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What No 40-Year-Old Can Tell You About Modern Entrepreneurship

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Today, the word “entrepreneur” holds more meanings than ever before. For some, it implies running a multimillion-dollar company. For others, modern entrepreneurship is about building new relationships and living the life you’ve dreamed of.

Two years ago, I couldn’t have even dreamed of calling myself an entrepreneur, let alone speak of a life full of speaking gigs and exciting freelance projects. All I had was a blind ambition strong enough to make me overcome my fear of sending an internship request to a company I admired.

Related: 10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free

Fast forward 24 months, I’ve established a website with a healthy readership and landed many first-rate consulting projects. I hate to brag, but I just want to show you how much can happen in a mere two years. For me, the path to success has always been paved with trial and error. In my first 23 years of life, here are the key learnings that will help you become an entrepreneur in the modern world.

1. You don’t need any capital to get started.

More important than any investment are two things no money can buy: ambition and determination.

As you begin your journey as a young entrepreneur, you’re going to have lots of downfalls and setbacks. There will be highs and lows. During the hardest of times, it takes a lot of persistence to push through and believe it will all come together in the end. Most of the time, things will work out just fine.

When I first decided to take the leap and switch from a secure full-time role to a freelance career, I lost my team and didn’t have enough projects to sustain myself in the long-term. The way I survived the first months of no work was by keeping myself busy with learning and building my blog. Eventually, the blog started to get noticed, and new freelance projects followed.

Paul Graham, co-founder of a wildly successful startup accelerator Y Combinator, named determination as the No. 1 skill he values from startup founders. As long as you’re over a certain threshold of intelligence, what matters most is perseverance — you’ll have to be able to survive the low periods in life.

If you’re confident in your plan and put your soul into it, the money will follow. The hardest part is motivating yourself while receiving no positive feedback for the first months (or even years). To get through this hardship, keep reminding yourself that you’re doing the best work you can and rely on your ambition to make it through.

Related: 8 Success Habits Learned Building a 7-Figure Business by Age 17

2. Most of the time, you don’t have anything to lose.

Have you ever feared to hit the “Send” button of a life-changing email or to reach out to potential mentors? Especially when young, there are so many seemingly intimidating actions that will become second nature later in life. What matters is that you’ll have enough courage to execute those things right now and push your limits on the way.

As you take risks and see them pay back generously, you will gradually learn a new rule: People are generally friendly and supportive. If you ask someone a question or look for some help, he or she will mostly respond with guidance and suggestions. This doesn’t mean you can expect everyone to stop what they’re doing and put your requests first. Whenever you ask another person for help, make it clear why they should help you.

The good thing about modern entrepreneurship is that while you’re young, you don’t have much to lose. Most of the time, the greatest enemy stopping us is our fear of failure. Author Tim Ferriss suggests that you ask yourself: “What is the worst that could happen?” By looking at your anxieties from this vantage point, you’ll be able to eliminate many artificial worries and take bold steps toward greater success.

Related: Attention All Millennials: You Need This Advice to Be Successful

3. You just need to put yourself out there.

Becoming recognized in any particular industry is not going to happen while you keep waiting for the world to discover you. You’ll have to make the world see you. In my experience, the people you look up to will start contacting you on their own. But, only if you first raise yourself to their level and beyond.

Cutting through the clutter in today’s noisy world is one of the greatest challenges you’ll have to embrace. The good part is that making a name for yourself is easier now than it was 20 years ago. Many entrepreneurs, myself included, choose a website as the primary promotional channel. Alternatively, you can build up a strong social media presence or advance your career as a keynote speaker or book author. The key to building your online presence is focus — don’t strive to be active on all platforms.

As you’re able to secure your first gig, make it your core priority to excel at the job. Remember that promoting yourself should go hand in hand with doing great work and proving that you can deliver on promises.

Another way to grow your career faster is to hunt down a job that is way out of your league. That’s precisely what I felt while hitting the “Send” button on guest blogging requests, fighting off my impostor syndrome. Psychological research shows that as other people place high expectations on you, you’ll feel more compelled to rise up to those expectations.

Related: Where to Intern If You Really Want to Be an Entrepreneur

4. It’s all about storytelling.

If you think about successful entrepreneurs, they’re mainly known for one specific characteristic, company or trait. On a personal level, those people have a variety of interests, characteristics and skills. However, it’s the one key story they’re known for.

