Tag Archives: Market

Market Contraction

The Coming Market Contraction & What it Means for Your Business

After a nearly decade long recovery period, it’s starting to look and feel like the time for an economic contraction is on the horizon. It likely won’t come for another year or so yet (if we’re lucky), but based on the history of our country, it’s certainly inevitable at some point.

A lot of the experts, economists, and pundits are starting to sound the alarm already. Things like the student loan debt crisis, 2018 interest rate hikes, the collapse of retail, and the toxic political climate, are all going to come to a head and likely trigger it. Forbes, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, and Newsmax are just a sampling of publications that have had a relatively recent article about it.

Now I’m very much an optimist, so I don’t want you to interpret my prediction of a market downturn as me being pessimistic. On the contrary, I think recessions can be an incredible opportunity for those who are prepared for them. Historically, a lot of fortunes were made in the years during and shortly after economic recessions. Not to mention, regardless of whether the stock market goes up or down, someone is always making a lot of money.

While I’m no economist, I am fortunate to be able to work with a lot of people with brilliant business minds and insight into the mysterious world of macro market forces. My suggestion (if you made it this far I’m guessing you care enough to read it) is to keep an open mind to start being proactive before it’s too late. I know a lot of you might be a bit too young to really remember 2008, but if you think back to past recessions they always seem to abruptly appear to come out of nowhere and catch people off guard. One day everyone is riding high with exuberance and the next day the bottom falls out. Clearly, it’s possible and likely that it happens this way again.

I’m not saying to run around being worried or dwelling on this. I’m simply recommending that you start tightening your belt a bit now while you can. Rein in those spending habits that may have gotten a little out of control lately. Perhaps consider cashing out on a few things while values are high and take some chips off the table. Otherwise, you could end up falling into the preventable trap of being forced to sell assets at the bottom.

Simultaneously you should also be going all-in on growing your business too. I know that may sound contradictory but investing in revenue/income generating activities is and always will be a wise move. A lot of people will be out of the game when the day comes and being able to perform a land grab because your business is dialed in can be a life changing opportunity.

Start thinking strategically about the next 1-3 years and what they could mean for you and your business. Instead of hiring several full-time employees consider leveraging a consulting firm so you have more flexibility. Make the commitment to increase your emphasis on sales and marketing even more. It’s tax season right now, so it’s a great time to really look at your numbers and analyze your financial data to identify weak spots or areas for improvement.

Hey, perhaps myself and others will end up being wrong about the timing of it. Maybe the next recession doesn’t come for another 3 to 5 years instead. Either way, would your business not be better off be taking those steps sooner rather than later?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! If you agree with me I’d be interested to hear what steps you’re currently taking. And if you think I’m crazy, I’d still like to hear why you think we have nothing but blue skies ahead.

The Industries of the PRESENT

How many times have you seen articles about the industries of the future recently? Probably more than you can remember. This is especially true if you’re a futurist nerd like myself that loves researching trends, innovative ideas, and thinking of all the potential practical applications these ideas/realities are going to have on our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, I’d like to take a slightly different approach to this one. These industries aren’t abstract concepts that are in the distant future any longer. These things are going to disrupt, improve, and turn our lives upside down within the next few years. These aren’t industries to just keep an eye on, they’re industries that I highly recommend hustling and scratching and clawing your way into immediately, before another gold mine passes you by.

If I have to listen to another person say, “If I only invested in Amazon/Google/Apple back in the day…” I’m going to lose it. Here’s your last call. Take action, or regret it later.

 

CRM – Big Data / Data Analytics – Marketing Automation

This one is a much more mature market than the other but still extremely early in the cycle of what it’s going to evolve into. I know many of you despise Salesforce.com/Microsoft Dynamics/Insert other CRM program here from a user perspective. Well I suggest getting over it, take the time to learn how to use them effectively and embrace this technology as CRM, Big Data/Data Analytics/Marketing Automation are going to continue to get more deeply involved in your day to day operations if you want to survive and thrive as a company whether you like it or not.

Nowadays it’s crucial to be able to turn vast amounts of data into insights and competitive advantages, while simultaneously improving customer service. CRM systems can increase sales by improving lead generation activities, help you design better products and services, and reduce supply chain costs. It will improve your decision-making by identifying new markets opportunities, and by improving your business processes and communication throughout your company.

You’ve had your head stuck under the sand long enough now, it’s not going away so get on board. (*Yes, my company provides these services and is partially why I started here, the other reason is that this has been around for a decade already).

