Why Focus is Key

As a serial entrepreneur, I often find myself wanting to invest and build multiple businesses and almost anything triggers an avalanche of ideas. Being a serial entrepreneur is a tremendous gift and with it comes a blessing of energy and creative ide

as, however, these ideas are often so frequent and interesting that they tend to leave me unfocused and disciplined.

I started looking at other serial entrepreneurs around me and I started to notice that my problem was actually quite common among them. With great ideas comes great distraction it seems, and I’m beginning to believe that serial entrepreneurship leads to serial failure without discipline. What I offer is a few ways to stay focused to ensure that your business is successful, it’s my hope that the discipline I’ve learned over these past few years help refine you into the successful serial entrepreneur you were called to be. Whether it’s focusing on a key component within a single business or the serial mindset of committing to one idea and following through before jumping onto the next. With a bit of work to really integrate these tidbits into your thought process, you’ll no doubt find yourself more organized and accomplished.

80% isn’t finished

If you’re thinking you can get by with 80% and walk away, then you’re pretty much saying “I’ll take the 20% chance of failure.” See it through.. 80% is good, and may require less of your time, but doesn’t mean that it’s ready to walk away from unless you’re okay with the gamble of losing it. Great ideas are always stacked up, but commit to one before starting another.

Schedules aren’t just for Enterprise

I work with a lot of freelancers and they often chuckle at me when I say “let’s schedule that in” because to them, business is the freedom to define your own schedule. I laugh in return because I remember the days of freelancing and waking up a 2pm some days and having no routine. I still believe in freedom and flexibility, and manage to make the best use of my time by focusing it. I schedule what hours I’m going to work each week and I book about 20-30 hours a week. Shocker! I work less than most freelancers, however, when I’m working its 100% in the zone and focused.. I don’t blog, socialize or play games during that time and because of that I get more done in those hours than most do with a 40 hour work week.

Wait your turn

Everything has demand.. Your client is calling you.. The world is facebooking and tweeting.. Your friends want you to come out to the bar. All these things have importance in some priority, but don’t look over that key word, priority. Without it, you’re a mess. Make a list of your priorities and make sure whenever two or more things beckon for your attention that you pull out the master list and don’t deviate from the order. This one thing will refine your character and make you feel far more accomplished.

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4 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Stay in School

There’s this guy I know who’s in his early 20s, going to college, and has his own athletic apparel company he’s starting up. The guy is definitely an entrepreneur at heart, and he has huge visions of things he wants to accomplish in the future.

He’s absolutely convinced he’s going to be rich, and I truly hope everything works out for him.

There’s just one slight problem. He’s so eager to pursue his entrepreneurial efforts that he wants to drop out of school. He mentions it every time I see him, and I know it’s only a matter of time before he yields to his temptation.

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A go-getter’s guide to going global

Some folk were born to be entrepreneurs. The likes of Richard Branson and Alan Sugar were strutting their stuff when they were only midway through their teens, and their success results from an innate instinct for business, rather than from any speci

fic scholastic qualifications.

To use Branson as an example, he published his own magazine at sixteen, launched Virgin Records at twenty, formed Virgin Airways at thirty four, a carbonated cola drink by the age of forty five and his own mobile phone company by the time he was fifty. And all this before we discuss his train company and recent intergalactic dabblings too: a rather broad spectrum on his entrepreneurial CV.

This isn’t for everyone though. Some use their formative university years to hone their thoughts and ideas, so when they emerge with their hard-earned qualifications, they have already done much of the necessary groundwork towards becoming a successful entrepreneur.

In short, there’s

no one-size-fits-all approach to entrepreneurialism. But they all share a drive and determination to succeed and they all have a natural intuition for what is right.

Christian Arno, from global translation services provider Lingo24, founded his company in 2001 after graduating in French and Italian. He worked initially from a spare bedroom in his parents’ home in Scotland, building a client base gradually and careful to spend his start-up finances wisely.

Funds came from a £5,000 loan and, crucially, he had invested £500 of his student loan on the stock market, which had yielded a return of 3,000%. But it was the home-based working model that was key to the company’s early success:

Arno says. “I was able to offer major clients prices up to 30 percent cheaper than our competitors. It was imperative that we could compete from the start, and having no overheads for premises helped facilitate this.”

He made the decision to start opening virtual offices elsewhere too, with New Zealand in 2003 and China in 2004.

But the big change came with his decision to open physical office spaces, beginning with Timisoara (Romania) in early 2005 and Panama and Edinburgh in 2008.

“There are strategic reasons why I opened all these offices where I did. A combination of local skill-sets combined with the multiple time-zones enables us to operate around the clock, quite literally. This is crucial to our global growth.”

Today, Lingo24 operates across four continents with clients in over sixty countries. They translated 33 million words in 2009 and achieved a turnover of £3.65m – which Arno predicts will rise to over £5m in 2010.

