5 Inevitable steps before launching a business

Launching a business often seems easier said than done. Our amazing and inspiring community of women entrepreneurs makes it seem effortless. Even when we hear how they struggled and the obstacles they had to overcome, it can still look like success came easy.

Or maybe that negative voice in your head, also known as imposter syndrome, is telling you that you don’t have what it takes to do what others have done. Maybe you feel that it’s easier for other entrepreneurs because they’re more skilled or more talented. But that’s far from the truth. We all are capable of success. If you want to learn the secrets to successfully launch your dream into a business, then read on as we share 5 key steps every aspiring entrepreneur needs to know.

“If you’ve been considering starting a business for some time, stop letting your fears and worries keep from making it a reality,” says Melinda Emerson, known to many as @SmallBizLady, on Small Business Trends.  She is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter.

Manuel Martinez, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Success Training Institute, said, “preparation, preparation, preparation” are the three keys to successfully launching a business, during a  Money Talk on KCAA Radio segment.

While it seems prudent to launch a business during good economic times, “anytime is a good time to start a business,” said Martinez, who offers education and advice to small business owners. He said that success has less to do with the economy and more to do with being prepared. He stressed that the prepared entrepreneur will have the greatest shot at success even over well-established but ill-prepared competitors.

“Without proper market research and a solid business plan, a business is more likely to fail,” according to The Ultimate Small Business Guide. “The more advanced preparation that is done, the better the chances for success.”

launching a business, startup

Preparation is key before launching a business, according to expert Manuel Martinez. (Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash)

Being prepared means knowing as much as possible about a proposed venture. Entrepreneurs will significantly benefit from having firsthand experience with the type of enterprise being launched. Regardless of their business acumen, entrepreneurs who lack hands-on experience will be at a disadvantage over better prepared and informed competitors.

The following five key steps to help aspiring entrepreneurs prepare for a new business launch.

5 Key steps to launching a business

1. TRADE: Know the trade

Don’t assume that a decade working as a waitress or bartender provides the necessary insight and experience to successfully run a restaurant or bar of one’s own. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. Entrepreneurs need to know what it takes to run the entire operation.

Martinez encouraged entrepreneurs to “do something familiar,” adding, “Don’t do what you don’t know.” Those seeking to launch a business should spend time doing the work at a comprehensive level.

Entrepreneurs with no experience in a specific industry should seek a position to learn the business, spending sufficient time to learn about it from top to bottom. Once the doors of a new company are opened, plenty of day-to-day issues will pile up, without the owner having to learn the business from scratch.

2. LAUNCH: Understand exactly what launching a business entails

All small businesses require some form of licensing, such as a business permit, resale license or liquor license. Find out what necessary. Consult with a professional to learn the requirements. Reach out to organizations such as the SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers network of the Small Business Administration for free guidance.

FindLaw provides a list of commonly required licenses and permits, including state and local business licenses, registration for taxes, an occupational or resale license, a business name registration, and zoning, health, building and environmental permits. Business owners should carefully consider the licenses and permits required as well as the cost and time frames for approval.

3. COST: Estimate start-up costs

According to the Small Business Administration, “Since every business is different, and has its own specific cash needs at different stages of development, there is no universal method for estimating your startup costs.”

Entrepreneurs must create a budget and conduct a cash-flow analysis that begins with startup expenses, such as costs for permits and licenses, and extends past the anticipated break-even date. A business owner should determine needs versus wants when weighing where to spend cash and also allow for additional funds in case the break-even points arrives later than expected.

Appropriate cash management makes the difference between open and closed doors in the startup phase.

You might be interested: Alice Rodriguez: Overcoming obstacles and the power to succeed in business and life

4. BUSINESS PLAN: Create a business plan and follow it.

Starting a business and keeping it running is like maintaining a garden: To keep it healthy and producing fruit, it needs continual tending. Create a business plan and follow it daily, to develop the business, staff and products. Keep a finger on the company’s pulse and adapt.

“The importance of planning should never be overlooked,” according to TD Bank‘s website. “Taking time to create an extensive business plan provides you with insight into your business.”

5. RISKS: Manage risks.

“Make sure you are protected from anything that might take down your business that you worked so hard to build,” said Hunter Hoffmann, head of U.S. Communications at Hiscox Small Business Insurance of White Plains, N.Y., during a Money Talk radio interview.

“Entrepreneurs too often fail to properly insure their businesses,” noted insurance broker Dave Terpening Torrance, Calif., during an interview. “They roll the dice hoping for the best.”

“Insurance professionals can be great sounding boards to business owners,” he added. “An experienced insurance professional has seen and heard the horror stories and can advise new business owners on how to best create an affordable and effective risk management strategy.”


This article was originally written by Jesse Torres and published in 2015. It has been updated for relevancy. 

strategic alliances

The Power of WE NYC and four Latina entrepreneurs building strategic alliances to succeed

The Power of WE NYC presented a panel “en español” leading to discuss the topic of “Building Strategic Alliances”(Construyendo Alianzas Estratégicas). WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs NYC) is an initiative based out of the New York City Department of Small Business Servicesdedicated to helping women start and grow their businesses.

