Improve team performance, 6 sign of job burnout

Improve team performance, 6 sign of job burnout

entrepreneurs, Job, Success, team, Uncategorized

Improve team performance and Keep an eye out for these six signs of burnout:

1. They aren’t “sparkling” as much.

Look for “sparkle.” In other words, look for contagious enthusiasm. You can measure sparkle, more or less, by how enthusiastic employees are when they talk about their work, what they’re proud of and why they want to work where they do.

When disposed to burnout, that initial sparkle someone might have for new ideas and team collaboration can get buried. Leaders who see this enthusiasm consistently dwindling should immediately address their workload and make the necessary changes.

2. They’re disengaged.

An HBR study, “In Demand, yet Disengaged,” finds that across 20 organizations, people deemed by their peers to be the best information sources and best collaborators actually have the lowest engagement and career satisfaction scores. If your team members seem less engaged than normal, it might point to more than boredom.

3. They’re quieter than normal.

Top collaborators tend to be top communicators, so if the typical dialogue seems to be diminishing, it could be a sign they’re feeling overwhelmed. If your top performers are beginning to say yes or no to projects with no further interaction—if they are being short with you—it’s a sign you need to be having a conversation about underlying workload issues.

4. They’re doing too much.

If one person on your team is accomplishing 18 tasks each week while another is only accomplishing four, there’s a good chance thehigh performer won’t be able to maintain his or her cadence (and you should probably ask yourself why the low performer isn’t meeting a higher standard). With the trend toward work becoming more open and transparent, it’s easier for managers to spot obvious discrepancies.

5. They check out early.

Don’t read too much into the small changes, but big changes, such as not paying attention or taking notes in meetings, or consistently showing up late, might be a sign of burnout. It’s important to not just watch for these changes, but also give employees their space. Sometimes an extra vacation or flexible schedule can help employees avoid burnout before it occurs.

6. They’re “running on empty.”

Pay attention to your intuition about high performers who might be showing signs of burnout—even in their appearance. It’s more about being in tune with how your team usually acts so you can see if that changes. If there are obvious inconsistencies in their appearance, schedule or work patterns, they might be running on empty and close to calling it quits.

In a perfect world, tasks are evenly distributed and people know and work within their personal limitations. But the real world is rarely that simple, especially with the demand for cross-functional work on the rise. This means the number of instances when workers are pulled in multiple directions has increased and high performers are routinely expected to perform not only for their own supervisor, but in conjunction with other supervisors and teams.

When teams are collaborating effectively, and know what their top priorities should be and why, organizations can prevent the fatigue and stressthat eventually leads to burnout and turnover. The key to solving this burnout conundrum is in the supervisor-team relationship.

Don’t wait to spot signs of burnout. Regularly sync with your team to understand when and why their workloads feel heavy. Teach your team how to work on the right things, collaborate effectively and work well cross-functionally to empower self-improvement across the board. Not only will this prevent burnout in the long run, but it becomes the key to unlocking the true potential of high performers.

Source.
www.success.com

Social Media Marketing: How to Grow Your Business Using Social Media

business, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, start a business, startups, Uncategorized



This demonstrates a huge potential for social media marketing to increase sales, but a lack of understanding on how to achieve those results. Here’s a look at just some of the ways social media marketing can improve your business:


Does the thought of Social Media put you into a spin. What is Social Media Speak. Let me help you to enter this world of wonder and social marketing

1. Get your domain today.
  • Once you have a domain, you’ll need to buy hosting services and then begin to build your site. If you don’t know how to design a site, you can either hire a designer or use a site builder that offers pre-made templates through your host. No matter which method you choose, your site should include the following:
      1. Information about your company, product and opportunity
      2. A system for ordering your product or registering to operate a business
      3. Information about training and your support team
      4. A list of the advantages of joining your company and team
      5. The offer of a free e-book, document or newsletter if users give you their name and a valid e-mail
      6. An autoresponder that sends follow-up e-mails to everyone who provides their contact information. Make sure it can also send out newsletters.
2. Use blog/weblogs to your advantage.

