Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

What Does Success Look Like???

Let’s face it – the unknown is daunting.  Even extensive planning can’t always prepare you for challenges you may face in your entrepreneurial endeavors – whether you’re a startup CEO, a handbag designer or an aspiring indie author. Sometimes you just need to trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Obstacles may seem insurmountable at first glance but if you are dedicated to your efforts and you do the proper research, you WILL work through them.

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor.

My advice is simple. Embrace the unfamiliar and power through. You’ll never know the full extent of your capabilities if you don’t navigate outside your comfort zone. We can’t always be the best at everything but we should always strive to be. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Sure, you may accumulate a mound of debt in the process (something your husband won’t ever let you forget) but you will have taken control of your future.

Clear strategy concept as a straight road going over confused paths for achieving success in the future as a symbol of business vision and planning to solve the maze.

Be passionate! If you aren’t, find a new goal. You’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. It takes too much time and effort to launch a new business and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never get it off the ground. If you’re not willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, preserve your sanity and come up with a new game plan.

Take a risk. You’ll never have all the answers or the insight you need to feel comfortable in EVERY situation.  But that’s okay, because you have faith, drive and ideas to propel you toward your goal.  Sometimes, that’s all you need to achieve success.

Believe in yourself and what you can do. SEE yourself creating, developing, designing, writing, and selling. The powers of the subconscious mind are astounding. Envisioning success is just more positive reinforcement you can apply to your effort. Never let negative thoughts permeate your mind – they will only hamper your efforts. See yourself hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, see a Hollywood A-lister clutching one of your evening bags as she graces the red carpet at the Oscars, see your gadget in the hand of Mark Zuckerberg as he sings its praises to the press. See it, believe it, and make it a reality.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  That only really happens when you give up on your dreams. Outcomes that don’t match your expectations aren’t an indication of defeat. Think of them as lessons learned, pearls of wisdom to draw upon at a later time, things that need to be tweaked as you progress toward meeting your goals.

Try new things. Be creative. Think outside the box. Do something nobody has thought of before. Find the whitespace and clutter it up with your ideas. Don’t try to create demand; figure out what people need and give it to them. Why waste precious resources building something that nobody wants?

Life is all about taking chances. If you play it safe ALL the time, you’ll never uncover your true potential and untapped talents.

LEAP. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. Even if you crash-land, you can still say you tried.

And finally, never give up… on your dreams or on yourself.

Business woman celebrates successful deal at office. Business People

Take Control Of Your Future And Reap The Rewards

Self-published authors have a pretty steep learning curve if they want to joint the ranks of the bestsellers. And I’m not talking about the Amazon bestsellers, I’m talking about the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Not an easy feat. It also doesn’t happen for everyone. Authors can bust their tails for years and years, writing book after book and never make it.

So is it possible to make their dreams become a reality?

Absolutely – through education and execution.

I watched a video tonight, hosted by Nick Stephenson, bestselling fiction author and entrepreneur. His book, Supercharge Your Kindle Sales, is flipping fantastic!! He provides invaluable insight about self-publishing and how to launch a successful author career on his website, Your First 10K Readers. But what I want to point out to you here is a really great point made in the video… one that’s not only applicable to self-pubbed authors but also to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Here’s the gist. Authors have a choice. They can endlessly spin their wheels, trying to figure out how the publishing industry works while using trial and error to test new ways of gaining traction and visibility for their work.

OR…

They can make an investment in their careers and pay for that knowledge. Learning from someone else’s missteps can save a tremendous amount of time and money. It can also preserve their sanity. =)

Then, they can apply their newfound knowledge and execute their success strategy.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

This advice definitely hits home for me as an author as well as an entrepreneur. What Nick is saying makes so much sense. If you’re looking to build a business – whether it be in publishing or another industry – spend time up front to figure out how to avoid common pitfalls. The intelligence you can gather is worth the investment and it will help guide your decision-making processes. Save the time for doing what you love and apply the tried-and-true methods of building your success. Leverage lessons learned and reap the rewards earlier.

Why put off until tomorrow what you could definitely achieve TODAY?

Guest Blog Post – Gabriel Weinberg, Founder of DuckDuckGo

HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!!! Today is the launch of Traction – How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, co-authored by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares and in support of the release, I’m thrilled to host a guest post by Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the search engine DuckDuckGo, that provides insight to what you can expect from this invaluable startup marketing handbook. The concepts are applicable to any startup endeavor and a resource I’d recommend to any entrepreneur. But don’t take my word for it…the reviews speak volumes.  With success stories like Seth Godin and Alexis Ohanian singing its praises, you can’t go wrong. My advice? One-click. NOW.

