After Decades of Conditioning, India Is Re-Aligning Itself With the Culture of Entrepreneurship

Globally, entrepreneurship has become a key engine for employment generation. As policy makers grapple with economic uncertainty and cultural changes, large corporations that traditionally created jobs are biting the dust. From 2003 to 2013, 712 corporations disappeared from the Fortune 1000. One can safely extrapolate that very few Fortune 1000 companies will be around in another 30 to 40 years. However a new breed of risk-takers and innovators in the form of entrepreneurs are beginning to line up on the horizon of business world. According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, industrial era companies in the US dismissed more jobs than they created in contrast to high-growth startups that created the maximum number of new jobs between 2000 and 2010. Facebook has been credited with having created 4.5 million new jobs, directly and indirectly. This global trend makes a strong case for supporting Indian start-ups and entrepreneurs as a means to create future employment.

However, it is even more important to create a support system that ensures the survival of the start-ups beyond the first five years. In other words, once invested in a start-up, return on investment (ROI) can be assured only when the investment finds further sustenance. This is critical as 70 to 95 percent of start-ups fail or exit, resulting in disproportionately high job destruction. Studies have shown that 47 percent of the jobs created by start-ups are eliminated by exits in the first five years. It is the surviving 53 percent of businesses that witness rapid growth and bring about broad-based job creation.

This means that government policy must be attuned to the practical needs, while addressing the pain areas, of Indian entrepreneurs. The policy must address: funding to be more easily available to entrepreneurs; creating a large pool of experienced mentors and advisers who provide inputs around manpower and resource management, legal and marketing, partnerships and technology; and providing mechanisms to improve access to local and global markets.

It is evident that supporting entrepreneurship is a medium to long-term approach. The question that needs an answer is: what type of entrepreneurship should be prioritized for support so that success and subsequent job creation is assured? Today’s marketplace has become hyper competitive. Just take a look around. There are more choices available to consumers and enterprise buyers than ever before. There are new business models that don’t require buyers to own products or commit up front to long-term subscription of services. Delivery systems have changed, allowing businesses to reach customers in remote locations and new markets, bringing down geographical and political barriers. Entrepreneurs are innovating to give birth to entirely new asset-light business like Uber, Ola, Airbnb, Oyo Rooms, Zomato, Foodpanda, PayPal and Paytm. These businesses are re-shaping entire industries, forcing traditional players to re-think their strategies.

Igniting the spirit of entrepreneurship and sustaining it is also a long-term undertaking. Not everyone is blessed with the DNA of entrepreneurship. A culture of free enterprise needs to be nurtured. Today, one of the nations to have taken positive steps towards creating such a culture is the US where 1,600 colleges offer over 2,200 courses that ‘skill’ students in entrepreneurship. These courses build knowledge through academic studies, practical industry experience via apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship clubs, boot camps and access to investor networks and support systems. Education, without doubt, is a way to ensure higher success rates for entrepreneurs. In India, we need to create cost-effective and scalable education models that help reach students using video and mobile technology on MOOC platforms that transform teaching into learning, thereby eliminating the need for massive armies of instructors and trainers.

Lastly, a substantial demographic in the form of Indian women remains untapped. Of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country, only 10 percent are women. However, even within these small numbers, women entrepreneurs from India-Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Sulajja Motwani and Ekta Kapoor to name a few-have been in the limelight. Significantly, a Dow Jones study has confirmed that start-ups with female executives have a higher chance of success. What they need to succeed is education, vocational training, access to funding and interaction with entrepreneurs and buyers across the world. According to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), annual growth of the Indian economy could improve 2.4% if the country implements pro-gender policies.

Historically, Indian society and the education system have focused on creating doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. These professionals are a necessity. But after decades of conditioning, the nation is re-aligning itself with the culture of entrepreneurship. We are at the cusp of entrepreneurial success. This opportunity must not be lost for the lack of policy and world-class support systems

Not Your Grandfather’s Factory: Modernizing Manufacturing to Attract Millennials

Why is engagement such a big deal in manufacturing and the skilled trades? Because according to a 2013 industry report, for every four trade positions that workers retire from, the industry is producing only one replacement. Worse yet, it’s predicted that in the next decade, that 2 million out of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs available will go unfilled because of the lack of available talent.

