3 Tips for Designing an Invoice That Gets You Paid Promptly – Ohad Samet

Cash flow is one of a business’s most important metrics. You may have a lot of sales and make a hefty profit margin, but when you don’t get paid on time, your business suffers. You have to pay employees, purchase inventory, as well as other necessary out of pocket expenses – all of which costs money. Yet many businesses report problems with getting paid on time, even for work that has been done and delivered.

You invoice your customers to get paid, but have you ever considered whether you’re using it correctly to increase your chances of getting paid on time? To do that, your invoice needs to include three key elements:

1. Establish rapport.
Establishing rapport means stating the details of what was delivered, what is owed and that the customer committed to make a payment. You need to clearly state what products or services you provided and refer to the agreement you signed as well as the payment terms that you agreed on.

We found that the language you use in conveying the commitment to pay can change the customer’s response. Most of us tend to become rigid and demanding when we refer to legal commitments. We tend to write in what we think is “legalese”. While middle-aged business owners respond well to formal language, millennial business owners are turned off when faced with it since they view such language as threatening. It’s vital to adapt your language to your customers’ expectations to get your message across.

2: Defining a process.
Parkinson’s law says that work will expand to fill the time that’s available to complete it. So will your customer’s payment behavior. You might have a due date on the original agreement but the customer will often miss it, either intentionally or accidentally. Anything that’s more than a few days out often gets forgotten.

To counter that, always work in short cycles. Provide ample notice before a payment is due and follow up several times in shortening time frames. We found that three days prior to a payment is the ideal time to send a reminder. This pattern should stop at payment reminders: if a customer happens to be late, and you send a demand for payment, make sure that you give him a deadline for payment, too. Write “Please make a payment immediately or contact us in the coming three days”.

Of course, you have to stay honest to your process. Some follow up has to come when these days pass.

3: Removing obstacles.
Once the customer accepts your authority and is aware that a payment is due, the last thing that remains is excuses and how to manage them, but your invoice can go a long way in responding to excuses even before they’re uttered.

One of the main excuses we see is disagreement with the content of the invoice or the stated work long after it has been delivered. This is really an attempt to renegotiate price. Most business owners tend to assume that if the customer voiced no disagreement when the work was done, he agrees to the charge and will pay. We found that this is not the case. Often, especially when the charge is big, you could run into disagreements long after a payment is due.

Don’t run away from a dispute. Make it part of your process, and set boundaries. Be explicit about the process: write “If you wish to dispute this charge, please contact us in the coming three days”. Be ready to discuss and listen to your customer because losing a customer’s future business is much worse than a 5 percent discount if you accept a dispute over a minor item.

Using the right language in your invoice can significantly reduce your time to getting paid. The right language creates a connection with your customer, defines a process to get paid and removes obstacles that would otherwise hinder payment. These are simple yet effective elements you need to make sure are included in every communication with your customers – not only to get paid, but to also maintain a healthy relationship.

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If you need to be inspired, here it is.

If you need to be inspired, here it is. This video got the biggest response of anything Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown has ever done, and she’s doing a special re-release for a limited time. Enjoy this 8-minute movie about Ali’s life… faith, family, and how she realized what’s MOST important to her. She’ll be hosting a special CALL on January 27 where she will go DEEP into this topic. I have a feeling this is going to help a lot of you right now. 🙂

ATTEND THIS FREE TELESEMINAR AND YOU’LL DISCOVER HOW TO:

Release that anxiety you feel right now—and where to trade it in… for confidence and certainty
Stop competing and comparing yourself with others—and instead create your own brand of success that delights you
Find the courage to go for your dreams—the good news is you don’t have to be ‘that courageous person’ to do it
Make your next chapter a rich one—with purpose, prosperity (Yes, money!), and love
Discover and trust God’s plan for you. When you open to this and align yourself with it, things get easier (I promise, and I’ll share my personal experience with this too)

You can learn more and register (it’s free) at:

Ali Brown Revelation

The Doors Are Now OPEN!

