Blend Your Strengths with Small Business Needs

If you are looking to start a small business of your own, there is a proven process that is necessary to start off with. Many creative people have great business ideas, but their approach to planning is ineffective and eventually flops. First and foremost, you have to find a market that is a good size. Now what does this mean exactly? Finding a niche market that is a reasonable size entails pinpointing one that is big enough to make a profit but small enough for the resources of a small business and one that does not compete with large corporations.

Two main mistakes that entrepreneurs make in finding small markets are targeting a market that is too broad and targeting a niche that is already heavily exploited. What you decide to sell must connect product to target audience or you will not be successful.

To start off with, choose your own unique area of expertise. What are you good at? What do you have experience in? Use your education, your skills and the people you know who could help you transform your idea into reality. If you have many areas of interest and are not sure which one would be the most profitable, a little more research will be needed. Consider how it will be possible to convert your education and skills into money-making opportunities. Research your surrounding marketplace to see what is needed in your area.

Now if you are trying to find small markets online, be forewarned that this can be tedious and time-consuming. You will first have to think of a list of possible target audiences, then take your first idea and research an exhaustive list of keywords and keyword phrases that people in that target audience are using for information on their desired product. Next, one must research all keywords and phrases for relevancy and then study which keywords on your list might lead to other niches that will need future researching. Then, you need to compare all your keywords to web pages to evaluate the present competition. You will use all your information to narrow down your list to keywords and phrases that have the most online traffic and those that are the least exploited. If your small market does not appear to be profitable, you must start the entire research process over. If you do find one that seems to be a money maker, you then must focus on finding ideas to profit from.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Where Can I Find My Niche? Finding Your Ideal Prospects So You Can Sell To Them

Most marketing experts will tell you that you need select a niche or a target audience. That you can’t just market to

Most marketing experts will tell you that you need select a niche or a target audience. That you can’t just market to “whoever is paying attention” and be successful. Why is that? Think about it this way: if you are having a conversation with a total stranger, how do you know what to talk about? Unless you are able to find some common ground, the conversation will probably be short-lived. Because neither of you have an understanding of the other, you must find a way to make a connection to involve each other into the conversation.

The same holds true for marketing. You must make a connection with your audience if you want them to pay attention and stay around to find out what your product or service is all about. And, in order to make a connection, you have to know something about them. You have to know what problems they have that you can help to solve. You have to understand them.

That is why it is so important to select a niche or clearly defined target audience. Because once you’ve selected a distinct group of people you believe you can best help, you can research them so you begin to understand them. Then and only then can you really communicate effectively with them. And that’s what marketing is; communication.

But once you’ve identified your target or niche, you must also be able to find and market to them. The first step in doing that is to define them more specifically. How?

My suggestion is to ask yourself the following 10 questions to help develop a very clear description of your target. Then it will become much clearer to you where you can find them. You may need to make some educated guesses when answering these questions and that’s okay. It’s a start and you can always refine your answers as your business grows and you begin to understand your target more.

As I go through these 10 questions, I’m going to use an example of a client of mine who is a life coach who wants to help adults who are childhood victims of maltreatment or victimization, improve their health and wellness.

Why am I using this example? Because it is a clearly defined group, BUT these people do not wear a sign around their neck advertising who they are. So, they can be difficult to find and market to. Therefore, it makes a great example.

You can apply these same 10 questions to your business or niche, regardless of what they are. They are universal questions that apply to any type of business or target audience.

1. What is their primary problem you can help solve?
Our life coach needs to clearly identify the current problem her potential clients are dealing with as a result of their childhood maltreatment. That is the problem she can position herself to help them overcome. Is it relationship issues? Is it job issues? Be as specific and focused as possible.

2. Are they primarily male or female?
Our life coach has identified her target as females.

3. How old are they?
Our life coach says they are high functioning professional women. In that case, I’d say we’re primarily talking about women between the ages of 25 and 45 years old.