The Power of WE NYC Spanish Panel (L to R) Diana Franco, WE NYC; Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc.; Juanita Galvis, The Assemblage; Bisila Bokoko, BBES International; Sarah Valdovinos, Walden Green Energy; and Rosario B. Casas, VR Americas.  (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

“While there are almost 359,000 women entrepreneurs in NYC and women contribute approximately $50 Billion annually in revenue,” says WE NYC,  “according to our research, men own 1.5 times the number of businesses, have 3.5 times the number of employees, and generate 4.5 times the amount of revenue.”

strategic alliances

Diana Franco, Director, WE NYC (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

I was grateful for the opportunity to be invited as a panel moderator for this event, and to be able to meet with the WE NYC team led by Diana Franco, Director, Women Entrepreneurs NYC. In her remarks, Diana prompted the audience -mostly Spanish speaking entrepreneurs or to-be entrepreneurs- to think of strategic alliances and partnerships as ways of building and expanding their businesses rapidly and more effectively.

strategic alliances

Susana G Baumann, Founder, President and CEO, Latinas in Business Inc.

As explained on their event’s brief, “The WE NYC research conducted in 2015, found that 75% of the WE cited the lack of business networks as a challenge. Creating these networks will be especially helpful to obtain clients and build partnerships. There is no better approach to solving challenges than the famous saying ‘two heads are better than one,’ harnessing the strengths and abilities of others from different corners of the ecosystem is one of the most strategic ways for businesses to scale.”

How hard is it to be a Latina entrepreneur?

We know how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur … Moreover, when you carry what I call “the triple qualifier”: being a woman, an immigrant –or a descendant of immigrant parents or grandparents– and a Latina … working and struggling to sustain and grow your business.

We had the opportunity to listen and interact with a panel of women entrepreneurs who benefited from different types of strategic alliances and collaborations and with them facilitated the success of their respective companies.

Juanita Galvis: An enterprise based on collaborations
strategic alliances

Juanita Galvis, co-founder and Chief of Social Impact, The Assemblage. (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

Juanita Galvis is Co-Founder and Head of Social Impact of The Assemblage, spaces of co-participation designed specially to promote growth, creativity, and personal and business well-being. These spaces can be used for work, community building and even flexible stays and event production and promotion.

The vision of Juanita’s company describes the values ​​that sustain their model as: collaboration, innovation, relaxation, growth, balance and impact. In the topic of collaboration, for example, they mention the assembly or connection with other creatives, leaders and entrepreneurs to develop projects that inspire social change and disrupt the established order.

Juanita spoke about her biggest challenge, which is a to be part of a family business with her ex-husband. “We have created a different type of relationship between us,” she said, “personal and professional. We established certain rules and we defined our areas of expertise so decisions are made that way. It is not impossible,” she explained.

Rosario B. Casas: Technology and strategic alliances
strategic alliances

Rosario B. Casas, Co-founder, VR Americas.  (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

Rosario B. Casas is Co-Founder and CEO of  VR Americas, a company dedicated to expanding the borders of immersive technologies –Virtual Reality, Augmented, Mixed– in industrial applications. Rosario is a Colombian entrepreneur based now in New York with more than 7 years of practical experience in data and technology platforms and management roles.

She is also an enthusiastic advocate for growth of Women in Technology (STEM), co-founder of several strategic partnership models, member of the Big Data Advisory Board at Rutgers University, and has been a lecturer at TEDx, The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship , and The World Innovation Network TWIN Global, among others.

In addition to its virtual reality products, perhaps the most well-known project of VR Americas was the Telemundo AR campaign for the 2018 World Cup. Through an application, fans of the world could follow and support their favorite teams and players, witness crucial moments of the championship, share it in networks and even play with their favorite effects.

Rosario explained how she started her virtual reality company with two partners that understood their roles. “One is a nerd like me,” she said,” the other one is our out-and-about person, who finds clients partners.”

As a company that needs to develop a portfolio of present customers and at the same time increase the capacity of their company with a vision to the future, they are constantly looking at who their potential clients are and who can benefit from the technology they offer. “Remember that you need to solve a problem, a ‘pain’ that your customers cannot resolve by themselves,” Rosario said.

strategic alliances

Sarah Valdovinos, Co-Founder, Walden Green Energy.  (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

Sarah Valdovinos: Access to strategic capital

Sarah Valdovinos is Co-Founder of Walden Green Energy, a company focused on renewable energy projects. In addition to her work at Walden, Sarah makes investments in companies that fight climate change, including solar energy distribution companies in Latin America, charging station networks for electric vehicles, and other sustainable technology companies.

Previously, Sarah worked 10 years in investment banking. She entered the field of energy over twenty years ago at Southern California Edison. Sarah is first generation of a Mexican family, and she has also been the first of her family to graduate from college.

Getting capital from investors is one of the most important obstacles for all small businesses, especially for minority-owned companies. Many do not have the family network and social relationships that can become initial or angel investors.

Sarah defined early on that she was interested in sustainable energy but saw that money was an issue to achieve her goals. “I decided to pursue an MBA and work for a few years in the financial industry, where I not only acquired the knowledge to build my own business with two partners, but also the contacts and relationships I needed to fund my projects,” she explained.

Most impressive is Walden Green Energy’s rapid growth. In just 7 years, they started the construction of two projects that produce 150 MW of solar energy. “To give you an idea, it powers about 50,000 to 60,000 families,” Sarah explained.