Having come so far in the past 8 years, Arno reckons that gradual growth is the key to businesses succeeding.

“Don’t throw large wads of cash at any initiative without having a clear idea of what the outcome will be. I found that companies would call me up and try to sell me advertorials which sounded great, but weren’t. After a couple of costly ones, it was clear that the return on the investment wasn’t there.”

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising were still relatively novel concepts at the turn of the century but Arno was quick to realise the potential of these marketing tools.

“The internet was pivotal in the success of Lingo24 and today direct online marketing is still our most powerful tool”, says Arno. “I discovered SEO and Google AdWords and there has been no looking back. PPC allowed me to test out online marketing techniques for very little money – I could set my monthly budget at a nominal amount, allowing me to gauge its efficacy without blowing my entire marketing budget. And as it turned out, it has brought us a lot of custom.”

Online marketing certainly seems like the most cost-effective route for businesses to go in the current economic downturn. And for Lingo24, it has been an integral part of its global expansion plans, with websites now in a number of key European and Asian languages, helping them to tap into new markets.

“Most of the internet is in English, but 75% of the world’s population speak no English at all, so there’s a clear gap there”, says Arno. “I researched key search terms used by local customers and incorporated them into the translated websites. Because the saturation is nowhere near what it is in the English-speaking market, I found that we rose very rapidly in foreign search engine rankings.”

Arno has this final advice for entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business abroad:

“Take things slowly at first – understand your market and talk to others who have succeeded before you part with your hard-earned cash. Start small, learn as you go and follow a carefully managed growth model.”

About Lingo24

Lingo24 is an international translation company, with operations in the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. With over a hundred employees working on four continents, and a network of 4,000 translators, they achieved a turnover of £3.65m in 2009: projected to rise to over £5m in 2010.

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Business Paradigms: The Balanced Triangle

Many of you will be familiar with this business triangle, and you may use different words, but for simplicity (and design) I’ve simplified this paradigm. This is often called the balance act in the business world, and when people ref

er to the balance act, they’re often referring the struggle to balance between Quality, Cost, and Efficiency. We’re going to look at the Balanced Triangle and identify what it takes to keep your business balanced and running smoothly.

High Costs

Balanced Business Triangle. Business is high quality and fast turnover, but has to charge moreIf money isn’t an object, then quality and efficiency are easy for a business. You can pull an any amount of resources needed to get the job done with this triangle. The problem is that high costs are usually only justified in the consulting industry (lawyers, doctors, advertising, etc) because the consumers looking for these services have been brought up by society to know that you get what you pay for, which can be really practically worthless if a consumer “cheaps out” in any of these services.

Long Wait

Balanced Business Triangle. Business is high quality and affordable with a sacrifice of time and efficiencyIf the consumer isn’t in a rush, it’s often easy to find a company that will provide high quality at cheaper prices. This may be hard to see in the retail industry at first, but think of video games for a great example.. When Halo first came out for XBOX it was around $60 at most outlets. After 6 months the price had dropped to $40, and you can now find Halo in the $10 bins at Walmarts around the US. The quality didn’t lower, and the game became more affordable over time.

Poor Quality

Balanced Business Triangle. Business is fast and cheap, but suffers from poorer qualityIn my opinion, this is where 90% of America shops, with retail especially, because we are impatient and cheap. Following the paradigm, if you want something fast and you want it for cheap, you will of

course get poorer quality. This is obvious in retail (think of knock-off brands), as well as services, and so on. If you buy tools at Walmart, they’re likely to break with heavy use.. if you go with the first and cheapest lawyer you look up in the phone book, you’re likely to lose whatever lawsuit.

Overall the concept is pretty simple really, but a better understanding will help you become a better consumer. None of the three are better or worse, it all just depends on the situation and preference.

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Measuring Success

measure success
I was talking with a friend recently who was sharing his frustrations with trying to start his own business. After reading book after book about how to be successful, measuring success, and how to become a millionaire, he came to the conclusion that they were all wrong. I won’t share the names of the books that turned him off to being successful, but I will describe the characteristics of these books and why thousands of people that read the same book don’t all become millionaires.

Beaten Down and Degraded

You may aware of the tactics that many armed forces like the Army use, in which they “break” a person emotionally and mentally so that they can “rebuild” them to be conditioned as soldiers. The reason they do this is because it’s basic psychology and it works. Ever hear of victims becoming attached to their harassers or women staying with abusive husbands? When you’re broke mentally you begin to rely on others to mend you. This applies to the financial world as well. Many “millionaires” and authors want to make more money with their books, and they’ve got a tried and true approach to doing it. Submission. Most of the people reading financial books are insecure about their finances already, thus being in a submissive state from the beginning, they are easily controlled and manipulated by the author. If the author’s goal is to get them to buy more products, then they simply communicate that to the reader. This is why SO MANY people are still poor no matter how much they read; it’s all a mind game.