 

Augmented Reality – Virtual Reality – Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning – Internet of Things

Notice how I listed AR first? Don’t get me wrong I do think there is a huge place in the market for VR and 360 videos, etc. That place is just dwarfed by the market impact that AR is going to have however. Again, industries are CURRENTLY being disrupted, and consumer/professional products and services are on the brink of mass adoption. I also lumped these together as they’re all related in a variety of ways and will supplement each other going forward.

Industries such as health care, real estate, education, military, public service, entertainment are about to be severely disrupted. Keep thinking these are all just entertainment gimmicks/Pokémon games if you must, but you’re going to wake up in a brave new world wondering what happened before you know it.

I am personally and professionally deep in this industry. I am a partner/co-founder of a company called Eolian which is a software/content development firm and systems integrator. We specialize in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’re currently focused on helping government and large enterprise organizations utilize these technologies for critical applications. We are also launching a product called ARRE (Augmented Reality Real Estate) this week which will blow people’s minds.

To say we’re growing like crazy would be an understatement. This industry is the next wave of computing. Think personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets, now this could, and will, easily trump them all.

 

Block Chain – Crypto Currency – Bitcoin – Ethereum – “Smart Contracts”

Many of you likely don’t really understand what these things are. I’ll give you a brief definition of each. Blockchain is a complete record of every smart contract transaction executed, all of which are stored in a public ledger (the Blockchain) created by collaborating online computers. Bitcoin is a digital currency that was the first algorithm to utilize blockchain technology and encryption techniques to generate units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, independent of any central bank. Ethereum is a public blockchain platform that powers smart contracts via apps created by developers around the globe.

Essentially these technologies will allow for cross border commerce, enable complete transparency and trust between parties in a transaction, as well as prevent currency manipulation. They aren’t just ways to buy illegal contraband via “The Silk Road 2.0” like you’ve probably read about and think is the purpose. It goes much further than that.

This is another industry I’m putting my time and money where my mouth is as I’m a partner and equity holder with a company called GNEISS. Essentially, we act as your ultimate security companion in a free market transaction. You can create, transfer, mint, burn, exchange, tax, or pay dividends to any crypto-asset or smart contract on our decentralized blockchain-powered trading platform. And this is just the beginning. Check it out and register to take a look yourself.

 

Others:

Cannabis – Marijuana

I’m sure you’re much more aware of this one as its been getting a ton of mainstream attention these days. It’s another that’s already been growing like gangbusters. I’m not fully “in” the industry just yet but working on it by helping my friends on the team of The Kush Life/Kush House get funding to continue building out their luxury retail space and product line. They’re also developing technology to help others in the space operate more efficiently and transparently. They’re based in Maine and quickly growing a reputation as New England’s leading cannabis authority.

Renewable Energy: I.e. Solar, Water, and Geothermal

While I don’t have a meaningful equity stake in a company in the solar industry (other than owning a rather insignificant couple hundred shares of a public company) I would love to get more involved in this industry from each angle. Yes, I understand the current administration isn’t a huge advocate, but it’s all about the long game.

3D Printing

This is one where I have 0 stake in currently, but will be hunting down a way to get involved in 2017. Not only will the manufacturing and distribution industries be disrupted like crazy, but also retail, and likely countless others.

 

This was a long one, but if you made it this far hopefully you will be grateful you did one day. I’ve been so deep in thought, as well as taking action to get more involved in these industries that I easily could’ve written another 10 pages.

There are plenty other industries that intrigue me as well of course, but what others are YOU excited about and going all in on? Do you disagree with any of my predictions? What steps have you taken and/or are planning to take? Would love to hear your perspective!

WIMS: Where is Mike Simmons?!

To say that the 1st quarter plus of 2016 has been intense would be an understatement! WIMS Consulting has been in full-on hyper growth mode with lots of incredible new clients and projects currently underway and several others in the pipeline as well. While I’m extremely grateful and would never complain about that, one downside has been that The WIMS Guide has fallen off a bit.

Luckily, thanks to lessons learned from Tim Ferris and The 4-Hour Workweek this will no longer be the case due to a technique called “batching.” Essentially that means that I’ve been writing several posts simultaneously so that I can build up an inventory in advance to keep them going regularly. Between my personal posts and the stacked roster of diverse guest writers I’ve been recruiting there is going to be a lot of great content coming your way.

