same question. How do you effectively lead your team and spur them on to success?

Being a good Chief Executive Officer or Chief Everything Officer means you absolutely have to have a vision and be able to confidently share that vision. Yes, you have to have an understanding of your company’s finances and its resources and yes you have to understand your sales and marketing strategies as well as your key customer service metrics, but most importantly you need to understand where your company is going and how you plan to get there. You also need to be able to share this vision and get buy-in from your employees.

Here are three ways vision improves your company:

1. Vision Improves Productivity

The vision or direction of the company affects the goals we set and many of the decisions made to achieve those goals. If your team knows and gets the vision, they will understand the choices that are made. They will also begin to take their own steps toward those goals organically, without any prompting.

2. Vision Improves Morale

There will be periods when sales are slow, inventory is low, customer dissatisfaction is high, or a key employee is missing in action. During these times you have to keep morale high and rally the troops. It may seem simple, but reminding everyone, including yourself, what the vision is can help keep everyone focused on why they are doing what they are doing and what the ultimate goal is.

3. Vision Creates Opportunity

When other companies know where you’re going and what you’re doing, they may just decide to reach out and partner up. When the word gets out about your corporate vision, whether it’s through the various communication modalities or even employee word-of-mouth, it’s not uncommon for opportunities to come your way. This is the purest form of organic marketing and can help your company grow.

As your vision takes shape, you may find that it morphs along the way. That’s ok. Don’t be afraid to adapt in order to exploit new opportunities.

Just remember, if the vision changes, and becomes bigger, or more focused, be sure to continue to communicate that to your employees and get their buy in.

Gabriel Bristol is president and CEO of Intelicare Direct and is a highly sought-after public speaker at corporate events and frequent contributor to business strategy publications. Twitter: @Gabriel_Bristol.

The post How to be a Successful CEO: Have Vision appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

by Alexandra Levit

 

In the next 10 to 15 years, as many as half of American professionals could be contract workers, meaning they earn income from a variety of organizations rather than working full time for one company. Given how quickly this trend is taking hold in the United States and the fact that only a minority percentage of the American workforce has past or current experience with contract employment, individuals who expect to be gainfully employed through mid-century have a steep learning curve.

 

contract work

 

In order to help American professionals effectively transition to contract work, Gene Zaino’s MBO Partners and DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board, of which I am a member, conducted a survey of already successful contract workers to identify the traits and skills that are most essential for getting and staying ahead in this type of employment situation. Based on our findings, here are our primary recommendations for aspiring contract employees.

 

1. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Survey respondents told us that in addition to having solid expertise in their field, successful contract workers must be self-motivated self starters who have the ability to cope with uncertainty and an unpredictable income stream. They must be able to work alone while also possessing strong communication skills. Does this describe you? If not, admitting that you have some work to do is the first step. To enhance these critical skills, take advantage of opportunities to work on projects independently and collaborate with a diverse group of colleagues, partners and clients.

 

2. Bolster Your Network Organically

Many independent contractors aren’t gifted salespeople, but this apparently doesn’t matter as much as we might think. Most of our survey respondents don’t cold call or rely on traditional advertising to get business. Instead, they constantly expand their networks so that they are able to connect to prospective clients through current ones. Sales are all about word-of-mouth referrals, so reputation is king. This means that if you want to be a successful contract worker, you have to do such a great job that the people with whom you work want to talk about it. Furthermore, you must regularly communicate with people from various phases of your professional life and constantly seek new contacts. If you’ve been lazy about this because you have a full-time job and don’t need another one, it’s time to get moving. You will need these people sooner than you think.

 

3. Leave in Good Stead

Many of our survey respondents, including 57 percent of our female contractors, told us that they receive a large portion of assignments from former full-time employers. Successful contractors are able to make the transition from an employee relationship to a service provider relationship because they leave each and every full-time job on excellent terms — with employers thinking they can’t live without that person. Those accustomed to burning bridges because they believe they have nothing to lose will want to rethink that strategy. Most industries are pretty small communities, and in the world of contract work, where you might have hundreds of individual employers in your career as opposed to just a handful, you will inevitably run into the same people again and again.