Now you may be asking, how can that be? With millions of jobless Millennials, who happen to be facing an unemployment rate that is double the national rate, don’t we have enough people to fill those positions? Not until we change the image and perception of manufacturing – for both kids and their parents.

For the past two generations, young professionals haven’t exactly been leaping at the chance to work in manufacturing. Part of the problem is the stigma that manufacturing has – working in an unclean environment, with outdated thinking, and little room for growth. The other, bigger issues are the parents who have discouraged their kids from attending trade or technical school and instead promote the value of a four-year degree from a college or university. According to the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute (NAM), only 3 in 10 parents would consider encouraging their child toward a manufacturing career. The perception has been that you go into the trades if you are not “college material.” And parents want their kids to be “college material.”

As the United States is now undergoing a “manufacturing renaissance” and looking to produce their goods on American soil again, there is an urgent and growing need for new talent.

So, how do you make manufacturing jobs more attractive and appealing to prospective employees? You can start by modernizing your brand. If your company is stuck in an old, calcified way of doing business, you’re going to have a hard time finding and keeping younger workers.

Today’s workers are digital natives. They are “wired” for technology in a way unlike any previous generations, and they expect to access it in the workplace. That’s why it’s critical for manufacturers to not only have cutting edge Industry 4.0 technology available, companies need to promote the technology used in their production process. Millennials will be pleased, if not surprised, so know that more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturing companies are adopting 3D printing and more than half use robots.

Look for ways to better utilize mobile devices, videos and virtual reality in your hiring process as well as throughout the plant. Millennials are used to watching videos to learn about new things, so why not use YouTube or another video website to give potential hires a realistic view of “a day in the life” of a worker at your facility. Keep the videos to 2-3 minutes of less and capitalize on the “wow” factors of the job. Not sure what they are? Ask your current team members what they enjoy most about their job. You may even want to interview them and let them share their story in the video. In doing so, you’re letting job applicants know that this isn’t their grandfather’s factory!

One of the first places to start is your company website. Yes, it’s a great place to share what your company is all about, but it needs to be real – not a bunch of mumbo-jumbo “marketing speak.” Look for ways to share your company culture and mission. What is it like to work there? Demonstrate how your products and services serve a greater mission that simply making a profit. Take advantage of your online presence to show how your company makes a positive impact on society.

Next, check out your social media. (Now, if you’re saying “What’s that?” or “That’s just a fad,” you have your work cut out for you.

Figure out where your potential hires are hanging out. They may not be on Facebook, they may choose Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn instead. It’s important to make sure your channels are active and up-to-date. Give your employees opportunities to share what’s going on from their perspective. Post pictures from social events, charitable projects, and other fun occasions. Does your company look like a fun place to work from a social media standpoint? If not, look for ways to improve public perception. When done well, this can be a relatively quick fix – just start posting! When you have an active, engaging online social media presence, it builds credibility with potential hires from the younger generations.

Finally, keep in mind that Millennials are always connected. They look for one-on-one communication and immediate feedback. They consider their managers and leaders their peers and want to have access to them. If the only time you’re giving feedback is during the annual review process, you’re going to lose. There are lots of online tools, pulse-type surveys, and artificial intelligence programs that can help give feedback on demand. Communicating frequently and keeping employees in the loop will do wonders for engagement and performance development.

The digital nature of today’s manufacturing is opening up many opportunities for skilled positions, transforming the manual nature of a factory job to the high-tech environment it is today. According to Vicki Holt, President and CEO for Protolabs, “Digital manufacturing is revitalizing our industry and is igniting new opportunities. The skills gap presents a critical roadblock for all of us. But it’s encouraging to see a renewed optimism from a new generation of workers, and to hear that they understand this isn’t their grandparents’ manufacturing industry. Much work remains ahead of us, but this is a good start.”

