Tag Archives: Startup

Create Brand For Your Value

“Branding is limitless…”

This is quote aspect I completely agree on when it comes to branding your business. I had a discussion with close friends of mine about how most new up and coming business owners aren’t aware how big branding can be for their business. Many come to believe that branding is about a nice fancy logo or having a name that is relevant to what service they will be doing, but there is more to it that just that; that’s the minor half.

So what exactly is branding? Let’s put it into simple terms: branding is the value that the customer makes of it within that service or product. It’s what determines if they become loyal to a business and continuously use them. It can be very vital to a business if it grows fast or doesn’t grow at all.

What’s in the minds of a particular customer that follows a business often? The marketing has left the room, but branding is what stays behind and follows through in the thoughts of customers. Many large corporations I know spend large amounts of money to get across customers head that their branding is one thing while customers on the other hand think that business is another.

When we are used to something being the same, we are often are in auto-pilot mode. I finished reading a great book by Phil Barden titled “Decoded: The Science behind Why We Shop”.

In the book it gives out many scientific studies about what goes on in our brains when we shop. A vast majority of why we shop is due to a products brand. We carry ourselves automatically knowing what we want, where to find it, and how to properly distinguish it from other products. The way of a products shape, size, color, we can easily recognize with no problems at all because it’s been implemented in our brain that we can picture it even without looking at it physically.

If a well known product decides to do a complete makeover, it has a large chance of bringing that product’s brand to the ground. Loyalists of that product will question what is that product? They will stop what they’re doing and question themselves should they keep continuing using a certain product/business or is it best to try something different so that can find that comfort they had previously. It’s one of the things I look at that automatically can kill a product quick. The strategy to implement is by doing very minor changes and studying if there are any changes in mood with loyalists of that product.

Another intriguing question that the author asks are if emotions play a large part of branding? The correct answer would be no but we get carried away with it that as being loyal, we start to form emotions through time. We shouldn’t form strong emotions either way because business is not a living thing, humans have emotions towards living things, and quite frankly business doesn’t live but we make it live.

So what can we do to implement branding in our business?

One book I would highly recommend is by Scott McKee titled “Power Branding”. He gives out powerful insights on how small valued things can turn out  be widely beneficial for the brand of the business.

A great example would be the way Nordstrom handles their customer service. Many of their following know that they have remarkable service, it’s unbeatable. They go out of their way to bring value to you in the simplest form. It stands out from other retail stores and loyalist quickly have in mind what they represent.

To get more deeper into how we can implement branding into our business. Let’s think of Starbucks. When we walk in what’s the first thing we see, hear, or smell?

In my mind when I walk into a Starbucks, I first smell that fresh coffee aroma in the air. My mind gets to a state of being happy ready to sip on some coffee. I am then followed by the view of the environment. I see a calm, laid-back atmosphere where people sit down, enjoy their coffee and either talk with friends or work on their computers. To me, they don’t need advertising. There is no need for it because the thought has already been implemented in my head of knowing where to go when I want to sit back and get coffee on a warm afternoon.

Most startups need to understand that to exceed that growth fast, a good branding strategy has to take place.

Concluding this post, what branding strategies have you implement in your business? Or what do you think can be implemented that can help grow your business to a new level? When you think of a certain product, what is it that makes you think of that product, and what can you learn from it to get inside the minds of other customers?

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Structuring the Entity

In the venture I find myself in, so far it’s been a great experience of learning new things. Starting the idea for a business is a simple part, but the recent articles that I’ve read about starting a business may have skipped over the legal paperwork side that needs to be done in order for you to be protected in case something goes wrong. I found myself in that situation when me and my co-founders decided to step forward with a business idea and start executing it.

One thing I can assure you is that it’s costly but very worth getting the legal structure taken care of by a lawyer that is familiar with the field. All of the founders get along but when the decision of how much of the company’s share-hold came up, we all brought a different side of us out. It took a few days to come to an agreement if it’s the best we all get equal shares or have one founder getting a little more. The operating agreement alone seemed so overwhelming that it consumed most of our time. Upon being finished, the bylaws and other legal matters had to be taken care of especially deciding what our exit strategy would be. We did however end up coming to agreement and worked things out correctly so that everyone is protected in case the idea doesn’t work out.

