The Power of Social Media

12 07 2012

 

How one man changed the world

It’s amazing to witness the power of social media. Tonight I re-watched the movie “The Social Network” and it truly blows me away. One man in college changed the world as we know it. One man can create a ripple effect that reaches millions. As a business owner, it is vital to take advantage of this tool and reach your customers in a new way. Social media is constantly changing and we must change with it. Employers are even using social media to fill jobs. In fact, 79% of employers search their candidates online to see if they will be a good fit. Linkedin is a professional network looking to build business connections. Recruiters advertise positions through Twitter. Even facebook is jumping on board and creating a job board function to their site. Business starts with social media. Don’t get left behind.

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Teamwork

1 02 2012

Never overlook the benefits of having a team. A building will not stand without a strong foundation and your team is your foundation. As a leader you must show strength, courage, and decisiveness but there are many other attributes to help make your business successful. Be approachable. Encourage your workers to come with you for ideas or even for complaints. They know what it takes to make things better you just have to listen. Ideas are created by outside circumstances. Whether those circumstances come from the environment or other people, they do not originate with you. Be open and creative. Set time aside for your team to explore new options and set new goals. See what you can do together to reach those goals. Create programs to reward members for doing a good job and make sure everyone is working towards one common goal. If your aspirations are unclear then your workers could be working against each other trying to achieve different ends. Make sure everyone knows what is expected and promote open communication between all workers. Closing your doors on your workers hurts the work environment.





Crain’s Detroit Business 20 in their 20s

31 01 2012

Yesterday could not have gotten any better. Not only did we sell advertising space on Town My Way but also I was in discussions with acquiring a franchise license that will fit right in with our current company. Six months ago I would never have thought I would be able to take on another project while running Town My Way but by keeping my head up I can see the benefit of adding a new wrinkle to our model. Its time to scratch the old business model and create a new one.

Always look for opportunity and when it is there seize it. You can never expect things to happen because it is your job to make things happen. If you never look for change or something new it will drive you crazy. Your company will become stagnant and it will feel like you are going no where. Keep things fresh and come up with ideas for the future. Even if they are only possibilities and may never happen, it at least gets you thinking.

On top of all this excitement I received an email congratulating me on being nominated for Crain’s Detroit Business 20 in their 20s. This is a huge honor. Some of my biggest mentors have been received this status including Dan Gilbert and Josh Linkner who I had the pleasure of working under this previous summer. I may be the youngest candidate in the field being only 20, but I have Dan and Josh to thank for the opportunities I have been given and the success I have enjoyed. Working at Detroit Venture Partners inspired me to start my own business and help my community. All this excitement has brought on extra work but times like this really make you appreciate the journey. I will continue to work and continue to strive for success. I appreciate all the support and help along the way because none of this would have been possible alone.





Heads-Up vs. Heads-Down Thinking

27 01 2012

Recently I read Josh Linkner’s book, Disciplined Dreaming, and I thought I would share his idea of heads-up and heads-down thinking. To be successful as an entrepreneur you must be disciplined and focused, but creativity cannot be overlooked. Heads-down thinking is staying focused to finish the objectives at hand. But how will this separate you from the competition? Everyone is capable of hard work so you cannot expect to be rewarded just by putting in the work. The most successful entrepreneurs have something that their competition doesn’t. Whether it is their strategy, product, or ideas, something differentiates them from the competition. This is what Josh Linkner would refer to as heads-up thinking.

While most entrepreneurs accept the status quo and keep chugging along, the great entrepreneurs put time aside for creativity. Rather than burying their heads in the books and doing things the same way it has always been done, the most successful entrepreneurs focus on possibilities or how they can be different. Be creative in your thinking and embrace new ideas. Set time aside to brainstorm and come up with something new to add to the business. How can you go the extra mile for your customer that your competition is not already doing? What makes your product so special? Challenge the status quo and question your current practices because there just may be something better.

This project does not just end with management. Look to your team members and build their curiosity. You never know where that next great idea will come from. Be open for change and embrace it. You may have built a successful business but someone is always catching up from behind. To stay ahead you have to constantly come up with new ideas and that entrepreneurial spirit should never die. Don’t think of your business as just another business. Think of it as a bunch of businesses with all sorts of opportunities. Be creative and separate yourself from the competition. Put time aside to let your mind run free.





Beautiful Journey

24 01 2012

I have not posted in a while but I felt it necessary to record a little about the emotional roller-coaster it takes to be an entrepreneur. When I last left it seemed I had a plan in place and would not be bothered by any major obstacles. I was wrong! It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Instead of my website being developed in the two months as originally planned, it has taken six months. My first developer ran into problems so I decided to hire on a new developer to help resolve the issues. This lead to remaking the entire site and running into the exact same problems. It seemed we were going in circles but I didn’t know what else I could do. I was out of options because I was out of money. I had to trust my team of developers and just sit and wait.

We seemed to have hit a wall with no visible progress. I must have exchanged hundreds of emails asking for updates and seeing what I could do to help. I was scared, nervous, and angry. After months of promoting my site I was forced to step back. All of the contacts I had made were now of no use because there was no sign of expanding any time soon. Basically, I had to take a break from the business world until the new site was complete and then start all over meeting new clients.

