Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Steps to Make Your Meetings Count by Andris Pukke

Too often I hear business people complain about how wasteful meetings are- time is money and unproductive meetings can be a vacuum for both. Due to the dynamics of personalities and politics in meetings, it’s important for the leader to keep things from derailing. You can make your meetings count with these 5 steps.

1. Establish the Goal
Deciding the purpose of your meeting will guide key elements like who the attendees of the meeting are and how much time should be invested. With a common mission for all parties, your goal should be reached at the conclusion of the meeting.

2. Outline the Agenda
Your agenda will be the guiding force to keeping your meeting on track.  Distribute it to your attendees along with any other relevant materials before the meeting.  Make sure that each item is necessary to reach your established goal and delegate someone responsible for each item.

3. Direct the Dialogue
Be prepared to determine whether off-track topics need to be “taken offline” (a.k.a. discussed later, amongst specific attendees) and direct the attention back to the task at hand. Remember the all-important purpose of the meeting: that goal you established in Step 1. Anything not progressing towards that goal can be disruptive to everyone’s time investment in the meeting.

4. Determine Next Steps
At the close of the meeting, make sure that each task has a deadline and has been delegated to a team member.  These action items should all pave the road to achieving the common mission of the meeting.

5. Send a Summary
Soon after the meeting ends, send a recap of the meeting to everyone who attended and those who could not attend.  This will solidify what was discussed, who is responsible for which follow-up tasks and how your goal will be reached. 

These simple steps will help you prepare for and take control of your meetings so that they count.  Ultimately, your team will end up feeling more productive and purposeful than ever.

How will you improve your next meeting? 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

3 Ways to Get in Front of Your Target Audience by Andris Pukke

Do you ever wonder why so many great businesses fail? Even ones with seemingly well thought-out business plans and with a proven demand for their service can fail if they forget to prioritize one key element: marketing.  I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your company in front of the right sets of eyeballs.  Marketing to your target audience must take precedence so that you can successfully reach key consumers.  Most successful businesses have capitalized on the ability to take a product or service and bring it market properly. Below are 3 key ways that you can get your business in front of your target audience.

1 – Website Creation
Your online presence is a reflection of your business and can allow you to create important sales leads.  On your website, you can request contact information in order to follow up with people whom you know are already interested in your business. 
You can also drive traffic to your site using Google Adwords, which allows you track website visits that eventually turn into customers.  When you have established a good conversion rate, you can then spend some of the budget on radio advertising.

2 – Radio Advertising
Take advantage of working with radio media companies since they have the data on who listens to what and when.  Once you’ve discussed with them your audience goals, they can also help figure out how to maximize your budget. Radio is a good place to offer a special discount or bonus to consumers for mentioning the spot when purchasing.
After a few months, measure your conversions from your radio advertising.  In the meantime, you may have to perfect your messaging in order to get more leads, but ultimately if the radio ads work, try television advertising next.

3 – Television Advertising
You want to be sure that your internet and radio advertising have proven successful before you spend the money on television.  Be judicious with your budget and shoot a good commercial with a production company that will give you a decent price.  Start small and test in local markets before working up to nationwide commercials.  Be sure to buy commercial time during slots in which your target consumer will be watching TV.  Use the crawl, walk, run theory with these 3 steps- one has to be achieved before you can go to the next. 
Have patience- it takes a solid amount of time to be able to property analyze the results of these marketing tools. Be prepared to refine your ad messaging as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
Have you tried internet, radio or television advertising to get your business in front of your target audience?  What kind of success have you had with these mediums?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

5 Essentials of a Successful Business by Andris Pukke

As an entrepreneur, it’s a necessity to have vision and the ability to determine whether an idea can actualize into a thriving business.  Over the years, I’ve found that there are five major essentials of successful businesses. 

1- A Comprehensive Process
We all know the phrase “time is money”. The most successful businesses have perfected the art of efficiency by determining a scalable process that can be repeated.  The product or service is one that can be replicated for all customers, instead of spending valuable time customizing for each client.

2 – True Demand
Confidence is key; however before investing time and money in a business idea, every successful entrepreneur has taken pause to determine the feasibility of their product or service in advance.  Ways to do this include demographic research and surveys on the target market.  The best businesses have figured out whether there is a desire for their product or service first, and made adjustments before going fully into the market.

3 – Talent
Building an all-star team can be one of the most difficult steps for an entrepreneur; however thriving businesses always have a strong employee foundation.  The leaders of these companies have taken the time to evaluate potential team members and get to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses so that where one player is weak, another excels. 

4 – Reinvesting of Profits
Booming businesses are always looking to expand.  Great leaders measure success on the growth of their business. They constantly roll profits into growth and expansion. When these businesses have made it into the black and are turning a profit, they reassess and determine the best way to reinvest that money into projecting the business into a new tier of opportunity. 