4. Where do they live? What type of community or neighborhood; urban area; suburban area? Also, do you have any geographic limitations (real or self-imposed) regarding where you can market or deliver your services or products?
If they are high functioning professional women, they likely live in a nicer suburban neighborhood or perhaps an urban area. Our life coach will need to identify where she believes the majority live in her area and whether she only wants to work with women in her immediate geographic area, or if she wants to do distance coaching.

5. What type of work do they do?  And where do they likely work? Their type of business as well as geographic location.
Professional women could be corporate professionals, doctors, attorneys, entrepreneurs or solo-professionals. Our life coach will need to identify the fields she wishes to focus on, taking into consideration the ones she feels include the greatest number of her target clients.

6. What is their socio-economic status or annual household income?
High functioning professional women are probably enjoying financial success, making them of a higher socio-economic class. They probably earn a good income and enjoy the finer things in life. Money is probably not an issue.

7. How do they spend their leisure time?
Do they belong to a gym or health club? Do they go to the movies or out to dinner frequently? Or, do they have young children and spend their time at elementary school functions, family picnics, children’s birthday parties or weekend soccer tournaments? Our life coach may need to make some assumptions here based on what she knows about her target. Again, that’s okay to start with. She can always fine-tune this later as she begins to understand these women better.

8. What is their family structure or home environment?
This niche of professional women probably includes single women as well as those who are married and have children. Therefore their home environments may vary. They may have no support or family network. They may have strong family support. Or, they may be having issues with their family based on their past. Our life coach will need to keep this in mind when she selects marketing avenues and writes her marketing messages. She’ll want to focus on what they have in common and steer away from areas of abiguity.

9. Do they belong to any associations or professional organizations?
If our life coach selects one or several industries to target, she should be able to easily identify associations or professional organizations these women belong to. Once identified, these are excellent venues for networking and speaking opportunities.

10. What are their media habits?
Do they read the newspaper or magazines? If so, which ones? Listen to the radio? If so, which formats do they likely listen to? Do they watch TV? If so, which programs do they likely watch? Do they spend time on the Internet? If so, what kinds of web sites do you think they are visiting? Where do you think they are currently getting their information about health and wellness? These are all potential places to reach your niche with your marketing message.

Yes, again our life coach may need to make some assumptions. However all of these media can provide you with detailed demographic profiles of their audience. So if we’re looking for professional women in a certain geographic area, we’ll be able to find out if they are among the audiences for these different mediums.

Answer each of these 10 questions to the best of your ability.  Talk to current clients to get insights. Or, talk to friends or colleagues who fit your client profile to gain a better understanding of who and where they are. Once you build this target client description, you’ll have a much better sense of where you can find them.

The next step is putting together a marketing message that speaks directly to them and what they are dealing with. The more you understand them, the more you’ll be able to craft a message that will hit home with them. That message will become your magnet, attracting the people who you can best help.

10 Sure-Fire Steps to take the Fear out of Public Speaking

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

This article reveals 10 simple steps to minimize the fear of Public Speaking. Find out how to make it so much easier and do it a whole lot better.

Do you “feel the fear” when asked to do some Public Speaking? 

Public Speaking is still one of our greatest fears and it turns grown men and women into nervous wrecks. The mere thought of it turns our tongue to cotton wool, causes our internal plumbing to act up and turns our knees to jelly.

Well, there’s no need for all of this because help is at hand. All you need to remember are your P’s and Q’s. Let’s start with the P’s

Preparation – When you sit down to write what you’re going to say, bear in mind who you’ll be speaking to. Will they understand what you’re talking about; will they understand the technical stuff and the jargon? If in doubt remember the old saying – “Keep It Simple Stupid”.   

Make sure that what you say has a beginning, middle and an end. Think of some anecdotes that help reinforce your story. People think visually so paint verbal pictures for your audience. And always remember, people want to know what’s in it for them – so make sure you tell them!

