Entrepreneurs: Do You Love What You do?

Do You Really Love Your Business?

One of the things I never learnt in school was how to be a psychologist. Over the years, I took psychology courses, but with a graduate and a professional designation, neither of which are in psychology, I am very ill equipped to deal with psychological issues or offer any kind of advice.Yet when Entrepreneurs come to me, confused about why their business is NOT growing, why they are stuck, I cannot help but notice their need to talk to someone, anyone who will listen to them talk about their business. Many of these individuals have lost marriages, their families, close friends and relationships all because of their businesses. They are working 60+ hours a week to make their “dream” come true. Then they come to me, tired, miserable and alone and ask, “Why?” Why is this business not working? Why is this not fun any more? We hear so much about work life balance, about taking time for yourself and to spend time with those you love, but we rarely hear about the need to balance your “business” with your life.

Many Entrepreneurs got into business because they love with they do. Be it cooking, baking, customer service or programming, you are passionate about a cause and you want to share that talent with the world. Most entrepreneurs are good people who genuinely want to improve the world with their contributions and talents. However, this being said they will sacrifice everything around them for their business. They will ruin their health, their relationships and their Entrepreneurial spirit all for this business.Many Entrepreneurs defensively will say ” My business is my life” or that this “sacrifice” is needed in the early years. To both of these, I say phooey. The sacrifice is not needed and if your business is your life then you need to get a life. Put yourself in your customers shoes. Who do they prefer to do business with, a rested, energetic, reliable individual, or the individual that looks like htey have not had a vacation in 5 years, who is tired, grouchy and cannot balance their family and work life? Who would you do business with?

How do we balance the love of what we do with the practicality and time requirement of early start-up? How do we balance? My advice? Love what you do.Here are five ways that “loving what you do” will help you to grow your business and yourself.

1. If you love something, you set it free.

If you love what you do, you build it strong enough to survive without you. A business to be successful needs to survive without the entrepreneurs. It needs to have the straighten to stand alone and be independent from you.

2. If you love something, you nurture but don’t smother it

If you love something you nurture it, you give it what it needs but do not smother it. You give it what it needs to grow, but also the room to grow.

3. As in Relationships, you also need Alone time from your Business

As in a relationship, you cannot always be “with” the one you love. Take some time away from your business to do the things you enjoy. This will help you to relax, grow as a person, and then give back more to your business.

4. You Business May Move Away Some Day

As with our children, we have to be prepared for the fact that our business will not be with us forever. It may grow beyond our capabilities, you may need to sell, you may need to leave it for retirement or health reasons, but that business will someday leave you. How will you manage after the fact?

5. The best thing you Can do for those you love, is to take care of yourself

The best thing you can do for your business is to take care of yourself. If you take the time to nurture the other important things in your life, then your business will also grow, because your business is YOU. If you are tired, if You are cranky and cannot see the forest for the trees, guess what? So is your business, so do yourself a favour and if you really love what you do, then act like it, and please take care of yourself, those that are important to you and you will see how your business will flourish.


Hey Entrepreneurs! Have a business question that you could use an answer to? Tweet @CarmenReis and I’ll do my best to help you out 🙂


Need a Business Plan fast? Just visit our homepage and you can be downloading your Business plan in just 2 hours!

The Value of Incubators?

What is the Value-add of incubators?

Over the last decade, incubators have been popping up all over the country. There are economic development incubators, venture capital incubators and industry specific. On the tech side, Accelerators are the newest label to be put onto incubators. Despite all of this growth, one question that seldom appears to emerge, is “What value does your incubator add”?

What are you incubating?
What are you incubating?

The concept of “value added” is one that rarely emerges in the ever changing world of technology. Value added is no longer “trending” in this world of “build it and they will come”, yet the concept of value add is one that all companies, regardless of industry, company age or experience need to maintain to ensure their long-term success.

Value add is simple, it is the value that you create for your users, your customers and market. It is what makes you different and special in a world filled with competition. It is the service you provide, that has a real, tangible outcome.

In the case of incubators, what is the value add? Most would say for technology incubators, it is the networks, the social connections, the ability to facilitate the flow of capital and investment to young entrepreneurs to commercialize their products/services. Every VC is seeking the next dropbox or Facebook. The job of incubators and accelerators is to function as the intermediaries (middlemen) of old, and connect these two resources.