Bisila Bokoko: Alliances for international expansion
strategic alliances

Bisila Bokoko, Founder, BBES International. (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

Bisila Bokoko is an award-winning bilingual speaker, television personality and advisor to world leaders. Bisila is the founder of BBES International,a business development agency based in New York that represents, promotes and markets brands to reach the global market. She also serves as an advisor to emerging leaders, providing guidance on personal branding and leadership that prepares them to move to the world stage and share their experience at a global market.

Bisila has shared her professional experience and her inspiring journey with audiences around the world during her 18-year career, and has been a presenter in diverse places such as the United Nations Organization in Switzerland, a keynote speaker in the Dominican Republic and in South Africa.

Bisila presents her company as a passport to other markets and she introduces herself as the “ambassador” of the brands she represents. “An Ambassador, like in real life, is someone who represents your brand with total knowledge and expertise about your company and is completely embedded in your company’s vision and goals. It is someone who can speak intelligently and convincingly to global strategic partners and get them interested in your product,” she explained.

BBES International mostly represent Spanish brands that have entered international markets such as Europe, South Africa, Latin America and the United States. “Before I take a new client and develop an international marketing strategy, we evaluate the company to see if they are ready for the jump, and the markets that best fit their needs,” she shared.

        You might be interested: Ready to Run® Conference and Eleccion Latina pushes for more diversity in politics

The audience then got to make questions to these fantastic Latina entrepreneurs who are rapidly growing their businesses and sharing their experiences. We thanked them for their time,  it was truly an extraordinary panel about strategic alliances, and we learned from their successes!

strategic alliances

Q&A Session after the Building Strategic Alliances panel – Dr Ginny A. Baro. (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)

 

Latina entrepreneurs Stanford

Opportunity knocks for Latina entrepreneurs at the Latino Business Action Network

Latino and Latina entrepreneurs continue to be the fastest growing demographics opening businesses in the United States. However, economic growth opportunities are missed somehow on the way compared to other small businesses’ development. The Latino Business Action Network has come to the rescue and is offering real opportunities for scaling. 

When Victoria Flores decided to leave corporate America and start her own small business, little she knew she would end up as one of the twenty-four Latina entrepreneurs that recently graduated –among 71 total participants– at the fourth cohort of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative – Education Scaling program (SLEI-Ed).

These seventy-one applicants were selected by The Latino Business Action Network (LBAN), a not-for-profit organization that aims at strengthening the American economy by empowering Latino and Latina entrepreneurs to substantially grow their firms, create jobs, develop leadership and spawn a new generation of companies.

Participants excange ideas with Mentors at SLEI-Ed program Latina entrepreneurs

Participants exchange ideas with Mentors at LBAN Closing Ceremony

LBAN complements the Stanford University Executive Education educational component with very valuable enhanced access to capital, personal business mentorship and access to an engaged alumni network which now includes several hundred Latino and Latina business owners.

Latino entrepreneurs fast to start but slow to grow

According to the 2016 SLEI report, Latino firms continue to be created at faster rates than the national average. The 3.3 million Latino firms reported by the Census 2012 represented 12 percent of all U.S. firms but projections show that, continuing at their faster than average creation rates, 4.23 million Latino firms were estimated to be up and running at the end of 2016.

The average Latino firm, however, made one-quarter of the non-Latino firms’ sales revenues in 2012, representing a missed opportunity gap of $1.38 trillion in the U.S. economy.

Mark L. Madrid Executive Director LBAN Latina entrepreneurs

Mark L. Madrid. Executive Director, LBAN

“The scaling of Latino businesses is an American economic imperative,” states Mark L. Madrid, LBAN Executive Director.  “The Latina and Latino businesses that we convene at Stanford embody the American dream and reinforce the critical role that Latino businesses play in our new American economy.”

The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative – Education Scaling program

To be considered for this program, small businesses need to generate a minimum of $1 million in revenue and/or acquisition of $500K or more in external funding (companies that have received market and/or investor validation). They also need to be headquartered or have a strong U.S. presence.

“This year’s Latino entrepreneurs came from 20 different states,” Melody Estrada, LBAN Director of Marketing and Lead of Program Operations told LatinasinBusiness.us.

Dr Jerry Porras Professor Emeritus Stanford

Dr Jerry Porras. Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

After an initial meeting at Stanford Graduate School of Business with program faculty, mentors and other members of the program, the participants take a customized online course based on curriculum developed by Professor Huggy Rao, Stanford Graduate School of Business Faculty and Bob Sutton, Stanford School of Engineering Faculty, who are internationally recognized experts in scaling businesses.  “In addition to the cutting edge 7-week online Stanford Executive Education training, during their final weekend of the program, all Latino and Latina entrepreneurs meet at the Stanford Graduate School of Business  with potential capital providers and assigned business mentors.” Melody added.

The same weekend, family members were included at the participants’ graduation ceremony and mentors’ appreciation program that celebrated the success of this talented group of innovators and business leaders. Stanford alumni were also welcomed as part of the celebration.

“One of the key elements of the program is to keep the graduates learning and benefiting afterwards through an active alumni network that already includes hundreds of fast-growing business” Eutiquio “Tiq” Chapa, Director of External Relations, explained to LatinasinBusiness.us. “It is imperative that they find and share opportunities and resources amongst each other and also, provide our research team with information about their progress,” he said.

The research , conducted by research analyst Marlene Orozco, tracks alumni of the program. Additionally,  the initiative leads the largest national survey of Latino business owners.