Yes, the doors are open!

Grab your diary and make the 6th and 7th March free so you can attend the world’s No. 1 event designed for entrepreneurs in 2015.

It’s the ONLY place to be if you want to know what’s working (and what’s not) both today and in the years ahead.

Welcome to The Fast Forward Your Business in Australia…

Presented by world-renowned entrepreneur and futurist Roger James Hamilton.

When you book your place you’ll join a group of more than 8,000 entrepreneurs who have attended previous live shows on his annual global tours.

If you’ve experienced an event with Roger James Hamilton before, you’ll know what amazing presence, wisdom and value he brings to the stage.

You’ll come away with extremely powerful strategies, the very latest on cutting-edge technology to transform your business, and a master plan that’ll be a real GAME CHANGER for you.

Book your seat NOW!

If you’re new to Roger, here’s FIVE cast-iron reasons why you should also attend in March:

– At a time of greater risks and greater opportunities, Roger will help you to think BIGGER and play the bigger game

– You’ll get a clear demonstration of how to make tiny tweaks and small, bite-sized changes to create HUGE results for your business

– You’ll also be shown simple steps to develop and grow a business that you can run remotely, learning and earning from anywhere in the world

– For the very first time at Fast Forward, Roger will outline the success system featured in his bestselling book Millionaire Master Plan – a blueprint to double your income and halve your stress

PLUS

(And this is what makes this event and presentation unique)…

  • Roger will be sharing the TOP 10 trends that will impact on your business this year and be explaining what YOU can do to profit from them.

Book your seat NOW!

This event has been carefully crafted so there’s something for you, whether you’re just starting out or already running a well-established business.

If you’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed or a little out of sorts in today’s arena you’ll come away with a crystal clear sense of direction.

You’ll also leave with specific actions you can implement immediately, and strategies and insights to allow you to achieve 10 TIMES the results you’re getting now.

Just imagine if you could halve your stress and double your income with ease.

You’ll see all the possibilities when you come along with fresh eyes, an open mind and a serious commitment to making your business work.

This is not the time for hesitation. Take control of your future today.

To guarantee your seat, click here NOW!

And remember, what’s being shared with you wont be theory from a textbook.

Roger leads by example and he shares the practical, proven, and real-world strategies and insights which have transformed both his own enterprises AND the businesses of thousands of other entrepreneurs around the globe.

Roger rubs shoulders with the world’s leading futurists and tech entrepreneurs. He has an incredible ability to collate and translate what he sees and hears into new plans, different ways of doing and thinking, and clear action that stretches new boundaries.

And he’s going to be sharing all of that with you at this event.

His approach is NOT about chasing money or trying to accumulate more. It’s about finding your personal flow so you naturally attract the work, clients and opportunities you’re looking for.

Prices start from just $39 so what are you waiting for?

Attending this event will change your life and your whole approach to business. It will put you MILES ahead of your competition and give you the springboard to achieve results that up to now you’ve only dreamed of .

Secure your place NOW!

The Fast Forward Your Business in Australia can help you achieve your most powerful dreams, ambitions and goals.

We look forward to seeing you there.

To your future success

Donna

Wealth Dynamics

P.S. This is the 5th time Roger is holding the event in Australia and it’s going to be BIGGER and BETTER than ever. It’s his ONLY date for the This city in 2015 so make sure you don’t miss out.

P.P.S. When you register for this event you’ll get all the details of our VIP offers and the amazing $3,500 business bundle bonus.

Register your place here!

The Doors Are Now OPEN!

Yes, the doors are open!

Grab your diary and make the 6th and 7th June free so you can attend the world’s No. 1 event designed for entrepreneurs in 2015.

It’s the ONLY place to be if you want to know what’s working (and what’s not) both today and in the years ahead.

