So You Want to be an Entrepreneur? 7 Kickass Digital Spotlights that Every Entrepreneur Needs to Check Out!

This article originally appeared in Youngry.
Written by Aliya Amershi, Founder & CEO at AskaTechie.


As a new entrepreneur starting out, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to look for mentors who were already killing it, learn from their failures and model their successes.

Over the years I’ve collected numerous videos and interviews from virtual mentors to add to my own “inspire list” and today I’ve decided to share a few that influenced me the most as a beginner Entrepreneur. The amazing thing is that everyone can access these online thought leaders through video or audio, which allows you to always be learning no matter where you are or what you may be doing. Plus you get an alternative sensory engagement, that goes beyond just reading a book or article.

Gaining success in the Entrepreneurial world requires you to step up and learn how to be a great Leader. Each online influencer has their own style and shares their advice and stories of their mistakes. So if you’re just starting out, or even have been in business for a while, this is a great introduction to the vast array of free online content.

  1. Simon Sinek
    Ted Talk Presentation – Know Your Why & Become A Great Leader https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-61764
    Leading with passion and enthusiasm, Simon is a thought leader and modern day philosopher who believes that every company will excel if they can communicate WHY they do what they do. He believes that when you can crack this code, you can easily inspire your team, customers, and investors to follow you. Simon is someone that everyone seems to love and this was the Ted Talk that helped catapult him into the spotlight.
  1. Patrick Bet-David
    Valutainment YouTube Channel – How to Become an Entrepreneur (Episode Aired Jan 2017)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YV-tWENu9k
    Bringing a high energy and practical approach to entrepreneurship, Patrick explains with clarity the dedication it takes to get there. He offers a simplified 5 step process to becoming an entrepreneur, an alternative viewpoint on “traditional” ways of working, and ways in which we can think more creatively and strategically to get ahead. If you want to be given straightforward, raw entrepreneurship advice that is succinctly broken down, then Patrick is your guy!
  1. Alex Blumberg
    Startup Podcast – How Not to Pitch a Billionaire (Season 1, Episode 1)
    https://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/all/season-1/page/2/
    Alex’s story profiles a raw, very green, real-time account of what it’s like to start a business from zero – sharing all the mistakes, internal thoughts, and behind the scene conversations uncensored and fully exposed. This episode profiles how he pitched a major Silicon Valley angel investor, how badly he messed up, and then captures the lessons learned. I think everyone has had or experienced this nightmare, but the good thing is that your business can still go on, as this series documents the highs and lows of startup life, which has definitely captivated their audience.
  1. Joe Polish
    Genius Network Podcast – Top Mindsets and Characteristics of Succesful Entrepreneurs (Episode 270)
    http://ilovemarketing.com/the-genius-network-scorecard-dean-jackson-and-joe-polish-on-i-love-marketing-episode-270/?utm_source=jpinfusion&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ilm270
    Taking an informational approach to marketing and entrepreneurship, Joe shares by highlighting his experience and outlines the mindset that successful entrepreneurs possess and why marketing is timeless and of utmost importance. He suggests to rate yourself, so you’ll know where to pay attention and where to put more effort in. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets improved. Multiple successful mentors advised me to listen to this specific podcast so it is definitely something that has resonated.
  1. Marie Forleo
    YouTube Star Interview – Building a Business from the Inside Out, Soulful Approach to Entrepreneurship
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvu_UGzz2Bs
    Coming from the corporate world, Marie always felt she wanted more. Once she slowed down and learned to stop ignoring her inner voice, she was able to create businesses and success by continued self development and staying true to her own heart. Her approach and deep-rooted belief is that we all have unique gifts that the world needs, and when we can uncover this, good things happen. Entrepreneurship is a spiritual journey, and the faster you can embrace that, the better things will be. Marie has been featured on Oprah and is considered one of the new age thought leaders to follow.
  1. Robin Sharma
    YouTube Star How to Video – 6 Big Lessons to Win at Life
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpiFVl1Pq1I&index=51&list=PLmqIZxMeCGZovrksUaGYyjntM_svtLXnx
    One of the world’s top Leadership Advisors, Robin has worked with CEOs from some of the top companies in the world. His first best-selling book titled The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari helped him on a path to critical acclaim. In this informative video, Robin teaches us the habits that set successful people apart from the rest and what we can do to achieve great heights, if we so choose. His leadership style is one of shifting paradigms and he believes that anyone within an organization can show leadership within their work and have influence and impact if they dare to be authentic and speak up.
  1. Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee)
    YouTube Star Interview – Audit Who You Are and STOP Hoping
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv4HSYEp1bI
    Love him or hate him, Gary Vee’s advice is always valuable and this list could not be complete without his thoughts. In this interview with Tai Lopez, another Entrepreneur and YouTube Star, Gary states that one of the biggest mistakes people make is that we hope who we are, instead of really auditing who we are. Gary reminds people to be self-aware of what they’re good at, to figure out what their strengths are and focus on that. One of the most poignant and important things he notes is that ideas are nothing, it’s only execution that matters. Quoting Elon Musk, Tai points out that you get paid in proportion to the difficulty you solve. Gary’s approach to entrepreneurship is a no bullshit mentality, resulting in a mass following and unquestionable success in multiple businesses.

