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Thursday, November 12, 2015

9 Reasons to Switch Careers as Soon as Possible


The median tenure at a single job in the U.S. is four and a half years, and it’s been said that a person will change careers five to seven times during their lives. So if you feel the itch to make a change, it’s perfectly normal -- and it can actually revolutionize your success.

What constitutes a “career change” is a bit vague, but I like to think of it as taking a job in a new industry so that you can continue to develop your personal and professional skills. With that in mind, here are nine reasons to switch careers as soon as possible:
1. You didn’t choose your current career.
There are a lot of reasons to take a job in a particular industry. If your reason had to do with desperation, a family connection or a random circumstance, you may need to switch careers soon. Think about your skills and what you truly enjoy. Don’t be afraid to consider off-beat careers either -- being a forester isn’t as common as a banker, but it may be the perfect fit for you. You deserve a career you chose on purpose.

2. The economy hit your field hard.

A job in finance was lucrative in 2003. By 2008, not so much. If an economic or technological change has negatively impacted your current field, a change may be in order whether you were looking for it or not. Think about what type of work you can do that would leverage your current skills in a new way. When you make the choice now, you avoid a possible panic situation later if you’re laid off or let go.

3. You’ve developed interest in an emerging industry.
Whether you’re 30 or 60, there are an amazing number of careers available today that weren’t even dreamed of when you were in college. If you’ve developed an interest in a new industry that is growing quickly, this is a great time to jump in. A career in an emerging field will allow you to grow quickly, learn entirely new skills and reignite the fire you may have lost with your current work.

4. You hit a ceiling.

Anyone can hit a ceiling in advancing his or her career. Sometimes another job in the same industry will help you break past it, but other times, you need a complete career change. The good news is that great leadership qualities will help you manage in any field, so you can quickly find a new way to put your skills to great use.

5. You need significantly more money.
Sometimes, the career field you thought you wanted turns out to not work on a financial level. In your current field, you may get small raises over time, but if you need, or want, significantly more money, a career change is in order. Money can’t buy happiness, but it is an important part of living life. There’s no doubt that some careers give you better access to money than others.

6. Your talents don’t match your field.
Are you in information technology, but struggle to keep up with technological advances? Or are you a teacher who struggles with high-intensity personal interactions? If your talents don’t match the field you find yourself in, switch careers as soon as possible. Try taking personal and career assessments to find a field that is a better match for you.

7. You have a major change in perspective.
Marriage, divorce, a new child or even a trip overseas can completely change your perspective. The CEO of Esquire Magazine, Phillip Moffitt,left his career to pursue more meaningful and new work options when he was 40. Major changes in your perspective can make it vital that you change careers. Consider what works for your new situation and make it happen.

8. The challenge is gone.
If you’re no longer challenged by your current job or you’re bored with your current field, a career change could be the spark you need. Too many people spend years in boring and unfulfilling jobs simply because they don’t know what to do next. Don’t waste 40 hours a week. Instead, look at yourself and other industries to find a role that will allow you to be challenged and continue to grow both personally and professionally.

9. You’re burnt out.
You’ve given your all to your current company and industry, and now you feel like there’s nothing left to give. There are some situations a week of vacation can’t fix, and burnout is one of them. Your best option is to switch careers as soon as possible. You’ll find yourself with new co-workers, new challenges and new things to learn. It’s the perfect solution for burnout.

Switching careers can be intimidating, but you’ll find dozens of skills that are directly transferable. Don’t delay. If you’re in one of these nine situations, switch careers as soon as possible.

What other factors would cause you to switch careers? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

Monday, November 9, 2015

5 Almost Effortless Ways to Become a Morning Person

Chris WINFIELDEntrepreneur and success coach

OCTOBER 30, 2015

Do you have a "love-hate" relationship with the morning? Yeah, yeah, you already know that getting up early can make you more productive, focused and motivated -- which is why successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies like Tory Burch and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo) wake up before the sun rises.

The only problem is . . . you absolutely hate getting out of bed any earlier than you have to. Sound familiar?

If you love the idea of creating a success-propelling morning routine but hate the thought of facing the day once your alarm clock sounds, don’t worry. Here are simple strategies you can follow that will make climbing out from under the covers and starting your morning much easier . . . and even somewhat fun.

