Financial Mistakes to Avoid for Every Startup

mistakes

Financial management is a challenge for many small business owners. As a business founder, it is your duty to ensure that your company grows and thrives in the most efficient manner possible. However, if you’re not cautious, you may wind up making expensive errors. A recent study shows that in the first year 4% of Canadian businesses fail and that percentage rises to 30% in the fifth year. In Canada, 7000 businesses go bankrupt every year. A lot of different factors lead to this failure but poor financial planning is one of the main causes.

A lot may go wrong, from capitalization problems to budgeting to incorrect accounting procedures. Whether the company is just getting started or has already made it through the first few years, sound financial management is essential.

To avoid financial catastrophe, stay away from the following frequent blunders:

1. Separating personal and business accounts

Many entrepreneurs will fail to open separate business accounts and use their personal accounts. When first starting it out, it may seem easier to just work from your personal accounts, however this will become difficult to maintain your business budget and expenses. It’s important to create separate accounts so you can effectively monitor your businesses finances.

2. Poor tracking expenses

At the early stages of a startup, there may not be that much capital to invest for growth, however it’s important to keep track of every expense. You need to have a control of debt to avoid digging yourself into a debt hole that’ll sink your business.

3. Sticking to a Budget

This is the most crucial part of financial management. It will allow you to not spend more than what’s coming in. Sticking to a budget will protect your businesses sustainability and it’s a good way at addressing resources.

4. Business Credit

In todays world, credit score means everything. Having a bad credit score will impact your financial management tremendously. For a business, a bad credit score will cause a lot of difficulties to obtain loans which is imperative for a business growth. Not only is maintaining a good business credit important, but personal credit will also still have an impact on your business. For startups, since the business is still small creditors will look at personal credit scores of the shareholders and determine if they will grant the credit. A bad credit score ruins your credibility in terms of your financial management which is not a good look for a startups founder.

Different types of business credit:
  • Business credit card
  • Seasonal commercial loans
  • Term loans
  • Installment Loans
  • Business Line of Credit
  • Business Taxes

A lot of founders tend to be confused about business taxes. When first starting out, you should seek professional help in order to avoid any mistakes. A small mistake can end up becoming costly to your company and you don’t want that at the early stages of your business. Make sure to file your taxes on time, monitor due dates and regulations.

These small mistakes can easily slip under the radar but will end up costing you big time. So be sure to stay away from these common mistakes to keep your small business a float for a long time!

4 Steps to Starting a Referral Program

referral

Whenever we need a product or service, we’ll turn to our family or friends for recommendations. For instance, studies shows that a buyer is 50 times more likely to purchase a product that is recommended by family or friends. Referral programs take advantage of this word of mouth marketing by using your already loyal customers to act as brand advocates. This is done by providing a referral code to your customers to share with their networks. When a friend uses the code to make their first purchase the referrer is compensated. This may be in the form of a discount, a freebie, or a monetary reward.

Referrals are a good way to get new clients because people are more likely to trust their friends and family. This is why one of the most effective communication strategies for organically scaling a company is word of mouth. Via in-person encounters or online social networking messages, we exchange positive user interactions. In a nutshell, referrals are more important and reliable than paid advertisements and other media platforms. Look no further ,this guide will teach you the fundamentals of referral marketing as well as how to run your own referral program.

Why Start a Referral Program?

If done properly, this marketing strategy can acquire a lot of new customers for your business at very low costs. By taking advantage of your current customers to spread the word, customer acquisition cost (CAC) is very low. The customers that you gain will also become of high value and are more likely to refer more people.

Referral programs have been proven to help business generate higher revenue. For example, Paypal is famous for using a referral program and helped the company achieve 7-10% daily growth and a user base of over 100 million people.

With the right software, referral programs are easy to track in sales and provide a business analytical tool to use.

How to Build a Referral Program?

1. Have Amazing Products

Before even considering starting a referral program, make sure you have exceptional products and services ready. If you don’t have any great products, nobody will want to refer your business to their network.

2. Designing your Perfect referral Program

Key things to remember when designing your referral program:

  • Choose the right software
  • Catchy headline
  • Referral messaging
  • Easy to refer

Many different software’s already exists that help you to create your referral program very easily, choose the right one for you and your business goals.

Next, you need to craft the program to  get your customers attention if you want to get them to refer your business. Use catchy headliners that describe what the program is and what are the benefits in one sentence. For example, a good headliner would be “Refer a friend for 15$” or “Give 30$ get 30$”.