Storytelling is an excellent way to develop your personal brand and raise awareness of your product or service. The younger your target audience, the higher impact your brand will have. A strong brand is also what differentiates you from the competition and allows you to monetize for a premium service.

Consider some of the most successful products of modern times: the iPhone, Airbnb rentals and the GoPro camera. Every single one of these products tells a story — iPhone’s owners are well-off and tech-savvy, Airbnb travellers are daring explorers and GoPro users are hunters of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

It is a lot more challenging to be different than go along with the crowd. Yet, following the crowd does not make you successful — you’re likely to be as successful as the average member of the pack. If you want to succeed, standing out and keeping true to your brand should become indispensable parts of your strategy.

Related: Why Your 20s Is the Perfect Time to Start a Business

5. Don’t forget to live.

Once you’ve achieved a fair share of success as an entrepreneur, new opportunities start to find their way to your doorstep. For many people, that’s also when impostor syndrome kicks in — the fear of not being as good as people think you are. This can lead to a vicious cycle of overworking and trying to grow your business further and further. Believe me, I’ve been there.

According to Psychology Today, our close relationships keep us grounded and make us happy. As you spend your entire life working toward an imaginary better future, it’s easy to overlook the presence and grow old without ever feeling content.

The nice thing about modern entrepreneurship is that you can be the master of your own time. Sometimes, it’s normal to work 12- or 16-hour days. However, don’t take too much pride in exploiting your energy levels — compensate for stressful work with proper rest and spend quality time with people that make you happy. Also, make time to read and grow your capacity to empathize as it will have a positive, long-term impact on your career.

The sooner in your life you realize what entrepreneurship means to you, the higher quality of life you’ll reach. You don’t have to wait another five years to get where you want to be. You can start right now by taking small but consistent steps toward the future you’ve dreamed of.

Related Video: 7 Lessons for Young Entrepreneurs from a NASCAR Solopreneur

A daily source of inspiration and information, Entrepreneur.com fuels the spectrum of game-changers that define what it means to be an entrepreneur today. That includes business leaders who launched something from nothing, content creators in the social influencer space, athletes pushing the boundaries of performance, and internal thought leaders innovating inside major corporations. Entrepreneur.com offers strategic insights and how-to guidance for the people that make things happen.

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How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

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He started playing poker at 18 and was winning championships by his early twenties. Despite millions in winnings, world recognition and playing at the high roller tournaments, Fedor Holz is leaving professional poker at age 24.

He’s focusing his energy on creating easy-to-access training on high performance mindset tactics. And I was fascinated to learn why.

When I met Fedor a few weeks ago, he had just finished in the top rankings of a huge high roller tournament in Vegas. But instead of talking about poker, we mostly talked about how he stays grounded when so much is at stake. We also discussed how he learned to honor his decisions, even when they turned out to cost him a game.

I loved getting Fedor’s perspective on what it takes to become great at a specific skill, but he was also honest about what it costs. I was especially interested in what he said about the skill of removing emotion from actions and how that can turn out badly in the rest of a person’s life.

Whether you’re interested in poker or not, you’ll learn valuable insights about performing at a high level in anything in Episode 544.

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher RadioGoogle Play or TuneIn.

This story originally appeared on Lewis Howes

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Why Kicking Out Counterfeit Crooks on Instagram Is So Important

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Would you spend over a thousand dollars on a pair of sneakers? There are plenty who would — a pair of Adidas Yeezy’s comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more. For those who are less flush, the market has become flooded with knock-off fakes. These are promoted via comments and sponsored ads on sites like Facebook and Instagram.

When Kanye West tweeted “you probably got bootleg Yeezy’s on right now,” followers responded in typical Twitter fashion, with a torrent of abuse from all angles, but when it came to real brand loyalty, sneakerheads were split. Die-hard fans rebuked the fakes, though others have been tempted by prices as low as $99.

A year later, these social commerce scams are running riot online, fueled by social bots and a growing underground counterfeit economy, hijacking brand advertising efforts. Andrea Stroppa’s “Social media and luxury goods counterfeit investigation revealed that 20 percent of Instagram posts for luxury brands feature counterfeit or illicit products.