1. Start the night before.
Many studies have linked motivation levels with REM sleep (which stands for rapid eye movement and is the part of sleep when you dream). If you’re not getting high-quality rest, with several REM cycles, your motivation and energy will lag when it’s time to get up in the morning.

One way to overcome this is to develop a pre-sleep routine that sets you up for quality rest. Here are some strategies entrepreneurs use to fall (and stay) asleep:
Limit your caffeine intake. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, admits that he used to drink caffeine all day long, but he now limits consumption to one-to-two drinks, max, so he'll feel less “wired” and sleep better.

Step away from the electronics. The brightness of your phone, tablet or laptop screen right before bedtime can negatively affect your body’s sleep patterns, which is why Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post, keeps her cellphone in another room . . . a habit she started after “passing out from exhaustion.”

Read a book. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reads an hour nightly (mainly biographies, historical books and intellectual periodicals) to help him fall asleep easier.

It’s also beneficial to create a sleep-inducing environment. Make your bedroom as dark as possible, turn the face of the alarm clock away from you and use a white noise machi
ne or fan if you live in a loud neighborhood.

2: Figure out why becoming a morning person is important to you.
It’s difficult to make any type of change without first knowing why that particular change is important to you. Why is getting up early important to you? Why do you want to be more productive in the morning? Do you believe that establishing the perfect morning routine will finally help you lose weight and get into shape, giving you more confidence and energy throughout the day?

Or, maybe you view getting out of bed before the crack of dawn as the way to find time for things that make you feel good, like reading, writing, or meditating?

Once you know why you want to get up early, you'll find that that change is easier to do.

3: Don’t hit the snooze button.
How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning? Once? Twice? Five times? More?

Although it might seem that getting a few additional minutes of sleep every time the alarm goes off is a good thing, the opposite is actually true. Hitting the snooze button makes you feel more tired. It screws up your sleep cycles, so you wind up dragging your feet all day long.

On top of that, when hitting the button is the first action you take in the morning, you are starting your day off by procrastinating. This sends a message to your subconscious mind that you don’t even have the self-discipline to get out of bed in the morning. Not a great way to start your day. 

So, how do you get out of the snooze button habit? Consider placing your clock (or phone) away from the bed so you actually have to get up to turn it off. Another suggestion from the Sleep Junkies is to glue your snooze button so it no longer works. That will certainly stop you from using it!

4: Change your morning routine slowly.
Trying to completely overhaul your mornings, by (for example) getting out of bed at 4 a.m. when you normally sleep until noon, can make it difficult if not impossible to stick to your new routine.

Instead, work at making small changes that you can build upon. Taking this route makes you more mindful and gives you higher levels of enthusiasm. It also increases your focus, makes you feel calmer and helps you learn the right way to go about making changes that stick.

For instance, if you normally wake up at 7 a.m., then aim to get up at 6:45 tomorrow. Once you master that, get up at 6:30. Move your getting-up time back only 15 minutes at a time, and before you know it,you’ll be an early morning person…almost effortlessly.

5: Choose morning activities you enjoy so you'll stick with it.
It’s hard enough to get out of bed at the crack of dawn and when you wake up to do activities you don’t enjoy . . . your new regimen can feel like torture.

That’s why you should create a morning routine that is filled with activities you actually like, those things that make you feel better about yourself and improve your direction in life.

A few of the activities that I get the most out of in the early morning hours include stretching, meditation, writing Morning Pages andgratitude lists and spending quality time with my family. Create your own list of things that you look forward to when you pop out of bed to make it easier for you to get up and face the day.

There you have it: five ways to make your mornings easier and more productive. Now, all you have to do is try one (or all) of them. Who knows? Your love-hate relationship may turn out to be 100 percent true love, as you realize that you’ve finally found “the one” . . . the perfect morning routine for you!

To learn more ways to make your mornings productive, check out The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Powerful Morning Routine.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What the New Equity Crowdfunding Rules Mean for Entrepreneurs

Kendall Almerico, Crowdfunding Attorney

NOVEMBER 02, 2015

The SEC has finally released rules for Title III of the JOBS Act, the equity crowdfunding law. Nearly three years and seven months after the potentially game-changing bill was first signed into law, equity crowdfunding will be available to startups and small companies in 180 days. Yes, we get to wait another half a year before anyone can actually use equity crowdfunding, but at least now we know it will happen.

