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Examine the number of competitors on a local and, if relevant, national scale. Study their strategies and operations. Your analysis should supply a clear picture of potential threats, opportunities, and the weaknesses and strengths of the competition facing your new business. Use the library, the Internet and other secondary research sources to research competitors.

Read as many articles as you can on the companies you'll be competing with. If you're researching publicly owned companies, contact them and obtain copies of their annual reports. These often show not only how successful a company is but also what products or services it plans to emphasize in the future.

However, there's also free content available, plus you can sign up for a free trial subscription. You can also gather information on competing businesses by visiting them in person. Entrepreneur Media, Inc. In order to understand how people use our site generally, and to create more valuable experiences for you, we may collect data about your use of this site both directly and through our partners.

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December 16, 6 min read. More from Entrepreneur. Role courage is all about the training. Then the fourth type of courage we identified was core courage. Probably, you felt one or the other held through for you, what you normally act from. Once we know what type of courage is needed in any given situation, it allows us to build it both for ourselves personally, and within our teams and even within our companies. Frankly, many of the folks that we worked with, it was an unconscious process to set themselves up for success and to build their skill of courageous innovation.

I want to talk about two different processes. One is an internal process that we go through quietly, ourselves, in our own mind almost to prepare ourselves for taking courageous action. Then the second piece of the puzzle is the external process that if you want to sell an idea to your company, get people behind you to execute against a new idea or a new thought. Showing my age there as a baby boomer. The internal process is SNAP. Get clear about the direction, get clear about the goal and get clear about what it is that you hope to gain by courageously innovating against a specific topic.

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I got beat up by my boss about it. What are you personally afraid of? Why is it that this takes courage for you? Is your fear based in reality? I could get fired. What is the real fear and is it based on reality? The third piece is to take action, to break the larger goal up into bite-size pieces so that you can tactically execute against the smaller pieces of the puzzle first, and give yourself credit for those activities.

Which can you win quickest on? Which are the easiest to execute that will give you the biggest bang for your buck against the larger goal?

Notice, what are you personally afraid of? Actions, which is break it down into bite-size actions that you can execute against. And then fourth, prioritization. Take the bigger wins first so that you can build the momentum of the courageous activity. The second piece is an external process. I think this is where a lot of us really struggle. This is a 6-step process.

Step 1 is very similar to the internal process, which is be crystal-clear about your goal.

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That leads us to the second step, which is to paint a picture. This is the future of leadership, in my mind. When we do these large-scale, leadership programs around the world, this is the piece of the puzzle that is most important for future success as well as one of the most difficult for people to wrap their minds around. You use the language of leadership and its future focus that talks about solving a problem. It paints an outcome that people get excited about and, frankly, downright inspired about. Step 3 is we have to be open to options. Fourth, you need to praise all activity, not just outcomes.

Fifth step is to assess the process. Make your understanding of outcome and process the same. What worked? What would we do differently next time? Last but not least, Step 6, is you start again. Perhaps the simplest way to think about cash flow is to just think of the balance in your checking account. Will that balance be enough to pay your bills when they come due? That's the point of this whole concept-the further out you can predict your bank balance, the further out you can see a problem, and the longer you have to deal with it.

As you start to think about it, you'll realize that you can pretty easily forecast most of your expenses, at least for the next few months. Once you have that in mind, add the revenue that you believe you'll receive, and do the math. Admit it. We all have. It may not be taught in any school, but deal-making is a core competency in life-particularly in the business world, where wealth and success are a fetish.

Your negotiating ability directly affects your income, your relationships and, ultimately, your station in life. That's why making a bad deal can be so hard to live down. It's possible you did everything right. Sometimes, bad deals just happen, even to the best. But more often than not-and whether or not you're big enough to admit it--you probably had something to do with it. Don't avoid the post-game wrap-up. It's the only way to shave strokes off your score.

Ask yourself the tough questions: How did you contribute to the problem? Did you miscommunicate? Did you forget something?

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What will you do differently next time? It's important to think deeply and introspectively. Why did you make the mistakes you did? Were you too arrogant to ask for help? Were you too easily cowed by this opponent? Were you too greedy? Did you let things get too personal? If you can, find a good friend to help you debrief.

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Get Tough Toughness is partly about your game face, but it's also about technique. When you're called on, or choose, to take the hard line, here are some ways to strengthen your game:. Problems like these are unavoidable. As with medicine, early screening and detection are key. What vibe do you get from your opponent at first contact? Of course, some will fool you, but your gut is often smarter than you are. Watch for goofy or unreasonable demands early on. Listen carefully to what their own professionals say about them-and especially look for that omnibus euphemism "difficult personality.