I love the idea of passing on valuable knowledge to other Entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, it just makes us all better, smarter and more successful. In the world of entrepreneurship, there really isn’t competition, everyone will create differing products – some will succeed and some will need to pivot, but there is room in the market for everyone who has something of value to offer. More importantly, there is always room for growth. As an Entrepreneur you should always be learning and online there is an abundance of access to knowledge and experts. So stop making excuses and start making something of yourself.

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Get Your Business Tech Stack In Order (Finally!)

This article originally appeared in Youngry.
Written by Aliya Amershi, Founder & CEO at AskaTechie.


After working with hundreds of customers and colleagues over several years, I’m baffled by what so many of them are hiding. On the surface, they may possess a beautiful website or app, consider themselves quite tech savvy, or they could even be making millions of dollars…. but when I take a look at their technology behind the scenes, it is a total nightmare. By the way, this is beyond the technology stack for a website, app, or product – that is a completely separate discussion. What I’m referring to is the VERY basic business tech stack (aka productivity tech stack), consisting of common technology tools and services to increase productivity. It is mistakenly assumed most businesses have already got that all in order, but truth is, it’s really not the case (even tech-focused ones). Perhaps in the bubble of Silicon Valley, where people are on trend with tech, but we’re talking about the other millions of startups and businesses outside of the Valley.

Just imagine: excel spreadsheets that are being used to manage 100s or 1000s of customer accounts just doesn’t cut it – that’s a customer fiasco waiting to happen! Confidential company discussions that are taking place on Facebook groups – and bosses question why employees are distracted by Facebook during work hours. Data and documents that are stored on each person’s hard drive with no backup – fingers crossed no one spills coffee on their laptop. Team tasks that are being managed and tracked using Notepad, or even worse, pen and paper – gasp! I have seen this too frequently in startups, small-medium sized businesses, as well as enterprise corporations.

If you’re guilty of any of the above, I’m going to break the news to you; you need a tech intervention, especially if you’re an Entrepreneur.

Say you went to a lovely restaurant and they presented you with a succulent, gourmet meal, but  then you visit the restroom and it’s a disgusting cockroach-ridden, backed-up sewer mess. My guess is you would never eat there again, no matter how tasty the food, or how ambient the dining room.

It’s the same thing with your business! People aren’t going to respect you as a tech savvy Entrepreneur if they find out you can’t really walk the walk. And top talent, whether they be Developers or Digital Marketers, will be horrified and may not work with you when they discover your antiquated technology practices – unless you’re hiring them to specifically get you digitally up to speed. Your business tech stack is a direct reflection of you as the Boss, whereas your market-facing technology is usually created by your CTO/ Tech Lead or a third-party developer. If you are indeed the CTO/ Tech Lead, what’s interesting is that many truly technologically advanced minds also need a little push when it comes to organizing simplified, practical technology for their business. Besides sheer embarrassment, not having a solid tech stack is costing you time, money and even business. Sooner or later the digital disorderly chaos will catch up with you.

To help you fast-track your digital transformation at the basic level, or if you’re a new startup to get your business tech stack started off right, I’ve compiled a list of the best basic productivity tools Entrepreneurs & Business Owners need to start using ASAP to stay digitally on track, digitally.

1) Team Communication

Recommendation: Slack

Move over Email, Skype, Facebook Groups, Whatsapp, and AOL/ MSN Messenger (  total throwback here). Slack is the new standard for real-time, company-owned team communication. There are a slew of benefits: it keeps all team communication in one place, you can create public channels for different topics or private discussion groups with select people, and even communicate and share files with just one person if you wish. So if you want be “with it”,  get with Slack.

2) Cloud Drive

Recommendation: Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive – DOESN’T MATTER, JUST USE IT!

This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many people are not on the cloud – maybe their head is (chuckle), but not their business. Some benefits are: no more fear of crashing your laptop, leaving files on your other computer before a major meeting or needing to work in the cubicle from the office computer. With the cloud drive’s amazingly affordable prices for 1TB of data, you should be be able to backup everything, without having to pick and choose. No more fumbling with external hard drives, plus you always have access to your files from any computer or mobile device. To help you decide, here is your rule of thumb: Google Drive is best for Googlers, OneDrive is best for Microsoft users, and Dropbox is best for the rest.

