You’ve got a great idea for a startup. There’s a gap in the market, and your product/service is solid. You’re hard-working, and the passion is 100% there. You think your success is guaranteed.
Not so fast.
We’re going to give you the painful truth first: even if you manage to get out of your first year in business, the odds are still stacked against you. In fact, 71% of businesses fail within the first ten years. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you make good decisions early and lay the foundations for a successful long-term business. The following small investment tips can help maximize your results.
Leverage Apps and the Cloud
Business owners are often tempted to invest in tangible infrastructure they just don’t need. It’s expensive and prevents your business from being lean and flexible. Instead of getting out the checkbook for bulky hardware, leverage modern technology and go for apps and the cloud wherever possible.
For example, use cloud technology as a backup solution for your data. Instead of an expensive local server, use an automated service like Backblaze. For shared documents and files, think Google Drive and Dropbox. You still need to go old school and print off documents? A host of dedicated applications can allow you to wirelessly print across your organization (instead of the antiquated USB cable!) and sync them with the cloud for automated remote printing.
Yes, these apps may require a little up-front investment. But it pales in comparison to physical hardware you can’t get rid of if you suddenly need to drop costs.
Surround Yourself with a Solid Team
Motivational powerhouse Jim Rohn’s most famous idea is basically this: you are the average of the people you surround yourself with. This works on a personal level, but also in business. With a startup, it’s crucial that you put a solid crew together to weather those early storms.
Most startup companies require small teams. They often can’t afford anything else. We recommend a combinational approach. First, find a handful of people that have the determination, drive, and ability to work in a close-knit team. Don’t be tempted to simply hire people you know. If things don’t work out, make quick decisions and find someone else.
We’re otherwise also huge fans of the gig economy. It allows you to find experts all over the world for a one-off price. You can also work with companies that will assign a specific individual to your project, meaning they’re essentially working as part of your team. Sites like Upwork are perfect for this kind of thing. You may pay more per hour compared to a full-time employee, but it’s far more flexible and you’ll be hiring an expert for the job.
Become a Marketing Ninja
When it comes to startups, the marketing angle is arguably more important than what you’re selling. It’s perhaps a sad indictment of how business works, but that’s the game. If you want people to find out about your product or service, invest in learning about digital marketing. These are some of the essential topics you’re going to need to cover through either books or online courses:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Content Marketing
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- SMM (Social Media Marketing)
- PPC (Pay-per-click advertising)
- Email Marketing
In general, we recommend staying away from traditional methods such as television commercials, radio advertisements, and billboards. They’re expensive and don’t offer bang for your buck. The only exception is snail mail; if you send your (potential) customers decent marketing material through the post, it’s possible to get those coveted conversions.
Build Your Tribe
Every startup needs a tribe, a group of loyal customers that support your brand through thick and thin. This type of customer won’t just spend money but will bring others to your business.
It’s important that you treat them right and invest in keeping them happy. It’s far, far easier to keep a customer than getting a brand new one. And it’s cheaper too. For example, send random customers a personalized gift through the mail. Even cheap trinkets like pens or candy are appreciated. When you run a sale, give your loyal following an extra perk (most businesses mistakenly focus on attracting new customers). If someone who has been with you for a while has a complaint, take it seriously.
Bottom line, don’t take your customers for granted. If they’re spending money with your business, treat them right. Make them feel special. They’ll pay you back!
Work Hard, Be Patient
We all dream of the 4-hour workweek. Shame it’s not really a reality for most people. We leave you with a little bit of business advice: if you want to succeed, be prepared to invest some serious time, blood, sweat, and tears.
Don’t expect overnight results either; you’re going to be working harder than you’ve ever worked and you’ll be tested in every possible way. Remember, there are no shortcuts.
6 Reasons to Choose Business Formation Services for Your Startup
Have you finally decided to chase your dreams and take your business live? Laying the foundation stones of a business can be a momentous experience in an entrepreneur’s life. However, handling business formation procedures is not.
Read on to find out why businesses prefer to take help during the initial steps of setting up and officiating their business.
6 Reasons You Need a Business Formation Service
1. Zero Errors During Business Formation Procedure
A new business must always stand on a solid legal foundation. For that, you should ensure that all legal procedures are handled with precision from the outset.
Business formation involves a series of steps such as verifying the availability of your business name, preparing your articles of organization, filing documents, etc. One small miscalculation could lead to large consequences. Even seasoned professionals can make errors while handling the paperwork frenzy that business formation usually entails.
A business formation service will handle your paperwork procedures entirely and ensure that no human errors are committed. From paying attention to small details while preparing sensitive documents to handling their delivery, a business formation provider will shoulder the responsibility with extreme care and finesse.
