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By Trent Hamm

7 lies that prevent Your Great Idea from becoming a Real Business

Written by Greg Go of WiseBread.

7 lies that prevent Your Great Idea from becoming a Real Business

A lot of people have a Great Idea. It might be a new invention or a local service business. Unfortunately for consumers, many would be entrepreneurs are waiting for "the right time" to start their Real Business. They have plenty of reasons (excuses) for the delays. From lack of time to lack of experience, our minds have creative ways of rationalizing our fears.

Here are 7 common excuses for not starting a Real Business, along with strategies for overcoming internal fear, uncertainty and doubt ("Internal FUD").

How Internal FUD kills Great Ideas

1. I'm too busy right now. I'll start when I have more time.

This is the most sinister of the excuses because it is completely true. You would do more for your business if you had all the time in the world. But really, are you ever going to get less busy?

Starting a new business involves risk, time and effort. As you pick up more dependents and/or expenses over time, your ability to take the risk necessary for launching a business disappears. Many would-be entrepreneurs wait far too long for a perfect moment that never comes.

Today is as perfect as it gets. Even if you only do one small thing a day (or week or month), it's better than always waiting for tomorrow. Don't put off your dream until you are "less busy". It's never going to happen.

2. After I get an MBA, I'll be ready to start up.

Some people think they need an MBA before they can make their Great Idea happen. That is false. An MBA doesn't guarantee success. And an MBA is not a requirement for starting a business.

At the end of the day, you're trading a service or product for some money. If you can build/provide this product/service, and you can convince people to pay money for it, you have a business. MBA, bachelor's or even high school degrees be damned.

3. I hate sales.

If you really hate trading a product/service for money (the definition of a "sale"), then I don't know what to tell you. There's no business without sales.

However, I'll bet you don't really hate sales. You hate used car salesmen and cold callers. The good news is that 99.9 percent of business transactions are completely unlike the pushy sales pitch. Businesses that offer actual value don't have to work very hard to make sales. If you're making a product or providing a service that people want and it's priced fairly, then both you and your customers are happier because of the sale.

Dismiss this myth -- you don't hate sales. Do you love talking about your great idea? Sales is just telling people about the awesomeness of your product/service.

4. I'll do some research after South Park.

You know the really successful entrepreneurs enjoy their work much more than traditional leisure activities like watching TV/movies. And you probably already feel guilty about watching TV instead of doing more market research. I won't lecture you about dedication and commitment and priorities. You already know that stuff.

Instead I'll tell you how I got out of my entrepreneurial funk. Whenever I was watching more TV than working on my Great Idea, it was because I was stuck. I didn't realize it at the time, but my mind was avoiding making a tough decision or working through a particularly hard problem. My Internal FUD pushed me towards easier tasks. Watching TV was a whole lot easier than spending a couple hours researching, thinking about, and making the tough call. I overcame this self-imposed obstacle by giving myself a "State of the Great Idea" report.

Rediscover your motivation by scheduling 1 hour of "hard thinking time" to come up with concrete actionable tasks. Make a date with yourself to honestly evaluate your Great Idea. Stealing 10 minutes in the shower or during your commute is not good enough. You need the full hour (or more) to think through the critical problems and identify actionable tasks you can do next. Once you have some tasks to do, and have made some forward progress in turning your Great Idea into a Real Business, you will lose the craving to incessantly watch and discuss Cartman's latest hijinks.

5. I don't know anything about business.

Good news! Business administration is the easy part. The hard part is having a good product. There are plenty of resources (both off- and on-line) that will help you cross those business process bridges when you get to them.

Shatter this roadblock by realizing you don't need to be a business guru to get started. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are among the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, and they didn't know anything about business when they started.

To help you figure it out along the way, here are a few online resources to help your business get started:

Pore over articles at Entrepreneur.com and check out business books from the library. All the business know-how you need is freely available.

6. I don't have startup capital.

Your business may legitimately need startup capital, but is your Internal FUD keeping you from looking for it? Not having the necessary capital right now is not a show stopper. There are lots of places to get startup capital.

A variation of this excuse is "I don't want to take on partners/investors, so I need to save up the money myself." This is Internal FUD using your greed against you. If you thought about it a bit, isn't it better to own 50 percent of a Real Business now than 100 percent of a maybe future business that could or could not actually happen?

Don't let Internal FUD keep you on the couch instead of raising that startup capital. Even if you wanted to retain full ownership, you have lots of financial options. Here's a few creative ways to not take investors and overcome the money problem:

  • cash out your savings
  • get one or more low interest loans from friends and family
  • small business credit cards
  • live like a poor college student -- lower your personal expenses
  • do it yourself
  • get a line of credit from your company's bank
  • get a loan from the Feds (basic requirements for getting a SBA loan)

Here's a chart with more funding options and the pros and cons of each.