Having being done with the legal paper work side of the business, I’ve learned one of the foremost lessons to always set up a restricted stock purchase agreement with schedule vesting. This secures everyone especially the business in case one of the founders decides to leave early on. There won’t be any fighting going on about how much one should get because they left the business early to start another venture.

But again, a lawyer is helpful in setting up this case. There are ways to negotiate prices that can best serve you. A flat-rate fee of $2,000 is the average cost of having an attorney set up all the incorporated legal structure for the business. $600 for an LLC depending on what state, although in most cases, this can be done without a lawyer. But always seeks advice from an attorney that is familiar with the field.

Another tip I’ve learned is to do some research on what entity is best fit for your business you’ll be starting. Aside from speaking with lawyers, find events/articles that go over the pros and cons of each business entity and most important, the tax side of things (CPA is the best thing to guide you through). There are lots of videos online as well that go over the legal structure. A recent video I’ve watched covered over the mistakes a founder makes when setting up the business structure by Scott Walker.

I consider it very important that if you’re planning to launch a business, make sure you get the right protection you need. Once it’s done, then all systems are go. But what if you don’t have the funding to cover the attorney fees? From the advice I’ve received of people who have gone through this phase, this is what they stated me: “If you have $1500 dollars that you can only invest in legal fees, tell your lawyer “This is how much I have, what can you do with this much, to help me get started setting up my business?” They will find a way to help you.”

I’m sure to hope this helped as much possible when you decide it’s time to set up your legal structure. There are resources that can help you with more information towards structuring your business. The SBA are always there to give small business resources that are sure helpful and SCORE as well.

What can we learn from setting up the legal drafts of the business? Was it frustrating for you as well or did you go through it rapidly? What advice would you give out to those who don’t know about the legal protections of the business?

Love You Too: Relationships & Entrepreneurship

Relationships in our journey for success have the capacity to break us down or give more fuel to our engine. Unhealthy relationships often seem to slow you down and it’s more complex to get back up after having to deal with that situation. It seems many are not new to this area and go through the same battles day in and out. How do you handle yourself when being in a relationship? Are there expectations or roles that would be assigned?

I began to have a discussion with a great professional that has thorough knowledge in this environment and reached for his advice; knowing that I’m young, about dating and entrepreneurship. He gave me great links to articles that review over the pros and cons of it but we got down to the deeper side of things.

I’ve learned that relationships for entrepreneurs can turn into one of the hardest things. It’s a lonely road we get it, and we need as much support as possible. The chances of hitting depression are high and your spouse or loved one needs to understand the risks, and pain you are willing to take to fulfill your idea and get it done.

He or she needs to have a clear understanding of why you are doing this. If you are married with kids, the risks are much higher and therefore should execute a plan before moving into action. One of the most recommended readings is by Steve Blank called “Epitaph for an entrepreneur”. Where he explains what he did when he was running several companies and raising a family at the same time.

As a young guy I don’t have spare time to go to the mall and buy new clothes to please other people. I understand there will be days where I will wear the same shirt for a week and not notice it. No surprise there.

Unhealthy relationships creates more work, more stress, and destroys you little by little your ambition for getting your company going. Distractions come into play and mess around with your mind, should you have done this or that? And take you away from what you should really be doing.

Having the correct person that is willing to understand what you’re doing is key. With so many talks about divorce, and many people embracing their relationships that of a celebrities (majority lasting a few years), there really is no time for that.

Acknowledge there will be many risks and failures. Will they hang on when we start with nothing? Will they hang on when we have so much we lose everything? Their support to what you’re doing is the fuel that keeps you going.

Strategize for what each other’s roles will be. Set it up so that it doesn’t have to be confusing or too business-like, but let it flow smoothly.

Relationships during our entrepreneurship journey can be either good or bad depending how it fits the person in that situation. How has your experience been with have a relationship and business at the same time? How did you balance it out? And what would your advice be for those figuring out how to handle the balance situation?

Lessons at Work

Throughout the year I went out into the job market to study how it really is like working in a field that I did not enjoy. Having grown up and worked/made small projects for my parents, I’ve learned the complex life of working at a nine to five job. I decided to do this because I figured it might be a way to motivate myself to start my own business. Was it a good idea? More than likely yes. I want to share with you three of the issues that has build upon me throughout the year that I’ve taken noticed and what I have done to resolve them.

