What’s a Sales Funnel?

By: A.J. MacQuarrie

A funnel is the process by which you get your product or service in front of a target audience and communicate your message in a way that solicits a specific action, a.k.a. lead generation. An effective funnel usually consists of four elements: the ad, landing page, sales copy, and a call-to-action. In the online world of business, funnels often consist of an initial free offer, like a “7 Steps to Grow Your Business” downloadable PDF, for instance, or a webinar, or a mix of the two. Sometimes you may use a platform like a podcast to get initial interest in your business and that might be the start of your funnel. 

When you craft an effective ad and place that ad in front of your target audience, it will take them through a journey to give their information to you. It’s important that you provide great value right up front and give something away for free. There’s some sales psychology involved in crafting an effective ad, but if done right, the leads will pour into your funnel. The quality of your leads depends highly on how targeted your marketing is.  Dialing into a particular niche will get your message in front of the right audience but it’s important to speak directly to them.

My first attempts at advertising KarmaBox was like flushing money down the toilet on some of the platforms I chose. I even placed radio ads at one point. Now that had too broad of an audience. There’s a saying, “if you market to everyone, you market to no one.”

When I switched to more targeted audiences, my marketing started to click because my product was in front of the right people. Having a healthy funnel means that you are consistently testing and tweaking the things that work and don’t work to dial your message in as tight as possible.  A/B testing is a common way in marketing to test out different ads. Just google it and watch some videos. When you have all the right elements working perfectly in sync, your marketing efforts will continue to bring in quality leads that will fuel your business. Having your funnel integrated with your CRM then becomes an important aspect of the entire sales cycle.  

After you’ve generated your leads from different marketing sources and they’ve been automatically funneled into your CRM, your sales team can now move those leads through your sales funnel. Your sales funnel is the process by which a lead ultimately becomes a paying customer. This is called the backend system because this is when the lead is no longer just an email or telephone number moving through space and time.  This is where the rubber meets the road and relationships are initiated and built.  Sometimes it’s a completely automated process (online retail stores), other times, like for big ticket items, it requires human interaction.  

Your trained sales professionals will call on those leads that came through the system and will take them on a step-by-step journey qualifying them as they go until they close the sale.  As the sales team moves each lead through the qualifying and sales process, they’re able to document each action item they took into the CRM software. 

This allows anyone with access to the CRM to see at which stage each lead is at in the sales process. 

When these three systems are in place, your business will run like a well-oiled machine.  And when your marketing message is congruent with your why and your business philosophy, it’s as though you’ll be able to print money on demand.  It’s just like flipping the light switch for light on demand.  Having your systems in place is crucial for your day-to-day workflow.

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Embracing Setbacks: A Path to Empowerment and Entrepreneurial Success

By: A.J. MacQuarrie

Setbacks, whether minor or major, present a critical juncture in your journey. At this crossroads, you face a vital decision: succumb to self-defeat or embrace self-empowerment. Your perspective shapes this choice, offering you the power to redefine your path.

Utilize setbacks as a catalyst for growth and an integral part of your narrative. These moments of vulnerability are quintessentially human, fostering connections and opening doors to learning and development. For entrepreneurs, setbacks are not just obstacles but opportunities to innovate and problem-solve – the very essence of entrepreneurship.

Instead of being overwhelmed by setbacks, transform them into stepping stones for your comeback. A shift in perspective can radically alter your experience and trajectory. This approach leads us to the Comeback PILL formula, a transformative strategy for personal and professional growth.

Reflecting on my entrepreneurial journey, I recall a time when I perceived limitless time to strategize for my business. However, a paradigm shift from complacency to urgency – “act now or never” – accelerated my progress, catapulting my business to a seven-figure venture. This mindset shift was critical, spurring me to take risks and innovate, which cumulatively propelled my business forward.