At BrandBastion, we conducted an investigation into Instagram counterfeiters to examine the risks brands face on social media and what they can do to fight it.

Social media’s safe harbor for organized crime.

The luxury online retail market is estimated to reach $41.88 billion by 2019, according to Bain & Company. It’s impressive, but just a fraction of the booming business of the $461 billion global counterfeit goods market funding large-scale criminal operations. Stroppa’s investigation explains how exploitative practices force women and children to work in inhumane conditions, in turn powering illegal gangs, dictatorships and global terrorism.

Related: Evolve or Die: Luxury Brands Must Embrace Digital To Thrive

Organized crime has entered the digital realm, with counterfeit trade visible on the most popular ecommerce platforms and social media streams. These operations are largely based in China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Ukraine, though technology allows them to target global audiences.

In the U.S., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) mandates that so long as platforms have an effective takedown system, they are not liable, putting pressure on brands to protect themselves. Until now, this has mainly impacted selling tools such as eBay, Alibaba and commerce-friendly social network WeChat, to the detriment of luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But digitally-savvy fake sellers have graduated from basic host services like eBay, finding global reach and big profits as commerce takes off on social media. Complete with new mobile-oriented features like Instagram’s Shop Now and Buy buttons, these networks are becoming serious selling tools for counterfeit criminals.

As online sellers invest in social growth tactics, the frauds are hot on their heels, armed with ad campaigns and bots, retargeting their users and flooding sites with illegal goods. This social media safe harbor creates a playground for fraudsters using aggressive tactics, even hijacking a brand’s own social media posts or ads to target audiences with counterfeit copies.

The Instagram comments scam.

BrandBastion examined a sample of 36,000 comments from the Instagram posts of 12 top luxury brands — Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Marni, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Balmain, Versace and Dior — with a combined reach of more than 62 million followers.

One in 18 comments included a serious threat for brands. Major dangers included 729 (2.03 percent) comments leading to direct counterfeiting from some 94 counterfeit sellers; 1,013 comments (2.81 percent) contained spam and scams; and 208 (0.58 percent) had brand attacks from avid activists, at times launching brand boycotts. Some retailers fared worse than others; 8.27 percent of Saint Laurent comments contained a brand threat. On the other end of the scale, Dior had 3.37 percent brand threats, though with a significantly larger following and greater posting activity.

Related: U.S. Shuts Down Huge Online Dark Web Market, AlphaBay

Counterfeiters borrow images scraped from online searches, newly embed fresh information to appear unchanged, and, armed with purchased fake followers, they often appear legitimate. Fraudulent accounts post comments such as “Check out my page Got All Designer” along with contact details, such as instant messenger chat IDs, enabling encrypted conversations with so-called “salespeople.” The OECD reported that sellers post these goods via complex routes, preying on transit hotspots from “countries with weak governance and widespread organized crime such as Afghanistan and Syria.”

Fighting fire with fire.

Instagram is cracking down on fake accounts, purging millions of spam and bot accounts and using proactive tools such as spam detectors and blocking systems. But by cloning and replicating content, fresh accounts pop up every day. This proliferation of content keeps moderators busy in a cat-and-mouse chase. Meanwhile, the responsibility of tackling new social media fraudsters largely rests on law enforcement agencies, brands and innovative technologies.

A digital ecosystem to target counterfeit sellers is in early stages. Informal name-and-shame accounts on Instagram, such as @fake_education and @yeezybusta reveal identified fake sellers. Online community forums like Scamadviser, Realscam and Scamwarners allow both retailers and consumers to name and shame known offending domains. Flipping community activism on its head, third-party services and blockchain technologies, such as startup Blockverify using the bitcoin currency infrastructure, also verify goods and track sales.

The downside is that lack of formal regulation facilitates a free-for-all of independent forums and competing businesses. Moreover, uneducated consumers are often not deterred by fake labels and are unaware of real threats from criminal operations. One in four consumers report purchasing counterfeit products online —  and these forums can even aid their search for fake products.

Brand managers need to be able to monitor new social media accounts using keywords, images, handles (or account names) and trending hashtags to uncover brand violations. New accounts often have similar names, posting behaviors and messages, and third-party forums also provide new leads. It’s important that brands also have community moderation checks in place when it comes to their own content and community engagement, to ensure that sellers aren’t getting a free ride through hacking their own ads and posts.