Mentors, the lens that keep Latino and Latina entrepreneurs on focus

Lili Gil Valletta Stanford Mentor Latina entrepreneurs

SLEI-Ed Mentor Lili Gil Valletta

This year, the program gathered 43 mentors from several states around the country. Some of these mentors are also successful business owners and/or national leaders in their fields.

Mentors included Rakia Reynolds, Founder and CEO, Skai Blue Media, a sought-out communications professional that provides expertise in creative development, branding, marketing, and business communications;  and Noreen Gillen, CFP, CRPC, CPWA, Wealth Management Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna who has participated since program inception. Prior to Merrill Lynch, Ms. Gillen worked at Sony BMG Entertainment with artists like Christina Aguilera/RCA Records and The Dave Matthews Band/RCA Records.

Also, Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer, Kapor Center for Social Impact, a SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna  who is currently leading Kapor Center’s efforts to activate the inclusive tech entrepreneurship ecosystem;  and Lili Gil Valletta,  President/CEO & Co-founder, XL Alliance and SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna, an award-winning entrepreneur, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and TV media contributor. She is the co-founder and President of XL Alliance, and the creator of Dreamers Ventures, an alliance of investors and business experts that select, mentor and launch products created by Latinos to sell on television in partnership with HSN.

“LBAN’s vision is to double the number of $10 million, $100 million and $1 billion+ Latino-owned businesses by 2025,” Melody explained.

Mentor Appreciation's Ceremony at Stanford

Mentors’ Appreciation Ceremony at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

Investors looking for opportunities

“Investors are an integral part of the program,” Melody explained, “as they provide potential access to capital for specific projects or businesses they might be interested in.” The program offered a one-on-one matching educational opportunity between entrepreneurs and investors, who might be able to offer their resources at a certain point of growth for these Latino and Latina entrepreneurs.

Some of the investors present at this last cohort were Maria Salamanca, Venture Capital, Unshackled Fund, which concentrate on early stage immigrant tech founders and is based in Silicon Valley;  Monika Mantilla, Private Equity at SBCC Fund, which offers funds for women and diverse-owned businesses with $10M+ in revenues;  Leticia Riquelme, from Inter-American Development Bank, who structures finances for organizations and firms internationally; Deldelp Medina, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at CODE2040; and Arlan Hamilton, Venture Capital & Managing Director of Backstage Capital, a firm that invests in women-owned early stage technology companies, among others.

“We encourage all Latino and Latina entrepreneurs with high growth-potential who meet our eligibility requirements to apply,” Melody said, “The application can be found at www.lban.us ,” she concluded.

Stanford leadership group Latina entrepreneurs

LBAN Leadership team (L to R) Eutiquio “Tiq” Chapa, Alice Rodriguez, Dr Jerry Porras, Mark L Madrid, and Melody Estrada.

 

 

mistakes leaders avoid

3 Mistakes savvy leaders know how to avoid (the hot dog challenge)

We all make mistakes but when mistakes happen to someone else, especially if we are responsible for their results, we tend to be controlling and unforgiving. Leading is also letting people make mistakes and learning from experience. The more we limit experience, the more we limit the potential of our employees.

mistakes leaders avoid

  1.  Give people a chance and they will amaze you

A few weeks ago my youngest, who LOVES to spend time with me at the BOLDFACE shop, offered to create a YouTube marketing video “to help me sell more backpacks to kids.”

Benjamin Franklin believed that the best way to train and lead someone is to put them in the driver’s seat and let them make the mistakes firsthand.

Instead of telling myself, “What does this kid know about producing a marketing video?” I reminded myself of the need we all have to try it ourselves and learn from the process. Success or failure, this was going to be a growth experience for her. I couldn’t deny her this experience.

Overnight my daughter put together a plan, including the necessary equipment, props and location. I took my direction from her and asked a friend with a nice camera to tape the production and asked another great friend if we could use his restaurant. Within less than an hour all the pieces came together and we had our shoot planned.

The morning of the taping my daughter had a storyboard sketched out and had recruited friends to guest with her on the video. Location. Check. Talent. Check. Props. Check.

The process took less than two hours. My daughter showed incredible organizational skills, confidence and composure despite it being her first time in front of the camera. I was truly amazed.

  1. If we want the best out of people, we must give them control

Jonah Lehrer wrote, “Every time you make a mistake or encounter something new, your brain cells are busy changing themselves.” Your brain recognizes mistakes and rewires itself to avoid making the same mistake the next time.

Whether it is a child or an employee, if we want the best out of people we must give them control. We must let them try, fail and try again.

Many of us have a difficult time giving up control and delegating. We make excuses to support our practices. But in the end, we do ourselves and our organizations a disservice. The more we limit experience, the more we limit the potential of our employees.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes on the path to mastery

It is part of the learning and growth process. Eventually, and after plenty of failures, the student becomes a master.

My challenge to you is to identify experiences that you are withholding from staff (or family). What experience can you provide that will create growth and improve the overall organization?

Let go and watch amazing things happen!

 

By the way, if you are interested in watching my daughter’s video you can view it by clicking the link that follows. If you do view it, please like, subscribe and feel free to leave her some feedback in the comment section. We all need feedback!