On top of sharing referral codes, you should consider crafting automated messages to make it easier for your customers to share with friends. The message should be kept straight and to the point but in a friendly manner. Make sure that sharing the referral code is as easy as a click of a share button either to social medias or emails. If your customer has to take extra steps, chances are they won’t refer. Most referral program software’s already give this option to link to social medias and other platforms.

3. Choose an Incentive

  • Two sided incentive
  • Type of reward

Based on your marketing goals, choose an incentive that will respond well with your customers. First, figure out who will benefit from the reward, either your customer, the referred or both parties. Rewarding both parties is the most effective method, customers will be more likely to refer people from their network.

Next, determine what kind of reward you want to give. Since every business is different, every reward will be different. Its important to know your customers and offer rewards that align with your brand. Don’t offer incentives that wont interest your customers. It can be in form of discounts, cash, coupons, points, company merchandise etc. Also choose something that wont cost you your profits.

4. Promote the Program

Promote the program through your website, social media & emails. Let your customers know! For instance, you can implement automated messages to appear as soon as customers enter your website to get their attention!

5. Track your Progress

It’s critical to set up an analytics and analysis framework for your referral service if you want to see results. Choose a referral program software that has built-in analytics like referral relation delivery, A/B checking, and referral monitoring. Use these analytics to help you determine what content is more efficient.

What to Post on Instagram

instagram

Instagram is now just as popular as Facebook is in terms of social media platforms. Just when you thought you finally mastered creating content for Facebook, there’s now Instagram to take into consideration. Different strategies are used when marketing through Instagram since there’s different features and tools available. If you’re completely lost on how to create content for your brand on Instagram or running out of creative ideas to post don’t worry we got you covered! We’ll give you some inspiration for content you can post to keep your audience engaged and active to raise your brand awareness.

Tutorial posts or videos

Post videos on how your product works. This can be in any form depending on the company, it can be a tutorial or it can simply demonstrate how the product is used to really get the full benefits of it!

Motivate audience with quotes

Posting quotes is highly engaging as its something everyone can relate to. Everybody can use a bit of motivation or inspiration, can’t ever get enough of these. What’s great about quotes is that you can quote just about anyone. This can be famous/notable people, or it can be people in your team, testimonials, customers etc. Pick quotes that are relevant to your brand and to your followers. You can create graphics that match your brands theme. Quote images are also more likely to go viral. If you create nice graphics, your followers might share them and this can reach out to a larger audience!

Promote blog posts

If your company has a blog page on their website, use the content to post on your Instagram! You can create visuals for them by using quotes or captions from the blogs. This is an easy way to create content to match your brand, and generate traffic on your website!

Repost Content/Brand collaborations

Its important to keep your Instagram active and to keep your audience engaged. Sometimes it becomes too time consuming to constantly create graphics or content to post. Reposting content is the easiest thing you can do. All you need to do is share it to your story! Find content that is relevant to your brand and relates to your audience values.

If you collaborate with other brands, this is another great way to generate content to repost on your story. This is also an easy way to reach out to a larger audience and you can share each others content. Choose brands that can relate to your brand and to your audience, otherwise you might lose some of your followers if you repost content they’re not interested in.

Poll the audience/ Questions

Another way to keep your Instagram active is by creating polls and asking questions through your stories. This is a great way to get advice from your users/audience. It engages them and you can get peoples opinions on how to improve your products. You can create polls on developing ideas for new products or maybe to get ideas for events the audience might like. However, it doesn’t have to be related to your products it can be just about anything to start a conversation and engage your followers. People love to share their ideas and this allows them to easily interact with the brand and stay connected. You can also answer questions and share the answers on your story. This can be used as a real time FAQ.

Show behind the scenes

Show snippets of some behind the scene work that goes into making your product. People love seeing how much work goes into creating products. Be fun/creative with this! You can show off your team and the people involved at making your awesome products. This not only interests them, but will engage your followers to see your company as more than just a brand or business, it’ll humanize it. Like we said before, people love to stay connected!

Instagram is a great tool to create brand awareness and promote your product. Its becoming increasingly popular, especially with influencer marketing on the rise.  It’s rally easy to get started and if you use it right, it can be great for your company! Remember people love to stay connected, that is why everyone is obsessed with social media. Create content that will allow your followers to connect with your brand and engage them.

