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5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know

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Entrepreneur

Your Product Should Fill a Need

Perhaps the number one rule of business is that your product or service should fill an existing need. And it should solve a problem in a better way than any existing product currently on the market. Do your research so you know what your competition is, and forge ahead.

42% of product launches don’t succeed because there is no need for the product or service. Can you think of examples of such failures?

  • New Coke – Original Coke didn’t need to be improved so customers boycotted this new version.
  • The Zune – Microsoft tried to compete with Apple iPod and failed to create a product better than what already existed.
  • Google+ – Google attempted its own social media network, but became another example of a service that couldn’t outdo what was already available.
  • Bic for Her – Women don’t need pens specifically designed for them, so this pen flopped.
  • Hammacher Schlemmer’s Night Vision Camcorder – marketed toward children, this product doesn’t solve a practical problem; why do kids need to record things in the dark?

Sometimes a novelty product takes off because, although it’s impractical, it strikes a chord with customers. However, you may not want to take that risk! Your product or service should stand the test of time, and not just end up the gag gift at the next Holiday office party.

Start Early

As soon as you have your idea, get started!

Research your brand or business name the right way to see if they’re already trademarked. Even if it will be a while before you launch, apply for the necessary permits and licenses now. Doing so will give you peace of mind while you secure funding or save your own money, develop a business plan, and work on your brand’s mission statement, slogan, and marketing strategy.

Keep it Simple

Your mission statement should be clear and concise. Everyone in your business should know what they’re working toward, and how to achieve it.

Examples of Mission Statements

A mission statement tells your employees and customers what your brand is all about. It should concisely share your brand values, your company’s actions, and your company’s objectives. It is not what you hope your company will become but, rather, what your company currently is. When drafting your mission statement, start by answering the following questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Why?

Mission statements are usually about three sentences long, and provide direction to your brand and its employees. Keep in mind that your mission statement should include attainable goals for your company, i.e. objectives you’re already working toward. Be sure to include inspirational messaging and personality without being cliche; avoid popular slang that may date your brand or phrases that don’t provide clear direction.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some examples of mission statements that get the point across.

  • To bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons, and consumers in over 140 countries around the world. – Apple
  • Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. – Nike
  • Offering all women and men worldwide the best of cosmetics innovation in terms of quality, efficacy, and safety. – L’Oreal
  • To strengthen our position in the marketplace by developing high-quality relationships with our supplies and customers and earning a reputation of dependability, innovations, and exceptional performance. – M&M’s
  • Creating loving connections through our blankets. – Minky Mamas
  • We deliver the promise of the digital world to our customers. We make their innovative lifestyles possible.  – Verizon

Examples of Slogans

Can you name the brands responsible for these popular slogans (hint: some are listed above)? Chances are the simple phrases stand out in your mind and immediately make you think of the product or service they represent.

  • Think Different
  • Just Do It
  • Because You’re Worth It
  • Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands
  • The Breakfast of Champions
  • Can You Hear Me Now?
  • What’s in Your Wallet?
  • The Happiest Place on Earth
  • They’re Grrrrrrreat!
  • Nothing Runs Like a Deer

Slogans are catchy phrases, short and sweet, that are used in a brand’s advertising. We repeatedly see them on packaging and billboards and hear them on commercials. A lasting slogan can be used out of context and still conjure up thoughts of the brand it represents. You want your slogan to potentially offer a promise as well as make a lasting impression on potential customers.

Market Yourself

Marketing your brand can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? How much do you spend? Customers may stumble upon your product or service with an Internet search, but how can they know your brand is reliable? This is where marketing comes in.

Once you know your mission statement, have a slogan, and a brand aesthetic, you have to get to work. Your message needs to not just reach people, but the right people. Social media makes it easier than ever to target your demographic with paid or sponsored content. It’s a less expensive way to analyze your customers’ behavior and engage with them. Your online presence establishes a connection with potential customers, building trust in your brand. Marketing is more than just selling your product or service; it’s telling your story to your customers. It’s an opportunity to further expand upon your mission statement and let your customers know why you started your business in the first place. Through this storytelling, you can share your passion for your product and build your reputation.

