Starting and managing a small business requires paying attention to multiple areas of responsibility. Accounting, marketing, operations, sales, customer service…and the list goes on. Rarely do entrepreneurs have the knowledge and skills to adeptly strategize ways to successfully execute all of them on their own. To improve areas of their businesses and discover ways to streamline processes, some businesses enlist the help of advisory boards.
According to Penny Pompei, SCORE mentor and chairman of the Palm Beach chapter, ”It truly is very lonely at the top, especially at the top of a small business. You are expected to be all things to all people, and while lots of people have plenty of advice for you, they don’t fully understand your business, nor do they always have your best interests at heart.”
An advisory board consists of professionals with expertise in various business disciplines, who provide strategic advice to help an entrepreneur manage and grow the business. Unlike having a board of directors, having an advisory board doesn’t obligate a business owner to act on the guidance provided. Advisory boards offer an opportunity to glean knowledge from experts without the formality and structure of a board of directors.
Some ways small business owners can benefit from advisory boards include:
- Challenge the “tunnel vision” that is keeping them from exploring new approaches that might be more effective than what they’re currently doing.
- Stimulate creative thinking.
- Connect them with valuable contacts and resources they otherwise might not have had an opportunity to meet.
- Facilitate professional and personal development via the new knowledge gained from the members of their board.
- Serve as a sounding board for addressing challenges, solving problems, and exploring new ideas.
- Give them a greater sense of accountability, knowing others have a keen interest in their progress and success.
“Do yourself a favor and never pick your friends and relatives to be on your advisory board,” advises Pompei. “That ALWAYS leads to problems. You really don’t even have to like the people that you choose—but you must respect their knowledge and ability. If you make widgets, you don’t need another widget expert to advise you—you need people who are forward thinkers about their own businesses. If you haven’t yet read “Team of Rivals” about President Lincoln’s trusted advisors, now is the perfect time to do so. He knew differing opinions made an organization strong, as long as everyone knew that the ultimate decision rested on his shoulders. Every business stands a chance of being “Uber’ed” out of existence. Pick advisors that will help you predict the future.”
If you think your small business could benefit from the help of an advisory board, reach out to your local SCORE chapter to discuss the possibility of forming one for your company. SCORE mentors offer expertise in all aspects of starting and running a small business; they have the knowledge and experience to help you assess your efforts and guide you in ways to reach your goals.
Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.
What are small business accelerators and incubators?
Small business accelerators and incubators can provide crucial help to new and growing small businesses in the form of support, direction, and funding, according to Inc. Magazine.
According to the National Business Incubation Association, survival rates for participants in new business incubation programs is 87 percent after five years compared to 44 percent of groups that don’t use the services.
Incubator programs come in at the beginning stages of a startup, and their focus is on providing office space, skills training, networking opportunities, mentorship, and some access to financing. Accelerator programs are aimed at new, but more mature, businesses that need to step up growth.
According to Small Business Trends, incubator programs took off during the 1980s when universities began providing these services to their entrepreneurial students to help get them off the ground. Even today, many startup incubators are educational or government nonprofits that aren’t able to provide much capital investment themselves but instead focus on slow growth and ongoing support. For-profit incubators can, however, offer more early-stage funding in exchange for equity and partial control of the company.
As their name implies, accelerators are meant to take a young company and help it rapidly expand. During the course of months-long, boot camp-style programs, incubators focus on specific development projects and tight deadlines meant to scale a business to profitability while sorting out any issues with strategy, operations, and organization.
According to Harvard Business Review, there were almost 200 accelerators in the U.S. between 2005-2015 that collectively invested in more than 5,000 new businesses with a total of $19.5 billion in capital. While joining such programs will by no means ensure success, many successful names such as AirBnB, Dropbox, and Stripe were able to leverage the access to high-profile investors and mentors to grow their valuations over the $1 billion mark.
Five qualities of a successful entrepreneur
Dreaming of starting a business? Wondering what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur? While there’s no one tried-and-true recipe, here are five qualities that successful entrepreneurs tend to have.
Good entrepreneurs are go-getters who forge out a path through thick and thin. They are effective communicators who know how to rally, influence, motivate and inspire others.
They’re forward-thinking individuals who are able to create a concept, an approach or a product that has long-term viability.
They’re possessed of a good deal of farsightedness, which is needed to look ahead and plan out the strategies needed to take their enterprise in the right direction.
Entrepreneurs never give up: they persevere despite obstacles. They work relentlessly, consistently managing to find ways to overcome the problems at hand.
They’re risk-takers who rise to the challenge of finding success where others have failed. It’s not a question of recklessness, but rather of being able to weigh and tolerate the risks.
These are the secret ingredients shared by most successful entrepreneurs. If this sounds like you, chances are you too may be able to launch and run a successful business of your own.
Christmas gift giving etiquette in the workplace
For a festive and confident holiday, follow the etiquette of gift-giving in the office, according to U.S. News.