 

 

 

startups and entrepreneurs

7 Tips startups and entrepreneurs should consider to avoid going down

As a former member of SCORE, an organization that provides advice for startups and entrepreneurs, I used to talk weekly to men and women who were planning to start their own business. In a turbulent and uncertain economy, it might seem a great idea. Those who have an entrepreneurial spirit are enticed to pursue their dreams.

startups and entrepreneurs

Young or middle age, professional or skilled, men or women, it was always amazing to see how many of them have very unrealistic expectations about what entitles to run a business. Some not only lacked abilities and knowledge of the everyday operation but also the necessary assets and funding to start and sustain the business.

Many years ago, developing the vision and planning of my own business was a very exciting time. My thinking was “If I can do this for someone else, I can do it for myself.” I envisioned the perfect picture of a successful business but had very little idea of how to run it. Although I had excellent professional skills as a translator, I lacked the operational and financial acumen to pursue this new venture. I was lucky enough to get good advice and in time acquired that experience.

Most prospective startups and entrepreneurs find themselves at the same starting point. So the task of SCORE members is to “drop some bombs”. If you are thinking about starting your own business, considering these specifics might help you make a decision.

  1. You are your own boss and something else

Working for someone else is doing what you do best, and why you have been hired in the first place. When working for yourself, you dedicate 60% of the time –and sometimes even more– to tasks involving other professional skills such as accounting, hiring and managing people, marketing and selling, investing in equipment, and planning and evaluating your business. In other words, you become the CEO, the CFO, the PM, the OM, and the sales force of your business, and work an average of 60 to 80 hours a week. Are you willing to sacrifice time with your family and other activities to do so?

  1. Forget your vacations and other benefits for a long time

As an employee, you receive a salary, benefits, paid time off, annual vacations and probably some sort of health coverage. Startups and entrepreneurs might not have all those benefits for a long time until their business really takes off. Can you and your family be covered in someone else’s plan –your spouse’s, for instance? Do you understand you probably won’t have time or money to take a vacation for a long time?

startups and entrepreneurs

  1. You got a new family

Hiring and managing employees entitles not only to have a thorough knowledge about labor laws but also the skills to handle other people’s personal lives. You need to have good character judgment when you hire someone, provide training and tools for your employees to do their jobs, be ready to demand the right performance, and deal with their personal and family problems –most employees become part of “your” family. Also, you need the guts to fire them if the person does not fit in the company’s culture or you need to make business decisions. Are you ready to follow through?

  1. It takes money to make money

Startups and entrepreneurs’ new ventures usually require deep pockets. Unless you bring clients from another business setting, or you started a side business and then you expanded into a full-time activity, clients will certainly take time to show up. You need to build credibility and a brand name among customers. Overhead expenses can be very costly, especially if you have a “brick and mortar” location, which asks for rent, utilities, maintenance, and probably a considerable set up investment. Also, you need reserve funding to sustain your business during rainy days, and a substantial cash flow to pay vendors and employees.

  1. This or that?

Making sound decisions about the type of business you have in mind is a bumpy road. Starting as a consultant with a virtual office is cheaper and faster than opening a store in the local mall and buying merchandise. I advised a woman once who was crazy about a line of products she used and loved, and thought she could sell it; she was looking at a small store in a stripping mall with a monthly rent of over $2000. She was counting on her lifetime savings –not enough to sustain the business for more than three months– and credit cards for startup costs. She had a full-time job, good credit and never had retail experience before. I was torn because I saw a bleak future and shared my concerns with her, and that was all I could do. The decision, in the end, was hers.

startups and entrepreneurs 3

  1. Where is the boss?

Although you are the front face of your business, your best bet is to find and train people to step in at any time. Not an easy task, but learning to delegate was one of the most difficult lessons for me. Because you are so invested in your business –in money and expectations– it is very easy to take over other people’s jobs if you feel they are not performing at their best. So you end doing everybody’s job instead of steering the business, which is your main objective.

  1. Do not forget the big picture

Building a business you can eventually sell is something you might not have in mind when you start but definitely something to be considered. Life changes and although you think your business will last forever, your children might not be interested in following your steps, or you might get sick, or your spouse might have to move to another job and location. At those times, having the ability to sell your small business could become a better option than just closing the doors and letting go of many years of effort.

Keeping in mind these and other factors might allow you to develop a productive small business with realistic expectations, and avoid getting trapped in your own dream.

 

business focus

Test your business focus by finding your invisible gorilla (videos)

It is always good and necessary to have clear business goals and, therefore, business focus is also necessary to reach those goals. However, when I am coaching I often see that for some people having a goal and being rigidly attached to it often becomes an obstacle to sustaining and growing a business. Learning along the way, I came to the conclusion that goals too clearly defined can become blinders.

My first school teacher had a peculiar –to say the least- concept of discipline. Whenever she wanted to punish one of us for poor performance, she made the student wear for a few hours -sometimes even a whole day- a headband with two large pieces of paper attached to the sides, simulating horse blinders.

Nowadays, this would be a monumental scandal, but back then nobody questioned teaching methods, and that was her way to teach us how to focus, however controversial it may have been.

She probably didn’t realize that by punishing us with the blinders, she was only encouraging our tunnel vision, blocking other peripheral learning experiences and, consequently, making us less aware of new possibilities.

Keeping your business focus to accomplish goals

We all strive to accomplish goals in our personal life and in business. But we can stay focused in order to reach our long-term goals, and yet remain flexible and aware of what is going on around us to maintain control of what needs immediate action.