Welcome to The Fast Forward Your Business in Auckland…

Presented by world-renowned entrepreneur and futurist Roger James Hamilton.

When you book your place you’ll join a group of more than 8,000 entrepreneurs who have attended previous live shows on his annual global tours.

If you’ve experienced an event with Roger James Hamilton before, you’ll know what amazing presence, wisdom and value he brings to the stage.

You’ll come away with extremely powerful strategies, the very latest on cutting-edge technology to transform your business, and a master plan that’ll be a real GAME CHANGER for you.

Book your seat NOW!

If you’re new to Roger, here are FIVE cast-iron reasons why you should also attend in June:

– At a time of greater risks and greater opportunities, Roger will help you to think BIGGER and play the bigger game

– You’ll get a clear demonstration of how to make tiny tweaks and small, bite-sized changes to create HUGE results for your business

– You’ll also be shown simple steps to develop and grow a business that you can run remotely, learning and earning from anywhere in the world

– For the very first time at Fast Forward, Roger will outline the success system featured in his bestselling book “Millionaire Master Plan” – a blueprint to double your income and halve your stress

PLUS

(And this is what makes this event and presentation unique)…

  • Roger will be sharing the TOP 10 trends that will impact on your business this year and be explaining what YOU can do to profit from them.

Book your seat NOW!

This event has been carefully crafted so there’s something for you, whether you’re just starting out or already running a well-established business.

If you’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed or a little out of sorts in today’s arena you’ll come away with a crystal clear sense of direction.

You’ll also leave with specific actions you can implement immediately, and strategies and insights to allow you to achieve 10 TIMES the results you’re getting now.

Just imagine if you could halve your stress and double your income with ease.

You’ll see all the possibilities when you come along with fresh eyes, an open mind and a serious commitment to making your business work.

This is not the time for hesitation. Take control of your future today.

To guarantee your seat, click here NOW!

And remember, what’s being shared with you won’t be theory from a textbook.

Roger leads by example and he shares the practical, proven, and real-world strategies and insights which have transformed both his own enterprises AND the businesses of thousands of other entrepreneurs around the globe.

Roger rubs shoulders with the world’s leading futurists and tech entrepreneurs. He has an incredible ability to collate and translate what he sees and hears into new plans, different ways of doing and thinking, and clear action that stretches new boundaries.

And he’s going to be sharing all of that with you at this event.

His approach is NOT about chasing money or trying to accumulate more. It’s about finding your personal flow so you naturally attract the work, clients and opportunities you’re looking for.

Prices start from just $39 so what are you waiting for?

Attending this event will change your life and your whole approach to business. It will put you MILES ahead of your competition and give you the springboard to achieve results that up to now you’ve only dreamed of .

Secure your place NOW!

The Fast Forward Your Business in Auckland can help you achieve your most powerful dreams, ambitions and goals.

We look forward to seeing you there.

To your future success

Donna Strachan

Wealth Dynamics

P.S. This is the 1st time Roger is holding the event in Auckland and it’s going to be BIGGER and BETTER than ever. It’s his ONLY date for the New Zealand’s capital city in 2015 so make sure you don’t miss out.

P.P.S. When you register for this event you’ll get all the details of our VIP offers and the amazing $3,500 business bundle bonus.

Register your place here!

One Kings Lane’s Alison Pincus on the Importance of Coffee Dates and Asking for Help – Nina Ziplin

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Alison Pincus, along with Susan Feldman, seized an opportunity when they founded One Kings Lane in 2009: The recession. Looking to offer exclusive discounts and flash sales to users on curated high-end, vintage and designer home décor furniture and accessories, the ecommerce platform became a beloved brand during this down time. And it still is. This year, after raising $112 million, the company’s valuation is approaching $1 billion. We caught up with Pincus to talk about the importance of doing your research, listening to your gut and not being afraid to ask for help.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting up?

