5 Ways To Make Screencast Tutorials Your Customers Will Love

Screencasting is a must for online businesses. It’s an excellent way to pitch sales and gain new customers. It’s an even better way to onboard those new customers and turn them into loyal lifers! It isn’t difficult to do, but it requires some know-how to do well. With a few good practices, you can make screencasting easier and more efficient. Most importantly, you can drastically improve the quality of your videos— and their results.

I’ve done dozens and dozens of screencasts. We use them all over The $100 MBA and WebinarNinja, and I’ve recently teamed up with fellow entrepreneur Jason Zook to produce several more for our project EasyCourse. In all those recordings, I’ve identified a few tricks that make great screencasts a snap.

A note on the tech: Mac users can screencast with ScreenFlow or QuickTime. QuickTime is free, and very easy to use, but is very limited in terms of how much editing you can do. ScreenFlow allows for precise editing, but you can also edit a QuickTime screencast on iMovie. For PC users, I recommend Camtasia, and you can always use Windows Movie Maker.

With that, here are the 5 tricks to optimal screencasting:

1. Write it out!

While you can always edit or re-record, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just wing it. No professional video, no matter how natural and improvised it may appear to be, is made without real preparation and forethought. It’s important to organize your thoughts on paper before you start talking, even if you don’t write an actual script.

The best way to be prepared (but still allow for a natural word-flow) is to make an outline. Use headings, subheadings and bullet points as a guide for the “conversation” you’ll have with the viewer. This will make your presentation sharp, focused, and understandable rather than meandering. You’ll be able to articulate what your audience needs in a way that will work better for them, and make you sound more professional.

2. Break it up!

Your screencast (and the outline you write for it) should be broken up into several parts. This serves two purposes. First, it allows you to organize the information you want to convey in more digestible chunks. From the viewer’s perspective, this is invaluable. Nothing is harder to learn from than an overlong, sustained lecture!

Secondly, it makes recording much easier for you. By breaking the presentation up, you can record it in sections. This way, when you make a mistake, you can simply start again from the beginning of that section, rather than having to start the whole thing over or make an excessive number of edits.

3. Run it through!

The first time you screencast, go into it knowing that it’s only the first take. The goal is not to record it perfectly on the first try. Do a “dress rehearsal.” Watch the result, and see where you can improve. Especially at the beginning, people need to get used to hearing (and modifying) how they sound. You may need to tighten the timing. You may need to modify your voice. There will be a variety of tweaks to be made— but you won’t know until you do a dry run.

4. Keep it close!

The mic, that is. So many entrepreneurs without A/V experience make this very common mistake with an incredibly simple fix. Sitting too far from the mic not only creates problems with the volume of your voice, it creates problems with your tone and delivery. There should be about 2 fingers’ widths between your mouth and the mic. This way, you can speak in a natural way and still be heard clearly.

In my experience, the most comfortable way to record is with a boom arm. This adjustable stand clamps to your desk and allows the mic to “float” unobtrusively exactly where you want it to be. They’re widely available online for around $20 and are compatible with most microphones— including the Audio-Technica ATR2100 we use and recommend.

5. Clean it up!

While preparation and practice will make your recording sessions go much more smoothly, there’s still a lot to be said for editing. You can always go back and add, subtract or alter your work to make it the best it can be. The key is not to rely on post-production, but to use it as a safety net. If you utilize the first four tips in this list, the editing phase will be where you perfect the recording, not where you repair it.

Screencasts are an invaluable tool, because they allow you to show instead of simply tell. You can show your audience what they’ll get if they try your product. You can show them what they’ve already got, in the onboarding phase. Either way, it’s the extra mile of communication between you and the customers. With these tips, your screencasts can create customers who understand the product and keep coming back for more.

Entrepreneurship Uncategorized

The Entrepreneur’s Weekend

Not every entrepreneur started out as one. As awesome as it sounds to just “start a business,” the truth is that we live in a real world of practical realities. We have to put up with certain inconveniences like paying rent, feeding ourselves, wearing pants, and otherwise being functioning adults. Usually, that means having a full-time job. And having a full-time job means having to build our independent business on the side.

The good news is this: Even with full-time jobs, most of us have more time than we think.

