Finding the Courage to Ask

Amanda Palmer crowdsurfing at her Coachella performance in 2009. Photo by Lindsey Byrnes.

Amanda Palmer crowdsurfing at her Coachella performance in 2009. Photo by Lindsey Byrnes.

In starting up and running our own business we step into new territories where we have little or no prior experience. While exciting, it can also be overwhelming to take on so many responsibilities at once.

Have you ever found yourself wanting to ask for help or advice, but didn’t? Or when you did, you felt uncomfortable?
Whether it’s a niggle of resistance or a complete block, we’ve all felt it from time to time –the fear of asking.

With our minds focused on success in a competitive society, it’s easy to forget the simple act of helping each other is what gave rise to society in the first place. Cooperation was as essential to the survival of early cultures as it is today. One could say interdependence is what makes us human. And yet, asking for help can prove difficult.

When considering whether to ask for help, our ego weighs in on how incapable, annoying or foolish we’ll look and may decide the exposure is too risky. We can make great efforts to ensure we ask for as little help as possible, just to prevent ruffling the feathers of the ego.

Even when we’re prepared to unmask our vulnerability, we face another obstacle. Oddly it’s not our ego, but the opposite, our compassion. We may question whether it’s fair on the other person to request their resources. When our compassionate self speaks, by all means, we should listen and investigate.

In certain scenarios, the answer is clear that it would be unreasonable to ask. But there are many situations where we simply assume the other person would feel put out, when in fact, they’d love to help.

Helping makes us feel connected, useful and trusted. Supporting another person can be empowering.

To find out whether our invitation to help would be a burden or a boon, we usually can’t know until we ask.

Indeed, there is an art to asking skilfully. The artist, musician and crowdfunding champion Amanda Palmer centred her entire memoir around this theme in The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.

We must ask in such a way that gives the other person space to answer truthfully. Easier said than done, Palmer’s guidelines are to ask without expectation and accept whatever the answer may be with gratitude.

While the theory is elegant, the practice is no doubt difficult. But the more we practice, the more skilful we become at asking, and the more graceful we become at accepting the answer, be it yes or no.

If the answer is yes, what happens next is connection and possibility.

Whether it’s a contribution of time, finance or wisdom, the fairness of the exchange is decided between the two parties involved. Even when the asker offers to provide something in return, the helper may insist on contributing without compensation.

If you find yourself wracked with guilt in these situations, recognise that your benefactor may value things you haven’t considered. Funding your project may fulfil a desire to take part in the community, mentoring you may encourage a dream to become a consultant, participating in your social media campaign may offer a fun creative experience, or helping you may just make them feel good inside.

The act of giving is often reward in itself.

When we read business articles evangelising buzz words like “grit” and “stick-to- it-iveness,” let’s not forget that it takes grit to expose our vulnerabilities when we ask for help, and sticking to our goals means getting the right support to achieve them.

So swallow the fear, reach out to your network, and put your request out there. Your question may be the key that unlocks an amazing opportunity for you, but you’ll never know until you ask.


Ariel Meadows CONTRIBUTOR

Ariel Meadows CONTRIBUTOR


Ariel Meadows is the director of Lotus Room and Kingii New Zealand.

Building the Right Team

As an entrepreneur, you will be the one to build your first team from scratch. The team members will become the nucleus of your business as everything will revolve around their ability to perform and to deliver and it is paramount that you select the best team because the success or failure of the company will rest on their capabilities. Read on to know more about building a team and what you should never ignore.

Create a hierarchy

Before sending out job invites decide on the management hierarchy. This will help you decide the experience level and number of people required at each level. You need not follow the traditional line of management like CEO, Head, Manager, Executive, etc. You can have a uniform system of consultants with a ‘no boss’ rule as well.

Entrepreneurs do not spend sufficient time on the hiring process, most of the time we're just amazed that anyone actually wants to work for us and sometimes we're too busy to put the proper attention into the process, often going straight for the references or speeding up interviews.

Create a checklist and see if you get answers to these questions:

  1. Have you defined all the roles?
  2. What is the minimum and maximum experience level required?
  3. What are you doing to maintain diversity?
  4. Do you have a skill chart for all the positions?
  5. What is your employee back-up plan?
  6. Where will each person fit in the team structure?

Ethical qualities

Often when we hire a start-up team, the focus is solely on professional attributes. We look for problem solvers, a decisive nature and strong minds. But a new venture is like a baby which needs to be taken care of every day. Bearing this in mind, whatever your first team will produce at work, is what your company will be all about. So look into the ethical aspects of people.

Look for:

  1. Positive thinkers who will keep the spirit alive during tough times
  2. Loyal people who understand the importance of sticking around
  3. Modest people who trust the other member without a motive
  4. People with personal and professional goals so that you know what drives them
  5. People without any conscious or (even) unconscious bias
  6. Creative minds who have a unique outlook on the business

Communication policy

How will you ensure people go beyond small talks at work and actually come up ideas and solutions? In a start-up, a team member’s knowledge about the company and clients is the same. But as every member of the team is new to
the company, you should have a plan where your team will get opportunities to have open talks. As a leader, you can set up communication programs and decide how the team will interact. This will get the ball rolling for the team. You will see a change in how people react to each other, decide quickly and respect conflicts.

When building up a team, you can try the following ways to communicate:

  1. Have more talks and less work on the first day.
  2. Conduct an orientation program with new joiners held not by the HR but by fellow team members
  3. Have a morning catch-up every day during the first few months of the company
  4. Have Friday treats, a lunch or random coffee meet-ups
  5. Start a feedback plan where team members gather their feedback from everyone
  6. Maintain an 'open-door' policy

Have a backup

Attrition is a common enemy of start-ups. So when you are building your first team, hire a few people who can be master of more than one trade and are capable of replacing a member. Another good way of a backup is having casual workers, contract jobs and freelancers. So a crucial element of a backup plan is to know which positions need a back-up and for how long. So often, it is the entrepreneur themselves who jump on the wagon to replace ex-employees.

This is only a good idea if they know they have the skills to perform the job or they can keep the work going till the gap is filled.

Take suggestions

When creating a team structure, take the opinion of your advisory board (if you have one) or of the people you consider mentors. The thing is, you are dealing with people here and your decisions will not only build their future but the destiny of your business. It is wise and safe to take suggestions. Even if you will have a team of 10 members, each one represents what your company will be in the near future. So believe in the people you go to for suggestions and make an informed decision.

Your first team is like impressions on wet cement, which will stay on forever until you start breaking the mould. Your ideas will be implemented by your first team. Your clients will know about your business through them, so spend some time to research the great talent in the market and hire those who will serve your business the best.

 
Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR

Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR

 

Financial Resolutions and how to keep them

According to a report from the University of Scranton’s “Journal of Psychology”, only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions, in fact many break their resolutions within the first week. When it comes to setting financial goals, the trick is to be realistic about what you can achieve in a given amount of time.

Firstly, it is important to understand how you feel about money and how these feelings effect your financial decisions. Are you uncomfortable discussing money with your partner? Why do you feel content spending money on vacation but pay your phone bill at the last minute? Understanding these feelings may provide the answers to why you have fallen short of your financial goals in the past and how to stay on track this time around.