Day by day, I reconditioned my thinking, embracing immediate action. The compound effect of these actions was staggering, leading to exponential growth and nationwide expansion of my business. However, after the business closed in 2018, I realized that amidst chaos, my mindset had shifted from abundance to scarcity, contributing to my failure. I learned the hard way that continuous pressure and negative thinking can be detrimental.

The power of language and thought in shaping our reality cannot be overstated. Like learning a new language, altering our thought patterns can rewire our brains. Neuroscience confirms that such rewiring can pave the way for financial success, offering exciting prospects for those willing to engage in mindset exercises.

Understanding self-sabotage is crucial. It often stems from unconscious motives leading to deliberate yet uncontrollable destructive behavior. By recognizing these patterns, we can begin to alter our life’s trajectory, transcending beyond finances.

Changing your actions starts with transforming your self-image – your beliefs, perceptions, and internal dialogue. This process, akin to upgrading your mental ‘software,’ involves visualizing your desired future, challenging existing beliefs, and practicing positive affirmations.

This journey of transformation begins with a mindset shift, creating a new context for growth. Instantaneously, a new understanding can illuminate your path, leading you to emerge as a transformed individual.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, this means shedding the ’employee mindset’ and embracing an entrepreneurial identity. Setbacks often provide the impetus for such reinvention, serving as unexpected gifts that compel us to evolve.

Entrepreneurship demands a dual focus: grounding in present realities while envisioning future aspirations. It involves a delicate dance between managing current affairs and living into your entrepreneurial vision. This requires a blend of realistic assessment and optimistic visioning, often bordering on delusional optimism.

Unlearning societal and familial conditioning is essential for entrepreneurs. Clearing your mind of limiting beliefs allows for the cultivation of a new self-image aligned with your entrepreneurial aspirations.

However, overcoming self-doubt and negative thinking is challenging yet crucial. Most successful entrepreneurs have navigated this path, transforming their setbacks into opportunities.

Bankruptcy was a pivotal moment in my life, leading to profound self-realization and transformation. I chose to use this experience as a launchpad for personal and professional growth, eventually leading to the creation of my marketing agency, Keep Going Media, and sharing my journey through “The Setback Advantage” video series.

Steve Jobs’ philosophy that life’s dots eventually connect resonates deeply. Maintaining optimism, even in the face of adversity, is essential for overcoming challenges and achieving success.

My entrepreneurial journey, fueled by unwavering belief in my vision, underscores the power of optimism. Believing in your success can be your greatest advantage.

Looking back, my entrepreneurial self is barely recognizable, a testament to the transformative power of the journey itself. It’s not about the destination but who you become in the process, a vision that begins in your mind.

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Are you “Laying Bricks” or “Building a Cathedral”?

By: A.J MacQuarrie

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey requires more than just an idea; it demands a mindset transformation. Whether you’re contemplating starting a business, in the midst of launching one, or managing a thriving enterprise, I urge you to take decisive steps towards manifesting your vision.

For those considering entrepreneurship, tangible actions like forming an LLC or S Corp through services like Legal Zoom (note: this is not legal advice) can set the wheels in motion. Investing in a logo, business cards, and a website transforms your concept into something tangible. These initial steps are not just about creating a business identity; they’re about nurturing belief in your venture, both for yourself and others.

Remember, these early choices and investments are foundational. Each decision, from business branding to technology adoption, contributes to building your entrepreneurial identity. These ‘deposits’ into your entrepreneurial journey reinforce your commitment and make abandoning the idea less likely.

A story shared by a friend perfectly illustrates this point. She recounted a tale of a man visiting a village, where he encountered two workers. Upon asking what they were doing, the first replied, “I’m laying bricks,” while the second proclaimed, “I’m building a cathedral.” This story highlights the power of vision and perspective in the mundane tasks of building something significant.

Once you’ve embraced the entrepreneurial mindset, it’s crucial to continue developing skills and acquiring knowledge. Bridging the gap between your current knowledge and what you need to know about your business involves several strategies:

  1.  Actively seeking education and knowledge,
  2.  Engaging with mentors or coaches for guidance, and
  3.  Learning through direct experience, or ‘trial by fire.’