3 Key Differences

1. While the connection to capital, is most certainly an important value added service, in other circles-mainly those crazy socialist Europeans (note the sarcasm here) are more concerned with a firms longevity rather than its immediate bottomline. The reasons are both social and historical, but it is sufficient to note that Europeans tend to be less concerned with concepts such as quarterly returns, and more concerned with yearly, and multi-year returns. They pioneered concepts of “patient capital” and social innovation. Where North American incubators are connecting individuals to capital, European are offering business support services-Entrepreneurship training, business administration support & yes, financing.

2. Europeans also tend to be more invested in the “entrepreneur” rather than the idea. Rather, than focusing on finding the next facebook, they seek to find the next Mark Zuckerburg. What an original concept, invest in people and the results will come.

3. Finally, more European incubators then tend to invest for longer, in these companies (3-5 years) to get the returns they seek. They are not so much concerned with getting the current cohort out the door, and finding the next batch. The long-term investment is to ensure the long-term success of the company, and the people who work for it.

What differences do these entrepreneurial models create in the end company? What metrics should be used to evaluate incubators? MARS recently released a report calling for an IMPACT metrics for measuring incubator success. The time has come to measure and demand outcomes. Standards need to be created for education, program and service offering and not just simply seeking the next high tech dollar.



Hey Entrepreneurs! Have a business question that you could use an answer to? Tweet @CarmenReis and I’ll do my best to help you out 🙂


Need a Business Plan fast? Just visit our homepage and you can be downloading your Business plan in just 2 hours!

What Value does your Incubator add?

What is the Value-add of Incubators?

Over the last decade, incubators have been popping up all over the country. There are economic development incubators, venture capital incubators and industry specific. On the tech side, Accelerators are the newest label to be put onto incubators. Despite all of this growth, one question that seldom appears to emerge, is “What value does your incubator add”?

What are you incubating?
What are you incubating?

The concept of “value added” is one that rarely emerges in the ever changing world of technology. Value added is no longer “trending” in this world of “build it and they will come”, yet the concept of value add is one that all companies, regardless of industry, company age or experience need to maintain to ensure their long-term success.

Value add is simple, it is the value that you create for your users, your customers and market. It is what makes you different and special in a world filled with competition. It is the service you provide, that has a real, tangible outcome.

In the case of incubators, what is the value add?  Most would say for technology incubators, it is the networks, the social connections, the ability to facilitate the flow of capital and investment to young entrepreneurs to commercialize their products/services. Every VC is seeking the next dropbox or Facebook. The job of incubators and accelerators is to function as the intermediaries (middlemen) of old, and connect these two resources.

3 Key Differences

1. While the connection to capital, is most certainly an important value added service, in other circles-mainly those crazy socialist Europeans (note the sarcasm here) are more concerned with a firms longevity rather than its immediate bottomline. The reasons are both social and historical, but it is sufficient to note that Europeans tend to be less concerned with concepts such as quarterly returns, and more concerned with yearly, and multi-year returns. They pioneered concepts of “patient capital” and social innovation. Where North American incubators are connecting individuals to capital, European are offering business support services-Entrepreneurship training, business administration support & yes, financing.

2. Europeans also tend to be more invested in the “entrepreneur” rather than the idea. Rather, than focusing on finding the next facebook, they seek to find the next Mark Zuckerburg. What an original concept, invest in people and the results will come.

3. Finally, more European incubators then tend to invest for longer, in these companies (3-5 years) to get the returns they seek.  They are not so much concerned with getting the current cohort out the door, and finding the next batch. The long-term investment is to ensure the long-term success of the company, and the people who work for it.

What differences do these entrepreneurial models create in the end company? What metrics should be used to evaluate incubators? MARS recently released a report calling for an IMPACT metric for measuring incubator success. The time has come to measure and demand outcomes. Standards need to be created for education, program and service offering and not just simply seeking the next high tech dollar.

 

The Geography of Funding Inequality.

Around the country, incubators are popping up. Tech incubators, health incubators, manufacturing incubators. Venture capitalists continue to create to new opportunities to attract the next big tech company and angel investors sit poised, ready to be mentors and investors to new entrepreneurs.

