The Vision Board Is Your Internal GPS System to Realizing Your Dreams

The Vision Board Is Your Internal GPS System to Realizing Your Dreams

Leadership Consultant and Author
Image credit: Shutterstock

We all dream of the things that would make us happy. A gratifying career, vigorous health and a life filled with exhilarating experiences shared with family and friends. But sometimes, no matter how hard we work, our dreams may seem elusive, leaving us burned-out and disillusioned.

Defining your purpose, hopes and dreams can be a murky space for many people to be in. You may know what you want, but have no idea how to get there. Visualizing your goals provides clarity to your desired outcomes. Vision, combined with a purposeful commitment to worthy goals, is a healthy prescription for a fulfilling life. As the late self-help guru Wayne Dyer said: “Thoughts are mental energy. They’re the currency that you have to attract what you desire. You must learn to stop spending that currency on thoughts you don’t want, even though you may feel compelled to continue your habitual behaviour.” As Dyer points out, your thoughts are continually weaving your story and forming your beliefs and behaviors.

Related: How to Get That Lying Voice in Your Head to Stop Sabotaging Your Dreams

In terms of achieving success, personal and external factors such as upbringing, education and geographic location certainly come into play, but it’s also what’s inside that counts. Perspective is everything. If you examine the beliefs and habits of many successful people, you’ll find a common denominator: They possess an unwavering vision that a high level of success is possible. Limiting thoughts will yield limiting results. For that reason, it’s important to remember that your thoughts have enormous power and can influence your experiences.

Author Tina Naughton Powers once said: “Vision boards can provide us with a blueprint that aligns our desires with reality. Through the images and words we choose, we become inspired to move forward with ideas for the future we might never have considered before.”

There are many ways to support your goals by tapping into your imagination and visualizing the outcome. One way to do this is to create a vision board or vision journal. Naysayers may argue that mind exercises or visualizations are a load of metaphysical bunk. However, visualization has long been touted as a useful tool to help attain objectives. Olympic athletes use it consistently, and there is a growing body of neuroplasticity research dedicated to visualization for dealing with pain and treating illnesses.

Related: What Pushes People to Bring Their Dreams to Life?

Here are four steps you can take to get closer to your own personal visualization:

1. Create without judgment.

There is no right or wrong way to create your vision board. Start with a canvas or design board. You may choose to draw or paint on your board, add photos or pictures from magazines — anything that has particular meaning to you and reflects your vision for the future.

2. Look at your vision board daily.

Use a decorative picture frame to house your vision board statements, allowing you to change them frequently — and be sure to place them where you can see them each day.

3. Alternatively, create a vision journal.

Use it as a daily reminder of gratitude, quotes, or just one word that resonates with you. Incorporate sketches and allow your thoughts to flow onto the paper, without judgment.

4. Set the ego aside and go within.

Notice how you feel when creating it. Apply your conscious, creative energy toward the possibilities of what could be, rather than dwelling on what you may deem impossible. Once you complete the board, try to take small steps each day to fortify your vision. Make choices that align with your ideas for the future and be open to possibilities of how you can create it.

Essentially, creating a vision board or using a vision journal means you are projecting your own productive endgame. But it would be foolish to believe that just because you consistently visualize something, it will magically appear on your front doorstep. Your vision must accompany steps to bring your dreams to fruition. The vision board or journal simply acts as a catalyst for change. It is always a balance between vision and action.

If you don’t have a vision it’s easy to get sidetracked. Think of it this way: If you are in a boat on the ocean being bumped around by every wave without any navigation system or set course, you’ll never get anywhere. Once you’ve identified your personal vision, it is like having your own internal GPS on at all times. You’ll have a set of navigational tools that will help you move in the right direction with focus, intention, and conviction.

Related: Improve Your Business Intuition By Doing One Simple Thing

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

Real Estate Investor and VP of Growth at

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.

Related: Earn More Cash Through Your Personal Brand With These 3 Avenues

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.

Related: 10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Do on the Side

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.

Related: 9 Ideas to Make a Side Income While Growing Your Business

For Your Business to Grow Bigger, You Need to Think Bigger

#StadiumStatus -- For Your Business to Grow Bigger, You Need to Think Bigger

Performance Consultant, Speaker & Award-Winning Author

With the World Series underway this week, there’s a great lesson for entrepreneurs in understanding how to play at the level athletes and entertainers call “stadium status.”

Stadium status is a term popularized by musicians and athletes. It’s that elusive place every coach, athlete, entertainer and performer of every type strives to reach. It’s moving from being an opening act to the headliner, from performing on a small stage to the greatest stage in the largest venue possible: a sold out stadium.

It’s the same elusive place every entrepreneur strives to reach. To move from an also ran to the biggest and best in class. From small accounts or a small customer base to a big stadium full of raving fans.