The weekend is the key to transitioning from side-hustler to full-time independent entrepreneur. Using the weekend isn’t a bonus or a matter of “going the extra mile.” It’s a requirement for anyone who’s serious about breaking the shackles of conventional employment and forging their own path. No exaggeration, here, friends: what you do with your weekend will determine whether or not your business makes it.

I know because I’ve done it. I too was once a conventionally employed side-hustler struggling to find time for my business. While the thought of giving up my whole weekend didn’t seem too appealing, I quickly realized that I didn’t have to. You can utilize the weekend in a way that has a drastic effect on your business’ growth while still enjoying it. You can relax, recharge, and enjoy life while still making time for productivity.

The key is plain and simple efficiency. If you want to make the most of the weekend, here’s what it should look like:

Friday Night

Friday night is the end of the conventional workweek and the beginning of Hustle Time (in Western culture, anyway; modify this plan if your “weekend” falls on different days). Every Friday night, you should devote one hour to your business. It doesn’t particularly matter what kind of work you do; blogging, product development, page design, etc. What matters is that you start something in order to use the week’s momentum to build weekend momentum.

As long as you get a project started on Friday night, you’ll wake up Saturday morning with an invaluable advantage: knowing exactly what you’re doing from the first second. This is vital to finding the motivation to get out of bed and get to work. It may sound funny, but simply knowing what to do allows you to follow Nike’s advice— just do it. Every second spent deciding what to do is an obstacle to making the most of this time.

The beauty is that this hour is just that: one hour. It doesn’t destroy your entire Friday night. You can do it immediately after work (this works particularly well for some because they’re already in “work mode.”), or take a break between “jobs” and do it before bed. However, one thing is crucial: don’t stay up late. Building a business requires sacrifices, and this is one of them. We’ll call it the Hangover Rule— don’t let Friday night ruin Saturday morning.


Having started a project and gotten a good night’s sleep, you’ll have to do the one thing no one wants to do on the weekend: wake up to an alarm. It’s important to get yourself up in the morning on Saturday, almost as if you’re going to work— because you are. It doesn’t have to be quite as early as you’d normally rise, but you don’t want to snooze ‘till noon. Get up at 7 or 8 and make it happen. When you’re done this Saturday shift, you’ll be glad you did.

All you need to dedicate on Saturday is 4 hours. That’s all! If you use them efficiently, they’re all you need. From 7 to 11, 8 to noon, or 9 to 1, you can move your business forward and still have plenty of time to enjoy your day (almost) off. And yes, you can stay up as late as you like on Saturday night binge-watching Netflix, getting forcibly ejected from your favorite drinking establishments, or doing anything else with your well-deserved downtime.

4 hours will be enough so long as you use them. That means making those hours sacred, inviolable, and dedicated only to your business. You can afford zero distraction here. That means no kids, no pets, no partner, nobody is allowed to infringe on this time. Make whatever arrangements you need to make with family and friends to give yourself this time and space to do what needs doing. If you have to find somewhere to isolate yourself for this, do so.


On Sunday, you’ll want to devote 3 hours, preferably in the late afternoon or evening. Allow yourself the luxury of sleeping in, working out, going to church, or doing whatever makes you happy in the morning. Don’t get started until at least 1 o’clock, working until 4 or 5. This lets you complete your work and still have time to wind down and rest up for the week.

Prepping For The Weekend

Your weekend work only needs to amount to 8 hours— basically one full workday. It’s not so much the amount of time you’re putting in, it’s the quality of it. Ensuring you get maximum productivity out of those 8 hours is what makes it worth it. The way to do that is to give yourself a little prep time during the week.

On Monday evening, create your weekend “to do” list, specifying exactly what tasks you want to see accomplished. Estimate how much time you’ll need for each task, then— and this part is crucial— give yourself double the amount of time you think you’ll need. Don’t plan to do 8 hours of work in those 8 hours. Plan to do 4 hours’ worth, allowing for the basic fact that almost everything takes far longer than you think it will! As you get better at estimating how long things take, you can experiment with adding more tasks, but overestimate the time needed at first.

Write this list on Monday, so that you can think about the tasks throughout the week. Different approaches and ideas will probably occur to you as you go through your normal schedule, giving you an even greater productivity edge going into the weekend. As we know, some of the most important work we do happens entirely in our heads. You may even hear something on your favorite podcast that you’ll try on the weekend.