Every start-up at some point in their existence, considers chasing venture capital. The funding may be a life-line to emerging companies, who have been boot-strapping to just get by. Location plays an irrefutable role in the ability of these firms to get funding. Location determines both the likelihood and the amount that start ups are likely to receive. Consider that start-ups in Vancouver receive typically receive 80% less funding than start-ups in silicon Valley?

Where is a Firm Most Likely to succeed?

Several studies have examined the likelihood of venture capital success. In a 2009 study in the Harvard Review by Chen, et al, and another in 2010 by Josh Lerner, found that start-ups who received funding that were OUTSIDE of the geography of their venture capitalists, significantly outperformed, those closer to the VC’s office.

This posits an interesting phenomenon, why is that investors continue to be scared of secondary markets? Start-ups are naturally attracted to cities where VC’s exist. VC’s often set higher hurdle rates for firms that are outside of their area due to increased monitoring costs for items such as travel time. Do those firms, because of their higher hurdle rates, outperform start-ups in NY, Silicon Valley and Boston? Or, to actually attract VC attention, are these firms better to start with?

How does this affect firms seeking VC funding?
Is it better for firms who are seeking VC funding to pack up and head to a larger tech center?
The  propensity of these firms receiving funding would increase. What does this mean for firms located in smaller cities? Should local governments invest more in encouraging more VC’s and investors in an area?

We will examine these topics in the coming weeks and provide insight and recommendations for firms looking for VC investment.

The Geography of Funding Inequality

Around the country, incubators are popping up. Tech incubators, health incubators, manufacturing incubators. Venture capitalists continue to create to new opportunities to attract the next big tech company and angel investors sit poised, ready to be mentors and investors to new entrepreneurs.

Every start-up at some point in their existence, considers chasing venture capital. The funding may be a life-line to emerging companies, who have been boot-strapping to just get by. Location plays an irrefutable role in the ability of these firms to get funding. Location determines both the likelihood and the amount that start ups are likely to receive. Consider that start-ups in Vancouver receive typically receive 80% less funding than start-ups in silicon Valley?

Where is a Firm Most Likely to succeed?

Several studies have examined the likelihood of venture capital success. In a 2009 study in the Harvard Review by Chen, et al, and another in 2010 by Josh Lerner, found that start-ups who received funding that were OUTSIDE of the geography of their venture capitalists, significantly outperformed, those closer to the VC’s office.

This posits an interesting phenomenon, why is that investors continue to be scared of secondary markets? Start-ups are naturally attracted to cities where VC’s exist. VC’s often set higher hurdle rates for firms that are outside of their area due to increased monitoring costs for items such as travel time. Do those firms, because of their higher hurdle rates, outperform start-ups in NY, Silicon Valley and Boston? Or, to actually attract VC attention, are these firms better to start with?

How does this affect firms seeking VC funding?
Is it better for firms who are seeking VC funding to pack up and head to a larger tech center?
There propensity of recieving funding would increase. What does this mean for firms located in smaller cities? Should local governments invest more in encouraging more VC’s and investors in an area?

We will examine these topics in the coming weeks and provide insight and recommendations for firms looking for VC investment.


Hey Entrepreneurs! Have a business question that you could use an answer to? Tweet @CarmenReis and I’ll do my best to help you out 🙂


Need a Business Plan fast? Just visit our homepage and you can be downloading your Business plan in just 2 hours!

5 Trends Why SME’s will Continue to Grow.

In the wake of massive lay-offs in the manufacturing sector, downsizing across all industries and renewed vows to create sustainability, SME’s are a powerful way to counter large Corporations and create REAL, SUSTAINABLE,  solutions. Here are 5 Trends why we think  SME’s will grow in the future…..

1. Generation Y– brought up to value their own individuality, their talents and skills, as this generation matures research has shown that they are more entrepreneurial than those before them They value the flexibility of entrepreneurship and bring passion and savvy tech skills that allow them to work anywhere at anytime.  In addition, this generation has lived at home longer, and has been less likely to purchase major assets (from cars to homes) permitting them to bootstrap and live on less income than generations before. In pure numbers,  they represent a major “wave” of demographics, and the impact of their generation is just beginning to be felt.

