Is it Really Possible to Go From Offline to Online Business Entrepreneur in a Short Time Span?

The first 30 years or so of my life were spent pretty much the same way as the masses; starting in state school education, following on to College to study, in my case Construction Studies, then joining the usual main stream 9-5 JOB as a trainee for ‘peanuts’ in terms of money just for having the privilege of actually having a JOB!  I remember my first year’s salary back in the late 1980’s was a whopping £4.5k! Yes that’s 4 point 5, not £45k!

At this point you’re thinking, well that was back in the 80’s, right that probably wasn’t so bad was it?  Well 12 years later when I eventually ‘sacked’ my employer, my salary had increased to a staggering £20k a year after reaching Site Manager level, and the employment funnel was getting narrower towards the top, meaning there was little or no chance of going much further.  £20k a year, how pathetic was that!

So I was in my late 20’s, I had been married for several years and both my wife and I were working flat out to try and keep the bills covered on our first home we had bought into. Interest rates here in the UK reached somewhere around 15%, and our mortgage payments were crippling to say the least.  My salary alone wasn’t enough to cover the mortgage.  I was working overtime and even then it was a struggle.  There was no way we were going to be able to start a family! Now we are only talking about 12 years ago, and I recall some of my school friends that had gone their own separate ways were earning anything up to £50k a year. So I knew then something was ‘drastically’ wrong!

The strange thing then, was that everyone else around me at my old employer seemed oblivious to it all and seemed to be happy and content that this was the norm! For some time I had felt as though I was outside of this huge box looking in at everyone else.  I knew there had to be a different way, but I didn’t know how.  Although I had come through the management route in construction, I was quite able when it came to the practical side of construction, and so began to offer my services to some friends.  This then spread to doing small projects to some Architect friends I knew, to the point where I couldn’t cope working my full time job and my new found side line which I was running in the evenings and at the weekends.  I was literally working 7 days a week and burning the candle at both ends!

It was the spring of ’97 and interest rates were beginning to fall.  Just when we saw we could break even, we sold our house and moved in to a bedroom at our parents flat in West London!  We had the greatest news; we were going to have our first baby Girl!!  Now I don’t know if it was this that had the effect, but for whatever reason I decided in my wisdom that now was the best time to sack my 9-5 BOSS!  So, we had no home, we were expecting our first child and then I sacked my BOSS! Shortly after we found a new home and with the money we had saved at our parents along with the additional income I was getting from my new business, put this towards another mortgage. And in that first year I earned double of my final salary at my old employer!

So that was it then, I found my New Success and the right career path move right? Well I developed and grew my own business from initial typical refurbishment contracts of circa £20-30k to larger contracts of circa £2.4million. During this time, I also purchased a Freehold Property which we refurbished ourselves ‘in house’ from an old disused garage to forming a top end Bathroom Showroom, displaying such brands like ‘Villeroy & Boch’ and offered an in-house Design and Installation service to our local Customers.

The down side to this new found success? Well when I was employed, I still had all my holidays.  When we went away we had great times. During our time owning our own business, no such luck!  I quickly found that I was being employed again, this time by a hungry machine that demanded being fed even when I wanted to slow down for a bit; so I didn’t, I couldn’t.

To top it all, as with many other Companies, trading in 2008-2009 saw a significant change and it was evident that we needed to look for an alternative, fast!  Where did I look then? Well I had been a subscriber to a monthly Business Newsletter and the one area that shouted out among any other industry, was how well and successful people were doing ONLINE.  This worried me at first; I had been one of those that, with the exception of purchases etc, had kept completely clear of the Internet and its offerings. My initial thoughts were…

“How can I do anything online, I know nothing about computers, I didn’t take ‘IT’ at school or college, I know nothing, I’m an Offline Entrepreneur…”

Well silly me (that’s putting it mildly!!).  It was great that I had taken the initiative to do something about our lives back when we started our business, but if I had opened my eyes a bit wider and looked further a field, I could have saved years of hard and lost times!