Get Comfortable

Dedicate time to learning about money, talking about money and maintaining a financially healthy life. Go through your current finances and put time aside to understand your financial position. If you have a partner, do this together.

Understanding your partner’s financial motivations will ensure you are able to grow together and stick to a budget that suits both of you. Does this sound like a slow kind of torture to you? Remember, money is only a dirty word when you don’t have control of it.

Educate Yourself

Does your bank charge you a loan servicing fee monthly on your mortgage? Do you know what percentage of the interest charged on your home loan accounts for this?

Find out. If there are any charges you cannot account for, find out what they are and why you’re paying for them. Banking language acts to keep every day customers ignorant. Learn the lingo.

Get Organised

Get your financial documents in order. Do you still get paper statements? Where are all of your insurance documents? Credit card information? Put all of your financial documents in one place, organised in such a way that you know exactly what you have and where to find it.

Create a budget

Add up all of the income coming into your house and deduct all of the spending going out. There should be a surplus of money left over to go towards your financial goals, to pay off debt faster and to save for your future. If this is not the case, work out why.

Plug Holes In Your Spending

Where are you leaking money? How much does that latte every morning cost you over a week? a month? a year? Do you buy lunch every day? Know where all of your money is going. Be honest. Go old school, pull up your statements online at the end of every week and read them. Reconcile your purchases. Not only will this keep you honest. It will also help you spot any discrepancies. Did the paywave receipt you declined at the service station say $250 or $25 for that tank of petrol? Know where every cent went.

Set Financials Goals

The surest way to fall short of your financial goals is to make them unattainable. If you’re going to keep your morning latte, make lunch at home and bring it to work.

Resolve to only go out to dinner once a fortnight instead of two nights a week. Set SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Want to go to Fiji at the end of summer? Great! Set a short term goal. How much money do you need by when? What can you do each week to achieve this? Maybe you want to replace your car in the next three years or pay off your house. Write these goals down as short-term, mid-term and long-term. Monitor your progress and re-evaluate these often.

Circumstances change, as should your goals.

Go Electronic

When interviewed by Tom Anderson of Forbes magazine, Stacy Francis, a financial planner in New York City, said ‘the key to resolution success is to automate as much as possible.’ By setting up automatic payments into savings accounts the funds are gone at the same time or just after your pay hits your account, leaving you to work with whatever is left over. By separating funds this way, impromptu spending is more easily curbed and savings patterns are established with minimal effort.

Know what you are worth

To find out what you should be earning, look at vacancies in similar roles online to see of you are on par with your peers. Maybe it’s time to negotiate for that pay rise.

Set goals to grow your income.

If your income isn’t growing, based on inflation alone you will make less money each year. Unsure how to do this? Make a resolution to learn more about investment. Make an appointment at one of the many financial planning firms offering free first appointments. Know your current financial position and find out what options are available to you. Do the same at your bank.

Do regular financial health checks

Is your transactional account charging you a fee every month? Have you had the same mortgage for ten years? The type of home loan you established when you first bought your home might not suit your current needs. Do you have a lot of personal debt? Maxed out credit cards or a car loan? Consider topping up your mortgage or redrawing. By shifting your personal debt from the average 19-22% credit card interest rate to your home loan, you may pay less interest. If approved to keep your credit cards, drop the limit down to a lower amount.

Make your credit cards work for you

Is your credit card on a rewards program? Consider using it to pay for all of your normal expenses, stick to your budget, and pay it off in full each month. By doing this you are earning points that you can use for travel and online shopping while avoiding the interest. Maintaining and paying off your credit cards demonstrates good serviceability for future lending. Talk to your bank about your options.

Fall Down, Get Up

A surprise engagement, a friend’s birthday, the quick drink that turned into a big night out. These surprise expenses are inevitable curve-balls thrown up when we are out living our lives. Don’t punish yourself if you slip up in June. Get back on track in July.

Be sure to acknowledge the steps you’ve already taken. You’re on your way.

Remember to revisit your goals if you experience a major life event such as marriage, the birth of a child, retirement or divorce and know that there isn’t any one specific path to achieve financial health, it’s a process.

 
Haylee Read CONTRIBUTOR

Haylee Read CONTRIBUTOR

 

How to Write a Business Plan

When you first think of your business idea, it can be so easy to launch directly into the creative side, building it up without the forethought of how what you do now may impact other facets in the future. It's important to have a solid foundation under your bouncy castle and this is where the business plan comes in.

It may seem like the boring part of the business, planning for the future, planning to expand, planning to leave and sell before you've even begun but not only does having a plan help you to work out your roadmarkers and ensure you're on track but also is an enormous help when you get approached to franchise your business (which in some case happens way before you ever expected it to - IF you ever expected it to at that!) and with a plan, you're not scrambling to prepare or getting caught up in a hype that may not work in with your vision for the business. 

The good news is that it doesn't need to be difficult or laborious.

1. Overview

First things first - what do you do? why do you do it? what would someone reading this document need to know to understand  your business' purpose? 

Are you a Limited Liability Company? Are you a sole proprietor? A partnership? Where are you located? Are you an e-Commerce business or brick and mortar - perhaps a hybrid? 

It may seem overwhelming at the start but these are the basic stats of your business. It's like filling out any application form you've ever filled in, but for your business rather than for you personally.

2. Products and Services

Write up a list of your products or services and write a brief description of each one. It may help to categorise your products or services, especially if your company is focusing on becoming a lifestyle brand with its fingers in many pies at once.

What will you offer immediately and what do you plan to grow into? What will you offer say 5, 10 years from now?

3. Sales and Marketing Plan

Describe how you intend to structure pricing for the aforementioned products and services. What's your justification for arriving at that price? - does your research support it? - what are the elements that make it up? ie cost price, labour, packaging, shipping, margin? etc these should all be very transparent and itemised.

4. Market Analysis and Marketing Strategy

Who are your target market? Where do they live? work? What are their hobbies? What else are they interested in besides your burgeoning business? 

In order to market accurately and efficiently to these people, you need to have an understanding of who they are and what their buying behaviour may be.

5. Competitive Analysis

Who are your competitors? What do they offer that you don't? What do you offer that they don't? - it's not enough to compete with the same product or service, you need to offer something extra or different in order to stand out from the flock. 

Identify what your competitors do well and the areas for improvement (just don't tell them those improvements!)

6. Financial Plan/Budget

And finally, your financial plan. Here's the part where you need to either be a huge optimist and overforecast your profits or be miserly and underestimate your ability. It goes against everything we tell you in our motivators but this is the one area where you need to be wholly realistic. If you state that you're going to gain 10 clients a month at an average of $5,000 each and you only make one client every 3 months for a discounted price of $2,500, the financial plan and your company's growth becomes entirely redundant. 

You need to state your factual finances as they are at present. Your forecast is what you can realistically pull in if you set your mind to it including all the outgoings you may not have thought of like salaries, professional fees, stationery, premises, power, water, insurance, provisional tax (another reason not to grossly overestimate (or grossly underestimate)). 

What is the figure you need for start-up capital? 

What is the figure you need to operate?

Will you buy stock up front or ad hoc?