Which Social Media is right for you?

Social media runs our world, there are so many different types of platforms available each with its advantageous and disadvantageous. Choose the right platform for you and your business based on your goals. Develop a plan on what you want to get out of from using social media whether its to create brand awareness, sell product, marketing  etc.

Facebook

Pros: Marketing, brand awareness, feedback, communication with target market, advertisements for your business

What is now great about Instagram is that it is now connected with Facebook. You can post simultaneously on your Facebook and Instagram all through their publishing tools. Its easy to use and you can share content all from one platform. What puts Instagram ahead of the others is its ability to use user generated content marketing. This is a type of marketing that is created and shared by your consumer. There’s an ever growing popularity with influencer marketing and it is a very easy and cheap  way to market your business. Instagram is your best place to leverage this.  It can also easily be used as a sales platform.

Instagram

Pros: UGC/influencer marketing, young target audience, sales platform

Instagram can connect with your Facebook accounts, making your lives 10 times easier. You can post simultaneously on your Facebook and Instagram all through their publishing tools. Its easy to use and you can share content all from one platform. What puts Instagram ahead of the others is its ability to use user generated content marketing. This is a type of marketing that is created and shared by your consumer. There’s an ever growing popularity with influencer marketing and it is a very easy and cheap  way to market your business. Instagram is your best place to leverage this.  It can also easily be used as a sales platform.

Instagram does have limited capabilities compared to Facebook in terms of content to post. You also need to put in a lot of time in creating content that matches your brand and overall create content that will appeal to the audience.

Linkedin

Pros: Networking, business information, advice, opportunities, contacts

This is the place to go when you want to find new opportunities and create new contacts. You can easily grow your network through this and prompt direct business relationships. You can share knowledge and expertise and get advice. LinkedIn focuses on building business relationships and not for marketing to your consumer but rather to create business opportunities. You should create a page to share information about your business and provide updates on its performance.

Twitter

Pros: Ideas, discussions, information, Discoverable on Google

You can generate content on Twitter through tweets and messages. It is a good place to share ideas, thoughts and to share information. Tweets can also appear in google results, which is unique to the other platforms since Facebook and Instagram do not do this. You can promote content through hashtags and find tweets with a Google search.

The variety of content you can post is limited. If you have visual content created for marketing, leave those for Instagram or Facebook.

Using social media has become the primary method for marketing for many companies. Marketing strategies are consonantly evolving to leverage each social media platform. Keeping an active social media presence for your business is extremely important these days in order to reach your audience and raise brand awareness.

How to Tell your Startup Story

Pitch

The key elements to include are:

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Product
  4. Traction
  5. Team
  6. Vision

It is always difficult piecing together your start-up story in a deck at the very early stages of your business venture. The early stages are crucial in the growth of a business and acquiring investors are quite tricky. Creating the perfect pitch deck will allow you to smoothly deliver your start-up story to investors to secure that funding. It requires a lot of time and detail and how you piece this together will be the foundation in delivering the perfect pitch to investors. The key elements that are essential in the deck are as followed: problem, solution, product, traction, team and vision.

Tag line

At the very beginning of the deck, the slides should start with a one-liner description of the business. This slide is literally one line or tag line that gives some insight on what the business is at the start. Its short and sweet, be creative!

Problem

The first key element you want to jump into is the problem. This is a great start to the pitch deck as it will allow for the smooth transitioning of the rest of your story. Identify the problem in a clear bold manner. This will intrigue the investor to continue onto investigating what solution you bring to the table and in finding out how big and real is this problem. Its important to keep this slide short, you can go into further detail in person or in a document. For the purpose of the pitch deck, it should remain short and straight to the point

Solution/Product

You pointed out a problem now provide your solution! A good format is description of the solution followed by a few points as to why your way is the best way. Following that, you can proceed two ways either: go into how it works with a few screenshots/demonstrations or go right into your vision. Since all stories are different and depending on what your business is, choose as you see fit based on your start-up. If your startup does not requires much explaining, go right into the vision of where you see your simple concept growing into something massive in the future. If the vision slide is not included in this section it can be included in the end as well.

Traction

Convince your investors your solution is scalable! Its time to give your start-up some credibility with some data. This slide can be “where were at today” showing the kind of attention and momentum your start-up has gained. For early stage companies, this momentum can be the amount of users on a wait-list for when the product is ready or some early users your product has gained. Investors care about the last 3-6 months and the next month. Having a weak 3-6 months prior will lose many investors, if your next month is weak then you’ll lose your momentum. If you can, time your raise according to that.

