This is default featured slide 1 title

This is default featured slide 1 title

You can completely customize the featured slides from the theme theme options page. You can also easily hide the slider from certain part of your site like: categories, tags, archives etc. More »

This is default featured slide 2 title

This is default featured slide 2 title

You can completely customize the featured slides from the theme theme options page. You can also easily hide the slider from certain part of your site like: categories, tags, archives etc. More »

This is default featured slide 3 title

This is default featured slide 3 title

You can completely customize the featured slides from the theme theme options page. You can also easily hide the slider from certain part of your site like: categories, tags, archives etc. More »

This is default featured slide 4 title

This is default featured slide 4 title

You can completely customize the featured slides from the theme theme options page. You can also easily hide the slider from certain part of your site like: categories, tags, archives etc. More »

This is default featured slide 5 title

This is default featured slide 5 title

You can completely customize the featured slides from the theme theme options page. You can also easily hide the slider from certain part of your site like: categories, tags, archives etc. More »

 

The Secret Of Entrepreneurs Can Design Their Lives and Businesses for Success

You may not know her name, but Pernille Spiers-Lopez knows a thing or two about design. She served in executive-level roles at furniture company IKEA for more than a decade, namely as CEO for IKEA North America and later as global chief human resource officer. Today, though, her design passion is something entirely different — helping entrepreneurs to design their lives and businesses in a way where they can plan for the kind of success that suits them.

While you may subscribe to the old adage that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, you may not realize that you have more control over how you set up the plan to coincide with the goals and objectives you value the most.

As a personal friend and mentor of mine, I asked Spiers-Lopez — who also serves on boards as a corporate and non-profit director in both the U.S. and Europe for Save the Children, Meijer Corporation and Coop DK– if she could share some of her best lessons for entrepreneurs from her new book, Design Your Life, so that you can design your own life and business for the kind of success that you desire. Some of her top tips are recounted below.

Take on big challenges.
Pushing yourself to take on challenges that you think sound impossible is a critical component for success, says Spiers-Lopez. “We learn the most — and grow the most — in challenging situations that stretch us beyond what we think our limits are. Often, it’s our own mindset that limits us.” Not only do the big challenges and goals create energy, passion and interest for you, but for those around you, such as team members and investors.

To accomplish the big ideas, Spiers-Lopez advises, “Have a mindful, long-term plan that you can break down into small, achievable steps or milestones to make execution possible, while keeping your eye on the bigger picture.”

Focus on your strengths rather than what you lack.
Spiers-Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially women, is overcoming our own negative thoughts. She shares, “I find that, women in particular, we talk ourselves down. I have been the only woman in the board room and even found myself doing this. For example, I remember thinking ‘Why is nobody listening to my ideas?’ Instead of talking myself into being small or not good enough, I turned it around to see how I could change my communication. I asked myself why I wasn’t being heard and how I could reframe or change my communication so that it would be heard.”

She advises that instead of focusing on what you lack or what’s going wrong, emphasize your strengths, whether you are selling to capital providers, customers, team members or otherwise.

Diverse perspectives are a leading asset.
Further, Spiers-Lopez recounts that her favorite phrase for businesses is one that she heard from a friend: “Great minds think unalike.” Entrepreneurs and businesses get into jeopardy when groupthink takes over. The businesses that embrace diversity in perspectives and a 360 degree view can make sure that they see not just what’s in front of them, but what could lie ahead.

Use elimination to make choices, especially overwhelming ones.
Whether a new entrepreneur is deciding which business to pursue or an existing entrepreneur is deciding between directions to grow the business, choices can be overwhelming. Spiers-Lopez suggests that instead of making your head spin wondering “What do I want to do?” to instead focus on “What do I not want to do?”

Being clear about what doesn’t interest you, what doesn’t align with your core values, core business, and what you are not good at can help you see the forest through the trees as you clear away the unwanted foliage.

Build a strong, supportive network.
“Success in life means being successful personally as well as professionally,” says Spiers-Lopez. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for surrounding myself with the right people. At home, this is having the right partner in my husband, who is supportive so that we both can put our time, energy and resources where they need to be when they need to be there.” She advocates that having the right life partner, where your choices are viewed as supporting mutual goals vs. sacrifices is a big part of business success.

On the business front, Spiers-Lopez also says to surround yourself with a variety of supporters, including those with more experience and a variety of skills that you can learn from. Even better, she advises that entrepreneurs create a formal advisory board and make sure that it is filled with people who are willing to challenge you and ask “are you crazy”? Having “yes men” (or women) around won’t help you to get to the next level.