Now, back to my original question of “Where is Mike Simmons?!”

Over the past few months I’ve been extremely focused on growing the business. Landing new clients in my home base of Charlotte has been a significant priority, and so far this year has already been exceeding expectations as I’m now working with companies here varying from startups to multi-billion dollar entities and everything in between.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to do quite a bit of traveling, my business trip to Miami last month was very successful as it remains a key component of my growth strategy. Maintaining my footprint there means a great deal to me and fortunately my existing relationships continue to bring new opportunities.

The California trip was primarily for vacation, however expanding the business there is another 2016 goal of mine and it looks very promising. In addition, as New York remains the holy grail of markets, I’m thrilled to have landed an amazing client there too, which I will elaborate on further when the time is right.

While some of the current projects remain confidential, I at least wanted to share some details about a few of them.

Nimbus – A payment processing platform based in Charlotte. It’s currently available online, via iOS mobile application (soon on Android as well), and it’s compatible with PC/Mac. You can process credit card payments on your phone by taking a picture so a swiper is no longer needed, it also processes ACH, Apple/Android Pay and other alternative methods as well. Rates start at 2.25% (best rates available) and will decrease automatically based on transaction volume. It also has an open API, allowing other applications and platforms to integrate it into their own systems to process payments. Pretty cool stuff and that’s just the beginning of what it can offer.

SalesFuel – This is a really interesting concept that I’m excited about collaborating on. I recently partnered with a South Florida based company called On the Ball/SalesFuel which is a business development firm that works with organizations’ sales team to get them meetings with the C-Level suite. We’re building a team that will span across the country and already beginning to work with some amazing companies.

Golf Squad – In a business world where sales and lead generation strategies are rapidly evolving, one approach continues to remain extremely effective: the game of golf. The Golf Squad Corporate Program was created to pursue the mission of formally blending the golf and business worlds together. Each program is led by a PGA professional and operations currently exist in over a dozen states and counting.

Ok, that’s enough of the shameless plugs for now but I wanted to provide some additional insight into what I’ve been up to, along with a snapshot of some of the companies I’ve been working with.

I will start wrapping up with a lesson I’m currently learning the hard way. Most of the talk about being an entrepreneur focuses on how difficult it is to get new clients and business. That is certainly true, but what seems to be discussed less often is the great challenge it is to service them and implement afterwards which is at least as equally important. To be frank the balancing act is a full on struggle and I’ve certainly been experiencing growing pains. Because of that I’ve been working on building the team, so any referrals in that regard would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, as always I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, insights, etc. so please feel free to reach out and let me know what you think!

MOMPRENEURSHIP

Ten months ago, I became a mom for the first time. Four months after that, my second baby was born. I know the math seems kind of weird, but that’s because the second baby was my Etsy store, Casa Confetti. Yes, I started a business with a four-month-old. Yes, it’s been CRAZY. It has also been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and although I’m still learning to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship (a.k.a. mompreneurship), I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe this will inspire some of you who are on the fence to take the plunge and join me on this crazy journey. Come over to the dark side. We have cookies. And milk (of a different kind).

Identify a need and carve out your niche.

I started designing invitations and printables while planning my wedding, when I decided to save some money by making my own welcome cards and favor tags. But it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son and planning my baby shower that I really hit my stride. I had become seriously obsessed with finding the perfect baby shower invitations, and no matter how hard I looked I just didn’t see anything that fit my style. I finally got so exasperated that I decided to design my own. Without realizing it at the time, I had found my niche!

Know your market.

By the time that I decided to take the plunge and start Casa Confetti, I was pretty much an expert in the Etsy printable invitation market. I knew what search terms yielded what kinds of results because I had run so many searches myself, which allowed me to tailor my product descriptions in order to maximize views. I knew what other Etsy stores charged for their products. And I had identified the major players in the printables market, because I had seen their names pop up in searches over and over again. A little more research into the nuts and bolts of setting up an Etsy store and I was ready to go. But I can’t stress how important doing this kind of background research is – you’ve got to know your market! And studying the habits of other, successful entrepreneurs is a must.

You can’t do it all, and that’s okay.

Being a mom is a 24/7 job. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job. So, yes, a lot of the time it feels like I’m trying to squeeze 48 hours into a 24-hour day. And I don’t really know how to do it. It means that a lot of the time, a lot of things don’t get done. And that’s ok.