First and foremost I think we can all agree that depression takes a hit when you’re at a job you don’t love. I didn’t start noticing this as much until I began planning out other projects I had apart from my job. During the weekends, I would spend most of my time studying and finding ways to strategize a business project I wanted to start, but once Sunday night hit, it felt frustrating because I knew I wouldn’t have enough time over the week. Throughout the week I would just think about the project, any changes or when I get back I’ll look at other related projects. The frustration began to build up, not only because I didn’t want to be there, but because I felt like I had so many things going on at the same time and I wanted to get it done.

Depression tends to hit people hard. Your mind barricades itself from the outside world and it is difficult getting yourself out once you’re at mid-point. There are many helpful articles all over the web that helps you out of depression. I denied I was depressed and kept saying I was mostly frustrated, but it ended up being the same. So what did I do about this?

I was very fortunate enough to have read many articles about depression in high school, I had friends that would feel like this after a rough breakup in their relationships, and I would give them advice of my own what I knew at the time; if anything, to help. One of the very and most important things I had to do was to talk it out with someone whom could guide me out of it. I think this was key to getting out of it quick. I knew signs of depression was rising and once it hit, I had to talk to someone to give me their feedback about what they thought. If you have signs of depressions I would encourage you to talk to a therapist or someone that could guide you out.

Next, I’ve tried questioning why are people afraid to leave their jobs or why people rather waste time watching television after they get home rather than spending that time studying on something they want to achieve?

The answer is comfort! While working at my job, I began to really feel comfortable. What do I mean by comfortable? Comfortable by making expenses bigger than what I could afford, and the feeling of depending on that job.

I read helpful tips from Noah Kagan and wrote down what’s the worst that can happen if I left my job at this moment. What I came to figure out was that, money played a huge roll. We get comfortable with with our salaries that it gets hard to leave that to accept something much lower.

So what I had to start doing was change my habits. I started lowering my expenses dramatically, and saved my salary instead. Although there’s this issue I’m debating about that I stumbled upon with Robert Kiyosaki saying saving doesn’t work anymore, rather invest in things you will benefit from.

Finally, the people you don’t enjoy working with. Before being hired at the place I worked at, I didn’t know about this problem. I thought, no that can’t be true, I’m sure the leader in charge will solve that out get. Unfortunately where I was at, this was not true.

There were two particular people that I could not stand to be working with. Now as studying to be a leader, I would take steps to make the situation better, but I would say those two at first would not accept anything and go on with their own. I had to acknowledge the fact that there are people out there that carry a mind full of negativity and do not want help.

One very helpful way to resolve these situations is to always carry a positive mind. Perhaps it sounds cheap, but if you look at this from an outside prospective. If one person is angry and you show positive energy towards them, they’re going to want to bring you to their level by you responding angry as well.

They’re going to do things that makes you bring out negative emotions, and by doing so, your on their playing field; they’re taking advantage of you. Instead avoid that, show you are bigger by being positive and bring them up to your field.

These three issues I think are the biggest that I have noted and impacted me over the year while having a job. I’ve really learned a lot from this experience and I hope this post gives you some guidance on what to do and avoid as well. What are your experiences while working at a job you don’t enjoy? Would you agree that the feeling of being too comfortable at your last job was difficult for you to go out on your own and start your business? What steps did you take to let go of it?

Planning Your Business

Planning your business is essential in order to keep it stable and successful. Either big or small, we can’t go out into the world and introduce our service/product without putting any organization into it. I’ve been asked what are the steps to planning, and I want to help you with a simple list to give you a better idea of how you can structure your business plan.

The reasons why you may need a business plan even if you think you don’t need it and you’re small, is because it’s something you can look back at to stay organized. Some of the questions you could ask when preparing this is, what do you want to do five or ten years from now? What are your dreams and vision with this? The length of this plan varies, it usually should be ten pages long, some may say it’s thirty pages, but that lands when a business is already formed and looking to expand even further.