A: As I look back, I wish I had better prioritized time against legal efforts, such as contracts and governance matters, as well as document management. When you’re first starting-up one’s to-do list is incredibly long and endless. There’s just never enough time to get it all done.

So for example, entrepreneurs who are not well versed in the law often rely on the expertise of others for contracts and governance guidance. Taking the time upfront to ask the really hard questions and to go deep on topics will save time and unnecessary burdens in the long run. And it’s important to make sure that you are properly filing all contracts, NDAs and other important documents. It’s easy to think in the early days that you’ll always remember where you placed X, Y and Z, but in reality, your laptop or cloud-management system gets cluttered fast. I learned these lessons through experiences like raising capital and business development deals. It would have been wonderful to have had a startup angel providing me with guidance but like anything, you learn from just doing.

Q: What do you think would have happened if you had this knowledge then?
A: I would have sought more advice from my fellow entrepreneurs and spent more time researching my questions.

Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this insight?
A: Young entrepreneurs will ultimately benefit the most from truly understanding governance, finance — both debt and equity — and legal tradeoffs when it comes to raising a round of capital, so they can set their businesses on a growth trajectory.

Q: Besides inventing a time machine, how might they realize this wisdom sooner?
A: Becoming immersed in the entrepreneurial community can yield a variety of benefits, especially the sharing of knowledge and wisdom. Go on coffee dates, attend conferences, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Q: What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now? Why?
A: In hindsight, there are many things that I’m glad I didn’t know before I started One Kings Lane with Susan [Feldman]. I think if one knows too much, it’s much easier to walk away from an opportunity to be a change agent.

Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Solve a market need; follow your passion; work smartly and efficiently and remember to enjoy the good and the hard days. Most importantly, listen to your gut.

Going the Distance: How Improving Your Health Helps Improve Your Bottom Line – Jake Gibson

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In 2007, I was at the front of the oncoming credit crisis: Working on Wall Street, overseeing interest rate risk and trades at one of the nation’s largest investment banks. I was growing weary of my job — I felt stressed out, uninspired and unhealthy.

So I laced up my running shoes and hit the road.

Seven years later I’m helping run a company I co-founded, taking care of a pair of newborn twins with my wife and am in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. While others may view spending an hour or 90 minutes each day on physical fitness as a luxury, I’ve come to see it as a necessity.

I’m not alone. “Executives who exercise are significantly more effective leaders than those who don’t,” according to research from the Center of Creative Leadership (CCL). “Time invested in regular exercise, even if it means spending less time at work, is correlated with higher ratings of leadership effectiveness.”

CCL performed a 10-year study comparing executives who regularly exercise with those who don’t (or only hit the gym sporadically) and compared it with 360-degree reviews of their work performance with their colleagues. “We found that the exercisers rated significantly higher than their non-exercising peers on overall leadership effectiveness,” writes Dr. Sharon McDowell-Larsen, co-author of the study. “They also scored higher on specific traits including: inspiring commitment, credibility, leading others, leading by example, energy, resilience and calmness.”

I know I couldn’t effectively deal with stress on multiple fronts without dedicating time to my physical well-being. (And I am guessing many of you couldn’t either.)

Here are the steps I took that helped me run marathons and run my company.

Choose a practice that’s right for you. You wouldn’t choose to start a business in an area where you have no expertise. Similarly, start an exercise regimen that best fits for interests. When I was looking to get back in shape, I chose running, because it was the easiest to fit into the unpredictable, 24-7 demands of working on Wall Street. I didn’t need to sign up for a class nor did I need special equipment other than a good pair of running shoes.

The most important benefit for your work is doing something that will get you out of your head — which is often just what your head needs to get the creative juices flowing. I can’t tell you how many times an idea for NerdWallet has popped into my head during a run.

Question your assumptions. This wasn’t my first foray into running. I ran cross country during high school but quit my senior year after injuries and problems with my knees. I went to doctors and tried different orthotics, but at the end of the day, the experience left me with the assumption that I’m injury prone.