Be patient.
“Success takes time,” says Spiers-Lopez . “Be patient and don’t panic during the journey. It’s a long ride and those that make bad choices borne out of impatience or panic are the ones who won’t be successful.”

While she acknowledges that there are some overnight successes, Spiers-Lopez says that they aren’t the norm and that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t the next Snapchat. “It would be like hearing that someone made $200,000 at the racetrack and then being upset because you went there and didn’t. It’s not normal and it certainly shouldn’t be your plan.”

Steps to Turn Business Cards Into Business Relationships

Business cards that symbolize fabulous connections and conversations can easily transform into annoying reminders of lost opportunities. So how can you turn business cards into cash?

First, the most common mistake is failing to collect cards. Many people give out their cards but fail to collect from others. Politely insist on getting the potential contact’s information so that you can follow up with him or her. If he or she doesn’t have a business card (which is a rising trend), write down an email address so you can follow up afterward. You want the ball in your court so you have the capability to follow up. Don’t place the responsibility on the other person.

The second common mistake is failing to follow up at all. Intending to follow up won’t put money in your bank account.

To ease your follow-up efforts, have a system in place for the business cards. Personally, I don’t like paper. I prefer to turn someone’s contact information into a digital format as quickly as possible. There are many apps that take pictures of business cards, translate the text and add the information to your contact system. Snap a pic, recycle the card, and follow up. Quick and simple. I use Evernote for this.

Apps will also geotag the information so you can remember where you met. A simple option is to take a photo of the cards and email it to yourself or your virtual assistant. A low-tech option is to carry the cards until you get back to your office. If that’s your choice, be sure to have a specific place you put the cards. I’ve lost many valuable contacts to the abyss known as my purse.

Next, keep your connection engaged. The phrasing of your first follow up is as important as your first impression. Make sure you stand out and won’t be forgotten.

Avoid phrases such as, “I’m not sure if you remember me but we met at …” Starting that way puts you in a position of weakness.

Also, cut the word “just” from your follow up. Like, “I just wanted to say hi.”

“Justs” make your email (and you) inconsequential and ignorable.

To step up your follow up, be personal and interesting by mentioning something that you discussed at your initial meeting. Shared experiences, inside jokes or answers you found to their questions are great. Something conversational such as, “I love meeting a fellow Star Wars nerd!” keeps your email from seeming boilerplate.

Your top objective in following up is to get a response. I have one follow-up tip that, for me, has had a 100 percent response rate. It’s a bit outside the box and takes a little more work, but it’s worth it. Even the busiest people with celebrity-esque statuses have replied to this follow-up technique.

I create a personal video message for my new contact. It’s only a minute or two saying how it was great to meet them, mentioning something we shared in our conversation and offering next action steps. It’s short, sweet and effective. My contacts regularly say how cool the video messages are. They appreciate me taking the time to create them and talk to them “face to face.”

With video follow ups, you don’t have to remind people who you are. They see you, hear your voice and instantly remember you. Plus, you are creating a more human connection because your nonverbal communication shares more than text can. As a bonus, you can tell if and when your contact has watched your video. Video uploading services, including YouTube, have a number of views counter. I’ve had contacts watch my video messages a few times because they enjoyed them and shared them.

Your video messages don’t need to be highly produced. Just have good lighting and quality sound. I use a single lighting kit or natural sunlight for light. For sound, I use a Snowball microphone or simply my iPhone ear buds mic.

There are many video upload options. I use YouTube, set the privacy settings to hidden and share the video link in my follow-up email. Don’t upload the video directly into your email. The attachment will be too big and get captured by spam filters.

Lastly, expedite the scheduling process for your next meeting with your contact. One of the biggest time sucks in modern life is sending emails back and forth to schedule something. To bypass that annoyance, I recommend having an online calendar tool. I use Calendly.com. Your contact clicks a link and books a time. The system takes care of the rest.

My personal follow-up system includes a link for a video call with Zoom.us, and other services such as Skype work well. If you’re interested in keeping a stronger, more personal connection, then video calls are your best option. Your connection is enhanced when you see and hear the other person. Don’t discount this wonderful modern communication option that is readily at your finger tips.

Follow up is about personal connection. With these tips, you’ll be turning business cards into thriving business relationships.