After the weekend, do an honest assessment of your productivity. Do not skip this step! Take the time to seriously analyze whether or not you made the most of your “Weekend 8.” Did you get all the way through your to-do list? If not, why not? Did you plan too many tasks? Were you distracted by a TV or something else going on in the room? Did you sleep in on Saturday because you didn’t go to bed on Friday? Identify what you could’ve done differently, and do it going forward.

Be tough on yourself. Act like you’re your own employee— because you are. This sacrifice is the price that has to be paid in order to do what most people never do: create their own careers from scratch. It’s an accomplishment worth striving for, and definitely worth giving up what’s really a pretty reasonable amount of your personal time. If you found that you accomplished everything on your list with time to spare, ask yourself if you’ve really challenged yourself to do enough. Adjust accordingly.

The weekend represents about 30% of a given week. If you’ve got to balance the need for a regular job with the desire to make it on your own, you have to take advantage of it. By following this plan, you’re not “losing” your weekends. You’re using them! When your business grows as a result, you’ll consider it time very well spent.


7 Reasons To Sell High-Priced Products

The high-end market can be intimidating. Many entrepreneurs are hesitant to sell expensive products or services for fear that people won’t buy. Besides that, we often assume that a product that costs a lot to purchase cost a lot to produce. That means bigger, riskier overhead. But is the fear of pricing customers out justified? Is a product’s price determined exclusively by its production costs? What if there’s a way around these supposed obstacles? What if the rewards are well worth navigating them?

The truth is that high price tags can be a huge boon to businesses, even small ones. While the extra digits may result in fewer customers, they can also mean greater revenue and lower operating costs. And while many products’ hefty prices are necessitated by high production costs, that’s not always the case.

The key is to be sure that the higher price reflects one thing and one thing only: the product’s value. Not its production costs, not its prestige, not even your own revenue goals, but its value to the customer. Is it worth it to the customer? If the answer to that question is yes, no price is too high. And a high-price business model has advantages that mass sales lack.

Reason 1: Customers retroactively value expensive purchases.

Meaning once they’ve spent all that money, they’re gonna love the product if only for that reason. The customer has invested hard-earned money into the purchase, which essentially means they’ve invested their most valuable resource: time. Look at high-end cars. They’re never dirty or neglected. They’re immaculately clean. They’re parked far away from other cars in a given lot. The maintenance schedule is followed to a T. Their perceived value is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Warby Parker provides a more specific example. Their stylish glasses are inexpensive to produce, and were originally sold at bargain prices by market standards. Eventually, though, it became clear that the low price tag was actually keeping away the fashion-minded customers the company wanted! Their solution? Charge twice as much, and donate a pair for every pair purchased. Customer perception was realigned, sales went through the roof, and disadvantaged people got glasses they couldn’t otherwise afford. Everyone wins.

For an even more extreme bit of proof, look no further than medical trials. Patients given placebos in clinical studies were divided into two groups. One was given a placebo they were told was a cheap, generic drug. The other was given an equally useless placebo and told it was expensive. Guess which group felt better, despite neither group actually being treated? No greater proof of the power of price perception could be asked for.

Reason 2: The business doesn’t need as many customers.

We all know the difference between quality and quantity. Generally, businesses seek to attract the greatest number of customers, hoping their product appeals to as broad an audience as possible. But it’s just as valid to seek affluent customers and maintain high profit margins. Each of these high-paying customers can bring in as much as any 3, 5, or 10 mid-to-low price customers. If the product is right, concierge math works out.

The high end game also has another advantage: overhead can actually be reduced, or at least kept to a smaller percentage of revenue. Having fewer customers means having fewer customers to serve. All of the manpower, tech, shipping and other support resources you would normally have to employ can be reduced. Keeping 100 people happy is a far easier (and less expensive) task than keeping 1,000 people happy. Your budget will reflect that.

Reason 3: It filters customers.

When the investment is big, not everyone can or will agree to it. That can mean more serious, committed, and generally more wealthy customers. While it can be argued that the wealthy may value products less because their affluence allows them to blow cash with few regrets, there’s another side to the coin. Someone who doesn’t have to worry about the cost of a product can then focus on the only thing that matters: quality.

Those with enough money to spend on high-priced items are more likely to base their decisions on quality rather than seeking the best bargain. This kind of customer never has to be convinced that the price is right, only that the product is. If it meets their needs, they’ll spend whatever it costs, because they can. In the end, you can spend freely on product development and production, because the customer can support you. It ultimately means less focus on salesmanship and more focus on the product itself, simplifying your mission.