2. 3-D Printing and Changing Nature of Manufacturing

The changes quietly started over 50 years ago with the advent of the CNC machine, and within a decade you may have one of these little machines in your home.  Imagine printing up toys that your children have designed, a new component for a broken piece of equipment or a piece of art for your home. The possibilities are endless. Greater still, is the impact that this will bring to the nature of manufacturing. No longer will massive warehouses dot the landscape, but a manufacturing facility could sit on 2500 square feet or less, producing made to order components, warehousing only enough to fill a small truck. These shops will not employ thousands or even hundreds, but scores.  This will change the nature of our suburbs and create opportunities for new buildings, space sharing and collaboration.

3. Increased Environmentalism & Sustainability Awareness

Environmentalism over the last hundred years has come and gone. However, over the last two decades, the awareness and trend towards  “green” has not diminished, but increased in importance. Corporations are adopting “sustainability” as a way of life, incorporating these concepts into their Strategy Maps and Balanced Score cards. Consumers are demanding that the companies they do business with be environmentally aware and sustainable.  It is far easier to develop a sustainable operation as a small entrepreneur and to maintain a low carbon footprint.  Many small businesses start off as home based businesses, and these offer shorter commutes, lower electricity consumption from smaller machines and growth in  internet communications technology (email and social media) that permit SME’s to connect to the world from a smartphone.

Beyond this, there is growing dissatisfaction with the income that CEO’s earn. The erosion of our middle class, has created calls for for egalitarian pay distribution which recognizes the value that all bring to our workplaces and society. Generally speaking, most founders are not making millions, but earn incomes far more modest than the CEO of Goldman Sachs or Citibank.

4. Increased Social Responsibility

SME’s are connected to their local communities. Many times entrepreneurs are involved community leaders and advocates, volunteers for local charities and non-profits and catalysts for local change. SME’s are tied to their local communities because these communities support them and are where they work and live.  Large corporations try hard to stay connected to the public-via technology such as Twitter and Facebook, they interact with their customers. However, the public demands more. They want to know who is behind the nameless corporations and want to ” know” those they are doing business with.

Add to this, the enormous growth in social entrepreneurship over the last decade and the awareness that you can do good, while earning a living.  Very few large social enterprises exist. This domain is nearly all dominated by SME’s and micro-enterprises.  This continued demand for Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) will continue to drive the growth of SME’s.

5. Worsening Financial State of Western Governments

Everywhere we look, from the USA and Canada to Europe, governments are increasingly facing fiscal pressures and inabilities to manage their own budgets. In Canada, government funding for social programs and welfare are decreasing. Cuts further erode the quality of life of individuals caught in cycles of poverty. Social justice advocates will always secure some funding for those most in need, but many will fall between the cracks. Consider the role of microenterprise and SME’s can play in alleviating poverty.

Studies show that median household income of self-employed microenterprisers increases 78% in two years, and 91% over five years. In another guided program (Welfare to Work) participants’ business assets and their net worth grew by nearly 250% during a two year period, and home ownership increased from 14% to 22%. Finally, in Washington State a study by the Center for Economic Opportunity showed that over 50% of microenterprises moved toward self-sufficiency by completely reducing all forms of public assistance over 3 years. This reduced reliance on government programs has a significant impact on the burden the state carries to support low-income families. In this study participant  unemployment decreased by 24% in the first year. Strong local economies can be created by fostering microenterprise in low income communities and encouraging the break from the cycle of poverty.  Given that governments have less and less money to give, the growth of microenterprise and SME’s is predicted to grow at increasing rates in the coming years.

 

 

 

Innovation and the Aging Population

There is a lot written these days about innovation, competitiveness and intellectual capital. I hear the banter of politicians, the monologues from leading Venture Capitalists and Investment firms, and I sit back and think about how they have it all wrong.

Our society is aging. David Foot in his ground-breaking work, “Boom, Bust and Echo” discusses the impact of the aging population on everything from Baseball to Housing Markets. As people age, we generally become more conservative. Be honest with yourself, do you find yourself thinking, “how can kids do that”, or even worse looking at your own kids and forgetting what it was like to be that age?