How To Be An Awesome Networker at Conferences

Attending digital marketing conferences is a great way to stay up to date and learn new ways to improve your business. However, I find the networking opportunities to be of the greatest value. Last year I had the pleasure of speaking at MicroConf Europe and UnGagged and I made the effort to network, despite being an introvert.

I recently returned to the UnGagged London conference as a speaker this year and networking was at the top of my priorities list. Here is the blueprint that I follow to effectively network at conferences.

1. Create a list of prospects before the event.
You should have a list of people you want to connect with before even arriving at the conference location. This allows you to do a little preliminary research to prepare for potential encounters — things such as identifying mutual connections or interests can help break the ice and lead to a smooth introduction.

Every conference website will have a list of speakers and some will even feature journalists and members of the media that are scheduled to attend. Another way to locate attendees is to search Twitter for conference related hashtags. Having your networking targets identified in advance establishes a goal — you will network with more people this way rather than just wondering around aimlessly without a plan.

2. Stay at the event venue hotel.
You might be able to save a few dollars if you book a hotel down the street or across town, but you will miss out on so much valuable networking time. You aren’t going to make any introductions or engage in small talk during the actual presentations — that happens before and after.

Leave your room early in the morning and get ready to network. Stick around after the sessions to continue your networking crusade. If you are traveling back and forth from the conference venue and another hotel you miss some of the most valuable networking opportunities.

3. Attend all planned social events.
Some of the best connections are made at the hotel bar and during planned networking events — people are more laid back in a relaxed social setting. Mix in a few cocktails and guards are down, the vibe is welcoming and everyone is willing to mingle.

I can’t stress how much of a gold mine the hotel bar can be. You should make sure to hang out there in the evenings and during downtime — even if you aren’t a drinker. I have been introduced to many high profile connections and started several business relationships at hotel bars during conferences.

4. Practice selling yourself in under 30 seconds.
When you are introduced to someone you want to be able to tell them about who you are and what you do — but most people don’t have time, nor do they want to stand there and listen to you talk for several minutes.

Master a 30-second self-pitch. They key is to make it interesting without it sounding like an overly promotional sales pitch.

What do you do? Where are you from? What are two interesting and memorable facts about you? Use this information and create your introduction — make sure the individual that you introduce yourself to is going to have a clear picture of you. They won’t forget you because your introduction was both clever and memorable.

5. Be armed with business cards at all times.
You should have business cards on you at all times — keep some in your pocket and in your laptop bag. You should even keep some in your carry-on bag when you travel to conferences — airport lounges, rental car counters and baggage carousels all present networking opportunities prior to a big conference.

You don’t want to be the person that is just handing out business cards to anyone that will take one. I will initiate the business card exchange after an introduction if I want to connect with the person again after the conference. If not, I don’t offer my card.

I don’t network to collect business cards — I do it to make connections that are going to lead to a potential mutually beneficial business relationship.

6. Make eye contact, shake hands and be confident.
Remember one thing — you aren’t the only person that is going to be out networking. There are going to be some people that are on the radar of every attendee. First impressions are everything. Make sure you make eye contact with your target, smile, be pleasant, shake hands and emit confidence.

If you are shy, at least pretend you are having a good time and enjoying yourself.

7. Be a listener, not a bragger or boaster.
When starting a conversation with someone or joining in a group discussion make sure you don’t become the bragger or boaster. If you attend conferences regularly you know who I am referring to, as it never fails — there is always one person that wants to constantly tell everyone how great he or she is, and how their company is “crushing it.”

Show a genuine interest in everyone you are introduced to and listen to what they have to say. All rewarding business relationships are born when there is a genuine connection made — not a BS session followed by a business card exchange.

8. Follow up with everyone you met.
As soon as you get home from the conference, reach out to all of the connections you made while networking. Send out an email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and schedule a time to speak in more detail right away.

You are more likely to get them to commit to a phone call or meeting right after the conference than you would be if you reached out to them months or even weeks after. Get them to commit while your introduction is still a fairly recent memory.

Simple Ways to Register a Business Name

The first step to creating your small business is choosing the right name. The name should represent your industry, field or expertise while being catchy, memorable, and relevant to your customers or clientele. However, there are a few simple steps to consider before registering an official name for your future business.

Understand legality
Although you might already be infatuated with the name of your small business, you must ensure someone else hasn’t already claimed it. This helps you verify your company’s name is unique. Otherwise, it could violate trademark law by being too similar to the name of an existing business, in your state or any other, and whose operations are in close relation to your product or service.

Conducting a thorough due diligence check before registering the business entity or buying the domain name will help you avoid future costs in marketing, rebranding and even a possible lawsuit.