Also, it is important to speak the language of your target audience. Be buyer-centric, not seller-centric. If you are a company, for example, that offers power storage solutions for solar users, don’t drone one about your fancy stuff. Most buyers don’t care about the science behind the solution. Instead, talk about the importance of being prepared for natural disasters or illuminating your home renewably, etc.

Sometimes You’ll Fail

As an entrepreneur, sometimes you’re going to fail. There’s no such thing as an “overnight success” in business, so pull up your bootstraps and know that there’s a lot of work ahead.

Tips for Overcoming Failure

  • Plan for failure – regularly analyze your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to stay one step ahead.
  • Manage cash flow – get a good forecast of your income and expenses so you can plan for the future.
  • Focus on your customers – keep your customers at the forefront of your business so you have support in leaner times.
  • Reframe failure – sometimes you can take a step back and see failure as a setback rather than a stopping point.
  • Invest in your team – don’t go into business alone if you don’t have to.
  • Invest in your business – be sure your IT systems and software help you work smarter and not harder.

With a clear vision, mission statement, and business plan, you can find yourself on a bumpy, but manageable path to success. Remember that it won’t happen overnight, but even the best ideas take time to catch on.

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Disposing of Hazardous Waste

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Disposing Waste

Did you know batteries, electronics, and appliances are considered hazardous waste? As a result, they need to be disposed of properly to avoid harming the environment. To keep toxic compounds from leaching into soil and water, here’s how to dispose of these products.

Categorizing Waste

E-waste is anything electronic, and consists of the following:

  • Camcorders
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • DVD (and VHS) players
  • Monitors (TV and computer)
  • Reusable batteries
  • Stereo equipment
  • Video game consoles

Appliances are another category of waste, whether they’re functional or not. Since refrigerators and air conditioners can contain chlorofluorocarbons or toxic insulation, they should be left intact before proper disposal. Here’s a look at the types of appliances that should not be put in your curbside bin for trash collection:

  • Air conditioners
  • Freezers
  • Microwaves
  • Refrigerators
  • Toaster ovens

Any appliances manufactured before 1979 may be a risk to the environment and should be disposed of at recycling facilities that can remove hazardous compounds.

Finally, fluorescent lights are considered hazardous waste due to the mercury they contain. This means that compact fluorescent bulbs and tubes should be disposed of at designated drop-off points so mercury doesn’t leach into the soil.

Disposing of E-Waste

Now that you know what E-waste is, how do you safely dispose of it? Maybe you’ve upgraded some of your electronics, or your TV had an unfortunate run-in with a toddler. Whatever the reason for getting rid of electronics, you have options for doing so responsibly.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has programs in place for electronic recycling. Keeping these items out of landfills is so important for future generations. As a result, an organization can become a certified electronics recycler via the EPA by demonstrating safe handling and disposal practices concerning e-waste. 

Big brands such as Audiovox, Logitech, and Yamaha are involved in electronic recycling, both in production and what they refer to as the end-of-life stage. Manufacturers are working on creating products that are easier to recycle, so when the time comes to dispose of them, there are fewer toxic chemicals to worry about.

If you can’t bring your electronics to a designated drop-off for recycling or disposal, look into programs like Call 2 Haul that will come to your home or business for pickup.

A Note on Battery Waste

If you’ve used up alkaline, manganese, carbon-zinc batteries, they can be thrown away in your regular trash bin. These are your household batteries, such as AAs or 9-volts. However, you can recycle these items to keep them out of landfills.

Any battery that requires recycling or special disposal should be labeled as such since they contain lead and/or cadmium. This includes cellphone batteries, laptop batteries, and car batteries.