It’s a concept I learned from country musician Granger Smith and his manager Tyler Smith. Several years ago, they set their sights on achieving stadium status. To keep their vision top of mind, any time they had a new idea, reached a new milestone or grew their brand to the “next level,” they’d repeat the mantra#StadiumStatus to one another verbally and on social media.

Related: 5 Levels of Intensifying Your Dreams in Business

Why is keeping your vision in front of you integral to winning? To understand what wins we must first understand what causes losing. We create success, or failure, in our minds before we create it in the marketplace.

The event: 1986 World Series game six

The Boston Red Sox enjoyed a 5-3 lead in extra innings and were just three outs away from winning their first championship in 68 years. The New York Mets managed to tie the game and hit three straight singles, when Mookie Wilson hit a grounder that went up the first base line and through Bill Buckner’s legs, allowing the winning run to score.

Just 16 days before game six, Buckner was interviewed by Don Shane of WBZ-TV and he described the pressures of post-season play:

“The dreams are that you’re gonna have a great series and win. The nightmares are that you’re gonna let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs. Those things happen, you know. I think a lot of it is just fate.”

What is now widely known as the most costly error in sports history may never have happened if Buckner protected his confidence and maintained a better vision of his future. What happened to Bill Buckner can and does happen to all of us on a different scale every day.

How to protect yourself

You should utilize affirmations like Granger Smith’s band does. Repeating affirmations of what you want (not what you want to avoid) will enhance your beliefs. When you enhance your beliefs you will enhance your results. If you think it often enough, it becomes a part of you. According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking to yourself respectfully makes you smarter.

In an interview with Smith and his drummer, Dusty Saxton, Saxton shared with me a critical juncture in their journey. A number of years ago, after a show where things went less than stellar, Saxton told the band, “Listen guys, I’ll be playing stadiums one day whether it’s with this band or another band.”

He was reaffirming his vision and in the process refocusing his band mates. As a result, the band now uses the stadium-status mantra not just on good days but also on bad ones when things go wrong in order to reinforce their vision to themselves. I believe, like Saxton, you have a responsibility to have a bigger vision for the people around you than sometimes they have for themselves.

Smith attributes his band members embracing and consistently repeating this mantra as a key to their success: “For a band member who might be doubtful a couple years ago, hearing everyone repeat this is reinforcement of our collective vision.”

Related: 3 Strategies to Explode Your Business Growth

They’ve gone from playing small markets to stadium status and were recently announced as iHeart radio’s On The Verge artist. Make no mistake about it, Smith is an entrepreneur and the lesson for the entrepreneur in Smith’s rise to stadium status lies in this quote he shared with me:

It’s not about talent or work ethic. That’s just enough to get you in the door because a lot of people have talent and work ethic. It’s about strategy too. My talent was good enough to get me in the game, after that it’s up to me how I play the game.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, athlete or musician, you’re either growing or dying. There’s no standing still. Talent and work ethic might get you in the game, but stadium status takes strategy. Your strategy, like Smith’s, must start with a vision.

Nobody starts out at stadium status. Everything starts from humble beginnings before it grows to stadium status. Smith’s stadium-status journey began with his first album in 1998.

Your journey can be intimidating, frustrating, painful and sometimes downright humbling. What makes it a lot easier is having great teammates. All great teams have great teammates. Like Saxton, they help you get your mind right and protect your confidence every step of the way to stadium status.

Food for thought

The only way you can keep moving forward with positive momentum is to protect your confidence every day. One of the best ways to protect your confidence is to be very selective in who you surround yourself with. Who do you spend most of your time with? Who is your peer group? Do you spend time with people who support you and lift you up?

You need to spend time with people who not only share your vision but have a bigger vision than you. That forces you to step your game up.

For more stadium-status strategies to turn your potential into performance, join my free weekly newsletter.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Success a Routine Matter

The 9 Principles That People Who Feel Successful Say They Live By (Infographic)

The 9 Principles That People Who Feel Successful Say They Live By (Infographic)

Comedian, Author, Marketing Expert
Image credit: Shutterstock

Success is an abstract concept, almost as difficult to define as it is to achieve. To make matters worse, in our world of ultra-connectedness and changing priorities, the traditional path to success no longer applies.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Success a Routine Matter

Yet while many of us would agree with that sentiment, the systems set up in corporations and society overall still reward traditional, standard success, while de-valuing the intensely personal journey people take to actually feel successful.

That doesn’t sit well with me, so, over the past year, I’ve set out to explore that fundamental disconnect, and to chart a blueprint for personal success. Perhaps because I had no better place to start, I first looked to the dictionary. There, the definition of success is: “the attainment of wealth, position, honors or the like.” And, unfortunately, this definition accurately depicts modern society’s attitude. That’s troubling, especially when you consider the order of attributes.