If you don’t want to be blindsided by competitors, your advisors, or yourself, the most effective way, from my point of view, is to develop strategic focus and a strong sense of awareness.

It sounds simple, but few entrepreneurs have the discipline of constantly zooming in and out of their “bubble zone” enabling them to really observe what is going on around them. At times, they can be too stressed out to be conscious of what is really happening and often forget that their business – your business- depends on your attention, and if you are overloaded or under pressure your level of attention to details tends to decrease.

A certain research done by Johns Hopkins University regarding this topic caught my eye. Before reading ahead, try this test for yourself:

If you have focused only on a particular thing – in this case the T–, you mastered what scientists call the “Art of Ignoring” or overlooking irrelevant information in order to get quicker results.

This type of exercises can be very useful for certain professions which rely on visual searches, such as radiologists or airport baggage screeners. The ability to ignore is a key part of the ability to pay attention, as the researchers determined. Nevertheless, as an entrepreneur, your business depends on your undivided attention. To you nothing, absolutely nothing, is irrelevant.

The John Hopkins research reminded me of another fabulous experiment which is extremely useful for business people. Perhaps you have heard about it, because it has been a classic since professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons published their book in 2010, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.

Look at the video first, and we will comment on it later:

Did you see the invisible gorilla?

Here is my two cents. You, as an entrepreneur, must always be looking for the invisible gorilla in your business. “The Monkey Business Illusion”, as it is known, reveals a lot about our focus, our attention, and our perceptions.

All of these are key points and have the capacity to boost, or to derail, your business. So, please reflect on this metaphor. Look for the gorilla, but keep your strategic business focus and awareness. Don’t blindside yourself.

If you concentrate only on one particular aspect of your project – location, employees, loans, marketing, levels of production, that client that would bring cache to your list of VIP, you will miss other important things that are happening right now in front of you.

Avoid over concentration but following these tips

To avoid this overlook, here are a few tips to enjoy the journey of your entrepreneurial experience, applying strategic focus:

  • Your goal is what you want to accomplish, the finish line. However, you will have better results if you keep your business focus on the daily challenges. If you commit to the process, instead of the goal itself, you will be happier. This state of mind will feed you clarity and energy and will activate your creativity.
  • Bringing to life an entrepreneurial initiative is literally like a road trip. You have a plan, your roadmap, and a destination. However, be ready, because just like in a road trip you will experience the greatest surprises during the unexpected stops. Be flexible and make it just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. In other words, be open to pull over, enjoy the landscape, and reflect.
  • If you are too preoccupied on how far you still have to reach your goal, and the long term progress seams unreachable, you will get overly stressed. Appreciate the present and enjoy the little wins. If you value what the builder that is in you is accomplishing, you will remain motivated and open to looking outside of the box, which is always a very healthy and stimulating exercise.
  • Lead from the front and promote and seek feedback. You might have great ideas but your employees and customers do also. Create an entrepreneurial culture and encourage and share creative thinking.
  • And lastly… Remove your blinders and keep all your senses turned on, always!!! Awareness is vital to identify opportunities and, of course, to find your “invisible gorillas”.
Hipatia Lopez partipates at 2015 SBM Summit

Empanada Fork selected to the Small Business Leadership Summit in D.C.

Hipatia Lopez, inventor of Empanada Fork, participates at 2015 SBM Summit

Hipatia Lopez, inventor of Empanada Fork, participates at 2015 Small Business Majority Summit

Hipatia Lopez, founder and owner of HL Unico LLC and inventor of the ethnic kitchen tool Empanada Fork, was selected as one of 100+ small business leaders from across the country to meet with policymakers, issue experts and senior members of the Obama Administration. The focus of the summit involved identifying policies to help small businesses thrive at the Small Business Majority’s inaugural Small Business Leadership Summit.

“I traveled to Washington D.C. to talk with policymakers and senior members of the Obama Administration about the top barriers to success entrepreneurs and small business owners face, and identify practical solutions to our everyday problems. The experience was extraordinary,” Hipatia shared with LIBizus.

Panel discussions, keynote speeches, interactive workshops and presentations featured top policymakers at the National Press Club and the White House. Small business leaders heard from Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and top economic advisors to the President.

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

“As an active member of the New Jersey small business community, I was honored to be selected to attend the three-day Small Business Leadership Summit, hosted by Small Business Majority,” Hipatia said. “Some of the issues we discussed were related to the gap between Internet-based companies and small “mortar and brick” business owners who feel they are getting the short end of the stick in tax issues,” she shared.

Other interactive areas of discussion focused on key issue such as problems accessing capital, tax and economic policies, crowdfunding, women’s entrepreneurship, minority entrepreneurship, the freelance/microenterprise economy, technology and workforce issues.

“We heard from the head of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet and several members of Congress, and spoke with top economic advisors to the President to help them understand how important small businesses are to boosting the economy and creating jobs,” Hipatia said.

Policies identified during the three-day event will be incorporated into Small Business Majority’s policy platform—the Small Business Economic Agenda for 2015-16—and shared with decision makers to elevate issues of importance to small business owners.

Businesswoman of the Year Hipatia Lopez, H.L. Unico LLC

2014 Businesswoman of the Year Hipatia Lopez, H.L. Unico LLC, SHCC of NJ

Hipatia Lopez, the inventor of the “Empanada Fork,” an ethnic kitchen utensil that works as a pastry press, started her business around the kitchen table during the holiday season when her family was making 100 empanadas. “I remember complaining about how long this last step was taking.  I literally could not get this ‘idea’ out of my mind, envisioning how it would look,” she shared.