Sings of Lead Poisoning

Exposure to lead (in batteries or paint, for example) may cause the following health issues:

  • Anemia
  • Brain damage
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Kidney damage
  • Nausea

For battery recycling, Call2Reycle.org is an excellent resource.

Disposing of Appliances

Sometimes you purchase a home with 1970s appliances and you need to get rid of them so you can make room for the ones moving in with you. Or maybe you’re taking advantage of rebates for upgrading your appliances to more energy-efficient models. Whatever the case, you’ll eventually need to dispose of an appliance. 

Air Conditioners

In most areas, it’s illegal to throw an air conditioner in the trash due to ozone-depleting coolant. Whether a window unit or one that services an entire building, it needs to be handled with care. A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician can drain your AC unit if you intend to scrap the metal. Or, a certified junk removal organization can take the whole unit for you. If you intend to transport the AC unit yourself for disposal or recycling, do so with care to avoid puncturing refrigerant lines that haven’t been drained.

Fridges and Freezers 

The Health Department or the Department of Public Works usually offers fridge and freezer pickup for as little as $10. Refer to the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program for a partner near you, and apply for rebates if you’re purchasing Energy-Star Rated appliances.

Keep in mind that everything in a fridge or freezer is usually recyclable. From the glass shelving to the refrigerant, all of it can avoid a landfill and be reused. With that being said, please don’t take apart your refrigerator yourself and part it out; doing so can be dangerous if not done properly.

Microwaves

Check with your city to see if microwaves can be scrapped and recycled if broken. If yours is still in working order, you might be able to donate it to a shelter or an organization like the Salvation Army.

Washers and Dryers

Unless your washer and dryer are completely trashed, it’s likely they can be donated to an organization or individual who doesn’t mind the mileage. List your items online for free if you want them gone quickly. If you’re purchasing new appliances, it’s possible the company supplying the new ones also takes care of disposing of the old ones.

Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) and Their Risks

Appliances with coolants usually contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which can deplete the ozone if released. This is why air conditioners, fridges, and freezers shouldn’t be tossed in landfills. 

The ODS gasses can be found in water coolers, and dehumidifiers as well. If any of these types of appliances are improperly broken down for recycling or disposal. The various ODS is not only released from coolant lines but from insulation as well. ODS gasses in the atmosphere eventually break down and release chlorine and/or bromine, which are the main culprits that hard the ozone layer. As the ozone layer is depleted, the Earth is exposed to harsher UV radiation.

According to Western Elite, a dumpster rental company located in Nevada landfills already release enough greenhouse gasses each year to equal the exhaust of over 20 million cars. We don’t need to add ODS gasses into the mix by improperly trashing appliances.

Disposing of Light Bulbs

Depending on where you live, recycling light bulbs might be required. Since CFL bulbs may contain mercury, it’s very dangerous to toss them in the regular trash. A broken bulb exposes sanitation workers and the environment to toxic chemicals.

Thankfully, it’s pretty convenient to bring spent CFL bulbs to a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes. Both usually have receptacles for collecting lightbulbs to prevent mercury contamination or poisoning. 

Dangers of Mercury Exposure

Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means it can poison nerve tissue. As a vapor, it is invisible and odorless, so exposure can occur without knowledge. While a very useful element, it is toxic and any amount of exposure can be harmful. Since mercury can travel through the body via the bloodstream, it can easily affect the nervous system, the lungs, the kidneys, and the brain. 

Signs of Mercury Poisoning

  • Vision and hearing impairment
  • Difficulting speaking or walking
  • Numbness in hands, feet, or mouth
  • Coordination problems
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Impaired cognitive function (memory, mood)

When you know better, you do better. Hopefully, this information and the resources provided will make it easier for all of us to dispose of hazardous waste in safer ways.

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Making The Leap From Small-Sized Business To Medium-Sized Business

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Leap

Over the years, the confidence of small businesses has grown to an all-time high. In fact, most of the respondents to the National Small Business Association’s survey admitted they anticipate economic growth, while some others said they felt very confident about the future of their business. 

