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9 Warren Buffett Quotes for Start-Ups to Live By

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warren buffett

If you are thinking of starting a business or have been reading about investing, you are sure to have come across the name, Warren Buffett. He is an American business magnate and investor who has made a massive mark in the investment world.

When someone makes it big, their words become words to live by. Warren Buffett’s quotes are no different. Here are a few quotes that are worth following for any start-up. Take these words as advice, and all put together it makes great sense and helps you pave the path to success.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

One thing that discourages a lot of people starting out is the advice that you need to know all the ins and outs of what you are doing. Most of the times, it is simply not possible. That being said, it is important to know the basics and the core of the field you want to make it big in. If it is worth taking the risk, then it is also worth knowing what risks to take.

“In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love.”

One of the many reasons why people choose to do business is to get a chance to make a living  doing what they love. This is not possible for many 9-to-5ers, and some people can’t bear that. You are lucky if you find a job doing what you love, but with a business, you have the choice to get your hands on exactly what gets you excited. Doing what you love is a surefire way to achieve success, not only in business but in life as well.

“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”

When you start anything new, take a significant amount of time to learn the craft required. Take classes, spend time reading, do everything you can to prepare yourself. You are the greatest asset to your business, so it only makes sense to invest in yourself. You are going to be with the business from the start and throughout, so to get returns you need to invest in yourself. Not only learning what is needed for the success of the business but learning things to make yourself the person needed to achieve that success.

“I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars; I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over.”

One thing that I often advise people is to stop comparing themselves to people who are already successful. It is more than okay to be inspired by them but following their steps down to the T can often overwhelm you and make you give up. What works for them at their stage is not going to work for you now.

Suppose you sell coffee with whipped cream for $3 and you see Starbucks selling the same thing for $6. Now, you want to be like Starbucks, and your coffee even tastes better, so you start selling yours at $6 as well. Your business starts to fail; you wonder how can it when you have a better product for the same price, offering a similar ambiance, and you are even giving customers special discounts from time to time.

Well, what you fail to see is, you aren’t Starbucks. No matter how similar, you haven’t made your mark in the market yet. Think of it like this, if you have to pay the same price at two places, one is a well-known and well-established international chain, and the other is a new local place, which one will you choose? Instead of making the big leap, start with smaller ones to reach where you want to be.

“You know…you keep doing the same things and you keep getting the same result over and over again.”

Once you have taken the decision, laid down the foundation, learned the basics, and are ready to take the world by storm, you have to be willing to change your methods if they don’t work. Some people become rigid with their plans because they have spent a lot of time and effort bringing them into action, but if it hasn’t worked the five times you applied it, chances are it is never going to work. If you want more, you need to make changes. The same plan that was needed to start will not be helpful when you need to reach the next level. Make changes as your business demands.

“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”

When it is said that you need to make changes to reach the next level, it doesn’t have to be huge. A little something goes a long way. If you feel like you have been in the same position long enough and it is time to move ahead, then think about what can be easily achieved before thinking about something that might not even be possible at your stage.

Let’s take the example of waking up early. You got a client who is based in a completely different timezone. You decide to work late at night to accommodate him while also doing all the other work you have. Now, this results in you skipping dinner sometimes, working for hours at a stretch with a tired mind, missing your kids going to school in the morning.

This is an extreme step, this gives your mind a false sense of you doing a lot of work and being very productive, but that is not the case. Instead of making a lot of sacrifices, start waking up early, you will get to see your kids, get your work done, rest, and then talk to the said client. Now, you have grown your business without losing your sanity.

“You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”

Let’s take the above example. If taking on that client means losing a lot of things: sacrificing your health, your personal life, your work quality, then is it really worth it? I understand the desperation to say yes to every opportunity when you are a beginner but take a moment and think about it, even if you want to say yes right away.

You will thank yourself for not rushing into it. Sometimes, the opportunities are too good to be true. You might think that it is going to help right now, but you have to take the bigger picture into account. Learning to say no from time to time is an important skill to master if you want to keep your sanity while aiming for success.

When I started, I said yes to every opportunity that came my way. They were all good opportunities but I could only do so much. I already had my hands full, so I had to learn to say no. With time I have gotten better at it. You cannot overfill your plate because it won’t do justice to either the job or you.

“The best thing I did was to choose the right heroes.”

As your business starts gaining momentum, you will realize that you need help. It is time to hire people. People are your biggest investment after yourself. The people you choose to work with or to work for you can often make or break the situation. It is not only about how much experience a person has but about the attitude that a person carries.