Brainstorm names
Before conducting even the simplest of searches, brainstorm a short list (preferably of five to ten) of possible business names. If you’re stuck, use different words and phrases to say your business name. Get creative! Play around with adjectives, nouns, and adverbs. Not only will this list help you search for pre-existing business names, it will also come in handy if someone else has already claimed your business name. To be sure that you are in no danger of encroaching on a business name or trademark, also add variations in spelling or wording of your potential business names.

Search for companies with similar names
Now it’s time to conduct a basis online search with a major search engine, because similarities to your chosen moniker will likely show up here. You should investigate further to see if that business offers a product or service comparable to yours. If there are no readily apparent matches, it does not necessarily mean you are in the clear.

Condense your search to specific databases
Continue your investigation by entering your business name in more specific and targeted databases. For instance, consider searching in the following business databases, which offer ways to locate a matching or similar business name before you commit to it:

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
ThomasNet
Network Solutions
Trademarkia.com
U.S. Patent and Trademark
When you are nearly certain you can use your business name, go to the Small Business Administration’s website and find the contact information for each state’s secretary of state’s online business registry database. Search your selection as well as variations in each one. If there are no matches, then move to checking with your county clerk’s list of Doing Business As (DBA) names.

Contact the appropriate government offices
Don’t panic if your preferred name is already taken. You may still be able to use it if you are offering a clearly different product or service or are in different states. You can contact your state’s secretary of state’s corporations division. They can work with you to determine that you meet the legal requirements to still use the name.

Once you have a confirmed business name, register it right away, even if you are not ready to conduct business operations. The name may not be available six weeks or six months from now, and the small cost of ensuring it is yours to use early in your preparation will be worth it.

You can register your name through your state government. Procedures will vary depending on your chosen type of legal entity (sole proprietor, LLC, corporation, etc.). Most states require you to at least register as a DBA if you are conducting business under any name other than your given legal name.

Your business name will be the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. By protecting it from the beginning, you ensure it will stand strong against any branding or legal challenges along the way.

Best Places to Find a New Business Idea

All successful entrepreneurial ventures have one thing in common: They solve a specific problem. Whether they fill a gap in the market or improve upon what’s already out there, good business ideas demonstrate what the issue is and why they have the unique ability to address it.

If you’ve been racking your brain for a way to start your own business but keep coming up short, you might just need a change of scenery. You never know where inspiration will strike, so get up and explore these 10 places to find solvable problems — and, therefore, great business ideas.

Think you’ve found your perfect startup? Do some research to make sure the idea is legal and feasible, and then visit our step-by-step guide to starting a business.
Your smartphone
In the “there’s an app for that” era, it may seem like every mobile application under the sun has already been thought up and built. But that’s not necessarily the case, as many people discover when they scour their smartphone’s app store searching for something that doesn’t exist. Perhaps an app you recently downloaded doesn’t function the way you’d hoped it would, or doesn’t offer a certain feature you wanted. To find out if there’s interest in the newer, better app you want to create, ask friends, family and others in your network. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can use a DIY app maker or, if you have very little tech experience, hire freelancers to build it for you.

Search engines
If you’ve ever done an exhaustive Internet search for a specific item that returned no results, you have three options: settle for something close enough, give up entirely or do it yourself. If you’re the kind of person who chooses the DIY method (and can do it well), you have the opportunity to turn a frustration into a lucrative business. Check forums to see if others are searching for the same product(s), and then open up an online shop to sell them. This can also work well for specialized service-based businesses.

Social media
If there’s one thing people like to do on social media, it’s air their grievances about everyday life. Most of the time, these types of updates are mundane (and probably a little annoying), but if you pay close enough attention to those hashtags and status updates, you might start to see some patterns emerging. Look for phrases like, “Why isn’t there a … ” or, “I wish there was a …” — you may be able to offer a solution.

Online reviews
As with social media, people love to talk about the products they’ve purchased and places they’ve visited on sites like Amazon, Google and Yelp. Most consumers will read and use negative reviews to determine if they should avoid the product or establishment, and that company’s loss could be your gain. See what people are complaining about, and try to come up with a business idea that would fix the problem.

Your home
Look around your house or apartment. What are some of the frustrations you encounter there? Dusty air vents? A messy bathroom? Unraked leaves on your lawn? If you’re noticing these things in your own home, there’s a good chance other people are experiencing the same problems. By launching an in-home service business, you can help others take care of these time-consuming household tasks.

