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5 Ways to Boost Innovation

Creativity and innovation are often stymied because there just aren’t enough resources.

One of your responsibilities as a pragmatic leader is to make sure you remain within budget while ensuring your team is performing at its peak. You can’t throw every dollar at a project. You can’t get people all the support they would have in an ideal world. The sad truth is that supporting one project often means diverting resources from others.

You have to cut costs, save resources, and keep in step with a budget, all while trying to sponsor creativity and fuel innovation. It’s no easy juggling act.

Here are five strategies that will help you do it.

1. Forget about the bells and whistles

While Google and other tech companies have in-house chefs and ping pong tables, there’s no need to follow suit. You won’t be able to inspire much more creativity or innovation with expensive toys, nice workplace amenities, and other small perks.

In fact, employees may end up taking advantage of all the gifts and, worse, get used to the office luxuries. Too much of a good thing can even demotivate your team. Improving their equipment and adding little perks become the main goal, rather than the work they’re supposed to be doing. This happens all the time.

2. Don’t sew your wallet closed

Leaders often err on the side of too much cost-cutting. Too much belt-tightening can undermine the progress of your most important projects. When people feel they don’t have access to the resources they need to do their job, their enthusiasm will weaken. They may start rethinking whether they really want to stick with you and your agenda. To sustain momentum and move ahead, you have to make sure, as far as possible, that everyone has the tools they need or at least the possibility of attaining them in the future.

3. Don’t use more resources as a goal

Some leaders tempt teams with the promise of more resources if they can meet certain goals. That’s fine if the team can meet the goals, but it’s a different story entirely if they fail. Then they’re missed their goals, they don’t get their resources, and they end up feeling disappointed and resentful. And they can always argue that the reason they failed is because you didn’t give them enough resources to start with!

4. Educate and listen to the team

During projects, leaders should be very clear about the size of the budget, what’s going where, and why. If your expenditures aren’t transparent, team members may see certain purchases as wasteful or grow aggrieved when their bid for new resources is turned down.

The best way to figure out if your team is happy with their access to shared resources is to simply ask them. You may wish your team could work on vapors, but they can’t. You cannot afford to be insensitive to their needs.

5. Balance the allocation of resources

Don’t vacillate between feast and famine. Find the sweet spot where your team has the resources it needs to move ahead, but isn’t kicking back on your welfare system. Facilitate what they need, and scrutinize what they want. Don’t slam on the breaks and then hit the gas. Find a steady pace.

As a pragmatic leader, you need to make sure your group’s access to organizational resources doesn’t fall below a certain threshold-;from “hungry” to “discouraged.” There is no science here. There are no quantitative metrics. You have to be intuitive and sensitive to your group’s level of motivation and creativity.

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Simplify Your SEO Program : 5 Strategies

The SEO industry is in a constant state of flux depending on Google’s algorithms, but that doesn’t mean that you need to revamp your entire strategy every time a new update rolls out. Instead, use the following five strategies to implement a simplified SEO program that’ll stand the test of time — no matter what changes the search engines make.

Focus less on keyword research. “Old school” SEO put a heavy emphasis on keyword research, requiring that webmasters spend hours measuring anticipated search volume against the relative competitiveness of each query. Not only does this take an excessively long amount of time, it’s becoming a far less viable approach as Google restricts the amount of keyword data made available to SEO workers.

Instead of wasting time chasing data that isn’t readily available (or accurate, when it can be found), simplify your research process by brainstorming a list of the keywords you believe your customers are most likely to search for and building content around these phrases. Check your stats after a month or so and then either add more content for phrases that are performing well or refocus your efforts on a new set of potential search queries.

Use SEO tools effectively. Even if fields such as page or post meta descriptions don’t have the SEO impact they used to, it’s still worth including them from a usability standpoint. If you write an extra-compelling meta description that displays in your search results listing and causes a user to click through to your site (versus your competitor’s), that’s a win for your site in terms of both overall performance and SEO.

Instead of coding these fields by hand, look for SEO tools that’ll simplify the process for you. WordPress extensions such as Yoast SEO (free) or All-in-One SEO (free) make managing blog SEO a snap, while programs such as QuickSprout Tools (free; paid versions available) or Moz SEO ($99+ a month) help you to tackle other SEO processes from a single, centralized location.