 

4. Understand the Limitations of Social Media

Our independent contractor pool reported that while social media is important for brand building, it generally does not generate income. In fact, just 6 percent of respondents said that social media outreach led to paid project work. New and aspiring contractors should therefore adjust their expectations with respect to what social media will and won’t do for them, and refrain from spending too much time socializing on these networks. Having a professional website and a basic presence on general and industry-specific networks is smart, but putting all of your eggs in the proverbial social media basket is not.

 

5. Don’t Be in a Rush to Go Solo

Successful contractors are more likely to be older — with the bulk being 35 or older. Presumably this is the case because more seasoned professionals have had more time to establish their networks and reputations, and have a greater number of prior employers from which to draw. Instead of jumping right into a contract employment situation that’s extremely risky, younger workers should consider spending a few years in an organization that could help them jump-start their own businesses. While employed full time, younger professionals should work on enhancing their transferable skill repertoire (project management, marketing, finance, general business acumen, etc.), branding their expertise in the public domain and establishing senior-level relationships inside and outside of their current organizations.

 

6. Go Local

Although technological advances allow many contract workers to offer their services globally, the majority of our respondents still obtain most of their assignments within a single metro area or state rather than nationally or internationally. Successful contractors work at least one-third of the time onsite at a local client, and another third work partially onsite. While it’s a good idea to think about how you might leverage a larger and more diverse pool of potential employers, aspiring contractors should not forget the importance of being visible in their local communities. In particular, you should have regular access to employers who already hire contractors like you. Make this happen by joining and participating actively in your local chapters of third-party industry associations and attending business-related conferences serving your geographic area.

 

If you’re considering a contract or freelance career, do you know what you need to do to prepare? 

 

 

Alexandra LevitAlexandra Levit is a bestselling author, speaker and consultant who aims to help people find meaningful work and succeed beyond measure once they get there. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and an adviser to the Obama administration on workforce issues, Alexandra is lucky to count Microsoft, American Express, Intuit, and DeVry University among her current clients.

 

Originally published by StartupCollective.

 

Photo Credits

StartupCollective

The post 6 Ways To Prepare For Your Contract Work Career appeared first on KillerStartups.

by Rachel MacDonald

 

So you’ve got a great idea for a startup and you’ve honed your elevator pitch to perfection. You may have even started reaching out to potential investors to get your new business off the ground.

 

The following six tips can help you negotiate successfully with angel investors, even if it’s your first time at this particular rodeo.

 

angel investors

 

1. Understand the Nature of Angel Investment

Angel investing is particularly associated with Silicon Valley, but this practice is used all over the world. Angel investors are often already successful entrepreneurs, but they may be anyone with money to invest in a startup. In return for the funds that the investor provides, the angel gets a pre-specified share of the business, in effect owning a percentage of your company.

 

Most angel investors then sell this stake in the business in the future for a profit. However, if the business fails, they don’t get anything in return. Because of the high-risk nature of an angel investment, some investors prefer to take a highly hands on role within the company. They also will need to see proof of your startup’s growth prospects before beginning negotiation.

 

RELATED: 3 Mistakes To Avoid When Pitching Investors

 

2. Nurture Existing Leads

Treat relationships with potential investors as you would those with any other business leads. If there are any individuals who have shown interest in your company, follow up with them at least once a month to update them on your progress. This way, they’ll feel that they won’t be jumping into an unknown investment.

 

3. Track Results From Day One

Angel investors are interested in measurable results. To attract attention, keep track of all of your data from the get-go. No matter how small your business may be, spend time recording leads, profit, and website traffic. This provides proof of the progress you’ve made from day one.