Your entrepreneurial success is bounded only by your knowledge and the actions driven by that knowledge. Closing this knowledge gap is essential for achieving desired outcomes. This requires challenging entrenched beliefs, habits, and self-limiting behaviors.

Our automatic responses, shaped by lifelong self-perception and world views, govern our actions. By cultivating self-awareness, you can understand your behavioral patterns and their impact on your business outcomes. This introspection enables you to recognize if you’re operating from a fear-based, limited mindset or if you’re seeking external solutions that you believe are crucial for your business’s success.

In summary, becoming a successful entrepreneur involves more than just business acumen; it requires a fundamental shift in mindset, a commitment to continuous learning, and the courage to challenge and change deep-seated beliefs and behaviors.

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Know When — and What — to Give Up in Order to Move Forward

By A.J. MacQuarrie

It’s likely that you’ve seen this meme pop up in your Facebook feed from time to time: A mugshot of Winston Churchill, with his characteristic bow tie and cigar, rallying readers to “Never, never, never give up.”

Well, Churchill never said that. What he actually said was “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense . . . “

Another exception should include “entrepreneurship.” Because knowing when to give in, to cast off bad ideas, processes or people who hold you back is an unconventional skill that’s absolutely necessary for building a successful business. If certain ideas aren’t panning out, you need to know when and what to give up on or you’ll go broke, drive yourself crazy or probably both! Especially in this quickly changing world, you need to be fast and decisive and understand what to give up on.

I’ve given up on a lot of things to get me to where I am today, running a multimillion dollar business. When I dropped out of college after my junior year to pursue my healthy vending business, I raised a lot of eyebrows. But, I realized I had to do it, I had to go 100 percent on the business and I don’t regret it. I had such a rare opportunity with healthy vending — the market was wide open — and I had enough “convictions of good sense” of it becoming a success. I reasoned that college will always be there, but this business opportunity would not.

After being on the Canadian version of Shark Tank (a show called Dragons’ Den), I gave up on my original business model. Kevin O’Leary’s point that I had nothing proprietary was well taken. I went back to the drawing board and created a model that not only helped me scale very quickly but created proprietary attributes to my company. I changed my model completely, and if I hadn’t given up on my original plan, I wouldn’t have been able to scale the way I did, where we’re in over 60 cities across the U.S.

You can’t just give up on everything because something isn’t working, though. Don’t give up on the overall mission, the big idea. In order to give up, you have to gain something. It’s necessary to give up in order to pivot, to maneuver and ultimately push forward. Give up on things that aren’t moving you forward.

You should always be making changes and actively looking for them. I regularly sit down with my director of operations and go through our systems and processes to come up with better ones and toss out old ones. We evaluate what needs to change to get us streamlined to the next level and we’re not afraid to give up on whatever’s not working.

Imagine your success.

Shift your mindset to understand that giving up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can often be a good thing because it frees you up to consider new paths, overlooked solutions and creative ways around obstacles to success. This is essential.

Know that you can always improve.

Figure out what you’re doing now that you might just be doing out of habit and comfort. What are you holding on to because it feels safe? Sure, we’ve heard the phrase “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” — but it can always be better. It’s important to question your processes: What’s new, what’s better, what’s next. Ask what you’re not doing that you could be doing to make your business more profitable, better for your customers and more satisfying for your life.

Take a measured risk.

Start with something small. Giving up doesn’t have to be giving up on something big. But, you should challenge yourself — a higher risk can result in a higher reward.

Keep moving forward.

Don’t just give up for the sake of giving up; give up to pivot, to move ahead perhaps in a slightly different direction, but always trying to move forward.

Change demands thought, not impulse.