I had to question that assumption when I became determined to start running again in 2007. To free my body, I applied my mind — doing diligent research on proper training and injury prevention. Turned out my knee problem was a run-of-the-mill issue for runners that smart training helps sidestep.

What assumptions are keeping you from a physical practice? Perhaps you think you’re uncoordinated, or no good at a sport you’ve admired from afar? Maybe you are haunted by painful memories from school gym classes? Question the assumptions holding exercise at bay and good things will come your way.

And questioning notions of yourself helps shake up assumptions you may also hold about running your company. Sometimes the best way to make a quantum leap in your work is to step back and ask yourself, “Is my thinking right here? Am I approaching this from the wrong direction?”

Take it slow. “No pain, no gain,” is not a good aphorism when beginning an exercise regimen. Better to think “slow and steady wins the race.” Believe it or not, this is biggest difficulty you’ll face when getting back into shape.

Why? Your cardiovascular system improves much faster than your tissue and muscles, so you’re going to feel better faster than the physical improvement of your legs and feet. It creates a false confidence in your ability and a desire to push yourself harder than you’re ready.

Like when running a startup, sometimes the best thing you can do slow down: Business is a marathon, not a sprint. And sticking with a physical practice teaches a trait sorely undervalued in the go-go startup culture: Patience. Do the footwork, and the results will come.

Compete against yourself. I run in competitions, but I don’t say I’m competitive. There’s always the reward of beating yourself by improving on my times.Keep your goals and milestones personal. And keep it fun.

Competing against yourself nurtures resiliency, a key attribute that helps entrepreneurs survive the brutal contest of running a business. The competition will beat you time and again. Obstacles — often outside your control — will fall across your path. But focus on what you can control and progress is inevitable.

Create a virtuous circle. The greatest thing about a physical practice is the knock-on effect in other areas in your life. If you exercise, you automatically find yourself becoming more conscious of what you put in your body. I eat much better and keep well hydrated.

The CCL study on executive exercise found that “levels of body fat made no difference in how leaders are rated by their bosses, peers and direct reports.” In other words, consistent exercise matters more than weight loss. Colleagues respond not to a “slimmer you,” but to the energy, focus and mental agility you display that comes with regular exercise.

The most important benefit for me is improved energy levels. One of the things that stood out in my 360-degree reviews is that I clearly take on a lot of stress — I’m a high-strung person and tend to be anxious. At the same time I’m described as consistently high-energy. I attribute that to my running regimen.

Talent is no substitute for hard work. What I love about running is it’s not something where you have to be naturally good at it — you put in the work and you get better.

I honestly believe anyone could run a marathon if they put in the work. That’s a philosophy that’s also helps improve my work. If I don’t accept it’s out of reach, I can get it or, at least, I can get close enough.

This November I’m running the Quad Dipsea hill race for the first time. Seven years ago if you told me I would do that, I’d think you were crazy, like saying I’d help start a company.

Now I just view it as an exciting goal — and wonder what vistas I’ll see ahead of me after I complete that last mile.

Your Business Plan Must-Haves

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In their book Write Your Business Plan, the staff of Entrepreneur Media offer an in-depth understanding of what’s essential to any business plan, what’s appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer words of wisdom from business plan experts on the key parts of your plan.

What are the most important parts of a business plan? Four experts, who’ve read hundreds of business plans, weigh in on this critical topic.

“This changes with the stage of the company,” says Robert Roeper, managing director of venture capital firm VIMAC. “In a very early-stage company, the key components are the definition of the need/projected market, the buyer and the product or technology that will be used to fulfill the need. Next comes the business model that speculates on the cost to acquire a customer and the anticipated revenue from that customer.