Invest in viral content pieces. Backlinking is a continual challenge for the SEO world. While it’s important to obtain backlinks from well-regarded websites, it’s best to do so in a natural fashion. But even if you do pursue links as part of an SEO campaign, you’ll find that the backlinks that will do the most for your site’s performance are also the hardest to get!

All of these challenges go away if you redirect your efforts towards producing viral-style content pieces, rather than proactively seeking link sources. As an example, one well-produced infographic could go on to earn you hundreds of backlinks from great sources — with no extra effort on your part beyond the initial creation of the graphic and any early seeding of your content that you decide to do. While it’s true that you won’t “go viral” on every content piece you create, just a few wins using this strategy can do more for your site’s external SEO than weeks or months spent trolling for backlinks.

Use responsive website design. When you use responsive website design on your site, both your desktop and mobile site versions come from the same URL — only their relative displays are altered. Contrast this with hosting two separate sites for desktop versus mobile visitors. If you have two separate websites entirely, you’ve got to run two separate sets of SEO campaigns. Using a single site that displays differently depending on the platform can cut your SEO time in half!

Outsource repetitive monitoring tasks. Finally, consider outsourcing some of the repetitive monitoring tasks that are a part of any good SEO campaign. For example, a few of the tasks you could pass on to others include:

  • Checking your monthly search engine results page rankings (if you don’t already have a tool that does this for you)

  • Conducting competitive research on the keywords and keyword phrases your competitors appear to be targeting

  • Making sure all the content on your site is accessible to the search engine spiders

  • Adding new page links to your website directory (if they aren’t added automatically)

  • Monitoring SEO news sites for algorithm changes that could require your attention or substantially change your strategy

When outsourcing tasks, you can work with either SEO agencies or individuals who are knowledgeable about these tasks. Be sure to do your research and understand the relative pros and cons of each option before bringing on a person or a team to assist with your SEO. Instead of simplifying things, failing to do the proper due diligence could actually make your SEO strategy more complicated than ever!

Have you implemented any of these strategies? Or are there other things you’ve done to simplify your SEO strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

These 7 Trends Will Make You Incredibly Optimistic About The Internet Business In 2014

JP Morgan analyst Douglas Anmuth and his team are incredibly optimistic about the Internet industry in 2014.

In an email he just sent out to clients, Anmuth says that Internet stocks increased in value 78% during 2013 thanks in large part to seven “key” trends.

He says, “We believe those underlying dynamics should continue in 2014.”

Here are those key trends:

Mobile revenues will catch up to mobile usage.

In 2013, it finally happened: people use the Internet more through their mobile devices than they do through their desktop computers. But even though mobile usage was up, popular mobile products still did not have as much sales as desktop products. Anmuth and his team think this will start to change in a big way in 2014. He says users will become more savvy and comfortable with mobile devices. Apps will become more functional. More desktop sites will become mobile-optimized. This trend has already started, as mobile shopping on Cyber Monday was up 28% year-over-year to $5.8 billion.

 

jpmorgan2014chart01JP Morgan/Comscore

 

 

The kinds of ads you see in you Facebook News Feed are going to start showing up everywhere.

Facebook makes the majority of its advertising revenue selling units that appear in its “News Feed” – that center column of photos, status-updates, news stories, videos, and ads you see every time you open a Facebook app or go to Facebook.com. Twitter also makes almost all of its money through ads that appear in-stream. Anmuth and his team believe that in 2014, more companies will start to make such “Native Ads” their primary ad unit. Yahoo and LinkedIn will make the shift first. This is a positive trend for the industry because in-stream, “native” ads have “significantly higher click-through rates than traditional display ads, which leads to higher pricing over time.”

 

How Popular Are Native AdsJP Morgan/eMarketer

 

 

Advertisers will pay a lot to reach you on the right device at the right time.

Smartphones and tablets aren’t making it so people get on the Internet less through the desktop. They are making it so that people are on the Internet more during the day. Studies show that people use their tablets in the morning, their desktop computers during the day at work, and their phones at night. Companies like Google and Facebook are busy making tools that not only allow advertisers to specifically target you with an ad – but target you when you are using a particular device at a particular time. This will allow advertisers to target consumers when they are in the “right mood” to see a product and complete a transaction.

 

When people use which Internet-connected deviceJP Morgan/Comscore

 

 

Advertisers will finally be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons between Internet ads and TV ads, and Internet ads will prevail.