Building A Future In Self-Storage-Things To Consider Before You Invest

Across the country, entrepreneurs are talking about the self storage business. The buzz is that investing in the mini storage business can be very profitable. What’s more, seasoned investors aren’t the only ones with their eye on the mini storage prize. With lower building and management costs than other real estate investments and a failure rate of less than ten percent, the self storage industry is drawing first-time business owners like moths to a dazzling flame.

The advantages are obvious, easy start up, easy maintenance, low risk, but what’s the catch? Can it really be that easy? There is no catch, but it does require work. An investment the mini storage business has a lot of potential, but it is an investment. No matter how you slice it, you need to be prepared to devote time, energy and of course, money to a self storage enterprise. If you’re ready to commit to the self storage industry, here are some things to consider before you invest:

If You Build it, Will They Come?

Before you spend even a nickel on land or buildings you’ll need to do some research into the self storage market. You should strongly consider hiring an experienced consultant to do a feasibility study in your area. Even if you have experience in real estate or the self storage industry, an unbiased opinion is invaluable when starting a new venture.

Location, location, location. Those three words are everything in the real estate world. The same is true for your self storage facility. You might be tempted to use a bit of land you already own, or buy the lowest priced land you can find but you should never sacrifice location for price.

According to the Mini Storage Messenger, a resource center for the self storage industry, choosing a site is one of the most difficult decisions to make. An ideal site is one that is located on a major travel corridor and is highly visible. Still, there are more factors to consider. Will you be needed in your service area? How much competition are you facing? Is the area you’re interested in already saturated with self storage businesses? If there are a lot more storage units than customers in your area you’re likely going to have empty storage units which lead to an empty bank account.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

You’ve considered where, next you’ll need to consider how. Since your storage buildings will be your business, a lot of thought should go into planning construction. The unit mix and amenities of your site can be greatly advantageous or, conversely, a huge drain on profits. There are quite a few construction details that are unique to the mini storage industry, such as driving space, size and placement of unit doors, lighting and security. Choose a builder a builder with experience in the self storage industry who can advise you in such matters. The right building plan will improve your occupancy rate and help you avoid costly renovations. For professional advice in choosing the best steel building supplier, visit http://www.gosteelgo.com/ChoosingSteelBuildingSupplier.htm.

Another aspect of self storage construction to consider is financing. Construction loans are dramatically different and more complex than other forms of permanent financing. Moreover, construction loans for self storage are different than those for traditional real estate. Before scheduling an appointment with your lender find out about the size and scope of loans they are able to make and if they make unique loans for mini storage businesses.

Holding Down the Fort

After deciding where and how to build your mini storage units there are still more things to consider. Many first time business owners fail to plan beyond grand-opening day. Advertising, staffing, and the day to day maintenance of your new self storage site should not be afterthoughts.

An important detail to consider is marketing. You’ll need more than a listing in the yellow pages and a big sign out front to keep your storage units full. Decide on a marketing strategy before you build. Expect to be analyzing and changing that strategy through out the life of your self storage business. Advertising is a necessity not an option.

Customer service and salesmanship will be vital to your business. Be prepared to find experienced staff members and to train them. Be cautious about hiring friends and family. It’s hard to treat loved ones like employees and hard for them to treat you like the boss. Also, don’t assume that you can do it all yourself. If you want your mini storage business to be a success you’ll probably need to be open a lot more hours than you’ll want to be standing behind the counter.

As with any business venture, the risks and decisions involved in starting a self storage business can be daunting. However, with proper planning and preparation, an investment in the self storage industry can be a dream come true for any aspiring business owner.

Get Greedy: How Working for Free Is Killing Your Small Business

To be sure, I don’t mean “greed” in the popular sense, in which you may be envisioning Ebenezer Scrooge miserly spending his Christmas Eve counting gold coins while his hard-working and loyal employee trudges home through the snow to his meager dinner and his crippled son.

I am directing my advice to “get greedy” to new business owners and freelancers, far too many of whom seem to lack the belief that their product or service has value or that they should demand good money for that value.

WHAT IT MEANS TO GET GREEDY

I hear all the time from new business owners who feel they need to give away their services for free or dirt cheap so that they can build their brand/get exposure/make future sales/gain experience.

If this is you, I am here to tell you something that will save your business: You do not need to give it away for free to be successful.

Ever.