For those who have run out of Ambien, the hundreds of pages of new rules will provide a welcome sleep aid. But for professionals who plan to use these rules to help companies raise new capital, it is required reading. Bring on the Red Bull.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs? Will startups be able to actually use this law? Let’s take a look at what the new SEC rules say about key provisions, to answer those questions:

1. The JOBS Act says a company can raise up to $1,000,000 with Title III equity crowdfunding. Did the SEC expand this?
Despite the hopes of many of us that the SEC would pull a regulatory rabbit out of a hat and raise the ceiling to $5 million, the limit on what a company can raise through Title III equity crowdfunding remains at $1 million. If a company wants to raise more, there is always equity crowdfunding’s prettier cousin, a Regulation A+ mini-IPO to consider

2. What can members of the “crowd” invest?
The law limits investors to (a) the greater of $2,000 or 5 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if either the annual income or the net worth of the investor is less than $100,000 and (b) 10 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if both the annual income and net worth of the investor is equal to or more than $100,000.

In both cases, Investors may not invest more than an aggregate amount of $100,000 in one year. The SEC actually tightened up the amounts that can be invested by each individual, which is not good news for entrepreneurs.

3. What happens if a company does not raise its goal amount?
Like many rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns and Regulation A+ mini-IPOs, if a company using the new equity crowdfunding law does not raise the full amount of their funding goal, they do not get to keepany of the money raised, and they lose the out-of-pocket up-front costs. This important provision means setting a realistic goal will become an important part of the equity crowdfunding process for entrepreneurs.

4. Can companies afford to use Title III equity crowdfunding?
The biggest news from the new SEC rules is that the proposed requirement of a full financial audit has been dropped by the SEC for companies using the equity crowdfunding law for the first time. Requiring a startup to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an audit made no sense. The SEC removed that burden, and now a company using the law for the first time must only have reviewed financials to raise more than $100,000, and lesser financial disclosures when raising less than $100,000.

There are still substantial costs, however. Legal fees, compliance costs, funding portal fees, broker-dealer fees and marketing expenses can add up. Without entrepreneurial minded attorneys offering affordable services and innovative businesses offering compliance services for a reasonable cost, equity crowdfunding would still be out of reach for most young companies. Luckily for startups and small businesses, both of the above exist, and will make this law affordable to use for most entrepreneurs.

5. What information has to be disclosed?
A company has to disclose to investors, and file with the SEC, the price of the securities, the method for determining the price, the target offering amount, the deadline to reach the target and whether the company will accept investments in excess of the target.

Companies also must provide a discussion of the company’s financial condition, a description of the business and the use of proceeds from the offering, information about officers and directors and owners of 20 percent or more of the company and annual financial statements.

6. What liability will a company and its officers have under equity crowdfunding?
Equity crowdfunding involves the sale of securities, and not just pre-selling a gadget like on Kickstarter. There are federal and state laws that govern the sale of securities, and if you do something wrong, your company (and its officers and directors) can be sued, and in some cases, could go to jail.

The bottom line is simple: Tell the truth. Under most securities laws including the equity crowdfunding law, being 100 percent truthful and not making misrepresentations of any kind are the keys to not having to bang out license plates in the prison yard with Bernie Madoff.

7. Are the shares sold through equity-crowdfunding liquid?

No. Much like most shares sold through private placements, the shares of stock sold in equity crowdfunding cannot be sold (in most circumstances) for at least one year. There is no marketplace or exchange for these shares, and in all likelihood, never will be unless a company registers with the SEC and becomes a public company.

Will equity crowdfunding work under the new SEC rules? Some may disagree, but I believe there is a workable model here that startups will be able to use to raise capital.

Like every new law, how usable it will be depends on a number of factors. But the reality is that an opportunity like this for startups to raise capital has never existed before, and rather than criticize the law's shortcomings, some of us will work within the laws and rules to find ways to help companies raise funds online in a way they never could before.

Friday, October 30, 2015

5 Ways to Instantly Connect With Anyone You Meet

5 Ways to Make Enough Side Money to Eventually Quit Your Job

Brandon Turner, Real Estate Investor

OCTOBER 28, 2015

Nearly everyone dreams of quitting his or her day job, whether it's tomorrow, next year or in the next decade. However, there is a wide chasm between "dreams" and "action" that many people never seem to cross -- and it's usually due to finances.

Obviously, if you want to quit, you need to find another way to make enough income to pay your bills, save for the future and enjoy life. But what's the best way to do this? How can you make enough "side income" now so you can quit your job in the near future?