As a mompreneur, you need to be realistic. Everything takes about ten times as long to do with a child. Of course I wish I could sit in a quiet space designing invitations all day, but that’s not an option with a tiny tyrant around. Instead, I work with what I have. Coming up with a new, original design takes lots of time and energy, so once I do one, I make tiny edits and squeeze out about ten different variations from it. It becomes a baby shower invitation, a birthday party invitation, and a bridal shower invitation. I make a few minor changes and, voila! Three additional products.

My best-selling items are baby shower and first birthday invitations, because that’s what I know best. It makes me happy to work with customers who are in the same life stage as me, so I try to stick with that. Eventually I’d like to break into weddings, but for now, I like where I am. Which brings me to my next point.

Love where you are.

The flexibility that being your own boss affords you is invaluable when you’re a mom. Even if I have to work until 2 a.m. to fulfill my orders from that day, and then wake up at 7 a.m. when my husband brings my crying baby to the bed, the fact that I can be there for the little things makes all the difference in the world. I can put off orders for an hour to take my son to the park. I am hyper-diligent about getting orders out almost as soon as they’re received, so that if my son, Levi, is having a bad day, I can afford to spend time with him and cut myself some slack.

Any entrepreneur can tell you that starting your own business is full of highs and lows. Some days I feel like I don’t even have time to breathe. I’ll be bombarded with orders and questions from potential buyers, and I find myself questioning how in the world I’ll get it all done. Other days are slower, and having Levi there as a constant makes it easier to ride out these lows. I’ll start to feel down on myself for not being at the level where I feel like I should be, but then I remember that part of the appeal of this job is having time to spend with my baby. If I can do that and still make money, then it’s going as well as I could ever hope.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Even before I had Levi, the question started popping up in almost every conversation: “So, are you going back to work?” The truth is that at first I didn’t know the answer. I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time, but if I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t sure that I was willing to go the full-on, stay-at-home-mom route either. Motherhood had given me this crazy surge of courage. I firmly believe that the best gift you can give your child is a happy mom. So I got to getting happy.

At first when people asked me if I was back at work, I’d get embarrassed and kind of mutter under my breath, “No, just staying at home.” But I wasn’t JUST staying at home! I was working 24 hours a day! I had started a business and had already had more sales than I could have ever anticipated. So I’d quietly add, “Oh you know, it’s no big deal, I just started a little Etsy store on the side. It’s silly.” But then my store started taking off, and I started to feel immensely proud of my store and my ability. I realized that I had been selling myself short – if I were a man, I’d have been introducing myself as a CEO. So why as a woman was I “just a mom?” Once I changed my attitude, I started feeling so much more fulfilled and empowered. I get to spend time with my son and still make more than I was earning as a lawyer. As everyone says, the key to having it all is realizing that you already do!

—-

Gaby Abrams is the owner of Casa Confetti Party Designs on Etsy and a stay-at-home mom to Levi (10 months old). She lives in New York City with her husband, Jake. Prior to having a baby and starting Casa Confetti, Gaby worked as a lawyer. Follow Gaby on Instagram at @casaconfettishop or email her at casaconfettishop@gmail.com.

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Marketing Process Outsourcing

The New WIMS Inc: Putting In-House Marketing Departments on Notice

Unlike my typical blog posts, this one is certainly going to piss people off, including current and former colleagues, friends, clients, and prospects. While I usually try to avoid that, I can’t any longer as some things just need to be said. Change can be a scary and complicated thing, but there’s just a better way to do business and it’s nothing personal.

Now, the trend of outsourcing is far from a new or innovative concept. Yet companies like professional services firms continue to allocate extremely high budgets of $500,000-$1,000,000 and often much more to their in-house marketing departments. They do this despite the fact that they could spend a fraction of the cost while simultaneously getting significantly better service and results.

Regardless if you prefer to keep your team in house or to use a consulting firm, one thing is constant in either case, you need to DEMAND to see ROI. There are some advantages to keeping the team in-house I’ll admit that, but you should at least be able to make an apples to apples comparison between both approaches.

The way to do that is ROI, the objective metric that evens out all playing fields. I’ve seen many CMO’s apply the “smoke and mirrors” strategy year after year. They avoid accountability by overlooking past failures while waving the amazing, shiny new “marketing strategy” that they’re going to deploy this year. This is often just the old strategy repackaged to appear new however. CEO’s looking to avoid conflict accept it as a cost of doing business and then proceed to kick the can further down the road.

