4 Steps to Growing Your Business Now

Did your growth stall in 2019? Here’s how you can engineer a bigger, better year for your business. January 14, 2020 4 min read This story appears in the January 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: My business stalled out in 2019. What can I do to give myself the highest likelihood of growth in 2020? — Aden, Minneapolis The challenge of growing a business is surprisingly similar to the difficulties of losing weight. It’s something I realized after growing my first business, a fitness consultancy called Born Fitness. Each year, people set resolutions (goals, KPIs), start off strong (lots of early-year focus), get frustrated (friction from the process), plateau (return to old habits), and watch apathy set in (panic and lack of focus if goals are not met).  Instead of searching for a magic bullet, a systematic process makes it easier to identify breaks in the system, create pathways for progress, and take […]

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How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps.

It starts by asking questions. And ends by asking more questions. December 5, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the December 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: I just launched a company, but I’m struggling to connect with my first customers. Help! — Lisa, Oklahoma City Before I started my businesses, I was a journalist. And rule number one when writing is this: Know your audience.  Many factors will determine how good a story is. Some variables are beyond your control, such as how forthcoming your subject will be, or what (maybe dumb) headline your editor will write. But the factor you can control is how much research you conduct, the questions you ask, and the follow-ups that help you find the information that really matters.  Related: What Work Should You Outsource? I used to joke that writing was a two-part job. First, you have to be a miner, […]

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Is Your Business Idea Good? Here’s How to Find Out

Should you continue to invest in your product or service, or move on to the next? October 17, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: I’ve spent a year investing in a new product, but it just isn’t getting anywhere. What’s next? Do I just keep at it? — Karl, Pittsburgh   In nearly 10 years of consulting, there’s one question I wish more clients asked: Is my business idea a good fit for the market? This is the first place we start when working with a client. A company has to identify core customers, understand how to engage its audience, and build a custom plan that sells the benefits of a business or a product.  But you can’t truly scale until you’ve found product-­market fit — that magical match when people simply can’t get enough of what you’re offering. It’s […]

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What Work Should You Outsource?

Small businesses don’t need a big team to make a big impact. Here’s how to be strategic about what work gets outsourced. August 28, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the September 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: I don’t have the money to hire a big team. What skills do I need to keep in-house, and what can I just hire contractors for? — Rachel Y., Miami Good startups start with good people. That’s what Paul Graham, one of the founders of the famed Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, often says. And research backs him up. The Startup Genome project found that compared with companies that have a full team, solo­preneurs take 3.6 times longer to outgrow their startup phase. And according to CB Insights research, “not having the right team” is one of the top three reasons startups fail. (The other two are “no market need” […]

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How Much Should You Spend on Social Media Marketing?

It’s a valuable tool, but don’t forget about these other (sometimes free!) ways to reach your clients. July 18, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the July 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: When it comes to customer acquisition, how important is paid social media compared with other digital channels? — John L., Houston Social media has created a beautiful opportunity for entrepreneurs: It’s never been easier to get your message in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. But if you want to reach all those people, it’s going to cost a lot. It’s a simple case of supply and demand, and social media platforms are limiting the supply. Organic reach — that is, your ability to speak directly to the audience that chooses to follow and interact with your business — has dwindled to almost nothing. On Facebook, for example, organic reach touches less […]

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Small Team? No Problem. Here’s How to Multitask With Efficiency.

Asking staff to take on multiple responsibilities doesn’t have to mean chaos. Here’s how to keep the office calm, happy, and productive. April 30, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: How can I help create in-office efficiencies, especially when my team is small and we’re all juggling tasks and responsibilities? — Michelle N., Nashua, N.H.  Put 10 entrepreneurs in a room, and you’ll hear the same mantras recited: Hustle. Focus. Do more with less. Survive. As inspiring as those words might sound, they can’t ensure success. There’s a reason that more than 50 percent of startups fail in the first five years.  Creating efficiencies means establishing an infrastructure that can help your business in multiple situations. After all, failure isn’t always a by-product of a bad idea or a bad team. Sometimes everything is going right until it goes wrong: […]

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How To Launch a Business While Minimizing Risk

There are no guarantees in business, but take these steps to set yourself up for success. March 13, 2019 4 min read This story appears in the March 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: Before I launch my business, how can I set myself up for success while limiting risk? — Jack, Portland, Oreg.  If you obsess about making sure your business won’t fail — rather than figuring out how to make it succeed — your focus will be in the wrong place. Fear doesn’t get you far in entrepreneurship, so it’s best that you keep your eyes on the prize. Still, you can plan to limit downside. That begins by following the first rule of business: Understand your audience. Some researchers believe that more than 20 different factors — from time of day and culture to self-perception and mood — can influence buying behavior. Maybe that’s true, but don’t drive yourself […]

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When Is It Time to Fire an Employee?

Use these three tests to decide if it’s time to terminate a staffer. December 4, 2018 4 min read This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Q: My company is small, and every team member seems necessary. How do I know if I need to fire one? –Ben P., Florida Nothing is worse than having to fire an employee. But for business owners, there is nothing more important than removing employees that are disruptive to your mission. This is a lesson I’ve learned over and over again. When I’ve leaned on kindness and given people the benefit of the doubt, it’s often led to a greater investment of time and resources spent on employees who, ultimately, were just not worth it.  There’s a popular axiom that suggests you should hire slow and fire fast. That’s great in theory, but I’ve never found it especially practical. Hiring […]

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Is Hiring a PR Firm Worth It?

If your startup has little cash to spare, maybe not. May 10, 2018 4 min read This story appears in the May 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » Generating buzz on your business is almost always a good thing — but when it comes at a high cost, what’s the return on investment? Related: Public Relations Hacks You Can Use for Your Business Q: I’m trying to decide whether we should take the plunge and invest in a PR agency to help our business grow. What’s your experience? — Vince, Toronto My consulting company used to offer public relations services for books, technology and physical products. But if you look at our work today, we do PR only as an add-on for long-term clients. Why? It wasn’t because we sucked (which is usually why we’d pivot away from something). We’ve done PR for three New York Times best-selling books, two successful TV shows and […]

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