Never, ever, ever.

Not even if you’re just starting out.

Never.

If you just started a business or you have a business that you feel you are working very hard at with little return on investment, I want you to do yourself a favor, right now: Start being greedy.

This doesn’t mean stealing from others. This doesn’t mean undervaluing others. This doesn’t mean providing others with less than what they pay for. And it surely doesn’t mean making Tiny Tim’s dad work on Christmas Day.

Being greedy, in business, means that you make the decision that YOU are just as important as the customer and that you deserve fair pay for your work.

WHY GIVING IT AWAY WILL KILL YOUR SUCCESS

Let’s take a look again at the unfounded reasons that I hear all the time for giving away free work.

1). “I need to give some stuff away to build my brand:” Unless you want to brand yourself as someone who doesn’t value their own work and isn’t worth the money, there is no logic to the belief that free stuff will improve the way people view your business. Ethical business practices, good quality product, attentive customer service and fair (“fair,” not free) prices will improve your brand. Depriving yourself of the living you deserve will do nothing but put you out of business.

2). “Giving away my work will help me gain exposure:” If you think that giving away your work is the best way to build your portfolio or get the word out about your business, then you must never have heard of such formerly-small businesses as Microsoft, Apple, Harley Davidson or Disney. What do these companies have in common? They all attach a very weighty value to their brand, people willingly pay it (even standing in line for hours in the case of Disney and Apple) and none of them are hurting for “exposure.”

Here’s the deal: If someone loves your product or service and had a fantastic customer experience, they are going to tell their friends and family. Giving them free stuff isn’t going to change their opinion of you. It may encourage them to try you out, one time, but it likely won’t result in the type of lucrative, mutually-beneficial business relationship that results in success.

Your goal should be to offer value, not freebies. Value doesn’t mean “free” because “free” is not a fair price. Value means that your customer walked away satisfied that the price was right (whether it’s a high price or a low price) for what they received in exchange. No matter how cheap your prices, it is your deliverables in quality and experience that ultimately make the customer feel happy with your brand.

3). “But, by giving this stuff away, I increase my opportunities to make future sales:” This makes no sense to me. If someone can afford to pay you in the future, they can afford to pay you now, right? Plus, once you give something to someone for free, you train them to devalue your work and they are more likely to try to haggle you when you finally decide to charge them full price.

4). “I need to do free work to gain experience:” O.K., so this has some merit but if you are giving products and services away to people who really should be paying, you are doing this wrong. There are some cases in which giving it away for free is necessary and there is more to come on this shortly.

Hopefully you started your own business because you have a special talent or skill set that you thought was marketable. If this is the case, your product or service has value and you deserve pay for that. You may not deserve the same pay you’ll get when demand increases but you definitely should assess what your real, true value is right now, in this moment, and charge this price.

SEVEN TIMES WHEN IT’S O.K. TO GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE

1). It’s an industry-accepted norm: If you are a fashion designer and Vogue magazine wants a dress sample for an upcoming issue, then, yes, give them one. This is o.k. because doing so is an industry norm and even Donatella Versace would probably do the same. There is also a very clear and direct investment return to you, in the form of very good publicity, that probably outweighs the cost of whatever frock you supply to them.

2). When it’s a good investment for you: Giving away free samples of your special hummus recipe at a Farmer’s Market, when you know it will draw people to your booth and increase how many containers you sell, is fine. Holding a “buy one, get one” sale to drive traffic during times when business is otherwise dead is also fine if it makes you a profit. Cooking a free gourmet meal for a local culinary magazine writer to promote your new catering company is good publicity if it results in a write-up in the magazine and turns readers of the publication into customers. If you’re approaching an opportunity to give away your product or service with the best interests of your bottom line at heart, you will be able to tell the difference between a good opportunity and a situation in which you’re being taken advantage of.

3). As part of a marketing gimmick: Sprinkles, a chain bakery specializing in cupcakes, is known for using their social media to engage customers and drive traffic to their store. They do this by announcing “secret” words on their Facebook page that, when repeated in-store, result in a free cupcake. Presenters at fairs and events are often able to collect information on potential customers in exchange for opportunities to enter a drawing for a lucrative free gift. These “give-aways” are all examples of greed at work because they actually hold far more sales value for the company than they do the recipient.