Think of difficult negotiations not as a hassle but as a challenge. The experience will only make you better at handling others, but better at handling yourself. Don't become distracted by your opponent's antics, however outrageous. Stay focused on your goals and on the actual issues. Don't escalate hostilities, lest you get caught in a senseless cycle of verbal violence. Let it roll off you.

After all, it's not about you; it's about them. You should also remember that "craziness" can be feigned as a tactic to manipulate you. If that's the case, consider calling your opponent on it, whether tactfully or bluntly. Getting Your Fair Share Whether it's a commission, a participation, a royalty or equity, when deal makers talk about taking "a piece of the action," they usually mean some kind of percentage. It may sound simple, but in the real world, cutting someone a fair slice is not.

Here are some things to think about:. Overcoming Your Resistance to Negotiation An entrepreneur who doesn't like to negotiate is like a chef who doesn't like to handle knives. Bargaining ability is a key business skill. If you resist learning and using it, you have a serious deficit-not just at the bargaining table, but also in life.

Some people feel it's degrading, like they're begging the other side for scraps. For a few, the problem is systemic. These are the pathologically shy, who wilt at the prospect of any kind of confrontation-they can't get to yes, and they can't just say no. For most people, however, the problem is not about some organic weakness in their psyches. It's the natural awkwardness of facing a new opponent or a new situation. The solution is simple: Learn and practice new skills. Ask a colleague to coach you. Thumb through one of the many good books on negotiation.

Take a seminar. Bring someone along to pump you up or step in if you get stuck. Make an ongoing commitment to become a better negotiator. Even the average consumer can save many thousands of dollars over a lifetime if he or she has a few good moves at the bargaining table.

Off to a Good Start One of the most aggravating aspects of being in business is taxes-understanding them, keeping up with them and, worst of all, paying them. But there are some things you can do as a new business owner to make the process a little less painful, including these four tips:. Before Midnight Take steps to increase deductions. The larger the number of deductions you claim, the smaller your taxable income will be and the less taxes you'll owe. One of the best ways to boost deductions for cash-basis businesses is to pay as many of your business expenses as possible during this year.

With the cash method of accounting, income is taxable when you receive it, and expenses are deductible when they are paid. To beef up those deductions, stock up on business supplies or get equipment or vehicle maintenance done in November or December if you planned to incur these expenses in anyway. You also will want to consider prepaying some deductible business expenses, including any rent, taxes and insurance due on the first month of the new year. Seven Deductions to Consider Here are seven major opportunities to make your life tax-deductible as an entrepreneur:.

Home Sweet Home There are three ways a small-business owner can consider qualifying for a home-office deduction: 1 If the business is operating as either a sole proprietorship or as a one-member Limited Liability Company LLC ; 2 if the business is operating either as a partnership or a multimember LLC, electing to be taxed as a partnership; or 3 when the owner of the business is also considered an employee of the business-as in the case of C and S corporations or an LLC, electing to be taxed as a corporation.

The next consideration in qualifying to take a home-office deduction is that you must be using a portion of your home for your business, and be doing so on both a regular and exclusive basis. The final element in qualifying is that this home office is your principal place of business-used regularly and exclusively for business, and that you have no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative and management activities of your business.

Be Tax Smarter Though the tax code is complex, it's not impossible for the common entrepreneur to use it and take the best advantage of it.

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Here are three important considerations for your business expenditures that can help you get the best return possible at tax time:. Keep in Touch In order to maintain good relationships with your banker, and other partners and providers, you must take the initiative. Try these three steps to keep in touch:. Supply and Demand Be open, courteous and firm with your suppliers, and they will respond in kind. Tell them what you need and when you need it.

Have a specific understanding about the total cost, and expect delivery on schedule. Keep in constant communication with your suppliers about possible delays, potential substitutions for materials and product lines, production quality, product improvements or new product introductions and potential savings. Finding a Good Insurance Agent Too many entrepreneurs treat finding an insurance agent like going on a blind date.

They randomly contact an agency, and then an agent is assigned to them. If coincidence played a role in the way you were matched with your agent, it might be high time to take stock of that relationship and start looking for a new one. How do you decide whether your agent is meeting your needs? Ask: Does your agent have expertise in your industry?

Is he or she up on the latest in commercial insurance? If not, don't be afraid to switch. The best insurance agents ask a lot of questions about the operation of your business-and they ask them often. To see whether your agent knows enough about your business, turn the tables and interview the agent.