Now while there are plenty of exceptions, as there always are when dealing with people, there’s something I’ve often observed in the corporate world, I call it the “comfort theory.” Essentially, when you’re paying someone a predictable and stable salary it inherently allows most people to start cutting corners and reducing the quality of their work because they can get away with it. Not only is there a reduced quality of work, but why subsidize employee’s internet browsing time and social media addiction when you can just pay for the work that’s actually done. Besides, I doubt they’re going to give you a cut of their fantasy football winnings despite squandering hours a week of your time managing their team.

Don’t just take my word for it, conduct your own experiment and see for yourself. The next time you’re in a meeting with your marketing department demand more out of them or suggest changes, and watch the level of pushback, reluctance, and resistance you get. On the contrary call a consultant about a new project idea and watch them passionately geek out about all the possibilities.

I understand the comfort of familiarity and the status quo believe me, but is it really worth spending $50,000-100,000 on a salary for someone to just write an occasional blog post or article, blankly stare at a twitter feed, or create an occasional ad. You can get the same result or better for a tenth of the cost in many cases.

As another experiment, this Friday afternoon say around 3pm, take a walk around your building and see how empty the offices and cubicles are. The mentality of being an employee and working for your boss vs. being a client and working for your business partner can’t be compared. Working with independent contractors that need your business takes the quality of work to another level. They are mini-CEOs trying to better their lives, they’re not just punching a clock while desperately waiting to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. They’re the ones working at midnight on a Saturday because they’re hungry and ambitious.

You create the best work when you absolutely need to, like when writing a paper the night before it’s due. There’s something about having your life depending on it that generates this hyper-focus of productivity. Imagine having a team of people producing this kind of work every day because that’s how they approach their live, very deliberately.

Typical counter-arguments for in-house departments include things like, “oh but we know the brand so well,” or “what if someone urgently needs a brochure for a sales call?” It may not be a popular sentiment, but people are easily replaceable. We work with various brand guidelines all the time and pick them up very quickly. Also, I’ve seen countless desks with stacks of brochures piled high collecting dust, as much as marketers may try to convince you otherwise, your beautiful brochure is not what’s going to win you new business, relationships are.

Perhaps this post is like that old “Magician’s Greatest Secrets Revealed” show where the masked magician showed you how the tricks were really done and made a lot of magicians extremely angry. If you’re feeling that way right now I hope you take this opportunity to step your game up and prove me wrong.

Changing a decades long mindset of keeping marketing teams in-house is going to require evolution and a rebuilding process, but there’s definitely hope. It will force people to BE BETTER. Think about the Golden State Warriors a few years ago. They were very bad, but they had some decent and promising players, they stuck to their long-term plan to build their team, make a few strategic moves and then a few years later they won a championship. The metaphor is very relative in business as well.

For the sake of full transparency, this long-winded blog post has the additional goal of announcing the new WIMS, Inc. We now offer a complete suite of marketing, CRM, and business development services that are provided for literally a fraction of the total cost you’re paying for your entire marketing department. By leveraging strategic partnerships and a deep team of independent contractors we are now able to offer literally any marketing service, and to any size firm in any industry. If you’re interested in video, we can develop the content, build an entire distribution network, and even create your own online channel. If audio is your thing, we can help with the creation, publishing, and promotion of your own radio show and/or podcast. If you need a website, an ad campaign, online content creation, or social media network, whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help facilitate.

Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be happy to provide you with a FREE consultation to see if our companies would be a good fit to work together. Part of building strong long-term relationships includes occasionally offering some free advice, which we do happily. What do you have to lose by at least evaluating whether it’s worth pursuing a potential 6-figure a year cost reduction in your marketing expenses?

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The Hathrup Manifesto

What is www.Hathrup.com?

Hathrup Capital Funding, aka Hathrup, is a free, capital funding facilitating technology company. Hathrup is a non-bank/untraditional finance company. Hathrup is a social media/social networking company specifically for entrepreneurs and their family and friends. Hathrup is a crowd-funding company, without the strangling limitations of high minimums and the must-reach-your-arbitrary-goal-to-actually-get-funded restrictions.

Hathrup is a peer-to-peer company that allows you to receive a direct financial contribution to your company via our FundMeNow program, which is facilitated by PayPal, giving you access to the capital you desperately need as it comes in and when you need it, i.e. ASAP. Hathrup is a capitalism facilitator. Hathrup takes the technological advancements of today, mixes them with the philosophy and ideals of the American Dream of yesterday, in order to bring you a better way to make your dreams become a reality tomorrow.