Your neighborhood
The people who live near you can be a great inspiration for business ideas. Think about the demographics of your neighborhood or local community. If your town has a lot of working parents, a service that offers to run errands or provides child care might be in high demand. A neighborhood with a lot of senior citizens could use independent home health aides. Are there a lot of dog owners nearby? Try a pet-care business like pet sitting or dog walking.

Your office
If you want to start a part-time business outside your current job, ask your co-workers what kinds of products or services they’re missing in their lives. Maybe someone else with a side business is looking for a bookkeeper or financial adviser. Others might be looking to enroll their children in affordable art or music classes. Small talk in the break room is bound to lead to at least a few viable ideas.

The grocery store
Are you a food lover? Seeing what’s missing from the shelves at the grocery store or farmers market could help you come up with a made-to-order culinary business idea. Jams, baked goods and specialty diet items (gluten free, vegan, etc.) are especially good choices for an artisanal food startup. Alternatively, you could test your gastronomic skills with ingredients from the supermarket and open up a restaurant or food truck.

The mall
While you might not actually open up a brick-and-mortar retail location, perusing your local mall might give you some ideas for a business of your own. You could launch a line of homemade natural cosmetics to rival the pushy salespeople from that kiosk, a clothing line to produce something different from the same old items in every apparel store window or an online craft shop to offer personalized alternatives to generic card-store knickknacks.

Your child’s school or day care
If you’re a parent, you know that any product or service that will help your child is worth the money. Think about the gaps you see in the market, and next time you pick up the kids from school, ask other parents if they feel the same way. Not a parent? Ask family members or friends with children what kinds of things they want (or want improved) but can’t currently find for their kids.

Know About Entrepreneurs Went from Welfare to Multi-Million Business in Five Years

Zaycon Fresh is an unusual business with an unusual story. Two brothers and their cousin, all on welfare after they fell on hard times during the recession, decided to start a business. Today, this business holds events throughout the country where they deliver proteins like chicken, bacon, salmon, steak and more in bulk to customers — directly from farmers — at value pricing.

After starting with a test event in 2009 that brought in revenue of $40,000, the company is on track to do $30 million for this fiscal year, it says.

I first heard about Zaycon Fresh from my husband, who has had a client relationship with the company. That’s how I was introduced to Zaycon’s CEO Mike Conrad. With no formal business background and no college degree, Conrad talks about the entrepreneurial lessons he learned from taking his circumstances and turning them into a major business opportunity.

Timing is everything.
For Zaycon, the third time was the charm, so to speak. Mike Conrad’s brother, J.C. — who was a co-founder and is no longer with the company — conceptualized the business when he was a meat manager for a supermarket. He did a proof-of-concept test to see if he could get customers to buy in bulk at discounted prices and it was a significant success.

He took that proof-of-concept and tried to launch the business himself in 2000, but was not successful. It wasn’t until after the Internet infrastructure was built up enough to support this event-based business — and he found partners in his brother and cousin, Adam Kremin — did this concept get legs as a standalone business.

Remember that even the best ideas may not be successful if launched at the wrong time.

Build your brand the hard way.
Building a business and a brand is difficult, so Conrad and his co-founders decided to start where they had support: with local churches. These institutions helped to spread the word about their premier Zaycon event and continue to be big supporters. The events are often held in church parking lots where there is often extra unused space. Plus, the church benefits from awareness in addition to a Zaycon donation of food.

After the success of the first event, Zaycon’s next endeavor was to engage coupon and deal-oriented bloggers. They reached out to 1,000 bloggers to see if they would be interested in reviewing the company’s product and approximately 450 responded yes. Since Zaycon delivers farm-fresh product, they wanted the experience to be authentic, so they rented a few trucks and hand delivered the 450 boxes of product to bloggers all across the country. This extra effort, while time-consuming, made a big impact. As these bloggers raved about Zaycon, they started adding thousands upon thousands of customers to their database. This was the catalyst for major growth.

Too many entrepreneurs want to do traditional marketing strategies from the get go, but sometimes, doing the high-labor-intensive, out-of-the-box efforts create the foundation that your business needs for growth.

Create the ‘right’ team.
To take the business from nothing to $30 million in sales, Conrad says was a true team effort. It was all about having the right people in the right places at the right time. While his brother was a co-founder, he ultimately felt he wasn’t suited for business growth and was bought out of the business.

