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5 Ways To Improve Your Entrepreneurial Creativity

For starters, don’t use your phone as an alarm clock.

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Entrepreneurial Creativity

Entrepreneurs have to be a bottomless pit of creativity, don’t they? Not only do we have to dream up big ideas, we also have to innovate new ways of executing them. And the sheer number of hours it takes to build a successful business can also lead to creative burnout, which is, of course, counter-intuitive.

“Creativity is a process that you can’t force,” says Molly Reynolds, cofounder and host of The Unicorn in the Room. “You have to know it’s a process and respect that process. But there are certainly some ways to set yourself up for success.”

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Reynolds was a professional musical theatre actor and continues to study dance and fine art in her spare time. Her love of the creative process spurred the creation of The Unicorn in the Room, an online resource for entrepreneurs.

Having interviewed business icons, such as Arianna Huffington and John Paul Dejoria, as well as top executives from GE, PwC, Forbes, Chobani and Heineken, Reynolds has identified these key ways to top business minds stay creative.

Related: 8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator

Here they are, in no particular order:

1Buy an alarm clock

alarm clock

Rest is a crucial part of the creative process and as Arianna Huffington will tell you, keeping your cell phone next to your bed while you sleep is a bad thing. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 44 percent of cell phone owners keep their favorite handheld next to them as they sleep to make sure they don’t miss an important call. But this is an extremely unhealthy habit to get into.

“So many people tell me they’ve got creative burnout, and almost all of them check their emails before they go to bed, first thing when they wake up, and yes, even in the middle of the night,” says Reynolds. “I used to do it too and the longer term effects are never good.”

Cellphones, TVs, tablets and other gadgets with LED screens all emit blue light that can inhibit our production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. The blue light can also trick our bodies into thinking that it’s daylight and interfere with our sleep cycles. Worse than that? An overheating cellphone in your bed could even set your pillow on fire!

People will use the excuse that they need their phone as an alarm clock. Newsflash: you can buy an alarm clock that is not a smartphone. Avoid bouts of insomnia and house fires by keeping your cell phone out of your bedroom.

2Get a variety of perspectives

Do you know why The Challenger mission failed? Lack of diverse thinking. While many reports have placed the blame on technical fault and cold weather, others suggest that the disaster could have been avoided. The engineering team was used to receiving orders from the top down. Despite being aware of the potential dangers, they went ahead and cleared the spacecraft for launch. The management team at NASA simply would not allow room for different perspectives or opinions.

GE is a company that is more than 100 years old, and the executives there are still learning so that they can continue innovating. In fact, they hold leadership summits, where they invite in a wide variety of companies and share their best practices.

With a culture of constant learning, GE wanted to see what they could learn from Silicon Valley culture. So, they partnered with author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, to see how they could build innovation and fast work into their company core. Being open to change and new ideas is essential for companies to remain competitive and creative in shifting environments.

Related: Strategic Creativity Drives Growth

3Travel

There’s nothing like taking a timeout to get your creative juices flowing. Travel broadens the mind and exposes you to new and unfamiliar situations. You get to sample local cuisine, find out about different cultures and maybe even learn a language. All these experiences translate into enhanced problem solving skills and the ability to think creatively on your feet.

You might think that taking a sabbatical year to study Spanish in Barcelona or backpack around Southeast Asia is just an excuse for a time off. But there can be surprising benefits from taking yourself outside of your situation.

It might even become the catalyst for new success. Winston Chen decided to invent an app, just to have some fun while he was traveling. It turned out to be the start of his new career and company, voice-based mobile app, Voice Dream.

4Step away from the desk

Fitbit

“Getting a Fitbit actually made me a better problem solver,” Reynolds says.

“Before, I’d sit at my desk for hours trying to figure something out, but the thing buzzes me and makes me take a break to walk. Inevitably, as I’m walking, I figure out the problem more quickly.”

Do you know one of the least inspirational places for people to come up with creative solutions? The meeting room! That’s because we often need to get up and mobilize our bodies to get unblock our creativity. Steve Jobs was well known for his walking meetings, and Mark Zuckerberg reportedly likes to meet standing up as well.

There’s actually some science to back this up. Researchers at Stanford revealed that bursts of walking, whether indoors or outdoors, can help to boost our creative inspiration. So, when you come up against a case of writer’s block, or you simply feel like you’re staring into an abyss instead of your computer screen, get up and get moving!

5Draw your strategy

That’s right, draw your strategy. Don’t write it. This will cause your mind to think differently, which is a great way to shake up creativity. Expert on visual thinking, Dan Roam, worked as a consultant for some of the world’s largest companies, including Google, Sun Microsystems and eBay. He believes that one of the best ways to help people solve problems and contribute new ideas is by drawing them out.