Fast Forward to today, and I am now meeting a complete new stream of people and friends whilst chartering new waters with more ‘Enthusiasm and Optimism’ than ever before!!  The main difference now? Well I get to work from home at the hours to suit me.  I still work hard and am committed to my new found career and Business (everything worth having in life takes work, there’s just different ways of getting there and different levels of enjoying your time whilst achieving it)

I get to take my girls to school on most days, after having breakfast together!  I get to take our handsome German Shepherd dog out a couple of times a day on long and ‘fun’ walks (not rushed at the crack of dawn or in the pitch black of night after work) At the end of the day I get to ‘pick’ my girls up from school!  We have dinner together! This may all seem a bit boring to you, but I have got over 12 years of catching up to do, and the simplest things in life have a complete new value to me again, and I am enjoying every minute of it!!

So ‘Offline’Construction Business Owner and Entrepreneur to ‘Online’ Marketing in less than a year!! Who would have thought you could change your life long career to something completely new? And who would have thought that you can cover the same distance as an Offline business over 12 years in JUST SEVERAL MONTHS Online?

Wow…The Power of the Internet and more importantly, the POWER OF SELF BELIEF!! (I will leave that last one for another time!) For me for now, I feel blessed to be given another opportunity to build a new successful life for me AND my family’s future.  There’s an old saying “Third time lucky…” Well this is my third time around in my career and I don’t plan on going anywhere else now, I have found my right career path at long last!

Bedroom Developer to Business Entrepreneur – 5 Survival Tips to Running Your Own Website Business

Consider the scenario: You are a bedroom developer/designer who over the past two years has built websites for friends, family and local business in your spare time and now you want to run your own website business. Undoubtedly this starting point is an exciting time, typically when one starts out in web design you are either creatively dominant or technically. Generally speaking for those who claim to be in the middle this is fine it just means when the time comes to delegate – make sure you know which side of the fence you will sit on.

Note: This is only applicable in the first year of running your website business – all shall be revealed in my later articles.

The web industry is a saturated marketplace however there is good news for the budding new bedroom developer or designer. Website and Internet development has only really been around for 30 years and if you compare that with industries like Steel, Mining, Catering, General high street retail etc… this is not a patch on their 1000+ year histories.

The fact is the “Industry Life Cycle” for website development and Internet technologies is still in its growth phase and showing little sign of maturing. The reason why I am telling you this is because by the very nature of its youth the continual release of new ideas and innovation will continue to thrive throughout your lifetime. There will always be new ideas, new trends set and new ways of doing things that others hadn’t thought of as well as the continual opportunity to do better than the next person.

The web industry is plagued with limited standardisation, have you ever wondered why there are over 8 internet browsers? Why does Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 all have their own interpretation of style-sheets.

Why, oh why? Can we not build a website to work on one Internet browser and it will not work on another. Well historically it comes down to the fact that Internet standards have never been properly enforced or advised.

In 1994 was the dawn of the World Wide Web consortium and from there on in, their initiatives have been the most respected and followed standards for website building as we know it today. (for more visit their website)

So where was I? Ah yes, the bedroom designer/developer – well like all businesses your number one asset to get new your business running is REPUTATION!

Reputation is earned and the better you can build on this reputation, then the better you are going to survive in your first years in business. The way it generally works is that if you do a good job for someone – then likelihood is that they will tell their friends and so forth and then someone in that chain will want a website.

So here are my core rules in first year survival for running your own website business or any business (for that matter):

Rule 1: When an opportunity comes to build a website or even just something small – make sure that your 1ST job is done really well, above and beyond expectation.

It sounds stupidly obvious but I can tell you – this set me aside from the competition I was facing in my first year. If successful you immediately set yourself up to have a referral or recommendation.