For a long time, Google, which owns YouTube, did not allow the companies that measure how popular TV shows are to use the same tools to measure how popular online videos are. In 2013, that changed. And then, when the apples-to-apples comparison between YouTube and cable channels finally came out, it was revealed – in a language that TV advertisers understood – that YouTube is massive. For example, among males aged 18-54, it is bigger even than ESPN. Now that TV advertisers can see this, they are going to do two things. They are going to spend more on Internet advertising to reach audiences on the Internet, and they are going to spend more on Internet advertising to convince the audiences there to turn on the TV – where they will see TV commercials.

 

YouTube reach versus cable networksJP Morgan/Nielsen

 

 

It will become more common to buy goods like food or wallpaper online because shipping will be more immediate.

Right now, 10% of all retail spending is done online. That number is going to increase in 2014, Anmuth and company believe, because e-commerce companies are getting better at shipping goods the same day they are ordered online. Companies are doing this two ways. Pure e-commerce companies like Amazon are building more local distribution centers. Traditional retailers are allowing online shoppers to buy goods currently held in inventory by local stores.

 

The 2014 ecommerce opportunityJP Morgan/US Census/Forrester Research

 

 

Amazon and Google have lots of spare computers, and more Web companies are going to pay to use them in 2014.

Google and Amazon have massive server farms located all over the world. These server farms aren’t even close to being maxed-out by Amazon and Google products and services. So, Amazon and Google sell some of the spare capacity to other Web companies. Netflix, for example, is powered by Amazon computers. The JP Morgan analysts think that more companies will buy Internet computing capacity from Amazon and Google this year. Anmuth says this will create a “virtous cycle” in which businesses pay less for infrasctructure, charge consumers less, and bring more consumers online.

 

content stored on Amazon's serversJP Morgan/Amazon

 

 

The insanely competitive online travel industry is expanding to mobile and overseas.

Anmuth and his analysts believe four factors will drive consumers to use online travel agencies more in 2014. 1) Heating-up competition between big companies like Priceline and Experdia will force them to buy more ads and offer more deals. 2) Sites that sell tickets to consumers and sites that help consumers find sites that sell tickets are becoming the same thing. 3) Online-travel booking is getting more popular in international markets. 4) People are starting to book travel from their mobile devices, and for more than just that same day.

Small Business, Big Vision

There is so much written these days about how to attract investors that most entrepreneurs “assume” they need funding, and don’t even consider a plan for “bootstrapping,” or self-financing their startup. Yet, according to manysources, over 90 percent of all businesses are started and grown with no equity financing, and many others would have been better off without it.

According to the book, “Small Business, Big Vision,” by self-made entrepreneurs Adam and Matthew Toren, it’s really a question of need versus want. We all want to have our vision realized sooner rather than later, but it can be a big mistake to bring in investors rather than patiently building your business at a slow, steady pace (organic growth).

In fact, most of the rich entrepreneurs you know actively turned away early equity proposals. Too many founders are convinced they “need” equity financing, for the wrong reasons, as outlined in the book and supplemented with a bit of my own experience:

  • Need employees and professional services. Of course, every company needs these, in due time. In today’s Internet world, enterprising entrepreneurs have found that they can find out and do almost anything they need, from incorporating the company to filing patents, without expensive consultants, or the cost to hiring and firing employees.
  • Need expensive resources up front. Many people think that having a proper office and equipment somehow legitimizes their business, but unless your business requires a storefront, everything else can be done in someone’s home office, or a local coffee shop, on used or borrowed equipment. Consider all the alternatives, like lease versus buy.
  • Need to spread the risk. Some entrepreneurs seem to get solace and implied prestige from convincing friends, Angels, and venture capitalists to put money into their endeavor. If nothing else, these make good excuses for failure – no freedom, wrong guidance, etc.