2. Get Valuable Advice From Experts
Starting out into the dynamic world of business can be daunting, and a smooth start could set the right tone for your business’s future. Setting up properly is probably the very first challenge you’re going to face, and there are many critical questions you’ll need to answer.
For example, do you need protection for personal liability? What business entity do you want to form? What are the pros and cons of different business entities, and which one fits the bill for you? What tax structure are you willing to follow?
Having experts to help you navigate you through these complex problems can be a huge bonus, as it will give you a thorough understanding of legal compliances, the laws that protect you, the tax structure you follow, etc.
Business formation services usually employ experts and skilled professionals, so you can rest assured that your business will be in good hands.
3. Get Complimentary Registered Agent Services
Government agencies mandate that all LLCs and Corporations have a registered agent. Also known as the resident or statutory agent, this is essentially an entity that receives tax and legal documents on your company’s behalf.
The point is to have a registered address that serves as a point of contact between your business and the government. For many startup owners, it is a problem to have a physical location in the same state the business was formed.
A business formation service can provide you with an agent who meets state requirements and can be trusted with handling key business documents.
4. Easy Preparation and Access to Documents
Business professionals usually frown at paperwork, and rightfully so. It is a mundane piece of task that needs to be handled with extreme care nevertheless. When forming a business, you’ll be required to file the following paperwork:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Articles of Organization
- Operating Agreements or Bylaws (depending on your business entity)
- Paperwork for licenses and permits
While filling paperwork, you need to have full knowledge of what details to fill, how to frame your paragraphs, common mistakes to avoid, caveats to pay heed to, and much more.
Business formation professionals are experienced in this and can assist you through the entire process with their knowledge and resourcefulness. Moreover, they can provide you advice and services customized to your business’s needs.
You’ll be able to access your paperwork and monitor everything during the procedure while someone else does the heavy lifting and files it for you.
5. Find Time for Other Important Issues
A new business must tackle a series of question marks- how to get its first customer/clients? How to gain recognition? How much investment to procure? What talent to acquire?
The list is endless. Any entrepreneur would much rather invest their time on growth-related matters than tedious formation-related procedures and paperwork.
A business formation service takes these initial mandatory tasks out of your way so that you can focus on growing your business. You can entrust the responsibility paperwork filing and legal details to your business formation advisors.
Their entire purpose is to take unwanted work off of your plate so that you can pay attention to other matters at hand, thereby enhancing the productivity and efficiency of your business functions right from its inception.
6. Work Smartly by Getting Access to Premium Business Tools
Business formation services seek to make the process fast, easy, and smooth for their clients. Competitive ones offer business tools that provide extra value to their clients.
For example, you might get access to smart document creation tools. If you pay for premium services, many firms will offer quick filing and approval speed to fast-track the process for you.
Be Smart With Your Choices
One skill that entrepreneurs need to work on diligently is decision making. Oftentimes, you’ll have to decide which business operations to run in-house and which ones to outsource, based on a cost-to-benefit analysis.
It’s usually smarter to outsource business formation services, as they can help kick-start your business and save you from getting overwhelmed by uncharted territories.
Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a Successful Startup
The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.
Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?
Turns out, it’s something else.
What Is Customer Discovery?
Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.
When Would You Need Customer Discovery?
In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.
Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:
- You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
- You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
- You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).
Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.
Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.
Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis
This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.
The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.
You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?
That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.
As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.
Step Two: Define Your Assumptions
As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.
You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).
Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.
Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.
Step Three: Test It out
Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.
You are going to ask some people some questions.
The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.
Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.
As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.
You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.
This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.
To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:
- What do you currently do for…?
- Do you like the process?
- Is it working out for you?
- If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
- What is the biggest challenge about…?
- What do you like about it?
And so on.
The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.
Step Four: Evaluate Your Data
Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.
If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.
This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.
If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.
Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.
Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.
Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations
COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!
Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.
The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.
However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.
The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.
How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)
Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.
- Determine the cybersecurity risks level
Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not.
To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.
But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.
Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.
- Find the loopholes through technical assessment
A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.
Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.
So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.
Learning for other startups:
This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.
- Software configuration assessment
A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.
Learning for other startups:
While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.
- Quick incident response
Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.
Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.
The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.
Learning for other startups:
Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.
- Train the staff
Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.
Learning for other startups:
If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.
- Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall
To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.
A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.
- Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
- Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
- Admin can know the most affected network.
- Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
- Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.
Learning for other startups:
An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!
In a nutshell:
Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.
However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.
These ways are,
- Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
- Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
- Do not configure the software without proper knowledge
- Form an incident response team
- Train the staff
- Opt for feature-packed security solutions
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