Networking is a tricky word — especially for women in business. For some, networking conjures up images of crowded rooms full of people in suits exchanging business cards. For others, it might feel like asking someone to do something for you, which can be uncomfortable for many women.
The best thing to do when something that is necessary and critical to success is uncomfortable, is to reframe it. Networking is nothing more than building relationships with people who can help you and people who you can help. Problem solved, right? Women like to help others…but that asking for help from others part is not so cozy to many women. Why? Because we tend to be social and communicative, but we don’t feel comfortable with defining what comes naturally to us. The solution? Build the relationships before you need to ask for help. By the time you need to make the ask, you have already established trust, reliability and familiarity — all the things needed to ask and receive.
When it comes to funding startups and small businesses, why does it seem that the guys play a simple round of golf and come home with a check? Yet, a lot of female founders get turned away by early-stage funders. If you look at the stats, it appears this scenario does play out around the country. For instance, in Small Business Association (SBA) lending, 72 percent of loans go to men, and men in general receive more dollars per loan than women. However, what I believe is happening is that all the relationship building has been going on for our male counterparts for quite a while. When the need arises for help funding that new or growing venture and the ask is made, the relationship originated months or even years ago. Men play golf (or paddle, or tennis, or bowling or 5Ks) frequently. So, when around the nineteenth hole someone asks for a mere half a million dollars or so, the heavy lifting has already been done. And the person being asked already knows they can trust the person making the request. They know a bit about the business venture and know they will be paid back either by loan repayment or through an equity event. The person requesting the funding has already proven they can be an asset to the person investing or doing the lending. They'll do it through making connections or helping support the funder’s business in some other way.
Women can do this give-and-take relationship building in our sleep. But as soon as the word networking enters the conversation, our internal radar starts blinking the warning lights. But talk to us about our relationships, and we can dive wholeheartedly into that conversation. So, what is the difference? Nothing really, except the words themselves. Think of people who are not close friends or family with whom you have a relationship. Hair stylists, children’s friends’ parents, schoolteachers, high school friends you notice on social media having successful careers, etc. You think of these as relationships — distant maybe, but relationships, nonetheless. Now, think about asking any of these people to make a referral for you. For instance, what banker did you use when you set up your salon? Once you build your confidence to ask these types of questions, then one thing leads to another and you are meeting with a banker. Once they get to know you and understand your business needs, they will be inclined to help you. And, to be sure that you are ready for funding when you need it.
Getting your business noticed early on by people who are connected to the money you may need is what networking is all about. But it isn’t always all about the money. You will need other things to make your business grow. Real estate in an up-and-coming part of town, talent to build out your team, legal support, a great CPA and so on. Networking (aka relationship building) will put you in the position to ask the right people for what you need. Put the shoe on the other foot; a college friend opens a business in your community and reaches out on social media to say, your business looks so fascinating! I just started a business also. Would you have time to get coffee and share your experiences with me? Of course, you’d say yes, and a networking connection has been established. This won’t feel like a preconceived impression of networking. The more you do it, the more it feels like a natural cycle of you help me, I am happy to help you, also.
So, reframe this uncomfortable networking thing, get out there and build relationships. When you are the new success story in town, believe me, everyone will want to network with you!
Image Credit: Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.com
From raises to teamwork to hiring and firing, having a sports team mentality helps put running a business in perspective. Here's why.
The world of entrepreneurship can be a lonely place. It's easy to get lost in the weeds of running a business, especially when so many other things need to be done every day. But if you want to grow your business into something great, you must ensure that you're doing everything necessary to build a solid foundation for success.
One of the most critical factors in building a solid foundation is running your business as though it were a sports franchise. There can never be a successful sport without a strong team behind it. And just like a professional athlete has to train hard and eat right to stay at their peak level of performance, entrepreneurs have to do the same thing to succeed.
Running a business isn't about being lucky or having good ideas: It's all about putting in the work and making wise decisions. If you want to create a thriving company, you have to put in the time and effort to ensure that you're always moving forward.
What first crosses your mind when thinking of a successful sports franchise like Chicago Bulls? Is it Michael Jordan? Or maybe Scottie Pippen?
They both had exceptional skills and talent, but Phil Jackson led them into six NBA championships. He was the coach who built the winning culture and helped them become a dynasty. Here are three reasons you should treat your business like a sports franchise and what we can learn from coaches, with tips on how to do it, too:
Teamwork is key to success
In sports, teamwork is the key to success. When everyone works together towards a common goal, nothing is impossible. Teams that can come together and find ways to support each other usually win more games and often championships.
If you want to build a successful business, you must learn to embrace the idea of working together as a team. That means you need to hire people that buy into the vision of the team and can help you achieve your goals. Having a vision, processes and the right team are the key ingredients for building a dynasty. Think of every great team that had a great sports run, that team bought into the vision of the franchise and became not only the team to beat but the team that all players wanted to join. . As an entrepreneur, every time your team runs a campaign, creates a slogan or concept, you are taking the field. On the field, on the court, or in a stadium your team must operate as a unit for the win.