  1. Wealth
  2. Position
  3. Honors
  4. “The Like”

Perhaps this is a self-serving philosophy, but I don’t wish to exist in a world where success is measured primarily by wealth. I know plenty of people whom I would consider successful in their chosen paths who are not “wealthy” by census criteria. Conversely, there are many wealthy individuals who don’t personify the type of “success” I would aspire to (cough, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, cough). A consideration of 1 percent in monetary value doesn’t necessarily correlate with 1 percent in work ethic, or intellectual ability or passion.

“Position” is another concept that shouldn’t be solely used to define success. While people who ascend to positions of power may very well be successful, should the decision to not pursue a position exclude someone from success? Remember the old adage, “The best candidate never runs for president.”

Third, and possibly most preposterous, is the idea of “honors.” Honors include awards and recognition bestowed upon people through a supposedly objective process. But,often, that process is anything but objective and can’t possibly be used as a true reflection of success. Of course, if anyone reading this wants to toss me some honors, I’ll take ’em, but they won’t define whether or not I am ultimately successful. There has to be something more.

In  interviews with people across a myriad of disciplines, including clinical psychiatry, education, athletics, film production, entertainment and more, I’ve determined nine principles that repeatedly surface in individuals who say theyfeel successful:

1. Create Often. 

People who feel successful often spend considerable time creating, whether those creations are companies, art or even a small backyard garden. They report a cathartic and meaningful feeling from being responsible for something new in the world.

2. Understand the self. 

Another trait of truly successful people is their ability to understand themselves, both their positive and negative traits. Successful people spend time working on themselves and reflecting on their motivations. This is never a one-and-done process; it continues throughout the course of life and helps inform decisions and behavior that can lead to greater achievement.

Related: The 7 Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success

3. Have fun.

This one sounds almost foolishly simple, but it’s really important to feeling successful. One of the biggest regrets of traditionally successful people at the end of their lives is that they worked too hard and didn’t spend enough time enjoying people they cared about. Incorporating a consistent emphasis on plain old fun and happiness is key to feeling as if you’re building a life you can be proud of.

4. Suspend judgments.

Judgment not only can kill your career, it can dramatically decrease your ability to grow and move forward. Everyone has things they regret; that’s a virtual certainty in our lives. Spending time learning from mistakes is productive, but spending time judging yourself or others for mistakes drains valuable energy better used elsewhere.

5. Seek challenges.

Failure is not the opposite of success; stagnation is. People who say they feel as though they are moving in a positive direction are often those who purposefully seek out challenges, both professionally and personally. Your friend who’s training for a marathon isn’t doing it just for fun; she’s doing it because it’s hard and will push her limits.

6. Pursue meaning.

People find meaning in different ways. Whether volunteering for a humanitarian group; raising smart, well-behaved children; or just being a good friend: Whatever path you must take to find meaning, take it.

7. Make change work for you. 

There are changes that we openly initiate, and changes we must react to. In either situation, making the most of the hand you are dealt is imperative to making progress and achieving success. Resisting and being unwilling to adapt will only slow you down emotionally.

8. Develop resilience.

Resilience is a trait some people develop through childhood. Essentially, it is the ability to overcome obstacles and bounce back from setbacks positively. While we don’t control the obstacles sent our way, our response to them is within our control. The key, I’ve found, to creating resilient character is to find and surround yourself with positive, supportive individuals.

9. Constantly improve.

Finally, this behavioral trait connects with each of the others in a fairly profound way. No one can be perfect in his or her acceptance and application of this blueprint, but continuing to pursue perfection is the clearest path to success.

Do you feel successful? What are the ways that you set up your life in order to grow, achieve and enjoy what you do? Wealth and power are great, but at the end of the day, they won’t adequately define who you are, and the narrative of your legacy. The latter is far more important, it’s time we treat it that way.

To learn more, check out my new book, The Success Disconnect: Why the Smartest People Choose Meaning Over Money. 

Related: 4 Important Keys That Will Unlock Your Fast Track to Success

20 Inspiring and Valuable Quotes on Leadership

20 Inspiring and Valuable Quotes on Leadership

Speaker and Maximum Performance Strategist. CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises
Image credit: Pixabay

Every day I pick out a quote that I carry around with me and really spend a lot of time thinking about it. I think about the meaning of that quote and all of the possible ways on how I can adopt that into my way of living.

Below are 20 leadership quotes that I have been paying close attention to as of late. I hope these quotes add value to your life and inspire you to become a better leader.

1. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

Related: 38 of the Most Inspirational Leadership Quotes

2. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch

3. “Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers.” — Simon Sinek

4. “Think about all the great leaders. Think about Obama. Think about Clinton. Think about all the people that we know who are very successful in business, in politics and religion. What are they? They tell purposeful stories. They move people to action by aiming at the heart.” — Peter Guber

5. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — Colin Powell

6. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” — Ronald Reagan

7. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” — Jim Rohn

8. “You manage things. You lead people.” — U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Grave Murray Hopper

9. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” — John Maxwell

10 “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis

Related: 9 Cheesy, But Inspiring, Sayings You Wish You Never Heard — But Will Be Glad You Did

11. “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” — Sam Walton

12. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” — Theodore Roosevelt

13. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” — Nelson Mandela

14. “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” — Henry Ford

15. “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army or in an office.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

16. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

17. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

18. “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” — Andrew Carnegie

19. “I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.” — Colin Powell

20. “ As a leader … your principal job is to create an operating environment where others can do great things.” — Richard Teerlink

Related: 5 Quotes to Remind You to Act With Urgency

6 Reasons Entrepreneurs Succeed Sooner Taking the Bus

6 Reasons Entrepreneurs Succeed Sooner Taking the Bus

Co-founder, Pressboard
Image credit:

The most common complaint among entrepreneurs is a lack of time. There is simply never enough hours in the day to squeeze in work, exercise and still have some time left for yourself and your family. By one estimate, entrepreneurs work 63 percent longer than other workers.

I’ve found adding public transportation to my daily schedule actually gives me time to accomplish more.

Over a year ago I went all-in on public transportation as my primary mode of transportation. I had just quit my job, started my new company and moved out to the burbs. A second vehicle payment was the last thing I wanted to take on. Now, after about a couple hundred round trips, here’s why I believe that every entrepreneur should be riding the bus.

1. It’s cheap.

You need to save every penny you can when you’re starting a business. The slower the money is going out the door, the longer your runway, the higher your profitability and the lower your stress levels. A monthly bus pass costs you $100 a month. A car payment, insurance, fuel and parking will run you upwards of $1,000.

2. You can work instead of drive.

It doesn’t take much focus to be a passenger. While the bus driver takes you from Point A to Point B (with a few stops along the way), you can type, talk, eat. All at once if you want. I tend to use my commuting time to write blog posts, catch up on emails and schedule my day. If you’re spending an hour commute each way right now, you’ve just added over 500 hours of active work time each year to previously useless time stuck in gridlock.

Related: European Court Rules That Commuting Time Is Part of the Workday

3. You can soak in the city.

Most of us stare at a screen from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. An excess of screen time has been shown to cause everything from anxiety, to restlessness, even damaging the brain itself.

Riding the bus gives you ample opportunity to take in your surroundings, whether it’s the architecture of your city, the buzz of the people or the changing of the seasons.

4. It’s the perfect focus group.

A bus is effectively a cross section of society. A rolling focus group that picks up a few people from every geographical regional, income level and occupation along the way. It’s not uncommon to have an investment banker, college student and young family riding side by side.

With some carefully honed detective skills you’ll quickly learn how the business crowd is consuming media, what brands are popular among families and the lingo of the millennial crowd. If you have the nerve to ask a few questions, you will even get some interesting consumer insights that no online survey could ever provide.

Related: 8 Tips for an Awesome, Healthier Commute

5. It’s good for the environment.

Public transit is the original “sharing economy.” By supporting your local transit authority you are paving the way for more transit lines and lower congestion. Whether it means fewer roadways, fewer cars or less pollution, public transit is on earth’s side. In today’s triple bottom line economy (people, planet, profit), it’s never been more important to be green.

6. It’s safer.

The chances of you dying on a bus over the next year are 1 in 6,696,307. You are 380 times more likely to die in your car, especially as you frantically add a smiley face to your email while balancing an egg McMuffin and changing lanes on the highway (that’s right, I saw you). In fact, you are more likely to die from falling out of bed in the morning than you are on your daily bus ride.

So, tour the city, uncover customer insights and get add work hours to your day. Save some money, the environment and possibly your life. Not bad for simply changing the way you get to work.

Related: 10 U.S. Cities With the Longest Commute Times

10 Entrepreneurial Land Mines to Avoid

10 Entrepreneurial Land Mines to Avoid

Founder and CEO, Market Domination Media
Image credit: Shutterstock

Every entrepreneur will make mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and most business owners are constantly sailing in uncharted waters, learning as they go.

While completely avoiding all mistakes is impossible, there are some that I see entrepreneurs make over and over — errors that shouldn’t be as common as they are. In no particular order, here are 10 entrepreneurial land mines to avoid.

1. Being cheap when it comes to marketing.

You might have the best product or service and provide the most value, but if nobody sees it, how do you plan to stay above water and grow? Everyone is “plugged in” these days — a strong online presence is key and you have to be prepared to spend money to make money. Rather than looking for the cheapest SEO and online marketing solution, seek out a marketing partner that can deliver the kind of results that will lead to explosive growth.

Related: The Valuable Lessons These CEOs Learned About Leadership

2. Paying huge salaries from the start.

You should be focused on cutting personal expenses in the beginning and not worrying about drawing a large salary. Many startups receive funding and operate without paying close attention to their burn rates and the next thing they know the funds run dry. Current investors would rather cut their losses and walk away rather than put more money into a failure and very few venture capitalists want to throw money at a sinking ship.