5 – Patience
The best businesses are ones that are run by patient leaders. “Slow and steady wins the race” is the mantra for smart entrepreneurs.  The companies that spend the time to properly evaluate the strength of their own business model in the beginning become more scalable. Patience, a proper process, and re-investing of profits always equal success.

These are the 5 qualities that I’ve seen as benchmarks of a thriving business. Can you pinpoint these characteristics in successful companies that you follow?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

3 Secrets of the Power Player by Andris Pukke

3 Secrets of the Power Player

Succeeding in business requires developing and using a diverse set of skills. Different industries require different specific skill sets but there are a few in particular that are universally demanded.  I’ll let you in on a secret. Hone these three skills and watch the power flow:

1. Embrace “No.”

It is better to be respected than liked. Nobody likes a “yes” man. If you want to build a lasting reputation as a business leader, it is important to understand the power of the word “No”. You are the ultimate decision maker for your business and life. It is ignorant to think you can do everything for everyone. It is also ignorant to believe that everyone is going to follow through on their word. Learn to understand it is ok to say “No”. People rely on you to make the tough decisions that will lead the business to success. The world is too competitive to over-promise and under-deliver. If you fall short, you can be easily replaced. That being said, know that those working for or with you can be replaced. You’d be surprised at how productive employees can be if you challenge them. I’m sure you’ve seen a child that has never been told “No”. They are spoiled, poorly behaved and set up for massive disappointments in life. Parents that regularly discipline and guide their children raise well-mannered, driven adults. Building an employee team is no different. Regular guidance and structure helps you build an army of well-rounded successful employees.

2. Develop Honest Relationships

Lies are the bricks that build houses of failure. Be honest with people. Properly manage expectations and you will find that people respect you for that honesty. You will also find that people would rather work with an honest person they can depend on instead of an inconsistent producer. I’ve explained to everyone I mentor how strong relationships are the key to my success. As a leader, it is your responsibility to be able to build relationships and trust quickly. You represent your brand. Carry yourself well and shed positive light on your business. You have a few options in life. You choose the circles in which you do business. Keep a network of honest, hard-working business affiliates and you will find that you will push each other into positions of prosperity and greatness.

3. Do Your Homework

Today’s business environment is fast paced. Companies grow from concept to millions seemingly overnight. In this unprecedented time in history, it is easy to develop a jaded sense of reality. People are selling companies that are not even profitable! It’s easy to think you could just come up with an idea, make a nice pitch deck, sell the idea and retire. It could happen, but it probably won’t. Research and planning are an extremely important part of building a successful business. You can save tons of time and money by putting in a little research up front.  If you have a good idea, talk to a few trusted advisors about the idea. Get some input. Figure out if people want what you are about to provide. I’ve had ideas that I thought were brilliant fall flat after I’ve spent millions trying to force them to succeed. I’ve also seen ideas that I considered ridiculous turn into hugely profitable companies. The key here is to figure out if people really want what you will offer and if you can deliver what they need.  If they want it, and you can provide it, you have a business that merits an investment of your precious time.
Stay hungry for knowledge. Always broaden your skill sets. As your skills grow, make sure to keep them rooted in strong, tested disciplines. I’ve found that embracing the power of “No”, developing honest relationships, and doing my homework are the real secrets to my success.

Do you agree with me? Do you have another secret for succeeding in today’s fast paced business environment?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

3 Ways to Identify a Good Angel Investment

Just like most business owners, I hate wasting time. As an angel investor I’m often forced to decide if I am going to invest my money into somebody else’s business. After sitting through hundreds of investment proposals, I’ve developed a pretty strong ability to determine if a plan has potential or is a waste of time. I thought I would share some of the things I look for in a strong business deal to help you make sound investment decisions.

1 – Direct Involvement

I’m done investing in any companies without being directly involved. If I’m investing in a company, I’m looking for a controlling interest, board seat or, at least, maintaining close contact and proximity to the day-to-day operation. Out of sight, out of mind holds true too often. If you invest your money and the business is out of your sight, it can quickly slip out of your mind. Before you know it, eight months have passed without really knowing what is going on. When you call to check in, it’s easy to hear “things are moving along nicely, it’s coming together.” You get lip service. If a business is on the other side of the country, I’m not going to fly over every week to drop in and make sure things are going well. I’m not suggesting this is the only way to invest in businesses. I’m suggesting this is how I have decided to invest in businesses.
When a business is courting you for investment they are EXTREMELY attentive. Once they get the investment, there is a tendency for that attention and communication to dissipate. That is unless, you stay in close proximity. The best incubator groups in the world work in collaborative environments with their investment partners and mentors. In summary, I like to do deals I can stay involved in and be around.