Give up strategically in this fast-changing world. Consider the models, systems, and processes that move you to your goal. What’s your new strategy? Where’s the data behind it? It’s vital for you to understand why you’re giving something up because it can go south pretty easily if things are constantly changing. “Why am I doing this?” is usually a good place to start, but remember to follow that up with “what am I trying to achieve?”

As an entrepreneur, you want to protect your “baby,” but you won’t take your business to the next level if you’re stubborn and stuck on your original plan if it’s even just a little broken. We’re taught that giving up is bad from a very young age so it might not feel comfortable at first, but believe me, it’s very liberating when that baggage is released. Technology is helping us move on to new and better concepts, systems, ideas so you often give up without realizing it when you upgrade your phone or computer. Continue to practice the art of giving up and it will pay dividends!

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Leave Microchipping to Pets, Not Employees

By A.J. MacQuarrie

News reports that Wisconsin vending machine company Three Square Market will microchip employees are burning up social media today, and rightly so. The implanted $300 RFID microchips would let employees, perhaps desperate for a quick mid-afternoon Snickers bar, merely wave their hand in front of the lunchroom candy machine to get their pick-me-up.

Call me old fashioned, but implanting an electronic device under the skin should be reserved for medical procedures. Is saving five seconds really going to do much?

About the size of a grain of rice, the devices would be injected into the web of skin between a person’s thumb and index finger. They’re voluntary, and the company expects more than 50 employees will choose to get one on chip day, Aug. 1.

The company’s CEO envisions employees’ subdermal chips to eventually open the company’s doors, to activate the office copy machine, unlock workplace phones, log into employee’s computers, share business cards, and even store employee medical and health information.

The company makes a passing nod toward privacy concerns. Sure, the data will be encrypted as it flows from newly-enhanced humans to chip readers and, presumably, linked devices. And these chips aren’t GPS capable, so if an employee gets lost chasing squirrels in the park, these implants unfortunately can’t help quickly reunite him with his work family.

Joking aside, it’s a head-scratcher. Make no mistake, this technology isn’t about making things easier for vending machine customers. I run a vending company. People today already are as connected to their phones as they are to their hands — and modern vending machines come with electronic payment abilities, such as ApplePay, and quick credit card readers.

The chip is about making things easier for the company by collecting data. Lots of data. Hours could be tracked for productivity, waste and workflow (re: copier – “Your chip data tells us you were the person who didn’t replace the toner!”) A salesman is departing? Download all his leads. “One last thing, Mel. I also need to have the company chip back. Could you hand me that hole punch?”

How will the chip data be used – especially when it bleeds over into storing employee medical and health information? While “voluntary,” would an unchipped employee be penalized by paying a higher company insurance premium – just as people who decide to remain overweight and smoke tobacco often lose out on discounts given to those who join Weight Watchers or smoking cessation programs?

At what point will today’s voluntary persuasion become tomorrow’s do-this-or-forfeit-your-job coercion? What are the implications of labor laws regarding next week’s mildly-chipped employees – and should new laws be considered?

Plenty of effective, less-invasive technologies are used by businesses every day. Pass cards, key fobs and electronic ID cards are quite secure. Shipping companies are known to track their delivery drivers through their handheld scanners. Smart password management processes run by savvy IT managers can protect company computers. Maybe you could even chip an employee’s work uniform to get the same results as the implant.

Some biometric systems can be useful tools as long as they are strictly limited. My company, KarmaBox Vending, recently replaced our computer clock-in software with a fingerprint scanner, after some time theft via remote logins was uncovered. I also like to stay up-to-date with technology that increases the work experience for my employees, clients and business partners. For employees, the scanner takes a second and eliminates several steps on computer software every day. For the business, the employee can’t remotely tap their fingerprint on the reader – yet.

And one last note: If you look at a chip to grant employees permission to a locked copier, you have a management problem, not an access problem — and — surprise! — no technology can fix that for you.

