10 Tips That Will Help Launch Your Startup Faster

10 Tips That Will Help Launch Your Startup Faster

Entrepreneur and Online Marketing Expert

The startup culture is full of people who want to, and try to, but just can’t get their business off the ground. Why is this the case? Much of the reason has to do with the fact that many entrepreneurs don’t know how to take their business from point A to B. Point A is that brilliant idea in the mind of the entrepreneur. B is that subsequent, hoped-for state where the business is secure, established and making money.

Related: 10 Entrepreneurial Land Mines to Avoid 

“In between” is tough.

In terms of strategies, one of the best ways to build your business is to take that idea in your head to market as soon as possible. Because delays kill. Speed saves. Here are ten tips on how you can launch your startup faster.

1. Just start.

In my experience, it’s more important to start than to start right. Think about it. If you don’t start your business, nothing will happen. Whatever it is that’s keeping you from launching is the very thing you either need to ignore or tackle head-on. So . . .

  • Write the first line of code.
  • Register the domain.
  • Sketch the product.
  • Design the prototype.

There is nothing standing in the way of your starting your business except yourself. Do the first thing that needs to be done.

2. Sell anything.

There are some entrepreneurs who know exactly what they want to sell. There are other entrepreneurs who have no idea what they’re going to sell. They just want to sell something. Here’s my advice: Sell anything.

Many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs aren’t selling anything new. They are selling it different or better:

  • Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) sold the same thing that you could find at any five-and-dime or corner convenience store.
  • Ted Turner simply sold television broadcasting and advertising.
  • Howard Schultz sold coffee.
  • Warren Buffett bought and sold other people’s stock.

Entrepreneurs aren’t always innovators. You can take someone else’s product and sell it. Richard Branson, after all, launched Virgin Airlines in desperation. He was headed to the Virgin Islands for an, um, romantic interlude. But his flight was cancelled. So, he chartered a private flight, despite his lack of money to pay for it. Here’s how he described what happened next:

I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29” on it and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.

Got the message? Go ahead and sell something. Anything.

Related: 8 Musts to Start Your Business With Little to No Capital

3. Ask someone for advice, then ask him/her to do it.

When you start a business, you will most definitely not have all the answers. For example, you’ll need to get incorporated, but how? S-Corp, C-Corp or LLC?

To get these answers, ask a competent attorney. The attorney will provide advice — say it’s to start an S-Corp. But, then what? Ask the attorney to do it for you. Instantly, you will have gained an expert who is implementing his/her own advice for your money. Payment? You can reward the attorney with stocks or deferred payment.

When an issue arises, and you don’t have the answer, find someone who does. Then, when this expert gives you advice — whether business best practice, manufacturing locations, logo design, accounting, whatever — ask that person to do it.

Your business needs more help, knowledge and professional skills than you have time for. Get people to work for you.

4. Hire remote workers.

If you want to find the best and most affordable talent, you may not find it next door. Be willing to hire remote workers to get great work done.

5. Hire contract workers.

Becoming an employer carries with it a lot of baggage. It may, in fact, form such a barrier that it slows down the process of your startup. Besides, few people will be willing to take the plunge to become the employee of a tenuous startup.

Instead of hiring employees, hire on a contract basis. The point is, you need to find a way to get the talent to provide their services. Don’t let the specific arrangement get in the way of getting stuff done.

6. Find a cofounder.

I couldn’t have founded my businesses without my cofounder Hiten Shah. For me, starting a business took more than just hard work and passion. It took the inspiration and skills of a cofounder. VCs are more likely to invest in a startup that has a founding team, not a founding individual. Even having three cofounders isn’t too many, assuming you have a clear decision-making hierarchy.

Cofounders can provide the skills you lack, and take you further than you ever expected you’d go.

7. Work with someone who pushes you to the extreme.

One of the reasons why Steve Jobs was able to grow Apple into one of the world’s most innovative and valuable brands was because he pushed people. Here’s how he described his management approach.

My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.

Sure, Jobs could be aggressive and unkind, but he could also draw out from people better than they thought their best could ever be. You can find the same qualities in a cofounder, a partner, a friend, a mentor or an employee. More importantly, you can provide the same level of expectation for your own team members. As Jobs said, “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”

8. Don’t focus on money.

Creative Bloq has this gem of advice regarding startups: “Don’t necessarily worry about where an income will come from. A good product/service will always find a way to make money.”

This is true. A myopic focus on money can pull your business off track. Whether it’s funding, capital, business loans or the perfect pricing model, back off and let things evolve. Growth doesn’t equal funding. Growth means hacking, straining, selling and doing things other than asking for money.

9. Spend time and money on marketing.

Marketing is one of the best things that you can do for your business. When you market your product or service, you are getting it in front of the people who will actually buy it. Marketing is not a waste of time. It’s one of the best early investments that you can make in your business.

10. Talk to your potential customers.

A startup does not exist in the entrepreneur’s mind alone. A startup exists in the landscape of customers and potential customers.

If there will be people buying or using your product, you need to learn all you can about these people, from these people and for these people. Your business will live or die based on their receptivity to the product or service.

The sooner you learn about your customers, the faster you’ll be able to pivot and serve them better.


Starting fast doesn’t mean that you should force scaling. Scaling is something that happens carefully, in a measured cadence.