“Then comes a rational review of potential competition,” he explains. “Finally is a presentation of the management team that will get you to the next stage of growth. The reason for this order is that, in general, if the potential market isn’t big enough, all the other things don’t matter, and if the market is big enough but you can’t identify the buying chain, then you don’t know enough yet to position the product or technology, etc. Bad positioning is epidemic in early stage companies, but it can be corrected.”

Donna Maria Coles Johnson, author, speaker, and founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, thinks it depends on for whom the plan is prepared. “If it’s for a venture capitalist, the most important part would be the financials because they want to know how they’ll make money and how quickly they’ll make money,” she says. “Same if you’re seeking a bank loan or investors. Also important, no matter who the audience is, is the executive summary because it’s often the first thing people read. If the executive summary does not succinctly and enthusiastically convey the business concept, the reader will move on quickly to something else.

“Attention has to be captured quickly and held in order to obtain funding,” Johnson notes. “If the plan is geared toward attracting top management to become part of the team, the financials are important. But the executive summary is also important because it’s the part of the plan that demonstrates the idea that the management team will be part of a new, exciting, innovative venture with maximum chances of success. Everyone wants to be a part of success!

“Overall, there really is no ‘most important part,’” Johnson says. “A business plan has to tell a story. It has to flow with a fluidity and consistency throughout. If it doesn’t, and even one section falls flat, the entire story can be called into question. Each section should build on the other and refer specifically to the other when appropriate. There must be no inconsistencies that would call your planning and management expertise into question. A business plan should create a synergy, where the whole is greater and more credible than the mere sum of its parts.”

Scott Simpson, a former associate at Battery Ventures Associates, thinks there are three important parts of a business plan: the problem statement, the explanation of your solution to the problem and the explanation of your differentiation from your competitors. “The best plans clearly explain the reason for the proposed product or service’s existence,” he says. “For example, ‘My software will allow large manufacturers to integrate with their suppliers, which is something that they cannot do today and is necessary for them going forward.’ The explanation of a product or solution should clearly explain exactly what the product, service or business is going to produce or sell. The best plans are as specific as possible.”

“Finally,” Johnson adds, “explanation of a company’s differentiation usually focuses on the competition that will be encountered, the barriers to entry for potential competitors, and the sustainable long-term advantage of the business over other competitors. Some other very important components of a plan include market data and description of the management team. It’s crucial to understand exactly what skills each member of your team will bring to the business.”

Ronald Peterson, president of Three Arrows Capital, thinks that the most important part of your business plan is the very first paragraph. “Often, that’s the only part that most people will ever read, and of that, the opening sentence is the most important portion,” he says. “At Three Arrows Capital, we wrestle with that opening for days, and once we have it right, the rest comes far easier. The competition section is extremely important since not only does it demonstrate and give assurance that you have done your homework, it also alerts you to other business models and solutions in your chosen industry that you need to read and consider.”

7 Steps to Defining Your Niche Market

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In their book, Start Your Own Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting a business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors explain how you can find the right niche for your entrepreneurial needs.

You’ve come up with a great idea for a business, but you’re not ready to roll yet. Before you go any further, the next step is figuring out just who your market is.

There are two basic markets you can sell to: consumer and business. These divisions are fairly obvious. For example, if you’re selling women’s clothing from a retail store, your target market is consumers; if you’re selling office supplies, your target market is businesses (this is referred to as “B2B” sales). In some cases—for example, if you run a printing business—you may be marketing to both businesses and individuals.

No business—particularly a small one—can be all things to all people. The more narrowly you can define your target market, the better. This process is known as creating a niche and is key to success for even the biggest companies. Walmart and Tiffany are both retailers, but they have very different niches: Walmart caters to bargain-minded shoppers, while Tiffany appeals to upscale jewelry consumers.

“Many people talk about ‘finding’ a niche as if it were something under a rock or at the end of the rainbow, ready-made. That’s nonsense,” says Lynda Falkenstein, author of Nichecraft: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market and Make Customers Seek You Out. Good niches don’t just fall into your lap; they must be carefully crafted.