Rule 2: Make sure you know how much it costs you (in hours) to build a website! Work out your hourly rate and then get a price together. The single most criminal mistake by nearly all website developers and business owners I’ve met over the years is getting your price wrong and when you do get it wrong… IT HURTS!

Trust me – it only takes one difficult client, or someone who changes their mind and does not understand what you do and you’ll be working every hour God sends for peanuts!

Rule 3: Understand domains and the impact of changing DNS settings, many people do not have a clue behind the impact of a poorly configured/managed domain-name can have on their business. If you can demonstrate common sense and understanding this will give you confidence in front of clients and handling the ‘dreaded go live’ period.

Because if you get this wrong – you will probably find for all your hard work – you still have not been paid!

Rule 4: Make sure you receive some money upfront before starting – agree a fee and get somewhere around 40 – 50% upfront – this way you can cover your cost to build and you wont be out of pocket during the closing stages of completing the website.

I recommend you request the remaining 50% on completion for small website work and larger websites request another 40% on first delivery and a final 20% once all is done.

Rule 5: Take your time when estimating complexity and timescales – this is the single most criminal mistake by any web development agency, whilst it can be easy to make a profit building a website it is even easier to mis-quote a project and find yourself at a significant loss.

You should approach the work in stages and calculate the time required deliver each stage. You then need to add on a suitable amount of contingency, for example 20%.

The stages typically could be:

  • Requirements and Capture
  • Design & Prototype (this is two stages if the project is large)
  • Build / Code
  • Test – Includes cross-browser testing, dead link checks, time to load checks, validation and any other necessary unit and system testing methods.
  • Deploy – Time it takes to publish the website, configure the hosting and domain name, double check email contact forms, Google verify the site, setup website traffic monitor and publish the site map.

Your final price should reflect the time you estimate to accomplish the work by your hourly rate.

Building Websites requires experience and knowledge of Software development methods, for those who are serious I recommended reading about Software Engineering, development methodologies and understanding project management technique.

No matter how small or large your website project is, this will open your eyes to the disciplines of software/web system development and the hoops you need to jump through that will set your professional standards above so many others within the marketplace.

Success Secrets of Small Business Entrepreneurs – 10 Tips For Business Success

Owning and operating your own business can be a liberating and exciting opportunity. Creating your own success and mapping out your future on your own terms is empowering. At the same time leaving the comfort of employment including regular working hours, benefits, and a consistent salary can often be discomforting, if not downright scary. For most entrepreneurs the desire to be independent and create your own life outweighs all apprehensions, but still comes with associated risks.

While there may not be a bullet-proof success formula that works consistently for every business, there are common characteristics that unite all successful entrepreneurs. Continue reading to determine how many of these skills and characteristics you have mastered as well as where you may want to focus on improving.

1. Positive outlook on life and success. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic, upbeat, and look to the future as an opportunity still awaiting. Big dreams are a common theme with successful small business owners and often what propels the individual and the business to its ultimate success. In conjunction with the big dream comes the necessity to break it down into smaller visions that can be clearly articulated, monitored, and measured. Many if not all successful entrepreneurs have great imaginations and spend time mentally visualizing success. This includes thinking about specific deals, transactions, and events that will ultimately lead to personal and business success. Clarity of purpose and staying focused on the task at hand are critical to achieving business success. The more realistic the visualizations and dreams the more likely you will be to achieve. Success is ultimately birthed in the imagination and mind and translated through daily actions inspired during those visualizations.

It is widely known you must “see it before you can achieve it.” Though business success ultimately lies in the physical ability to provide a product or service at a profit, the product, service, and ultimately the unique approach to these transactions are all byproducts of mental visualization. If you are an author, visualize your next book signing after your release has gone #1 and you’ve made it to the best-selling list. If you run an auto repair shop, visualize successful interactions with clients in which you deliver exceptional service and value during each transaction. Ultimately you must take whatever niche, product, market, service, and segment you are involved in and visualize how you will succeed at delivering value to the clients you serve while ultimately earning a profit. The most successful entrepreneurs out there visualize the success of the product or service in their mind prior to it being affirmed in the physical marketplace.