Here are five great ways to make side income while still working your day job:
1. Invest in real estate.

My eyes were first open to the idea of "passive income" after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Although not a real-estate book, it taught me the value of owning assets that produce income, which led me to real estate. Real-estate investing is not always passive, and not always easy, but it can be highly profitable. In addition, there are hundreds of ways to invest in real estate. For example, you could:
  • Flip houses
  • Own rental houses
  • Become a "house hacker"
  • Own vacation rentals (AirBnB)
  • Rent out duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes
  • Buy and rent out apartment complexes

Real-estate investing is my favorite way to create side income because it runs like a locomotive. It might take a little time to build up, but once it's running, it goes a long way with less effort and is hard to stop.

2. Write a book.

Many people have dreams of writing a book, but very few ever do. They think it's too hard, that they don't know enough, don't have enough time, aren't smart enough or whatever other excuse they can come up with. But the truth is: you can write a book, and that book can help you make additional monthly income.

There are several avenues you can take when writing a book, and there is no "best route." For example:
  • You could write a series of shorter topic-specific books and publish them on Kindle.
  • You could self-publish through your own website and sell to your existing customers.
  • You could partner with a larger platform and sell to its audience (as I did).
  • You could work to get published through a major publishing company (probably the most difficult path).
  • You could record an audiobook and publish it on Audible.

Writing a book today is not as tough as it once was, as there are so many avenues with which you could publish. The keys are no longer held by elite publishing companies in New York City. The keys are now in your hands.

3. Sell a product on Amazon.

I'm slightly addicted to Amazon Prime, as my local UPS driver can attest to. It seems every day I have a package or two waiting at my doorstep -- and it's usually from people just like you. Most of them probably never touch the product that I'm buying.

That's right: you no longer need to have a warehouse, inventory or employees to buy wholesale products and sell them at retail. Amazon has leveled the playing field and now anyone can sell products.

A friend of mine, Chris from, decided to sell products on Amazon. He researched best-selling ideas, contacted a manufacturer in China and had the perfect model designed, had the product shipped to Amazon's fulfillment center in the United States and sells his product on the site, making thousands of dollars a month in profit.

The best part? Chris doesn't ever touch the product, and it largely runs on autopilot at this point.

4. Sell your skills.
Chances are you are good at something in the business world. Perhaps it's accounting, data entry, video production or writing.

Whatever you are good at, there are likely people out there willing to pay you good money to run that part of their business for them. Smart business owners know that they should focus on what they are good at, and hire out the rest. This is where you can come in and make side income doing what you love.

In addition to freelancing, you could also become a consultant. For example, my friend Joshua Long turned his knowledge of Infusionsoft, ClickFunnels and other marketing systems into a full-fledged consulting business, where he helps CEOs identify existing opportunities in their businesses.

So what are you good at? What will other people pay you for?

5. Start a blog.

Finally, a good way to make side income can be with a blog. Although it takes time to build up a following, once you have that following there are numerous ways to monetize the blog.

Jeff Rose, from, uses his blog to build up his authority as a certified financial planner, driving traffic and income to his business. At the same time, his blog allows him to monetize in other more passive methods, such as affiliate marketing, online products and consulting.

To succeed at blogging, it's important that you:
  • Focus on writing quality content
  • Work hard at getting that content out there to the world
  • Build your email list from day one, so you can market to those people later.

Blogging is definitely not a "sit at home in your underwear and make easy money" kind of activity. It requires diligence, quality and time. However, blogging can be incredibly rewarding.

There is one common theme with all of the above methods for making side income. Do you know what it is? They all take work. That's right, you'll never achieve the kind of lifestyle you want if you don't work for it. So get out there today and start hustling. You'll be able to quit that job faster than you ever imagined.

4 Financing Tips for Female Entrepreneurs

Lisa Stevens, Contributor,

OCTOBER 26, 2015

Women’s Small Business Month, which happens every October, is a great time to highlight the many contributions and advancements made by female business owners who are making a significant, positive impact to our nation’s economy.

The latest census data shows that in 2012, female-owned firms made up more than 36 percent of all non-farm businesses, up from 30 percent in 2007. As of 2012, there were 9.9 million female-owned businesses -- a more than 27 percent increase from 2007.