A great additional add to this section would be to add testimonials from some of the users or clients. This shows that your product is already in use by real people and is already creating a buzz. This is the section that will excite investors.

Market Opportunity

You’ve sold the investor on your ability to execute your solution, so now you should tell them how big the market is. Using graphs and charts from credible sources that can easily present that there’s a huge market opportunity is and that this company is venture scalable.

Vision

What is in store for your company in the next 10 years? If you did not already include this slide now would be a good time. This will show how you plans to take this simple solution to a massive company and what great things it will accomplish.

Team

Introduce the dream team who is going to build this. Include the main team members with titles and summaries of past roles. This will indicate why they’re fit for to build this start-up. This can be done in one slide without going too in depth about each member.

The ask & funds slide

How much funding will it take for you to drive this business? The ask slide should be left for the end of the pitch deck. Include how much funding you will need to bring this company where it needs to be and what does that money get you. How will the funds be allocated and what will you be doing with it. What does that mean for your company?

Thank you/information

A thank you slide with your contact information is appropriate for the very last slide. For example, add an email, LinkedIn, company website or social media.

These are the key elements that every deck needs in order to successfully get across an investor. The order in which you present the key elements should follow the order listed here. However all start-up stories are different and may take a different flow. Some other elements that are optional to add could be competitors, revenue model and financials. Since this is a deck, you don’t need to give away all your information at the very beginning it might be better to include this is a business plan instead, however this is also your business so build a deck that feels right to you!

First impressions make or break you when meeting with investors

first impressions

Securing early funding is critical to a company’s long-term success. As a result, there is a lot of pressure when seeking investors and participating in fundraising rounds. Company leaders must ensure they are completely prepared. For this reason, first impressions are crucial to the success of your business. Creating a good first impression all comes down to one thing: PREPARATION. Founders who think they can bluff their way past anything and can always “wing it”, are setting themselves up for a loss and a missed opportunity. Every opportunity that comes your way is crucial because you might not get an opportunity like it again. You need to give 150% in everything you do.

Be Prepared

No matter how amazing your start-up is or how incredibly faring it is financially-speaking, the fundraising pitch has to be: polished, rehearsed and factually on point. Investors will quickly lose interest if they feel they are dealing with a leadership team that doesn’t understand the market or the most critical business metrics. You need to show up prepared and have practiced your pitch to the point where you can recite it in your sleep.

Not only should you prepare for your pitch but you need to prepare for your audience and anticipate any questions that is going to be thrown your way. This comes down to knowing every detail that matters about your business. Being unable to answer even just one question will give the impression you are not prepared. So be ready for anything. Bluffing your way through it takes a lot of preparation, it is something you will not be able to do. Investors will see right through your bluff. Of course, making the pitch too over the top, especially if the numbers are not quite there will likely make it clear that you are trying to substitute flare for substance. To establish a long lasting investment relationship, being transparent, realistic, and concise will go a long way.

TIP: Send Preview Information Beforehand
It is a good idea that you send a sneak preview of your pitch before your meeting. Any teaser information should be sent just a few days before the big presentation. It is best to keep this preview short, including just a few snippets about some of the key data. Do not reveal too much, but you want to ensure that the information sent proves promising so that it piques the investors interest.

 Differentiate From What’s out there

In general, investors want to be involved with companies that are innovative. This uniqueness can be product-related, clientele-related, or perhaps related to the way the company handles its operations. In order to do that you need to show how your business differentiates from anything else out there. You need to highlight your uniqueness, your unfair advantage that will have investors interested in your business. The key is to demonstrate your company’s singularity and how that translates to handsome returns down the road. This is where companies can get really creative with the pitch, and hopefully share their story in a way that entices those listening.

TIP: Cover all the key points:

● The problem that you’re solving
● Describe your customer
● Market Size (Problem? How big is it? )
● Why are you best suited to address this?
● Be passionate about the problem you are addressing
● Your solution, why is it 10x better than the state-of-the-art?
● Distribution strategy?
● Monetization strategy
● Current stage
● Competition
● How will you get to the next stage?
● What will it take to get to 10x from that point on?

This may sound like a LONG list, but it is all the important points to articulate in a short presentation and when you are clear in your flow, it can happen in under 10 minutes.