Starting fast means that you leverage all possible resources to focus on one thing — getting started. Getting started is the main thing. Once your business is up and running, anything else is possible.

A startup is a race. The faster you are, the more likely you are to win big.

What are your tips for launching your startup faster?

Related: 7 Essential Tools Every Startup Can Afford

5 Ways to Make Sure Starting Your Business Doesn’t End Your Marriage

5 Ways to Make Sure Starting Your Business Doesn't End Your Marriage

Host of The Mentee Podcast, Medical Device Salesman, Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor
Image credit: Shutterstock

If you knew that the birth of your company would also be the death of your marriage, would you still start your business?

Most entrepreneurs have not considered this question as they begin the long road of building their businesses. As a result, their marriages often take a massive hit. There is a reason for this.

There is an abundance of information available on how to start a business. As a result you feel prepared for the amount of time that is going to be required, to face the rejection and to push through when you feel like your back is up against the wall.

However, there is very little information that prepares you for the toll it will take on your loved ones. My goal in this column is to share my experience launching a business, to get vulnerable and share the toll it has taken on my marriage. You can listen to my wife’s take on how this has affected our marriage below.

Subscribe to The Mentee podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

Related: Becoming an Entrepreneur Takes Courage, But Marrying One Is Even Braver

Here are five ways you can make sure starting your business doesn’t end your marriage:

1. Share your vision.

Sit down with your spouse and share your vision with him or her. Help him or her understand why you feel compelled to start this company and what the future will look like when you are successful. Your goal here is to make sure your spouse is tied to your vision. This will be vital when you are less available and there is added stress on the relationship.

2. Set realistic expectations.

This is where you cannot hold back. You have to help them understand what the road ahead looks like.

Will you have to cut back on your spending to underwrite this venture? Will your weekends suddenly be filled with more work and less play? Will they be going to sleep and waking up alone since you will be burning the candle at both ends trying to get the company off the ground?

Paint a picture of what lies ahead and make sure they are prepared and agree with you moving forward.

3. Set a weekly meeting.

If you were to look at your calendar right now, I bet you would find a number of appointments scheduled with customers. While meeting with these people are important, most people do not have scheduled appointments with the most important person in their lives: their spouses.

As I scaled my podcast, The Mentee, into a business, my days were long and I did not block any time for my family. This was catastrophic to my relationship with my wife. I then had a conversation with John Assaraf, who helped me change the way I looked at my relationship with my wife.

Related: 4 Tips for Workaholic Entrepreneurs to Avoid a Crumbling Marriage

I sought out his mentorship because he has a thriving business and a thriving marriage and I wanted to know what his secrets were. He told me that he and Maria have a standing 90-minute meeting every Saturday to discuss their relationship, where they get everything out on the table: finances, business, sex, God, children, ex-wives — nothing gets left unsaid.

Amy and I started to implement these and have found that truly investing in your relationship each week has a tremendous effect on your ability to be the best partner possible.

When you speak with your spouse, pull out your calendars and schedule a meeting for this week. Then, post in the comments below the power this had on your relationship so you can inspire others to do the same.

4. Remember, you’re in the same boat.

While a weekly meeting will work wonders for your relationship, there will still be times when you your spouse is frustrated at your lack of presence and a fight ensues.

In that moment, recognize that you’re in the same boat and need to be paddling in the same direction. Instead of saying “Screw you! Do you know how hard I’m working?” take a step back and recognize he or she is asking you to jump. Your response needs to be “How high?”

The faster you adopt a mindset that there is enough time in a day and “how can I go above and beyond to support you,” you will find an abundance of support flowing back to you. Try this. It really does work!

5. Celebrate small wins together.

When you accomplish small milestones along the way, make sure you celebrate and give credit where credit is due. You would not be able to launch your business and maintain your sanity if your other half was not supporting you. This is their win just as much as it is yours. Make sure they feel that way!

At the end of the day, remember why you are going down this road. If you are like many of the entrepreneurs, it is because you want to provide a better life for your family and make a difference. If you implement what you’ve read here today, it could truly help your marriage. If that’s the case, this time could be one of the best investments you ever make.

Related: 4 Essentials for Being in Business Happily Ever After With Your Spouse

4 Tips to Help Turn Your Big Idea Into an Actual Product

4 Tips to Help Turn Your Big Idea Into an Actual Product

Founder of Pure Food Company
Image credit: Shutterstock

In early August I launched my first product, an all-natural, plant-based,probiotic protein powder. But it wasn’t easy.

Related: 7 Myths About Starting a Business That I Used to Believe

In the 18 months leading up to the launch, I experienced every trial, tribulation and startup cliché/buzzword imaginable (think: “pivoting,” “minimum viable product,” “growth hacking,” etc.).

Here are four of the most important lessons I learned, and how you can use them to turn your idea into a business.

1. Get lots of feedback (from the right people).

How do you know your idea is something people actually want? I found it was equal parts intuition and objective validation. First, your idea should obviously address an unmet need in the market — what can your proposed product do for the end user that others can’t? If you can’t answer this question, start over.

Once you land on an idea you think might work, run it by other people. Go beyond friends and family — “I love it!” is not constructive, objective feedback. I talked to the most successful entrepreneurs I knew, cold-called and emailed entrepreneurs in my industry, asked for candid feedback on start-up blogs and forums, conducted surveys on my website and got as much input as possible from a handful of mentors and advisers.