Place – Have a look at the venue before the event if you can. It’s not always possible, however, even if you get there half an hour before, you can check out where you’ll be speaking.  Stand at the point where you will deliver from, imagine where the audience will be and check that they can see and hear you. You may even wish to place a glass of water where you’ll be able to find it. 

Personal Preparation – Before any Public Speaking event, think about what you are going to wear; when in doubt dress up rather than down. You can always take things off for a more casual look. Men could remove their jacket and their tie. Women could remove items of jewelry.  Part of your personal preparation should include some mouth and breathing exercises. Practice saying some tongue twisters to give your speaking muscles a good work out. Take a deep breath and expand your diaphragm. Then breathe out,counting at the same time; try and get up to fifty and not pass out.

As part of your personal preparation, write your own introduction. Write out exactly what you want someone to say about you, large font, double-spaced and ask the person introducing you to read it. Believe me they won’t object and will probably be pleased and impressed.

Poise and Posture – Whenever you’re called to speak, stand up or walk to the front quickly and purposefully. Pull yourself up to your full height, stand tall and look like you own the place. Before you start to speak, pause, look round your audience and smile. You may even have to wait until the applause dies down. Remember, you want the audience to like you, so look likable. 

Pretend – I’m suggesting you pretend you’re not nervous because no doubt you will be. Nervousness is vital for speaking in public, it boosts your adrenaline, which makes your mind sharper and gives you energy.  The trick is to keep your nerves to yourself. On no account tell your audience your nervous; you’ll only scare the living daylights out of them if they think you’re going to faint. 

Some tricks for dealing with nerves are:  Before you’re called to speak, get lots of oxygen into your system, run on the spot and wave your arms about like a lunatic. It burns off the stress chemicals.  Speak to members of your audience as they come in or at some time before you stand up. That tricks your brain into thinking you’re talking to some friends.  Have a glass of water handy for that dry mouth. One word of warning – do not drink alcohol. It might give you Dutch courage but your audience will end up thinking you’re speaking Dutch. 

The Presentation – Right from the start your delivery needs to grab their attention.  Don’t start by saying – “Good morning, my name is Fred Smith and I’m from Smith Associates.”  Even if your name is Smith, it’s a real boring way to start a presentation.  Far better to start with some interesting facts or an anecdote that’s relevant to your presentation.  

Look at the audience as individuals; it grabs their attention if they think you’re talking to them personally. Talk louder than you would normally do, it keeps the people in the front row awake and makes sure those at the back get the message. Funnily enough, it’s also good for your nerves.

PowerPoint – And for those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a software program that’s used to design stunning graphics and text for projection onto a screen. As a professional speaker, I’m not that struck on PowerPoint. I feel that too many speakers rely on it and it takes over the presentation.  After all, you’re the important factor here. If an audience is going to accept what you say then they need to see the whites of your eyes.

There needs to be a big focus on you, not on the technology. Use PowerPoint if you want but keep it to a minimum and makesure you’re not just the person pushing the buttons.  Why not get a bit clever at using the faithful old Flip Chart, lots of professionals do.

Passion – This is what stops the audience in their tracks. This is what makes them want to employ you or to accept what you’re proposing. Couple this with some energy, enthusiasm and emotion and you have the makings of a great public speaker.  Give your presentation a bit of oomph and don’t start telling me – “I’m not that kind of person.” There’s no need to go over the top but you’re doing a presentation to move people to action, not having a cozy little chat in your front room. 

That’s the P’s finished, so let’s look at the Q’s.

Questions – Decide when you’re going to take them and tell people at the start.  In a short speech it’s best to take questions at the end. If you take them as you go then you may get waylaid and your timing will get knocked out.  Never – never – never finish with questions; far better to ask for questions five or ten minutes before the end. Deal with the questions and then summarize for a strong finish.

Too many presentations finish on questions and the whole thing goes a bit flat. When you’re asked a question, repeat it to the whole audience and thank the questioner. It keeps everyone involved, it gives you time to think and it makes you look so clever and in control.