On the other hand, there are clearly situations where your needs call for investors. Even in these cases, all other options should be explored first:

  • Sales are strong – too strong. If you are not able to keep up with demand due to lack of funds for production, and your company is too young for banks to be interested, you will find that investors love these odds, and are quick to go for a chunk of the action.
  • Your company has outgrown you. Some entrepreneurs are quick with creative ideas, and even excellent at managing the chaos of initial implementation. That’s not the same as instilling discipline in a larger organization, where most the challenge is people.
  • You need a prototype. When you have invented a new technology, you need expensive models and testing, including samples for potential customers. If you don’t have the personal funds to make these happen, investors might be your only option.
  • You need specialized equipment. If your solution depends on high-tech chips, injection molding, or medical devices, and you can’t get financing from suppliers, giving up a portion of the company to investors is a rational approach.
  • General startup expenses are beyond your means. Investors are not interested in covering overhead, unless they are convinced that you have already put all your “skin in the game” (not just sweat equity), and have real contributions from friends and family.

When deciding whether and how an investor can help you, remember that finding outside investors requires a huge amount of time and work, perhaps impacting your rollout more than working with alternate approaches and slower growth. Perhaps you really need an advisor rather than an investor.

Even under the best of circumstances, working with an investor requires give and take. More likely, you now have a new boss – which may be counter to why you chose the entrepreneur route in the first place. Maybe that’s why bootstrapped startups are the norm, rather than externally funded ones. You alone get to make the big decisions on your big vision.

Financial inclusion: Banking the unbanked.

Pic courtesy: http://www.currencyofprogress.in

Pic courtesy: http://www.currencyofprogress.in

We recently wrote a post on YourStory on how financial inclusion poses a very real business opportunity for startups. In this post, we delve a little further into the social aspects of financial inclusion and the burning need for empowering India’s underserved sections.

Dr. K.C. Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, has defined Financial Inclusion in these words, “…the process of ensuring access to appropriate financial products and services needed by all sections of the society in general and vulnerable groups such as weaker sections and low income groups in particular at an affordable cost in a fair and transparent manner by mainstream institutional players.”

In an emerging economy like India, financial inclusion becomes a question of both access to financial products and also the knowledge about their fairness and transparency. Many people who fall in the unbanked category are not adequately informed about the nature of the financial services that might be available to them. Having proper delivery systems and information sharing mechanisms are important for promoting financial inclusion, but at the same time we can’t afford to ignore the demand side factors. Many regions, segments of the population and sub-sectors of the economy have a limited or weak demand for financial services. Their level of inclusion can only be enhanced once issues related to demand side have been addressed.

Government initiatives – heart in the right place but are the effective?

The Government of India’s agenda of inclusive growth is reflected in the kind of policies and regulations that the policy making and regulating institutions, like RBI, IRDA, PFRDA etc. have been developing over the past decade. There has been in multifold increase in the number of back branches, especially in rural areas; the branch network was around 8,000 in 1969 and now it is more than 89,000, spread across the length and breadth of the country.

The KYC norms for bank accounts with smaller sums of money have already been relaxed. In rural areas, new account holders can be introduced by local citizens. Public Sector banks are providing poor and marginalized sections of the population with a choice of a ‘no frills account’ where the minimum balance is nil or very small, but with restrictions on number of withdrawals etc., to facilitate easy access to bank accounts. Aadhaar can also be very useful for financial inclusion, as it provides all the citizens of the country a rather foolproof way of proving their identity in an easy and seamless manner.

However, these initiatives for strengthening financial inclusion are yet to have a substantial impact on the lives of the excluded population. Over half the Indian population is unbanked. Only about 55% of the population in the country has a deposit account and around 9% has credit accounts with banks. According to data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India is the home to largest number of unbanked families (more than 145 million). There is only one bank branch per 14,000 people. The total number of villages in the country is estimated to be more than around 6 Lakh, but the number of scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) stand at only 33,495.

Financial inclusion for small businesses – a possible solution

In all the hype about welfare initiatives for the bottom of the pyramid population, an important segment that often gets missed out is the small businessmen. According to the MSME ministry, there are around 26 million small enterprises in India, and only 5% of them have access to capital. Moreover, 94% of these are not even registered and have minimal records, making it even more difficult to establish income and expenditure tracking, required by the formal sector.

According to Tom Hyland, Co-Founder & Partner, Aspada Investment Advisors (an early stage risk capital fund for innovative businesses targeted at underserved communities), “The market for small business finance in India is significantly underserved by the formal sector, as often the only real source of capital is from an informal moneylender. Local banks often insist upon a significant security or/and collateral cover in addition to formal lending being a cumbersome, relationship driven process.” According to Tom, there is a dire need for lending models that provide much-needed working and growth capital to small businesses that would otherwise face difficulties in accessing funds and for which few alternatives exist beyond informal sources.