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Build Your Startup with a Franchise Mindset to Scale for Success

By A.J. MacQuarrie

Recent films like “The Founder” and books such as “Ray and Joan” have spotlighted Ray Kroc, one of the great business leaders of his time. Among the many lessons that Kroc’s experience holds for this era’s entrepreneurs is the business model he created for McDonald’s. This model drastically changed the landscape of how companies can expand at a rate that would otherwise be too costly for most.

Franchising turned McDonald’s San Bernardino hamburger and shake stand into a global giant worth billions of dollars with 36,899 restaurants worldwide. But even if you never take on the legal requirements to become a franchise-based business like McDonald’s, that mindset and approach can help your young company prepare for long-term success and growth.

The concept is very simple: you create a business that can be replicated over and over again by people who profit handsomely from a turnkey solution. This allows you to be in multiple locations at once without ever having to run them yourself.

Building that infrastructure upfront means you’re thinking about the future of your business. You’re preparing for the possibility of success, and not incidentally, helping make success and growth more likely long before it happens.

When I was building my own company of healthy vending machines, I shifted my mindset to create a way that I could get my product into the hands of independent operators nationwide. While we are not an actual franchise, I’ve used many of the same principles as one. I wouldn’t have been able to scale KarmaBox the way I did if I hadn’t had these people helping me. As a result, we went from one city to more than 50 in less than three years.

So what is it about the franchise mindset that makes sense for any forward-thinking entrepreneur?

For one thing, it’s about the intellectual rigor you bring to structuring and managing your business from the start, putting in place an operational foundation that works as your business expands. There’s something very powerful about mentally preparing to replicate your company for the masses. When you think to yourself “How can I have 20,000 of these stores across the country?” you will begin to create systems of consistency and efficiency. This works even if your business is a service and not the traditional brick and mortar.

But too often, non-franchised startups don’t do that hard work early on. They don’t think through the business processes, or create an infrastructure that allows for growth and it may kill their chances of broader success.

Whether you actually move forward to franchise or not, just being in that mindset is going to lead you to build systems, workflows, and ultimately think of yourself as a bigger organization from the start. That alone is going to help you build and scale your company.

Many examples exist of companies that never actually franchised yet still scaled to massive success. I used to work at Starbucks, and saw firsthand how the company used consistent systems that ensured a Frappuccino in San Diego or Seattle is made the same way as one in Boston or Miami.

While this coffee giant is not a franchise, they used the same principles to drive their massive global growth, and helped create a distinctive culture that brings customers back over and over. They create workflows for everything, from how a mocha is made to how the stores get cleaned at the end of the night, to ensure that their more than 20,000+ of their coffee shops are run the same way.

Credit for this goes to CEO Howard Schultz, who was thinking about how to create the world’s biggest coffee company even when he was running a single store in Seattle 45 years ago. Whether it’s one coffee shop or 500, Schultz knew it was vital to figure out (and document) the most efficient systems of production and operation so they could be more easily spread throughout the organization.

He had the vision to become the largest coffee company in the world, and the only way he would achieve that is by making sure everything was smooth operational from the start.

But what really separates the successful ones from those who do less well?

I’ve noticed our most successful local operators were those who were really engaged in what it takes to make a business go. They’re eager to collaborate and take advantage of the resources provided to them. They think, “This busy gym or that office building might be a good opportunity.”

I’ve structured my business to leverage collaborative partners, so I succeed when they do. The most important thing is to make sure you’re creating the lean, efficient processes and collaborative mindset that will allow you to grow. The type of business matters less than the way you go about operating it. If you aren’t ready for success, you’ll never be able to take advantage of it when it comes.

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Stop Thinking like an Employee and Unlock Your Inner Entrepreneur

By A.J. MacQuarrie

If you’re an employee, here’s how your day goes: Get up; Go to work at someone else’s business; Work for someone else’s business; Go to lunch and try not to think about someone else’s business; Go back to work for someone else’s business; Make money for someone else’s business; Go home and try to think about something other than someone else’s business. Rinse. Repeat.