The fact that the number of women entrepreneurs has increased over the years has been made possible, in part, by their passion, talent and dedication and their ability to obtain essential business support including access to capital. According to a recent Wells Fargo / Gallup national study, 71 percent of women business owners say they feel very or extremely satisfied as a business owner, and 89 percent would do it all over again. Yet women in the survey also expressed less overall interest than men in learning about credit-related issues, particularly choosing the type of credit that is best for their business needs (17 percent versus 28 percent).

It’s important for women entrepreneurs to understand how the use of business credit may benefit their operations. Business credit can provide a business the source of funds it needs for multiple purposes, from bridging gaps in cash flow to pursuing growth opportunities. As women-run businesses continue playing a vital role in our local economy, we want to do everything we can to help these businesses thrive.

Here are four tips we offer women business owners to help them succeed financially:
1. Explore your financing options.

According to the Wells Fargo / Gallup study, women business owners said their top three sources of initial funding for their business are cash or savings (85 percent), personal credit cards (37 percent) and financial gifts or support from family or friends (29 percent). Today, business owners have many business financing options to consider.

If a conventional business loan doesn’t meet your specific needs, you may want to explore an SBA 7(a) loan. Talk with your banker about the full array of credit options available for your business to identify the best option for you.

2. Seek lenders with a commitment toward women business owners.
It’s a competitive market for small business loans, and that’s good for women business owners. Lenders are seeking to make every responsible loan they can to credit-worthy business owners.

When choosing a lender, you should consider financial institutions that have demonstrated a commitment and track record of working with women-owned businesses as well as a lender who may have implemented lending goals or programs focused on women-owned businesses. Many states have programs for women entrepreneurs, so it is worth investigating the opportunities in your area.

3. Connect with other women entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a network of more than 100 women business centers across the country aimed at helping women who own small businesses. Another great resource for women business owners is, which offers online newsletters and webinars in addition to an extensive database of female mentors.

Finally, women business owners should consider joining the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which has chapters across the country that offer peer-to-peer professional development programs for members. Many of these organizations are dedicated to helping women find the right financial tools to successfully run and grow their business.

4. Build a relationship with a banker.
Having a strong relationship with a business banker can be beneficial to your business. The stronger your relationship is with your banker, the better your banker will be able to understand your business when you come to them for support and financial solutions to help it grow.

For example, a banker can help you build a strong credit profile, as well as help you gain access to the capital your business needs when you’re credit ready. A banker can also provide guidance on how to lay a strong financial foundation for your business, such as establishing a business plan. To build the relationship, make sure to keep your banker up to date on significant changes and notable successes in your business.

There’s certainly a lot to be learned from the many successful female entrepreneurs who have made it in today’s ever-changing and challenging business environment. There is no single recipe for success so to speak, but the four tips outlined above will certainly help you start, run and grow your business.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

8 Types of Investors That Entrepreneurs Need to Avoid

Martin, Zwilling, CONTRIBUTOR, Veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and Angel investor.OCTOBER 02, 2015

Don’t assume that all investors are the same, just because their money is always the same color. Every entrepreneur should do the same due diligence on a potential investor that smart investors do on their startups. Check on their track records, values and management style. Taking on an investor is a long-term relationship, like getting married, that has to work at every level.

Let’s just say that every investor is different, without trying to define what is good or bad for you and your startup. Investors are human and subject to human tendencies, whether they are your rich uncle, an angel investor with personal funds or a venture capital investor with institutional money. Here is a summary of some key investor stereotypes that generally need to be avoided:

1. Investment sharks

I’m not talking about the Shark Tank TV show, but some might say the panel fits the definition. While the majority of investors are looking for a win-win deal, there are investors who like to prey on entrepreneurs who have little financial experience, don’t read the term sheet or are simply desperate for a deal. Seek out advisors to help you avoid these investors.

2. Investors who love to litigate

We all know that startups don’t have money to fight in court, so it’s easy for a few unscrupulous investors to jump to the conclusion that intimidation and lawsuit threats can improve their returns and control after the money changes hands. Here is where checking the track record pays off. Don’t assume you will be the exception.

3. Imperial investors

These are investors with such massive egos that they expect to dictate both the terms of the investment as well as all future strategic decisions of your startup. Unless you are preparing to work for Donald Trump someday, I recommend that you skip this investor in favor of a more equal partner.

4. Legal eagle investors

Negotiating terms is normal before the investment, but once the check is cashed, you don’t want to be second-guessed on every action. Be wary if the term sheet is a document longer than your business plan. Violation of abstract clauses may be used as a way to push you out, take over the company or pull the investment.