Quit –  Quit when you’re ahead. Stick to the agreed time; if you’re asked to speak for twenty minutes, speak for nineteen and the audience will love you for it. Remember, quality is not quantity. One of the most famous speeches ever – “The Gettysburg Address”, by President Lincoln, was just over two minutes long. 

Right, that’s my cue to quit when I’m ahead.  Now that you’re armed with this information you too can minimize your fear of Public Speaking.

3 Worst Mistakes People Make in a Presentation

A bad presentation can ruin a career. Here’s how to avoid the three worst mistakes that people make.

Truly memorable disasters don’t just happen. They require a special blend of misunderstanding and misguided effort. Here are three ways to guarantee a disaster in your next presentation, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Believe in Magic. 
Show up hoping that a coherent, eloquent, useful presentation will magically appear once you start speaking. Avoid any type of preparation. Just wing it.

What Happens
Everyone is amazed by the presentation because they expected more. They are also bored and disappointed. They may even become upset because an unprepared presentation insults the audience by wasting their time. Unprepared presentations sound like, well, unprepared presentations.

Instead
Prepare. Identify the goal for your talk. Design a presentation that achieves that goal. Talk with key members of the audience about their expectations. Rehearse.

Mistake #2: Memorize your speech
Spend untold hours committing every precious word to memory so that you can recite it even if awakened in the middle of the night.

What Happens
You sound like a machine. And if you stumble on a word, you can become stuck–speechless. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s painful.

Instead
Learn your presentation. Yes, write a script. Memorize the first and last sentences and then practice giving the presentation without looking at the script. Practice many times. Eventually, you will learn how to convey the key ideas in a natural, normal way.

Mistake #3: Talk About Yourself
Focus entirely on yourself. Tell about your background, your credentials, and your history. Tell your story. Just talk about yourself. Make the presentation all about you, yourself, and your life.

What Happens
They listen politely. If you manage to be entertaining enough, they may actually pay attention. Otherwise, the audience reacts by thinking, “So what?”

Instead
Talk about the audience. That is, talk about what they need and how they can achieve it.

 

Build Your Business With Four Easy Steps

Building a business is no easy task.  This easy to read step by step guide provides an outline to starting a business in just four easy steps.

Creating a successful and profitable business is no easy task. It’s reliant on many outside factors, including competition, timing and demand, which you have very little to no control over at the beginning. Assuming all of these outside factors are in your favor, having a sound business plan can lead to having a successful business. Here are five steps to consider when you’re building your business from the ground up:  

1. Determine your business. What are you selling?

This question isn’t as easy to answer as you may think. For example, Nike is in the sportswear business, but the truth is that when you buy a pair of Nike shoes and a t-shirt at the mall you’re buying a lot more than sportswear — you’re buying an image, a feeling. You’re buying the Nike brand. Richard Thalheimer, the former CEO of The Sharper Image and the founder of RichardSolo.com, has worked in specialty retail for more than 30 years. When asked what business he’s in, he’ll tell you “convenience” or “innovation” before he specifies any particular industry, and he’s built one of the most powerful brands in America. Keep in mind, there’s more to a product than, well, the product. Your brand is what sets your product apart from your competitor’s.  

2. Select your market. Who are you selling to?

This step is a bit less interpretive as the first, though equally important. Who are you selling to? or more importantly, what do you know about this person? Understanding your consumer is a key to success. What do they do? Where do they hang out? What do they watch on television? These are just a few of the questions that you should be able to answer about your consumer. Knowing the answers to these questions can answer a lot of questions of your own when it comes to a devising a marketing strategy. Richard Thalheimer understood his market for The Sharper Image, probably as well as they understood themselves. From an article in the LA Times, Tracy Wan, who was president and chief operating officer under Thalheimer says “Richard has the amazing ability to figure out the things that people want to have.” This ability to perceive your consumer’s desire can only be a result of knowing them like your neighbor.  