The effectiveness of this solution is that players working on financial inclusion will find it more lucrative, while masses will benefit from the trickle-down effect. Tom substantiates that, “Small merchants are the backbone of the Indian consumer economy, and improving access to credit for them is critical in order to sustain and improve the livelihoods of people (most of whom belong to the low income segment) that are employed in this sector, especially if credit tightens due to an economic slowdown in India.”

Some interesting work but lots remaining

Last year, YourStory covered the story of Kinara Capital, a young, nonbanking finance company (NBFC) that lends to micro and small businesses led by Hardika Shah. Kinara focuses on lending to those that are too big for microfinance but too small for commercial loans and reduces lending risk by acquiring reliable borrowers by plugging into existing supply chains, such as that of retail chain, Mother Earth. In the next five years, Kinara hopes to expand their portfolio to 20,000 loans, to create 100,000 new jobs, and to impact one million lives.

Another interesting player is Vistaar Finance, that targets the missing middle segment, consisting of customers with an annual income of Rs 120,000-1,000,000, which is not effectively served by the formal financial system. Vistaar has 2 primary lending products – Small Business Mortgage Loan of upto INR 20 Lakhs for upto 7 years and Small Business Hypothecation Loan of upto INR 60,000 for upto 2.5 years. They have a unique credit methodology wherein templates of cash-flow assessment are created by studying an overall sector, thereby by-passing the need for such statements for each borrower within that sector. These are then validated for individual borrowers by studying income, ability, intention, business sustainability & credit behaviour through non-traditional income documents & reference checks.

Learn more about the nuances of inclusive growth and find out the best ways to expand financial inclusion in India at FIPS 2013 – a global conference on Financial Inclusion & Payment Systems. FIPS is being organised at Eros, Hilton Hotel, New Delhi on 24-25 October. Connect with FIPS 2013, http://fips.eletsonline.com/2013/

Start Business in 10 Days.

Day 1

Draw up a business plan

When launching College Hunks Hauling Junk in 2004, the first move for friends Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman was to dust off the business plan they’d written in college a couple of years prior. “Ultimately, it was a really valuable guide for us,” Friedman says. In fact, it helped turn their $80,000 initial investment ($30,000 of which was their own money) into a powerhouse with some 500 employees and 47 U.S. franchises.

Whether written on the back of a napkin or a highly detailed 25-page document, a business plan is critical for startups seeking the fast route to profitability, asserts Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE, a small-business mentoring organization that offers free, generic business-plan templates on its website.

Day 2

Study the market

Market research is vital to a startup looking to hit the ground running, according to Yancey. You want to create a snapshot of the competitive landscape you’re entering: how your products or services compare to what’s available, who your target customers are and what government regulations and licensing requirements to expect. The SBA’s SizeUp tool provides access to meaningful demographic data, mapping potential customers, competitors and suppliers, as well as identifying possible advertising avenues.

When he was preparing to launch National Storm Shelters in 2010, company president Jeff Turner conducted market research at trade shows and held discussions with potential customers and competitors. This confirmed what his instincts told him: that he had a winning product. The Smyrna, Tenn.-based company, which designs, manufactures and installs above- and below-ground safe rooms and storm shelters, was profitable virtually since day one and now generates about $1.5 million in annual sales.

As valuable as prelaunch research and planning can be, beware of paralysis by over-analysis, especially when you lack the luxury of time, cautions Fish from Integra Staffing. “Defining your sandbox is important. But don’t over-think or over-plan, and don’t put a lot of stock in sales forecasts.”

You’re bound to have questions about strategy and practicalities leading up to launch. To get answers without ringing up an expensive consulting tab, enlist someone with the acumen and willingness to provide advice, coaching and skills to augment those you lack. A former boss provided free advice to Ostermiller initially, then became a paid advisor once Altitude Digital could afford the expense.

Day 3

Build out your brand

A brand identity, including a name and a professional-looking logo, can bring instant legitimacy, even before launch. For DIYers, online tools like LogoMaker offer libraries of icons, color combinations and other elements to help develop a logo fast–no design expertise required. Services such as Logoworks are available if you want the work done for you quickly and inexpensively. Once you have your logo nailed down, take your file to a quick-turnaround print service for letterhead, business cards and marketing collateral such as posters, mailers and sales sheets.