Even if you're like one of the huge companies that is making massive waves without any assets ie Uber which owns no cars, Alibaba which owns no stock, Airbnb which owns no property or Facebook which creates no content, you're still going to have to find seed money, you're just a little luckier in that you're not having to front up costs for inventory as well. 

While the whole things may sound a little overwhelming and intimidating, it can be truly exhilarating, especially once you start implementing it and seeing results. It's so motivating when you're working within your business and you can see how each step you take, each element you implement, affects the overall company strategy. It's truly transparent and exciting to see progress where before you'd been so engulfed in the mere labour to get everything up and running. 

Remember, if you have questions, or you're launching a start-up and need some guidance, drop us a line - we're always here to help!

How to Stay Positive When You're a New Start-up

In the early days of your start-up, you'll become more akin to a chicken running around with its head cut off, rushing around and feeling emotionally and physically drained from lack of sleep or adequate rest. We often wind up feeling as though we're failing before we've even begun and that in turn creates a negative mindset which affects our everyday ability to succeed. It's important in this tumultuous time that you find ways to keep your cool and and press on. 

1. Wake up to gratitude

When you wake up in the morning, choose one thing, one positive thing to focus on for that day, whether it's a specific project, an attribute of your savvy self, or just the fact that you have this opportunity to pursue your dream. When you infuse your day with positivity, it has a carry on effect over the rest of the day and the people you come into contact with. 

In the start for me, it was the opportunity, the light that poured into the room each morning, a hot cup of my special coffee, my ambition and my drive to achieve.

What's yours?

2. Don't compare

Just as you shouldn't compare your figure to the girls on Instagram, so to should you dissuade yourself from comparing your success with anyone else's. Many people struggle dramatically behind the safety of their mobile screens, the trick is that they don't allow you to see it. You may be struggling now, but we bet even your social media stream only shows the positive. It's a tale as old as time - people don't take photos of the bad times. 

3. Separate your home from your office

Even if you work from home, establish a uniform and separate your office from your home life. Loungewear is fine as long as it's not what you slept in.  Brush your hair, take care of your skin, make yourself look and feel like you're in work mode before going to work in your dedicated office space. You need to be able to separate your work and home lives, most especially when you work from home and it's too easy to take a  two hour movie break on the couch or conversely just send a couple of emails during the night (which never takes less than 2 hours! - we know you know!)

4. Set personal goals

Set your crazy ambitious goals but also set more immediate goals that you can cross off regularly, this helps you to stay on track and makes you better able to achieve the bigger goals when you're have the little wins. 

They can be personal or business goals but make them big enough that you need to push to achieve them but small enough that they're not hugely intensive.

5. Get help

Find a mentor. Hire a Virtual Assistant.  Talk to your friends, family, industry insiders - anything to help you move forward. If you're perpetually trying to do everything yourself, you'll never be able to grow your business past this awkward teething stage. 

Entrepreneurship Tips

Launching a new venture is a tricky thing, it's complicated, it's time consuming, it's energy draining and downright difficult but it's also amazing, empowering, fulfilling and oh-so-worth-it.

Here are our tips for those just getting into entrepreneurship:

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Entrepreneurs are creative people. We see or think of ideas and feel the need to leap at them, throwing caution to the wind. The downside to this is that our other projects are left in the dust to clamour along by themselves without our attention and this is how so many businesses fail. It's important to focus on one venture at a time. Create a plan for that business, allow for growth and how you'll handle it, grow the business and implement an exit plan so that once you have that business up and running, you can either move away from it or hand over the bulk of the management duties to a trusted second, allowing you to jump to the next venutre knowing the first is in safe hands to continue its expansions arc.

Know what you do. Do what you know.

Yes, starting basically any business centred around weight loss, health , money making or cars will net you a profit and a large following but is it something you enjoy? Carrie Green of the Female Entrepreneur Association made her start with a business in cellphone unlocking and while she was netting large profits from it, she knew next to nothing about it in the beginning and had no passion for it and so she left it to begin her real passion, the Female Entrepreneur Association. If you don't love what you do, you won't be in it for lnog, you won't be able to sustain the level of interest and cheerleading required to keep it going. Find something you love and make a career of it and ensure that you have the knowledgebase to back it up.

Act like a startup

In the beginning, whether you have start-up capital stashed away or you're starting from scratch with next to nothing, here is the bare fact: YOU. ARE. BROKE. You need to be frugal, you need to cut all unnecessary expenses and perhaps even some necessary ones and ensure that any money earned from the business goes back in to it. Starting out in a fancy office may 'keep up appearances' for the kind of clientele you hope to attract but the sad reality is that that unneccessary expense probably means you'll be out of business faster than you can get the photocopier installed.

Educate Yourself

No one can tell you how to run a business, sure a mentor can guide you and tell you what worked for them but equally so, you could meet another mentor who tells you they tried that exact thing and failed. What matters is how you learn and how you implement your findings. You need to train and plan, speak to those in the industry, learn the industry, create and cultivate relationships with industry partners, vendors, suppliers, customers, media, and ensure that you are constantly learning. Education is never done. You should be constantly seeking out new learning opportunities.

Lotto is not a financial plan

If your idea is beyond your singular capability, scale it down. While there are the odd angel investors around willing to pour money into an exceptional idea, don't plan for it. The likelihood is similar to winning Lotto. You can't plan on winning this weekend's Powerball so don't plan on an investor. Scale your idea down and start from a more mangeable early-stage venture. You must demonstrate your idea's worth and your worth as the ideacreator before seeking investment.

Cultivate your vision

Your vision - whether that be for your personal future or that of your business is your main goal. You have to constantly be refining and focusing on that vision because without it, the business stagnates on the bottom rung. You need to be a vehement believer in yourself and in your company's future, consistently reflecting on that vision to choose which direction to steer.

Be courageous

You will have roadblocks, you will have criticism, you will have failures and you will have wins, you will struggle and you will drive yourself near insane trying to stay afloat but if you have the courage to press on, you'll find the bigger, more sustainable wins past the push. Keep going, Perservere, there is success waiting just beyond the struggle.

Make a plan, but be flexible.

You need a plan. A business plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, an expansion plan - something that encompasses it al but you also need to be flexible enough to change tact when something isn't working. If your financial plan says you should be making a minimum of $20,000 per month based on the bare minimum of 6 clients per month which at the beginning you decided was ridiculously easy and yet can't even lock in one client per 6 months, you need to change your plan. Conversely, if your business grows like wildfire and you need to recruit, your plan needs to include recruitment costs, overheads, FTE expenses and a premises among other costs. These plans map out the way forward for your business, they don't need to be so indepth that alterations are wildly laborious but they do need to allow for the majority of contingencies and some that can't be foreseen.

Don't try to be all things

Yes, it's your business, you're the brains, the creator, the financier, the everything but if you're trying to be all things to all elements of the business, you're going to burn out way too fast. Choose one aspect of the business to embrace, if you're the creative side, then that should be your focus, hire contractors or employees to tackle the oghter aspects that you're not as strong in or where you don't need to be wasting your own time like administrative or website maintenance roles that can be outsourced to a virtual assistant.

Enjoy the ride

Of course it's difficult, if it wasn't, anyone would do it. It's also incredibly rewarding though and allows you to be creative and master your own destiny in a way that so many people only wish they could do. Enjoy it, enjoy learning about your business, your industry and even yourself in this process, enjoy seeing how your actions either better or worsen your business, enjoy the benefits of your hard work. This is an opportunity so many people want but rarely pursue so really push for it, really enjoy it and really be proud of your achievements.

