For many people, it can be difficult to find that one person who can help them move forward in their careers or business. Finding a mentor can be an intimidating process, of course, and it’s also hard to know where to look. However, finding the ideal advisor – either for your business idea or career – might be a lot easier than you first thought. In this guide, we’re going to explain a few things about mentors and, more importantly, how you can find and approach them to get the solid business advice you crave. Let’s get started right away.
What makes a great mentor?
First of all, what can a business mentor teach you? The simple fact is that they bring a lot of experience to the table, and you will be able to bounce a lot of ideas around with them. They will have a great belief in you and your idea. They will be able to focus your mind on what’s important and advise you on strategy, networking, and establishing your vision. However, before you establish a relationship with a business mentor, it’s important to understand what you want, which we are going to go into right now.
Why do you need a mentor?
Looking for a guide is going to be a lot more difficult if you are unsure of why you need one. The first step to doing so is to establish some key business goals – what are you trying to achieve in business, and what are you looking for to help you? Do you need a good listener to act as a sounding board, for example, or are there specific business tasks that you need help with – marketing, or networking, for instance? Also, bear in mind that it’s possible to have more than one mentor if you need it.
Selling yourself to a mentor
Make sure that you have a simple one-liner memorised that explains who you are and what you do. It’s also worth considering brushing up your small talk skills. You will need to appear enthusiastic, inquisitive and incredibly keen to learn. You also need to leave your ego at the door – no one will consider helping you if you seem unwilling to listen properly.
Establishing a connection – start close from home
If you are looking for a mentor, you need to establish a connection. It could be online or on social media, or it could be in person. But one of the best things you can do to start looking for a business mentor is ask your wider family and friends. It works on two levels. First of all, if you have a family member or friend who already owns a fruitful and long-running business they could be an invaluable source of information. Sure, different industries require different skills, but ultimately all businesses need one important thing: getting results. And the theories and methods of getting those results don’t change much between industries at all. The second way family and friends can help is that the six degrees of separation theory come into play. They might know someone who knows someone else – and before you know it, you could be going out for a dinner meeting with Bill Gates.
Network like crazy
Not everyone has family and friends with a fantastic black book of business contacts. And if this is the case for you, it’s important to get yourself out there. Try attending local business events and getting to know local business leaders – it could prove invaluable. Trade shows are another great opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, and as long as you follow up with your new contacts after the event, you have a chance of striking gold. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that you don’t want to plump for the first person that shows an interest. Finding a good and long-lasting mentor won’t happen overnight, and it requires a lot of meetings and relationship development to know if you both fit each other.
Spread your wings
If you are a local business owner, don’t be afraid to approach others in your industry who do business elsewhere. As long as you aren’t treading on anyone’s toes, many successful owners will be happy to lend you an ear. And they might even be able to recommend someone who would suit your needs. However, bearing in mind that the Internet is making marketplaces smaller than ever, be careful about who you choose to contact – some people might see you as a threat if you intend to have a significant online presence that serves a national market.
Pay for it
Don’t be ashamed of paying for a business advisor or consultant. Ultimately, this is your easiest option (if you have the budget) and it’s a far quicker method of tapping into expertise than developing a long-term relationship. As long as you research each potential consultant and are sure they can bring you value, paying for mentorship can work.
Developing the relationship
Whether you are paying for it or not, it takes time to build up a healthy relationship with a mentor. Once you have decided you are a good fit for each other, you will need to take some time to find out how the other works, including identifying each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to agree on a workflow – and, of course, any potential payment terms. Make sure that you draw up a schedule that outlines how often you will meet and determines some short-term and long-term goals.
Completing the process
With any luck, your relationship will blossom and result in success – for both of you. It might be the case that you have developed a friendship, but ultimately you should be in a position where you can be a mentor to someone else, rather than the mentoree. But what if you haven’t’ achieved your goals? And what if the relationship hasn’t worked out as well as you had hoped? It’s best to reduce contact over time, and always be polite and respectful. Thank your mentor for the things they have helped you with – there will always be something you have learned. And if you do decide to find another mentor, make sure that you don’t leave your previous contact feeling aggrieved – you never know when it could come back to bite you.