My first idea got picked apart. So did my second. I had to start over, and it was tough. But gaining feedback was also a critical part of the product development process that saved me thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time pursuing an idea that was likely destined to fail.

2. Do the work.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Begin it now.”

— Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

The next phase is to turn your idea into a product. Rule No. 1: Make your idea so great people can’t ignore it. The key here is to stop thinking and start doing as much as you can, yourself (getting help where you need it, of course). I spent six months coming up with different ingredient-combinations and testing them with healthy people I knew. I built my own website.

Related: 9 Steps That Will Help Your Chances of Starting a Successful Business

Rule No. 2 is to do hands-on work to learn about your product. In my own case, I hand-packaged the first 500 bags of my protein powder, which gave me a huge amount of information about this part of the process I’d had no knowledge of before. Here’s another simple strategy I used to get a good amount of work done: I bought a planner and wrote down the top three-to-five things I wanted to accomplish each day. Forget about everything else; cross off each item as you complete it. Do this every day, and in 12 to 18 months, you will have a product ready to launch.

3. Deliver immense value for your first 100 customers.

If you spend the necessary time and effort on numbers 1 and 2, you will have a product to launch. Regardless of your launch strategies and tactics, make a concerted effort to surprise and delight your first 100 customers. This is where you should spend most of your time during the first few weeks.

I wrote a thank-you card and personal email to my first 100 customers, sent them bonus recipes with their shipments and added them to my VIP email list, to whose members I deliver my best content. I asked for feedback, answered their questions in a timely manner and made it my number one priority to make sure my product was making their lives better. I knew that if I could do this for 100 customers, I would have proof that my business was sustainable.

4. Find a healthy balance.

I was juggling the arrival of my first child, working full-time at my “real job” and working on my business. But I still made time to exercise three-to-four days a week, eat healthy and spend time with friends and family on Friday or Saturday nights.

Healthy entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs. I truly believe that. So, I made it a habit each day to do something physical (exercise/eat healthy), mental (read/write/learn), emotional (spend time with family/friends) and spiritual (reflect/pray/give thanks). I tracked these four things every day in my planner, and they made all the difference (thanks toJames Altucher for the inspiration).

If you too follow these four ideas, your odds of turning your product idea into an actual business will increase exponentially. There will be roadblocks aplenty along the way. But you will be well equipped to handle them.

And launching your product will be one of the most fun, challenging, exhilarating times of your life.

Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

Related: Starting A Business? You Need These 3 Basics.

Why This 25-Year-Old Marketing Star Left His Job at YouTube to Launch a Philanthropic YouTube Channel

Why This 25-Year-Old Marketing Star Left His Job at YouTube to Launch a Philanthropic YouTube Channel

Staff Writer. Frequently covers digital media.

In the summer of 2013, shortly after landing a plush gig at YouTube in the company’s marketing division, 23-year-old Stanford grad Raymond Braun teetered into his boss’s office near tears and with a lump in his throat.

Braun had arranged a meeting with YouTube CMO Danielle Tiedt to pitch a marketing initiative that would break wholly new ground for the platform — and that was also wrought with personal resonance.

He had hatched the proposal during his “20 Percent Time,” a Google perk that allows employees to devote one-fifth of their work efforts to any passion project with a business tie-in. The catalyzing policy, outlined by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in Google’s 2004 IPO letter, has resulted in such blockbuster products as Gmail, AdSense and Google News.

On his off-time, Braun had noticed that a disproportionately influential faction of LGBT creators was proliferating across YouTube. Bold-faced names like Tyler Oakley, Hannah Hart and Davey Wavey were amassing millions of viewers, and serving as digital lifelines for kids in ostracizing households the world over.

Braun and YouTuber Tyler Oakley.
Image credit: Raymond Braun | Twitter

“I’ve heard from teens who say, ‘At night, before bed, I go under the covers, I put my headphones in, I open the YouTube app and that’s my connection to this world,’” recounts Braun, who is now 25. Having grown up gay in a small, conservative town in rural Ohio, this was a sentiment that hit close to home.

Related: An Unlikely Icon: With ‘Drag Race,’ RuPaul Rounds Another Victory Lap

And so, standing before Tiedt that day, Braun made an impassioned pitch for #ProudToLove — his concept for YouTube’s first LGBT-themed consumer marketing campaign. The idea was to be the first brand in the world to respond to the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision. YouTube’s logo would be reimagined as a rainbow for the day, which would also link to a page of LGBT-centric content, including this touching compilation:

After tearfully sharing his personal stake in the venture, Braun says he’ll never forget Tiedt’s response. “She said, ‘This makes complete sense for our business, and I also see this as an investment in you, because I know that you’re going to do everything you can to make this successful.”

He did, and it was. In addition to garnering millions of views, acclaim from human rights activists and landing Braun on Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list, #ProudToLove has since become an annual fixture for YouTube each June to coincide with LGBT Pride Month.

Braun subsequently added LGBT marketing lead at Google/YouTube to his job title.

“The press and social media impressions of this campaign matched those of sophisticated, high budget marketing campaigns,” Tiedt says. “Raymond shepherded our #ProudToLove campaign with such heart and passion that being more LGBT-mindful became an even larger part of YouTube’s culture.”