4). Nonprofit organizations: If you are really interested in building your portfolio, volunteering your services with a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to create sample pieces of your work, build your experience and keep your dignity at the same time. Plus, talk to your accountant. It may also provide you with a write-off come tax time.

5). As part of an exchange of services: When my hairdresser, who is fantastic but pricey, needed a new website, I jumped at the opportunity to write her content in exchange for her creating some new layers on my head and getting rid of my grays. My website design was courtesy of the editing skills I shared with my website designer and I got the bumper on my car painted for the cost of some marketing materials and social media content. If you can receive something you really, truly need in exchange for giving someone else the same, it’s a win-win.

6). To say “thank you” to a valuable customer: If you must give away something to a customer, the appropriate time to do so is not at the beginning of your relationship, but after they have already proven themselves a valued customer. If you own an automotive repair shop and a customer comes in frequently, refers you to her friends and family and has been a joy to work with then, by all means, throw in a free oil change or tire rotation every now and then with her transmission service. But let your customers earn this sort of treatment first. They’ll appreciate it more.

7). It’s Your Mom: O.K., so greedy is good in a business sense but not always a personal one. Select a few obvious family members and close friends who are genuinely worth the time investment and work for them for free. Keep this list very small and make sure your loved ones don’t take advantage. To date, my list has only included my sister, my father, my fiancĂ©, a good friend I’ve known since childhood and a cousin who was really in need. I have a much larger “second tier” list of friends and more distant family for whom I charge half-price.

Everyone else pays full price.

Every time.

Small Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs

Introduction

Many people envision the day they start their own business. They know with hard work they will achieve success. That is the easy part. The hard part is coming up with the best idea of what industry it will be in. There are so many potential fields to choose from. Yet somehow, when it comes to deciding on one, their mind goes blank. Here are some potentially successful business ideas for you to ponder.

An Electronics Installation Business

There are a lot of folks who do not know how to install and/or set up the new electronic item they just bought. Either that or they do know how but lack the time to do it themselves. That is where this kind of business can come in handy. You hire skilled installation specialists to go out and perform these services for customers. Everybody wins with this one.

Software Teaching Business

What you would be doing in this case is hiring people who have a vast knowledge of different software programs. Then you connect them with customers whom they can teach to use the programs. This can be done locally on an in-person basis or over the Internet on a remote basis. The more programs one person can teach, the better. You should also seek people with a lot of patience. The prospective students will likely have lots of questions.

Create a Writing Business

Here is another industry that is full of potential customers. For a variety or reasons, scores of individuals are not able to do their own writing. It could be lack of skills, or lack of time, or whatever. Maybe they need a quick article on a specific topic, or a resume or a simple business letter. You can recruit experienced freelance writers to be a remote staff for your business. Then you are ready to seek clients. There is such a huge need for this these days, you are sure to succeed.

Personal Care Associates

What are they? They are individuals who can either care for children, care for special needs patients, or care for elderly patients. Of course, for this type of business, you ought to require that the candidates be properly trained and, at least, certified. Possessing a license is even better. With that said, there are plenty of qualified persons who are not currently employed. There are also oodles of people who need personal care. If you had a business in any of these industries, you could match them up. One more thing to be sure of is that they have the proper personality to assist patients on a regular basis. Someone with a short temper, or who is not a “people person,” would not be a good choice.

Begin a Yard Care Business

It goes without saying that there are already many landscaping businesses out there. That is not what we are talking about here. Full-service landscaping companies can be expensive. You would fill a big need by finding local workers who can mow lawns, take care of plants, rake leaves, shovel snow, etc. Your clients would be residents who cannot afford a large landscaping firm.

Wrap-Up Thoughts

For everybody’s sake, anybody you hire for any of these types of businesses should have an extensive background check done on them with a printable report available. Once that is taken care of, you can hire them and send them out to work.

People, these are merely a few ideas. If you give it plenty of thought, you are bound to think of something your community needs. Remember, the worst idea is the one you have never given a shot. Good luck!