Key Principles to Building a Brand

When it comes to building your business and your brand, there are a few key principles to help get you going and keep you in business:

Keep it Concise

You need to be able to explain what it is you do in as few words as possible. Be that your tagline on Linkedin or a killer elevator pitch on hand ready to pull out as required, you have to be able to boil it down to something simple and concise.

*JAGGAR's elevator pitch is as follows: * JAGGAR International is the ultimate online resource for the discerning, ambitious woman and seeks to mentor young women and seasoned executives alike in the pursuit of success and entrepreneurship.

Here's another one: Rosie Remotely is a virtual assistance and web design service offering clients exceptional, professional assistance - worldwide and on any timetable, allowing your business to reclaim lost time without the HR headache or FTE expense.

Even go shorter if you can! It needs to be easy to memorise and pull out at a second's notice. A tagline is always great too, like Nike's "Just Do It" or Harlow Garland's "Happily Ever After Starts Here" - they're concise, to the point, and give a view to what the company stands for and is about without the need for extensive description.

Keep it Simple

Our generation and the one following are notoriously lazy. We have everything at out fingertips already but every day we complain that we need things faster, smaller, bigger, stronger, more flexible - contradiction after contradiction but there it is. You need to make it easy or you're not going to get buy in and that applies regardless of what your selling and especially so if you're internet based. Dumb it down, make it obvious, make navigations on your site blatantly obvious and minimal. Make it logical, make it obvious, make it easy.

Tell Me Why

Why should anyone work with you? You need to differentiate yourself from the pack and make it obvious what that difference is. If you're a luxury service when your competitors are on the lower end, you have your market cornered and you're telling people that you're there to offer the higher end. If you have a fabulous reputation for something - service, price, quality etc, leverage that - that's what you should be pitching. People need a good reason to pick you or they simply won't.

Constantly Improve

You're never 'finished'. Your business is never done. Even the giants continue to churn out new ideas, new extensions, new partnerships to grow and build on their company's foundation. Launching a company with one product and no plan for expansion is generally foolish with the odd exception but even the exceptions irk out new ways to reach people, and draw in repeat business. You must be constantly looking for ways to improve or expand or your competitors will leave you in the dust.

Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

Entrepreneurship has long been thought of as something inherent, a mindset you're born with, but can it be cultivated through formal education?

In high school, the closest we had was Business Studies, a class focusing partially on economics, partially on accounting and partially on the marketing and HR side of business. In one particular term, we were assigned to groups and asked to create a product to sell, the end products being marketed and 'sold' to other classmates. No clue what it was that my group made, this was almost two decades ago, but the theory of entrepreneurship was already there, starting to be taught, the seed planted for these kids to grow with or walk right over.

In traditional business qualifications, the majority of the study is simply common sense, much like a firearms license application quiz, where they ask you to answer the question:

When Should I Drink Alcohol?

a.) While shooting

b.) Before shooting

c.) Once the guns are unloaded and safely stored away

I wonder what the answer could be?

The business studies seemingly gift you the answers so easily that there seems no point in doing the study which is likely why so many people had been running successful businesses long before the first university offered an MBA as a course option.

But while the vast majority of business start ups in the United States are by those in possession of a degree, the question is really whether a formal business education is actually a requirement? - can it truly be taught or is the introduction in early education business studies enough to spur the inherent entrepreneurial spirit in burgeoning startup founders without the necessity for formal education?

What's Holding You Back?

Entrepreneurship isn't for the faint hearted. You will likely spend your nights panicking over your depleted budget, frustrated that clients aren't taking the bait, working for pittence or working so hard you have no time to digest what day it is, let alone provide quality work.

There are three things we've found hold wannabe-entrepreneurs back so we thought we'd address them here:

You Don't Know How You Personally Define "Success"

If you're a creative, it's likely your vision doesn't include mansions and yachts like the standard entrepreneur, success to you may be far simpler - the luxury of being able to do what you love as a job or if you're an eco-warrior, perhaps it's to feel that your work contributes to the world in some way. Whatever it may be, craft a vision in your mind of what success means to you and only to you and then hone that vision into a mantra you can return to each day, each time you're feeling lost, each time you need an extra boost or a reason why you're struggling or just to give you an extra burst of motivation each day. It's not about anyone else, it's about you and your own personal definition.

You're Waiting for the Right Time

There is no magical time where you'll all of a sudden have an abundance of money, knowledge, experience and time to pull it all together an launch successfuly. There will always be something holding you back - if you allow it. You need to choose to pursue it, even if it's going to be messy (which it will), even if you'll be eating noodles for a year (because you might), even if you'll drop your social calendar near entirely and be breaking out into panic attacks left right and centre as you freak out about how you're going to pay rent (because this will absolutely happen...likely in a supermarket or somewhere equally unexpected.)

You’re Afraid of Failing

Starting a business is knowing there's a great possibility, even an inevitability that you will fail...and doing it anyway, still believing that you can succeed. Edison failed repeatedly, Branson made unwise decision, Trump has been bankrupt more times than I can recall yet they get right back up, sometimes they even bankrupt on purpose to contribute to the greater strategy of the company. The perception of failure is not failure. The possibility of failure is a motivator, not a drawback and failure, is only failure if you stop trying. If it's outside your comfort zone, it's probably amazing, and most definitely worth pursuing.

Balancing Your Business and Your Day Job

Sometimes, when you think of an idea for a side business, it's when you have time spare to take action. Other times, it's when you're far too busy and demand that things could be done far more efficiently and that's when the idea comes about.

For most of us, the idea is closer to the latter - we're way too busy in life and believe that our idea could change the world for the better, simplify common everyday processes to create the world's most valuable asset - time.

But how do you manage to explore or better yet, launch this grand idea when you're juggling a full time job that usually eats into your spare time too, a family perhaps and other commitments?

For most of us, the answer is - you do it anyway. The luxury of time is something the great majority of entrepreneurs just do not have. We are all battling multiple jobs, scarce income and overwhelming stress and self-doubt all in favour of the belief that what we are building is worth it, that it will work out, that it will become everything we've imagnied so that one day, we won't have to work so hard - the reality is that we'll always work that hard though, it's not in the nature of an entrepreneur to sit back and relax, it's our nature to build, succeed and build again.

There are certain things that can help though:

1. Get Organised - as in OCD organised

Whether you're coordinating family schedules, your business, your blog plan, your appointments or all of the above, post it notes and traditional calendars aren't going to cut it. Utilising something like Google Calendars where you can synchronise multiple calendars into one place is your best bet and allows you to visually make sense of a busy week or month.

2. Don’t be afraid to say “no”

If you're one of those people who has always invested themselves in their work to the point of taking work home and working until midnight or staying exceptionally late in the office, in order to successfully launch a business, you will have to learn how to say no and draw back to enable you to apply that passion for work to your own business. It's the same with social engagements, now is the time where you need to start assessing what is important and what isn't.