 

4. Look Beyond Money When Evaluating Investor Value

Naturally, angel investment is attractive to entrepreneurs in need of startup cash. However, it also provides the opportunity for other benefits. Many investors are experienced entrepreneurs who have already learned valuable lessons through trial and error. If they have a financial stake in your company, they will most certainly wish to impart their wisdom to ensure its success. Look at the experience and networking potential of an investor as well as his or her net worth.

 

RELATED: Why “Just Do It” Should Be Every Startup Founders’ Motto

 

5. Have a Two-Way Conversation

You will undoubtedly put a great deal of time into refining your pitch for investors, but don’t forget that you’ll be entering a business relationship that’s ideally mutually beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the investor during your negotiations. Find out more information about the individual’s investment history, resources, industry experience, and expectations. Follow up with references from past beneficiaries and consider all points carefully.

 

An overbearing or shady investor can often be dealt with in the same way that you would deal with a difficult boss, but there’s more at stake in this case. It may be impossible to separate yourself from a difficult investor in the future, so take care to do your research before you enter into any contract.

 

RELATED: How To Find Your Weakness And Turn It Into An Advantage

 

6. Follow Up

Don’t give up if a worthy investor has passed on your offer at this time. Continue updating your records and refining your pitch. It may be that you’ll find more interested parties in the future, or perhaps you’ll get a second chance with your pitch. Finding and negotiating with angel investors isn’t easy, but when done successfully, it can become a mutually beneficial, (and hopefully very lucrative) relationship for both sides.

 

 

Rachel MacDonald Rachel MacDonald is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to London.

 

Photo Credits

bpsusf | Courtesy of Rachel MacDonald

The post How To Negotiate Successfully With Angel Investors appeared first on KillerStartups.

Have you ever met a designer who loves writing client proposals?

 

Didn’t think so. Neither has Nathan Powell. To spare creative professionals the burdens of putting together proposals, he’s been hard at work building his startup, Nusii, proposal software that lets the pros spend more time doing the actual work that brings in money.

 

 

Nathan Powell

 

 

10-hr days, relaunch, trouble with developers… Sound familiar? Nathan graciously took some time out of his packed schedule to tell us about Nusii and his bootstrapping adventures. His is a proposal you probably shouldn’t refuse.

 

What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?

Nusii is an online proposal service for professionals in the creative sector. I’m co-founder of Nusii and the creative force behind what makes it tick. Our customers range from freelance designers to digital agencies around the world.

 

What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?

We’re most proud of Nusii’s simplicity. Many of our competitors believe in “more is more.” We’ve stripped out all non-essential elements and made proposals lightning fast.

 

How’d you come up with the name for your company?

Nusii began life in Spanish. As I’m sure you know, “Si” is Yes in English and elongating the word gave it a kind of fist pump! It’s short, sweet and I hope not to difficult to remember. Even if people do pronounce it in all manner of ways.

 

 

nusii landing

 

 

What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?

My first computer was a Spectrum+2. I had it for games, games that loaded via cassette and only ever loaded half the time. Ah, the noises it used to make… I didn’t actually get on the web until relatively late. I think I was about 19 or so, and I didn’t have my first “real” computer until I was 21 or 22. I was a late bloomer.

 

What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?

I usually start around 10am. Depending on the day, I finish about 8pm. It’s quite a long day. I’m hoping that Nusii will help to shorten this.

 

When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?

The last vacation we took as a family was to Portugal. We rented a house in a national park. It was completely isolated, a pool and no internet. Lovely!

 

When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?

Usually just before I fall asleep, which is a little annoying as I have to get up and write them down.

 

 

Nathan Powell & daughter

 

 

How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?

Nusii started as myself. I contracted out development of the MVP and now I have a technical co-founder, Michael Koper. He’s a great developer and has a real interest in the business side, which helps greatly.

 

A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?

It was actually the classic “scratching my own itch” that was validated through interviewing other creative professionals and ultimately through paying customers. Nobody likes writing proposals, at least nobody I know. The fact that there were already other established services out there gave me the confidence to say, “what the hell, let’s do this!”