In most cases, startups need some kind of web presence to solidify their brand identity (see “The quick-start startup” on page 20). Don’t forget to stake out a position on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. You may not use social media right now, but you want to plant your flag ASAP.

Day 4

Incorporate the business

The nature of the startup dictates the extent to which it should rely on an attorney to incorporate, trademark ideas/products, formalize partnership agreements, etc. While it’s best to let an attorney tackle any complex legal matters, Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk suggests considering some of the numerous online tools available to help you handle simple undertakings yourself. “Our first bill from an attorney to set up an LLC was $1,500. Little did we know we could have done that ourselves for $300 online,” he says.

Day 5

Set up a lean machine

With the clock ticking toward launch, Ostermiller needed help. He found it on Craigslist, taking on two unpaid interns (both recent college grads) whom he immediately put to work–one on sales and one on operations–with the promise to hire them full time after 90 days if things went well.

With no office yet, Ostermiller’s interns worked from coffee shops while he did so from his kitchen table. Likewise, Friedman’s parents’ basement served as the first office for College Hunks Hauling Junk. For Fish and Integra Staffing, a modest office, spartanly furnished with used furniture, sufficed. From the outset, she says, the goal was to “minimize the monthly burn.”

Another tip: Beware the glowing promises of efficiency and speed from shiny new technology and software. “Unless technology is part of your core competency, you need to be careful how much you invest in technology early on, because it can become very expensive very quickly,” Friedman says. “You really need to fine-tune your model before investing a lot in technology solutions.”

Day 6

Start selling

Bringing in profits means making sales. Ostermiller and his interns chased leads even before his company launched officially. Fish’s sales efforts began with tireless networking. “I didn’t have any money then, so I got my ass out of the chair and into the community,” she says. “Any event in town with more than 25 people, I was there. Breakfast, lunch or dinner–it didn’t matter.”

To lay the marketing and sales groundwork for his startup, Friedman let people in his personal network know about his new venture. “We had a support network, a group of cheerleaders who were really inspired to help us with our idea before we launched.”

Day 7

Work the media

To generate buzz and sales, make media relations a priority. As Turner and Friedman discovered, media outreach by a business owner can pay quick and substantial dividends. “I called different TV stations the first day we went to market to tell them about [National Storm Shelters] and ended up on the 5 o’clock news,” Turner says. “That was huge!”

Similarly, right around the time of its launch, College Hunks got a major boost from an article that landed in The Washington Post thanks to Friedman placing a call to a reporter there. “We shot high, and it got us on the front page of the Metro section,” he says. “Our phone rang off the hook from that article.”

Day 8

Fake it to make it

Success is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. However modest your beginnings, however short your track record, think big and act like you belong. “We were scraping by, but we walked, talked and acted like a bigger company,” Friedman says.

College Hunks launched with an 800 number, a memorable logo and a website that provided e-mail addresses for a range of company departments (pr@…, marketing@…, HR@…), all of which funneled back to Friedman and his partner. “It made us look like we were an established business,” Friedman says. “Having that image not only gave us confidence, it established a level of credibility and confidence in the consumer’s mind. I think that’s what got us those large corporate accounts early on.”

Fish took a different tack. She says she invested in a receptionist prior to launch, primarily to impart a sense of professionalism to callers.

Day 9

Work in and on your business

For startup entrepreneurs, the fast route to profitability often means working in and on the business concurrently–at least in the first days and weeks. It’s a constant battle for time between hustling up new business and taking care of new customers with outstanding service. “We were at the dump at 5 a.m., doing all the physical stuff, while also doing all the customer-facing stuff whenever we could,” Friedman says.

When the day-to-day workload from the business becomes too heavy–a good sign, because it means you have customers–it’s time to move tasks such as strategic planning, hiring and marketing programs to the back burner. Focus on generating cash flow first, Friedman suggests.

Day 10

Throw a party

With the foundation for your business set, invite your network of contacts, vendors, friends, family, customers and prospects to a grand-opening celebration to generate buzz and goodwill within your community. Doing so solidifies your image, telling people you’re open for business and you mean it.

At the party, take a breath, sip some champagne, make a speech thanking everyone who’s helped and seek feedback from your guests. In short order, you’ve created your first focus group, one that will likely provide you with a laundry list of tweaks, ideas and improvements that you can start on tomorrow.