Wordiness is everywhere -- in emails, ad copy, press releases, and websites.
Even as more people skim and scan than actually read our content, we have clients and bosses who think the more words the better. But readers are busy. Unnecessary words slow them down. Every word should matter.
Some words and phrases do no work; they’re slackers. Deleting them doesn’t hurt your meaning -- it often improves the readability of your content.
One of my favorite quotes comes from legendary auto entrepreneur Henry Ford. As a business owner, I appreciate it because it captures what our mistakes and failures really are: Opportunities.
"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely."
While entrepreneurs spend a lot of effort trying to avoid failure, sometimes the lessons one learns from those missteps can be invaluable. I'm not saying business owners should actively pursue failures. But when they happen, you can come away wiser, stronger and ultimately more profitable.
Here are five common startup mistakes and the lessons you can hopefully learn from making them:
1. Chase every opportunity.
Chasing profits and building a long-term profit model are two different things. Entrepreneurs typically have an instinct for smelling opportunity, but that same killer instinct can quickly turn to weakness when it becomes a distraction from primary goals.
Setting boundaries for the type of work and clients you want is vital to achieving long-term success. Remember, saying "no" can be a best practice for successful startups.
Popping pills to alleviate symptoms of the cold and flu may have you using less Kleenex, but it can also leave you feeling groggy and unproductive. Dr. Ty Vincent, Medical Director at Mat-Su Integrative Medicine in Wasilla, Ala., and author of Thinking Outside the Pill Box: A consumer's guide to integrative medicine and comprehensive wellness, (AuthorHouse, 2012), says natural remedies can help clear your sinuses and boost your immune system without affecting your focus.
Follow these tips to keep illness at bay and recover faster if you do succumb to a cold or flu.
1. Boost your immune system.
As you probably know, the immune system is vital for defending against viruses and bacteria. Vincent says one vitamin is crucial to immune system health, and it's one that almost everyone doesn't get enough of, especially people who live the northern hemisphere.
"Vitamin D is one of the most effective ways to support immune health," says Vincent, who recommends taking a supplement since it's difficult to get high enough levels of vitamin D through food. Other ways to boost the immune system are to get enough rest and engage in regular, moderate exercise.
Think of an activity you enjoy that completely immerses you. When you're doing it, your attention is fully focused, and you are so absorbed that you lose track of time. You feel free and effortless. That state of total concentration is called "flow," and the people who love their jobs experience it often while they're working.
"It's what keeps you going," says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading researcher on flow states, a professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008). "Flow creates an experience that is so exciting and so stimulating that you would do [the activity] even if you didn't get paid."
Entrepreneurs are especially likely to experience flow at work because they have the freedom to choose their own challenges. "The ability to take risks in a calculated way helps create the dynamic that makes entrepreneurial activities flow-producing," Csikszentmihalyi says.
To experience flow and stay focused on a regular basis, try these four tips:
Now is a good time to be an entrepreneur. That's the view from panelists at the Kauffman Foundation's Fourth Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address in Washington D.C. today. Kauffman Foundation is a Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship.
"In my opinion, the entrepreneurial bug has hit the country," said panel member Alan Patricof, founder and managing director of Greycroft Partners, a New York and Los Angeles-based venture capital firm.
Ramana Nanda, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School echoed this sentiment, noting that recent research shows a more than 50 percent increase in the number of Harvard graduates who start businesses right out of college.
Over 300 designers, coders and idea people came together this past weekend in New York's Garment District for Decoded Fashion's hackathon, a two-day event designed to create an app that will assist the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in its mission to promote the American fashion industry around the world.
Participants registered and formed teams in advance on the website Hacker League. After hearing from industry experts about the fashion industry's pain points, each team brainstormed an app to help American fashion brands grow in the marketplace.
"It's not just fashion needing tech. It's tech needing to understand fashion," says Decoded Fashion founder Liz Bacelar, who organized the event along with her partner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Entrepreneurs won't be able to build relevant companies in the space unless they understand the industry's needs, she says. The hackathon aimed to foster dialogue and collaboration between the two worlds.
According to designer Rachel Roy and other speakers, those needs include analytics tools to measure the success or failure rate of products and sophisticated ways to get the right product in front of the right customer at the right time. More industry professionals are realizing the potential of technology to solve these issues. Fashion GPS, an inventory management system, is now in use by many designers, including Marc Jacobs and Chanel.
Dell Inc. announced today that founder Michael Dell, along with Menlo Park, Calif.-based investment firm Silver Lake, have agreed to acquire the tech powerhouse for approximately $24.4 billion, effectively taking the company private. Tech giant Microsoft is also part of the buyer's consortium, contributing $2 billion in the form of a loan.
As a private company, it's expected that Michael Dell will have a new opportunity to position the Round Rock, Texas-based company against its rivals, including China's Lenovo, and to push the PC manufacturer further into the tablet and smartphone markets.
The deal is subject to a number of conditions, including certain regulatory approvals and a vote of unaffiliated stockholders. If all conditions are met, the transaction could close before the end of the first half of Dell's fiscal year 2014, the company says.
Social media -- get it right and your company can soar to viral internet fame. Get it wrong and your brand could languish in obscurity. To help crack the code to the perfect social media messaging mix we spoke with three savvy business leaders whose passion for social media comes through loud and clear on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.