Is the person willing to learn, to grow from their mistakes, to give all in for the job? If you find a person like that, then don’t be afraid to shell out a few thousand more than the industry standards to hire them because that person is going to make you more profit than a couple of thousand you would have saved from hiring someone mediocre.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you’ll drift in that direction.”

People are one of the greatest sources to learn from. While working, do not forget to spend time with humans. Human interaction is something that many people struggle with as they get more comfortable with social media. You have to be careful who you spend your time with. Their outlook on things and life has the power to shape you.

Hang out with people you admire and want to learn from. Hire people who can teach you a thing or two. It is always okay to learn from people who are not at your level yet. Everyone has something to offer, decide if that something is for you or not.

Starting a business can be stressful. The uncertainty of success, the fear of failure, the insane amount of do’s and don’ts can all be too much sometimes. Quotes are a huge source of inspiration, take the quotes and use them to motivate yourself like what I have done here.

Entrepreneurs

Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

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Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

Being your own boss fascinates a lot of people, but a few really see the toils and struggles behind the glamour of the idea. When people realize what being your own boss actually means, you see them falter. My job isn’t that bad, they say. What they fail to understand is that to get a taste of success, you first need to sweat over building your business.

On 11th April 1910, a 27-year-old club singer Gabrielle opened a tiny shop at 21, Rue Cambon, Paris. She wanted to sell hats. 

Orphaned at the age of 12, Gabrielle had been raised by nuns who taught her how to sew, a skill that led to her life’s work. Three years later, she opened two new stores at Deauville and Biarritz, where she first tasted success when she designed a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. A few years later, Gabrielle, nicknamed ‘Coco’ from her days as a singer, launched the immensely popular perfume, Chanel No.5 and thus the fashion label Chanel was born. 

First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of initiative, leadership, and innovation in business. An entrepreneur is an opportunity seeker, a generator of new ideas and business processes. Economist Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for an entrepreneur.

But why become an entrepreneur at all? Why leave the comforts and the structure of an established firm, to work 12 hours a day out of a basement?

Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

Mike Templeman, CEO of Foxtail Marketing, says “As an entrepreneur, I always have a story to tell. Whenever I tell someone I run my own business, they always want to know what I do, how I do it and how it’s going. I always am able to provide a tale or two, and the best part is that I get to determine the story’s chapters.” 

Have you ever been fired? As an entrepreneur, you run the show. Plain and simple. This is your company, your brand, your pride, and joy. You are financially independent. Initially, you’ll work for longer hours, but if you keep at it and do it right, the freedom that being an entrepreneur provides is unmatched. 

A start-up also provides a brilliant learning experience. Ashim Seth, founder of Chicago based Seth Business Co. says, “The lack of structure in a start-up is precisely what leads to better learning as compared to big corporations, especially for youngsters.”

Entrepreneurs develop new ideas all the time, but how do you know when to pursue one further? Therefore it is extremely necessary to ask yourself some essential questions before you leap. Do others think my idea is good? Will people pay for it? Why am I the person to make it happen? Henry Ford, with Ford Motor Company, became successful simply by building the first car for the middle-class American, thus converting the automobile from a luxury item to a practical conveyance.  

So list your options and do plenty of research. Think like the customer. Analyze the competition. Build your own idea.

However, while many new businesses boom, many fail as well. An entrepreneur is required to put his career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of an idea, spending time as well as capital on an uncertain venture. “Though there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you are responsible for your employees’ success, at the beginning you also have to work hard every day to keep them convinced that joining you was the right decision,” says Gaurav Kumar, Associate Director, KPMG. 

An idea may be too novel, or the market may simply not be ready for a new entry. What is important to understand is that a failure is an option. Successful entrepreneurs excel at adapting to new obstacles. 

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want something.”

– Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.

Have you ever wanted to do more? To do good? As an entrepreneur, you also decide where the profits of your company go. You can fund an NGO, or a charity, or even hire the homeless. HarVa, founded by BITS Pilani graduate Ajay Chaturvedi in 2008, is the first BPO set up in rural India which has hired and trained 500 women in Haryana as part of its first project. 

So decide what you want to do. Make a plan. And work on it every day. Change the world in your own little way.

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How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

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How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

Here’s a growth strategy: simplify your business systems.

Maybe your workflows are tried and tested. Everyone knows them and does them. This is how you’ve achieved growth after all. But now, you’ve hit a slump. And we know what will happen if you keep doing the same thing:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

As a side note, this quote has been misattributed to Albert Einstein. But somebody traced it back to a 1983 book by Rita Mae Brown, a mystery novelist.