  • You don’t have to be a penned wordsmith to be a good blogger. Blogging comes in many formats and the key is that blogging is conversational.
    • You can try traditionally penned blogs.
    • You can record audio tracks which is known as podcasting.
    • A third method is microblogging and a popular platform for this is twitter. In 140 characters or less microblogging allows you to engage prospects and carry out easy conversations.
  • Blogging is a critical component of social media marketing because it allows businesses to provide information through the use of fresh, relevant content.
  • Incorporating blogging as part of a company’s internet marketing strategy provides the company with a good opportunity to be found in the search engines for the company’s desired markets.
3. Create a network for your business online.
  • One of the most popular and highly addictive web 2.0 mediums for online consumers are the social networks.
  • Social networks allow consumers and business professionals to network among friends, strangers, acquaintances, and professionals all in one place.
  • If small businesses keep an open mind and keep their networks open they have the potential to grow their networks exponentially by allowing other consumers into their fold.
  • Social networks also allow businesses to update the public on new improvement in product lines, what an average day is like at xyz company. Social networks are varied in purpose and the amount of social networks can be mind numbing, but the most popular platforms determined by marketing research about consumer online behavior are currently LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • It brings you closer to the people who require your website, products, and line of business the most and gives you information about experience and feedback’s of your target market. 
4. Syndicate your content from your business to your online site.

  • Social networks and blog platforms are relatively low on cost investment, but they are far from maintenance free marketing endeavors.
    • To blog and create viable weekly online content the time commitment involved is a minimum of 5-10 hours a week.
    • How can you effectively communicate online through providing fresh and relevant information AND then market that information to all of your contacts across all of the social networks? The answer is syndication.
  • Syndicating content allows your message and your information to be reached across the worldwide web. You can syndicate your content by using an online social service that will broadcast your updates across the social networks. You can also syndicate your marketing collateral by using a service that will syndicate your flyers across social networks.

 Marketing tactics you may want to try out include:

  • Free classifieds
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Paid banner advertising
  • Writing articles that include links to your website
  • Starting a blog
  • Participating in forums and newsgroups
  • Starting an e-mail newsletter



Five Experts, Five Tips For Business Success

business, entrepreneurs, forbes, Grow fast in startup, start a business, startups, Uncategorized

Below, gain five tips from five industry leading experts on how to make 2015 your best year yet.

1. Treat customers like guests in your home. 
While there will always be customers who have decreased attention, are in a hurry, or appear to be frazzled, you want to still aim to deliver strong customer care despite customer scenarios. One way to do this is to treat customers as if they are guests in your home.”
Kirt Manecke, customer service expert and author of the book “Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service” 
2. Belong to at least three professional organizations. 
I always suggest to business owners that they belong to at least three professional assocations. First, you should belong to your local Chamber of Commerce or downtown business association. That is where you business is and where your employees often live. Moreover, you should belong to your specific industry trade association. And last, you should belong to a statewide association because most legislation happens at state level, and you need eyes and ears looking out for you business. In most cases, a retail association will fill that role.”
Curtis Picard, Executive Director of the Retail Association of Maine
3. Participate in e-commerce. 
The future of e-commerce belongs to small businesses. This is the biggest opportunity for retailers since farmer’s markets began hundreds of years ago.People often believe setting up an online store is expensive and difficult, but this is not the case.”
Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at Shopify.com
4. Introduce commerce and charity. 
Research shows that 83 percent of customers want to buy products that benefit a cause. Combining your business with a charity of your choice is a great way to gain consumer attention while increasing sales.”
Dan McCabe, Director of SixDegrees.org
5. Embrace the cloud. 
The cloud is here to stay and Windows is dead. Over the next three to five years, the cloud will really come of age for small businesses, and Windows-based POS (point of sale) and other opersations will disappear. Retailers and small businesses must think about upgrading their technology – with cloud being the obvious choice.”