What kept me sane was my confidence in my product. No  matter how long it would take I knew I could sell my product and because of that I made sure the product was done right. This is a huge step to take. To be able to sit back when things are going no where and have faith in what you are dong. Expect your team to come up with a great product and know even if you have to start over, it is all possible. As an entrepreneur you will always be saddled with stress. Learn how to channel that stress and take it as a blessing. Dig deep into the heart of your product to learn where it can take you. By believing in my product I knew not to let the little things affect me. No matter how much stress came my way, I remained calm. People on my team handled stress in different ways by taking out their frustration. As a leader I cannot let the stress bring me down because that will solve nothing. Instead I preach patience and finding things to do in the meantime. If the problem is out of your hands take a break. Breathing down the neck of your teammates does not promote a healthy work environment, instead it hurts business relationships. Trust your team and let them do their job.

Now the site is finally finished and working great. On the first two days of being back we have seen more activity than ever before. For the first time in six months there is a sense of relief. This feeling will not last long but it is a nice break from the usual grind. Enjoy the moments you have and celebrate the small victories because it is these victories that keep us going. Now I will be looking forward to expansion and branding myself. Stress ebbs and flows like a wave. One day it is as high as a mountain and the next you feel free. Celebrate those stress free moments because you need your strength to take on the next big wave.





Believe in Yourself

2 08 2011

This video says it all. Determination is the underlying ingredient to success. If you have a dream, then pursue it and don’t give up until you have achieved your goals.

When I was a kid, I went through a very similar experience in learning how to ride a bike. I was four years old and was sick of using the training wheels. I devoted my entire afternoon to learning how to ride a bike by myself. My parents were not allowed to help because I told them I wanted to do it on my own. That whole day my mom would watch me fail over and over again. She would see me scream at the bike, throw it on the ground, and keep at it. I would be taking training wheels off and on trying to figure it out. Whenever my mom came out to help or see if I was alright I would tell her to go inside and let me keep trying.

Fall after fall I went, with fresh new cuts as the day went on, I kept on pushing. I hated my bike, but I wanted to conquer it. I couldn’t give up now so I kept on trying. Determination is what forced me to continue. If I stopped now, I would have felt I had failed. I wanted to ride a bike on two wheels and wouldn’t let a few cuts and scrapes get in my way. Finally, I did it. I succeeded and was now riding my bike all around the block.

What was I seeking? Recognition? Glory? No, I told myself I wanted to teach myself to ride a bike and I did it. I did not do this for anyone else but myself. I wanted to do it without the help of others but wanted to push myself to see what I was truly capable of. If you always rely on other people you will never realize your full potential. Push yourself to the limit. Watch yourself fall, but when you do, find a way to pick yourself up and keep going. This is a great example of the importance of determination.

If you want something, don’t let anything stop you. Show resilience in your work. Have a can-do attitude everyday. Most importantly, show determination and believe in yourself. You are capable of much more than you think. Test your limits and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is what keeps us going and forces us to try again. If we never fail there would be no point in pushing for anything more. We would get no satisfaction in achieving success because we never really earned it. With failure comes greater satisfaction and rewards. Believe in yourself and keep on pedaling!





Plan to Change Plans

31 07 2011

Developing a plan is great, but plans never seem to go as we expect. It is easy to look good on paper but your success in the real world depends on how well you react to change. Be open to change and finding a new direction. Sometimes it is a small change, but other times it is a complete transformation in company goals.

When I first came up with my business idea, I immediately developed a business plan. I wanted to define my business, develop a marketing strategy, create a financial projection, and determine all costs involved. This was easy. The hard part comes when you begin to implement your plan and talk to other people. One single idea can be perceived a million different ways so it is your job to adapt to meet the needs and wants of others.

My objective from the beginning is the one thing that has not changed: to connect communities through an online social network. This may sound vague, but it forces me to find different ways to achieve this goal. I haven’t limited myself to take one path to reach my destination, rather I have left the path open for me to fill in as I go along. The journey is the best part because you never know what will lie in your way. There will be shortcuts, obstacles, and you will make mistakes, but as long as you keep moving towards your ultimate goal, you will be fine.

The first battle was deciding on my target market. The idea came with Lake Orion in mind but my solution seemed to be perfect for a college town. I started to make my plan for Oberlin College to serve as my first test market. I always knew the ultimate goal was to help Lake Orion but felt I wasn’t ready for that. If I could develop a proven model first and generate revenue, then I could launch my service in Lake Orion.

With Oberlin, I wanted to partner up with the school and have students pay $5-$10 as a student activity fee to access the service. I was talking with a developer in New York about not only developing a website but mobile apps for the android market and iphone as well. Everything was all set and I was ready to commit except for one small detail. The developer wanted me to pay a subscription fee every month to use his service, so I felt restricted in what I could do. Even though the initial startup cost was far less than my other developer I talked to and this New York developer had already created a market-tested product, it would be more costly in the long-run. I decided to pass and completely change my model.

I found a local developer and decided I wanted to launch in Lake Orion. I wasn’t going to settle for a product that didn’t have all the functions I wanted it to. Now I would have to sacrifice getting mobile applications but my website would be much more customized to meet my requirements. This also meant I could no longer charge users for the product but would instead have to charge local businesses a subscription fee. To sell my product I had to push the idea that my product would serve as a much more cost effective marketing tool.

If you look back at my original business model, you could hardly recognize it. I created a plan, but in the end all my plans changed. All of this happened in the span of two months. You may think it was a waste to create a plan I won’t even end up using. I disagree! Creating plans forces you to think critically and find solutions. Plans will constantly change. You can’t expect to ever have it all figured out. Instead, make plans to change plans. Find new solutions, create new models, and progress to your ultimate goal.