10 Things To Do Before Starting A Business
You should not underestimate the challenge of starting your own company. It is always going to be a massive endeavor to take on. You need to make sure that you prepare for the uphill climb because there is certainly a steep road ahead. The idea that most businesses fail within the first five years has been hotly debated however starting and running a business for years on end is no small endeavour. The key cause is that new business owners do not take the right steps before opening their company. There are a number of important issues to consider before you even think about opening your doors.
Find Your Target Market
Your first step has to be thinking about your target market. You need to consider who is going to be interested in buying from your business and who your products or services appeal to. No product is universal and finding the right target market is going to increase your chances of making large profits. Your target market is going to impact everything about your business model from how you promote your company to where you choose to promote it. For instance, if you are using sponsored content it will shape which blogs you select for the articles advertising your business.
Name And Logo
Next consider the name and logo for your business. The name and logo needs to be memorable and dynamic. It should stand out amongst the sea of competition that you’ll face online. You may want to pay more attention to the logo rather than the name. Research shows that consumers are more likely to remember images rather than words. Consider hiring a professional to create your logo too. That way, you can avoid it looking as though it came out of a cookie cutter. Once you have decided on a name and logo, trademarking is vital. You must make sure other businesses aren’t able to piggyback off your potential success. Also have a look at Branding Considerations For Your New Business.
Build Your Site
Where are you going to display the name and logo of your business? A key area of your campaign would be your website. Again, you should hire a professional to design and website and make sure you host it yourself. By hosting it, you can increase your potential ranking online, thus attracting more traffic to your site. You need to think about what your site is going to be used for. It could be a place purely for marketing purposes, or you may want to set it up for purchases. If the latter is true, you must invest in secure sales software to protect customers data.
Set Up Social Media
No company will survive on the modern market without a social media presence. You need to set up profiles on everything from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat. This will give you a wide range of options when choosing how to interact with potential customers online. More importantly, it will enable users online to easily find your business, updates, and information. These profiles can should have a specific tone and a consistent. You can also republish any content that you produce across all your profiles. This will ensure that you get the largest reach online.
Get In The Green
Starting a business is always going to be expensive, and it will damage your credit score at the beginning. You will need to borrow a lot of money for everything from inventory to employees. Increasing your credit score before you open your company will ensure you can borrow money with low-interest rates making it more manageable. At the start, most business owners pay for expenses out of their own savings and quickly run out of money. At this point, you will have no choice but to borrow. It is crucial that lenders trust you to pay the money back or interest rates will quickly push your company into unmanageable levels of debt.
Pick Your Business Model
There are lots of business models to choose from when you decide how to run your company. For instance, it is possible to set up a company and run it from home, online or tap into an established brand via a franchise model. You might also consider using freelancers or outsourcing agents rather than hiring permanent employees on contracts. It all depends on the type of business that you want to run and the cost cutting schemes that you want to use. Another good post to read is What Is The Best Legal Structure For My Business?.
Hire A Legal Advisor
A legal advisor is always going to be a beneficial hire for your business. It should be one of the first individuals you think about recruiting. They can help you with everything from paying the right amount in tax to forming contracts with business owners for suppliers and stock. They will ensure that you are up to date with important regulations and laws that will affect how you run your business. Also read Why Its Important To Engage A Lawyer ASAP When Starting A Business.
Form Contacts In The Industry
No business owner is an island, and it’s important that you have people in the industry who you can contact for help and support. A mentor to help guide you and provide skilled opinion is also highly recommended. You also want to make sure that you have clients set up, interested in your service before you open your doors. Early guaranteed customers will be crucial for keeping your company profitable in the first few months. You might already have contacts from a previous position in a similar business. If you don’t, think about attending tradeshows and exhibitions. This will give you a natural way to rub shoulders with investors, suppliers, and buyers.
Consult With An Expert
You won’t be an expert in all the areas of running a business. But you can hire someone who is. There are consultants for every sector of a company who can aid you in marketing, accounting or employee management. With someone by your side who has experience in these areas, you can avoid some of the common early pitfalls new owners always fall in.
Prepare Your Escape Plan
Finally, make sure you have an escape plan ready if things don’t go your way. It is possible that your business doesn’t see the level of demand it needs to stay profitable. If that happens, you should have a plan to quickly sell your inventory and make any money you spent back as quickly as possible. This will ensure that a failed business plan doesn’t throw you into a debt spiral. You should hope for the best outcome when starting a business and yet plan for the worst.