Warning Signs That Your Business Partnership Is Failing

business, Business Partners, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, start a business, Uncategorized



You need to read these steps for good health of partnership. Because, A business partnership can be every bit as complicated as a marriage. And, like matrimony, some partnerships end unhappily.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could spot the warning signs of
an implosion before it occurred — or, better yet, before you even entered the partnership? That way, you could escape the situation before it turned ugly, got expensive, or wrecked what you’d built through long, hard work.
Actually, you can. Here are five signs that your shared business may be in trouble, so that perhaps you can rethink the partnership before it’s too late.
1. Unfair or Unbalanced Roles
Like a good marriage, a good business partnership brings together two people whose personalities, skill sets, intelligence, know-how, and other attributes complement each other. When properly balanced, the partnership produces a union that’s more powerful than either person acting alone.
But a successful partnership can’t happen or endure when there’s a fundamental imbalance. Trouble generally arises when one partner feels he or she has too much or too little:
  • authority,
  • responsibility,
  • time commitments, or
  • investment in a desired outcome.
The ideal situation is one in which each partner feels good about his or her contributions and the other partner’s efforts.
Of course, the requirements of a business are constantly shifting. So, a successful partnership needs not only an initial balance, but also a mechanism for re-balancing the partners’ individual workloads as often as necessary.
2. Financial Disagreements
Business is closely tied to money, and it involves making myriad decisions about spending, investing, receiving, and controlling funds. Some of these decisions inevitably are based on value judgements, such as whether you spend more in order to buy domestically-made goods or operate in a “green” way.

Spending much money without asking to your partners, hidden transactions, hiding clients payments etc. These are major issue in financial disagreement. 

Because
cash flow is central to your business, significant disagreements about spending signal a fundamental partnership problem. As time goes on, there’s a good chance you will become dissatisfied with your partner’s preferences regarding money — and tire of your constant tussling over it.
3. Unresolved Issues
This is not important to see the world in same way as other partners do. May be there some likes and dislikes, agreed or not. Problem is to resolve them by talking much more about the issue.

Disagreements are not necessarily a problem, but difficulties in resolving disagreements are. Psychologically, the inability to resolve conflicts often signals basic incompatibilities in a partnership, personal dislike, or divergent worldviews and values. But even if all that stays in the subconscious background, difficulty resolving disagreements generally reflects important differences in communication styles, priorities, and personal flexibility, any of which can put extra pressure on a relationship.

From a business perspective, disagreements that continue for long periods produce resentment, waste time, and impede effective management of the business. So, make every effort to settle disagreements respectfully, in a way that recognizes the worthwhile aspects of each partner’s point of view. Ongoing friction is usually a sign the partnership will end badly.
4. Different Ways of Working
Differences in work styles can produce conflicts and resentments that steadily build up until the partnership falls apart. For example, one partner may:
  • rarely or never take time off, while the other partner cherishes regular “off hours”;
  • obsess over certain issues, while the other partner thinks them through to a suitable policy and moves on; or,
  • insist on volunteering their services for certain causes or decline certain business opportunities in order to reinforce personal values that the other partner deems irrelevant to the business.
The partners may begin with a good deal of tolerance for each other’s “quirks.” But fundamental differences are likely to chip away at even the strongest bonds.
5. Different Exit Strategies
How you plan to exit the business in the future can have a profound impact on day-to-day decisions and operating strategies. If partners are interested in divergent outcomes, they’re frequently going to feel driven toward different choices, such as:
  • taking cash out of the business early versus delaying immediate income in favor of investment toward long-term growth; or
  • running everything personally based on “gut feelings” vs. establishing policies and developing staff so that the business can run without the partners’ close oversight.
Individually, none of these differences create an immediate or inevitably fatal flaw in a partnership, of course. But they do send up a red flag in terms of the potential for long-term mutual satisfaction and success in the partnership, and the greater number of these problems that describes your partnership, the bigger the risk tends to be.