If you’re an entrepreneur, however, your day is completely different. All day long, you’re almost certainly thinking about somebody’s business. But here’s the difference: the business you’re thinking about is your business. And that changes everything. You’ll be thinking about how to make your business better, smarter, more efficient, more profitable, more successful.

It’s a different mindset in every way imaginable. If you’re an employee, you get a (more or less) steady paycheck with benefits (probably) and a place to go each day (again, probably). You trade your time for their dollars. It’s a straightforward exchange, one millions of people make every day.

But life for the entrepreneur involves a completely different transaction. It’s not about time, it’s about pure value. Time is irrelevant. Your business may be based on an idea that took you 2 minutes to think up and will go on to generate millions of dollars. It’s your idea, your smarts, and your work that create the value. You realize that long-term return from your ideas and your efforts.

As a young entrepreneur who’s focused for years on building his business idea into a million-dollar company, that difference in mindset is everything.

Trust me, I know how easy it can be to slip into the employee mindset. My business concept had some early success, but then I faced a daunting series of hurdles and challenges. I needed to make some money to pay bills, so I had to park my company and take a Starbucks barista job.

I did well at Starbucks, and moved up quickly, managing a store of my own at 24. And don’t get me wrong, Starbucks is an amazing company, one I admire as much as any in the world. I learned so much there that I now use in running my own business.

And Starbucks tried to keep me working there, too. Successful Starbucks managers can do well, with bonuses when a store hits the right metrics. The company also gives you great benefits, great people and products, even great customers. It was tempting to just get on that train and ride it as far as it would take me.

That doesn’t mean Starbucks was all easy coffee pouring, of course. I was getting up at 3:30 in the morning to open my store by 4:30. I had a balky car that required an unlikely combination of maneuvers to start on frigid New England mornings. I also began a serious relationship that gave me reason to question why I was doing all those miserable early mornings.

Just as importantly, though, even when I worked for Starbucks, I thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I wasn’t a barista. I was CEO of my company, even as I worked for Howard Schultz’s.

So when I woke up on those cold early mornings, I was thinking about my company. When I went home after a long day, I was thinking about my company. All weekend, I was thinking about my company.

Yes, the time in-between belonged to Starbucks. And yes, I worked hard enough, and in a focused and effective enough manner, that they rewarded me. But eventually, there came a time when I had to choose whether to go run my company, or give it up and stick with Howard Schultz’s.

Every entrepreneur faces this pivotal, and scary, moment. They have to jump out of the nest to see if they can take wing with their idea. There are no guarantees, except one: you’ll finally be focused on building your company instead of someone else’s.

Somewhat ironically, the person who helped me understand that issue was one of those great Starbucks customers. We talked every day at the store, often about my business idea. He encouraged me to pursue it, and invested $20,000 to help me get restarted. Eventually, with support from him and my boyfriend and others, I made the jump.

I became a full-time entrepreneur, with all that entailed. I hired employees, began pushing for new business locations and more.

And becoming a full-time entrepreneur didn’t yet mean I was completely free from working for others. I still needed cash to get by, and the flexibility to run my business during the day. So I took a job as a server at a Fleming’s Steakhouse. That gave me the cash and flexibility I needed, so I could pursue the thing I cared most about.

Let me also say that being a server in that situation is a bit like being an entrepreneur. You’re in charge of your section, and have to pay out your busboy and food runner and other support staff with a share of your tip money. If you’re in a situation like I was and you need some getting-by money as you launch your business, you should consider restaurant service.

Regardless, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to stop thinking like an employee. You could be a stay-at-home mom with an idea for a business, or have any of a thousand other jobs working for others. To get your idea going, you still have to make that crucial mental leap.

Think like an entrepreneur. Invest in your idea with all the energy, brains and attention you can muster. Once you’ve made the mental move, you’ll be able to do all the rest.