3. Get help

If you have a partner, here's where those wedding vows get to work, "honey... this is poorer" - work together, coordinate, ask hubby to arrange pick ups if you have meetings, order the groceries online to save 2 hours at the supermarket, just remember that there needs to be an element of compromise. Hubby won't be happy taking on all the responsibilities all of a sudden so make sure that for the health of your relationship at least, that you're both finding a way for it to work equally.

4. Work on the go

The benefit of smartphones and tablets is that you can work anywhere and at anytime. Most entrepreneurs will be sending emails in the early morning and late into the evening, you can be updating your online store in the line at the supermarket (if you missed the point above about ordering online) or writing blog posts on your lunch break in the local cafe. You may not have a lot of spare time, but it's all about leveraging what little time you do have.

Creating Authority in Your Brand

It's so easy these days to create a website using a user-friendly template and platform, throw up some basic information, a shiny Shopify tie-in store and some social media shares and call yourself a business but unfortunately, with such ease of set up, there's a vast number of businesses out there that are simply looks with no substance. They're businesses that have been set up to make a quick buck rather than out of the authority of experience.

While some of these businesses will see rampant success due to an overdilution of brand bombs through social media and brand alignment, your business - which is likely to be more authorative, may not stand a chance because people get used to solely seeing the 'show' and not the substance.

Your brand needs to be an authority on its industry. It needs to offer something that others do not, it needs to come from a foundation of honest-to-goodness hard work and determination and the experience of establishing relationships with clients and suppliers to reflect this.

Other than the exceptions above, a well-crafted web presence will only get you so far, there needs to be value behind the work, behind the brand. You also can't launch onto the industry scene and call yourself an authority right away either, you won't win friends in the industry and you won't win the right clientele either. Focus more on establishing the right industry relationships, partnering with other industry businesses where possible to create a kinship that clients will relate to and from which you can get good word of mouth from those industry insiders.

Focus on education - learning everything you need to know about the industry, the business, your competitors and create a business model that reflects the values you want your business to emulate and the experience you can contribute to the industry.

You also need to ensure your business has a point of difference. So many businesses these days effectively just copy what someone else has created - jumping in at the entry point instead of putting in the work, trying to poach clients, but again, this kind of business isn't going to last long. Your business needs to achieve a level of respect and credibility that is only achieved through establishing relationships and making a name for yourself associated with professionalism and quality.

Commit to the work on your business' foundation before you launch unprepared and spend time educating yourself in as many ways possible to ensure that when the time comes, you can begin establishing yourself as a credible authority in your industry. You can't build a skyscraper without a solid foundation and you can't create credibility from a pop-up business.

Good things take time. Authority is achieved not awarded. Cultivate your brand image and the clientele and industry respect will come.

Choosing Your Brand Name

You've decided to go out on your own and forge your own way in business, you have a plan, you have your product or service and you have the passion, for your business, now - what do you call it?

This is where so many people get stuck and delay launching because while you can give yourself a nickname if you don't like the name you were born into, for your business, it's a lot more difficult - logistically, practically and just in terms of maintaining business.

Here are a few tips for choosing your brand name:

Make it clear what you actually do

A brand name that doesn't actually include any detail about what service or product you're providing, is just downright confusing and may mean you lose out on valuable business, just because they don't understand what you do or who you are. If you're adamant that as business partners, you want to combine your names, then make sure you add in something relevant to your industry ie 'Pearson Specter Law' or 'Harlow Garland Weddings'. Once you're well known enough, you may have some play with the name and be able to drop the decscriptor but keep it there until you're a household name.

Don't use someone else's christian name as your brand name

Speaking of using names, something learned from Rosie Remotely Virtual Assistants and Web Design is that every client addresses them as 'Rosie' when they email in, even though the name is pluralised and references the reason why it is called 'Rosie Remotely' (after 'Rosey the Robot' from 'The Jetsons' who was their loyal assistant). Not only is it irritating to keep getting called by the wrong name but it's also just widly confusing for your clients to think they're contacting someone who doesn't exist.

Choose a name that resonates

Your name needs to be consistent with your brand and what your brand represents. Imagine you're considering plastic surgery and your options are between 'Insert Name Here Clinic" and "Jim's House of Noses", you're not likely to choose the latter because it conjures images of a sweatshop style surgery practice that appeals to no one. You're looking for a superior service, you're paying out the nose for it (excuse the pun) and so you're going to go with the brand that most resonates with quality.

Choose a name that is relevant and allows for expansion

I read a case study online about a business called something along the lines of 'Reusable Bags' which, you guessed it, sold resuable bags. but when it came time to expand into additional eco products, the brand name didn't reflect it. If you're planning to expand (which all business do at some stage), you need to prepare for it. Expansion should be part of your initial business plan in how you will grow the business 5 years, 10 years from now and so you should have an idea of what your future offering will be.

Make it easy to find

If a potential client hears about you through word of mouth and doesn't necessarily know that you spell 'Free' with a '3' instead of an 'e' or that your company uses NZ spelling rather than US spelling, you're going to run into issues when it comes to online searches, urls and SEO. Online, you can combat this by purchasing domain names that include alternate spellings and rerouting them to your actual domain but it's easier to start out with a brand name that is easy to pick up and find in the first place.

Make your choice of brand name an intentional decision, one that you've put thought into and haven't just had spring into your mind. Research it to make sure it's not the same or similar to other brands to save yourself a headache later down the track when it comes to trademarks and make sure it's a brand name that has longevity. Your brand name will be with your forever (or until you sell) so it's important that your business' name really resonates with you, with what you're selling and the audience you're targeting.

Three Business Basics

When operating a business as a solopreneur or small entreprise, it's important to make sure you have the basics covered to enable your business to function efficiently and effectively and to ensure you can focus on what's important - the actual work.

Here are three areas that are most important in the back end business side of things to have handled:

1. Hire Well

When you are first building a business, you'll find it incredibly hard to delegate tasks to anyone because no one has the passion and the need for success that you have and therefore they're unable to do as good a job. When it does come time to finally hire though, it's usually in a frazzled state from rapid expansion or simply exhaustion from trying to do it all yourself and here is where the bad hiring decisions are usually made. You're so desperate for help by this point that the first person to show an interest, speak the same language and dress nicely seems like a winner and you take them on with the idea that you'll be able to delegate so much to them and thay'll tackle it with the same fervor that you would. This is more often than not, not the case and you find yourself stuck with an employee who neither particularly cares about the success of your business nor takes you seriously as a manager as you're still working out of your home office or you're similarly aged and thus the partitioning of manager vs friend isn't there. Take your time to hire. Don't get too excited that someone wants to work with you - of course they do. It's better to wait now than regret it later. If you're really not sure, consider also using Fiverr to get those animations and presentations done or contract a virtual assistant for the odd job or on a monthly basis to provide as little or as much work as you need completed at a far higher level of quality and without needing to hire an FTE.

2. Go High Tech

The world is no longer planted in pens and paper - as much as the scrawling on the notebook beside my laptop would conversely suggest. There are apps for everything these days, to sign documents online, organise remote teams, or handle the business' expenses, there's cloud computing and storage to replace USB hard drives. There are so many software pacakges no that are far more readily available to you and on shorter subscriptions. You can trial software before you buy it to ensure it's going to work for your business - there are so many options at your disposal to make life dramatically easier and more time efficient.