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Suggested Next Read: How to Start a Business For Under $5,000
Is A Franchise Business Right For Me?
With startups all the rage these days, it’s easy for people to forget about another way of starting a business – franchising. Franchises are still a great way for people to get ahead in business, and there are options in almost every single industry. But, while franchising offers plenty of potential for success, the business model isn’t for everyone. In this guide, we’re going to take you through a few of the pros and cons of becoming a franchisee, and, hopefully, help you find out whether the pathway is a suitable one for your needs. First of all, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of becoming a franchisee.
Taking advantage of a recognized brand name
When you start a business yourself, there is a lot of work to do to establish your brand name. With franchises, however, it’s a little different. You are, in essence, buying into an already recognized brand name, and that means there are plenty of benefits. There is a lot of security in place right from the start, and you could be profiting from trading under a name known nationally – or even globally. In short, it almost guarantees customers as you already have their trust for quality and reputation.
Buying into an established – and successful – model
It can take a long time for startups to work out how to do things the right way – years in some cases. However, when you assume a franchise, everything is already there for you to take advantage of. The way of working is proven to be a success already, and you are enjoying a tried and tested formula. All the hard work of refining the business model is already done, leaving you to reap the rewards.
Running a business
Running a franchise is, to all intents and purposes, precisely the same as running an independent business. You will be responsible for everything, have the opportunity to explore growth opportunities, and, ultimately, will need to meet the same expectations as you would impose on yourself anyway.
When you buy into a franchise, the franchisor wants you to succeed. So, you get everything you need to kick things off in the right possible way, right from the very start. First of all, you have excellent training to ensure you have the skills necessary to become a success. Your employees get that training, too, making sure that everyone knows what to do before you open your doors. When you start a business yourself, training employees comes at a vast expense – which you just don’t need to incur with a franchise.
Systems, support, and savings
You will also get the advantage of equipment, software, IT systems and a lot more besides when you get involved with a franchise. Everything you need to succeed is given to you and is refined to the exact standards to ensure you achieve your goals. There is support available when you need help, too, which you just don’t have when starting a business. And, finally, the scale of orders that franchises place with suppliers means that you can take advantage of lower costs of raw materials.
Of course, franchising isn’t always without its problems. And to work out whether the model is the right one for you, it’s important to know the disadvantages, too. Let’s take a look at the other side of the coin of running a franchise business.
First of all, it’s vital to understand that buying into an already successful brand name is not cheap – some franchises cost millions for the license. Some franchises require less, of course – five-figure sums for buying in are not uncommon. But you should expect to part with a six-figure sum in many cases, and you will also have to pay ‘royalty’ payments of anything between 4 and 7 percent.
While starting a business of any kind requires 100 percent commitment to ensure success, it’s even more important for franchisees. When you consider the vast sums of money you have to spend to trade under a strong name, it can take years to pay that back. It means that commitment to your business is nothing short of essential, and you also have to bear in mind that signs of success could take a couple of years to start showing.
As we mentioned above, your franchisor will give you plenty of training opportunities to develop your skills. But you shouldn’t assume that this will be enough experience to run a well-drilled and productive team. If you have never managed people before, it can be a difficult prospect, due to the type of employees you have to take on. As a rule – although this isn’t always the case – franchises pay low wages, which, in turn, means a low quality of staff. Employee turnover, therefore, tends to be high in many franchises, and enthusiasm and productivity are often significant issues you can’t afford to ignore.
The rules and regulations
When you work under a franchise name, there is little room for creativity with regards to making choices for your business. The franchise rules will run through everything you do, from the decor of your store or offices to the way everyone works. And if you want to make changes, it can be hard to persuade the franchisor to let it happen. Bear in mind that many franchisees have made changes to the way they run their business, and are, more often than not, punished with a contract termination.
Not all franchises are a safe bet
Not all locations in the country are suitable for opening a franchise – even when that franchise isn’t represented in the local area. For example, some parts of major towns and cities are fiercely independent and don’t like the prospect of a massive global chain opening up on their doorstep. It’s vital to explore the market potential of your franchise of choice before making the wrong decision – which could result in an incredibly expensive mistake.
As you can see, running a franchise business is not for everyone. The big question is – is it a good fit for you?