Here’s a quick list:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Market Analysis
  3. Management Team Description
  4. How you plan to Market
  5. Analysis of Company Strength
  6. Cash Flow Statement
  7. Revenue Projections
  8. Exit Strategy

From my understanding and the people I’ve talked with, your executive summary should stand out the most. Most startup’s probably only need this and investors will likely only observe this to determine if your business is worth investing or not. Your executive summary is basically an overview of what your business is. The mission statement, vision, what it serves, how it’s different, how it plans to market, it’s all described briefly in that summary.

Next is market analysis. You may spend a lot of time here studying your competition and where you and your product may fit into the market.

Management team description is describing about the team you will have. Their experiences and success’, who the key members will be, wages, and the number of hours they will contribute.

How you will market your product or service will also need to be examined. It narrows down to who your main target audiences are and how you can reach out to them.

When you analyze your company, you have to list down what it’s strengths and weaknesses are, alongside with any threats the business may face and how you may overcome them.

Cash flow statement demonstrates where the cash is going. It’s the accounting process of the business. Some may not be attracted to this, but this really helps you stay organized with looking at where your money in the business is.

Revenue projections is trying to estimate how much you will sell and gain during a period of time. I call it forecasting. Although it may not always predict correctly, it still gives you a good idea of what you want to aim for and what can be expected.

Lastly you want to have an exit strategy. Perhaps not the most prettiest part of the plan people are looking forward to, but planning this will have you prepared just in case something goes wrong. It can be either liquidating your assets, merging with another company or being acquired.

Hope this guide helps you gain a better idea when you’re preparing to create your business plan. I know most that I’ve talked with have skipped this process and would rather just dive in the water, but there is less risk when we prepare ourselves. If you are seeking more help and or are lost about your area, contact a professional CPA or lawyer to give you more details on taxes, regulations, and additional information on what’s needed in the process.

Disciplining Ourselves: What Does It Take

Is discipline really that hard for us? If we apply it within ourselves can we be capable of getting used to it that it no longer becomes discipline? I’ve read many stories of people being well disciplined to complete a goal they had set. Is it beneficial for us or bad? If it is, what ways help you stay disciplined?

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, discipline is punishment, obsolete: instruction, field of study or a training that molds, perfects the mental or moral character.

As kids we are often disciplined because we are confused we don’t know what we are doing and as a way to better understand it, we often result in being disciplined from mom and dad. The same method transitions into our adult lives, not by our parents, but within ourselves. When we want to reach new heights we have to understand that discipline has to be applied, its a key of series. A great quote I heard was motivation keeps you going, but discipline helps you grow.

I’ve always loved sports being involved in programs after school such as soccer and basketball. At first it was very difficult. Getting up in the morning, going out to jog for 30 minutes, coming back to eat breakfast, and do strength training few hours afterwards. I didn’t want to do it, but time after time I kept putting it in my head that I have to. There’s no if’s or but’s just go out there and practice. Allen Iverson quotes, “Practice? We’re talking about practice.” I just didn’t desire getting up that early. Disciplining myself however has really helped. People I’ve met and close friends would all ask how am I capable of waking up so early to run? I just tell them I got used to it. The results that year was the best and all leaded to one thing, disciplining myself.

Now that I’m getting into my young adult life, I find it difficult finding ways to stay disciplined, as a way of being consistent. I desire to start a new project, something that I have visioned for, but the lack of committing myself and focusing towards it fades away through time. Anyone else relating with the same issue?

There are several ways I remember I kept myself disciplined. It started out with a push. I tried looking for someone with the same mindset as myself. Hearing their experiences motivated me which is also key. I needed that one person to push me so I can get a head start and continue. Kind of like when a small boy is learning to start to ride a bike. The father pushes him and the child will start to get a feeling for it. The same went with me. After entering that lifestyle I grabbed great knowledge of what I will be dealing with. Part of that push to continue forward with disciplining myself, I felt that I needed to be motivated as well. Why motivation? Because I know the outcome will be greater. If I wasn’t motivated at the time, any discipline wouldn’t have happened nor any of the hard work I did.

As I come to conclude this post, just think about any of the projects you’ve compromised in the past. If you are starting a new project/goal, will the methods of disciplining yourself be the same as previously? How do you keep yourself on the correct path without falling over or where would you begin with disciplining yourself?