3. Watch Your Finances

If you're monitoring your finances solely through the pile of receipts in the jar on your desk or the money coming into your account, it's not enough. Xero and MYOB offer online accounting packages for monthly subscription rates and you can do a 30 day free trial at the start to see if it's going to work for you. Both include the functionality to photograph receipts and store them immediately so that you can skip the rummage at the end of the month to collect them all for your reconciliations. Xero also integrates automatically with a lot of e-commerce providers meaning that if you run an onlin store, you can effectively take all the labour out of monitoring your finances and focus on the actual work.

Reasons to Start a Side Business

Battling that student loan? Trying to whittle down that credit card debt? There are so many people in debt and struggling to stay afloat. Tackling your finances is hard enough for the debt-free but having multiple elements of debt adds a whole other range of difficulty to the task.

It's the usual idea of 'decrease your expenses, increase your income' but for a lot of people, it's simply not that easy with high rent and low wages.

The solution is a side business, something you can run outside of work hours that can bring in funds on top of your standard 9-5 income (and potentially become your future career if that's what you're aiming for.)

Apart from being a way to keep you from going entirely insane, here are a few more financially oriented reasons to start a side business:

Increase your income

Working more than one job has attracted a stigma of poor decisions and poorer lifestyle and such many are loathed to take on a second or third job and complacently struggle away. It doesn't matter what you're doing (though I'm not sure you can pull off a lemonade stand at your age unless its organic, gluten free, sugar free, carb free, paleo, flavour and preservative free lemonade prepared in a commercial skitchen and meeting all qualifying food standards, but there are businesses or jobs you can create or take on to bring in additional income. The teen jobs: babysitting, housesitting, cleaning, delivering brochures, working at a fast food joint or retail store. The adult jobs: contracting your services out of hours ie mowing lawns, doing people's taxes, helping overseas companies with their IT support since your night time is their day time, selling your things, affiliate marketing etc. The entrepreneur: creating your own contracting business, selling goods, creating something out of thin air that changes the entire plain of business as we know it - do the last one, it'd be nifty.

Pay Down Debt

If you're constantly in the red, using overdrafts to pay off overdrafts or credit cards to pay bills, you're in an endless cycle of debt. If you've already tried restructuring your debt with bank loans, starting a side business allows you to chip away at it that much faster. Once the debt is gone, it's far easier to 'save for a rainy day' or for that house deposit and it'll also make it oodles easier to just get through the month without the struggle.

To Change Careers or Start a Business

If you're looking to change careers, you could be out of a job for a few months and even then, depending on their pay cycles, you could be without an income for up to a month. Similarly if you're starting a business, you'll need a lot of startup capital, even if it's not for the business specifically as you;ll have your everyday expenses to cover while you're out of work, preparing to make your millions. Having a side job helps you to make the transition a bit easier, helps you to save and can potentially become that new startup you're planning once you have the funds to put your full focus on it.

To Save For a Specific Goal

Need a new car? Want to go on a holiday? Saving for a house deposit or startup business? How about just an emergency fund for if your cat needs surgery or something breaks down and needs to be fixed immediately? A side job helps you to save because it's money that you otherwise wouldn't have. Set up a separate bank account and have the income from your business or second job go directly into that account. Opt for a high interest or term deposit account to ensure you won't touch it (because if you do, you lose out on all the interest and sometimes get charged a penalty fee). In no time, you'll have a great, growing fund of accessible cash (but not too accessible).

On a non-financial note, a side business or job is also a great way to explore your hobbies in a more professional and passionate capacity. If you love fashion and love to style people then set up a styling business for yourself, contract yourself out to friends and coworkers and start by making a name for yourself. Not only is it a great way to build your brand before you officially launch but it's also a good way to work out if this business is something you can wholly commit to without losing your passion.

Try it out, the average millionaire/billionire has seven streams of revenue. Seven. You can start with two.

Turn Your Passion Into Profit

"Choose a Job You Love and You'll Never Have to Work a Day in Your Life" - Confucius

The old adage is semi-true. Technically, you’ll work more hours per day, every day without a break than you’ve ever worked under someone else but because you love what you do, it won’t feel like ‘work’.

Being able to immerse yourself in your passion day in and day out without the monotony of the traditional work day, is liberating, motivating and wholly fulfilling.

So how do you make your passion, your profit?

Starting a business is surprisingly easy. There are no age limitations, sometimes even no funding limitations, depending on the type of business you’re launching. The success of the business however, is wholly dependent on you and how much you’re willing to persevere even on the cusp of financial, social and emotional ruin.

Research

Figure out whether you can feasibly turn your passion into a profit. Research who else is doing it, who has successfully made it a career, how have they done it, what do they do well? What do they do ineffectively? What will be your point of difference? - Research the costs involved, the price points, the logistics of sending and receiving stock components or if you’re looking into drop shipping, the reputation of the company you’re wholesaling from.

This phase should be your main focus. Other than working out the profit margin and who your competitors are, you need to eat, sleep and breathe your business so you should use this time to learn as much as possible about your potential business, your industry and your product or service. Write (and rewrite) your business plans – how will you obtain funding / stock / clients? How will you sustain business and yourself with limited funding?

Plan for expansion

It’s not enough to merely launch a business and stick to that plan for the next however long, there needs to be an expansion plan in place so that the business (and with it, the client base) doesn’t go stagnant. Takeaway restaurants are always launching new menu items; larger businesses expand into franchises or expand their service base.

As an example, Harlow Garland started solely as a wedding planning and styling service before expanding into offering floristry services (wedding flowers). They are currently launching an online store selling quality wedding and event supplies as well as their own custom luxury and calligraphed stationery line and have additional plans for expansion that will grow the business exponentially.

Your business (as well as your own skillset) should be forever growing, and at a pace that is sustainable.

Build a brand and manage your reputation

Prior to launch, you need to be building hype for your business, identify your target market by researching the market of your competitors and tailoring that to suit your product, service or locale.

Your reputation is your meal ticket. If you constantly provide exceptional service, address issues before they come up and treat your customers as if they’re the most important person (because they are), you'll establish a positive reputation. Never badmouth any other companies or people in the industry – you’ll find your industry is far smaller than you think and that word travels fast if you choose the negative path.

Even if a competitor chooses to badmouth you, if your work is consistently of a high standard and your brand continually positive, you'll continue to find success. Their negative remarks only reflect badly on themselves and as people deal with them and work out that they're the kind of person to badmouth or behave less than professionally, they'll find they don't make it very far.

Don't rush into recruitment

It's incredibly difficult at the start to do everything yourself - the day to day, building the brand and producing high-quality work and you may be tempted to hire as soon as you can, even be ecstatic that someone wants to work for you and seems too good-to-be-true in your interviews. But from experience, we've found that hiring too soon or hiring a friend of a friend who is looking for work, is never a good idea. You're too often dramatically let down by their less than professional behaviour or lackadaisacal approach to the job and your business suffers for it. Work for yourself as long as you can, delegating some tasks where possible to professionals (sites like Fiverr can be a great resource for cheap outsourced work) and when it does come time to recruit, prepare and extensively interview until you find someone as fanatical about your business as you are, someone who wants a future in the company or is willing to go the extra mile, not watch the clock and get by with doing the bare minimum.