Reason 4: Customers use the product more.

Having invested so much into the product, high-end customers tend to be quick and eager onboarders. They become invested because of the investment, truly engaging with what they’ve bought and the company that made it. This is particularly true for service and software businesses, where the actual use of the product is key to maintaining customer loyalty. In this case, the high price gives you the opportunity to create lifelong customers, because the customer doesn’t want to have wasted their dough.

Reason 5: Profit margins can grow if costs stay the same.

While high prices often reflect high production costs, that’s not always the case. Especially in online businesses, costs can stay within a fixed or narrow range. This means that every increase in price— rather than following an increase in overhead— simply means more money going to the business. The risk remains reasonable, but the rewards become substantial.

Reason 6: It motivates you to create the best possible product.

Just as having spent a lot of money makes a customer more devoted, having charged a lot for it can have a similar effect on you. In order to be worthy of your customers’ hard-earned cash, you may find yourself pushed beyond the usual limits of your creativity. The struggle to make something uniquely valuable creates innovators and thought leaders, and that’s often driven by the willingness of customers to pay a premium for it. Apple products, for example, are drastically more expensive than every other product in their industry. That expense goes hand in hand with their universally acknowledged commitment to pushing the envelope.

Reason 7: It creates devoted followers

Once customers are engaged and invested in what you do, it breeds extreme brand loyalty. As time goes on, they’ll want whatever you sell simply because they’ve invested not in one product or two, but in an ongoing relationship. This allows you to experiment, branch out, and potentially diversify. Once your brand has become synonymous with a certain level of worth, your customers will be willing to trust your instincts. That means you can follow those instincts knowing that your customer base will support you.

The high-end game is worth considering. Don’t be afraid to charge what your product is worth simply because you fear a backlash. Offering low-to-mid-priced products as value options for the mass market is a perfectly good strategy, but so is offering expensive goods for those willing and able to invest in them. It’s not about jacking up the price. It’s about jacking up the value, and letting the price reflect it.

About Omar Uncategorized

The Time To Change Your Business

Change is good. Change is necessary. In business as in nature, that which can’t evolve gets left behind. That’s why growing and nurturing your own businesses isn’t about hitting on a “final” formula or “perfect” product. It’s about staying flexible, staying in motion, and adapting your growing abilities to the ever-changing needs of the market. If you’re not changing, you’re stagnating.

Here at The $100 MBA, we’ve decided to make a change. We’ve been airing daily podcasts since 2014, 855 of them in all. That podcast in its original format was an important part of our journey, and (we hope) a valuable tool for our listeners. Now, we think both ourselves and our audience are ready for something new. We think this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate exactly how growth and change go hand in hand. We think it will serve as a valuable example to our audience.

As Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” We’re ready to go deeper with our content model. We’re shifting from a bite-sized daily 10-minute podcast to a longer, more in-depth weekly podcast. This fairly drastic change is emblematic of a greater lesson in entrepreneurship: that doing the same thing the same way can only get you so far.

How We Chose Change

Our business journey has been a testament to the power of flexibility and change. My business (and life) partner Nicole and I were both successful educators at the University level. Our situation was fairly secure. But for both of us, the idea of staying on the same track indefinitely lost its appeal. I was building small businesses on the side, waiting for the right time to strike out on my own. Nicole was seeking opportunities to be creative and contribute original work to the market, eventually enrolling in film school. We both had good careers. We both knew we’d rather work on our own terms.

That was the first time we chose change. Independently, we decided to leave our careers behind. Together, we decided to move to New York and start a marketing company, doing web design and video production. The work was tough. Building a client base was tough. It was all hard work, but we were making it, more or less. That’s when the idea behind The $100 MBA first struck us. We decided to use the skills we’d developed to create an online alternative to traditional, hyper-expensive business school.

That was the second time we chose change. Then, we got down to work. Growth was almost painfully slow. We had to produce tons of content, filming and editing video after video and designing every aspect of our unique courses. No one said democratizing business education would be easy. But while the going was slow, it was going. Our message was being heard. Users were trickling in. Word was spreading. As The $100 MBA developed, our third great opportunity for change was just around the bend— though we didn’t realize it at the time.