6 Common Traction Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

I’ve made every one of these six common mistakes in the pursuit of traction. They’re so easy to make because they’re all counter-intuitive, working against your natural instincts. I hope you can avoid them! Like with a lot of issues, the first step is recognizing and acknowledging you have a problem.

Mistake #1: Not seeking traction early enough.

The secret to a successful launch is to focus on getting traction right from the beginning of product development, by continually pouring a steady stream of cold customers into your product (leaky bucket) while you are building it.

hand holding a tin bucket with holes on black background

That’s the only way to really find out where the leaks are, as your beta customers are too close to you and don’t have fresh eyes. By running fast and cheap traction tests, you also figure out pre-launch what niche to market to initially, what marketing will resonate with that niche, and what marketing channel to use to reach them. In other words, you discover a credible distribution strategy, such that when you launch you can actually get traction right away.

Mistake #2: Not setting an explicit traction goal.

Your traction goal should be enough traction to reach an inflection point in your company. When just starting out, this is usually one of three things:

  1. Enough traction to raise money;
  2. Enough traction to be profitably self-sustaining; or
  3. Enough traction to prove to your extended team that you have product/market fit.

Once you have a hard number, you can measure your traction efforts against this explicit traction goal. If a marketing strategy in its best case won’t move the needle in terms of your goal, then you shouldn’t do it, even if you know it will get you some traction.

Mistake #3: Not considering all 19 traction channels.

cono redondo target con sombra rojoIn talking to and studying hundreds of successful entrepreneurs for Traction (the book), we found that there are 19 different customer acquisition channels companies use to get traction.

A key insight was that often the most successful startups were using under-utilized channels in their industry. In other words, asking what channels are good for B2B or B2C or a particular situation is the wrong question. The right question is how could I possibly use each of the 19 channels, quickly followed by a creative brainstorm. This is the first step in our Bullseye Framework for getting traction.

Mistake #4: Not doing fast and cheap traction tests.

When testing traction channels, the goal is to run fast and cheap marketing tests to roughly answer the following three questions:

  1. How much will it cost to acquire customers through this channel?
  2. How many customers are available through this channel?
  3. Are the customers that you are getting through this channel the kind of customers that you want right now?

Some founders mess up this step by prematurely scaling their marketing efforts. Keep in mind that, when testing channels, you are not trying to get a lot of traction with a channel just yet. Instead, you are simply trying to determine if it’s a channel that could move the needle for your startup. Your main consideration at this point is speed — to get data and to prove your assumptions.

Mistake #5: Not focusing on one core channel.

At any stage in a startup’s life cycle, one traction channel usually dominates in terms of customer acquisition. That is why we suggest focusing on one at a time, but only after you’ve identified a channel that seems like it could actually achieve your traction goal.

The way this step gets most often messed up by founders and marketers is by keeping around distracting marketing efforts in other traction channels, especially earlier efforts that no longer move the needle but once did. This is additionally confusing because oftentimes focusing on your core channel involves channel strategies that utilize other traction channels. One channel is still dominant, but others feed into it. Focusing is the only way to truly become an expert at your core channel, which you need to do if you’re going to uncover cutting edge tactics within it, which often have non-linear rewards.

Mistake #6: Not using a structured approach.

There are nineteen different traction channels, and most founders consider only a few. That’s a big mistake because often under-utilized channels in a given industry have the greatest growth potential. Yet, at the same time, you can’t try all nineteen at once effectively.

You need to apply a framework for getting traction like the Bullseye Framework we present in Traction. It is a simple, three-step framework that involves brainstorming across all channels, testing a few at a time, and then focusing on whatever channel seems capable and most probable of reaching your pre-defined traction goal (you defined one right?). Whether you use our framework or another or your own, please take a structured approach to getting traction.

Economical stock market graph

NOTHING VENTURED IS LIVE! IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

It’s LAUNCH day!!!!!! Let’s CELEBRATE!!!! How about a giveaway, in honor of our delicious hero, Chris Camden?????

Glasses of champagne and sparklers on bright background with sparklers

Here’s to Chris, the Adonis and certifiable charmer with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm. With a panty-melting smile, ridiculous body that oozes pheromones, and a hot car, he’ll have your knees weak within minutes. I promise. ❤

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of ‘Unlikely Venture,” Book One of the Venture Series.

The contest closes on 9/22/2015 and the winner will be notified by email. GOOD LUCK!

Buy Nothing Ventured:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iBooks  Smashwords

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It’s Almost RELEASE DAY For NOTHING VENTURED!

September 15 is almost here! Release day for “Nothing Ventured!” I’m excited beyond words (which is kind of odd for an author) and thrilled for the launch day events to kick off!

We’ll be running giveaways with awesome prizes, so be sure to check them out! I’ll post all the details here!