Also, as the company grew, Conrad and his cousin knew that there many traditional business competencies that they didn’t possess. They sought advisors and hands-on investors who could help supplement those skill and knowledge deficiencies and bring the company to the next level.

Involve your customers.
You might not think that bulk meats is an enthusiast-driven business, but Zaycon proves that it can be. By involving the customers in everything from initial marketing — (new events are set when a core group of interested customers in a certain geographic area sign-up) — to creating a fun experience, the business gets extra mileage.

As Conrad said, “People wanted to be involved in your business. When they feel involved, they want to support you.” That has certainly been the case for Zaycon’s excited customer base, some of whom “volunteer” for free food at events and certainly create a community around Zaycon’s model that helps the company to build its business.

Create a defense with intellectual property.
While the price point and freshness are customer selling points of Zaycon’s model, their secret sauce is actually their logistics. They have invested heavily in creating software systems that help them manage the farm-to-customer logistics of food delivery and event production.

Conrad relates that while the business seems simple in concept, the logistics are very complicated, and their investment in logistics IP helps to create barriers to entry from competitors.

Be willing to change.
Conrad’s parting words are the ones that he thinks are maybe the most important for entrepreneurs. “Be malleable,” he said. “You have to adapt and change. There were at least four times when we thought that the business was dead, but we knew that was not an option. We couldn’t quit, we had to keep going.”

He also said that the willingness to change comes into play in terms of listening. “Always believe you are not the smartest guy in the room and let other people bring ideas to the table,” said Conrad. The path you start for your business — and often your endpoint as well — will change drastically as you build the company.

Zaycon Fresh continues to grow and prosper and will rely on their own history lessons to move them forward to the next level of success.

Best 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

No one ever became a great leader without first becoming a great communicator.

Great leaders connect with people on an emotional level every time they speak. Their words inspire others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Great communicators are intentional about it, and there are 10 secrets they rely on to deliver a powerful message. Put these secrets to work in your communication and watch your influence soar.

1. They Know Their Audience
Great communicators don’t worry about sounding important, showing off their expertise, or boosting their own egos. Instead, they think about what people need to hear, and how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it. This doesn’t mean that leaders tell people what they want to hear. Quite the opposite—they tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s bad news.

2. They Are Experts In Body Language
Great communicators are constantly tracking people’s reactions to their message. They are quick to pick up on cues like facial expressions and body language because they know this is the only feedback many people will give them. Great communicators use this expertise to tailor their message on the fly and adjust their communication style as needed.

3. They Are Honest
The best leaders know that for communication to be effective it has to be real. They can’t have people parsing every word trying to separate fact from spin. When great communicators can’t share certain information, they come right out and say it because makeshift, half-truth answers breed distrust and anxiety. In good times and bad, honesty builds trust.

4. They Are Authentic
Great communicators don’t try to be someone they’re not just because they’ve stepped behind a podium. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. Great leaders know that when they stay true to who they are, people gravitate to their message. They also know the opposite happens when leaders put on an act.

5. They Speak With Authority
Great communicators don’t try to cover their backs by being ambiguous, wishy-washy, or unassertive. Instead, they stick their necks out and speak very directly about how things are and how they need to be.

6. They Speak To Groups As Individuals
Leaders rarely have the luxury of speaking to one person at a time. Whether it’s a huddle around a conference table or an overflowing auditorium, great leaders know how to work the room and make every single person feel as if he or she is being spoken to directly.

7. They Have Ears (And They Use Them)
Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street and what they hear is often more important than what they say. When someone else is speaking, great communicators aren’t thinking ahead and planning what they’ll say next. Instead, they’re actively listening, fully focused on understanding the other person’s perspective.

8. They Use Phrases Like ‘It’s My Fault,’ ‘I Was Wrong,’ and ‘I’m Sorry’
When great leaders make a mistake, they admit it right away. They don’t wait for someone else to find and point out their blunder. They model accountability for their words and actions, even when they could have easily “gotten away” with the mistake. And they do it matter-of-factly, without drama or false humility.

9. They Solicit Feedback
The best communicators never assume that the message people heard is the exact same one they intended to deliver. They check in to verify that their message was understood correctly, and, if it was not, they don’t blame the audience. Instead, they change things up and try again.

10. They’re Proactive
Leaders with the best communication skills don’t waste time playing catch-up. They’re quick to head off the rumor mill by sharing bad news in a timely manner. They also give clear, concise goals and directions so people don’t waste their time heading in the wrong direction.