Knowing this, it’s important to recognize the good eggs from the bad before reading anything. Unless you’re confident in your financial state, you shouldn’t pick up a book on finances without doing some research. Be wary of author’s claims of religion, overnight success, or training programs to attributing to you success. Not that these methods don’t work, but they’re often used to mislead the reader or win their trust (sadly, I know far too many church goers that have been taken advantage of for putting their faith in people that play the God card).

Who do I trust?

Nobody. You should never trust anyone 100% because very few people are completely out to help you for nothing in return; and the few that are can become corrupt at any point. The real key is to trust yourself. If you can have enough faith and trust that regardless of what you read, learn, or do — that you will be happy and successful — THEN you are ready to learn. Many authors (even the corrupt ones) have something valuable to share. As long as you have the discernment to know what to apply and what to scrap, then you’ll be able to build your own blueprint to success.

How do I build my confidence?

It’s easy to say, but hard to do, right? Well not exactly. Building confidence is a slow growing process, and it takes a lot of time and positives to outweigh the negatives which have torn it down. You can’t gain genuine confidence overnight, and as much as it may seem possible, you can’t ignore or fake confidence. It lies in the subconscious mind and can only be built with genuine experiences. Here’s a few exercises that can help it along however:

  • Make a list

    Of the 5 most important things in your life (religion, family, dog, car, house, etc) then add up the actual financial value they have. If the value is 0 like mine is, then what do you have to lose? Assets and Liabilities can come and go like the wind. Money won’t buy you happiness, it just makes it easier to maintain :) SO be thankful for what you have, make sure that you won’t lose those most important to you, and do your best to succeed. If you fail, you get up and start again.

  • Remember failure

    Isn’t always rock bottom, and even if it is, rock bottom is a good foundation to build on. Even though it sucks crashing down, the only place left to go from their is up. No matter how hard your life may seem, or how much it may sting, its important to remember that there are MANY of those that endured your struggles or worse

    > and still found success.

Measuring Success

You are the measure. Don’t let anyone else define you. The end.

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Are you Climbing Higher than the Competition?

No matter what your industry, you will have competition in some form or another. It may be direct or it may be a subtle, passive competitor. Whatever the case, it’s important to understand one rule.. business is not all about bea

ting the other guy. If you’re in sales or any highly competitive industry, you may take that the wrong way and dismiss the value of this article altogether, but bear with it until the end, you may find substance after all.

Credibility over Competition

One of the problems with a highly competitive attitude is the sacrifices that are made to win. To be really competitive against your rivals you have to outdo, outbid, or outlast in some way,

and this mentality may hurt your credibility in the long run. To better understand this, let’s take a look at a testimonial from a freelancer in the web industry:

There has been a huge boom in web design and development in the last decade. This demand has created thousand upon thousands of new web design agencies. When I first started my business, I was hungry and determined to outdo the other guys. I started focusing on price to make me competitive and preferable to the market. What I found out was that not only was I still being outbid (mainly by oversea companies), but I was also losing money on the bids I did land, causing me to feel forced into cutting corners to make the project profitable. This went against my core work ethic and moral fiber and I quickly changed, refocusing on quality and service instead of cost or time. This has led me to much greater success as my clients truly valued my work and began to make referrals passing my name from business to businesses.

Climbing a Pile of Files

Can you handle it?

Many of us entrepreneurs and business owners know what it’s like to work a 16 hour day. I’m sure many even do that on a regular basis.. but at what cost? If you’re married, perhaps you’ve noticed that your long hours at work are taking their toll on your marriage causing fights and causing the words “work-a-holic” to ring in your ears. Maybe your friends are complaining that you haven’t gone out for a beer in over a month, or haven’t returned their phone calls. Fill in the blank for your situation. You know if this is an issue in your life or not. Sometimes outdoing the other guys means doing yourself in. Do you want to be someone that’s always climbing the never-ending stack of work?

Why Compete when you can Co-exist?

If your competition isn’t directly hurting you, why compete at all. Take a hint from all the web related industries in the world.. most of which are publicly sharing their knowledge on the web and are in fact even sharing the profits! What kind of a business model is that?! Well confusing as it may be, we are in a generation of FREE where businesses really do give away free stuff, and entrepreneurs grow and share in the wealth together.

Putting it all together

All this is, is a reality check. Wake up. You’re in the 21st Century and new ideas and business models are springing up all around you. Maybe competition isn’t an option for you, and maybe this is of no value. But if you take away one concept, let it be this.. you’re probably not the first and you’re definitely not the last. What’s more important to you to accomplish with your business.. a selfish and reproachful attitude that benefits nobody but you, or a lasting effect and name that others remember and share?