Nothing Ventured, Book Two in The Venture Series

After suffering a devastating loss that forever changed her life, eluding love is Mia Bradshaw’s primary objective…. until she’s granted a coveted career opportunity to partner with Silicon Valley heartthrob, Chris Camden. But when everything she’s been so careful to protect and control is put in jeopardy, can the guy with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm save her… and himself?

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So while I wait for Tuesday to roll around, I’ll need to find ways to keep calm and occupy myself…hmmm…this might do the trick.

 

 

Startup Spotlight: Geek Mom Media

One of the challenges startups often face is finding time to establish a robust online presence that fully represents their business, value proposition and scope of services. Understandably, preliminary efforts are concentrated more on the service offerings themselves but even if a company offers products and services that are in high demand, if nobody can find the company, it won’t be able to make a sale.

I recently connected with the owner of Geek Mom Media, Julie Jimenez, who formed a company specifically to help startups navigate the technology required to create their online homes,’ doing the geek stuff’ so they don’t have to. Building a business is challenging enough without having to dedicate resources to marketing when operating on a shoestring budget.

GMM Image 2Julie, you have an extensive background in Information Technology, with an impressive and diversified resume. What made you decide to leave a successful career and delve into the world of entrepreneurship?

It wasn’t a planned career move.  In 2012, my daughter who lived in California was poisoned, using her malfunctioning 1940’s oven, by carbon monoxide. After several months of major health issues, I tried to transfer from Texas to California so I could help her.  My aging mother, who also lives with me, had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, another reason I needed to be closer to family.  I continued to work remotely in CA for a about 6 months, but a transfer never materialized so I ended up taking early retirement and started looking at things I could do from home to supplement my income.

The number of aspiring entrepreneurs is rapidly growing and everyone is looking or a way to click with their online target audience(s). How can Geek Mom Media help?

I have a lot of experience in designing websites, either from scratch or on various website builder platforms, including blogs like WordPress and Tumblr.  I can help new startups get on-line reasonably fast with a professional presence, then can train them to maintain their own site or sub-contract to do it for them at reasonable cost.

What are your top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence?

Start with something simple, that can easily be updated or maintained themselves if cost is an issue. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional – there is a steep learning curve with even the easiest website builder programs available. Your time is valuable, spend it doing what you know how to do. Look for a company that can offer you solutions to need, time & budget constraints, someone that will take the time to understand what your needs are and provide guidance and options to help you get where you desire to be.

What is your favorite part about running your own business? 

The ability to schedule my work around the needs of my family and personal life.

Did you have any big aha! moments as you launched Geek Mom Media?

Yes!  Over the past several years, since retiring in 2013, I have tried a couple of different things.  In the end, the most fun and success I’ve had has been doing what I love and knew how to do well already.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Be willing to stretch outside your comfort zone. Set goals for yourself; daily, monthly, annually and have a overall 5 year plan. Believe in your own abilities and have the patience or fortitude to stick with it. I love this quote – “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.” Napoleon Hill.

What have been some of your failures since launching Geek Mom Media, and what have you learned from them?

Incorrect branding:  I initially started out with another name and website url.  It didn’t fly at all.  It really didn’t describe the essence of who I am.  Geek Mom Media fits who I am as a individual much better.

I also did not have a set of cohesive long term goals, so like a GPS without a address programmed, I had no idea where I was going and when if ever I would actually arrive. It wasn’t until I had a plan and destination that I started seeing progress.

As a momtrepreneur, what advice can you offer other moms who are trying to launch a brand-new business?

First of all believe in yourself, you’re a mom, one of the most valuable individuals on earth!  Include your family in your planning, brainstorm with them & friends to ensure you are on the correct path and embarking on the right journey.  Create some form of business plan, that will help you understand the costs of everything involved, from baby-sitters to inventory.  Then research the various products, companies or ideas you are considering to determine which resonates most with your values.  In the end, if what you want to do is not you, does not fit within your lifestyle or your belief system it’s the wrong vehicle to get you where you want to go.  Don’t be afraid to take the time to do it right the first time, if you don’t have time now you may never find or have time later, to do it again.

If you had the chance to begin your career again, what would you do differently?

Start planning for retirement immediately.  I had a retirement plan, allbeit not a good one.  The challenges I’ve met, the past several years, have mostly depleted any savings outside of my normal retirement benefits. Have multiple streams of income where possible, find a opportunity you can get involved with in some way, that will give you residual income, then don’t give up to quickly.

What motivates you?

My faith in God and the knowledge that whatever happens in my life, He is always in control.  No matter how low I may feel, I always have something I can offer someone else to make a difference in their life.  I can always find something I love doing to keep going the next mile.

Connect With Julie at Geek Mom Media:

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