If you’re bootstrapping your business, attempt to live off your savings, or if you need to draw a salary, take the bare minimum needed for survival.

3. Not having a solid monetization plan in place.

A business needs to generate revenue. There are some instances when huge valuations come out in the media, such as Tinder being valued at more than $5 billion after 20 months and not generating a single cent of revenue. For every Tinder, there are tens of thousands of businesses that are failing because they aren’t generating enough revenue to keep their doors open. You have the best chance of surviving if you have a monetization plan in place from day one.

4. Selecting the wrong co-founder(s).

A co-founder relationship is a lot like a marriage. You need to be on the same page and be willing to work through differences and rough times. You wouldn’t meet someone and immediately head to the wedding chapel, right? (Crazy Vegas weekend stories don’t apply.) You need to make sure you and your potential co-founder(s) are on the same page and will be able to stay on the same path, regardless of how bumpy the ride becomes.

5. Trying to do everything yourself and not delegating.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in the beginning was thinking I could do it all. It wasn’t an ego play — it was more of a lack of trust. I didn’t think anyone could do something with the same level of commitment that I could. This caused too much responsibility to pile on my shoulders. Don’t be afraid to fully trust your team members — learn to delegate and let them do the job you hired them for.

6. Not focusing enough on your customers.

You might think you know what your customers want, but you will never be 100 percent certain unless you ask them. Ignoring your customers is the quickest way to lose momentum and stall your growth. Engage with them through online surveys and face-to-face communication. Ask them what they like, what they don’t like and what is one thing they would change if they were in your shoes. Your best feedback will always come directly from the people actually using your product or service.

Related: 4 Harsh Marketing Lessons From 4 Small-Business Owners

7. Not paying for proper legal advice.

I recently had a consultation call with a startup team and we were reviewing their marketing budget. They are self funded, and while they don’t have millions in VC funding, they do have a healthy sum of money to work with. The founder mentioned to me that the company just made some changes to its privacy policy and “saved $400 by matching it up with a similar one” rather than having their attorney review it.

Don’t suddenly become frugal when it comes to legal advice. While the cost might seem like a lot in the beginning, it could potentially save you thousands of dollars and prevent future headaches.

8. Spending money on unnecessary things.

While a nice modern office in the booming part of the city might be appealing, is it really necessary? Someone forwarded me an eBay listing a while back that included a half-dozen vintage arcade machines. They were part of the assets being liquidated that once belonged to a startup.

Allocate your money to areas of your business that will help you grow, ensuring your company will be around in the future. Want to add a ping-pong table to your office? Set a goal to hit and use the ping-pong table as a reward. Reckless spending will sink your ship quickly.

9. Waiting to launch until everything is perfect.

News flash: there is no such thing as perfect. If you spend too much time trying to perfect everything you could miss your window of opportunity. The quicker you launch, the quicker you can get the user and market feedback required to adjust, scale and grow your business. In fact, there have been several software-as-a-service startups that launched before their products were even ready. The companies wanted to gauge interest and see if their target markets were going to sign up at their price points.

10. Being afraid to ask for advice and help.

Never be afraid to ask for help — no matter what type of obstacle is standing in your way. There is a good chance another entrepreneur has faced the same challenge in some capacity. I’ve learned that the entrepreneurial community is a very tight circle, and almost everyone is willing to offer help in the form of advice and suggestions to one another. All you have to do is ask. I’ve improved my business tremendously simply by asking for advice when I needed it from the circle of entrepreneurs that I communicate with on a regular basis.

Related: If You’re Not Course-Correcting, You’re Not Taking Enough Risks

Steps to Starting a Small Business

Steps to Starting a Small Business

Research Editor
Image credit: Shutterstock

So you’re thinking about starting a business? Terrific. About 543,000 small businesses are started each month in the United States according to data from DocStoc. However, for those thinking about starting one, it’s often the mental hurdles that prevent you from forging ahead.

Unanswered questions can get in the way of advancement. Am I ready to start a business? Do I have enough savings and time? Or, I have several business ideas — which one should I pursue?

Starting a business is exciting, heady stuff, and it’s not for everyone. Here’s some guidance to help you determine your entrepreneurial talents, whether you’re ready to join the ranks of small business owners and the next steps.

Why Start a Business?

For some, entrepreneurship is inspired by the need for autonomy, like in Jayson DeMers’ case. The founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency, was 24 years old and working a full-time job at an online-marketing agency when he began a side business.

“I questioned everything and felt uncomfortable being bound by someone else’s rules,” he says. “I wanted to be free to make my own decisions, take time off when I chose to (without asking) and not have to report to anyone.”

After gathering freelance clients, DeMers was eventually able to quit his full-time job.

Image Credit: Docstoc

For others, starting a business comes from solving a problem in their own lives, like it did with Sujan Patel, the vice president of marketing at When I Work, an employee software scheduling company. Last year, Patel, 30 years old at the time, created two marketing tools to save himself time and effort in his job. After telling friends, who were also in the marketing field, about his tools, he discovered they were willing to pay him money for access to them.