Hone your craft

Just as an accountant must clock up a certain number of training hours per year, so too should you continue to hone your craft. Whether that be through courses and mentoring or through just diligently practicing away in your (rare) free time, your aim should be to remain the authority in your field, producing consistently high-quality work.

The Basics of Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business may seem the perfect way to attain the freedom you desire, the ability to work for no one but yourself, to make your own hours, travel and embrace all the liberties working solely for yourself provides and while occasionally - a long way down the track, that may be the case, the reality is that you'll be working far more than you ever worked before, barely getting any sleep, struggling to pay bills and not drive yourself entirely to the brink of madness and exhaustion, all while trying to build a brand and with it, a reputation. 

The good side of it though is enough to make you forget the bad parts, to gloss over them as if they were your 'blue period' among the chronology of your starling historic rise to success. Waking up each morning raring to go, having no such thing as a mondayitis, or dreading the weekdays - you'll work everyday and work ridiculous hours because it's for yourself. 

Being able to see how each step you take each day affects your overall strategy is empowering and motivating and pushes you that much further. 

Now that you're mentally prepared, let's chat. 

So! - You want to start a business, you have a great idea and no clue what to do with it, here goes: 

Research: 

Conduct extensive research before looking into domains and company registration - your idea needs to address a gap in the market that isn't being filled or could be filled by your idea in a much more effective way. It has to be feasible and profitable (yes, even non-profits are required to be profitable). Ask how you will make money, the kind of money you can bring in, what will you charge? Who is your competition? How are they doing it? What are they charging? What is your point of difference?

If it seems like there's an obvious gap that isn't being filled, research potential reasons why as you'll usually find one. Don't be afraid to actually ask your competitors, especially the big ones who won't be phased in the first instance by your one woman band (until you overtake them in your significantly swift rise to the top of course) and will be willing to share more information than a direct solopreneur competitor who relies on every cent on her income.

Read business books, read biographies of people in business, read what works, research what works and what doesn't, read people struggles and the necessities of business. Prepare and overprepare and then overprepare some more. Make sure that you know your business and your industry inside out. Live it. Eat it. Sleep it. Breathe it. Know it.

Overbudget

What will it cost you to start the business? What will it cost you personally to survive through rent, bills, living expenses etc for say six months to a year? How long did it take for your competitors to get a steady income? 

You will need to be financially prepared to rely solely on yourself and your savings for a while....perhaps a long while. Initial surges in customer activity make us think we're ahead of the game so we pick up our spending accordingly, but initial activity can often die off just as swiftly as it came in so you should be as frugal as possible during this first year. Most small businesses will fail within 18 months - within 6-12 months if it's a hospitality business - due to poor financials so make sure you're prepared - overprepared for all contingencies and work in a failsafe as a precaution, for instance, taking on part time or contract work to fill low-income periods while still allowing you enough time to work on your businesses.

The Logistics

Once you've done your research and you've decided it's a legitimate business idea with profitability and financial backing, it's time to get organised. 

Firstly, register your company name through the Companies Office. It's $25 to reserve a name while you make sure it's what you really want to call your business and to check it doesn't already exist and then $150 to actually register it. 

Detemine what kind of business you'll have - will it be a Limited Liability Company? (Ltd)? a Partnership or will you be a Sole Trader

You can select here whether you want to register for GST - which you don't have to do unless you'll be earning $65,000 per year or more but having a GST number does lend more credibility to your business and some clients will even require it in order to pay you so just tick the box.  It'll be the same number as your company's IRD number so it's very straightforward. 

There are a huge amount of fantastic resources available for helping you assess the feasibility of your idea and your readiness to launch.

Be Prepared

Like we mentioned right at the start, entrepreneurship is NOT easy. You will be working late basically every night, you'll forget what weekends are, you'll eat more ramen noodles and tap water than you'll ever want to see again and you'll likely get about as much sleep as a new mother, about two weeks home from hospital. If you're not experiencing these things, you're not working hard enough.

It may be that your idea is amazing, you have financial backers or investors and you can afford to order in pizza every other night and that's great - thousands of struggling solopreneurs are feeling pretty bitter right now as they hug their bowl of ramen for warmth - but you still need to be prepared for the worst. 

On the flip-side though, you need to mentally put yourself into a positive, fulfilling mindset built on a foundation of optimism and the strive for success. You need to believe you're already successful, that you're already surrounded by so much money and success, that you have clients banging down your door, clamouring to collaborate with you. This mindset will help dramatically when you're feeling low. 

Sign up to every motivational or inspirational feed you can find. Constantly surrounding yourself and seeing these positive images is a constant reinforcement of success and positivity. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it's actually highly effective.

Self-Promote, Sell, but Don't Sell-Out

Here's where it gets uncomfortable, if you're an introvert and the idea of working from home was great because of the solitude, you're going to need to develop your work face. An entirely different persona that is self promoting, self assured, self confident and sassy, and which can sell your services, your brand and you better than Ron Burgundy can sell the news.

It's a difficult notion to get your head around but it's an important one. There's a line too though between selling yourself and selling out when you find easier ways to make money that aren't particularly in line with your business plan. Marc Ecko wrote a great book for this, 'Unlabel': Selling YOU without Selling OUT. It's a very frank and honest look at branding and building a business and the person you need to become to make it a success but also the pitfalls, the easy ways out, the hard ways back and the importance of authenticity. 

Five Apps For Entrepreneurs

If you’re an entrepreneur – or even thinking about taking that step into starting your own business – then life is certainly very busy for you. Someone who is their own boss doesn’t get days off, at least when they’re starting out – it can be overwhelming and drain the will power out of even the most staunch and determined people.

Fortunately, in this day and age no would-be business person would be caught dead without a smartphone (or three). And if you have a smartphone, you have access to almost unlimited resources – apps.

Here are five that will definitely make your life easier.

Humin:

When you’re running your own business – especially when just starting out – networking is crucial. A successful business depends on making the right connections: potential customers, new partnerships, next level of funding, you can find them all with proper outreach. Constant networking can make it hard to remember the small details about where and when you met someone, and Humin takes care of that. The app allows the contact’s information to be input like normal, but also adds all the little things so that you can remember later on.

Mint:

As your business grows, lots of paperwork will come with it. It is crucial to keep close track of all your finances in order to ensure your business doesn’t go under. Mint takes the paper out of paperwork; the app allows users to create everything they need, right on their phone. You can create budgets, implement a savings plan and report expenses, all with the touch of your finger.

Pocket Analytics:

Most entrepreneurs will have their own website. This allows them to reach out to new connections. In order to take advantage of your online presence, it’s important to be able to analyse the data collected from users visiting your site. Pocket Analytics lets you access your sales and traffic data right from your phone, and you can even customise it to view it as a graph, chart, or whatever you like.

SignEasy:

After you reach out to connections, make deals, and are ready to proceed, there is usually paperwork to go through and contracts to sign. As a busy entrepreneur, it’s understandable that you may not have the time to receive a document, print it out, sign it, scan it back onto your computer, then send it. Thankfully, SignEasy exists. This simple yet helpful app allows you to open documents on your phone, sign them with your finger, and send them back on their way.