Our Breakthrough

To market our approach to small business and educate our audience, we used webinars. We always saw webinars as the best tool for building credibility and demonstrating our value directly. The problem was that webinar software sucked. With every webinar we produced, we became more disappointed with the tools available to us. And we became more convinced that, as in so many other aspects of life, we’d be better off taking our own path.

So we developed our own webinar software, simply for ourselves to use. While we didn’t originally intend the software as a product, soon enough our own audience was hitting us with the question: “What platform are you using?” We’d explain that we developed our own platform, simply because nothing else out there met our needs. Then, something funny happened.

People wanted to buy it.

That was the third time we chose change. Having basically thrown our webinar software together with a single outside developer, we decided to make it market-ready. We created a beta version of our “WebinarNinja” platform, inviting a limited number of users to try it. It sold out in two days. We took feedback, tweaked and improved the platform, and ran a second beta phase. It sold out in a single day. We knew we were on to something. We had created value, tapping into something the market wanted for exactly the same reasons we wanted it. How could we let that value go to waste?

We took the plunge, investing time and money into our discovery. It was risky; we were still busy with the growing success of The $100 MBA, and we only had so much time and money to invest. But entrepreneurial success is about identifying and providing value. The message from our customers was loud and clear. Was it what we predicted we’d be doing when we left our jobs in education? Heck no. But we were open to change, and the market rewarded us.

Making The Choice

When we realized the potential value of WebinarNinja, it wasn’t easy to simply pour ourselves into it. We had (and have) other things going. We were still recording daily podcasts, and eventually The $100 MBA Show was honored with a Best of iTunes award and things really took off. At the same time, we were scrambling to find people with the talent and skills to make WebinarNinja everything we thought it should be.

Ultimately, WebinarNinja surpassed The $100 MBA in terms of both traffic and revenue. While it started as a simple in-house tool, we decided to go all out. We decided that WebinarNinja would be the webinar software on the market, the go-to for independent marketers and educators nationwide. But once again, realizing the potential we saw would require investment, risk, and change.

To that point, we had been piecing the platform together on the fly. It was a side hustle that took on a life of its own, but if we were really going to go for it, we’d have to refocus. We had to reset our entire list of priorities, and move WebinarNinja to the top. For that reason, we knew we had to cut down on the podcasting. It was an extremely difficult choice— to date we have over 50,000 daily listeners— but business requires difficult choices. Fortunately, we knew we could fulfill the needs of both our webinar users and our podcast listeners, with a little creative thinking.

Choosing Our Audience

You can be sure it’s time for a change when you can’t grow any further. With WebinarNinja, we knew that unless we made it a priority, we couldn’t take it to the next level. We needed to give it more of our time, and we needed to recruit stronger talent. While the original designers and developers of WebinarNinja had gotten us to where we were, they couldn’t take us any closer to our ultimate goals. We had gotten all we could out of the original paradigm. What had gotten us “here” couldn’t take us “there.”

We assembled a new, pricier and better-equipped team. We re-engineered everything from the ground up. We built something new, grounded in the original promise that WebinarNinja represented but adapted to today’s needs and guided by our customers’ feedback. We shot for a game-changer, and were willing to invest whatever was needed to make WebinarNinja 5.0 happen.

Great for us, right? But what does that mean for our $100 MBA Show listeners? It means that while we take on a new approach, so can our audience. We’re going to share this adventure with our listeners and readers, giving them an in-depth, raw, open look at what happens when we try to move our business up in the world. This will have value for anyone with entrepreneurial aspirations. Our audience will watch and listen as we face challenges, score victories, screw up, learn, and press onward. You’ll see from the inside how building a business works. You’ll see, in real time, the consequences of our choice to change.

While the format is different, the goal of the podcast is the same: to help our listeners learn how to run an independent business. The episodes will be fewer, but longer and more specific. They’ll be deeper dives into the nuts and bolts of business-building from a specific standpoint. They’ll be more substantive and less generalized. As the stakes grow, so will the value of sharing our experience.

We hope that sharing our exploits this way will be as valuable to our $100 MBA audience as WebinarNinja will be to its users. We’re excited to use this opportunity to demonstrate what The $100 MBA has always been about: honesty, practicality, and business knowledge being made available to everyone.

About Omar Entrepreneurship Leadership Uncategorized

Don’t Hustle Too Hard!