2 – Due Diligence

When people come up with a “good idea” they seem to instantly start persuading others to agree with them. In reality, they should be asking others IF it is a good idea. Due diligence and feasibility studying seem to be the lost arts of entrepreneurship. 7 out of 10 business presentations I sit through have no track record or self conducted market research. I do see plenty of Google search results. Google search results don’t show me any proof that what you’re going to do, or doing, will work. Just watch Shark Tank. The potential investors always ask, “How many of these have you sold?” Show me a sales track record. Show me that you’ve tried to succeed on your own before seeking investment. Show me that you’ve put some of your own money into your project. It always fascinates me how easily people can justify putting other people’s money at risk without putting any skin in the game. If I’m going to invest in a business, I want a partner that is willing to invest their money as well. Businesses are built on partnerships. If you want a successful partnership and business, you’d better do your research and make sure it’s worth your time.

3 – Integrity

Investing in a business is actually investing in a person, or people, tasked with executing a business plan. You can buy a business plan but without the right people it will never develop. The number one thing I look for in an investment opportunity is a person or team that is committed to success. They must have high integrity. They must have the proven capability or potential to succeed. It is important to know the history of a company and management team before investing. Many times, frustrated entrepreneurs will shop for bailouts or new deals if they are under financial duress or in a disagreement with previous investors. The last thing you want is a lawsuit ridden, cash strapped investment. Do background checks, check references, ask thought provoking questions and analyze responses. Spend time getting to know your investment. Always know before you go.
The world is filled with people that will try to convince you to give them your money. Television and radio are filled with items marketed to you by people that want your money. Individuals and businesses seeking investment are no different than QVC salespeople. Their objective is to get your money in their hands. Make sure you protect yourself by staying involved, working with companies that have completed thorough due diligence and have integrity. Remember, it is not your obligation to hand out investment capital. If a deal does not meet your standards, kindly suggest improvements and move on. It is too easy to lose precious hours on pipe dreams and ideas. Do your homework and make your time count.

What do you look for when evaluating an investment opportunity?

Monday, April 7, 2014

3 Key Motivators of Successful Leaders

Why do people climb mountains? Why do people develop software? Why do people start businesses? Why does anyone do anything? They do things because they are motivated by needs and wants to take an action. As a business leader, you should reflect and determine your three key motivators. Awareness of your intrinsic motivations often provides valuable clarity regarding your personal and professional goals.Not sure what motivates you? Here are my top 3 personal motivators to help you get started on your path to personal discovery…

1) The Challenge

Building a business is not easy. We are faced with obstacles to overcome every day. Each morning, I have one crucial decision to make. I have to decide if I’m going to face the day’s challenges as a “game” or “work.” If you decide to view it as fun, daily challenges are like solving puzzles. When you’re a little kid, you do puzzles for fun. Just because you’re older, and money is involved, why should solving daily business puzzles stop being fun? Sometimes puzzles may be disguised as mundane daily tasks. From commuting to work, to sourcing investment capital, to building a strong management team. All of these are dynamic puzzles. I find that if I approach business as a puzzle, I am more energetic, creative and happy to get up and attack the day. I enjoy overcoming the obstacles. Give it a try today!

2) Financial Stability

Money itself is NOT one of my daily motivators. Money is a way to keep score. Keeping score is an excellent work ethic motivator. It’s the stability of financial success-not the accumulation of money-that is motivating. With stability, comes independence. Once you achieve a certain level of financial success, you can make decisions void of financial need. In business, it is common to make decisions because of financial needs or constraints. Nobody can put you under their thumb if you don’t need their money. You remain in control. If money wasn’t a factor, would you have shaped your company differently?

Money is a measuring stick. Revenue allows us to determine momentum and strength. If a company is growing quickly, you can tell because revenues will increase. If a company is strong, revenues will not deteriorate. I’m a competitive person and I take pride in my work. If I’m investing my time in something, I want the results to show well against my competitors. Let money help you measure your distance to stability but do not let it chart the course.

3) Legacy

Most people’s office spaces contain similar items. It’s common to find pictures of family and friends. These are images of joy, inspiration and motivation. Creating a family or business legacy is a common motivator. Many entrepreneurs start out driven by making their own name. Once I achieved financial stability, my legacy drive switched to making a positive name for my family. Leaving a positive mark on society and the business community drives me daily. I push through difficult times using motivation rooted in creating a legacy. Focus on leaving your mark. What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to be remembered? Think about these questions. Only you control what you decide to do today and tomorrow. Every day, we get the opportunity to make a new impact on the world around us.

Each of us are motivated for different reasons. People always ask, “What do you want in life?” Take some time to ask not what you want, but what makes you do things? Look back at your successes and failures. Figure out what gets you going. Pick three key motivators and tailor them to help you win the daily game that is your life. In business, money can help you measure your strength. Leave a legacy you would be proud of. As a business leader, it is your job to motivate yourself and your team. They will feed off of your energy. Challenge yourself to make a positive impact every day. Leave. Your. Mark.