2. Passion = Profit. Personal passion is a prerequisite for any successful business. If you enter a business deal strictly looking to make money or achieve success and aren’t passionate about the business, the people, or the end result, you are severely limiting the potential outcome. Passion ignites enthusiasm in those that surround you; team members, clients, vendors, etc. Profits find passion in business regardless of the market segment. Passionate about auto recycling? As strange as it may seem other people are too. Embrace your passion and look for ways to share your excitement and knowledge about a specific product or service with others who share a similar interest. Embrace your love for the product or service you deliver and follow the path that ignites passion in your daily life. Passion provides the necessary motivation that ultimately leads business owners down a path towards fulfillment of goals and dreams.

3. Compensate for weakness and focus on your strengths. Most of us have been taught through the traditional school of thought – which unfortunately restricts our ability to succeed. Traditional thinking teaches us to be humble about our strengths and consistently strive to improve our weaknesses. Successful entrepreneurs often turn this mantra upside down. Instead of spending countless hours and energy attempting to develop skills you may never master – focus on what you do best and compensate for the rest. We are all gifted with unique individual talents that are expressed naturally in our day-to-day interactions. You may be good at writing, analysis, speaking, insight, relationships, painting, interacting with kids, animals, etc. We all have inherent traits that come naturally and don’t require long hours of hard work to achieve. That doesn’t mean we don’t improve with practice, but let’s face it, some of us are specifically better at things that others aren’t. Focus on those things that you do best and compensate for the things you don’t. Find team members that are strong where you are weak and vice versa and you will build a synergistic team that supports each other exponentially.

4. Failure is not an option. Successful entrepreneurs understand that failure is not an option and continually look for ways to succeed. Don’t allow failure to be considered at any level in the organization. Focus on success at all times and never let the possibility of failure take root in your mind or business culture. There will always be setbacks and learning lessons throughout any business venture and life, but find the opportunity for growth and success in every dilemma and challenge faced. All negative circumstances can be turned in to a positive and ultimately failure does not ever have to be selected as an option. Any circumstance can be re-framed with a positive twist no matter how bleak the situation may appear.

5. Prepare and execute the plan. Dreaming often comes naturally to entrepreneurs. Detailed planning and execution may not. In order to ensure success at moving from where you are to where you want to be, a detailed plan must be drafted and executed. Utilize the Merlin Method (“begin with the end in mind”) and work backwards from there. For example, if you would like to become the next Donald Trump, start with Donald Trump as the end result. Move back from there and make a list of the traits required to become Donald Trump. What relationships, transactions, business deals, and skills are required to succeed? Which of these do you possess? What items to you need to work on? Assess where you are at, who you are, and ultimately who you need to become to get to where you want to go. Formulate a plan that enables you to move down the path acquiring the skills and building the relationships necessary to ultimately arrive at the end result you are striving for.

6. Be dedicated! Successful entrepreneurs know that a business is similar to a baby in that it will require nurturing, attention, and caring, throughout its entire life. Different stages will require different levels of input and interaction. Make sure you are serious about and able to afford the time required to ensure successful implementation of your business plan. Long hours and hard work are often part of any phase of the business. If you are truly passionate about what you do none of this will really be negative. Remember to schedule time with family and friends, and most importantly for yourself. Though many hours may be spent caring for and nurturing your business, you ultimately are not good to anyone if you burn out before the business succeeds. Be conscious of how you are feeling and the work load you are undertaking. Being dedicated does not mean you are completely consumed by the business. When at work focus and commit to completing the necessary tasks at hand. When scheduled away from work – leave the business alone. Be dedicated to your business, your family and friends, and living a balanced life and you will be more likely to succeed in all areas simultaneously.

