An entrepreneur’s natural instinct is to keep his idea a secret. Is that always the best way to proceed with your startup business? You do not what to give away the details of your idea and find out that someone stole it and ran with it. Here is my advice: don’t keep your idea a secret.
There are two major reasons that I give you this advice. The first is the feedback you will get from others. When you are networking and meeting with other entrepreneurs, they are likely so busy with their own projects that they are not looking for ideas to steal. When was the last time you were out networking with entrepreneurs and met one that was not in the throes of developing his or her own ideas? It is highly likely they are not looking to take on another major project. Instead they are much more likely to give you some great feedback and constructive criticism. Remember these are very innovative minds and they are likely to give you a tip or two that might slightly pivot your business plan into a huge success.
Previously we discussed the importance of contracts for a business. So you are an extremely well educated, intelligent entrepreneur. You have read the contract that was presented to you and the language seems pretty straight forward. That means you understand it and don’t need to hire an attorney, right? Not so fast.
Contracts are more complex than just understanding what the language means. Business attorneys in previous generations used complex legalese in drafting contracts that needed to explained to clients. In more recent generations, plain language has become much more commonplace. It is expected that everyone can read the language contained in a contract and understand what is contained in the document. But that does not necessarily mean you understand the contract or that your rights are fully protected.
Funding seems to be the root of all evil when it comes to a startup business. Entrepreneurs often have the mentality that they need all kinds of funding to turn their idea into a reality. Crowd funding is the hottest of funding topics. With the SEC set to release its rules to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (or JOBS Act) this week, entrepreneurs are salivating over the potential ease of obtaining funding.
The JOBS Act has its pros and cons but we are not going to get into them at this time. Instead all the hype surrounding the JOBS Act seems shine a light on the mentality of the entrepreneur. While there is a need for funding in a startup venture, it is just one of many things that you need to have in order to have any chance at success. Funding is a tangible thing and that tangibility allows an entrepreneur to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. But is funding more important than having a market for your idea? Is it more important than having a complete team around you? Is it more important than having a solid business plan that still remains flexible to change as your idea evolves?
One of the less popular startup projects is in the retail and restaurant industry. These ventures are not as sexy as the latest software or the new product that everyone is going to have to have. They are also riskier ventures because restaurants and retail shops are fickle creatures that fail for no obvious reason. It is because of this that these startups get ignored and there are not many groups that help support these entrepreneurs.
That is all about to change for one West Michigan city. The nonprofit Muskegon Retail Incubator Inc. has been formed to find those wanting to start small retail, food or beverage businesses, get their businesses organized and have them locate in the downtown Muskegon. MRI has settled in the main and lower levels of the Russell Block Building to provide a market-style space for retailers and food vendors. MRI is also partnering with other local startup groups to provide its members with access to other startup and entrepreneurial aid.
All startups need groups like MRI. An entrepreneur is only as good as the team he has around him or her. For new entrepreneurs it can be like wondering in the dark trying to put the right team and gaining access to the right aid to give them the best chance at success. A group like MRI can help point them in the right direction and get a great jump on their endeavor.
One of the best mantras in operating a successful business is to surround yourself with talent. That allows you to do what you do best while everyone else takes care of the rest. If you are salesman, then you should be making sales calls, not paying the bills, answering the phones, copying proposals or marketing. If you are a software programmer, then you should be programming and not managing the business, marketing, doing the accounting or the legal work. The one issue that most have with this is struggling with giving up control.
The fear is that the job will not get done correctly or worse yet, the person that is given control will take advantage of their power. Whitehall, Michigan’s Viking Tool & Engineering, Inc. recently experienced a secretary embezzling tens of thousands of dollars over a number of years. She was able to write checks for her personal use and not for business expenses. It was not until a transfer of ownership rights that the missing money came to light.