“That’s when I knew I had something people really wanted,” he says. “It was a bit of an accident.”

He started two new businesses, and, with the benefit of marketing his SaaS products to in an industry where he already had more than 10 years of experience.

Some entrepreneurs go into business for the challenge. Mike Templeman, CEO of Foxtail Marketing, a digital content marketing firm specializing in B2B SaaS, was at a full-time job where he’d been promoted and given a raise — and he found himself restless. He would work on side projects at night. Eventually, those projects brought in enough income to allow him to leave his full-time job and start his own company at the age of 30.

Also, a significant number of baby boomers become business owners, revealfindings from the Kauffman Foundation. Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO ofStartup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners, was 60 years old and halfway to retirement when he started his one-man business development consulting firm.

Zwilling — who’d had a long career as a software executive and tech consultant — says money wasn’t the top priority for starting his business.

“I wanted to make a positive contribution to aspiring and new entrepreneurs.”

There are many reasons for starting your own business. Putting a name to yours can help you identify if entrepreneurship is right for you.

Related: 50 Signs You Need to Start Your Own Business

Are You Ready?

While you may feel a sense of urgency to quit your job and get your business started, don’t quit just yet. How long will you be able to cover your regular expenses as you build your business? Do you have to keep your job as you work your business on the side? It’s time to assess your life situation to help you figure out the best way forward.

Sara Sutton Fell was in her third trimester of pregnancy and had lost her job shortly before she started her business, FlexJobs, an online career site with flexible jobs that include telecommuting and part-time work. Starting a business while pregnant is not something she says she’d recommend, but her business idea resonated so strongly, Sutton Fell felt compelled to do so in spite of complications about the timing.

Image Credit: Docstoc

To assess your readiness, ask yourself if you have the financial and emotional support you need to take care of yourself (and possibly your family) as you build your new business. How much savings should you have before starting?

There is no single correct answer. Some business owners have no savings when they start — not ideal — while some have enough to cover several years of expenses. The bottom line is to not be sacrificing paying your fixed expenses — such as rent/mortgage — to fund your new business. Or figuring out a way to decrease your fixed expenses, like moving in with your parents — also not ideal, but perhaps a temporary money saver — or getting a roommate, to funnel money toward realizing your new business.

Foxtail’s Templeman had a few months of savings in the bank and a secondary cash stream that met his basic monthly expenses before he quit his job. He also had a young child to support and another baby on the way when he started a his business.

“It wasn’t an ideal time,” he admits. “My wife was really wanting something more stable.”

But, he took the risk. Risk is inextricably a part of starting your own business, but the risks should be calculated and fit your lifestyle.

Deborah Mitchell, CEO of Deborah Mitchell Media Associates, a media and brand management company, took her own risks after a 20-plus year career as a television producer at CBS. Mitchell says she believes that her being single with no kids gave her the freedom to take more risks as a new business owner.

“But being single also left me with limited emotional and financial support, all vital things that you need when starting any venture,” she says.

Don’t stop there — ask and answer the following:

  • What you are willing to do to start a business? Examine what you will need to do to make your business a reality. Startup Professionals’ Zwilling, who had been a tech consultant for years, bootstrapped it, because he didn’t want to depend on investors to start his own company.
  • How will I fund my startup business? Funding depends on what you’re willing to do. Mitchell used her personal savings to start her company and runs her consulting firm as a virtual office with remote workers to save money on rent. When I Work’s Patel freelanced as a consultant to make extra money and used the income to fund his two startups.
  • How long can you survive the possible loss in income? Patel had to ask himself if he was willing to lose the time and short-term income by starting two new businesses.
  • Are you ready for the responsibilities and stresses of being an entrepreneur? When you open a new business, the buck stops with you. AudienceBloom’s DeMers asked himself if he was prepared for the responsibilities, risks and stresses of entrepreneurship.

Filling out this Personal Goals and Objectives worksheet from Start Your Own Business (Entrepreneur Press) can help you identify your business goals and whether starting a small business is right for you.

10 Free Website Usability Tools to Improve Your Customer Experience

10 Free Website Usability Tools to Improve Your Customer Experience

Founder of MyBlogU, Brand Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Usability is a crucial part of running a successful website. Broken links, bad contrast, text blocks, over-complicated designs, technical clutter . . . these can spell death for both website traffic and sales conversions. The good news, however, is that these issues are enough of a problem that hundreds of tools now exist to assist with the process of properly testing a website.

Related: Stop Being Such a Tight Wad. Invest In a Great Website.

While certain process are worth putting money and effort into (for example, hiring testers to do a thorough check and recheck, and to do proper split testing), some things can be handled for free.

Here are ten useful tools to get you started. At the very least, they can point you in the right direction so you know where to spend your budget.