7. Before doing anything else, I need to write a business plan.

A business plan is important to keep you on task. Once you've opened your doors, you won't have time to think big picture amidst the day-to-day fires of running a business.

Having said that, you don't really need a business plan before getting started. Writing a beautiful 100-page plan doesn't make you a single penny. Making a product, closing that first sale... those are the truly critical things to being a Real Business.

What you need is a stripped down, practical, internal business plan just for yourself. Just answer the following questions (and write down your answers!), and you'll be well on your way to closing that first sale.

  • What is your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
    • There are probably many potential types of customers that are interested in your product. Who are the ones that will particularly love your product/service? How many of them are there?
    • Who else is doing what you're doing?Who are your competitors and potential competitors?  Why is your product/service better?
  • When will things get done?
    • Given the specific customers you describe above, how do you plan on getting them? Will you buy ads, encourage referrals from existing customers, create a website?
    • In the next 3, 6, 12 months, what are specific milestones you want to accomplish? What does your company look like in 2, 3 or 5 years?
    • What are the next steps you need accomplish this month?
  • How much money will it take to start and how much will you earn?
    • How much money will it cost to make your product or provide your service?
    • How much do you have to charge to earn a profit?
    • Using this spreadsheet, plan your startup's first year expenses and income. What month will you break even?

The next step to becoming a Real Business is easy.

At the end of the day, you only need to keep two things in mind:

  1. Most of these excuses aren't real obstacles. As soon as you recognize that's it just Internal FUD, you can pinpoint the real problem and get busy solving it.
  2. It's not that hard. All you need to turn your Great Idea into a Real Business is to do the next action step... then another one, and so on. You don't need to do them all at once nor do you have to know what all the steps are ahead of time. Just take the next step. It's easy.

Recognize that there is nothing but bogus Internal FUD stopping you from turning your Great Idea into a Real Business. Good luck! I know you can do it.

If you've overcome your own Internal FUD, share your success stories in the comments.

Greg Go helps publish Wise Bread, a leading personal finance blog.

Photo by Flickr user Twyford

11 Tips for Feeling Happier Right Now

Post by Gretchen of The Happiness Project.

If you’d like to make yourself happier, you can start right now. In the next hour, check off as many of the following items as possible.

Each one of these tips is guaranteed to lift your mood, as will the mere fact that you’ve tackled and accomplished some concrete goals.

1. Boost your energy: pace while you talk on the phone or, even better, take a brisk ten-minute walk outside. Even a small amount of exercise elevates your spirits.

2. Listen to a great song. Research shows that listening to music you love is an extremely effective way to improve your mood.

3. Reach out to friends: make a lunch date or call a friend. Having warm bonds with other people is a key to happiness. Perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that socializing boosts the moods not only of extroverts, but also of introverts.

4, Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, purchase something you need, or call to make that dentist’s appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and cheer.

5. Create a calm environment: clear some physical and mental space around your desk by pitching junk, stowing supplies, sending out quick responses, filing, or even just straightening up your piles. Outer order contributes to inner serenity.

6. Lay the groundwork for some fun: order a book you’ve been wanting to read (not something you should read) or plan a weekend excursion. Studies show that having fun on a regular basis is a pillar of happiness. Try to involve friends or family, as well; people enjoy activities more when they’re with other people than when they’re alone.

7. Do a good deed: make a helpful email introduction, set up a blind date, or shoot someone a piece of useful information or gratifying praise. Do good, feel good—this really works. Also, although we often believe that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. When you act in a friendly way, you’ll strengthen your feelings of friendliness for other people. And that’s a happy feeling.

8. Fake it: put a smile on your face right now, and keep smiling. Research shows that even an artificially induced smile has a positive influence on your emotions. Also, if you’re smiling, other people will perceive you as being friendlier and more approachable.

9. Spend time with an energetic friend. Studies show that you’re more likely to feel good about yourself when you feel energetic. For the long term, it’s important to get enough sleep and to exercise, but if you need an immediate pick-me-up, spend time with an energetic friend. In a phenomenon called “emotional contagion,” people pick up each other’s moods. By hanging out with someone energetic, you’ll boost your own energy.

10. Go outside.Research suggests that sunlight stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood and increases focus. For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning.

11. Save the life of a stranger. Every day, seventeen people die while waiting for a donated organ, and just one donor can save or improve the life of as many as 50 people. Most Americans say they approve of organ donation, but not many actually sign a donor card. Register online and tell your next of kin you want to donate. As you click away, imagine the joyous faces of the people who will one day get a call from a hospital, to tell them that their prayers have been answered. That will make you feel pretty darned happy.

Photo by yaya6193

The Obsessive-Compulsive's Guide to Stopping Junk Mail

The Obsessive-Compulsive's Guide to Stopping Junk Mail

By Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man.