As many startups and small businesses, Empanada Fork encountered difficulties in obtaining access to capital, especially from traditional sources such as banks. “I obtained an equity line of credit with my house as collateral,” she said. However, now she needs additional funding to grow her business.

“During the three-day summit, progress was made, but more needs to be done. To instate policies we need to succeed—like greater access to capital and changes to the country’s tax code—we need more small business owners to speak out and get involved,” Hipatia said.

To voice your small business concerns, Hipatia encourages you to take Small Business Majority’s survey at: www.sbmleadershipsummit.com/survey,

If you’d like to share your business story with LIBizus, please fill out this form and tell us about your business and products. We will post a FREE feature! (Certain restrictions apply. Limited time offer).

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certified women-owned business

Women-owned small biz federal contract program, friend or foe?

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Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator

Are you a certified minority or women-owned business? And what does the certification mean for your business? Is your business qualified for minority or women-owned certification just because you are a woman or a minority?

I have asked these and other similar questions to several Latinas business owners and few of them were indeed certified or knew the answers.

According to the Small Business Administration, President Obama’s signature of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015 is a critical move for women-owned small businesses to earn their fair share of the federal marketplace and gain economic opportunities.

Although legislation existed since 2000, implementation has been a promise since President Obama took office. Finally, it was implemented in April 2011. Section 825 of the NDAA authorizes federal agencies to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses eligible for the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program, giving women the same level of access to the federal contracting marketplace as other disadvantaged groups.

“Women entrepreneurs are growing at an unprecedented rate.  More than one in four U.S. companies is owned or led by a woman, and these firms employ more than 7.8 million Americans.  Passage of the women’s small business provision in NDAA is a win for women entrepreneurs and a win for America.  This will help women-owned small businesses gain equal access to federal contracting as they add jobs to the U.S. economy.  A big thank you to the leaders of the Senate and House Small Business and Armed Services Committees for helping make this a reality,” said the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet.Our economy won't work

Currently, women entrepreneurs are receiving less than five percent of federal contracts.  This new provision will give the SBA a new tool to continue to open doors for more women entrepreneurs in the federal and commercial contract space.    SBA’s efforts include aggressively offering support for the Women-Owned Small Business Contract Program, which aims to expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses.

Tina Dante, CEO/President, The Metamorphosis Group, shared on the LinkedIn group Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), “This has been a long time coming, and I heartily applaud it! HOWEVER, I sure hope there is oversight on this, because this also brings out the worst in people. It already is a challenge to compete with other supposedly “woman” owned businesses in the federal market, when we all know that the ‘woman’ is nowhere to be found….the real front person is a husband or a close friend. Let’s hope that the SBA keeps tight reins on this program.”

Vilma Betancourt-O’Day, President at Women Wrule, also clarifies on the same discussion: “I am a Certified Site Visitor for the National Women Business Owner’s Corporation (NWBOC), an approved 3rd party WBE certifier, a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification consultant and an experienced Government Contractor (Federal, State, Local Municipalities. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s report on the WOSB Certification Program, two groups representing WOSBs stated that Contracting Officers prefer 3rd party certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs as the review process is less tedious for them. Fraud has already been an issue with this program as there is little to no oversight on the Self-Certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs,” she says.

And she continues: “Based on my experience as a Government Contractor, if a business entity does not have sufficient money to spend on marketing its services and/or products to the Government (and the WBE Certification is a huge marketing tool), they’re not prepared to sell to the Government. You must have enough cash to cover your payroll and other expenses incurred while working on the contract, until you get paid by the Government. It takes lots of money to get into the Federal arena. The Agencies want to make sure that you have enough cash in the bank so you don’t default on the contract.”

“Bottom line,” she adds, “Any WBE that wants to grow their business with Government or Corporate Supplier Diversity contracting, should invest in themselves and their businesses with a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification. It must be part of their annual marketing budget.”

What is your experience regarding this topic?  Share with our community your story so we can learn form each other!

WOSB Program Third Party CertificationUpdated

The SBA has approved four organizations to act as Third Party Certifiers under the WOSB Program. The four organizations and contact information are:

Women Owned Small Businesses may elect to use the services of a Third Party Certifier to demonstrate eligibility for the program, or they may self-certify using the process outlined here on this website. SBA will only accept third party certification from these entities, and firms are still subject to the same eligibility requirements to participate in the program.

Please note, at the request of WBENC, SBA has approved WBENC only for the certification of WOSBs and not for the certification of Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs.

 

Dr Davidds negotiation skills a must for Latina economic empowerment (video)

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Dr. Yamin Davidds, Founder and CEO Women’s Negotiation Institute

Here you are now at the negotiation table, in front of your potential future boss who is offering you the position of your dreams; or in front of your current boss, feeling you deserve a long-awaited promotion; or about to close a deal with a major client that will take your company to the next level.

A different million thoughts come to mind, you start to panic –butterflies in your stomach or quick breathing. It is negotiation time. What to do?

As many of you, I can share a funny story that came out OK but could have gone very wrong. I was working in New York at a multicultural advertising agency in a no-way-out leave-your life-here type of job making little money and with a horrible commute. A dear friend offered me a contact opportunity to work for the State of New Jersey.