Employee and Employer Relations

Employee Relation, Employer Relations, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, start a business, startups, Uncategorized



It’s no secret that when a new employee comes on board, the employer who hired them is effectively beginning a new relationship.

It is the same relationship that he or she shares with every single one of their employees, and it is this relationship that will determine the success and impact of that employee’s time at the company.
An employer’s relationship with their employees has to be nurtured and taken care of in order to be beneficial for both individuals; their co-workers, and the company as a whole. It has long been noted that strong employer-employee relationships often lead to greater employee happiness and significantly improved productivity.
Many typical employer-employee relationships will vary on the scale of closeness and familiarity, but it is essential that all employer-employee relationships involve at least these five major characteristics.

1. Mutual respect

It’s perfectly fine to instigate a closer relationship with your employees to the point of socializing with them outside of work. (This is particularly common in smaller businesses and start-ups).
But even in a relaxed workplace, it is crucial to retain the traditional hierarchal structure and encourage awareness of this in your employees. As a leader, you need to be ready to give your team honest and frank feedback, whether this is  about projects, employee appraisals, or constructive criticism.
Romantic relationships in the workplace are always a bad idea, but you should also bear in mind that these relationships can have an effect on the workplace even before they are public or common knowledge — possibly without either party knowing it.  

2. Mutual reliance

There should be a balanced amount of reliance on both employer and employee. The employer relies on the employee to do his or her job well for the benefit of the business; the employee relies on the employer to treat them fairly and pay them equitably.
When this mutual reliance becomes imbalanced or one-way, problems will inevitably occur.
The employer may start to feel that the employee’s efforts are no longer instrumental to the company and view them as disposable, while the employee may no longer value their job and start to become disengaged. When either of these things happens, it’s time for the employer to reevaluate the employee’s role at the company – whether a new agreement can be reached, or whether it’s time to part ways.

3. Openness & communication

Any healthy working environment involves openness and transparency.
Employers can help create a forum of openness and honesty by asking employees candidly about their lives, families, and interests. Employees can, in return, contribute to this setting by being forthcoming about their lives outside of work.
Openness and communication is even more important for situations sensitive to the company, or that require an otherwise serious approach.
For employees, this might mean informing their boss of a family emergency that could affect their performance, or a desire to find a new job. When it comes to the latter, employers shouldn’t deter their employees from leaving, but should be understanding and supportive of their natural want to progress.
Meanwhile, employers should keep their employees in the loop about business matters and seek their input in important company decisions. Not allowing your employees to have an active role in the growth of the company not only wastes valuable insight and energy, but may also encourage them to become disengaged.

4. Support (and nurturing)

Employers should want their employees to reach their full potential and recognize when their capabilities exceed their current role. Leaving natural abilities to stagnate will cause boredom and frustration to grow in the employee, and as mentioned earlier, waste valuable energy that could better help the team.
Draw up your ideal business structure, or your current business structure as it is now, and outline every role and position that is necessary for it to work effectively. Not only will this enable you to identify gaps in your current team, it will also encourage you to take stock of who is performing well and who might be better off in a role with more authority.
Supporting employees even extends as far as helping them spread their wings and fly away to a new job when the time comes. Employers ought to be invested in their employees’ success as a whole and understand that they may not be at the company forever.
Employers have the option to help employees or to stifle them — but only the former will lead to trust, higher skill levels, more productivity and more motivation.
On the other hand, employees should be willing to show support for the company’s welfare and progress, which may mean making sacrifices from time to time. Whether it’s working late to fix an unexpected problem, or covering somebody else’s duties as well as their own, employees need to be ready to show that they are invested in the success of the company.