3. Create a marketing strategy. How do you speak to these people?

This is a culmination of understanding your brand and your consumer. As mentioned in number two, understanding your consumer can answer a lot of questions concerning your marketing strategy: Where should you advertise? What’s the voice of your brand? What kind of prices are reasonable for this demographic? In order to engage your consumer, a.k.a. sell your product to them, you must know where your advertisements will be noticed, how to speak to them, and how much they will be able to spend, among many of things. Really, this step should have been combined with the last because who your market is dictates your marketing strategy entirely.  

4. Learn by example. Seek advice from those who have done it.

There are many books written by professionals who have already started their own business and have been successful in doing so. One that comes to mind immediately, as we’ve already mentioned him a couple of times, is Richard Thalheimer. “Creating Your Own Sharper Image” shares the story of how he grew his tiny office supply company, The Sharper Image, into the thriving enterprise that it has become today.  

Remember, building a successful business in not all about the dollars and cents. Equally as valuable is you brand equity and your ability to engage your consumer, which is only attainable by understanding them. Assuming there is a demand for your product, and you can compete with the other brands, following these four steps shall guide you in the right direction.

 

Advice About Setting Up Your Own Business

Are you thinking about setting up your own business? Have you an idea for a new business but are unsure about how to proceed? If you have answered yes to either of these questions, this article could be of benefit to you. I am going to write about how to plan and create a successful small business.

Are you thinking about setting up your own business? Have you an idea for a new business but are unsure about how to proceed? If you have answered yes to either of these questions, this article could be of benefit to you. I am going to write about how to plan and create a successful small business.

Many people are looking at ways in which they can become self-employed as they have had enough of being dictated to and fed up of long and frustrating commutes to work. They want the freedom of being their own boss and to be able to choose their own hours of work.

Leaving a full time career can be quite a scary prospect however. The security of having a regular income and other benefits such as a pension and a share save scheme can seem hard to let go. I am sure many people whether rightly or wrongly have opted to stick with this security and to merely keep their business plan as an idea, which they never see through or use.

Other people are willing and happy to take the risk and see it as a way of getting out of the rat race. 

When you have an idea for a new business you then need to think of a name to call it. I would keep this name quite short as it makes it easier to remember for people. It obviously needs to have something to do with the business sector you are entering.

You will now need to work out how much money you will need to set up the business. This can be quite daunting but is essential. In the short term I would advise to keep these start up costs as low as possible, you can always buy or rent better machinery in the future as an example.

Once you are aware of how much money you need, you then have to find it. You may have enough yourself via savings or a redundancy payout, however most people are not in this position. If you do not have enough money, you could try and raise money via the family, by seeking a partner or by releasing the equity from your house. There is also the option of a business loan.

The next stage is to market your product or service. There are many ways of doing this including:

  • The internet via a website
  • An advert in the newspaper
  • Direct marketing in the form of leaflets
  • An advert in the yellow pages
  • Exhibitions
  • Trade fairs

I would advise finding out where other people from your industry advertise as they will have tried and tested many of the above options.

You then need to work out how much to charge for your product or service. I always keep these charges fairly low at the outset in order to attract as many people as I can and to get some income in. I then hope that word of mouth will take over and the idea is that after a few months I will be in a position to increase my fees.

It is also important to realize that we will make mistakes along the way. When this happens we need to think positive and not to beat ourselves up. It is an experience we can learn from.

Always have belief in yourself. At times any business will go through a rocky period, this is when we need to be strong. In my opinion the more work we put in, the more rewards we are likely to obtain.

Self-discipline is one of the keys to your success. Being able to choose your own hours of work may seem like a dream but it can prove to be many peoples downfall. We have to ensure that we work the required amount of hours. It is far too easy to stay in bed for that extra hour or to arrange yet another game of golf. These things are fine once you are established, but this is a long way off at this stage.