In an interview with Business Insider, he said “taking advantage of our innate ability to see – both with our eyes and with our mind’s eye –  in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way they simply ‘get.’”

Related: 10 Myths About Creativity You Need to Stop Believing Now

Get vulnerable

Lastly, says Reynolds, if you’re really committed to improving your creative mind in every one of these five steps, you need to allow yourself to get vulnerable. “Take a class that you would never think of taking, charcoal drawing, samurai sword fighting, tap dancing, whatever! You might feel ridiculous at first, and that’s a good thing. Having that vulnerability will remind you that you don’t have all of the answers and need to be open.”

According to David Brendel, of the Harvard Business Review, vulnerability can actually make you stronger. Things like apologising for errors, admitting when you’re wrong, or seeking help from others can all make you a better leader. When you allow yourself to be in a position where you’re learning something new, you leave yourself vulnerable to criticism and failure. Yet this learning process is all part of improving your creative mind and ongoing education.

So, watch your sleeping habits, and make sure you take breaks from your desk to leave room for inspiration to come through. Be open to travel, culture and new ideas, as well as using visual thinking. Do all that with a dose of vulnerability and an enquiring mind, and you’ll give yourself the innovation makeover you desperately seek.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Ben Simkin is the founder of BusinessNET, a leading Online Marketing Firm that to-date has increased clients' sales by over $1.45 billion. BusinessNET provide end-to-end marketing and sales services to established companies worldwide.

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Self Development

Don’t Victimise Your Mind: The 6 Keys To Develop Yourself And Your Business

This writing offers six keys to self and business development.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Plan your work and work your plan” – Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder

Considering the plethora of permutations within the self and business development fields it is truly hard to develop yourself and your business. The good news; however, is that it is possible for all to achieve fulfilment and sustainable business success should we consciously choose to and act on our choice with a mountain of good old-fashioned ‘grit’ to underpin our efforts.

This writing offers six keys to self and business development:

1. Find your purpose

It is highly probable that a number of readers might roll their eyes when they read again that they have to find their purpose and brand such a suggestion as cliché. Well the thing with clichés are that they are mostly true but they require investigation and reflection beyond surface judgements and thoughts in order to have true practical meaning in your life.

Finding your purpose for yourself personally and for your business means that you attach a lot of positive and transformative meaning to what you are doing. This meaning transcends yourself and adds value to society. Having sincere purpose is a source of inspiration and can get you through severe challenging times.

Viktor Frankls’ – A mans’ search for meaning and Simon Sineks’ – Start with why – offer excellent and practical strategies towards finding your purpose.

2. ‘Stack’ your inspirations

I prefer the term inspiration over the use of the word motivation. Motivation is as fickle as your will power and is finite. True inspiration mainly fuelled by a strong and enduring sense of purpose has the power to help you overcome the most challenging circumstances.

For the purposes of enduring success and fulfilment you need to connect the dots between whatever inspires you which will create a powerful and symbiotic effect that will give more meaning, confidence and improved results to what you are doing.

In practical terms this means to:

  • Listen to music daily if music inspires you.
  • Workout daily if well-being is a source of inspiration to you.
  • Read the work of others daily if knowledge inspires you.
  • Sing in the shower if your own singing inspires you.
  • Meditate daily if seeking within for answers inspires you.
  • Sleep deeply and at least six to eight hours if deep rest inspires you.
  • Look at images of great works of art if art inspires you.
  • Daily look at your written Vision and goals.
  • If dancing inspires you dance every day.

The above are just a few examples of what might inspire you. You need to ‘stack as many inspirations’ as possible in one day in order to experience a great day.

3. Unlearn the victim mentality

The victim mentality presupposes an inclination towards a life of excuses and justifications however valid or invalid they appear to be. Several ancient teachers have taught us to look deeper into our own trials and tribulations and shift the paradigm of suffering them to honestly learn from them and become stronger as a result:

“I take pleasure in my infirmities” – St Paul

“The wound is where the light seeps in” – Jalal ud din Rumi

Reflect on the challenges in your life purely from a learning perspective and stop assigning blame to others or even yourself. Changed behaviour is the only true apology. Past guilt and less than desirable past results can weigh us down within a state of fear and anxiety within the present moment.

Direct your energy towards actionable solutions to challenges as opposed to diluting your finite energy reserves by overthinking on past negativity.