Once again West Michigan is taking steps to become a hot bed for startups. The Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center is a partnership between multiple entities to help develop alternative energy technology. While MAREC has roots in alternative and renewable energy startups, they do not shy away from assisting any technology based startups.
MAREC recently added 3 new programs to help entrepreneurs get their ideas to the market place. These programs include a virtual tenant program, walk-in Wednesdays and the incubator tenant referral program. The virtual tenant program allows entrepreneurs to have access to the MAREC facilities, provide a work space and be more active in day-to-day networking that takes place at MAREC. The walk-in Wednesday program is set up to provide a friendly open door policy for those interested in MAREC to drop in and see what MAREC does. The incubator tenant referral program is set up to entice tenants of MAREC to refer incubator groups to MAREC in order to fill the nearly 3000 square feet of open space.
I was always told when I was younger that I should choose a career that I would love doing. Work is always going to be work but you should be passionate about what you do. The most successful entrepreneurs are people that love what they do and it does not take long when talking with those individuals that they are extremely passionate about their profession.
Scott Cramton was able to turn his passion for acting into a vibrant business. Cramton did not make it big in Hollywood or New York but rather he formed the Grand Rapids based business, the Murder Mystery Co. Cramton studied theater and film at Grand Valley State University. Murder Mystery Co. has grown to sell 65,000 tickets a year, generating revenues of more than $1.5 million. The company's 400 actors perform 1,500 dinner shows a year in 12 states. The performances number closer to 2,000 a year when he includes private shows.
When you have a passion for something, you are more likely to put in the extra effort. It is that extra effort that separates you from the competition. If you are passionate about your startup not only does that passion attract clients and customers but it can also be used to sell potential investors and others to assist your business. When looking to start your own business or to form a startup make sure it’s something that you are passionate about. And if you are passionate about something, don’t be afraid to get creative and turn it into a startup.
In an ever competitive business world for an entrepreneur the thought of reaching a point of expanding your market can be exciting and scary at the same time. There is a lot more to it than just announcing that your products will be available in a new area. The preparation for expansion is just as important as the execution of the plan to ensure that the business remains successful.
Code Blue is a business based in Holland, Michigan that specializes in the manufacturing of interactive security devices. These devices are the wall-mounted compact emergency communication boxes for use in buildings, parking garages and other structures as well as the stand-alone 9-foot towers that can be found in parks, along walking trails and on hospital and college campuses. Code Blue recently announced they are expanding sales internationally from South America to the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
There is an ongoing debate in the country regarding young entrepreneurs. While some take the position that young entrepreneurs will help revitalize the country, others take the position that many are over inflating young entrepreneur statistics and the numbers are more of a statement on the poor job market than anything. So is either side totally correct in this debate?
The answer is simple: both sides are correct but the stance you take is based on your perspective. It is no secret that American job market is not booming. Every month it seems like everyone is holding their breath as the job numbers come out. This lack of opportunity has caused some young industrious individuals to create their own opportunities. But does that mean that this boom in young entrepreneurs can’t help spur an economic recovery?
So you have the idea of the century that is going to revolutionize the world. You are an expert in your field so when the idea needs to be modified you can handle it. You have even started to network some and are getting some really great feedback on your idea. But there is one problem: you know absolutely nothing about running a business. It’s time to think about adding a partner.
A partner can be a great asset or a huge hindrance. It is vital to the success of your startup that you choose the right partner. When choosing a partner it needs to be thought of like a marriage. This is someone you are going rely on and they should complement your skills. Unlike a marriage though, a business partner should not be chosen just because you get along with them. I am sure you get along well with some of your best friends but that does not mean they are qualified to run a business.
Choosing a partner is not something that should be rushed into either. Often entrepreneurs are so focused on getting things going quickly that choose the first potential candidate to partner with. Some get lucky but there are a lot that end poorly. These relationships can be like a bad divorce and neither side trusts the other. These types of disputes can get emotional and the litigation can drag on for longer than necessary bringing the business to its knees.