Spotlighting the LGBT community was a shrewd move for YouTube because it amplified a conversation that was already humming across the platform. The ‘It Gets Better’ campaign had become a viral phenomenon, for instance, and a spate of popular ‘Coming Out’ videos — and, more recently, transgender creators documenting their transitions online — had begun to reap massive viewership.

But entering this conversation could have the potential to lift most any brand, says Anastasia Khoo, chief marketing officer for the Human Rights Campaign. “The U.S. adult LGBT population has an estimated buying power of $830 billion in 2015,” notes Khoo — adding that 75 percent of non-LGBT adults say they are likely to consider a brand that is known to provide equal workplace benefits.

Given these turning tides, and the momentum he’d generated with #ProudtoLove, Braun’s mission seemed to be crystallizing. And in an age of digital influencers, he was starting to think that perhaps his greatest impact might not be behind the camera but in front of the lens. Therefore, in January, he made an unthinkable leap: departing Google on a volunteer leave of absence to start his very own YouTube channel.

Braun and transgender activist Jazz Jennings.
Image credit: Raymond Braun | Twitter

Devoted exclusively to LGBT issues, the channel was established at a pivotal moment in history, Braun says, when Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum, the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition all loomed on the horizon. It turned out to be prophetic timing. This year, as LGBT rights turned a historic corner, Braun amassed roughly 16,000 subscribers and 1.5 million total views.

His venture represents a nascent concept in the realm of online video, he says — that of a “nonprofit YouTube channel.” None of his videos are monetized, and many are made in collaboration with the HRC, GLAAD, the Trevor Project and other LGBT rights groups.

Related: How YouTube Megastar Connor Franta Is Channeling His Eclectic Passions Into Entrepreneurial Gold

As an online personality, Braun’s giddy charisma is underscored by a palpable empathy. His most popular clips thus far include emotionally-charged vlogs documenting recent legal victories in Ireland and Washington, D.C., though he also has a knack for sassier fare, such as how to strut in high heels:

As the channel continued to grow late last July, Braun arrived at a decisive juncture. What had started out as a “20 Percent” side project had evolved into a higher calling. And this summer, Braun gave Tiedt the bittersweet news that he would be leaving YouTube for good in order to become a full-time YouTuber.

“He will always be part of the YouTube family,” she says.

Today, in addition to his channel, Braun is in the early stages of founding a consultancy that will work with brands looking to engage the LGBT community. As a relatively untapped marketing arena, Braun believes his unique proficiencies in social media as well as the immense scale and budgets that brands have at their disposal will be powerful assets on the path toward equality.

“During Raymond’s interview at Google, he talked about how his goal in life is to use entertainment, media, and technology to create positive social change,” Tiedt recalled. “He’s doing just that.”

Related: Meet the Business Strategists Behind the Careers of Today’s Biggest YouTube Stars

How Small Teams Can Achieve Big Results

How Small Teams Can Achieve Big Results

Entrepreneur and author
Image credit: rovided by number35, courtesy of CBS

If you’ve ever watched The Good Wife on CBS and loved the clothes, you may be surprised that one of the main designers dressing the likes of Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski on the small screen isn’t a billion-dollar brand, but a 10-year-old one, number35, which has a team of less than 10 people collectively in London and New York City.

So how does a small company go from unknown to being featured on four major TV shows, dressing major celebrities (and minor ones — I have been dressed by the company in the past, but I did not receive any form of compensation for this column) and increasing revenue year after year? Moreover, how do they get everything done?

I spoke with number35 CEO Andrea Cohen about how a small team can get big results. Cohen says that she was informed by a background that included working in both large and small businesses.

Related: 5 Leaderships Lessons From My Greatest Boss Ever

“My previous roles meant I was developing small teams within big corporate environments or building a small team in a small organization,” Cohen says. “I realized the abilities of a small niche team were greater than those of big, clumsy, less efficient ones. I find that too many team members leads to poor communication and ineffective and often reduced productivity.”

Here are some of Cohen’s best tips for you to make the most of your small team.

1. Take a holistic approach to training and education.

Cohen has found that her team members can perform better in their assigned roles and take on more responsibility if they understand all facets of the business.

“Unlike big teams and big businesses, I try to offer a rounded education, so everyone gets to see the workings of a small business,” she says. “This, I believe, helps everyone deliver the same goal.”

I have observed the same with many clients. If the marketing team understands design and vice versa, and both understand the financial implications of the business, it’s more likely to get everyone working towards, and achieving, bigger goals.

2. If you’re the CEO, delegate.

Cohen knows that small businesses where the CEO is too caught up in details are bound to stay small.

“Early on in the business’s history, I became aware that I was micromanaging and I knew that if I didn’t free up my role, we would always be chasing our tails and remaining the same size,” she says. “I realized that I needed to concentrate on increasing brand coverage and seeking new opportunities that would give us a positive competitive advantage.”

Cohen says that when she was able to delegate, she could focus on growth opportunities.

“I gave each of my staff a more defined job role and wrote one out for myself too,” she says. “Team members set out to achieve through their roles and I just oversee and check that we are on time, on schedule and on budget.”

3. Give more work to the busiest people.

Cohen learned an important lesson on productivity for small business while working at her grandfather’s clothing factory in the summers of her youth.