4. Unlearn the desire to always be right

Do not get stuck in the perpetual cycle of frustration caused by you thinking that everybody thinks or should think like you. Yes, you are mostly right but only within the realms of your own perspective.

Be open to other alternatives, truly listen to opinions and learn from others. Instead of holding on to an opposing view for the sake of defending your ego and the desire to be right attempt to ‘connect the dots’ between opposing philosophies and find the common ground between them. This attitude builds relationships and slowly but surely builds bridges between enemies.

5. Unlearn your need to ‘do something in order to get something in order to be something’

For most an expectation is to do well at school, then university, find a great job and build a family. All of this has to be done to truly be someone in society. A key and paradigm shifting realisation for me in life was that ‘you don’t get what you want but what you are’ – This means that you attract both your empowering beliefs and your limitations of who you are to yourself not what you want.

Therefore if you want more love in your life, first be more loving. If you want more money first truly develop an abundance mentality and not only pay lip service to the idea of abundance.

6. Take swift and confident action, daily

Procrastination is the top enemy to success. Overthinking leads to more anxiety. Yes think but do it rapidly and effectively by asking and answering key questions such as:

  • Will this serve my purpose?
  • Will this be worth it?
  • What are the potential risks and what can I immediately do to counter act them?
  • Does this resonate with me and does it align with my values and mission?
  • How can I build capacity for this?

If I am unsure I should immediately take action on quickly finding out more and then execute. Procrastination reduces productivity by a great deal and builds your level of anxiety.

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Self Development

How To Leverage Your Skills To Start A Side Business

Start a service-based business with knowledge you have acquired over the years.

Abdo Riani

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side-hustle

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 report, more than 25 million Americans have initiated entrepreneurial ventures. Being an entrepreneur is synonymous with being a risk taker, and one of the best ways to minimise this risk is by starting on the side, from home. In fact, according to the same report, more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses from home.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to start a business due to lack of funds and business knowledge. The truth is, in most cases, none of that is required. Entrepreneurs get rewarded for solving people’s problems exactly the way employees get paid for their services. Starting a business is about creating value by solving problems and addressing needs, therefore, capturing an opportunity to serve others and getting compensated for your work is entrepreneurship in its purest form.

Especially for service-based businesses, this does not require a website, marketing campaign, business plan, round of investment funding or any other assets but your existing skills, knowledge and a laptop.

In my experience mentoring entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and visions, I found that most aspiring entrepreneurs worry too much about their 100th customer when they haven’t even acquired their first. Most entrepreneurs worry about growth stages before building a foundation.

This article shares three simple steps to help you clear your thoughts and focus only on the activities that matter in the beginning of a business venture.

1. Define your service

The key is to stick to your area of expertise. While you may have plans to start a thriving business with many products, services and customer segments, thinking too big too soon will have failing consequences. The challenges entrepreneurs face trying to run before they walk is overwhelming, and this causes failure.

What is it that you do today? This will be your service. If you were hired to do a job, chances are you are good at what you do. If you are a social media marketer, other companies need your services and consulting. The same applies to project managers, designers, programmers, teachers, engineers, researchers, assistants, scientists, coaches, speakers, etc.

Grab a piece of paper and write down your solution – “I offer X.” Before defining your ideal customer, start by writing down your service. It’s fine if your solution is as general as, “I offer social media, consulting, accounting or research services.”

Defining your ideal customer in the next step will help you become more specific and targeted.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

2. Define your ideal customer

Service providers are often challenged with the ideal customer definition. This is understandable because virtually speaking, using some of the services mentioned earlier, many companies of different sizes need project management, design, programming, teaching and coaching services. Focusing on the ideal customer doesn’t just save time and money in finding and serving the customer but more importantly, it helps in the outcome of your contribution and your results. An ideal customer is “ideal” because you know how to help them get results. They need people like you.

The ideal customer definition process starts exactly like service definition. Start with the company that trusted you to do a job — your existing or previous employer. Chances are, many similar companies need your help and expertise. You may want to avoid serving your employer’s competitors, however, using them and their needs as a benchmark will quickly help you identify similar companies in different categories or industries.

No matter how competitive your space is, the barriers to acquiring the first customers will still be much lower than learning a new skill to serve customers in less competitive industries. Stick to your background. Especially in the beginning, focus on customer segments with the least players. The bigger the company, the longer the sales cycle. In this case, even if your experience is in helping Fortune 500 companies scale, you may want to focus on smaller companies with similar profiles and help them grow as big as your current or previous employers.

Your value proposition combines service and ideal customer definition. I help [ideal customer] with [your service], and I do it differently or uniquely by [how are you different].