Are You Ready To Start Your Own Business

How can you make sure that you are among the winners rather than the losers in this high stakes game? The answer is inside of you. You must ask yourself four key questions to determine whether your own small business will survive and thrive.

Every year millions of people answer “Yes” to that question and every year that answer costs many of them money, time, confidence, and heartbreak. The Small Business Administration estimates there are 580,900 new small businesses opening each year and that number does not include the small one-person entrepreneurships that pop up every day. However even if you are your business’s sole employee then there is still something to be learned from the SBA’s numbers.

According to the SBA, two-thirds of new businesses survive at least two years and 44 percent survive at least four years. Two of the key factors in the businesses survival and ability to thrive: the owner’s education level and the owner’s reason for starting the firm in the first place.

How can you make sure that you are among the winners rather than the losers in this high stakes game? The answer is inside of you. You must ask yourself four key questions to determine whether your own small business will survive and thrive.

1. Are You Ready

Have you mentally prepared yourself for the switch from employee (or student or whatever label fits you currently) to boss. You are going to be the one making decisions now about everything from office products to product line. This total control is one of the driving forces behind many people who take the plunge into starting their own business but it is also one of the elements that drives new entrepreneur crazy. When you start out there is an endless list of decisions that need to be made and new questions crop up every day.

Even more important you will need to remember that in a small business you will wear many hats. Even if you manage to start out with one or more employees you will each fulfill more than one role in your new business. And if you are running a one-man or one-woman show then you serve in every capacity from file clerk to maintenance crew to salesman to CEO. Can you handle switching from task to task and role to role like that? Are you willing to make those switches?

Similarly, have you prepared your family and friends for this switch in attitude. Your life is going to change — probably pretty drastically — and that change can have a positive or negative impact on your family life and social interactions. It will make things much easier if your friends and family are supportive going into the process.

2. Where Is Your Niche?

Have you identified your niche yet? One of the reasons many businesses fail is that they fail to focus on a target audience. Yes if you are a major discount chain then you can sell everything from peanuts to wallpaper but this type of business requires vast resources that just aren’t available to the small business. But small businesses dominate the marketplace (creating more than 50 percent of the private gross domestic product last year) by finding a different approach — a niche.

Knowing your niche means you are better able to find, target, and maintain your customers as well as provide the best possible goods and services to that customer base. That focus is one of your best chances to not only survive but to thrive in a very competitive marketplace.

3. What Is Your Plan Of Action?

Another key factor in the survival and ultimate success of your business is how much planning you do before you open your electronic or physical doors.  You need to decide if your business will be based on the internet or include more traditional models. Are you going to work full-time or part-time at your new business? Are you going to hire help or go solo? Have you written (or at least outlined) your business plan? Dreaming, thinking and planning can save you much trouble and waste later when things are hectic and problems strike. Planning can also help keep you focused and to balance your spending and time.

4. Who Are You Going To Call?

At some point, no matter how experienced a business person you are, you will need help. You will need support, advice, tools, or information — or all of the above. One of the beautiful, and most frightening, aspects of growth is that it can lead you to places you never imagined. No matter how much planning and experience you bring to your new position as CEO the unexpected will arise. How will you cope with this? It is important to recognize that no business is an island. It is not failure to seek help. Failure is when your business shuts down because you didn’t get the help you needed.

The best way to get timely help is to work on your support system while you work on building your business. That way you will already have a ready list of resources available that you can quickly tap into when emergencies strike. In today’s world there are many marvelous resources available to you no matter what your business model may be. These include:

  • Publications (newsletters, magazines, books)
  • People (professional advisers, mentors, teachers, consultants)
  • Networks (organizations and forums in your niche as well as general business and marketing)
  • Education and training (tutorials, courses, and seminars)

After you have answered these four key questions you are now ready to ask yourself that one big question again — are you ready to start your own business?