Related: How Smart Companies Get Employees to Brag About the Business

“One year, I watched a management consultant hired to carry out a work-study program to measure each staff member’s productivity,” she says. “This was designed to see weaknesses in the tailoring production line. The results astounded me. There were machinists that were working at a much slower pace, therefore holding up the line. Moving these employees to a less complicated line and offering them advanced training increased productivity by 30 percent.

“I also learned that there were certain employees that seemed to have two different roles, like tailoring and production-line quality,” she continues. “The manager always went straight to these employees with new tasks. When I told my mother of my observations, she said ‘Andrea, if you always give a job to the busiest person, you will guarantee it gets done.’ It’s a great mantra for entrepreneurs and their best employees.”

4. Build alliances.

Number35 came to its first TV role on The Good Wife — and to an eventual business collaboration — by reaching out to the show’s costume designer, Daniel Lawson. Even though her first attempt came up short, she stayed persistent and eventually had an opportunity to meet him in person, which led to Lawson dressing the show’s stars in number35 clothes.

After working together informally, they realized a more formal collaboration would be mutually beneficial. Cohen and Lawson set their collaboration up for success by being clear about what both parties wanted. Open and honest communication was tantamount. The two book regular meetings, often at off-hours that accommodate their New York to London time difference.

Creating strategic relationships can open new and big doors for small business that can be built and executed quickly through the nimbleness of a smaller team.

5. Break goals and tasks into bite-sized tasks.

The best way for small businesses to get big results is to think in terms of big goals, but execute small milestones. Cohen says that regardless of the end goal, just focus on the goals at hand and cut them down to bite-sized tasks that are easy to complete before a set deadline.Additionally, to be able to achieve these goals, a small team has to prioritize them.

Related: 5 Ways to Empower Your Employees

A VC’s guide to the saturated digital health market

Image Credit: everything possible/Shutterstock

You don’t have to convince the average investor that the healthcare technology market is the hottest place to be these days. As the desire for consumer-facing tools like Fitbit grows and the need for cost-efficient care becomes more apparent, health IT startups are getting a lot of attention and a lot of capital. It seems that nearly each day a new financing is being announced.

But amid all the buzz over the latest wearables, cloud solutions, or the most robust EHRs, concerns of over-valuation are growing louder.

This past May at Rock Health’s Digital Health Investor Summit, when a room full of investors was asked whether private digital health companies are overvalued, 62 percent said yes. While there are more and more healthcare IT unicorns, there are fewer IPOs — in tech for example, there were about half as many IPOs in the first six months of 2015 than in the same time period one year prior. This proves public investors are taking a more critical look at fundamentals, such as revenue, actual growth, spending fluctuations, comparable multiples, valuations, etc.

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With that in mind, how does an investor pick the health IT players that are most likely to provide returns and a path for an eventual exit such as getting acquired or going public.

First, investors must be wary of hype. With so much promising, health-centered technology coming out, it’s all too easy to get sucked into courting a startup before looking at market viability. As a late-stage investment firm, we only invest in two or three companies per year — and we don’t get too attached without asking ourselves: Is this solution addressing a large market? Is it innovative enough? What’s the potential market opportunity five years from now? What do their customers say?

It’s natural to get excited when you see a bunch of investors starting to put in term sheets. However, it’s almost like folks forget fundamentals just to be “in the deal” vs. asking “does this price make sense?” Many of these companies are not profitable and burn a lot of cash, so that means another financing is likely in the future. The higher the valuation, the higher the hurdle to find new capital as new investors will need to justify the valuation from a returns perspective. You then risk a down-round or, even worse, a “no-round.”

Next, let’s look at the company and do real due diligence by putting a potential investment under a microscope and looking at day-to-day operations as well as future prospects. At Montreux, if we’re intrigued by a health IT company’s cutting-edge ideas and ambitious plans, that’s a start. But we also need to know whether it’s backed by a management team that understands the key points of where the solution can go and the product pipeline and that can account for daily activities and expenditures. One of the benefits of coming in late is that you usually have a business that has operations and revenues. Oftentimes you can use comparable companies (based on size, growth rate, operating metrics, Total Available Market) that are publicly trading to see whether or not the valuation is in the right zip code.

Our most recent investment, for example, was in Kareo, a provider of cloud-based EHR, billing, practice management, and integrated electronic claims processing. We were able to spend the important time understanding the market, revenue growth, massive user base, product pipeline, all of which was top among its peers.

An investor has to be patient to find the right deal where he or she can get the right return. For us, embarking on a new venture means we believe we’ll make a solid return for our investors and add value to the company at this critical stage. The healthcare industry is transforming before our eyes in major ways; we just have to keep to some fundamental investing principles. Stay away from the hype, and we will have more sustainable companies, better more consistent returns, and a robust exit ecosystem.

Michael Matly, M.D., is a Principal at Montreux Equity Partners. He has been actively involved in Montreux’s late-stage investments in health services and technology. Before joining Montreux, he led Business Development and New Ventures at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. He is also a founding advisor to Rock Health, a health incubator based in San Francisco.