5. Academic coach investors

Coaching should be expected and appreciated, but you don’t have time for constant tutorials on how to run a business. A good advisor and mentor will tackle questions and then offer key insights. If an investor spends more than a day at your office before the check is written, it may be time to check your patience meter.

6. Pretend investors

These are “wannabe” investors who don’t have the means, or former entrepreneurs who don’t want to leave the arena. They always have one more issues to investigate or another set of questions, but never bring the checkbook. After a rational allocation of your team’s time, ask for a definitive close and be willing to walk away.

7. Investors without a clue

Many wealthy people make poor startup investors. They have long forgotten (or never knew) the challenges faced by a startup business. Many great real-estate people and doctors fall into this category. A synergistic long-term relationship in your business is not likely. Ask them for an introduction to wealthy business friends.

8. Investors for a fee

These are people who rarely invest their own funds, but promise to find the perfect match and live off a percentage of the action and preparation fees. They may be licensed investment brokers or consultants cold-calling real investors. The challenge is performing due diligence on the real investor.

Proactively seek out and build relationships with investors who interest you, rather than passively wait for potential investors to approach you. Finding investors is best done by talking to peers and attending networking events. Cold calling or emailing strangers will likely get you a sampling of all the eight stereotypes defined here.

Finally, you need to learn what investment terms make sense for your startup and craft your own term sheet, rather than rely on one being presented to you. Start with some legal advice from a source you trust. Do your homework and networking, but don’t chase investors like a one-night stand and expect it to lead to a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.

Friday, September 25, 2015

7 Lessons From Entrepreneurs Who Kept Their Day Jobs While Starting Their Businesses

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015, Michelle Goodman

This story first appeared in the September issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Keeping your day job while starting a business has its advantages. Aside from the steady income and free coffee, reliable full-time work helps you flesh out your résumé and portfolio and extend your professional network. Even better, working for someone else gives you a front-row view of the best (and worst) ways to run a company, from managing time and money to handling customers and employees.

We asked some successful entrepreneurs who founded companies while holding down a 9-to-5 to share the lessons they learned.

1. First, prove your concept.

Holding down a day job means having only so many waking hours to devote to your side venture. That’s why validating that your idea will work—and that people will pay for it—should be priority No. 1, says Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Career Sushi, an online marketplace that connects young professionals with employers.

Senderoff was fortunate that her former employer, a Hollywood TV and film production company, agreed in 2011 to fund and incubate her startup in-house. But because she didn’t need to bootstrap, she mistakenly spent more time than she should have on Career Sushi’s branding, web design and minute platform details, proof of concept be damned.

“I probably spent six months doing that,” says the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, whose site now serves 15,000 employers and 150,000 job seekers. “In retrospect, that was a wasted six months.” Of course, the typical startup can’t afford such indulgences, lest they run out of cash before going live. Lesson learned, says Senderoff: “Don’t try to build a Porsche when you just need to build the wireframe and test whether the car will ever drive.”

2. Let the big goals shape your calendar.
Wrangling your schedule won’t necessarily be easier after you leave your 9-to-5. Between the shoestring budget, lean staff and avalanche of action items, deciding which tasks to tackle each day at your startup can get overwhelming.

For Allyson Downey, co-founder and CEO of baby-product review platform weeSpring, working at an educational nonprofit provided valuable training in organizing and prioritizing.

To stay the course, Downey relies on a chart on her desk, a carryover from her previous job, showing the day’s top goals. “I have a column called ‘user growth,’ a column called ‘revenue growth’ and a column called ‘development,’” says Downey, who is based in New York. To prevent herself from “going down the rabbit hole of fixing little things and building new features,” the development column is half the size of the other two, she says.

This means that less-pressing tasks like updating weeSpring’s About Us page take a back seat. “That has been on my to-do list for two years, and it probably will continue being on my to-do list for another two years because I need to keep my head down and focus on the stuff that’s going to move the company forward,” Downey explains.

3. Document processes.
Before Guy Baroan began running his Elmwood Park, N.J.-based IT firm, Baroan Technologies, full time, he spent several years managing an indoor amusement park. The facility employed 80 teenagers and hosted about 135 children’s birthday parties per week.