With this, clearly, the future is bright for business owners.

It doesn’t matter the current size of your business. It’s advisable to plan and structure to prepare for the future.

A little proactivity when it comes to growing your small business will pay off in the long run. Here are 6 tips on how to grow your small business.

  1.  Improve your homepage:

Besides making signing up or purchasing easy and improving SEO, ensure your homepage looks as great as possible.

Think about this: 96 percent of prospects visiting your website aren’t ready to purchase something. And your homepage is most likely where they will land after clicking on your link. 

If they find your homepage to be cluttered or hard to navigate, they’ll move elsewhere. Also, if your web copy is bad or doesn’t show any value of your products or services, they’ll be turned off.

Most times, a simple change can boost your revenue tremendously. 

  1.  Pay attention to Analytics:

Many companies, particularly tech giants like Amazon and Facebook, realize the value of utilizing data. And you should, also.

A report in The Economist notes, “the world’s most precious resource is no longer oil, but data.” luckily, unlike oil, any company can benefit from data. 

As a small business owner with social media pages and a website looking to grow, you can employ free digital tools to gain insights into your customers.

For example, Google Analytics shows page visits, how your audience arrives at your page, bounce rate, and average time on site, which can provide insights into where to focus your marketing efforts.

  1. Invest in systems:

We already know you’re a pro at this business ownership stuff. However, if you’re trying to handle everything by yourself, you might end up limiting yourself for potential growth. A business powered by systems is one that can handle the multi-layered demands of growth.

Having robust systems such as powerful e-commerce software or a solid CRM in place can help you focus on the important aspects of growth and expansion while the money keeps rolling in.

Inspect your current operations to see what parts are monotonous or repetitive and make it your aim to outsource or automate as much as possible so that you can pay close attention to small business growth.

  1. Make a plan to grow your business:

There are several ways to grow your small business, from optimizing your website for mobile to email marketing campaigns to encouraging online reviews.

The main thing is first to have a plan that you can execute. Unluckily, nearly half of businesses do digital marketing with no clear strategy

The ideal way to grow your small business is never to become self-satisfied and always be tested. Identify your audiences’ needs, test your hypothesis, iterate, and then test again.

  1.  Focus on scalability:

When time, money, and expertise are in short supply, you may feel tempted to go with the cheap (or quick) fix. And investing in basic solutions that don’t need a huge learning curve or financial investment can seem like the right option.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Definitely, your dream solution may have an intimidating learning curve or be a stretch. However, ending up in a patchwork maze of several inefficient and inexpensive systems that only appear economical will end up costing you more money in the future.

  1. Always have a backup plan:

When you’re a solopreneur, you’re usually able to pivot when things don’t go as planned. However, as your business grows and becomes more sophisticated, these quick adjustments will prove more difficult.

Ensure you have a plan in place for emergencies or unforeseen situations so that you can deal with the inevitable obstacles in the journey.

With growth comes fear. Sometimes it may feel easier not to take the risk and stick with the status quo. However, you’re prepared for this. You’ve concluded the groundwork, and your foundation is strong and steady. You’re set to meet your growth goals.

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Safety Procedures to Protect Your Company’s Worksite

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Safety Procedures

You may have the best in personal protection, but what are you doing to protect your business as a whole? Business security, whether in reference to data or physical property, is essential. You can’t have eyes on your worksite 24/7, but there are ways to ensure you’re protecting your assets.

Don’t Do It Alone

Outsourcing security is a given these days. You can’t manage your company’s hard drive, parking lots, and buildings on your own. Here are some recommended security measures to practice at your workplace.

Plan Ahead

We all hope that nothing will happen to disrupt our safety or the security of our workplace. But, in the event that a natural disaster, robbery, or accident occurs, it’s important to already have a protocol in place.