We believe in the power of the human mind, and we belief that anything is possible when one is determined. We want to help remove the barriers created by the world around you, to clear the way and let you run with your innovative and potentially world changing ideas. Hathrup represents a newer and better way of doing things, one that puts PEOPLE first. We look forward to working for you, and to watching all of you change the world for the better.

As we now begin to enter our beta testing phase, we are seeking other like-minded thought leaders to take our site for a spin and to offer us feedback so that we can go live with the best service possible. If you are interested in participating, please send us an email at contact@hathrup.com. We understand that perfection is impossible to attain but we will continue striving for that unreachable ideal daily as we relentlessly work to enhance the value we provide for our users.

You can keep track of our progress by following along on Twitter @Hathrup, and/or at www.facebook.com/hathrup.

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The New Entrepreneurial Landscape: Not Just an Ol’ (White) Boys Club Anymore

American’s born abroad are now responsible for launching more than a quarter of new businesses in the US. This is a substantial trend as that percentage continues to grow each year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Hathrup Capital Funding, the company I’m thrilled to be the CMO of, is extremely proud to be one of these businesses as our CEO, Henry Nnorom, was born in Nigeria, and continues to pursue his American dream. At Hathrup, It is our mission to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds succeed regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or any other demographic.

Henry Nnorom

Henry Nnorom, CEO of Hathrup, realizing it’s time to get back to work!

It’s no secret that the American economy as a whole is vastly different than it’s ever been. While there haven’t been too many changes to the top of the food chain other than the emergence of the tech titans, the landscape in the middle class is evolving at a rapid pace. The reemergence of growth in this country can largely be attributed to the groundswell of start-up businesses.

Entrepreneurs are inspiring and creating a revitalized level of innovation enabled by the rapid progress of technology. Because of this the world has become very small, and much easier to make an impact. One of most important components of this increase in new businesses is that it is largely attributed to women, immigrants, and minorities, creating one of the most unique opportunities for commerce in the history of the world. This is better than the Silk Road, the rail road, and just about every other commercial quantum leap combined. It is the opportunity for literally everyone to become a member of your target market and the potential to spread commerce to a global scale without having to leave your couch.

Collaborating across multiple cultures and backgrounds and biases inspires innovation and growth. Differing ideas that complement and challenge each other lead to better ideas. The fact that people from other countries are coming here to start a business is a huge win for the US. This not only expands our tax base, improve our markets by increasing competition, but it also opens up a gateway to the rest of the world. This enables any small mom and pop shop to have the potential to create a global impact. Collaborating and working with businesses from a variety of backgrounds opens up your opportunity as well. In the event they maintain connections in their home country, new markets emerge and become a realistic opportunity.

At Hathrup, it is our goal to facilitate funding of businesses locally in the US initially; we especially want to service people of all backgrounds and ethnicities as we subsequently want to export capital around the world. When we help a business get started here, after they become successful, hopefully they will then want to pay it forward and fund businesses not only locally but from their home country as well. That is how we help create and facilitate a more global economy and enhance growth for all. This will enabling people to be able to make their dream become a reality and gain an entirely higher level of pride and self-worth.  We want to encourage everyone to take the chance and start the business of their dreams. Even if they maintain their day job while they build it, that’s ok with us.

Stay tuned as we gear up to launch our beta testing program in the next few weeks. If you’re an entrepreneur, planning to become one, or if you’re open to the possibility of becoming one of our investors please reach out and let us know. We’re opening up our testing program to those interested in getting a sneak peak at the platform in order to get user feedback and implement improvements before going live on a much larger scale.

Bootstrappin'

Bootstrappin’: How to Launch Your Business on a Barebones Budget

Starting a business today is far easier than anytime in history. The caveat is that it depends on what type of business however, thus I’m primarily referring to professional service businesses (i.e. consulting, accounting, real estate, photography, legal, etc.). The type that don’t have the overbearing regulations attached to them or endless red tape to acquire permits and licenses, on the contrary those probably have more hurdles than ever (particularly in the US). But if you’re like me, and want to start a consulting or other service business, you can do it quicker and cheaper than ever, not to mention minimize overhead so you can compete with larger competition.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that every single business is different and has various requirements, so while I’m speaking from a more general manner, please make sure to do the appropriate research regarding your specific industry and niche to make sure everything is legitimate.