1. WhatFix

Always be there when your user needs you: WhatFix allows you to create interactive flows explaining any part of your site: You can create multiple flows and use them as the non-intrusive widget. A flow is the step-by-step explanation of what should be done on the current page. WhatFix is free, with the option to upgrade to create self-hosted customized flows.

2. Color Oracle

Is your site optimized for people with color blindness? You might not think it is worth catering to such a small sliver of the population, but there are more people suffering from color perception issues than you think. According to Color Blindness Awareness, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have color awareness problems, which means a fair percentage of your users are going to have trouble seeing colors in your design.

Color Oracle is an overlay filter that you can use on any art or designs to make sure your colors can be perceived by anyone who visits.

3. Paletton

Speaking of colors, you don’t want to consider just color blindness. You also want to make sure your colors mesh as well as you assume they will. Given some of the horrible color choices even official brands choose for their websites, logos and products, color choice is too frequently ignored. Indeed, this important choice is typically reserved for when customers tick off those psychological association boxes companies rely on more than they do common sense.

Having garish or uncomfortable colors will make viewing your site harder for the user. Paletton makes it easy to find the best combinations of colors, tones and shades.

Related: 5 Things That Belong on the Front Page of Your Website

4. Cyfe

Create your own site performance and usability dashboard to monitor how your site is serving users. Your usability dashboard can aggregate the data from the following built-in tools: Google Analytics (to spot any weird activity), Pingdom (to monitor the down time) and ZenDesk (to monitor your customer team stats).

In addition, you can add widgets for any RSS feed (for example, your brand-name mentions, to track questions from customers), and any Google spreadsheet. (You can also use Google Docs to aggregate notes from your team.) The cool thing about Cyfe is that you can see all these widgets on one page to get a handy bird’s-eye view of all the aggregated data.

5. Page Speed

Site speed is important, because if your site doesn’t load well, people won’t bother to use it. This is especially true in today’s age, when high speed Internet is in almost every household, and available on every mobile device. Page Speedwill analyze your web page speed, and diagnose problems that might be slowing it down. All you have to do is put in your URL.

If you are wondering how your site downtime looks like compared to that of other sites, here are up-to-date uptime stats for you to dig in. These stats are updated every month to show you the biggest losers and winners when it comes to hosting service uptime.

6. Pingdom

If you are worried about bottlenecking, this is a great tool. Pingdom will isolate any bottlenecks that are impacting speed or causing pages to loop. Pingdom has a subscription service that will automatically test your site every day, so you will be alerted to any issues that crop up the moment they are detected. That is a paid service, but basic testing is free. As mentioned above, I use Cyfe to monitor my site downtime.

7. Spur

Get an honest critique on your design choices, with Spur. You put in your URL, and Spur runs it against classic design principles to tell you what ”rules” you are violating. You will be able to see what does and does not work. Then you can get a further critique from community members, sharing the original and the changed designs, based on their recommendations.

8. Feedback Form

WordPress is a platform of choice for many due to the many plugins that you can use to customize the website for free. Feedback Form is one of those invaluable ones that everyone should install. You can create simple forms in various styles that ask your users directly about ways you can improve usability.

What better way to find out than to go straight for the source? This is only one of many customizable feedback form generators out there for WordPress.

If your site runs on WordPress, here are a few more must-have WordPress plugins to install, including WP Super Cache for better load time and Gravity Forms for more feedback form options.

9. Chalkmark

Chalkmark is a really cool way of crowdsourcing usability and design feedback. You provide a design screenshot, and people on the site leave you notes. It is all based on first-click, so you get fresh impression opinions every single time. The information is then put into a visual format as a heatmat, so you see for yourself where people clicked, avoided and created the most traffic. It is easy to use, and highly effective. You won’t find a better way to get mass opinions all in one place.

10. Five Second Test

Five Second Test focuses on two things: landing pages, and calls to action. It quickly evaluates your design to tell you whether these components are being properly optimized. From there, it gives you actionable tips on how to improve, as well as alerts about serious problems that have to be addressed.

Usability is all about first impressions, which is where the term comes from. You have to be able to hook the attention of users within the first five seconds of their landing on your page, or your site is not doing its job.

Do you have any tools to put on this list? We would love to hear about them, so let us know in the comments!

Related: How to Build a Multi-Platform Website

Become the Lone Wolf: 3 Ways to Separate Your Startup From the Pack

Become the Lone Wolf: 3 Ways to Separate Your Startup From the Pack

CEO & Co-founder, iDoneThis
Image credit: Shutterstock

The lone wolf gets a lot of guff for separating from the pack, but when it comes to entrepreneurship, separating yourself is exactly what you should be doing. The startup world is remarkably competitive, and about 90 percent of startups will fail.

Not a fun statistic — I know.