Related: Lax Online Security Can Destory Your Brand Overnight

As fake sellers adopt new technology to mimic and automate brand posting behaviors, artificially-intelligent moderation tools help businesses to uncover the crooks. It’s a battle of the bots, cross-referencing masses of data and identifying trends in order to uncover new threats and scams.

Counterfeiters that have traditionally focused on luxury brands are branching out to all industries. While footwear is the most frequently copied, fraudsters plagiarize anything from high-fashion handbags to popular wines, automotive parts, chemicals, medication and even fresh fruit. With brands like Adidas, Louis Vuitton and Chanel fighting fakes and launching high-profile courtroom disputes, it draws attention to the crisis. Declaring war on this criminal activity, intelligent technology and anti-counterfeit partnerships seek to take control, cleaning up social media and kicking out those counterfeit crooks. It’s a new wave of rebellion against organized crime masquerading as luxury produce and trusted household goods.

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6 Fatal B2B Sales Mistakes You Must Avoid

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B2B sales can be incredibly rewarding and lucrative — if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, most salespeople in this field make the same few mistakes again and again. When everyone around you is making the same missteps and blunders with B2B selling, it can be extremely difficult to know how to fix your approach.

If you’re looking to overhaul your strategy for B2B sales so you can start to crush your competition, it’s time to start actively avoiding the most common B2B sales mistakes out there today. Here are the six fatal B2B sales mistakes you’re probably making:

1. Selling to low-level buyers.

It may be easier to get in front of buyers and purchasing managers than C-suite prospects, since you never have to deal with a gatekeeper in order to reach them. But those low-level buyers don’t have the power — or the budget — to tell you “yes.” In fact, they’re only really good at telling salespeople “no.” You won’t make money selling to low-level buyers in B2B sales, so make a commitment to seek out high-level decision makers who can actually say “yes” to what you have to offer their businesses.

Related: Want to Make Your First Sale? These Entrepreneurs Share How They Did It.

2. Highlighting your product’s features and benefits.

There was a time when prospects cared about the features and benefits of your product. But they simply don’t anymore. Prospects today only care about the results and outcomes you can create in their world. More specifically, they want to know how you can solve their key challenges and deepest frustrations. Instead of highlighting your product’s features and benefits when selling to businesses, focus on specific outcomes your product or service can help your prospects achieve.

3. Giving proposals with only one option.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make in B2B sales is putting together single-option proposals. There are two major problems with these proposals. First, they don’t provide any context, which compels prospects to shop around to determine the value of your solution. Second, customers who really want to invest in a premium option will be limited to a lower-tier solution. Instead, provide a three-option proposal — ranging from the lowest end option that will still solve their problem to a higher end option with the most value — to boost your average sale size and the number of deals you close.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

4. Relying solely on the phone and internet.

There’s been a big movement in B2B sales towards selling online and on the phone. In some cases, this can be efficient and helpful, but if you’re selling an expensive, high-end product or service that requires a serious investment, you simply can’t skip out on meeting face to face. Hop on a plane if that’s what it takes to sit across from a valuable prospect. You’ll increase your close rate many times over, and being able to close big deals at huge companies is well worth the cost of travel.

5. Failing to clarify your value proposition.

Every time a B2B prospect asks what exactly it is that you do, you should have a quick and rehearsed response that succinctly describes the value you create. Clarify, script out, and memorize your value proposition. This is the only part of your sales presentation you have to memorize, so there’s really no excuse for hazy, rambling answers to this question.

6. Rushing to offer deals and discounts.

Low prices only attract bad prospects in B2B sales. Your ideal customer cares about value, not price, so quit offering deals and discounts. It only lowers your value in the eyes of your prospects. Instead, focus on the value you create, and be proud to offer the premium solution on the market. This attitude will attract the type of customer who values you for years to come.

Related: 6 Strategies for Avoiding the ‘Race to the Bottom’ Price War You Don’t Want to Win 

Which of these mistakes have you been making in B2B sales? How will you correct your mistakes and start crushing your sales goals? Check out this free Ultimate 3-Step Prospecting Call Template for more powerful sales advice.

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