You might have an amazing product but it is how you communicate it and execute it that will sell your product. Just because you have a great product does not mean it will get you anywhere. It’s all about the first impressions you make. It all comes down to how prepared you are and how you differentiate from everyone else. Being prepared will give you the confidence you need to surmount any presentation you give. Exuding confidence is crucial because it will completely change how your audience perceives you. Your body language will change as will the way you deliver the presentation.

The image you first present usually lasts longer and has more impact than any document you will prepare. Many of these are common sense  but I’ve rarely met an entrepreneur who does this well . The fact of the matter is, you only get one chance to make a first impression  so do it right!

Failing; a Checkmark to Success

Ben Syne was the founder of Dog Sync, a
task management app for dogs with multiple owners.

Most every entrepreneur can provide a laundry list of errors and miscalculations. Failing is part of the course, but the most successful entrepreneurs actually benefit from their failures. It is their ability to learn from their mistakes and move forwards that significantly contributes to their professional and financial accomplishments. A little over 50% of start-ups fail in the first 5 years, it is a common occurrence yet nobody ever talks about it.

For many entrepreneurs, setbacks, which are for the most part, unavoidable, can become debilitating. But that need not be the case.

Ben Syne was the founder of Dog Sync, a task management app for dogs with multiple owners. It allowed owners to keep track of when the dog was fed, walked etc. DogSync was part of the statistics of start-ups that failed, despite this Syne looks back at this as a learning opportunity and shares with us how he overcame this. He shares with us what he learned and how he has evolved, which is something a lot of entrepreneur’s are unable to achieve.

  1. What motivated you to start DogSync?

At the time, my family and I faced this problem. We all had six different schedules and it was difficult to know who did what. It especially became an issue when our dog started taking medication because sometimes it would be given to him twice in a day.  I saw this problem and wanted to create a solution for it.

  1. When did you first start seeing warning signs in DogSync?

The initial warning sign was that our drop off rate started to increase.Our users were not taking to our app and we were not keeping our customers. We realized that there was not that many groups of people who cared for one dog and even for family members; there was always one person who would be designated to ensuring the maintenance of the dog.

Once we realized we were not getting enough traction, we decided to pivot into sometime entirely different which was called BarkMiles. With BarkMiles you earn points while walking your dog that got you discounts on your favorite dog products. That was doing well too except we had one major issue, cash flow. We took too long to bring our first idea to market. When we realized we needed to pivot, we started to run out of cash. We did not have enough cash to take it all the way and that’s the major thing that shut us down.

  1. Why do you think dog sync didn’t turn out to be successful/ what mistakes did you make?

The main thing that shut us down was that we did not have enough cash flow to take it as far as we could have. This was due to our poor management of capital over time. I think it would have also been useful to have check in every few weeks to look and reassess where our financial figures stood. Therefore, a big issue for DogSync would be use of finances and capital.

  1. Starting a business and failing at it can be very hard, how did you deal with it?

I have to admit it hurts a lot. I put a lot of my time into this and it was something I was very passionate about. Learning to meditate and achieving a calm state of mind was super important for me because it allowed me to look back at everything objectively. When things like this happen, it’s important to absorb and understand what’s happening because these are the best learning moments. When I start a business again, I do not want to trip over the same rocks I did the first time. Let the dust settle,  go back and look at the situation with fresh eyes. Failure is learning, and I try to take as much as I can from that experience because it was a very expensive one.

  1. What advice could you give to other founders who have been in the same position as you?

Don’t take your failure personally. Associating yourself to this failure will only make you think of yourself as a failure and it will not allow you to try again. It important to remember that the way you frame any bad situation will have a big effect on the outcomes of this event. If you read about successful entrepreneurs in the media, most of them have had 80-90% of failures in their careers and just a bit of success that took them very far. The thing that differentiates a successful entrepreneur is their ability to look back and grow from their failures, which allows them to come out better and stronger than everyone else.

  1. Do you regret starting dog sync

Absolutely not. It is almost as if it’s a checkmark on my path to success and I’m ahead of the game now. I look at this as an opportunity because I am only coming out better and smarter from this whole experience. Take for example, Ray Dalio founder of Bridgewater and one of the world’s top hedge fund managers. Early on in his career, he failed at the same thing three times in a row. He tried starting a fund and went bankrupt two or three times. It was because of those failures that he overcame and persevered through that made him as successful as he is today.