5. Gratitude

Gratitude should exist on both sides of the relationship, but it is probably a larger responsibility of the employer to recognize and appreciate exceptional effort from their employees.
When employees consistently deliver and receive little or no appreciation, it can become very easy for them to become disheartened, frustrated, and apathetic about their job, which destroys productivity.
A simple thank you is often enough (and this works both ways), but employers may wish to actively reward their employees for truly great work. They should use their intuition and knowledge of the person to decide what this might be.
In some cases a discreet gift might be enough, while others might relish recognition in the office. Some companies even host annual awards ceremonies where outstanding employees are given public recognition for their achievements.
Overall, gratitude and recognition help to ensure that employees know they are valued and that good actions and efforts are repeated.

Final note

It is simply not enough to draw up an office code of conduct, or a set of rules or policies detailing the ideal dynamics of the employer-employee relationship.
Natural habits are formed only in practice, and it is often through leading by example that employers can hope to encourage these practices.

Launching Your Business – How to start small business – Part 6

business, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, internet, marketting, start a business, startups, Uncategorized



Launching Your Business

1. Secure space. Whether it’s an office, or a warehouse, if you need more space than your garage or your spare bedroom, now’s the time to get that.

  • If you don’t generally need an office beyond your home, but may occasionally need meeting space, there are often places downtown that can address those needs. A quick Google search on “business meeting rentals [your city/state]” will deliver plenty of rental options in your area.
2. Build your product or develop your service. Once you have the business all planned, financed, and have your basic level of staffing, get going. Whether that’s sitting down with the engineers and getting the software coded and tested, or getting materials sourced and shipped to your fabrication room (aka “garage”), or purchasing in bulk and marking up the price, the building process is the time during which you prepare for market. During this time, you may discover things such as:

  • Needing to tweak the ideas. Perhaps the product needs to be a different color, texture or size. Maybe your services need to be broader, narrower or more detailed. This is the time to attend to anything that crops up during your testing and development phases. You’ll know innately when something needs tweaking to make it better or to make it less like a competitor’s stale offerings.
  • Getting feedback. Friends and family make great resources for asking questions and getting feedback––don’t hesitate to use them as your sounding board.
  • Needing to increase the size of your premises. This happens more often than expected. Once the stock starts piling up, you may find it ends up in your living room, bedroom and the garden shed. Think rental of storage premises if needed.

3. Launch your product or your service. When the product is all built, packaged, coded, online, and ready to sell, or when your services are fully worked out and ready to go, hold a special event to launch your business. Send out a press release, announce it to the world. Tweet it, Facebook it, let the word resound to all corners of your market—you have a new business!

  • Hold a party and invite people who can spread the word for you. It doesn’t need to be pricey––purchase the food and drink from bulk discount stores and get family and friends to help with catering (you can give them a product or service in return).

Covering the Legal Side – How to start a small Business – Part 3

business, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, managers, marketting, startups, Uncategorized

Covering the Legal Side

1. Consider finding an attorney or other legal advisor. There will be many hurdles to leap as you go from working stiff to overworked and underpaid small business owner. Some of those hurdles will be composed of stacks of documents with rules and regulations, ranging from building covenants to city ordinances, county permits, state requirements, taxes, fees, contracts, shares, partnerships, and more. Having somebody you can call when the need arises will not only give you peace of mind, it will give you a much-needed resource who can help you plan for success.

  • Choose someone with whom you “click” and who shows that he or she understands your business. You will also want someone with experience in this area, as an inexperienced legal advisor could lead you to legal trouble or even fines and prison time.

2. Get an accountant. You’ll want someone who can deftly handle your financials, but even if you feel you can handle your own books, you’ll still need someone who understands the tax side of running a business. Taxes with businesses can get complicated, so you’ll need (at a minimum) a tax advisor. Again, no matter how much of your finances they’re handling, this should be someone trustworthy.

3. Form a business entity. You’ll need to decide what type of business entity you want to be, for tax purposes and hopefully to eventually attract investors. Most people are familiar with corporations, LLCs, etc., but for the vast majority of small business owners, you will need to form one of the following[1]:

  • A sole proprietorship, if you will be running (not including employees) this business on your own or with your spouse.
  • A general proprietorship, if you will be running this business with a partner.
  • A limited partnership, which is composed of a few general partners, who are liable for problems with the business, and a few limited partners, who are only liable for the amount in which they invest in the business. All share profits and losses.
  • A limited liability partnership (LLP), where no partner is liable for another’s negligence.