How Gadgets Make History

Gizmos and gadgets bring convenience and amusement into our lives. This article explores how many of the great inventions in history stemmed from simple gadgets created by smart men and women.

The history of gadgets spans as far back as humanity itself — since hominids began creating tools to make their lives easier. Humans have always created devices and appliances with specific practical purposes that were initially thought of as novelties, due to unfamiliarity with and initial unwillingness to accept the technology. Today, industry has augmented the creation of new gadgets, while certain retailers, including Brookstone and Richard Thalheimer’s RichardSolo.com, specialize in popularizing them.

 What famous inventors Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Leonardo Da Vinci, among others, had in common was foresight. They understood that a lifetime spent playing with what others viewed as toys and senseless gadgets would eventually result in indispensable technology. From just that small group, the groundwork for electricity, communications, film, and flight was laid because of their gadgets, which obviously possessed more value than novelty.
 
Perhaps one of the earliest, most well known gadgets created is the wheel, many millennia ago. Take a ride in your car and witness how truly revolutionary such a gadget became and how much we now rely on it for transportation. A more recent gadget, the Apple iPhone, appears to be the beginning stages of yet another gadget-turned-necessity that will reshape communications. 
 
“The iPhone may someday be looked upon as the device that started a second revolution in computing. Desktop computing was the first revolution. Hand-held computing will someday be regarded as the second revolution, and the iPhone is the product that started it.”  -Richard Thalheimer, RichardSolo.com
 
All gadgets were not created equal. In fact most inventions are built on the newest technology. The world of gadgets is tiered; devices fall into one of four categories: mechanical, electronic, programmable, and application. Mechanical gadgets include the wheel, as well as later developments such as the pulley, the bicycle, the sail boat, the thermometer and the sort. Following the advent of electricity, gadgets were taken to a new level as inventors began to discover different uses for the newly harnessed energy. The television, radio and quartz watch are examples of electronic gadgets. After electricity, inventors toyed around with electronic information via microprocessor, beginning an age of programmable devices such as computers, and later, MP3 players and the iPhone. Application gadgets include iTunes, Microsoft Office and other computer applications that customize our experience with programmable devices.
 
Richard Thalheimer, the President and founder of online gadget vendor RichardSolo.com, and founder and former CEO of gadget giant The Sharper Image, understands, maybe better than anyone, that there’s much more to gadgets than novelty.
 
“Certainly most people enjoy the novelty of a gadget that introduces new convenience to their lifestyle. What they forget is that solving these everyday problems is not just entertainment, but some of these devices become functional necessities. In my personal life, I rely on my iPhone, my garage door opener, my nose hair trimmer, my electric toothbrush, and other gadgets that were once regarded as novel gadgets. “
– Richard Thalheimer, RichardSolo.com
 
Both his former brainchild and his current venture sell quirky, useful and fun gadgets of all types, from mechanical to programmable and application. He has seen some devices, such as the Ionic Breeze air purifier, spur sensational and lasting trends based on a realization of utility value, while others collected dust on the shelves after their novelty wore out. Specialty stores like The Sharper Image and Richard Thalheimer’s RichardSolo.com serve a greater purpose: spread new ideas, and give credit to the Franklins and Edisons of the world.

How to Be a Creative Entrepreneur

There’s a great line in Alice in Wonderland when the Queen says, “Sometimes I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast.” I think you’ll agree that this has to be creativity at its best! As a small business owner you want to be as creative as possible but how on earth can you open up your mind to get to the point where ideas just spill out?

There’s a great line in Alice in Wonderland when the Queen says, “Sometimes I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast.” I think you’ll agree that this has to be creativity at its best! As a small business owner this is an ideal you really need to strive for … but how on earth can you open up your mind to get to the point where ideas just spill out?

Small business owners are expected to be creative and inventive, otherwise how could they run their own firm? If you have a sneaky feeling that creativity is not one of your strong points what can you do to stimulate your brain and get it kicked-started?