Rather than creating a niche, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of falling into the “all over the map” trap, claiming they can do many things and be good at all of them. These people quickly learn a tough lesson, Falkenstein warns: “Smaller is bigger in business, and smaller is not all over the map; it’s highly focused.”

Creating a good niche, Falkenstein advises, involves following a seven-step process:

1. Make a wish list.
With whom do you want to do business? Be as specific as you can. Identify the geographic range and the types of businesses or customers you want your business to target. If you don’t know whom you want to do business with, you can’t make contact. “You must recognize that you can’t do business with everybody,” Falkenstein cautions. Otherwise, you risk exhausting yourself and confusing your customers.

These days, the trend is toward smaller niches. Targeting teenagers isn’t specific enough; targeting male, African American teenagers with family incomes of $40,000 and up is. Aiming at companies that sell software is too broad; aiming at Northern California-based companies that provide internet software sales and training and have sales of $15 million or more is a better goal.

2. Focus.
Clarify what you want to sell, remembering that a) you can’t be all things to all people and b) smaller is bigger. Your niche isn’t the same as the field in which you work. For example, a retail clothing business is not a niche but a field. A more specific niche may be “maternity clothes for executive women.”

To begin this focusing process, Falkenstein suggests using these techniques to help you:

  • Make a list of things you do best and the skills implicit in each of them.
    List your achievements.
    Identify the most important lessons you’ve learned in life.
    Look for patterns that reveal your style or approach to resolving problems.
    Your niche should arise naturally from your interests and experience. For example, if you spent 10 years working in a consulting firm but also spent 10 years working for a small, family-owned business, you may decide to start a consulting business that specializes in small, family-owned companies.

3. Describe the customer’s worldview.
A successful business uses what Falkenstein calls the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would do unto themselves.” When you look at the world from your prospective customers’ perspective, you can identify their needs or wants. The best way to do this is to talk to prospective customers and identify their main concerns.

4. Synthesize.
At this stage, your niche should begin to take shape as your ideas and the client’s needs and wants coalesce to create something new. A good niche has five qualities:

  • It takes you where you want to go—in other words, it conforms to your long-term vision.
    Somebody else wants it—namely, customers.
    It’s carefully planned.
    It’s one-of-a-kind, the “only game in town.”
    It evolves, allowing you to develop different profit centers and still retain the core business, thus ensuring long-term success.

5. Evaluate.
Now it’s time to evaluate your proposed product or service against the five criteria in Step 4. Perhaps you’ll find that the niche you had in mind requires more business travel than you’re ready for. That means it doesn’t fulfill one of the above criteria—it won’t take you where you want to go. So scrap it, and move on to the next idea.

6. Test.
Once you have a match between niche and product, test-market it. “Give people an opportunity to buy your product or service—not just theoretically but actually putting it out there,” Falkenstein suggests. This can be done by offering samples, such as a free mini-seminar or a sample copy of your newsletter. The test shouldn’t cost you a lot of money: “If you spend huge amounts of money on the initial market test, you’re probably doing it wrong,” she says.

7. Go for it!
It’s time to implement your idea. For many entrepreneurs, this is the most difficult stage. But fear not: If you did your homework, entering the market will be a calculated risk, not just a gamble.

44 Apps That Turn Your Smartphone Into a Productivity Powerhouse (Infographic) – Geoff Weiss

In today’s mobile landscape, where unfocused pedestrians regularly walk into walls and a majority of Americans prize their beloved gadgets above sex, smartphones have come to serve for many as dangerous agents of distraction. But when optimally harnessed, they can serve as powerful productivity tools.

From to-do lists to time management to goal-tracking to file storage, here’s a look at 44 of the best apps to help entrepreneurs systematize the unwieldy process of building a business, as compiled by British IT company Conosco.

Among our favorites? HabitRPG, a task manger that gamifies your habits and accomplishments, and Focus@will, which combines background music and neuroscience to purportedly boost productivity by up to 400 percent.