The 5 Non-Negotiables for Thriving in Business and Life

The 5 Non-Negotiables for Thriving in Business and Life

Leading Authority for Young Entrepreneurs
Image credit: Shutterstock

Starting a business is easy. Millions of new businesses are started each year. However, you must do more than create an LLC to become a thriving entrepreneur. Unfortunately, simply starting a new business is all the farther that most get. Inevitably reality creeps in and the cold hard truth emerges. Creating a business that enables you to generate enough money to truly thrive at life and achieve your wildest dreams is not so easy. Entrepreneurs with the ability to thrive at this highest level are a rare breed.

What makes these elite entrepreneurs different from those still struggling? Here are the top 5 non-negotiables that every new entrepreneur must take action on promptly.

1. Stay fearless.

Fear can paralyze and absolutely destroy an entrepreneur’s ambition and confidence, but only if they let it. When I quit my job and created my own business, I experienced the same fears all entrepreneurs face starting out — the fear of failure, the fear of what others might say, the fear I wasn’t good enough.  As I increased my certainty, and became aware of what limitations were holding me back I started to face my fears head on. When you face your fears, they disappear.

You cannot let your fears control you and you must be willing to take risks despite them. All great leaders and visionaries have realized that being fearless is part of the recipe for success. In my experience, most of the people who gave in to their fears and quit are eventually employed by those who conquered their fears and never gave up.  Your only fear should be having the exact same life you currently have a year from now. Remember that your dreams will always eclipse your biggest fears. Stay limitless mentally.

Related: What You Can Learn From 8 Kids Already Making a Million Dollars

2. Creating, not waiting.

I’ve been fortunate enough to interview dozens of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and one thing is always abundantly clear – they don’t wait for opportunities to come to them, they create them. A WANTrepreneur spends their first day designing a logo while the true entrepreneur closes their first 10 clients. If thriving is a goal, you must stop procrastinating, stop creating 100-page business plans, stop researching the perfect website font, and start executing on the things that matter.

Most people spend the first half of their lives saying they are too young, and the second half saying they’re too old. The time is now, and there is no tomorrow for champions. I promise you that one year from now you will have wished you started today. Wake up early, go to bed late, disable distractions, be relentless, stay intentional, and never give up. It’s simple – if you want it to happen, make it happen. Period. You will make time for things you really care about.

3. Focus on continual growth and development.

Are you showing up better than you were yesterday? Seriously, is your life better today than yesterday? If not, why not? Create tactical steps for tomorrow to ensure you grow and develop. Ask yourself these 3 questions before starting your day.

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What am I committed to making happen today no matter what?
  • What am I excited about today?

Most people fail to ask themselves questions that spark their minds, and remind them to maximize each day.  Every day you fail to grow is one less day you have to make your dreams become reality. Once small positive thought can change the outcome of your entire day.

All thriving entrepreneurs know that every year their business must become 365x better than the year before. This is accomplished by focusing on continual growth and development each day. Just like compound interest, mastering this simple strategy can put you on the fast track to financial freedom. Make growth a part of your daily agenda.

Related: How One Woman’s Cosmetic Company ‘Gramed Its Way to Insta-Success

4. Making money matter.

There has never been a better time in the history of our economy to create businesses that matter. My friend Cole Hatter says,

“Don’t wait to get rich to make a difference, but rather make an impact as you get rich.”

Visionary Tony Robbins has preached on this concept. but it has never been as important and powerful as it is today. Historically, money was a taboo subject few dared to debate. Culturally, the topic of money has recently gone from being the unspeakable subject to a global obsession, and rightfully so. Money is the great equalizer. Having money is a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling, but most importantly it gives you the power of choices.

One in three Americans believe their best chance of becoming wealthy is winning the lottery. Are you kidding me? This flawed mindset comes from the antiquated curriculum traditional education teaches. To truly understand the concept of mastering money, you must self-educate. “Traditional education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

Those that want to thrive know that money is the one thing that has the instant ability to turn their dreams into reality.

5. Urgency.

I’m guessing you’d like to be financially free by the time you’re 65 years old? I’m sure everybody does. Let’s deal in reality here.

I will tell you becoming one of the few who are economically secure starts with urgency now. You MUST have a sense of urgency to thrive. Do you think those struggling in their 30s, 40s, and 50s told themselves they were going to struggle? Of course not. If you talked to them when they were younger, they were confident they would have their dream house, dream job, have lots of money, and be enjoying life to the fullest. What happened? They never told themselves NOW matters. They didn’t connect their daily actions with their future goals. Don’t fall into that trap.

Realize that now matters more than any other time, and the “someday isle” mentality is killing so many dreams. I know people who have been in the same company for years, but haven’t advanced. You often hear people say “I have 20 years of experience, I should get paid more,” but in actuality, that person has one year of experience repeated 20 times. If they’re not sharpening their skills, learning better tools, or constantly trying to better themselves, they aren’t becoming more valuable. Why should they expect more money?

Age doesn’t guarantee a higher income, value does. Opportunities are only opportunities if you’re taking full advantage of them. Young millionaires always do, and they are consistently reaching for new goals and ambitions. You MUST have a sense of urgency that most of society doesn’t have if you’re serious about success. There will NEVER be the right time.

Achieving your wildest dreams and thriving at the highest level is not for everyone. You must be relentless and 100 percent committed to the hustle and grind that is required. You must believe that not only is it possible for you to have your dream but it is necessary. If you are still reading, you have taken the first step to changing your life and making an impact on the world.