Traditionally, employees don’t buy a gift for their boss or manager as it is considered poor form. Some companies ignore this rule and may choose to take donations for a group gift. Nobody should feel pressured into putting in money for these gifts or any other group-based event.
Still, gift swaps are common and can be a lot of fun. Two games are Yankee Swap and Secret Santa.
In the Yankee Swap, everyone buys and wraps an unmarked present and names are drawn to see who chooses and unwraps a present first. The next person up can either take a new gift or steal the one just opened. With Secret Santa, everyone gets the name of another person, and he or she is tasked with buying an anonymous gift just for them.
Pay attention to the spending limit, usually around $20, as well as what message a gift could be sending. Gag gifts can be dangerous if the recipient doesn’t enjoy the joke. Never assume your good intentions will be seen as good. Don’t go political, even if you know the recipient will like it. If you share political humor with someone, give them that gift as a joke outside the office.
Candy and baked goods are usually a safe bet, but mind the recipient’s religious or dietary restrictions.
Obviously, don’t buy a religious gift for a non-religious person or a Christmas-themed gift for a non-Christian.
Stay honest, positive in job interviews
A previous employer can and will discuss your performance on the job, so be honest in interviews and stay positive when you are applying for a new job.
No one wants to hire someone who trashes their former employer or gossips about the employer to the hiring manager. The first thing the hiring manager thinks is that their company will get the same treatment when you leave them, according to The Balance Careers.
On the other hand, it is important to be honest, both about your own performance in a previous job and why you left the company. Potential employees should stick to the facts, admit their part in a bad situation, and attempt to be positive.
A hiring manager will probably contact a previous employer. Previous employers can generally share information about documented conduct, job responsibilities and performance, and sometimes salary information.
Just because a company is allowed to share details about previous employees doesn’t mean they will. Most larger companies might share documented negative performance information, but will not share gossip. Most large firms with dedicated human resources and legal departments will stick to basic facts only. Smaller operations might have fewer internal restrictions.
Regardless of what a former supervisor might say, job seekers should be frank when discussing previous jobs. A sudden red flag from a reference can make it appear as if an applicant is hiding information.
Owning up to termination, for example, doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker if the incident makes sense within context. Avoid bad-mouthing a former boss or becoming defensive about the issue. Even with jobs that ended badly, be sure to add positive references whenever possible, as well as some from earlier positions, to make sure the problem isn’t the only thing recruiters see.
A week to celebrate entrepreneurship
Held the third week in November every year since 2008, Global Entrepreneurship Week is touted as “a celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups.” This year, an estimated 10 million innovators and job creators are expected to take part in 35,000 activities and contests in 170 countries.
Global Entrepreneurship Week provides the ideal networking opportunity for new and young entrepreneurs to explore their potential, gain knowledge and connect with peers and mentors. Given that a large number of millennials have shown an unmistakable proclivity for entrepreneurship, the event is of huge benefit to them.
Undeniably, it’s business-savvy youngsters that we must thank for today’s most innovative products and services. This includes globally significant green technologies as well as non-conventional methods of working like co-working, co-creation and telecommuting.
The events around Global Entrepreneurship Week give entrepreneurs—and would-be entrepreneurs—the opportunity to engage in local, national and international activities such as conferences, workshops and round tables.
Most significantly, Global Entrepreneurship Week encourages the creation and development of the next wave of innovative small businesses, spearheading us all into an exciting and sustainable future.
Ways to actually leave work on time
Working longer hours doesn’t create better results, according to Morten Hansen of the University of California, Berkley.
Early in his career, Hansen believed that working 90 hours per week was the secret to success. But he noticed some colleagues worked less, much less, but achieved better results. But, why?
That question spurred a five-year study involving 5,000 managers and employees. Hansen found that job performance increases stopped at the 50-hour mark and sharply declined after 65 hours.
Hansen found that the best workers relentlessly focus on the activities that produce the most value for their organization. They weren’t just being busy, they were actually accomplishing something.
Some strategies for leaving on time:
Focus on planning the day and week to remove the most common reasons for overworking, according to The Ladders. Meetings, phone calls, and emails fill up a schedule, but don’t necessarily end in results.
Schedule times for work and play during a given day. This removes some of the urge to procrastinate during scheduled work hours.
Create a hard deadline for exiting the office by making an appointment with a personal trainer or a reservation for dinner. Let your coworkers know you have a firm leave time.
Guilt and the perceived importance of putting in a certain amount of time relative to peers is a potent factor that often leads to overwork, according to The Motley Fool.
Unfortunately, many company cultures have been built around long work days, and it can quickly feel like a person is walking out on their team or shirking their responsibilities. Instead of the guilt, focus on making the best use of time during work hours and accomplishing real results.
Discuss priorities on projects with the boss and then make a plan to accomplish them.