Bringing It All Together
Great communicators stand out from the crowd. They’re honest. They’re authentic. They listen. They excel in communication because they value it, and that’s the critical first step to becoming a great leader.

Know Some Ways Introverted Entrepreneurs Can Market Themselves

It’s a myth that introverts can’t become successful entrepreneurs. In fact, about four in 10 top executives are introverts, according to USA Today, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Steven Spielberg.

Many people (falsely) assume introverts are automatically shy, unassertive and even nebbish — not qualities associated with leadership. The truth is introverts can be as social and interpersonal as extroverts; they just prefer to return to an inner world to recharge. In fact, their many strengths — introspection, analysis, awareness — make them effective and successful leaders, perhaps more so than those who feel at home entertaining a large group of coworkers.

Introverts are great observers, which means they get more opportunities to study what other people want; on the other hand, they may not be as comfortable elbowing their way in front of people to get their ideas out there.

Because of this, introverted entrepreneurs can face problems when it comes to marketing themselves. In a work environment where extroversion is considered the norm, marketing can become an impossible hurdle for those who would much rather take over the business world from behind a laptop. Introverts don’t need to change who they are, they just need to learn a few tips about selling themselves as an entrepreneur.

1. Focus on one-on-one networking opportunities.
Marketing yourself can seem like bragging or showing off — and for those who think the entrepreneur world is already too flashy, it can be a pain. That said, introverts have a range of people skills that not everyone has and these can be put to good use in business situations.

For one, introverts are typically great listeners who make meaningful one-on-one connections. Though small talk isn’t really their jam (never ask an introvert about the weather), they excel in “big talk,” and love debating an issue they’re passionate about.

To put that skill to use, introverts should still sign up for networking events and seminars but find ways to zero in on one person at a time — this will allow them to make a personal connection, develop of list of contacts, have in-depth conversations and soak in information using their great listening skills.

2. Use technology to your advantage.
Words are an important tool in business and in marketing yourself and introverts have a way with them. But unlike extroverts, who often talk as a way of thinking, introverts tend to hold back, gathering their thoughts and giving eloquent, perfectly formed answers — rather than blurting something out. Understandably, many introverts prefer writing to speaking.

Well, there’s a platform for that. The Internet is a great way for introverts to put their ideas and words out there — and it’s also essential for any entrepreneur who wants to brand him or herself. These days, personal websites, blogs, emails, newsletters, podcasts, videos and an active presence on social media are crucial for people who want to market themselves, increase their business following and network, and get somebody’s attention.

3. Don’t worry about impression, worry about results.
It’s a rule of thumb that applies to everyone, introverts and extroverts alike: Don’t focus too much on the impression you’re leaving people with, focus on how your ideas can help them. People want to know how you can make their lives easier, so that should be the first thing you talk about when you’re marketing yourself and your product.

Of course, one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur, especially an introverted one, is worrying about making a good impression. So, take that task off the table. Instead, simply focus your conversation around your ideas.

When you become an entrepreneur, your main job is to use your skills to provide the public with something that will make their lives easier. If you’re an introvert, you can use your attention to detail, one-on-one people skills, aptitude for listening and intense empathy to find out exactly what that will be. The next, crucial step is to promote these ideas, which you can do by relying on the exact same set of skills. You’ll end up giving the public the one thing that was missing from their lives.

Best Steps to Become a Networking Beast

The thought of networking at conferences and industry events makes some entrepreneurs nauseous. If you go into it feeling uncomfortable, your results will be disastrous. Networking is a major part of being a successful entrepreneur, so it’s in your best interest to get good at it — really, really good at it.

Here is a simple plan to make connections and unlock new opportunities by transforming into a networking beast.

1. Identify your goals before you even arrive at the event.
You should have all of your goals identified before the event.

What are you looking to get out of the event?
Are you there to prospect for leads?
What attendees do you want to target?
What speakers do you want to target?
Reach out to the targets that you know will be attending in advance. Exchange contact details and stay in touch — plan to meet in the evening and belly up to the bar. Some of your most valuable connections will be born at the venue hotel bar.

2. Leave your sales pitch at home.
Remember that you aren’t there to sell. Avoid rambling off the reasons why your product or service is the best. Instead, ask everyone whom you speak with if there is anything you can do to help their business. This unselfish approach will leave an impression that guarantees they will answer your phone call or email after the conference.

This strategy helps you set the table for a future discussion. Don’t forget to follow up with everyone — open up a dialogue within 72 hours of the event. This helps to ensure your encounter remains fresh in your new contact’s mind.