Everyone has a role to play
Like a sports team, no single person can take over another's role. Instead, everyone needs to play their part and contribute to the team's overall success. That's true even if you're the CEO of a company. As long as you delegate tasks appropriately, you'll be able to accomplish much more than if you try to do everything yourself.
For instance, let's say you're an entrepreneur who wants to start a new business. You might not know everything about marketing, sales or customer service. However, you still have to figure out those roles and assign them to qualified members of your team. Think of this as breaking from a team huddle and assigning a role to each team member to execute the play. As an entrepreneur, you can focus on the vision for the brand while the best team members play their position and handle the day-to-day operations.
Do the best players always win?
The answer is no, the best players don't always win. The most prepared players have the best chance of winning. The best players learn from their losses and create a pathway to a better season. To equate losses and wins with business, when you have a bad month or quarter, you make adjustments. You pivot your position and become more aware. You learn when to sub in players (team members) and rotate positions.
For instance, look at Michael Jordan. No one talks about the over 9,000 shots he missed and 300+ games he lost — all we see is his greatness and the number of titles he won. We see his highlights on the basketball court but not highlights from practice, dedication and studying of the playbook. Michael Jordan was a prepared player, in addition to his tremendous skills he demanded the best from himself and the franchise.
Similarly, the best entrepreneurs don't just succeed because they're lucky; they're the ones who consistently execute great strategies, continuously learn, and continue to improve every year. If you want to grow your business, you need to work hard and stay focused. In sports, the best coaches and players continue to watch films and become students of their sport.
Now that you understand the benefits of treating your business like a sports team, here are the steps you need to take to make sure you get there:
You'll soon see the results as long as you follow the above rules and tips. Once you do, there will be no going back. Now take your team and win a championship.
Image credit: Image from Pixabay.com
Data and metrics are critical drivers of a business's overall success. The more data streams you have, the better you can understand your customers, their needs, what works and what doesn’t.
But collecting data doesn’t necessarily give you all this information. You still have to interpret it and use it to take actionable steps toward bettering your business. To help you do that, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council offer their best tips for turning data into action items for your business.
1. Ensure Your Data Is Accurate
As a first step, gather good data. Often, companies have incomplete or raw data that is inaccurate due to issues like typos or data aging. You need to make sure your data is correct, accurate and complete. Second, you need to understand who these people are and what they like. You need to be reaching the right ones with the right message. You want to build out a 360-degree view of users to improve your segmentation. It’s always better to send fewer messages that are well-targeted, rather than many poorly targeted messages. With a spray-and-pray approach, you burn out your audience. - Kevin Marcus, Versium Analytics, Inc.
Great marketing requires data analysis. I use data to know which marketing avenues are the most effective. If I get 40 billboards, they will each have a different phone number so that I know which board was most effective. I do the same with digital marketing and experiential marketing. Make sure you know what is working so you can supersize that and drop the rest. - Sheila Nazarian, Nazarian Plastic Surgery
3. Correctly Configure Data Sets
Before collecting data, you need to set up the data sets correctly. Ask the questions first, then set up systems to collect data that answer those questions. For example, let's say you want to know how visitors found your site and purchased your class. Your query needs to address those two data sets. The data will then show you those exact results. From there, you have the information to create actionable steps to increase traffic to your site (in this example). Most people collect data and then try to make sense of it. Make sense of what you want to collect, then set up queries to collect that data. - Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
4. Make Data Benchmarks
One way that we use data is to create benchmarks for future campaigns. For example, we ran a survey for our users last year and this year we pushed to beat the number of responses we got last year. Using data in this simple way helps us understand how engaged our audience is and whether we're really growing. We can identify areas of stagnation in our marketing efforts. If it makes sense, use information like the number of users in your email list, how many downloads your product got, how many forms people filled and more as benchmarks for the future. Over time and with analysis, you should see where your efforts need to change and how to improve your work in the years to come. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
5. Add A 'Why'
What businesses need is to turn data into insights for decision-making. First, identify what kind of data is most relevant to your business. That will vary depending on your industry and goals. Some examples include customer demographics, purchase history, website click-through rates and social media engagement. Once you have identified and collected the right data, the next step is to add a “why” to the data to make it actionable. For example, if you're a retailer, data may tell you most of your customers buy products in the $10-15 range. However, when you add in the “why”—because people are more likely to purchase items they perceive as good deals—you can take steps to highlight products in that price range. You may also decide to offer discounts on products in that range. - Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
6. Create Audience Segments
The best way to turn customer data into actionable steps for your business is to create audience segments. Essentially, segments are targeted profiles that define the needs, goals and pain points of your visitors. These customer profiles can help you create relevant blog posts, offers, and events for your visitors.For instance, marketing firms create unique content for people interested in small business social media tips. Similarly, they would also publish blog posts focused on email marketing since that's another common topic in the industry.I suggest using information obtained from contact forms, on-site behavior and past purchases to learn about your audience and create accurate, value-packed segments. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
7. Understand What The Data Trends Mean
The key to making data actionable is understanding what the numbers and trends mean. Taken by themselves, numbers can be confusing or even misleading. For example, many businesses experienced steep declines in revenue during the height of the pandemic in 2020 to 2021. So a chart showing a downward trend would have to be interpreted in that context. However, it could even be seen as a positive if the decline was slight compared to competitors in your industry. That example also points to the need to look at your internal data relative to wider conditions that you can't control. You always need to ask the right questions about data so you can interpret it in a useful way. Data by itself seldom tells a complete story. - Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
8. Design An Action Plan
Data is a critical aspect of any business. It helps us make decisions, find insights and improve our processes. However, it can be difficult to turn data into actionable steps for your business. The data you collect should be relevant to your company’s goals and should help you make decisions about where to focus your efforts. You’ll want to create an action plan that will lead you closer to achieving those goals. Your action plan should consist of specific steps that will take you from one stage of the process to another in a linear fashion. It's important that these steps are measurable so that they can be easily tracked and measured throughout the process. - Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
In today's world of rapid startup growth, branding your company is essential to stand out from your competitors and find success.