Establishing Your Entity: My attorney friends may not be too happy to read this, but you don’t necessarily need one to establish your business. You don’t always need an automated service like Legal Zoom either. If you’re certain of the structure you want to use and don’t plan on having partners (which require more complex operating agreements, etc.) than in most instances you can go directly to the source and bypass additional fees (they can range anywhere from $150 to $1,000+). In my case, WIMS, Inc. was established in Coral Gables, FL so I used Sunbiz and set it all up for around $75. I will say that in most instances seeking counsel from an attorney is invaluable and worth the cost, however.

Website: Nowadays you can create your own website for free, using sites like Wix and 1and1. They have many elaborate templates to choose from so that you don’t have to start from scratch or learn to write code. You can simply swap out generic text for your own as well as graphics to completely customize it. It even ads easy to incorporate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) functionality. The catch of using these for free is that you can’t use your own domain name (they include theirs in the free versions) and there may be some ads. However, it’s quite affordable to create your own domain name (costs typically around $15 a month) if you’d prefer to go that route.

Email: By now it’s no great revelation that you can get great email service for free using Gmail. In most cases businesses can even get away with solely using a Gmail account (not to mention you get the added benefit of the also free Google Docs). However if you want to step up the professionalism a notch and create an email account using your domain name it’s relatively affordable to do so. For example, when I registered my domain name with GoDaddy, it also allowed me to leverage a custom email account via Office365 for about $10 a month. I find both to be well worth the cost.

Blog: Another one that is far from a novel idea, but you can start a blog for free using sites like WordPress (my personal preference) or Blogger. This is a great marketing tool that when coupled with social media can be very powerful, and all it costs is time. Providing thought leadership type content to your network demonstrates your expertise and adds value to the services you provide. Of course, there are upgrades to the service as well that are both affordable and worth it as your blog’s following begins to grow.

Marketing: I’m going to keep this section short and sweet as most of you know the usual suspects that can help market your business for free (yes, I’m referring to social media). My personal favorites: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. If what you’re selling is more visual (photography, hairstyling, tattoo artist) consider Pinterest too. There are plenty others as well.

CRM: CRM programs used to be thought of as these overly expensive and overly complicated Big Brother like programs that only the big boys could afford. Not anymore. Now you can get access to simpler CRM programs for free. My favorite is Insightly, it has a web based version coupled with a free app. Can’t beat it for the price!

Financing: If you need to raise money and aren’t able to get financing from a bank (you can’t show “2 years worth of income” when you just started, HELLO silly bankers!) consider crowd funding. Kickstarter is a good one, as is GoFundMe, which leverages your social media accounts to spread awareness. They’re “free” to start but make money by taxing 5% per donation or so (but hey 95% of something is better than 100% of nothing)! Although I’ll admit, I’ve recently set one up without much success yet.

Freelance Income: As you’re getting started you may need to build up some short term income with smaller projects as you build your network. Consider sites like Elance (I use it and love it so far) or others like Fiverr and Freelancer. There are million of projects searchable by expertise that you can do online or in person depending on location. Typically you get paid using PayPal (you do have PayPal right?), which is great, if you don’t have a fancy credit card machine. Although one solution I’m evaluating now is Square as I’ve heard good things.

Loose Ends: Just wanted to touch on some other things to consider in this paragraph. For one, you can get free digital storage space at either (or all if you’re a true hustler) Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box. For business cards, (which some people don’t even use anymore, although I advocate for them still) check out either Vista Print or Moo. Lastly, office space, this can be one of the hugest overhead expenses around. Do you really need to pay a ton of money each month in rent? I advocate a mix of home office, Starbucks, or local library (free internet!). But if you need tangible office space you can look at some of the shared office spaces from places such as Regus, or if you’re in Miami, Pipeline Brickell.

So there you have it, just some of the ways to start your business on the cheap. There are plenty others of course but I wanted to hit on some of the main ones to help get your started (if you have others please share in the comments!) Keeping low overhead is one of the ways to remain competitive with larger competition, so be relentless about every dollar you spend and you’re business will stick around long enough to start being profitable. Good luck!

Fantasy Football

Why My Fantasy Football Obsession Makes me a Better Business Man

Despite the current negative climate surrounding the NFL I’m still an avid fantasy football enthusiast. That being said, the focus of this post isn’t related to that unfortunate side of game, rather it’s designed to discuss some of the parallels between playing fantasy football and the business world, and how skills acquired and enhanced via the former can help improve those in the latter, and vice versa. These are just a few of my observations, so if you have others, or even want to elaborate on some of mine, please feel free to leave a comment. Here goes.