I do not look at dog sync like a failure because even during the process of it, I still learned an enormous amount. It has allowed me to evolve and come out smarter than before. Being thrown into these kind of situations allows you to learn eight times faster than if it were in any structured environment. I also had great people to work with and I would not have given up that opportunity up for anything.

  1. Do you think you will ever start another business in the future and or what are you currently working on
I have started another business; unfortunately, we are not at the stage of releasing any information. However, post dog sync; I spent some time working on the skills I thought were important to improve on before I started up another business. I was also waiting for some inspiration until an idea sparked and I began researching for 2 years. This is was a subject I had no previous knowledge on. I had to spend a lot of time researching and learning about it.  I got interested  in a completely different field, it was something I saw randomly on the web and it got me excited on an idea. This is something I will be launching this year.

 

  1. What lessons learned from dog sync will you be incorporating into your new venture

I realized having a coach or someone to check in with every week is something that is super valuable. I wish I did this for dog sync, but now I have a coach that I have weekly check ins with. It allows me to reflect on decisions, ideas and map out where business is at and where it should be. Having someone who can objectively give you feedback that is not emotionally invested in what your doing can help shape ideas and decisions. Being an entrepreneur, there are a lot of up and downs. It’s useful to have someone to talk to just to be able to see the whole picture. All top athletes have coaches and I think an entrepreneur having a coach brings the same value in order to be the best you can possibly be. I found my coach by putting an ad online and I received quite a few responses.

Management and planning are extremely crucial and is something that is worth sitting down and investing your time. Having a good management structuring goes a long way especially when you have a team under you.

Effective planning of resources, like I said a company dies when you run out of money so every decision should start with your team budget and what you’re going to be doing over time to achieve these metrics.

Every entrepreneur should take note on Syne’s ability to transform his failure into something positive. Being able to fall and get back up is one of the hardest things to do but once you do, you come out better and stronger. Don’t be afraid of failing because it’s only part of your journey to success.

Investing in a sustainable future: CoPower

CoPowerCoPower is a company that is bringing new innovative solutions to the clean energy market. The planet that we call home is dying at an exponential rate and we need more people coming together to bring solutions to create a better, cleaner world. Copower is doing just that by providing financing to clean energy projects across Canada. We sat down with the co-founder of Copower David Berliner to discuss clean energy and building a business.

  1. What does CoPower do?

CoPower provides financing to clean energy and energy efficiency projects across Canada. We do that by raising green bonds from individuals and other investors to make investments on the environment. We put the planet in our portfolio and we do that by using a digital platform. So far, we have raised over 25 million dollars in loans to go towards community projects.

  1. What inspired you to start CoPower?

I have always had an interest in the environment. When I finished my masters, it was almost a natural course for me to continue working in clean energy. I wanted to bring new innovative solutions to the clean energy market so we can create a cleaner, more sustainable and better world to live in for the future generations ahead of us.

  1. What was your goal when you created CoPower?

When we first started CoPower we had two goals in mind. The first one being to grow the company as big as we possibly can and raise the most amount of loans for clean energy. The second thing we aimed to do was grow the clean energy efficiency market by bringing new solutions to the table. We wanted to show people that they could easily have a positive impact on the environment while also getting a return. We wanted to grow the business but also grow the market to raise awareness and inspire others to do the same.

  1. Were there any major changes the company had to go through?

We were constantly making changes in the beginning. Our first business plan talked about connecting clean energy products with investors via a platform. Over time, we had different iterations of what the right product would look like. We had one main idea in mind and that stayed the same throughout the vetting process. What was constantly changing was how we approached that main idea. It was constantly evolving.

  1. What was the deciding factor that pushed you to starting CoPower?

It was not one moment, it was a series of decisions that lead up to this point. We first had the idea and I then discussed it with my family and other entrepreneurs I knew. I tried to share my idea with as many people as possible to get their perspective on it and to validate it. I was nervous at first because I did not know if this was a good idea or not. Its scary trying something you have never done before because there is a constant fear of failing. Organizations like PME were there to encourage us and be our early on supporters. PME was the first place we submitted a business plan too because we had to meet a deadline. This was extremely valuable because we were then able to get feedback and constantly evolve our ideas to grow it into the business it is today.