Be Unlimited

Too many people are ‘limited thinkers’. They have their world placed squarely in a box and nothing can exist outside of that. If the newspaper reports something then it must be right. If Joe next door says that something is impossible then he must be right. As a small business owner, you cannot afford to be a ‘limited thinker’. You have to be an ‘unlimited thinker’. Get into the habit of seeing no boundaries; decide that there are no taboos. Have the belief that with a bit of focus you can find a creative solution to all of your problems. This is the foundation for a creative thought process.

Be Future-Focused

Creative ideas invariably come when you ‘look’ into the future. The feeling of propelling yourself forward and seeing the problem solved is a great motivator. Do you think you could achieve the same result if you were backward focused? I don’t think so! Train yourself to be future-focused, always looking ahead, not a traditional thinker who tries to find answers in today’s world. 

Be a Writer

Once you open your mind to the joys of creativity the ideas will quickly start flowing, as if someone has opened the flood gates! Just like flood water, unless you catch it the ideas are lost for ever. Capture all your ideas by carrying a small pocket notebook with you. As soon as an idea pops into your mind, write it down. It doesn’t matter how outlandish it is, you can look at it in the cold light of day later on.

The fact you are responding to the ideas by noting them will further encourage you to be even more creative – good deeds encourage more good deeds!

Be Clutter-Free

If you are naturally an untidy person, then get out of the habit! A cluttered office will lead to a cluttered mind. You cannot expect your brain to work efficiently when all it’s doing is constantly reminding you how untidy your office is. To be creative remove all the clutter from your life and free your mind.

Be Action-Oriented

All of these points are great, but if you don’t take any action with your ideas, then you may as well not have bothered. An idea is nothing but a thought unless you take a specific action to help bring it to life. Periodically review your notebook and see if there are any hidden gems, or ideas which can be quickly actioned. A lot of your ideas may not suit at all but in there somewhere is probably an idea, which if acted upon, could change you or your business. Commit fully to move forward on as many of your ideas as you can.

Don’t be afraid to break down the boundary walls. As John Stuart Mill said, “That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.” 

Let me close with one question – can you be creative enough to be dismissed as a dreamer? No? Then get practicing!

5 Good Reasons a Self-Employed Professional Should Take Vacation

So you think you’re not justified in taking time away from your business because you’re self-employed? Here are five great reasons why you should definitely take a vacation.

So you think you’re not justified in taking time away from your business because you’re self-employed? Here are five great reasons why you should definitely take a vacation: 

1. Physical down time

You work hard to grow and maintain your business. Trying to be superhuman will certainly take its toll if you allow it to. Give your body a break by taking in some R&R. 

2. Mental down time

Your days are filled with busy, sometimes even hectic, day-to-day activities related to your business. If you don’t allow yourself to get away from it once in a while, your peace of mind and general well-being will most definitely suffer. Get out and play. Your mind will thank you! 

3. Spend time with loved ones

Your family and friends see you working, working, working, sometimes rarely coming up for air. Both you and they will appreciate spending some quality time together. 

4. See the world (or your own back yard)

The important thing is to do something you enjoy, whether it’s traveling or, if that’s not your cup of tea or you don’t have the budget for it, spend time at home. If you also work out of your home, this could be challenging. The key is to stay out of your office during your vacation time. Try getting creative with this. Make your office “off limits” by closing the door and placing a sign on it. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind off working. How about a hobby or a day trip to the beach? Think of what you can do within your budget that’s fun. Or do nothing at all! 

5. You have a life

Although this one is a no-brainer, it surprises me how many small business owners don’t feel as if they deserve time off. There is too much to do, and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Well, I’ve got news for you. It’s always going to feel that way! Only you have the power to allow yourself time off. Even if you prefer only to take a day here and a day there instead of a week-long (or longer) vacation each year, that’s a whole lot better than never taking time off. Trust me, you’ll feel better about yourself and your work if you take regular vacation time. You’ll be healthier, too!