Knowledge and Information = Currency

Knowing things before the rest of your league can be very lucrative, assuming that information leads to action. The rate at which information is distributed nowadays has reached breakneck speeds and the definition of instant is constantly being redefined. Access to these information distribution tools is pretty widespread, I remember the days when Rotoworld was my secret weapon, then NBC Sports acquired it and now its common knowledge. The key differentiator in a world of instant information however, is having the courage to act on it. Most people see the world the way they want to see it so when they hear things their initial reaction is disbelief, which creates hesitation. If you hesitate that lotto ticket sitting on the waiver wire gets scooped up and leads someone else to fantasy glory.

Perception is Reality

In the crazy “Twitter-Mob-Rule” world of today facts are often secondary to perception and propaganda with regard to the establishment of market value. Perception tends to be molded by which information source you use, the writers you read, talking heads you watch, etc. When you have a level of familiarity it leads to trust which leads to bias, which is ultimately the basis of perception. For example, if you use ESPN rankings rather than Yahoo’s you’ll notice they both are mostly different despite being made up of the same players. Therefore if you do a draft in Yahoo you can find value from guys who are ranked much lower compared to ESPN where they may be priced more accurately, and vice versa. As such, whether you get your stock news from Yahoo Finance, CNBC, or Fortune, you can read many different opinions about the same stock which could lead to different actions, one says buy, the other sell, your preference for information will directly impact the subsequent transaction. Before many drafts the buzz surrounding guys like Toby Gerhart reached deafening heights, causing many to reach, the current reality however is most likely nauseating for his owners (I wouldn’t know though as I wasn’t buying what they were selling).

The Rich Usually Get Richer

Having a wealth and depth of assets gives you leverage. In fantasy football it allows to you to offer two-for-ones and three-for-twos trades, the things that lead to upgrading your weaker positions. It also gives you the ability to have a higher tolerance for risk, the kind that can lead to a higher reward. Having the knowledge and foresight to identify “sleepers” and get them at a discount is crucial for success. Whether you play them yourself in lieu of your “busts” or trade them for more proven stars having the knack for picking winners is valuable. This often requires an objective mindset, leaving emotion and the persuasive rants of the so-called experts out of it. Be more like Buffet than Cramer when it comes to finding value and you’ll end up rich.

Sometimes Past Performance is Trumped by Upside and Potential

This lesson is more something to be aware of than a fact of life. Everyone is different and the human element and opportunity play a huge role in dictating future performance. I will say this though, people often have a burning desire to be the one that “discovers” the next big thing. Therefore they will reach for someone with high upside rather than take a boring old veteran with a well-established and predictable floor. The results of which are always mixed. Guys that took Monte Ball over Demarco Murray are probably second guessing themselves right now; then again that feeling could change tomorrow. I feel that you need a mix of both to truly do well, coupling a high upside with a high floor as well. 

Starting Well Doesn’t Mean Ending Well and Vice Versa

Nearly a decade ago Netscape Navigator came roaring out like gangbusters, while Google was a little late to the search engine game (remember Ask Jeeves?!). In hindsight we now see how both of these stories turned out. The market and fantasy landscapes change literally every second of every day as they are impacted by a variety of external forces. Sometimes they’re changed by politics, more or less demand, or emerging competition. Sometimes they’re changed by injuries or suspensions. Just because you’re in 1st place today doesn’t mean your whole team won’t get injured tomorrow, it’s the NFL and crazier things have happened. In addition, being in last place after 2 weeks of the season doesn’t mean you’ll stay there (I’ve experienced both phenomena many times)! The key is to never rest on your laurels whether you’re failing or succeeding. Always be open and aware of potential changes and opportunities coming down the pike and be prepared to act accordingly.

Aside from the time consuming distraction of keeping track of my teams, players, injuries, etc. required for playing fantasy football it can actually be quite a learning experience. The correlation between fantasy football approaches and techniques with that of the business world are many and lessons that applies to each in order to be successful. It even goes further than business as it’s undoubtedly made me a better write too, you should see how clever yet vicious some of the trash talking/verbal lashings get. Perhaps I’m simply trying to justify my obsession, or perhaps I’m on to something here. Regardless I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!