“There had to be a specific method for the hostesses to go in and run the birthday parties,” Baroan explains. Employees needed a process road map—from the timing of the cake presentation to the sale of game tokens—to keep parties running smoothly and guest meltdowns to a minimum.

Baroan was a one-man show when he left his job in 1997 to focus on Baroan Technologies. Determined to hand off some of his workload as soon as possible, he took a page from the amusement park operations and began documenting all his business practices—everything from scheduling appointments and making service calls to training workers.

“The best way to delegate is to create processes and systems,” says Baroan, who now employs 18 people and brings in $3 million in annual revenue. “Then you have a consistent method where, no matter who’s doing a task, it’s going to be done the same way.”

4. Catch problems early.

Before devoting herself to her business full time in 2012, Katie Stack spent a decade working in the costume departments of regional theaters. Often it wasn’t until the final fitting that a designer would decide on a different color or fabric for a costume and want a replacement. Between overtime and last-minute shipping costs, “suddenly the cost of that new garment was around six times what the original cost of the garment was,” says Stack, who now runs Stitch & Rivet, a design studio and retail boutique in Washington, D.C.

In selling her own handmade totes, handbags and belts, Stack ensures that the quality of the materials she orders from vendors is up to snuff before making each product. Because if she isn’t happy with a particular fabric or zipper, her wholesale customers might not be either.

Stack’s advice: “If you need to change what you’re doing, change it in the prototype stage instead of in the final stage, when you’re up a creek and can’t really backtrack.”

5. Plan for financial fluctuations.
Heidi Andermack became intimately familiar with the fluctuations of small-business cash flow during the seven years she managed her husband’s custom font company. So when she co-founded Chowgirls Killer Catering in 2004 in Minneapolis, she and partner Amy Lynn Brown set some fiscal ground rules: Limit the amount of personal credit used to float the company during lean times; avoid draining their retirement funds; seek out a bank loan as soon as they qualified.

They also relied on their business’s peaks—summer wedding season and year-end holidays—to sustain the valleys. “Learning those patterns of your business is really important,” Andermack says. “You can expect slimmer times.”

You also can expect cost overruns, adds Stack, who began padding Stitch & Rivet’s budgets for worst-case scenarios during her theater days. “Always have a contingency budget,” she says, noting that she allots 15 to 20 percent more money than she thinks she needs for website overhauls, trade shows, printed materials and product development. “If you don’t use it, that’s great. But chances are you’re going to need it.”

6. Invest in employees.
Making workers feel valued has always been a primary concern for Chowgirls’ Brown, who was paid handsomely by the multinational media company that employed her for nine years before she turned her full attention to catering. “Being treated and compensated well and receiving great benefits taught me how important that is for staff loyalty,” she says.

Chowgirls, which makes more than $2 million in annual revenue, offers its full-time staffers competitive pay and generous benefits, including four weeks of paid parental leave, three weeks of paid vacation (after three years on staff), free massages and grocery discounts. “We have a really high retention level,” Brown says.

7. Treat customers like gold.
When Baroan started his company in the late ’90s, “IT people thought they were gods,” he says. But he had no desire to build a team of smug techies who would be too arrogant to treat customers with respect. Instead, he cribbed the service philosophy of his former employer, the amusement park: “We had a major focus on treating everyone like a guest in your home rather than just somebody off the street that you’re doing a favor.”

For his IT crew, this means showing up on time, addressing customers by name, answering questions and checking whether customers need anything else before wrapping up jobs.

“People judge you by what they can relate to,” Baroan says. His customers may not know much about network configuration data, but they know when someone is courteous and reliable. Baroan credits these traits with earning his company referrals and repeat customers over the years. “That’s how the business grew,” he says.

Cutting corners is not in Kevin Jordan’s DNA. His six years as a commercial airline pilot instilled in him an unshakable discipline. Skip the required preflight inspection, and you could jeopardize lives. Now owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, which he opened in 2012 in Farmville, Va., Jordan applies those same standards to each project he accepts, even those involving chores he’d rather avoid—and chores that his clients may not even know about. One such task: interviewing clients’ customers for their take on the business. “Some of those things are a pain,” he says. “It’s hard to get people on the phone.”

But for Jordan, having the discipline to go the distance when no one’s watch-ing is part of the job. “Just like with the preflight inspection, the client may never realize that you did a lot of these things,” he says. “But it will make a difference in the long run. And that’s what distinguishes me from other people who do what I do.”

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Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Self-Publishing and Business Coach.