How to start a Small Business – Part 2

business, entrepreneurs, Grow fast in startup, start a business, startups, Uncategorized
Writing a Business Plan


1. Create a business plan. A business plan helps to define what you think you need to launch your business, large or small. It summarizes the sense of your business in a single document. It also creates a map for investors, bankers, and other interested parties to use when determining how they can best help you and to help them decide whether or not your business is viable. There are seriously good books available on writing business plans that cover many chapters, and you should avail yourself of at least one of these as a guide (bookshops, libraries and online are good places to find these). In a nutshell, your business plan should consist of the following elements:


2. Come up with an executive summary. There will need to be several basic parts in your business plan. The first is the executive summary. Describe the overall business concept, how it will be monetized, how much funding you will need, where it stands currently, including its legal standing, people involved and a brief history, and anything else that makes your business look like a winning proposition.


3. Write your business description. Describe your business more specifically, and how it fits into the market in general. Who will you be selling to, and how will you deliver your product? If you are a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietor ship, state that, and why you chose to go that route. Describe your product, its big features, and why people will want it.


4. Come up with some marketing strategies. You must know your market if you are to be successful, so spend a great deal of time analyzing just who it is that will want your product, and how you plan on appealing to them to take cash out of their bank account and give it to you. What is the size of your market, will there be opportunities to expand the initial market, and what are your sales potentials? When you understand these variables, you want to sell them to the person reading your business plan.

5. Do a competitive analysis. As you develop the above sections, you will learn who your key competitors are. Find out who is doing something similar to what you are planning, and how have they been successful. Just as important is to find the failures, and what made their venture fall apart.

6. Write your development plan. How will you create your product? Is it a service that you are offering, or if it’s more complex—software, a physical product like a toy or a toaster—whatever it is, how will it get built? Define the process, from sourcing raw materials to assembly to completion, packaging, warehousing, and shipping. Will you need additional people? Will there be unions involved? All of these things must be taken into account.

7. Plan your operations. Who will lead, and who will follow? Define your organization, from the receptionist up to the CEO, and what part each plays in both function and financials. Knowing your organizational structure will better help you plan your operating costs, and fine-tune how much capital you will need to function effectively. Keep in mind that your business will continue to evolve and that this will be a rough idea of who is needed to keep things functioning; as the business grows, you’ll likely make changes to the hiring plans to fit what is happening at the time. Also, in a number of cases, the “staff” is you and whomever you can consult, such as your lawyer and accountant. This is fine, as long as you show that you’re prepared to pay for external advice and help until your business is ready to take on staff.

8. Cover the financials. Succinctly, this describes how much you plan on spending, and how much you’re making. Since this is the most dynamic part of your plan, and perhaps the most important for long-term stability, you should update this monthly for the first year, quarterly for the second year, and then annually after that.

How to Start a Small Business Part 1

business, entrepreneurs, managers, startups, Uncategorized



1. Have an idea. It might be a product you’ve always wanted to make, or a service you feel people need. It might even be something people don’t know they need yet, because it hasn’t been invented!

  • It can be helpful—–and fun—–to have people who are bright and creative join you for a casual brainstorming session. Start with a simple question like: “what shall we build?”. The idea is not to create a business plan, just to generate some ideas. Many of the ideas will be duds, and there will be quite a few ordinary ones, but a few will emerge that have real potential.
2. Define your goals. Do you want financial independence, eventually selling your business to the highest bidder? Do you want something small and sustainable, that you love doing and want to derive a steady income from? These are the things that are good to know very early on.

3. Create a working name. You could even do this before you have an idea for the business, and if the name is good, you may find it helps you define your business idea. As your plan grows, and things begin to take shape, the perfect name may come to you, but don’t let that hinder you in the early phases—–create a name that you can use while you plan, and don’t mind changing later.