As the whole of society begins to turn grey, we will see a fundamental shift in attitudes, work style and social values. While these changes are not bad in themselves, they will begin to shift Canada from a competitive and innovative nation, to one that lags in industrial and technological competitiveness. The beginnings of these shifts are already occurring. Report after report documenting lagging Canadian productivity and economic slumps hits the airwaves every few weeks. Taken individually, these may represent nothing more that an slow economy. However, our economy has been slow for nearly 5 years. The “Boom” years are gone.

The graying of our population is not a bad think in itself. There is much wisdom that can be reaped from the experienced to new firms starting out. Repeatedly, our politicians push money into grants, into mega-projects, and large industrial complexes, in hopes of getting a sound-byte with their name on it, when really what we need are small focused, incubators, mentorship programs, and training platforms to transform the tacit knowledge that exists in our aging population and extend it to our youth.i

Youth also must understand that they are not “unique snowflakes” (as one friend often refers to the Y-Generation) and that the struggles that they as new entrepreneurs experience are not unique and in fact–exceptionally common to almost every entrepreneur.

This does not mean that the creativity of Generation Y cannot be harnessed to develop unique products, competitive solutions and to be, yes, innovative. Mentorship programs need not be one way only–we often think of a Mentor as an older individual–young people can also run Mentorship programs teaching others–who are new to an industry, a way of thinking, how to be more creative. As we age, we become more risk adverse, how about a mentorship program that teaches us to be less prone to risk? How about a Mentorship program that engages social leaders at all levels and teaches us to be innovative?

Our next blog post will discuss how smaller cities can be more competitive in a global environment.


Hey Entrepreneurs! Have a business question that you could use an answer to? Tweet @CarmenReis and I’ll do my best to help you out 🙂


Need a Business Plan fast? Just visit our homepage and you can be downloading your Business plan in just 2 hours!

What do You Mean I Run a Tech Company?

I run a Tech Company? Huh?

So I was sitting at a meeting a couple of weeks back and someone asked me about my insight running a tech business. For a second I looked across the table at someone else who was at the meeting, but soon realized that the individual was talking to me. I asked him, “me? Run a tech company….? No I just do business plans and and we just happen to use technology tools to automate the business planning process”.

I was met by a “well what are you if you are not a tech company”? This question made me sit back and think about what actually defines tech start-ups. Being labelled a “tech company” does not really change anything—we are still working through the tech bugs with our developers–and I am realizing that good developers need far longer to work through problems, than I think they ought to. In fact, one of the best Developers I have met, Tony Curcio, at Si TechGroup, often tells me “stop trying to play developer”. It is a lesson that I am slowly learning–I am a type A by nature–although having kids has significantly worn down these A type tendencies.

I have had the opportunity to get to know some amazing developers, (Tony and his crew) who are intuitive and anal about the work they do. Would I go through this process again? Yes. Would I do it differently? Yes, Definitely.

So, as I gathered my thoughts, sat back and answered “I guess I am a tech company”, I started to reflect on this stereotype of “running” a tech company and what it means. When I think tech company, I imagine an early 20 something working out of his parents basement (definitely a ‘he”), up at all hours of the day coding programs/apps/web programs, eating ramen, and living in the same change of clothes as he hacks government files in his spare time for fun.

The Reality

While this image is far removed (remember I was a child of the 80′s and any good hacker I knew spent at least a bit of time trying to crack government files), I started to consider how I fit this stereotype  First and foremost, I am a woman. Second I am married, in my mid-thirties with two young kids. I do not program–please there are times I still have to have my husband show me where the C drive is on the computer! I own my own house, hate working in the basement and am a morning person. I do not mind ramen once a year or so, but I appreciate my showers and changing clothes at least once a day. I prefer order to “hacking government files” and my spare time, what precious little I have, I sit on 3 not for profit boards, and act as Chair of another. So, as far as stereotypes go, I am not sure what insight I can give into running a tech company, all I know is that I am still learning myself and will be glad to share my story with you along my journey.

How to Get a Business Mentor

 How To Get a Business Mentor?

Nearly every self-help book will tell you that you need a business mentor. The general purpose of a mentor is to provide you with a foundation of advice, support and knowledge in the early days of business. The early days are tough. Cashflow will be tight, personal time will be non-existent and to-do lists are never-ending. How is an entrepreneur supposed to find time to find and meet with a mentor?