Ask general questions, such as: Can you recommend any new coverage? Does your company provide evaluation services? Why is this the best carrier? Have you asked me everything necessary to cover my exposures? Bank on It Bankers aren't in the business of better on your dreams or predictions; they are in the business of loaning secured money-money that is backed by both your personal guarantee and hard assets. Your banker has to answer to his boss and explain why he loaned you money, how you are going to pay it back and why you are a good risk.

The more your banker knows about your business, the more value you are going to get from the relationship. Create regular state-of-the-company status reports to share with your banker. This documentation can help him provide you with better service, aiding him in making quicker decisions about your business. The better tabs your banker has on your business can also help him give you better advice and maybe keep you out of financial trouble. In the Loop Your banker, attorney and accountant each have the ability to drastically influence the success of your business.

The most important thing you need to do is nurture your relationships with them. The more they know about your business, and the better you know them, the more value you'll receive. Develop that close, long-term relationship, and you'll have someone you can depend on in your corner. When you hit the inevitable bumps in the road, they'll be there to help you. Never Stop Learning In most companies, training and information flow downhill and not uphill.

Over the next decade, successful companies will bring the knowledge economy full circle by making sure knowledge flows up, down and sideways. Smart entrepreneurs "hire up," meaning they hire people who bring the latest skills in technology, sales, accounting and other fields.

How can you create a "learning up" strategy? First, managers need to acknowledge that they can learn from rank-and-file employees. Then make continual learning a part of your hiring process. Ask management candidates how comfortable they are learning from employees. Remember, there's no way you or your managers can be an expert in every area of your business, so don't be afraid to take advantage of knowledge wherever you can find it, even if it comes from lower-level employees. Why Recognition Is a Must Most entrepreneurs don't consider recognition a central part of their management practice.

Below are three reasons why you need to take the time to recognize the good things your employees do:. Full Speed Ahead Business owners and managers know they need good bottom-line results but sometimes it's hard to remember what each person in the organization needs to do to accomplish the desired result. Try these three tips to keep your company moving forward:. Trust Me? Good communication is grounded in trust. No matter what people say, if they're not trusted, they're not believed. Therefore, in order to have good communication in an organization, you must make sure you do what you say you're going to do.

People who do are trusted; people who don't are not.

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In the name of keeping people informed, many executives tell employees about things they intend to do that don't happen, often eroding employee trust. Consultants often recommend organizations actually communicate less often as a step to improve trust, instructing employers to tell people only those things they have complete control over and know will happen as they say they will. If managers do what they say they're going to do the majority of the time, employees will give them some leeway if a mistake is made.

When trust is high, communication can be more relaxed and casual, but when trust is low, people won't give you the benefit of the doubt, no matter how good your intentions. Show You Care Here are some tips and tricks you can use with your employees to demonstrate great leadership skills. You'll create trust and loyalty by consistently showing your employees that you care about them and the work they do. Throw a Party Hosting an event for your business or at your business can be a fabulous way to garner publicity. The event can take the form of an open house, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a seminar or a guest appearance by a celebrity, political official or someone else of significance.

Once you decide that you are going to have an event, there are a few things to do to get even more bang for your PR buck. Write Your Way to Free Publicity One of the most cost-efficient means to get your message out is to write articles for magazines, trade journals, web sites and newspapers that reach your target clients.

Even if you have average writing skills, if you can propose compelling article topics that solve problems for readers, then you'll find editors who will publish your ideas. Here are four factors that make published articles a powerful vehicle to boost your business to the next level. Published articles will:. To ensure your company's central message doesn't get lost, create a PR platform you can rely on as the basis for all interviews.

This platform will be particularly useful if there is more than one person in your company who may be interviewed by the press, because it will guarantee consistent messaging. What are the key messages you want to convey about your company, its products or services? Take a look at your advertising, brochures and web content; and identify up to three primary themes or copy points.

Then weave them into a one-paragraph platform. Don't forget, your task is to create a PR platform that conveys your central themes in a way that also meets the needs of the audience. Contacting the Press Always begin by creating a "press list. Then select different media from your press list to receive various types of stories. Before you decide what type of information to send, get copies of each publication to learn what kind of information will be most relevant to that publication's readers.

For example, if your firm wins a local award, your release may be of interest to your hometown newspaper. But if you invent a breakthrough medical product, you should target general-business, consumer and medical trade press with your story. To keep your press release from being lost in the hundreds or thousands of releases editors receive each week, take the time to research the name of a specific editor, news director or journalist to receive it.

If you've become familiar with the newspapers, magazines and broadcast news stations you're targeting, it will be easy to identify the individuals who typically handle stories like yours. Why Press Releases Are King It's a well-known fact that a company's visibility will increase with powerful publicity. After all, publicity aims to bring the news of your company to the world. And the most important tool you can use to accomplish this is the press release. What exactly should be covered in a press release?