  • For a bit of fun, take a cue from the Beatles, who often use fun names for a song before it is finalized, like Yesterday, which had the working title of “Scrambled Eggs.”


4. Define your team. Will you do this alone, or will you bring in one or two trusted friends to join you? This brings a lot of synergy to the table, as people bounce ideas off each other. Two people together can often create something that is greater than the sum of the two separate parts.

  • Think of some of the biggest success stories in recent times include John Lennon and Paul McCartney; Bill Gates and Paul Allen; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; and Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In every case, the partnership brought out the best in both sides of the equation, and every one of them became billionaires. Is a partnership a guarantee of being a billionaire? No, but it doesn’t hurt!
5. Choose wisely. When choosing the person or people you’re going to build the business with, be careful. Even if someone is your best friend, it doesn’t mean that you will partner well in a business operation. Start it with a reliable person. Things to consider when choosing your co-leaders and support cast include:

  • Does the other person complement your weaknesses? Or do both of you bring only one set of the same skills to the table? If the latter, be wary as you can have too many cooks doing the same thing while other things are left unattended.
  • Do you see eye to eye on the big picture? Arguments about the details are a given, and are important for getting things right. But not seeing eye to eye on the big picture, the real purpose of your business can cause a split that may be irreparable. Be sure your team cares about the and buys into the purpose as much as you do.
  • If interviewing people, do some reading on how to spot real talent beyond the certifications, degrees or lack thereof. People’s innate talents can often be somewhat different from the conventional education streams they’ve pursued (or failed to) and it’s important to look for “click” (you get along with them) and latent talents as much as paper credentials
    .



Using Surveys to Validate Key Startup Decisions

entrepreneurs, marketting, Uncategorized

Summary

This article describes in detail how to use on-line survey tools to validate your key startup assumptions, and gain actionable insights into topics such as pricing, target demographics, messaging, etc.

Introduction

By now pretty much every entrepreneur knows the basics of Lean Startup methodology: start by searching for product/market fit. Get out of the building and talk to customers. Run a series of experiments to validate your ideas. Above all else, validate your thinking as early as possible: don’t spend millions of dollars building something before you have tested the ideas and concepts with customers.
Where this tends to fall down in practice is that many entrepreneurs find it hard to reach real customers. Getting feedback from co-founders, friends, small focus groups, user testing sessions and even existing customers can be very helpful to qualitatively understand how others view your offering. But many times the sample group that you can reach is too small and biased towards people that will be polite to you, or who have self-identified as liking your product.
What if you could ask 1,000 potential customers about your product, new feature or idea? Would that help you make better decisions, create content or collateral, or gain important insights?
Many survey firms, including Survey Monkey discussed below, offer the ability reach a large specifically targeted audience that they have worked to identify. The following article was written by Brent Chudoba, General Manager of the SurveyMonkey Audience business, and describes how you might go about designing a survey, and interpreting the results, to gain actionable insights for your startup.

Background

My name is Brent Chudoba, I’m a VP at SurveyMonkey and General Manager of the SurveyMonkey Audience business, which provides on-demand respondents for our customers who need a targeted audience. My background, pre-SurveyMonkey, was in investing, and I worked for the investment firm Spectrum Equity, that acquired SurveyMonkey in a leveraged buyout in 2009. As an investor, quantifying a market opportunity was key to validating a business through diligence. Whether I realized it then or not, I’ve always been a researcher, only now I have a much better grasp of which tools are available to help people conduct more efficient and effective research. A big part my investment work was gathering company and industry data to form an investment thesis on the companies in my universe. As an operator, I’m still collecting data and trying to make good decisions as I help grow a business.

So how do you get quality feedback?