Related: When Millionaires Make Mistakes

To Get More Customers to ‘Like’ You, Be Somebody They Like

To Get More Customers to 'Like' You, Be Somebody They Like

Co-Founder of E2M & MoveoApps
Image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com

Small businesses have been increasingly taking to social media to build relationships with their customers and drive business. There’s a huge consumer base out there that you as a business absolutely should have access to, which is what social networking with your target audience does.

But despite social media being an excellent platform to promote your business and bring in new customers, small businesses have not been exploiting it to their full advantage.

Merely creating a presence on the social media is not going to suffice, nor will incorporating social media plug-ins into your website (though that’s a start!). It takes a lot more to attract customers to you on social media.

I have some suggestions that are guaranteed to set you on the right path.

Related: 3 Simple Ways to Get More Shares on Facebook

Make the tastiest burgers you can.

A good job is the best advertisement for your business. Chris Riley, the founder of popular auto community Gear Heads, has this sage advice to offer: “People will only like you on social media if they like you in real life.”

Chris should know. Gear Heads is a vocal, enthusiastic community of auto lovers, with 1.2 million likes on its Facebook page.

The point here is simple. Aim to be the best in whatever you do.

If that means creating the most engaged community around concept cars or flipping burgers in a masterly fashion, so be it. Make your dedication to perfection your USP. Give your customers the best possible experience that you can provide considering your resources, and you will be surprised how far your honest efforts will take you.

When people are happy with you, they are also likely to be great advocates for you. Happy customers take to social media or websites like Yelp to share with others their experiences. And you know what happens next – one person likes you, their friends catch on to it, and so it goes.

Related: 10 Ways to Maximize Your Facebook Business Page

Don’t get too caught up in the ‘Like’ game.

Customers liking you should not be confused with them “liking” you on Facebook, though both are equally welcome. While no studies have been carried out on the relationship between customers loving the products and “liking” the company on its Facebook page but surveys indicate customers aren’t easily moved to “like” business pages. The average Facebook user only likes 9.8 company pages, which tend to be big brands like Apple, Domino’s, Google, McDonald’s, etc.

What are the chances of your small business making it to this list? That’s for you to answer. But think of it this way: how many companies do you personally like and how many have you formally given a thumbs-up on their Facebook page?

A silent following is a following, too. Don’t get too caught up in the number of “likes” you receive. Instead, look at the number of subscribers you have and work to expand that.

Give people an incentive to join you. Remember, for anybody to let you into their personal circle, you will have to offer them something of value in return. This could be in the form of useful content, discounts, better customer service or incentives of any other kind.

Create an excellent website that is mobile friendly.

People take their Internet in their pockets wherever they go. If you want to reach the maximum number of people, you have no choice but to make your website mobile-friendly.

Invest in a good website that is user-friendly, contains all the latest information and doesn’t take forever to load. If somebody wants to find you, they should know exactly where to look. A professional-looking website is also reassuring to visitors.

Make your website compatible with all the major web browsers. If you can create an app for your business, awesome! You are dealing with tech-smart people now, so keep up with them to improve your chances of getting into their good books.

A sluggish website with outdated content and a labyrinthine layout loses you people and business.

Related: 4 Free Must-Use Analytics Tools for Social-Media Marketers

9 Revelations About Toxic Leaders

9 Revelations About Toxic Leaders

Image credit: Shutterstock

As a staunch supporter of corporate America, it gives me no pleasure to admit that some of the biggest jerks I’ve known in my life have been senior executives.

Wait, it gets worse.

I was one of them.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. Most of the guys I thought were jerks would probably say the same thing about me. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know who the real jerks were. Probably all of us.

If that’s not confusing enough, you should also know that some of the best people I’ve known were senior executives. Puzzle me that.

Under the best conditions, relationships are subjective and situational. When you add all the pressures of the corporate world with so much on the line, workplace dynamics between highly motivated and opinionated individuals with diverse personalities can get pretty darn complicated … and overheated.

Related: 10 Surprising Things Successful People Like

While a relatively high percentage of accomplished business leaders can be brash and ruthless, contrary to what you might think, it’s not all motivated by selfish greed and political posturing. A lot of it is normal conflict and competition, not to mention your average everyday dysfunctional behavior.

During my years as a high-tech senior executive, I learned some interesting things about top executives, including myself. And they just might come in handy, especially if you someday find yourself on the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. And don’t be too surprised if, someday, some of these revelations end up applying to you.

Absolute power does corrupt absolutely.

Yes, the old adage is true. If you give people absolute authority and don’t hold them accountable with airtight oversight, you can expect ugly things to happen. That’s not always the case, but the risk is way too high to risk it, if that makes sense.

Top execs can be loony, too.

I once read that about 20 percent of the population has been diagnosed with some form of psychological disorder. Personally, I think the percentage is much higher at the executive level. After all, it’s so much easier to be delusional when you’re actually on a pedestal. Forget executive coaches; CEOs would be better off with shrinks.

Big egos grow like bubbles until something pops them.

I’m sure this is something a good shrink could explain, but for some reason, executive egos naturally tend to expand to fill as much room as you give them. That is, until some event where their bubble gets popped in a very public and humiliating way, i.e., they get fired.

There is such a thing as evil genius.