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Think along the lines of "newsy" and interesting topics. Examples include: your online presence; important information and tools regarding a change in management or the business components you offer; special information that can be obtained online; the announcement of articles, events and appearances; relevant worksheets, tips and techniques; and so on. When writing a press release, your goals should be uniqueness, timeliness and top-of-the-mind awareness.

Once you achieve publicity and visibility, both your company profile and your client and prospect levels will rise. One successful story about your company resulting in free publicity is advertising worth hundreds and thousands of dollars. Get Others Organized You may have this organization stuff down pat, but what about your business partners, spouse or business associates? No matter how neat you are, the disorganization of others can impact your business.

Try this to bring a little more order into the lives of those around you:. Bit by Bit Organizing projects are best done one piece at a time. Follow these tips to whittle down each step in your process:. Clean Out Your Drawers If you're buried under a pile of papers and your drawers are filled with more napkins, pen caps and sugar packets than usable office supplies, it may be time to clean out your desk. But where do you begin? Here are five steps to help you de-clutter your desk drawers:. Write It Down Experts recommend entrepreneurs employ not one but two to-do lists.

The master list contains a maximum of three items of long-term importance, like "grow sales" or "get new customers. Once you have your lists written, categorize all items, tagging them as projects, phone calls, errands, agenda items, work to be done at your computer or desk, things you can do anywhere, and items that aren't urgent. Review your list items frequently to see if items are listed correctly and should be there to begin with. Working over your list in advance daily and weekly means that, when you consult your list, you don't have to rethink your commitment and your plan right then.

Don't forget to cross things off once you've completed them. Checking off your to-do list not only keeps you organized, but also shows exactly how much you've accomplished. Get in Control! To work productively and efficiently, you need to create a work environment that supports you. Regain control of your work life by following these steps:. Dust Yourself Off There isn't a salesperson alive who hasn't experienced a slump.

If you find yourself coasting downhill, here are four steps to follow to pick yourself back up:. How'd I Do? How can you improve if you don't find out where you went wrong and what you did right? Always ask for feedback. If you want to improve your sales presentations or your relationships with customers, ask them what you need to do to maintain and increase their business. While a great learning tool, asking for a customer's opinion is also a good way to show customers you care and are willing to work at solving problems. Asking for feedback can also save a customer relationship.

While dissatisfied customers don't always complain, they very rarely buy from you a second time. Listen Up! One of the most important things you can do to become a better to seller is to become a better listener. You should be listening at least 50 percent of the time. Improve your listening skills by taking notes, observing your prospect's body language, not jumping to conclusions and concentrating on what your prospect is saying.

Also, track how much talking you're doing. If you're talking twice as much as your prospect, or more, it's time to take the backseat and listen. Learn From Your Mistakes While there's no way to completely avoid making mistakes, there are still plenty of ways to get the most out of the mistakes we do make.

Here are three methods to deal with your mistakes:. What Not to Do To sell smarter you need to eliminate all those things that waste your, and your customer's, time. How can you work more efficiently? Try steering clear of these time-wasters:. Preparing for the Worst In case of an emergency, such as a flood, fire or earthquake, it's tough for even the strongest of us to keep a level head. So why worry about what's going to happen to your clients, contacts and important documents in the heat of the moment?

Why not start planning for disaster now? Here are four things to think about:. Peace of Mind Just as you wouldn't drive a car without insurance, it's best not to open a business without some type of coverage. So where and how do you begin? Just follow the steps below to get your business covered. Why Can't We Be Friends?

You just lost one of your employees-does that mean clients are soon to follow? It could if you didn't make employees sign a noncompete agreement. So what is this magic contract? What does it do? Who should sign it? A noncompete agreement is a formal contract between you and your employees in which they promise not to use information or contacts pertinent to your business in a competing situation. This could mean going to work for a competitor or starting a competing business of their own.

Which employees should sign noncompete agreements? While the prerequisites vary from business to business, the following is a good general list. The term "employees" in this list represents executive level, management, supervisory and non-management personnel that are relative to that example. Get It in Writing If you're doing business with someone, whether as a client or a provider, you're going to need a contract.

Ideally, you'd have a top law firm at your disposal to hammer these things out for you, but the reality for most entrepreneurs is that they have to do these things themselves. It's the Thought That Counts Assets such as intellectual property, trade secrets, pricing formulas, customer lists, business plans, recipes and the like are typically the foundation upon which a company is built in a business world full of copycat competitors.