Business takes hard work. But can you work too hard? I believe you can. Crazy as it might sound, hustle has a point of diminishing returns. Many think that effort is something you should apply as much as possible, pushing the limits in order to reach peak productivity. The more hustle, the better.

I happen to disagree.

Experience shows that overwork backfires. Productive hustle is different. The best kind of hard work comes from a healthy, well-rested place. An excess of effort doesn’t just hurt your personal life and well-being, it hurts your business. A healthy mind makes the best decisions, and an overworked entrepreneur is bound to be a less successful one.

Willing To Work

Independent business demands sacrifice. You do have to work harder than many. You do have to take time away from social life, leisure, and media. This is because you’re doing something that most people don’t do. You’re doing something unique and improbable and liberating, and it comes with a cost. If you’re not willing to give up some of the creature comforts of the standard work/life dynamic, it’s best to stay out of entrepreneurship.

That said, hard work and the sacrifice of time comes down to a simple cost/benefit analysis. Hustle is the price of converting dreams and talk to reality. It’s what you pay for the freedom to beat your own path, and the opportunity to be in command of your own success. Because of this, there’s a strong temptation to work too hard. When all the skin in the game is yours, it’s hard not to overdo it.

Here’s what’s important to remember: working too hard won’t give you a leg up. Running yourself ragged won’t help your bottom line. Depriving yourself of the rest and relaxation that every human mind and body needs is depriving your business of your best effort. A candle that burns at both ends goes out quickly.

What You Owe

As entrepreneurs, we all believe in hard work. But what’s often missing is a belief in a healthy lifestyle. A loss of health (physical or emotional) is too high a price to pay for any business. I learned this the hard way. During crucial periods for some of my businesses, I wasn’t willing to give myself the space and time I needed to stay healthy.

While I thought I was making greater sacrifices in order to get greater returns, I was really only setting myself up for setbacks. Excessive hours, stress, and refusing to devote time to my mind and body’s needs could only have one result: fatigue and illness. That fatigue and illness held me back as a business person. All my hustle didn’t mean more productivity; it meant less.

The same goes true for social life. Sacrificing too much as regards friends and family may lead to some gains, but is it worth it? What’s the point of success if you have to be isolated to achieve it? With whom can you enjoy the fruits of all your hard work if you have to push everyone away to earn it? Again, it comes down to a cost/benefit analysis.

All of us owe certain debts. We owe to our bodies, to our overall selves, to our friends and to our families. These things deserve our time and attention. They deserve our effort as surely as our businesses do. The time we give to our health, and the people who support us, isn’t time we’ve stolen away from our work. It’s time that our bodies and minds deserve. It’s effort our friends and family are due.

Keeping The Balance

To keep yourself— and your business— in good shape, take the time and make the effort. Schedule regular breaks daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Maintain a steady pace, not a self-destructive one. Keep the pressure at the right level by taking your downtime as seriously as you take your work. You’re not doing this to give yourself a break. You’re doing it for the sake of your business and everyone that depends on it.

If you’re a habitual over-worker (like myself), the first step is to admit it. In my case, I know that I tend towards a counterproductive level of hustle. Because I’m aware of it, I can take proactive steps. For now, I make sure that no matter what’s going on with The $100 MBA (or our software company WebinarNinja), I never let a week go by without taking off a day and a half. My goal is to make that a full two-day weekend, as soon as it’s feasible. I take that goal as seriously as any other goal I have for the business.

To be at your best, plan your down time. It may be necessary to literally schedule time to not work, and to do so in a way that keeps you regularly refreshed. Once you see down time as another responsibility, as a component of your overall ambitions, you’ll get over any apprehensions about slowing down. You’ll see your down time as another task to accomplish, no less important than anything else on your calendar.

As for the time you do devote to work, make it count. Schedule your time so that you’re working consistently, not sprinting until you burn yourself out. Reality will catch up to you no matter how enthused you feel at the beginning of an overwork/crash cycle. There’s always more work you can do. Since you can’t do it all, trying to won’t get you any closer to your ultimate goals.

When creating your to-do lists for any time period, make them priority-based. Keep the most urgent things at the top so that when time runs out, you’ll rest easy knowing that what’s pushed off can wait. Keep track of your progress, and notice how consistent effort— not excessive effort— really does get the job done. Take comfort in that. As your health and attitude improve, so will the numbers.