Five years ago, I bought my step-mother Beth some flower bulbs. The company has sent me two catalogs a year ever since. The product pushers discovered that my daughter Isabella was born but not that she has since aged two years, so we get piles of completely useless baby wear catalogs.

Do I ever look at these bundles of the coagulated flesh of dead trees? Uh, no. Do you?

According to the Native Forest Network guide to stopping junk mail, 100 million trees are ground up each year to make junk mail. Um, didn't somebody mention that tearing down trees is contributing to global warming?

All in the interests of our economy—right?—except that 44 percent of junk mail gets trashed without ever being opened. Together with other types of paper and paperboard waste, the junk mail adds up to 40% of the solid waste in our landfills.

So here's what I've done to stop the tree killers and keep their trash out of my bin. And believe me, it's a battle:

1. All the junk mail, including that with plastic windows in the envelopes, goes in the recycling bin. For a guide to recycling in your community, go here.

2. I got my name off the credit card and insurance offer lists by going to the credit bureaus' centralized service for opting out.

3. I spent a dollar—swear to God, that's the price—to sign onto the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service, which reportedly will reduce my junk mail by 75%.

4. I began calling the 800 number on the catalogs and asking them to take me off their lists.

5. After all this, my junk mail reduced but not vanished. BUT I WILL STOP THEM! I'm now trying a paid service called Green Dimes, which promises to get rid of junk mail for $36 a year (one green dime a day). If Green Dimes does what it claims, parting with the cash means you don't have to take all the steps above (except recycling, of course!), because Green Dimes does it for you.

6. Okay, so getting rid of junk mail is harder than getting rid of bed bugs. It turns out that none of this will stop catalogs from companies you have bought from. Can you believe it? So one last step. Join Catalog Choice, a service that allows you to opt out of catalog mailings, by entering your customer number, even from companies you bought from.

After that, you should be good. But remember: don't step on the cracks.

Photo by Altered Angel.

Dealing With Environmental Issues, LifeRemix Style

Written by Glen of LifeRemix.

In case you haven't already heard, today is Blog Action Day. Quite a few high-profile companies and blogs like Lifehacker, GigaOm, Google, and the United Nations have backed the event. We're proud to say that the leaders behind this incredibly successful event are none other than LifeRemix blogging couple Cyan Ta'eed and Collis Ta'eed, and Leo Babauta.

In order to show our support for their efforts, (and support a great cause too), we decided to throw in our own two cents on how to improve the state of the environment. Here's a few excerpts from the posts published today across the LifeRemix network.

How to pick the best green mutual funds
"Save the planet while earning 25 to 30% return on your investment. Mutual funds like Winslow Green Growth and New Alternatives invest in renewable and clean energy solutions. Both funds received high marks from financial magazines like Kiplinger and The Economist."

How to Save the World By Sleeping
"What’s a super-easy way to reduce energy consumption, lower your energy bill, and feel good all-over? Put your computer to sleep."

Taking Personal Responsibility for the Environment
"Instead of protesting or arguing, forget about the political aspect of protecting the environment and focus on what you can do to help on an individual level."

Green GTD
"One wouldn't need to think very hard to come up with ways that their everyday life could be adjusted to be friendlier to Mother Earth, even the GTD folk."

29 Simple Ways to Become a More Environmentally Friendly Freelancer (+ Help Us Donate $500 to Charity!)
“Today we’re going to look at some simple ways that freelancers can make their work-life more environmentally friendly. Because remember it’s the small steps that produce the big, sustainable changes. We’ll donate $1 to environmental charities for every comment on this post.”

Want to Save the Environment? Buy Less Stuff!
"Stuff has more than just a personal financial cost. Every time I buy something, it has an impact on the world around me."

5 Ways Save the World, While Getting Fitter, Saving Money, Simplifying, and Becoming Happier
"For those who need more motivation for doing things to help the environment other than just "save the world", here are a few more: it'll help you get fitter, save money, simplify your life, and become happier. Here are five ways to help the environment while doing all of the above -- it's a no-lose solution."

Save money and help the environment
"You can help the environment and save money by reducing your home energy consumption with these five easy tips."

5 Reasons Why Home-Based Entrepreneurship is the Ultimate Eco-Friendly Gig
"As you may know, today is Blog Action Day — a day when over 15,000 blogs (and growing) are posting about the environment.

You'd think that would be off-topic for this blog. On the contrary — being a home-based entrepreneur is one of the most eco-friendly gigs you can have."

Human Ideas: Adopt The Sky
"In honor of Blog Action Day, Behance features Eric Husband and Dave Keepper, two ad agency creative directors who wanted to reduce their capitalist footprint. Their latest project, AdoptTheSky.org, is a collaboration with Earthjustice. Not only are their ideas noble, but so is their approach to ideas. "We honestly don’t care where a good idea comes from. And don't tell anyone this, but sometimes it's the client."

Seven tips for how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way)
"here are seven tips on how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way)."

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