Evernote:

Evernote is basically a digital filing cabinet. The app allows you to create digital notebooks for everything from your expenses to your plans for a trip. You can take pictures of receipts and organise them so they’re easy to find later, or keep tabs on the notes from your weekly meeting.  You can input your calendar or make a slideshow for your next presentation. Photograph all the papers in your office and never have to rifle through them again. This app is a perfect organisational tool for the on-the-go entrepreneur.

And one more bonus app:

Venmo:

A free money transferring app, Venmo utilises your phone and Facebook contacts to create an easy way to send and receive funds. There is no limit to the amount of money you can transfer, and it might mean the difference between waiting a week for a cheque in the mail and getting your money today.


 
Cam Parkes CONTRIBUTOR

Cam Parkes

CONTRIBUTOR

 

Financial Goalsetting

When trying to set financial goals, rather than solely relying on the ultimate goal, create short, medium and long term goals so that you can celebrate your small wins along the way. Setting one ultimate long term goal is often difficult to maintain because you can’t see how the spoils of your labour.

Immediate Goals (Short-Term) Start with immediate goals such as saving for that new phone or a vacation so that you can see your progress and celebrate your first win – it’s easier with short term goals if you can visualise what you need and then see yourself achieve it.

Emergency Fund Ensure that you always have enough in savings to fund 4-6 months of expenses in case you find yourself out of a job or your pet needs urgent medical care which is often paid for out of your pocket before it is eventually reimbursed (if you have pet insurance, which leads us to...)

Have the Basics Covered Make sure you have insurance – it makes it a heck of a lot easier to pay for emergency costs if you’re insured. Pet insurance is inexpensive yet is a total lifesaver when it comes to vet costs or forbid, urgent medical or surgical costs. Similarly, private health insurance can help fund doctors’ visits, x-ray and prescription costs as well as getting you a better level of healthcare. The rest of the insurances options are self-explanatory but if you manage to book them all with one provider, you’ll find you get even further discounted rates.

Medium Term A medium term debt could be to pay off debts like a credit card bill or student loan which can be paid in manageable installments. If your goal is a down payment on a house, then set yourself interim goals rather than the total figure, for example, achieving $15,000 at a time is easier and more mentally rewarding than struggling to reach the full $150,000.

Budget Backwards Work backwards from your goals to work out how much you need to save each pay to achieve it. Be realistic, don’t think you can save every cent of your pay because if you restrict yourself too much you’lll find you won’t be able to save for long and you’re more likely to give up. Aim to save say 10 or 20% of your pay and as you get more comfortable, increase it to the next level you can handle.

Visualise & Self-Motivate Create an inspiration board of your goals so that you can visualise yourself having achieved them. This can be as simple as a collage of images of a specific car if that’s your goal or as detailed as a visual diary of the life you want to live and the elements that make that up. For us, when we were house shopping, that included pictures of home interiors we loved with photos of us superimposed into the rooms like we were already living there. Quirky, silly but wholly effective. The clearer your vision, the more motivating it is and the easier it is to achieve.

Provisional Tax Explained

You filed your IR4 Company Tax Return but now comes the point where your Provisional Tax is due and you're not sure if you chose the right amount, the right method or how it all works. 

Here are a few guidelines for business owners: 

Instead of trying to work out how much tax you need to pay over the course of a year and getting it wildly incorrect or overestimating and holding onto funds that can be better utilised back in the business, Provisional Tax is paid in instalments throughout the year and is paid on income higher than $2,500 in the previous tax year. 

After you file your IR4 Tax Return (hopefully correctly), you'll receive a letter confirming receipt of your return and also a notice advising you how much Provisional Tax is due (or to be refunded) and when. Typically, if you have a March balance date like most companies, your first instalment is due in August but the IRD have a handy Calendar Reminder to enable you to check if you're unsure:  Inland Revenue’s calendar reminder

When you filled out your Tax Return (IR4), you would have had the choice of calculation methods based on your expected profit for the year:

  • Estimation (the most popular choice for new businesses) is based on your estimated Residual Income Tax (RIT) for the year. This method is great for new business owners who can't predict how their business will perform in the first (and most volatile) year of business. 

    If you choose Estimation and estimate incorrectly, you are able to rectify it by making voluntary payments throughout the year - this is great if your business picks up much faster than you expected and your income is higher than your initial estimation. 

    It's important to be realistic though because if your estimation is wildly below what your actual income is, even if you make voluntary payments, there will be penalties. 

  • Standard is based on your previous year’s RIT plus a buffer of 5% as expected growth. This is great for established businesses who have a grasp of how their business performs and of any financial fluctuations.
  • Ratio is based on your GST taxable supplies. This option is great for businesses who can easily calculate their Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).

If you don't choose a method, you'll automatically be charged as 'Standard' which may seem like the easy way but there are exceptions which can be of great benefit to a new business. 

 See IR’s guide to each calculation method – and exceptions that apply

While your first year in business isn't tax-free, you won't need to pay if your previous year's RIT is below $2,500. Similarly, if your expenses far outweigh your income when your first return is due, you likely won't need to pay any tax. However, if your RIT is over the $2,500 threshold at the end of the financial year, you may have to pay provisional tax for your second year on top of the tax due from your first year so you should plan and budget for a payment throughout the year.

While this isn't a comprehensive 'how-to' on Provisional Tax, we hope we've shed a little light on it in a simple easy-to-understand manner. The IRD have a created a really helpful complete guide to Provisional Tax for the non-financial business owner which is a godsend when you're just starting out and have no idea what it all means. 

Tips to Protect Your Startup

When you're building a startup, you're generally excited about your great idea, so excited that you want to share it - often before it's ready and often before you've built your brand. While the attitude is brilliant motivation and likely to help propel you through the startup process, it's also the prime time for lazy copycats to take your accidentally wholly publicised and unbranded idea, repackage it and sell it as their own. 

We've assembled four quick tips to help your protect your startup in the early days when you're most vulnerable: 

1.) Build hype without giving it away

Build a contacts list so that when you're ready to launch, you have an established customer base to directly market to. This can be done by using a landing page on your website where people can sign up to be the first to hear about your product or service, build hype about the brand without releasing the details of what it is or what your product or service is, just find your target demographic and market directly to them.

2.) Once you're ready to launch, hit the ground hard and fast

 Plan your PR ahead of time- whether it's through social media, print, guerilla, press releases or a combination of all, get a marketing strategy ready, schedule posts, prepare releases and make sure you hit the market with a bang. Not only does it help you launch to an excited public but it also deters copycats.

3.) Protect your brand

It's important in the early stages to plan your Intellectual Property Strategy. The early days are where you're most vulnerable to copycats, before your brand is fully developed, before your customer base knows your brand, knows what it represents. Be proactive - Business.govt.nz ad IPONZ.govt.nz have teamed up to provide a veritable font of IP knowledge on the Business.govt.nz site with easy to follow infographics and how-tos to help you work out what needs to be protected and when. Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents are your friend when you're just starting out.

4.) Put a face to your brand

Customers (and suppliers) want to know who they're dealing with. Especially so if you're a small business. Whether you're a brick and mortar brand or an online presence, if your customer base is familiar with who you are- the face behind the brand, they're not only more likely to identify with your brand but also more likely to defend it when the second rate replicas come out of the woodwork.