Entrepreneurship Leadership Marketing Uncategorized

The Perfect Business Idea

More people want to become entrepreneurs than actually do. Often, that’s because people think that they can’t start a business until they have a ground-breaking, game-changing original idea that will shake up the market and make them overnight millionaires. So many people simply don’t get started because they think that the first step is to have some “eureka” moment. They wait for a product to occur to them that’s so good, it’ll sell itself.

And that’s nonsense. In my experience— both with my own businesses and in watching others— one thing has become very, very clear: It’s not about the idea. The quality of the idea isn’t the primary factor in determining the success of the company. I know that sounds counterintuitive, maybe even a little crazy, but anyone who’s been around the block a few times can attest to this. It’s not about the notion. It’s about the implementation.

Of course having an incredible, unprecedented great idea helps. But it’s not enough. Without the right marketing and execution, even the best ideas will fail to bear financial fruit. Rather than trying to draw some incredibly creative epiphany out of your head, it’s a smarter idea to simply listen. Listen for a problem that consumers have, and offer a solution. Identify a need that the market isn’t addressing, and let the product be guided by that. It’s that simple.

Be a problem-solver, not an inventor

The idea behind your business doesn’t have to be genius. It simply has to tackle a problem. The product itself doesn’t have to be flawless. It simply has to meet needs that aren’t being met elsewhere. History proves this. Some of the most successful startups stand as testament.

Instagram was purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars. And what is Instagram? A world-altering social media revolution? An unheard-of concept? A cure for some disease? It’s none of those things. It’s a photo sharing app. That’s not exactly the wheel or the light bulb. Photo-sharing and instant filtering were nothing new when Instagram started doing it. They simply made it user-friendly and fun for average people. Eventually, Zuckerberg came calling.

For another example, take Tesla. Elon Musk is undoubtedly an innovator and an entrepreneurial genius. But what is a Tesla? It’s an electric car. Electric cars have been around for as long as cars in general have been around. Musk is not the first person to try to sell them. His approach is what made the difference.

Rather than trying to build the “perfect” vehicle, Musk simply identified the problems that potential electric car buyers faced. Electric cars were slow. They were ugly. They had limited range. They were barely more than political statements on wheels. Musk made electric cars that addressed these issues. He made them quick. He made them practical. He dared to make them sexy, in the exact same way that makers of non-electric cars try to make theirs sexy. And it worked.

The Myth of Perfection

The Next Big Idea isn’t worth chasing. Everyone wants to invent the Pet Rock, while forgetting that the Pet Rock was just a rock. How many times have you seen a product and said to yourself, “I thought of something like that” or “I always wanted something that would take care of that”? The difference between would-be entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs is simply action and execution.

Rather than trying to perfect your idea before you launch your business, launch your business. Start addressing a need in the market, and “perfect” as you go along. Refine your idea and innovate your product after you start selling it, not before. Start lean, with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and modify it along the way. Let the customers be your guide.

There’s a phrase in the military: “Fire and adjust.” It refers to the act of pointing a weapon at a target and firing without the expectation of hitting the mark on the first try. You see where the shot landed, then adjust accordingly. You don’t try to ensure the direct hit beforehand, refusing to fire until you’re positive of success. You make your move. You go from there. Launching a business is a lot like that.

Hear The Idea

The best entrepreneurs in the business world aren’t geniuses with universe-altering ideas. They’re simply observant. They pay attention to the experience of customers in the market, and they figure out how to improve it. They don’t rely on the strength of ideas so much as they rely on their ability to be responsive to consumers. They don’t try to “crack the code” of success. They try to make people’s lives a little better, a little easier, or more fun.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Businesses should always be striving and innovating, and so should the entrepreneurs behind them. The entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t about conjuring the ultimate idea and getting out of an unsatisfying job. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have an endgame. It’s the act of reevaluating, honing, and growing.

So don’t worry about concocting that “perfect” business idea. Solve a legitimate problem— no matter how many tries it takes— and people will pay you to keep doing so.

Entrepreneurship Leadership Uncategorized

How To Be A Young Entrepreneur

I got into entrepreneurship at the adorable age of 20. Barely out of my teens, I waded into independent business with all the confidence and naivete of youth. Frankly, the early years were when I screwed up the most. But that’s normal! Now, with a few years in my rearview, I’d like to share the most important things I learned about getting through the early years.