The job didn’t really interest me –at the time, it seemed a side path in my career– but tired of 12-hour long days, I decided to look into it. I was called to an interview with a very pleasant man –who would end up being my boss– and other management.

I showed up with a number in mind. If I was to sell my soul, it was going to be for a good price. The interview went extremely well and I was offered the position on the spot. I was even able to negotiate my title –State jobs have sometimes weird titles– to look closer to my professional objective. However, when the numbers came up, I was offered $5K less a year than I had in mind. I heard myself say YES.

Driving back home, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy that I had aced the interview and the job seemed particularly suitable for my skills with great benefits. On the other, I was extremely furious with myself for not having negotiated my salary. It was not a great difference but why haven’t I spoken up? I tried to appease myself thinking it was not such a big difference, that it still was good money and way more than I was making now, the commute was easier, and the job was fine. But the principle of not speaking up for myself made me mad!

When I got home and told my son the good and the bad news, in his naivety –he was a teenager at the time– he suggested I called them back and ask for more money. I did the next day, and the answer was YES! (Do not try this at home). As I said, it was a once in a lifetime miracle, and I could easily have lost the job.USC NEGotiation FOR WOMEN ALUMNI EVENT_102914

“Women –and especially Latinas– are raised in this culture of being agreeable and making other people happy,” said Dr. Yasmin Davidds, Founder and CEO of the Women’s Institute of Negotiation. “We need to teach and train them in the art of negotiation, which is not a feminist position. Study after study coming out of Harvard and Stanford universities has proven that women and men brains really work differently, with very different approaches in ways of negotiating and communicating with and between each other,” she said.

An international best-selling author and negotiation expert, Dr. Davidds is one of the top leading female negotiation experts in the U.S. and Latin America. She has trained and consulted thousands of corporate leaders in over 200 blue chip companies throughout 22 countries in the art and skill of negotiation. A propos of her first-ever live-streamed virtual presentation “Negotiating for Women” sponsored by the USC Career Center, USC Alumni Association and the USC Society of Trojan Women, she spoke exclusively with LIBizus.

“The fact is, nobody likes aggressive women, especially men, because they feel it is a challenge to their manhood. Maybe they will negotiate with you once but hardly would they want you on their team,” she affirmed. “Many men and women believe aggressive women are difficult to work with.”

So the true concept of negotiation, according to Dr. Davidds, involves using the feminine power and grace. “Being compassionate, gracious, assertive and empathetic helps you understand where the other person is coming from. Egos might get in the middle; being aware and acknowledging the other person’s goals make them feel safe enough to open up,” she suggested.

This world-renowned leader has worked with global companies such as Proctor and Gamble, General Electric, Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, American Express, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft and Apple among many others. She has conducted hundreds of presentations in some of the most prestigious universities including Stanford and Harvard, and is a regular speaker at USC.

Testimonials at USC event

Testimonials at USC event

“I have trained women in both, the organizational or corporate and the entrepreneurial environments. There are differences in every aspect of the negotiation process. In a corporation, the organizational culture designates how a woman can use her power, what is acceptable and what is not, and how much –or little- the organization is open to be questioned, so I always recommend being very cautious. Less evolved organizations have less appreciation for women and for that, they present a higher risk.”

In that kind of corporate environment, Dr. Davidds recommends:

  1. Have your exit strategy in place. In order to play the game, you need to be very strategic, including having an alternative in case your move is not successful; you always want to have options.
  2. Find allies within the organization, powerful people who know you, your work, and your professionalism; they will speak up for you when and if the time comes.
  3. Understand the rules of the game so you have choices: you play by them, you challenge them or you look for an organization that is more aligned with your career goals.
  4. Find –if there exists– a women’s group, formal or informal– within the organization so you feel you are not doing it alone.

When the environment changes to the entrepreneur or the small business owner, the rules are different, according to Dr. Davidds. “Entrepreneurs and small business owners are, in a way, free to take more risks. If their main clients are large corporations, then it is mandatory that they understand their clients’ negotiation style, and the politics around their organizational culture. However, they can live by different rules,” she said.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners must:

  1. Take bigger risks. You need to jump in first, be proactive and then figure out how to accomplish the task at hand.
  2. You must have a personality. Show your clients who you are and how your company is their best option to service their needs. You are freer to be yourself, so prove it!
  3. Try everything to see what works. You have more opportunities to experiment with different options and look for the best solution possible. Clients appreciate innovators!

While Latina entrepreneurs have more freedom in taking these risks, corporate Latinas must be more cautious in saying YES right away when asked to take over a task or challenge. They need to push back a little and figure out a way to respond to the situation that would be beneficial to all the parties, including herself!

“Latinas are so happy to get promoted that we don’t realize we need resources and funding to learn how to be strategic, and even find someone who represents our interest and be able to push back without hurting the negotiation. Seeking to establish themselves in executive or leadership roles, Latinas must negotiate their way through a number of obstacles and challenges that their male colleagues often bypass,” she said.

“Today’s Latina leaders must be equipped with more than just a traditional leadership skill set; they must be able to negotiate in complex, multi-party situations where relationships are of the utmost importance and substance cannot be sacrificed. I believe the Women’s Institute of Negotiation has begun to make a difference,” she concluded.

Watch the complete session “Negotiating for Women” on our LatinainBusiness.us YouTube Channel here!