  1. What is the number one advice you would give to other entrepreneurs like yourself?

Surround yourself with the right people. Wither it be mentors, advisors, coworkers, family etc. There is only so much you can accomplish by yourself. You need to have the right people around you to help you through challenging decisions or personal conflicts you might face. You should not try to deal with everything by yourself because it’s going to be overwhelming. Having the right people around you that will support you but also challenge your ideas will allow you to grow your business and evolve your ideas. Make sure your team is consisted of people you trust and get along with. These are the people who you will be spending a tremendous amount of time with and the people who are going to be responsible for building your vision.

 

  1. What kind of risks did you need to take

As a founder, you always need to take calculated risks. The first biggest risk we took was joining PME. In the early stages of developing your business the uncertainty of wither,  the business will succeed, or fail is one of the scariest things. Once you get past this and take the big step forward everything else will follow. After that, we started taking one small risk after another. It’s not about taking huge leaps but small steps and taking one tasks at a time in order to move forward.

  1. What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you over come them?

The biggest challenge I faced starting out as a founder was not feeling confident in what I was doing. I was new at this and it was a scary feeling. It was more of a self-reflecting one but having a network of people you can share your ideas with helped a lot in boosting my confidence and pushing me in the right direction to start CoPower. Discussing your ideas and gaining insight from different perspective is extremely beneficial because it will help you validate your ideas and give you that push you need to start your own business.

Starting your own business is not easy. It’s very scary trying to create something all by yourself. Getting past this fear of failure is a big step that every founder needs to make in order to get things moving. Getting feedback and asking for help from the right people will help you evolve and ignite your ideas giving you the push you need to start your own business.

What’s next once you have your million dollar idea?

business ideaEither you have been racking your brain for weeks trying to come up with a business idea or a struck of genius just came to you. Regardless of how it came to you, you believe that this is the business idea that is going to make you an entrepreneur! Great, now what?  You are probably very excited to get the ball rolling and you have so many different thoughts going through your mind. It becomes little overwhelming as you don’t know where to start or how to start. How do you start taking action in order to create your dream into a reality? Here’s how! Read carefully as we will give you some guidelines that will help push you in the right direction.

  1. Tell people about it

There is a common myth that you should not tell your business idea to anyone. This is false. The first thing you need to do is reach out to your network and share this business idea with as many people as possible. Now, we didn’t say give away your IP or secret sauce, we said talk about it with people who you think would have the same type of problem like you. Getting insight on your business idea from a different perspective will be very informative. By sharing your idea and getting the opinion of other people you will be able to see if what you’re doing has any depth and does it even make sense. Ideally, it would be great to find a mentor or someone with relevant experience but you can also share your business idea with just about anyone. You can share it with perspective customers and see if they would be interested in using your product/ service. Any form of constructive information helps. Talking about your business idea will be extremely beneficial and can easily be done to take you one step closer.

  1. Research

Do your market research. What need does your product or service meet? How is that need currently being serviced? Who are your competitors? Find out what competitors exists and who they are. Research each one of them and find out how your business idea differentiates from theirs. Why would your product or service be superior form everyone else on the market? You need to be better than the rest in order to make it. If your business idea is something that is not even on the market yet, you should research why. Figure out if other people have attempted this or why nobody else is doing this. Is there is a reason for this? It’s also important to research if this something people will buy or need? There is no point in creating something that people will not use.  Who is your customer? What are the demographics of your customer?  Why would they buy from you? Do you have any evidence that they will purchase your product/service? What differentiates your product/service from the competition? What are the strengths or weaknesses of your product/service?

  1. Draft a business plan

Once your market research is complete and you have validated the need, it’s time to write your business plan. A business plan is a written description of your business’s future. In essence, it is a document describes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. This might seem like a long boring task to do however, it will prove to be very beneficial. At the beginning, it does not need to be elaborate it’s just a good idea to write everything down to organize your thought process. Writing everything down will allow you to see the big picture and put things into perspective. This will enable you to ask yourself the important questions. It is also good to have when you need to refer back to it. It’s hard to keep track of everything when you don’t write it down. Creating a business plan will also help you when you decide to start pitching later on to investors or even just too potential business associates to gain their help in your project.

  1. Prototype

Start building/ designing as soon as possible! Start making sketches, templates, designs. The quicker you start putting something together, the faster you can start getting feedback to improve your original design. Your original idea is never going to be perfect, there will always need to be improvements made and this can only be done once you start actually putting it together. Building a prototype will put your idea to the test. The faster you can get it out, the faster you can bring this idea to market. Today’s world moves quickly, so you want to be able to be the first to do it before any one has a chance. The more feedback and criticism you get, more improvements can be made to obtain a better product outcome.