Related: Does This Desk Increase Productivity or Simply Make You Look Ridiculous

Check out the full list below

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8 Writing Rules for Entrepreneurs – Ann Handley

There are two kinds of people: Those who think they can write, and those who think they can’t. Very often, both are wrong. The truth is this: Writing well is part habit, part knowledge and part giving a damn.

But, you may be asking, who cares about writing anymore? In a world dominated by the short and snappy–click-bait headlines, tweets, Instagram, GIFs, Vine, Snapchat and YOLO and LOL–it might seem pedantic to focus on quality writing.

In fact, writing matters more now, not less. Business is driven by online content, and words are our emissaries. They tell our customers who we are.

Yet so often, they are overlooked. Think of it this way: If your website did not have its visual branding in place, would a visitor recognize it as yours?

Are you telling your story from your unique perspective, with a voice and style that’s clearly all you? You should be.

Here are eight rules to help you hone your writing voice on your website, blog and social channels.

1. Use real words. Is your website or blog littered with revolutionary, value-added, impactful, cutting-edge, best-of-breed, mission-critical words designed to leverage and synergize the current paradigm? Words like that are the chemical additives of business writing: Maybe one or two used sparingly won’t matter much, but too many will poison your content. Forget the buzzwords, and say what you really mean.

2. Avoid frankenwords, weblish and words pretending to be something they’re not. Frankenwords are words weirdly bolted together to create stiff, bizarre versions of themselves, typically ending in -ize or -ism or -istic (incentivize, bucketize). Avoid nouns masquerading as verbs (workshopping, journaling) and verbs masquerading as nouns (learnings). And definitely avoid weblish like k thx ur welcome.

3. Use the active voice. The passive voice isn’t technically incorrect, but it tends to sound stilted and awkward. You’ll vastly improve your writing by making your verbs active. Active sounds zippier and more alive.

So, instead of “The video was edited by a guy named Hibachi,” try “A guy named Hibachi edited the video.” A simple but surprisingly effective change.

4. Ditch weakling verbs for more descriptive ones. Bold action words will breathe life into your writing. Avoid generic phrases; use expressive language that paints a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

Instead of “It might seem like a good idea, but it’s probably not in good taste to put a QR code on a tombstone,” try “It might seem like a good idea, but it’s probably not in good taste to etch a QR code on your loved one’s tombstone.”

5. Lose adverbs, except when they enhance meaning. Most writers use adverbs gratuitously, tossing them in when they add nothing. In the previous sentence, the adverb gratuitously is necessary, because it tells you how most writers use adverbs. Without it, the sentence reads “Most writers use adverbs.” Well, duh.

Novelist Stephen King says the road to hell is paved with adverbs. It’s preferable to convey mood and explain things more subtly in dialogue and action, as opposed to inserting an adverb and expecting it to do the work for you.

“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly,” King writes in his memoir On Writing. “It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there.”

Later he adds, “What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

6. Use clich?s only once in a blue moon. They’re for lazy business writers. You’ve heard them all: at the end of the day, move the needle, take a 30,000-foot view, open-door policy, all things being equal.

Sometimes, clich?s can offer a quick reference or shorthand (on the same page). But too many will make you sound just like everyone else–exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

7. Trim word bloat. Say things simply, with empathy for the reader. The use of more words does not make you sound more smart. On the contrary, it contributes to content obesity. So, instead of “in order to,” say “to.” Instead of “ways by which,” use “ways.” Trim “despite the fact that” to “although.”

8. Break some grammar rules. It’s OK to start a sentence with “And,” “But” or “Because.” It’s OK to write a single-word sentence. And a one-sentence paragraph? Why not? Now that we’re grown-ups, we can safely break some rules we learned in school when doing so adds energy and momentum to our writing. Grammar does matter. But readability, personality and emphasis matter, too.