Alexa von Tobel took a huge gamble when she took a leave of absence from business school and invested all of her money into LearnVest, a site that provides financial management tools and advice, at the start of the recession. But it was a chance that paid off: LearnVest has since raised $72 million in funding.
So what were some of the lessons she’s learned in the five years since her company has launched?
1. Consider Whether It’s the Right Time to Take the Plunge
Starting a company requires time, money and expertise. Do you know enough about the field you’re interested in? Is there a course you should take or a skill you might need to learn first to ensure that your business is a success?2. Be Willing to Put Your Own Money on the Line
Investing your own money will make you even more focused. In December 2008, when people were hiding cash under their mattresses, I took a leap and invested most of what I had saved since college into starting LearnVest.
Of course, it’s important to first save up an emergency fund for at least nine months so that you’ll have your basic expenses under control should you get off to a rocky start. But putting your money on the line makes starting your own business personal.
Read on for von Tobel’s eight other pieces of great business insight on OPEN Forum.
Flickr user: Courtney Boyd Myers
As a small-business owner, you and everyone you work with are busier than ever. Here’s how to stop wasting other people’s time, so you can build solid relationships.
1. Don’t misrepresent why you’re meeting.
2. Don’t “just drop by.”
3. Don’t create endless communication loops.
4. Don’t skimp on preparation.
5. Don’t create false deadlines.
Read more on OPEN Forum.
"[That’s] long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention," TED curator Chris Anderson said in an interview with Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. “By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.”
Read on to learn ways to make your presentations more engaging on OPEN Forum.
Flickr user: TEDx Somerville
1. Relying on search engine submission services
2. Not having a blog (or equally bad, an off-topic blog)
3. Not using catchy headlines or images
4. Not participating on other established sites
5. Not seeking publicity
6. Not communicating with your email list
7. Not advertising
8. Not paying attention to local listings
9. Not analyzing your traffic to see what works and what doesn’t
10. Not writing a marketing plan for your website.
Read on for how to fix these common mistakes business owners make in their rush to boost website traffic.
More and more businesses are using video to stand out in an era where consumers need more than just snappy copy to engage with companies. Video done right can lead to viral successes like HelloFlo. And video done wrong… well, that will never happen if you hire the right production company!
Some advice when you’re trying to find the right team to bring your video dreams into a reality:
Cheap video comes at a premium.Be wary when a production company offers its services at a rate that seems too good to be true—the production team may just shoot from the back of the room on a tripod and call it a day. But it’s more expensive to do it wrong the first time and have to redo it. So find out what’s included in the total package: Are edits included? What about music licensing? Or travel expenses? Watch out for those additional costs that can be thrown in at the end and bust your budget.
Read on for eight more tips for hiring a video production company that delivers.
Fun fact: School fundraisers are a $1.4 billion industry. (We know, we’re as surprised as you are.)
So it stands to reason that school fundraisers—a business model in its own way—can be a good resource for business owners who have sales goals they want to hit, writes OPEN Forum contributor Geoff Williams. There are indeed a few lessons you can pick up from studying school fundraisers’ success:
1. Set a goal. “School fundraisers don’t usually last long,” Williams writes. “While you can’t restrict your sales period to several weeks, you can set short-term goals, which are likely to get you where you want to be faster than an open-ended mission.”
Read on for three more things you can learn from school fundraisers.
Always a game changer, Apple’s latest announcement was an opportunity for the brand to not only unveil the newest iteration of the iPhone, but to officially throw its hat in the smartwatch ring. Apple Watch, expected to drop in 2015, will have a major impact on fitness tracking, the watch industry and small-business marketing:
…If you’re doing any sort of email marketing, email subject lines are going to be more important than ever. With room for about four to five words on the screen, you need to make sure you use those first words the best way you know how—or risk losing users, quick.
Read on for how Apple’s two other major announcements—Apple Pay and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus—will change your business.