Learning about your own customers:

If you want to talk to your own customers, and understand product satisfaction, feature requests or anything else, a survey can be a great tool. You most likely have email addresses for your customers, or can provide a feedback link on your site, or even embed a survey in-product. However, your respondents are likely your biggest advocates who want to help you, or your least satisfied customers, who may want to complain. Surveying existing customers is no doubt a valuable exercise and can create preliminary benchmarks, but the focus of this article is on surveying non-customers, or people you may not immediately be able to access.

Learning about potential customers:

I always find it hard to generalize feedback programs without diving directly into a use case. I hope the following will help give you some ideas and inspiration for the topics that are most important to you when it comes to gathering feedback.
I have a friend who runs a startup called Modify Watches. It’s been around for two years, starting to grow nicely, and primed to add more resources and start spending money to grow. The company sells affordable watches that have interchangeable faces and bands, giving consumers hundreds of customization options. Modify Watches has a unique approach on accessories – you wear a different combination of pants and shirts most days, so why not switch up your watch face and band whenever you want to match your style or mood? The company has an e-commerce model with online as the primary sales channel. Modify could really benefit from talking to potential customers to understand its market opportunity, target customers, pricing tolerance and feature needs. Modify knows a lot of information about its business anecdotally and through customer data, but what about the potential customers that are harder to reach?
Since Modify is a startup focused on finding ways to gain new customers and is testing out different pricing, advertising and business model concepts, I asked my friend, “Why don’t you talk to a representative sample of US adults to see if they would buy your product, and what their pricing tolerance is on something like watches?”
My friend, the founder, was very interested. Apparently, Modify’s biggest problem (not dissimilar to most startups) is getting its product in the hands of more people. He told me, flat out, Modify has a great product, people love it, people evangelize it, but there aren’t enough people with the product on their wrists. To change this Modify had to decide how best to put resources to work on marketing campaigns, PR and partnership efforts to help jumpstart its growth and awareness.
The risk, from his perspective, is in having the confidence to expend resources and/or raise more capital to accelerate growth while relying on a relatively limited set of customer data and questions around business model approach, ideal customers, and price point.
So what’s a resource-efficient way to find data and insights around key business questions, in order to gain the confidence to push forward on growth and awareness efforts, while still staying nimble enough to pivot if needed?
Talk to potential customers. Determine the key business questions where feedback from a large audience would help you make better decisions. Using a survey or even series of recurring surveys to monitor trends can help find answers quickly, and help give you the confidence to sprint forward and grow your customer base.
The next section covers how you might run such a project and gives some examples of how to test some common topics faced by startups, using Modify as a specific example.

Using a survey and a targeted audience to make smart decisions

How do you get started?

Work backward. First, think of what you are going to do with the data once you have it. This will help you determine what exactly you need to ask, and how to ensure the data is usable. Starting by just typing out questions can actually prolong the process. I also recommend keeping goals narrow and focused. You can always run more survey projects, so don’t overthink the first project and try to address too many topics at once, which leads to longer surveys and more survey creation and QA time. You are also going to learn a lot every time you run a project, which will make each subsequent project more successful.

Create clear objectives

Key objectives for Modify:
  1. Understand if its core offering is priced appropriately
    • The data (output of answer options) needs to allow Modify to clearly indicate where people think the current pricing is too high, too low, or about right
    • Understand brand recognition (unaided and aided) in the market to get a sense of how they should position themselves in marketing/PR (and be able to cut this data based on watch/accessory budgets and demographics)
  2. Find out which types of customers are most likely to purchase its product
    • Where are the demographic sweet spots in terms of pricing and interest?
  3. Get custom market stats it can use to build a TAM (total addressable market), sanity check its market understanding and build customized data for presentations, potentially for fundraising
    • How frequently do people buy watches?
    • About how much do people spend on watches?
    • How likely are people to purchase a watch online?
  4. Understand key info around its new watch subscription offering to validate whether this is a business initiative it should focus on
    • Are people interested in a subscription offering that allows them to get new watches on a regular or semi-regular basis?
    • How much should they charge?
    • How frequently do people want new watches?