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What Drives You Crazy About Millennials Is What Makes Them Great Entrepreneurs

By A.J. MacQuarrie 


For some bosses, millennial employees are a maddening source of frustrations over their stereotypical habits and unconventional approaches to workplace expectations. But what drives those traditional bosses crazy is also what can make millennials great bosses of themselves as entrepreneurs, creating their own business opportunities.

I’m one of those millennial entrepreneurs, a 28-year-old who found my place in business after getting great training by one of the world’s biggest companies. It took my business just a year to hit its first million from a $20,000 investment. I came up with a novel vending machine idea called KarmaBox, which sells healthy snacks and beverages. The main driving force behind this was when I gained a bit of weight in college – I lived off vending machines and all the food was junk. I then got healthy and a “hey, why aren’t healthy snacks more convenient” light bulb went off in my head that led to the birth of my business.

If you are creative, hardworking and fearless, you are the perfect entrepreneurial candidate. Naysayers have plenty of complaints when it comes to us. But let’s decide to turn those into positives and why they make for a great entrepreneur, if not always the perfect corporate employee:

  • We have a sense of entitlement. Yes, we may have participation trophies just for showing up at youth soccer or karate class as kids, no matter how bad we or our team might be. But that also built a sense of confidence, optimism and willingness to try even unlikely things, and an unshakable belief that we’re good enough to make it happen. Can you imagine a better mindset for someone testing the uncharted waters of entrepreneurial creation?
  • We’re glued to our phones. Well, yeah, but that also means we’re more comfortable with all kinds of new technologies, mobile and otherwise, adopting them fearlessly and then adapting them quickly for new uses. That openness means we’re more likely to see the opportunities in new technologies, and less bound to old business models and old ways of doing things. Every entrepreneur finds opportunity in overlooked or misused existing resources, and the unexpected potential created by new technologies. Technology, and being unafraid to use it, also gives us the opportunity to implement lean business models that otherwise wouldn’t be available.
  • We don’t respect our elders. This isn’t quite true. Unlike baby boomers who spent their youth rebelling from everything their parents represented, we millennials are close friends with our parents and have many older friends. We even like their music. But it also means we don’t want to wait in line for our shot at success 10 or 20 years from now, trudging up some slow-moving corporate ladder. We want to make things happen now, controlling our own destiny, and heading out to create our own opportunities. That’s core to the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • We don’t respect corporate hierarchies. Yes, that sometimes means the 24-year-old assistant thinks nothing of emailing the CEO with suggestions about how to run the company better. It also means we’re not interested in silos and are capable of thinking of the bigger picture. After years of group projects in school, we’re far more collaborative and solution-oriented. And in the small teams that characterize startups, that’s a vital mindset. Everyone wears just about every hat in the closet at a small company. Entrepreneurs need to be able to do all the things that need to get done, with little concern about who “owns” what role.
  • We’re lazy. What that really means is we look for other, more efficient ways to get things done, instead of relying automatically on the same old processes that don’t always make sense in a fast-changing economy and technological landscape. It means leveraging new tools and new ways of thinking to get to a better, different place. Every entrepreneur needs to know how to do more with less.
  • We’re job hoppers. To some extent, this is less about millennials than it is about the changing job environment we faced coming out of college. Fewer companies are investing in employees and giving them reasons to be loyal. Given that most millennials became adults in the middle of a long, brutal recession or its slow-growth recovery, for many, our best opportunities for success came from the ones we created for ourselves.

The reason so many young millennials have dived into entrepreneurial opportunities is they’re smart enough to know they need to find the best setting for their talents and mindset, and brave enough to seek it out. And for would-be entrepreneurs, that’s a combination that’s tough to beat.

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8 Tips for High School Students Ready to Start Their First Businesses

By A.J. MacQuarrie

More than 15 million U.S. high school students head to school every fall, and many 

of them will become entrepreneurs, building their own futures, creating wealth and doing what they love.