When I was a youngster, I used to wonder why there were no James Bond-like evil villains in the world. Turns out there are … in the boardroom. They’re not just petty, vindictive, bullying, and manipulative. There is evil genius in some of their machinations. I know. I’ve seen it.

Nobody really walks on water.

While it’s true that going head-to-head with a powerful exec is usually a loser – especially if it’s your boss – there’s an old Japanese saying, “If you stand by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.” Most dysfunctional executives eventually self-destruct. You can wait them out.

Related: 2 Lessons You Can Learn From Entrepreneurial Failure

Big executives lie big.

Former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, Microsemi chief executive James Peterson, and former Broadcom SVP Vahid Manian all got caught for lying on their resumes. And I’ve actually seen top executives of public companies lie through their teeth like boastful little kids in board meetings. No kidding.

Success is its own worst enemy.

If they’re not grounded, success goes to people’s heads. The more successful CEOs are, the more they’re compensated, and the less oversight they’re subjected to, the more risks they will take. Eventually, their egos will write checks that reality can’t cash. I’m not making that up; there have been studies.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the boardroom.

I’ve worked with some of the most narcissistic, sadistic, toxic, ruthless, maniacal, small-minded, passive aggressive, backstabbing, sugarcoating, brown-nosing slime-balls you will ever have the pleasure of being targeted for extinction by. But then, that just comes with the territory.

Everyone is an a–hole some of the time.

Why can’t we all just get along? Because this enormous Petrie dish called life on Earth doesn’t work that way. When you think about how different we are, how screwed up our brains can get, and how out of hand the business world is sometimes, it’s hard to believe that anything gets done at all. But it does. God bless us, everyone.

Related: This Is Where Big Ideas Come From

Establishing credibility when you’re a young entrepreneur

Eliot Buchanan, Plastiq
Tags: Eliot Buchanan
Plastiq's Eliot Buchanan and Daniel Choi cofounded the company when they were 22.

Above: Plastiq’s Eliot Buchanan and Daniel Choi cofounded the company when they were 22.

Image Credit: ©2015 Jon Chomitz Photography

Getting a business off the ground is hard and often feels like one obstacle after another. You need a compelling idea. You need funding. You need customers. You need to learn how to market – the list of things you need is endless, but perhaps the most critical thing you will need is people to take you seriously. It can be hard to get that no matter your age, but as a young entrepreneur you will often be faced with more challenges establishing credibility with potential investors, your team and peers, potential partners and even your customers.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves a young-entrepreneur success story, and it’s worth a brief mention that the founders of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Walmart were all between the ages of 20 and 26 when they founded those iconic companies. But sometimes it takes a bit more effort for young entrepreneurs to get people to listen. Here are a few things I’ve learned on my own journey as a young entrepreneur about establishing credibility:

Credibility by Association

Building the right network of people is what I personally believe to be the most important ingredient in business, and the people you surround yourself with out of the gate will also drive others’ opinions of you.

I realize this sounds great on paper, but it’s also a chicken and egg scenario – how do you start piecing together a network until you have the credibility? In my view it boils down to three simple things – own what you don’t know, talk to everyone you meet like they have something to teach you, and do what you say you are going to do.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

One of the quickest things you can do as a young founder is work to become a subject matter expert because, unlike building your resume, it’s something within your control. So many aspects of starting a business require patience and timing, but your ability to learn absolutely everything you can about your industry can be accelerated quickly by sheer work ethic and hours put in (something the majority of young entrepreneurs are already good at). Proving that you know what you are talking about establishes a huge amount of respect because people will be confident you have done your homework.

However, it’s also critical to own what you DON’T know. One of the easiest ways to lose credibility is to come across like you believe you know it all. Seasoned professionals will see right through you, but if you approach people with humility and are open to what they can teach you, you will begin to foster a great network of allies and mentors.

Everyone Has Something to Teach

It’s estimated that 11,000 new business books are published each year (not counting self-published works), and while the jury is out on how effective they are, the overall message is clear – people want to share what they have learned. I’m not saying run out and buy all of these, or even to buy any of them, but if you approach every new person you meet with an open-mind and a genuine interest in what they do, the path they took to get there, and even go so far as to ask them pointed questions like, “what is the best business lesson you have learned so far?” I guarantee you will walk away with something valuable. It might be a specific takeaway you can apply to your entrepreneurial journey right away, it might be something that helps you down the road, or it might just be the start of a solid relationship to add to your network of credibility, but it’s all valuable.

Do What You Say You Will

It’s actually that black and white – if you say you are going to do something, do it. A lot of young entrepreneurs (myself included) are very ambitious in their thinking. This is frequently touted as one of the most positive traits of the young entrepreneur, and I made the mistake several times early on thinking that ambition alone would help me be taken seriously. That’s just not the case. People are obviously much more impressed when you have real progress to show and it’s clear that your ambition translates to reality. I’ve made this a golden rule in business and everyday life.

Embrace Your Age

As young entrepreneurs we sometimes face so much skepticism that it can be discouraging, but I’d encourage you to flip that thinking – be empowered by your age. Use the time to soak up knowledge both from your own research and by learning from everyone around you. If you ask smart questions, establish your network, and deliver on your promises, you will be taken seriously by your industry and your peers, no matter the age gap.

Eliot Buchanan is cofounder and CEO of Plastiq, which he launched when he was 22.