 

Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.

Getting the initial MVP developed was challenging. I had $2,500 put aside to see if it was worth pursuing. I’m sure you’ll agree that 2.5k is not a huge sum of money, but it was what I was prepared to lose. The developer I hired got the job done, but there were so many bugs, UX problems – and it was UGLY. This was a frustrating time for me, but it did one thing. It proved there was a need for Nusii, and I found my first paying customers.

 

How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?

I get very frustrated when things go wrong. I’m quite impatient, just ask my co-founder. Probably my biggest frustration though is time. We always want our services to be perfect from day one, but its never the case. Businesses grow, as do founders. Patience is the key.

 

What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?

We work remotely, so my office is a home office. I have my own private space where (in theory) no one disturbs me, but with a family, two cats and a dog it can get tricky. When I work, I tend to listen to music. I love podcasts, but I can’t concentrate when I’m focused. Podcasts are reserved for the car.

 

How do you picture your company in 5 years?

I’d love to see Nusii as the point of reference for proposal writing. Our blog is already sizable in terms of valuable content, but I aim to make it the place to go when you have any proposal writing doubts. Financially, I would love for Nusii to be my sole focus and to provide for both my own family and that of Michael’s.

 

Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?

The people who inspire me are the every-day folks who work to make a better life for themselves and their families. Tales of millions being made is always great, but I love a good underdog story. I want to be one of those stories.

 

How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?

Nusii is 100% self-funded. In the short term we have no interest in outside funding. We’ll get there on our own terms.

 

Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?

With time in such short supply, if a task isn’t pushing your startup forward, leave it and work on something that will. Focus.

 

What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?

Take a gamble and go for it, but have a limit. Whether it’s time or financial, put a number on it. If after X, it’s still not working, be brave and bin it. On to the next!

 

What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?

I’d buy a house for me and my family. Sorry, boring I know.

 

Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?

No not really. I consider myself to be very much in the trenches and under the radar. I’ll feel successful when my business allows me to decide when I work and not the other way around.

 

Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?

  1. Twitter: I need my feed.
  2. Dribbble: I come from a design background, and it’s great to get a regular dose of design.
  3. Mailchimp: I’m in there most days, playing with some autoresponder or another. A solid service. Just wish it had a bit more in terms of functionality.
  4. Invision: I use Invision to mockup, prototype and test pretty much any new functionalities.
  5. GoSquared: Analytics. When it’s not crashing, it’s lovely.

 

What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?

Spotify. Right now it’s on Radio…

 

Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @pjrvs – A greatly creative guy with an answer for most things.
  2. @brennandunn – A very clever guy when it comes to consulting and looking at the numbers.
  3. @robwalling – Looking to bootstrap a startup. Rob is the guy.

 

Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.

Nusii is actually relaunching this month (September 2014), so numbers are difficult. Put it this way, over the last 4 weeks our trial to paid customers has increased by almost 100%. Ask me again in a couple of months.

 

Well, best of luck on the relaunch. To end proposal woes, check out nusii.com and sign up for early access. Follow the startup on Twitter and the blog to learn more.

 

Photo Credits

Courtesy of Nathan Powell | Nusii

The post Client Proposals Simplified: Interview With Founder Of Nusii, Nathan Powell appeared first on KillerStartups.

Coke can

Many people got angry about this fun Coke can. (Read: 1 2 3)

Why? Because it looked like a Diet Coke can. You didn’t realize that you were drinking the wrong thing until it was too late. 

There are a few interesting lessons from this:

  1. Testing is important. You need an outside perspective and a fresh look to catch things that your internal team missed.
  2. Complexity is a problem. With hundreds of products, The Coca-Cola Company has so many possible points of confusion that it’s probably very hard to avoid things like this.
  3. Who’s in the middle? When you have lots of products, you need someone in the middle who can take a high-level view. Someone who can catch things missed by people who are deep-focused on a specific product.
  4. People are way too easily annoyed and probably need some rum in their Coke.