With that out of the way, let me ask you to change your core business systems. Inefficient systems can cost you more. You run the risk of losing 20% to 30% of your revenue if you don’t deal with them. No, this doesn’t mean you need to add more to gain more. But you will have to trim, discard, merge, and automate. 

Let’s do this.

The following steps can be applied either on overarching systems or standalone systems:

1. Visualize Your Workflows

Create a system flowchart or process map to ensure everyone is looking at the same big picture. You can use tools like Lucidchart for faster implementation.

How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

If you’re reviewing an entire business system, it would be more efficient to have the core teams meet separately first. Let them brainstorm and map out their recommendations. If the main concern is a specific system, then meet with the team involved and other key individuals. Let the team head prepare a visual to have everyone on the same page.

2. Evaluate Each Operation’s Importance

Overhauling an entire system entails a thorough analysis of its components. When looking at the subsystems, ask what they’re supposed to do. Be clear about their purpose. Some aspects have a more obvious impact than others. If you’re in e-commerce, logistics management workflow is a good example. But how about marketing? Where does this team’s work start and end?

So, have a stated purpose for each system. Once you’ve nailed that, ask: are they performing according to expectations? 

To answer that, focus on their output and output value. For instance, the marketing team is in charge of raising brand and product awareness. It’s also tasked to oversee customer experience in many cases nowadays. Ensuring marketing operations are streamlined actually helps the entire business. This translates to a high output value for this system.

Do the same thing to all of your core systems. Then rank them using the highest to lowest output value metric. Aside from the output value, you can combine outputs measured in dollars (market share increase) and outcomes measured by their long-term effects (improved public image)

3. Zoom In On the Steps

After ranking the systems, see if you can afford to take a shortcut or declutter a clunky system. Looking at each process workflow, identify steps that you need to eliminate, merge, do simultaneously, and/or automate. 

  • Merge or parallel – Are there redundant steps in your system? Would your system benefit from merging two or more steps? Are there steps that need to be done simultaneously instead of one waiting for the other to finish?
  • Automate – Is there a series of steps you can automate? Are there parts of the process that can be performed with reduced human input? What solutions exist on the market? Can you leverage those without compromising output quality?
How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth
  • Outsource – What steps in your process do you lack expertise in? Can you afford to hire and train new talent to perform them? If not, are you willing to outsource them to another company or an individual? Will you be able to afford to outsource?
  • Eliminate – Are there unnecessary steps in your system? Are your people performing tasks that are of low value? Are there specific bottlenecks that have kept your process from running smooth? Will you benefit from replacing or removing them altogether? 

4. Refine The System

By now, your flowchart or map may look very different from the one you started with. But the revamp does not end with a new visual. Once again, you need to gather key individuals and fine-tune your output. Your business will benefit the most if you include two sets of people in the brainstorming session.

  • Experienced Members
    Bring in your experienced team members. Their insight and perspective run deep, especially if they’ve been in the business for a long time. They’re also probably attuned to the changes that required the overhaul. And they have a track record for helping the company cross over in the past. One downside, however, is that they may be attached to the processes more than the new ones. 
  • “Outsiders”
    You may invite an experienced individual (consultant) from a different industry. He or she will be your fresh pair of eyes. This person will let you see blind spots that you and your managers may have missed. Having someone with a strong technological background can help you identify which processes to automate or streamline using technology.

    Additionally, you can include some new team members who can address blind spots and have strong technological skills.

5. Apply Growth Hacking

Growth hacking was coined by Sean Ellis after the method he’d been using led to the sustainable growth of companies like Dropbox and Eventbrite. Growth hacking comprises testing and learning approaches within short timelines and small budgets. It’s famous among startups but can be applied to any business.

How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

So, how do you apply this in your business systems? Now that you have a new and simplified business system, you will have to focus your thinking on delivering value. 

“Value drives customer retention, which is a prerequisite for generating sustainable growth.” -Sean Ellis

Identify the common success metric for your company. Growth hackers call this the North Star Metric (NSM), which should reflect the aggregate value delivered to your customers. Test ways to improve the performance of this metric. This also requires your core growth team to meet, evaluate, and iterate each week.

Final Thoughts

Given all the steps above, you might be thinking about setting aside time to simplify your business systems. What’s a 90-minute brainstorming session compared to the revenue you’d lose if you stayed with the inefficient, clunky one you currently have?

In doing this, you’ll also be documenting your processes and stating purposes. It will be easier for your managers to pass the message down to their team members. The big picture will become clear for everyone. And your growth machine will be set in motion once again.

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7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

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7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Do you feel like something is wrong with how your days are turning out?

It seems you’re on the edge of burnout, or you’re hearing loved ones complain about your “workaholism.”