Competition in business today is tough, yet more and more businesses are entering the arena than ever before. While many companies never make it through their first five years, some hit it big overnight. There's a treasure trove of wealth to be made for those of us who know how to unlock it, but times have changed, and these are unprecedented business waters.
With more avenues to reach consumers than ever before and more businesses starting up every day, all brands know they have competitors out there, but they can still take steps to stand out.
To rise above the rest, a clearly articulated and targeted brand identity is key. Here's how to do it right:
1. Brand everything
Remember that just as important as branding your particular product or service is branding everything that goes along with it. Think about how your brand can define every aspect of your company's identity. On your website, make sure your call to action is appropriately branded. Make sure your blog posts or social media branding all flows in line with the same branding inspiration. Especially when you put money into your company, make sure that every investment is going to be worth it for your brand identity in the long run.
A cohesive brand that represents a company's mission, vision and values shows a level of professionalism people trust and gets companies noticed. Find creative ways to get your brand out there, including how you brand yourself. Focus on personal branding and shine a spotlight on your company by promoting your own expertise at the helm of it. Publish your insights as an industry thought leader or, for the really ambitious with a lot to say, publish your own book. The more ways you can infuse your efforts into creating a memorable brand, the more people you reach that will start to think of your company before your competitors.
2. Define your customer
To decide how you want to brand your company, narrow down your audience to the people you actually intend for your product or service to reach. Trying to be the brand for "everyone" would be wildly expensive. Targeting a niche market instead is a more affordable, efficient and effective way to reach new customers and grow. You can tailor your spending to a specific brand message more likely to attract the right people away from the competition and generate more business. When you focus on reaching "your consumers," you can more effectively compete for their attention, and win it.
Ask yourself: Who is my customer? Really dive in and figure out who you imagine will be best suited for the product or service you offer. If that offering is geared toward senior citizens, then the aspects of branding you need to consider will be totally different than an audience of Millenials. You can still explore other markets with sub-brands, but don't try to make your brand one-size-fits-all. The better you can match your brand with what your consumer wants to see, the better your chances of standing out to them in a crowd.
3. Don't be cheap
Instead of bearing the responsibility yourself and potentially wasting your valuable time and effort coming up with a flop, hire a professional that can brand your logo, website or slogan in alignment with your company's mission and inspiration. Within our infinity logo is a symbol – small, nothing fancy – but unique and representative of our company because a professional designer knew well enough to include such a memorable detail.
When it comes to branding, don't be cheap, especially in protecting your brand identity. After spending all the necessary money on developing your logo, slogan, and company name in general, pay what it takes to trademark it. It might take about $1000 to get it all done, minimum, but even if it costs a little more, with all the competition out there, I still say it's worth it. Every advantage counts these days, so put your money where your brand is.
4. Utilize your competitors
Having just recommended that you protect your own brand identity, this is not to say anyone should go out and rip off other brands, but rather look at what your competitors are doing and redesign their approach in a unique way that aligns with your branding strategy. For our company, we came up with a take on Budweiser's "King of Beers" using the tagline, "King of Boards," and had similar shirts made but with altered details to match our industry. Piggyback off of the success of a competitor, not to clone their ideas, but use them as inspiration for new ones.
The slogan, "Just Do It," was one of the brand elements that skyrocketed Nike from a small startup to global fame and now, they get free advertising daily every time someone uses the phrase. I'm not saying take the Nike slogan, but find inspiration from the Nike experience.
Think of some common phrase in your industry that people might use and reframe it around a memorable line you associate with a popular brand. Benefit from the preexisting success of others, like Subway's "Eat fresh," or Staples' "That was easy," by finagling it into something more specific to your product or service so that common phrase now makes people think of your company.
Even a new company can unlock success with the right brand identity. Many of our competitors have been in the industry much longer than us, but we're being talked about more because we successfully made ourselves stand out.
Your brand should echo throughout the company and flow through the organization around an identifiable inspiration — loud enough for consumers to hear — which makes design, marketing and public relations critical. Prioritizing these elements in today's competitive world is the edge your company needs.
Image credit: image from Pixabay.com
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.