7. Build relationships and network. Ultimately it isn’t what you know – but who you know. We have all encountered this motto multiple times during our business careers, and it still rings with truth in every situation. Surround yourself with a competent team, board of directors, advisers, vendors and partners and continually look to network. Ultimately the people you meet during your daily interactions will be the ones that will buy from you, support you in delivering your product or service, or in supporting you personally in your quest for success. Opportunities will present themselves through the people you meet on a daily basis.

In business, you are judged by the company you keep – from your management team, board of directors, and strategic partners. Businesses always need assistance, more so small businesses. Maybe the lady you met in a trade association meeting can help you secure funding, or the gentleman you bumped in to at a conference can provide you with management advise. It is important to form alliances with people who can help you, and whom you can help in return. To succeed in business, you need to possess good networking skills and always be alert to opportunities to expand your contacts.

8. Desire to learn. You do not need to be an MBA degree holder or PhD graduate to succeed in your own business. Actually formal education is often inversely proportional to the amount of success achieved in small business. Curiosity and a desire to learn how to solve real world issues is what propels many business owners to success. Talk to those around you and find out what would best help the greatest number of people in your market and you will have found a winning proposition. It often isn’t about how smart you are in a certain area but more specifically how well you are able to clue in to what other people are telling you and how you can help them solve problems.

9. Keep the faith. The road to success will often contain detours and potential pitfalls. Keep faith in your original dream and vision and ultimately good things will arrive. Realize that one of the biggest factors in determining your future success will be in how you deal with temporary set backs. Stay focused on the ultimate end result and have faith in your ability to succeed. Setbacks are strictly learning lessons that ultimately teach you how to be better at what you are attempting to do. Each setback enables you to pick back up and potentially increase momentum in your business by utilizing the learning lessons from the experience.

10. Practice discipline. Thomas Huxley once said, “Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you like it or not.” Do what others are unwilling to do and ultimately you will have opportunities that others won’t. Realize that you are on a mission that requires faith, commitment, and discipline. Find those traits and behaviors that support success and practice the discipline required to hone those skills day-to-day.

Ultimately if you possess or are able to master these 10 characteristics shared by successful entrepreneurs you will find yourself to be one of them.

Tricks for Boosting Your Confidence As a Catering Business Entrepreneur

It’s never a good feeling not to have the level of confidence you want to have. If you need more confidence, you’ll be glad to know that there are definite ways you can develop it. If you want more confidence in business and life in general, simply adhere to the following three tactics we’ll be covering.

Figure out what forces affect your catering business as a whole as well as individual parts of organizational structure. There are very many aspects of business that will impact your ability to have confidence. Increased confidence is only one side effect of good business skills. Your business does not exist within a vacuum nor do its parts, you need to realize this. It’s also true of the rest of the business as a whole. Your catering business is influenced by many influences as a whole as well as separately. If you find yourself lacking in confidence with your role or function within your catering business, then you know that is something that must be addressed. Giving yourself pep talks has not been very effective. There’s the matter of your unconscious feelings and attitudes that override the words you consciously repeat. The best alternative or solution is to use the imagination you have tucked away wisely. Whatever you want to call it, play mental games with yourself to envision what you need to be like in order to effectively do your job. It is more than crucial for you to see yourself having already succeeded striving for the confidence you want.

You need to tackle confidence building on as many fronts as possible. It may be hard to fathom, but your outward show really is significant – not just to you but also other individuals around you. This is a crucial thing for you to become aware of. So to put it simply, be sure that you look the part that you desire to be. Think about this, if individuals take note of you and can’t make out a business leader, or a person in a catering business leadership role, then they’ll have a tendency to act consequently. When you look and actively “be” the part, then you will see a difference in the way people respond to you. At that point, you will start to feel more convinced of yourself about who and what you are. These feelings of inadequacy are completely understandable. It is possible to accomplish the confidence you need in a variety of ways. Most catering business owners make changes slowly in areas of confidence. Your dedication and perseverance are key to this process and the time it takes to make it work.