Mentoring relationships need not be formalized arrangements. They can be as simple as having someone that you meet with for coffee every few weeks/months and discuss your business. Many entrepreneurs may have informal networks from which to choose a mentor-think industry associations, chambers of commerce, customers, neighbours. For others, the choice to develop a relationship with a mentor is an exceptionally personal and large time commitment. Several mentorship programs exist which formally pair a mentor and a mentee. Having participated once as a Mentor, I can tell you what a fulfilling relationship it was. My mentee would call me, often just to tell me what was going on in her life. Years later, we still keep in touch.

So how do you go about finding a mentor?

Step 1: Decide on The Type of relationship you want
The first thing is really figuring out the type of relationship you want, the realms of expertise the Mentor needs to have, and how they can help you. Set this expectation at the forefront, and make sure it is something that you can commit to.

Step 2: Research possible mentors
The next step is to research and brainstorm a list of possible mentors. These may be people in your community, industry or field of study. Make a list of the people who you would want to be your mentor and list the reasons why they would be good/strong mentors for you, particularly what attracts you to having them as a Mentor.

Step 3: Try to find commonalities using resources such as LinkedIn
Did you graduate from the same school, have the same ethnicity, or are you members of the same association? Use points of commonality to open conversation or email about what you have in common with them. Much of this data can derived using or other social media platforms. Research the individual and show that you know something about them.

Step 4: Have an honest conversation with them about what you are looking for, the time commitment and the goals you have.
It is important to be honest to the prospective mentor about the time commitment you require and what you are looking for in a mentorship.
If the individual is not interested or a good match, go to the next person on your list. You need to ensure that the match is a good one from the onset.

Step 5: Be realistic
Most professionals and business people cannot dedicate 10 hours a week to a Mentee. You will be lucky to get 2 hours a month of their time. Use your time wisely. Communicate over email and/or phone and when/if you do have face to face meetings, make sure you also give your mentor a chance to speak–there is nothing more irritating than a one-sided conversation.

What’s in a Name?

One of the first questions we usually get asked is “What does BizMula mean”? To which I usually reply, “well what do you think it means”?
Some of the answers surprised us:

a. BizMula-Business Money-i.e. we help you get money. While I think our plans help a lot of people with getting their businesses off the ground and getting the investment they need, this most certainly was not the intent-but glad to see that there is an association.

b. BizMula-Business Donkey–interpretation- a. we do the hard work so you don’t have to. Interpretation b) So easy a donkey could do it
This one I found funny. Perhaps it is my portuguese roots-since the word “mula” is a donkey,–but this was not the intent either, although I do get the idea that we take the hard work out of writing a business plan and in fact the product is so simple that anyone is able to do their own plan.

There are other “common” interpretations of the word “Mula”. As per the great philosophy of Wikipedia….”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mula” Mula can also be
a) A Place in Spain or Malta (perhaps originating from Mula)
b) A radish in Nepal-(Biz Radish–hmmm not sure about this one)
c) A drum used in cuban music (Biz drum like dance to the beat of your own drum—i like this one)
d) A breast (Malayalam language)–we won’t go there
e) Associated with rapper Lil Wayne–nope no association whatsoever

Despite the proliferation of the word “mula”, I always thought that our name was pretty easy to figure out—(hint: look at our logo).
Our logo, for those who are unsure of what it is, is a flask/light bulb.

BisMula-is actually “business formula”–we believe that our plans are the winning business formula and that in fact, a formula for a successful business plan does exist. At its heart, that is what BizMula is–we offer entrepreneurs a formula for getting their business plan done quickly and efficiently. The light bulb component, really is to symbolize the idea of the entrepreneur. Their idea, plus our formula=WIN.
We are getting excited by the launch of the automated service. We really believe that this is a great product and we look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Article Keywords: Bizmula, Business plan software, What’s in a name?


Hey Entrepreneurs! Have a business question that you could use an answer to? Tweet @CarmenReis and I’ll do my best to help you out 🙂


Need a Business Plan fast? Just visit our homepage and you can be downloading your Business plan in just 2 hours!