New entrepreneurs (be they young or not-so-young) experience a unique set of challenges. It’s just a different place from which to approach the business world. The young are confident, but lack experience. They’re bold, but don’t have quite the amount of sense that comes from being in the game a while. Acknowledging the pitfalls of being new can make all the difference.

If you’re young, or just new to entrepreneurship, consider these common challenges and this advice for working through them. It just may put you ahead of the game.

The Challenge: Overconfidence

The negative way to look at this challenge would be to say that the young are too ignorant to realize how little they know. In fact, that’s a common thing for seasoned adults to say about the young no matter what! I’d say that not realizing how thin the ice is can be an advantage, because it lessens the apprehension. But it can also lead to totally avoidable mistakes.

The key is not to let confidence become cockiness. If the folly of youth has an antidote, it’s humility. Don’t assume that you know it all. In fact, don’t assume that you know anything! You’re figuring it out, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Being headstrong and opinionated has its uses, but it’s important to realize the limits of inexperience. Don’t let confidence blind you to the opinions of others or the experience of people who’ve been further down the path.

The worst thing overconfidence can do is deprive you of the opportunity to learn. If you think you know more than you do, you won’t be very motivated to seek lessons. Thing is, there are people everywhere, all around you, who know things of inestimable value. Business isn’t a sport; youth doesn’t give you an edge. Mostly, it gives you a handicap. So take advantage of any and every opportunity to listen to those with experience.

The Challenge: Physical Endurance

This one is rarely discussed, but deceptively important. The young have a great deal of physical endurance, able to stay up all night and rise early with a smile on their face. They can indulge in all kinds of excesses, both professional and personal, and barely feel the effects. Unfortunately— and I say this from experience— it all catches up eventually.

Treat your body right. Make time for nutritious foods and planned meals rather than living off of packaged junk and convenience store ready-mades. Take it easy on the caffeine (and the alcohol…you know who you are). Exercise. Regularly. And most importantly, if you value your long-term health, sleep. Sleep every night, and sleep well. You won’t need to in your 20’s, but you’ll be glad you did.

The temptation to push yourself physically will always be there. Why get 8 hours sleep when you can publish more blogs? Why spend 10 minutes making a salad when you can nuke a Hot Pocket? The problem is the consequences. For every youthful indiscretion regarding your health, you’ll add to the pile of effects that will make you sluggish and worn out in your 30’s and 40’s. As we age, our bodies respond to the abuse we’ve accumulated. The energy we lose dealing with that is energy we don’t have for creativity, for endurance, and for the work that keeps our businesses fresh and vital.

You are not invincible. It just feels that way.

The Challenge: The Urge to Impress

For all the confidence of youth, there’s an undeniable level of insecurity. The need to constantly demonstrate your competence, your skill, and your overall awesomeness can be one of the worst distractions from the really important work. There’s nothing more counterproductive than trying to impress your colleagues, especially your elders.

Realize that your youth is the best time to screw up. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And don’t expect anyone to care— at all— about how great you are. You’re not that great. Not yet. And even if you were, the people you think are paying attention are almost certainly not. When you try to impress, it has the exact opposite effect. It comes off as a need to be accepted. It looks like what it is: a weakness. Just do you.

The Challenge: Short-term Thinking

Long-term thinking is particularly difficult for those who are new to business and life. Often, the young are so intensely focused on short-term successes and immediate wins that they neglect the bigger picture. They fail to plan for the coming decades in favor of the coming months. They see the distant future as abstract, and the present as all that could matter.

Make time for the future. Think of projects and products and plans that could take years to develop. Plan for the longevity of your business. Look as far up the road as you can. Ask yourself what you can accomplish given 5 or 10 or 20 years. Consider the marathon, not just the sprint.

The young have advantages that the old don’t, but they also have special obstacles. Being young is a challenge in and of itself, with the sheer lack of experience leaving so many things vague and poorly understood. Those disadvantages are unavoidable, but they’re easily minimized.

With a humble attitude, an open mind, and a willingness to learn from others, youth can be enjoyed more than regretted. Overcoming inexperience is just another one of the obstacles that make entrepreneurship challenging and fun. And if youth at its best is about anything, it’s about challenges and fun. Right?