You should probably consider if you’re having a healthy work-life balance, or work-life integration. If that is truly the issue, then you can do something about it. And you might want to learn the secrets to transformation.

These secrets are principles or data you can use to approach work/non-work. They are not specific steps because everyone differs in their circumstance. And so, everyone also differs in their approach.

1. Know If You’re a Segmentor or an Integrator

Sociologist Christena Nippert-Eng suggests there are two types of people when it comes to boundaries set between life and work. These are the segmentors and integrators. Other studies support these categories, although it’s a common theme across the existing corpus to not think about them as fixed or opposing poles.

  • Segmentors – People who draw a clear line between personal life and work. Forgetting about their job once they have left the office comes more naturally to them. Some show this tendency by having a separate calendar for professional commitments, or deliberately not choosing to prop family photos on their work desks.
  • Integrators – People who mesh work and life with ease. One of their strongest points is the ability to engage deeply with work. They can transition seamlessly from responding to work emails to having dinner with their spouse at dinner. These are also the workers who are likely to benefit from a company having onsite childcare.

Most people are not 100% segmentors or 100% integrators. But knowing which side of the spectrum you’re leaning toward can help you customize a balancing strategy. Why? There is always room to become better. For instance, segmentors can be okay with bringing their family to company parties. And integrators can prioritize their spouse over a work email during dinner.

2. Change From Within

I’m sure you’ve heard about people embracing digital detox (avoiding devices tied to work). Or you’ve encountered someone being mindful about the time they spend in the office. These individuals have seen some negative consequences of their past actions and are trying to change the present. It doesn’t matter much if they’re doing this or that. The point is they’re working toward more favorable results.

One of the things that can stop you in your tracks is copying another person’s idea of change. It could be their lifestyle, eating habits, and even opinions about work-life balance. It’s because you’re also likely to expect the same results they’re having. 

Change must come from within. That means looking inward, being honest, and aiming for a realistic assessment. Only then should you seek the advice of people who have gone through a similar experience. Because now you have probed the cause of your problem.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Whether you’re a segmentor or an integrator, practice mindfulness. This ancient practice traces its roots to eastern religions. However, these days, it can also simply mean intentionally bringing your attention to the present. That is, deliberately causing your mind to return to a task if you’ve been distracted.

If you’re with your spouse, then give your full attention to him or her. Be fully aware of his or her presence. Whether you’re in a restaurant having a date or in the bedroom conversing. That sounds more applicable to integrators since segmentors are good at compartmentalizing. But mindfulness also enables everyone to become productive.

7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

4. Make a To-Do List Before You Sleep

Well, didn’t I say no sharing of specific steps? You might be thinking “make a to-do list” is not a principle or data. It is a step. But before you grill me further, let me give you the rationale behind this fourth secret. This habit is about taking control, which is in our nature to desire.

Having an overview of tomorrow’s tasks offers you that sense of control. You’re more eager to let go. You won’t be going to bed anxious. Your brain is convinced by the list you made and won’t cause you to lose sleep over a problem at work. That can wait till morning.

5. Determine Your “One Simple Thing”

People at Google have a goal-setting practice that prioritizes personal well-being. They call it the “One Simple Thing.” Some examples are “I will take a one-hour break 3 times a week to work out” and “I will not read emails on the weekends.”

Employees share what’s in their “One Simple Thing” worksheet with their boss. And their boss will hold them accountable to their goals. It’s a simple tool that encourages you to be proactive about your work-life integration. And the involvement of your boss adds a more personal and connected component to it.

6. Get Help From Technology

Productivity tools abound on the web. But not all of them are effective. Otherwise, we should all be masters of productivity by now. On top of productivity, however, you should also be seeking tools that force you to stop when you don’t know how to stop.

Boomerang for Gmail is one. It prevents you from reading emails after work hours. You can also set the Do Not Disturb mode on Slack to pause notifications. Further, if you’re a manager, you can set default DND hours on the app for your entire team. Let technology help you regain control over your life, not the other way around. 

7. Remember that Balancing is Like Riding a Bike

Life is chaotic. It’s impossible to achieve perfection on all fronts. It’s impossible to even be okay on all fronts most of the time. So I want you to think of balance as a continuous effort. It doesn’t actually end. It’s like riding a bike. If you keep pedaling, you keep moving forward. But riding a bike is not just a means of transport, it’s also a balancing act.

7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

That said, pursuing a healthy work-life balance is necessary for you to keep moving forward. So don’t worry if you’re not that good at it yet. One day, it’ll be as natural for you as breathing. And balancing will have become a way to live.

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