Chances are likely that your business exists among a large wolf pack of startups that all seemingly provide the same service. This is frustrating when you know that you are providing an important product. You know it’s different from other products because you have spent months — even years — creating it, but customers haven’t had that time. They’ve only just met you, so unfortunately, you run the risk of looking identical to a service they already use or know of.

Related: If You Build It, They Will Not Come

Take the companies and MailChimp, for example. At first glance, each of these companies specialize in sending email. Looking at their features, prices, testimonials and even benefits, a new user would have no problem choosing one by randomly drawing from a hat. However, at a closer look, you begin to see what sets them apart. You begin to learn about their core value, and suddenly you’re seeing them in a new light.

For example, it turns out that is known for making it easy to send emails to your customers who are already using your app. Their main focus is to help you communicate better with your customers, in a tailored way, personalized to what the customer is already doing in the app. On the other hand, MailChimp is focused on email marketing and making it easy to send email newsletters to anyone you might have on your email list. This core value sets them apart, and once you see it, the two products couldn’t be more different.

Based on their core values, one is more concerned with growth, while the other focuses on retention. Depending on your company’s strategy, you can make an educated decision between the two.

How Wistia broke from the pack of video hosting sites

A recent study shows that 1.8 million words have the same impact as a one-minute video. That’s about 150 days of writing that can all be packaged into one tiny video. So it’s no coincidence that a myriad of video hosting companies have entered the startup scene in the last 10 years.

Wistia is a company that knows better than anyone the trials and tribulations of feeling overshadowed in a massive wolf pack, as there are several other video platforms offering basic video hosting functionality. With this kind of competition, how do you set yourself apart? How do you break off from the wolf pack and find success in your own adventure? Moreover, technology is constantly changing. How do you market a reliable product when software is bound to go through countless features and continuously evolve?

The answer to these questions boils down to one simple concept — a gold mine that makes people trust that you have just the product they need. Just four years ago, Wistia was doing everything they could to market their product to as many people as possible. They would advertise the features of their video platform left and right, which essentially resulted in a crazy marketing spider web that muddled the overall essence of their product.

You can list feature after feature and spout benefit after benefit, but if there isn’t one unified idea to umbrella that under, people are going to miss out on that “aha!” moment that will make them recognize the value of your product.

Related: 3 Tips for Building a Business That Reflects Your Deepest Values

This idea will form your core value — all you need is a mission and a vision. Here are three ways to get there:

1. Establish your mission to help your customers.

Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage highly encourages companies to write down their mission as a way to focus on what it is you are trying to help your audience do. You mission is something that will establish who you are and will convey your passion for your product. Writing it down and ingraining it in your marketing strategy will change the way that people see your product. This is why Wistia markets to their mission as opposed to their product.

Before establishing a mission, Wistia was marketing to their product. This means that they were sharing all that their product had to offer without really providing a basis for what exactly it was they were offering. Chris couldn’t quite figure out why they weren’t growing, but once they established a company mission, they saw everything about their marketing transform for the better.

Wistia’s mission is to empower people to use video. Knowing this, they don’t make any marketing decisions that contradict this statement, and this resulted in a significantly broader range of content they could produce. Just look at their blog. It’s chock-full of fun content including actionable tips on how to make your videos more accessible using captions, improved tools for your video library management, how to create visual stories with a B-roll, and much more.

This content fits under their mission because it’s helping their users get the most out of making their own videos.

2. Define your vision to differentiate your product.

Having a mission is great, but when it stands alone, it can seem rather static. It’s also important to look toward the future and set goals for your company. Wistia has done this by defining their vision. Your vision is something that differentiates your product from everything else on the market.

Wistia came to their vision by realizing that people were using their product for a multitude of reasons — marketing, internal training, collaboration etc. — which looks great, but also makes it really hard to focus on everything. They realized that what it came down to was that Wistia was built for video marketing. You could use Wistia for everything that people had already been using it for, but it was built for video marketing.

The introduction of Turnstile on Wistia was what really set their vision in motion. Turnstile is a tool that lets you identify leads and capture emails through your video. Unsurprisingly, people saw Turnstile and suddenly realized why Wistia was different from other video-hosting platforms. No other video hosting platform was allowing you to run analytics, capture leads andcapture emails through the video on your site. Wistia’s clients could get actionable data telling them what segments of their videos people were watching.

It’s their video marketing that sets them apart.

3. Market your core value to build an educated and loyal consumer base.

Once you have established the two tenets that make up your core value, marketing will naturally become a lot easier, and the period of time from when someone learns about your product to having an “aha!” moment will get shorter and shorter.

Once Wistia established their mission and defined their vision, they started integrating this language into everything and began their solo journey away from the rest of the pack. Their external marketing emphasized that they were a video-marketing platform, and their content made people feel empowered to use video as a tool. Internally, they implemented their core value into the ways they thought and talked about their company out loud and on their site.

Suddenly, Wistia found themselves a proud lone wolf.

Related: What Volkswagen Can Teach You About Values-Based Marketing