5. Funds

Start saving your money! In the beginning, it’s best to invest your own money into your project or use money from friends and family. When you are just at the idea/prototyping stage you still have a lot to do and adding in investors will only cause you more stress and pressure. You might underestimate how much money you will need to pour into this project so save and spend wisely.

I hope that this guide has given you some structure on where and how to start once you have your million dollar idea. Taking action on an idea is the most challenging and intimidating part. However, if you really believe in the business idea and your capabilities then the possibilities are endless. Start by taking small steps in the right direction and slowly things will come together. If you have the passion and drive to keep you going then nothing else will stop you in creating your dream into a reality!

 

 

 

3 most important e-commerce metrics

e-commerce 

In e-commerce, data is everything. There are so many different metrics to consider it becomes overwhelming. That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to the three most important e-commerce metrics that you need to pay attention to. E-commerce has become very popular over the years, especially with the rise of social media. When you are new to e-commerce, your time is usually spent on binary decisions and tasks that help you get closer to launching your business. For example,  what products you want to sell, who your audience is and how you are going to reach them. You build a website, put the right tools in place and create processes for shipping and fulfillment. However, beyond post-launch date, you will need to step up your game and quickly evolve from business builder to data analyst. Although it may seem like the easier route to take, there are a lot of important metrics to consider and analyze to ensure the success of your business. Here are the three most important metrics that matter.

 

1. LTV:CAC ratio

The customer lifetime value ( LTV) to customer acquisition cost (CAC) ratio is important in calculating how much you should be spending to acquire a customer. It can help you identify if you are spending too much or not enough on marketing strategies. You can then find solutions to increase profits and revenue. First, we will define both customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

Customer lifetime value, or LTV, is one of the most important metrics to track in e-commerce. LTV is the total you earn from a customer over the course of their life. For example, if a customer makes five purchases over there lifetime that was 30$ each then the LTV would be 150$. LTV helps you understand how much profit you earn during the average customer lifespan. Knowing the lifetime value of each customer you acquire can help with forecasting, budgeting and marketing strategy.

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost ( CAC)  or customer acquiring cost is the amount of money spent on acquiring a customer. This value is calculated by taking the expenses that were used on acquiring customers and divided by the number of new customers that were obtained over that given time period. Knowing your CAC is important because it can help you decide how much money you should be spending to acquire new customers each month.

2. Page speed / load time

This metric is extremely important and can be easily overlooked. Just a one second delay can have detrimental impacts on your business. Pay close attention to page load time on your website. Page load time, or page speed, refers to the average number of seconds it takes for a page on your website to fully load for visitors. A slow website can negatively affect user experience, your ability to build trust and your likelihood to convert new visitors. It can also increase your bounce rate. Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive on your page and leave before taking any other action.

According to a Financial Times Case Study, a 1 second delay results in a 7% reduction in your conversion rate. Your conversion rate is the percentage of customers who buy something once they visit your site. It takes as little as one second to slow down traffic on your website not to mention, take a toll on your brand. A customer research report indicated that 66% of people said that website performance influenced their impression of the brand. While 35% of people reported they are less likely to shop there again due to poor website performance. Since you do not have the opportunity to meet your prospective customers in person,  your website is your primary tool for creating the right first impression with people.

Page speed directly affects both conversion and brand but will also affect your search engine optimization (SEO). Google has stated that they use site-loading page as a factor in the algorithm for ranking sites. Therefore, if your site has a slower loading page it will become less visible to customers when they use google search engine.

 

3. Revenue by channel

When you are spending money on different marketing tactics, it is important to know what is bringing you the highest conversion. Whether it be from social media, email opts or advertisements it’s key to understand what is fueling business growth. This way if you are generating higher conversion rates from advertisements on social media as opposed to sending out emails, you will want to focus more of your marketing strategies on advertising on social media.

 

To build a profitable and sustainable e-commerce business, pay attention to the data. Having a firm understanding of e-commerce analytics will help you become successful. You should be obsessing over these analytics as it reveals the current state of your business. You need to be constantly looking to improve the data. However, do not be overwhelmed by the numerous different metrics that are available focus on these three main metrics especially in the early stages of your business.