Entrepreneurship is respected, fun and dynamic (now more than ever before). There’s never a dull moment. It’s something you can start at any time in your life and, especially if you are young, you’ll only get better at it as you travel through life. It’s like a muscle you can work on and practice.

As Mark Cuban says, business is the ultimate sport. It’s an exciting way to do life. You have a direct impact on the economy, create jobs, create wealth and solve a multitude of problems that make peoples’ lives better.

There’s no time better than now for any young entrepreneur to embark on the adventure of their life.

1. Do it now: Start your own business.

Like swimming, you just have to jump in and start paddling. You know those ideas you’ve been batting around? Write them down. What’s your best one? What makes it better? How can you gain an edge? Talk about your idea with your friends, gather feedback from them, from parents, teachers, your target customers. And go for it.

Don’t make it complicated. It can be a simple business, like babysitting, yard work or dog walking. This is going to give you experience in setting up a business — organizing paperwork, registering it, getting a business license, a tax identification number and so forth. Legitimize it as much as you can because your age is working against you. Babysitters who have CPR and First Aid certificates are a cut above. References from satisfied customers, before and after photos of a house-painting project you completed — whatever you can point to that shows you are serious and that you care about what you do.

2. Find your first mentors.

This step is very important. And it’s a lot easier than you might think it would be. The business world is filled with people who’ve made it and want to “send the elevator down” to pass along the knowledge, lessons and insights they’ve accumulated in their climb to success. It might be intimidating to ask someone, but go ahead and approach some local business owners and ask them if they can help you and mentor you. Throughout your life as an entrepreneur you should actively seek out and ask for mentorship. You will always need someone supportive, honest and neutral to turn to for advice.

3. Get a job.

Wait, wait … why get a job when you’re starting a business? Well, for one very good reason: You need to get more experience with customers and people. American businesses pride themselves on providing excellent customer service — but no one is born innately knowing how to do that. It’s something you learn how to do. The experience of interacting with people makes a huge difference to building a successful business. You need to learn to be the face of the company, to exhibit grace under pressure and to spread that smile on your face to satisfied customers and coworkers even on their crummiest day. Attitude may not be everything, but it’s always going to be a lot, so start becoming an entrepreneur by learning from McDonald’s or your local supermarket.

4. Embrace failure.

Everyone fails. It’s what we learn from our failures that teaches us what we need to be successful. Overcome any fear of failure you might feel — that feeling is the biggest obstacle of any you’ll ever face. Try. Fail. Get back up. Convert the experience into education. Learn its lessons. Did you need more focus, attention, effort? Get back up and try again, armed with your experience.

5. Put yourself out there.

First, be yourself. Remember what may not be considered cool in high school could give you an edge as an entrepreneur. Step out of your comfort zone. Run for student government, join a sports or academic team, get involved with the school news team. You need to start getting comfortable being a leader and marketing yourself, because ultimately that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. You’ll benefit from anything where you work on teams with others. It’s good to be able to juggle a lot going on, to meet obligations and develop accountability.

6. Get involved with theater.

I was involved in community theater since I was very young and I started my own theater company when I was 17. It was my first real business. It developed so many skills in working with people and overcoming shyness. Today, I can command important phone calls and my team, and I credit my experience being involved in 35 productions with developing the skills necessary to build up my business into a nationwide healthy vending company.

7. Pay attention in these classes (I wish I had!).

Math is critical because you won’t be able to rely on an accountant or bookkeeper when you get your business started. And after you’re successful, you still need to keep an eye on your finances — your livelihood is at stake.

English and writing are crucial. You need to communicate your ideas clearly and often. You need to persuade customers and financiers and suppliers. You need to sound intelligent and inspire confidence.


8. Recognize opportunities and pursue them.

Look for a problem in your community. Think about how you can possibly create a business around solving it. Start thinking about it even if you never do it. You need to start exercising the creative brainstorming part of your brain.

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