This should include knowing evacuation procedures, regularly backing up data, and having a notification system in place to notify employees. If you’re working with a company like CBI Security, you have a team of experts who will not only evaluate your current safety and security protocols but help you implement new ones as the need arises. Having a fresh set of eyes to help you plan ahead can be well worth the investment, whether it’s an IT department or surveillance.

Fail-Safe vs Fail Secure Systems

Depending on the type of information or property you’re protecting, you may have fail-safe or fail-secure systems. Do you know the difference?

Fail-Safe

Some doors need to remain unlocked, even in times of emergency. These may include stairwell doors or exterior doors that provide an exit route to those insides. If power fails for your building, it may be a good idea to have fail-safe doors that will remain unlocked.

Fail-Secure

In contrast, some doors need to remain locked for safety. They may be protecting virtual or physical assets or sensitive information. It is a good idea to have some doors that stay secure in the event of power failure.

Tiered Access

Also known as a Managed Access system, it’s convenient to have different levels of access for various employees. If this can be designated remotely when needed, even better. You can monitor building access with the use of keycards, and your tiered access control system will let you know who’s going in and out, as well as when. Whether you have a security company monitoring access, or a local facilities manager, you can simplify granting and denying permission to employees or contractors.

Depending on the system you use, you can use your smartphone to control:

  • Responses to alarms
  • Door locks
  • Cameras
  • Keycard Access

Light it Up

What good are your security cameras and closely-monitored doors if you don’t have adequate lighting at your worksite? Whether you invest in exterior lights that automatically turn on at dusk, or motion-sensor lights, be sure that everything under surveillance is illuminated. This can help you identify burglars if they are caught on camera, or deter them in the first place.

The same goes for inside your worksite as well. In the event someone is inside after hours, you should have security lighting that allows cameras to do their job of capturing someone in the act. Security lights can also aid employees if the power fails and they need to navigate out of inner offices or down stairwells that don’t have natural light sources.

Improve Customer Service

Are your employees trained to acknowledge guests who arrive on your property? They may be clients coming in for a meeting, or someone loitering to get an idea of your office layout. While the burden of identifying and stopping potential intruders should not fall solely on your employees, they should be trained to notice people onsite. Making a potential intruder aware that their presence has been noted can help prevent future crime. Or, if the visitor is a client, it can simply make them feel welcome doing business with you. Either way, it can be a win-win situation.

If you have an office that deals with customers on a regular basis, you may fall under the Federal Protective Service security guidelines. If so, a representative from the agency can work with your company to ensure your worksite provides a safe environment for both employees and customers.

Recommendations from the Federal Protective Service

  • Security guards at building entrances
  • Metal detectors at building entrances
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring common areas
  • Arrange office furniture to provide natural “barriers” between employees and visitors/customers
  • Install hidden notification devices for employees to utilize in the event of a threat (i.e. buttons under counters)

Clean Up After Yourself

In offices or at the construction site, cleaning up after yourself can be crucial to safeguarding information and materials. What protocol do you have in place to secure files, building equipment, and construction supplies? To prevent theft, ensure your employees are meticulous about powering down their computers and machinery at the end of their shifts, as well as locking cabinets and office doors.

Be sure you’re disposing of sensitive material appropriately, and discarding construction waste responsibly. While it may be convenient to empty trash into an onsite dumpster, it’s not ideal for confidential documents. Most dumpster rental companies sort through the waste they receive in an effort to recycle what they can; as a result, it’s important to go the extra mile and shred anything that shouldn’t be shared.

Whatever systems and procedures you have in place, they’re no good unless they’re tested. Be sure you’re routinely carrying out drills to monitor for vulnerabilities in your security system or employees. Get your staff familiar with how to respond to alarms or notifications so if they’re ever faced with the real deal, they’re prepared. If you can reduce employee turnover, these drills will be easier to facilitate because everyone will be more familiar with them each time.

It can be daunting to invest in costly security measures upfront, but they’re usually worth it. Not only can having a security system reduce the cost to insure your business, but they can help prevent future losses via theft or vandalism.

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