For example, I help professionals leverage their skills to launch service-based businesses by providing them with a clear roadmap to paying customers, and I do it uniquely through a tested and proven framework that aims to minimise costs and reduce time to acquisition while bringing clarity and trust in the entrepreneur’s journey.

3. Define your acquisition channel

This step is simply about connecting the first two steps. In other words, how do you convey your service to your ideal customer? Use this as a rule of thumb. Your first customers are hand picked. Yes, social media, SEO, funnels, affiliate marketing and all other marketing strategies can help, but you must get your hands dirty to close your first customers quickly.

When you start and don’t have proof or case studies, people will invest in you, therefore, presenting and selling yourself is your best bet. From experience, here are the two best channels to accomplish this goal.

  1. Cold emailing, including using the power and network of LinkedIn. Drafting a personalised email or message that goes directly to your potential customer’s inbox is one of the best ways to grab their attention, especially when you are addressing businesses. Keep your message short, mention an interesting fact about their industry, comment on one of their recent posts or accomplishments, and present your services and how it can help them drive results.
  2. In-person events, especially smaller conferences, meet-ups or social events. Defining your acquisition channels is essentially about finding a way to signal your availability to your ideal customer. Local and national events are a great way to build personal relationships that can soon turn into business partnerships. Spend time developing and nurturing relationships and the rest will follow naturally.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

Finally, and above all, the world needs your skills and expertise, and people are ready to compensate you for your contribution. We are all entrepreneurs in one way or another. Entrepreneurship is about creating value through solutions. You do that already, so it’s about time you capture other opportunities on the side or full-time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

5 Healthy Habits Businesses Should Adopt In 2019

Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019.

Fedhealth

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healthy-habits-businesses

When we think of adopting healthy habits, we usually think in terms of our bodies or our personal lives. But as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you be adopting healthy habits for your business too? After all, like our bodies, businesses perform better – and are better able to withstand the occasional storm – when they’re functioning at an optimal level. So how does the concept of “health” translate in a small business context? Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019:

1. Streamline your cash flow

You can have all the impressive clients you want, but if they’re not paying you on time (or at all), your cash flow will suffer – making it very hard for your business to function. Similarly, if you don’t strategically keep money in your business (for example by only paying bills when you need to), you can also run into trouble. Since cash flow is so important to a healthy business, take a high-level view of the money that’s coming in and the funds going out on a regular basis. Then, make sure that the two work in tandem, so that your bottom line stays as stable as possible.

2. Apply the KonMari method

Author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has exploded in popularity in recent years, and her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been published in 30 countries. In a nutshell, the KonMari method is all about keeping only those things that spark joy in your life – whether it’s clothes, books or furniture. The result, Kondo believes, is a happier, calmer, more contented life.

You could apply this principle to business too. For example, which clients are more trouble than they’re worth – and conversely, which ones give you joy that you could find more ways to work with? Or, what services does your business provide that your heart’s really not into – and which ones are you passionate about? This mindset could apply to almost any business context, from a branding refresh to streamlining your service offering, or even just clearing the clutter from your office.

3. Use tech to get organised

Admin tasks can often be overlooked in a small business, because employees are typically wearing so many different hats: they’re salespeople, account managers, the HR department and more. But if you let the admin slip, your business can suffer, and this can spill over into your dealings with customers. Luckily these days, there’s lots of tech available to help you with almost every aspect of business administration, from invoicing and budgeting, to timesheets and project management. Most of these are available at a minimal cost (or even free), so they don’t require a huge outlay. Making this small investment can pay for itself many times over in helping your business run more smoothly.

4. Get the pipeline rolling

The key to keeping your business healthy is to keep the momentum going, which means keeping the flow of new customers. Even if you’re in a comfortable position right now, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of your industry, new competitors or the economy in general. That’s why it’s important to keep stoking your sales pipeline by looking for new leads all the time. Be proactive: go to networking events, ask to be introduced to companies you want to work with, or even just try and upsell to existing clients.

5. Keep your people healthy

When it comes to the health of yourself and your employees, the personal and business worlds definitely merge. After all, if you or your employees are constantly sick, they can’t be giving their best to your business. Several medical schemes, such as Fedhealth, have a medical aid offering specifically for corporates and their employees. Besides helping to lower absentee rates and improve productivity, you’ll also boost employee morale by the improved benefits you’re offering.

By adopting just a few healthy habits within your business, you’ll make sure that in the long run, it’s as successful as it can be. It works the other way too: A successful business will have a positive impact on you as the business owner – you’ll enjoy going to work and be happier in general, which will go a long way to keeping you healthy too.

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