Branding Considerations For Your New Business
Starting a new business venture isn’t easy due to the sheer scale of the task. There is a lot you have to consider if you want to be successful, and you have to cover every base. Take branding as an example. As well as hiring employees and structuring business processes, you have to spread the word. If you don’t, no one will know you exist and the immediate future won’t look too pretty. A successful company is one that understands branding and how to use it to take advantage of the industry. Although it is a complex area, it is possible for new business owners like you to take it by the horns and seize the moment. All you have to do is implement a variety of branding techniques. Now, where are you going to find them?
Grey areas exist everywhere in business because what works for one firm doesn’t work for another. The internet isn’t a grey area, however. As far as you’re concerned, your online presence is one of the keys to your success with hundreds of millions of people using the web. To start, make sure you lock in a domain name for your business. Your domain name is like a zip code – it tells people where you are and how to get to your destination. Plus, it is a good way to maximize SEO (search engine optimization). But, by far the most important feature is credibility. Customers can spot sites with free web hosts from a mile away because of the domain name, and it affects their opinion. A domain which reflects the most professional sites will give off the impression that you, too, are professional.
Social media is also an area that you can’t afford to underestimate. When it comes to marketing, there are lots of variables that aren’t in your favor. For example, small businesses don’t have the money to market their brand effectively, but thanks to social media, you don’t need a lot of money. As you well know, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the rest are all free as you just have to sign up to use your profile. So, with the help of these platforms, you can start spreading the word to your target audience. All you need is a selection of followers that have an interest in your products or services. The better news is that you can affect how people view the business. By talking to them directly, businesses can forge a relationship with customers based on trust and loyalty. As soon as you have their loyalty, customers don’t tend to give it to anyone else. Read “Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Digital Marketing Campaign” for a great overview on digital marketing including using social media. A fantastic website for social media help is socialmediaexaminer.com
Before you read any more, just know that visual branding is a fancy term for branding with images. Even though it seems a little pretentious, it is a crucial part of marketing in 2017. Images are quick, sharp, and carry a message. Customers just have to look at certain images to understand exactly what you are trying to convey. Plus, they are far more attractive and lure people in a lot easier than reams of text. So, what’s the delay? Why aren’t small businesses using visuals to their advantage? The answer is that visual branding is tricky. There is so much to consider before you go live that most businesses just avoid it altogether. To avoid it, you should make sure you understand the audience, offer value such as new information, and add personality.
In simple terms, branding is all about psychology. The more you can tap into the heads of the consumer, the more chance you have of making a conversion. Take a look at pricing strategies for a better understanding. It’s a fact that prices affect the way customers view a bargain. A product at $5, for example, doesn’t look as good as one at $4.99. The reason – $4.99 looks cheaper, even though the difference is a single penny. Colors are also an excellent way to use psychology to your advantage as certain colors link to certain feelings. Red is a passionate and important color, whereas orange is playful and cheap. It is also worth noting that different cultures view colors differently. In the West, red is a danger sign, whereas in the East it is a sign of prosperity. A business must use the colors that fit their audience the best.
For some reason, there are techniques that small businesses assume they can’t use. It is like only the biggest businesses have the right to use them because of their size. A logo is the best example, but logos aren’t just for firms like Microsoft. Please read this next line carefully because it will make a big difference – ANYONE can use a logo! It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business that has only broken into the industry or you work from home because there is no legal requirement. As long as it doesn’t reflect another company’s logo, you are free to put yours on your letterheads, outside your premises, and on your website. And you should because customers look on logos favorably, too. As it goes, customers think that only the big businesses have a logo, so they link the two. A small business with a logo will automatically seem like more significant business just because of a simple trademark. Want to hear the good news? They are pretty cheap to create, so there’s no excuse.
Most of above don’t require any legal action on your part. But, some methods do, and it’s important you know what they are before you use them. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are the three main ones. If you want to patent anything, you should keep it private until you know the patent is yours as a rival could steal your idea. Also, make sure every individual understands who gets what from the patent by drawing up a contract. With a trademark, the most important thing is to do a clearance search to ensure no one else uses the logo, brand name or image. Finally, anything you wish to copyright you should do so with the copyright office. But, you should also do it unofficially by adding ‘copyright’ to any of your material.
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