Here are their top three tips to master the basics of social media marketing:
1. Put down the megaphone and listen.
"A lot of entrepreneurs fail [with social media] because they're talking at people," says Dave Brown, director of digital strategy for New York-based experiential marketing agency MKG, whose clients include NBC Universal and Evian.
"Put the megaphone down and listen, join conversations organically. Let them see your passion for what you do," he says. Brown knows how get potential customers to join the conversation, at his previous position as social media specialist for Etsy, he increased unique visits on Etsy's social platforms by more than 200 percent.
The average U.S. office worker generates two pounds of paper each day, according to Environmental Protection Agency. Most of that trash -- 90 percent -- is made up of printed materials like sales reports, project drafts, copy machine mistakes and unwanted mail.
While recycling might seem like the easy fix, Jay Coalson, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps organizations eliminate trash, champions business owners to take it further.
"I believe in no waste," says Coalson, "Some might think it’s impossible and frankly, it is an audacious goal. But so is starting a small business and running it through a recession. Entrepreneurs are already audacious; why not use this mindset to get rid of waste and enhance your community in the process?"
Coalson says achieving zero waste is a process that takes time. He offers small-business owners these five steps to eliminate weekly trash from their workplace:
While your company likely can't afford to advertise during the Super Bowl -- a 30 second commercial cost nearly $4 million, small-business owners can learn some valuable marketing lessons from the game's most successful ads.
"Super Bowl commercials teach entrepreneurs two things: the art of getting your message down to 30 seconds and the art of creating an enticing narrative," says Matt Eventoff, founder of Princeton Public Speaking, a New Jersey-based firm that specializes in message development strategy. "Small-business owners should watch the ads again and take notes; the ideas might prompt new ways to think about their own marketing."
Here's a look at five memorable ads from Super Bowl XLVII and what small-business owners can learn from them:
Entrepreneurs could benefit from a new research and development tax credit that has been proposed by bipartisan lawmakers in Congress. If it passes, the tax credit would bring serious savings to startups that spend money on innovation before they have turned a profit.
Dubbed the Startup Innovation Credit Act of 2013, the bill would allow qualifying companies to claim the Research and Development Tax Credit against their employment taxes. Typically, a business deducts its research and development expenses from its taxable profits, which means the current R&D tax credit is useless for any startup that has not yet started making a profit. Under the proposed bill, if a startup is not yet making profit, it will still be able to reap a reward for investing in innovation by deducting its R&D spending from its employment spending.
Many people log into Twitter to follow and add to real-time commentary about what happens on their favorite programs, sports or other events on TV. Since Twitter has such a presence as consumer's "second screen," it makes sense that businesses large and small want to be a part of that commentary, and get their marketing messages seen by the masses that are participating.
That's exactly what happened during last night's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. A power outage knocked out many of the lights in the stadium for more than 30 minutes. During the delay, many viewers migrated to social media to keep the conversation flowing. Brands, naturally, followed.
Perhaps the best example of how a business successfully latched onto this trending topic to market their wares came from cookie company Oreo. It tweeted: "Power out? No problem." Then Oreo linked to an ad of an Oreo cookie, with the copy, "You can still dunk in the dark." By the time the lights came back on in New Orleans, the tweet had already been shared more than 12,000 times.
If you have a killer idea for a startup, but lack the time, resources and budget to develop a business plan, a business plan-generating app can help you get your plan on paper and, ideally, off the ground.
A number of apps simplify the often tedious, complicated process of crafting a thorough bank- and investor-ready business plan. You provide the information, they organize it into a plan, and hopefully soon you'll be in business.
Here's a look at three apps that can help get your business plan rolling:
1. Enloop. This is an all-in-one web app that walks users through every step of creating a traditional business plan. Here's how it works: Based on the data you enter into the app, Enloop automatically generates sales, profit and loss, cash flow and balance sheet projections for you, complete with explanatory graphs and other compelling visual elements. Enloop also provides standard, yet customizable business plan text for each section of your plan, including portions focused on key company information and financial data.
Launching a business is riddled with stressful uncertainties. You worry about feeding your family, paying your employees, or investing your own money without a guarantee of success. As an entrepreneur, learning to manage that stress will make you a happier -- and more successful -- business leader.
Experienced entrepreneurs have a much easier time dealing with the stress of uncertainty, in part because they think and act in ways that virtually negate it.
"The expert entrepreneurs think in terms of control, not in terms of uncertainty," says Saras Sarasvathy, associate professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, who studies how entrepreneurs cope with uncertainty.
Thinking in terms of control empowers you to focus on the actions you can take to minimize risk. "Great entrepreneurs get very good at shoring up the downside, but embrace products with uncertainty on the upside," Sarasvathy says. That balance allows for both stability and freedom.
Here's how great entrepreneurs achieve a sense of control:
Like pretty much every other social media platform these days, Pinterest is changing its look to become even more visual.
In a recent blog post, Pinterest says, “Pins are bigger and we’ve added more information related to pins, so it’s easier to find things you’re interested in. For example, on each pin, you’ll see pins from the same board, other boards this pin was pinned to, and a whole slew of related pins.”
The platform is seeking volunteers to be among the first to try the new look, so savvy brands looking to be early adopters might want to take advantage of that here.