3. Don’t sound like a robot. Let your personality shine.
Establishing a half dozen meaningful connections is better than collecting 50 business cards from people you will more than likely never speak to again. Spitting out the same script-like spiel might get you a business card, but probably just to make you go away.

Take time to engage in conversations with the goal of making an impression — it’s that follow up after the networking event that’s important. Those are the conversations that lead to business deals and opportunities.

4. Be heard and seen.
Nobody is going to remember interacting with you unless you are memorable. If you are at a conference make an effort to ask at least one question during the Q&A session following every keynote you attend.

Don’t just fire off a fluff question — you need to make sure your questions and interaction is intelligent. This is a great way to get on the radar of everyone in the room. People will approach you after looking to connect and they will even initiate the conversation. If you are memorable, you become a magnet, pulling in contacts from every direction.

5. Work the crowd with a partner that compliments your weaknesses.
It’s always easier to work a crowd when you have a wingman or wingwoman — it gives you that extra confidence and if you strategically select your networking partner you can make sure you are equipped with someone that makes up for your shortcomings.

For instance, if you are shy, partner up with someone that is very outgoing. Let them open up every conversation and then introduce you to bring it home and make that new connection.

You attend networking events and conferences to make connections, right? Then use this simple plan to make sure you make the most out of every event you attend.

Networking Is Important

When I ask an audience, “How many of you are here hoping to possibly sell something?” almost everyone raises their hands. When I ask that same audience, “How many of you are here to possibly buy something?” nobody raises their hands.

This is what I call the networking disconnect. Too often, people show up at networking events wanting to sell something but nobody ever goes wanting to buy something. This is how networking can be done badly.

So, it didn’t surprise me when I recently read an article entitled “Stop Networking.” It went on to explain how the process of networking is so “mercenary.” The problem is that every example the author gave about how networking doesn’t work was an example of really bad networking! The conclusion was to stop networking. Instead of networking, the author said you should do these five things:

1. Focus on relationships, not transactions.

2. Don’t ask for something before you give something.

3. Don’t make the process about you.

4. Strive for quality, not quantity, in your relationships.

5. Volunteer for leadership roles in organizations you belong to.

Hello! Does anyone notice that the emperor has no clothes? I would argue that all five of these strategies are, in fact, all about networking – but about networking done the right way. In this article, bad networking tactics were presented as the reasons that people should stop networking altogether. Networking can certainly be done badly, but networking itself isn’t bad. In fact, when it’s done right, almost everyone agrees it’s the best way to build a business.

Don’t stop networking. Just start networking right:

Relationships, not transactions.
The key for networking events is to make solid connections with individuals so they will remember who you are when you do follow up with them. You want them to be interested to meet with you for coffee or lunch. If you go to networking events with the intention of just trying to sell to people, they won’t want to meet with you later because they know you’re going to pitch to them.

Invest in some social capital.
If you want people to be eager to meet with you after networking events, the key is to find ways to help them. Think back to the people in my audience. Think about all the relationships that had the possibility of forming and how many of them most likely didn’t. If everyone focused on learning who they could help, as opposed to who they could sell to, imagine the relationships that might have been. Good networking is all about investing in some social capital before asking for a withdrawal.

Be interested, not interesting.
It’s not all about you. Do you want to make a connection (especially if you are networking up to someone more successful than you)? If so, be interested in what they are doing. Don’t pitch them the moment you meet them. But wait, it never hurts to ask, right? Wrong! Contrary to popular belief, it is does hurt to ask for business before there’s any kind of relationship.

Quality over quantity.
The only thing more important than the size of your network is the quality of your network. It’s a people puzzle, not a numbers game. It’s about finding out about the people you’re meeting with. It’s not about collecting as many cards as you can. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you’ll never have a powerful personal network at your disposal.

Become engaged in the groups you belong to.
If you really want to stand out in a network, volunteer and become a leader in it. It is amazing how much exposure you can receive when you are helping to run a group that you are active in. However, remember two things. First, just being a leader doesn’t mean you’ll get business. At some point, when you have developed a relationship, you do have to let people know that you’d like to do business with them. Second, whatever you do, don’t step down from a leadership role and then immediately quit the group. That really makes it look like you were there for only one reason (and the wrong one at that). Being a leader in a group is about giving back. The secondary benefit is that you can build great credibility.

I’ve built a global company with offices in more than 60 countries and I’ve done almost all of it by building relationships, networking, and getting referrals. My advice to you is, don’t stop networking. Just start networking right.