3) Cloud Enterprise Suite

Recommendation: G Suite (aka Google Business Apps) or Microsoft Office 365

Either is fine, just as long as you are using the Cloud version which is key. Why? Because just like with your cloud drive, your documents are always backed up and available from any device. Plus it allows for easy sharing and live updates, eliminating the need to email back and forth attachments that always seem to get lost. The difference between the two is if you just need basic functions for document, spreadsheet, and slide creation, than G Suite is perfect. Plus any Microsoft document can easily be converted to a Google doc, and vice versa. However, if you need more advanced features and programs, then 365 is the better bet.

4) Organizational App

Recommendation: Wunderlist

Wunderlist is great for getting your whole team’s Todo list in order. It’s the ultimate checklist that you can share, email, and print. Want to change a priority? It’s as easy as dragging dropping. So nix the Notepad and start “Wunderlisting”. I should note that once you have a larger a team, a more advanced project, or multiple projects, you’ll likely need to use additional tools and processes, but that’s a whole other topic.

5) Video Conferencing

Recommendation: Zoom or Google Hangout

I know you are thinking “but what about Skype”?! Truth is, Zoom is now the hottest player on the block, having mega startups as their customer, such as Uber, who prefer to Zoom. With a multitude of features such as your own custom business url, a direct dial-in number (with no password), HD recording capabilities, screen sharing, and remote desktop access, it’s worth it to dish out the few extra bucks a month for this service. That way you can always be connected with your virtual team and customers as if they were right next to you. Looking for a free tool? Google Hangout still does the job, all you need is a Google account.

6) Digital Signature Software

Recommendation: Adobe Sign or DocuSign

If you have a business, you’ll be continuously signing and sending documents to be signed. Don’t embarrass yourself by not using an e-signing tool and requiring others to print, sign, scan, and email (fax?!?) documents for signing. Seriously that’s like 4 annoying steps – why, oh why?! Make it simple by having your own digital signature software so that they can easily sign and send in seconds. Adobe is good if you are already subscribing to the Acrobat, but if you aren’t, then DocuSign is a solid choice. Plus their user interface is a lot more friendlier.

7) Calendar Booking System

Recommendation: MixMax or Calendly

Being an Entrepreneur is going to keep you busy and the last thing you want to do is play email tag! Most of us fall into this ongoing email trap, from weekly or daily meetings with team members, partners, customers, and investors. The solution is a handy smart calendar to help you book all your meetings, without you doing the work! Two options I like to recommend, and both operate a little differently, are MixMax and Calendly, all you have to do is choose based on your needs and style. MixMax is a chrome extension for Gmail, and one of their main features is their built-in scheduling tool, which connects directly with your calendar to select available time slots on the fly and will embed directly into your email. Calendly on the other hand is more of full-featured booking system that can integrate with your email, website, CRM and more. So if you don’t have Gmail and you want a more advanced off-the-shelf scheduling system, Calendly is a great option.

BONUS: CRM – Customer Relation Management System (Advanced)

Recommendation: ZoHo

There’s a lot to be said about using a CRM, but let me break it down in a couple of sentences. Your customers and their data is arguably the most valuable asset of your business. So do you really want to be managing that using a basic spreadsheet? A CRM allows you and your team to collaborate in keeping your 1000s, maybe millions, of contacts up to date, whether they are a hot lead or current customer. It’ll identify where they are in your sales funnel or when they were last contacted in your marketing campaign. In addition, generating custom dashboards and reports can be done in a snap. When people think CRM they think of the super expensive and complicated Salesforce, which has it’s merits. But if you’re starting out, or are a small-medium sized business, then Zoho is the perfectly simple and cost effective solution. Plus it can scale as your business grows, with it’s many business extensions and integrations.

Using the appropriate tools and processes from the start is basic business 101. Impress your future employees, customers, and even investors, as a tech savvy and digitally organized Entrepreneur by understanding and using the latest tools in tech. Having your basic business tech stack setup from the get go will do you wonders and allow for much more success to come your way.

Too busy to set up and learn these productivity tools yourself? Contact us at www.AskaTechie.com to get you up to speed fast so you can do what you do best.

Have more questions regarding your tech stack? Why Search, Just Ask?

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The Don’t Quit List

By Aliya Amershi

We all love lists – right? You see them everywhere – “10 Ways to Become a Successful Entrepreneur”, “The 7 Secrets of the Rich”, “Top 5 Movies this Week”. In fact, Buzzfeed is all about presenting news and stories in a list format. And who could forget David Letterman’s “Top Ten List”. Although those are all the fun lists, we also have our own lists, like our never-ending “To-Do” lists, or perhaps it’s a shopping list of groceries or a planning list for a party. Or maybe we make lists when we have to make major decisions, like “Why should I choose this opportunity over the other?”. Okay so maybe we don’t always love our own lists as much, since looking at it can be quite overwhelming and stressful.

But what if we could make a list that would make us feel happy to look at? So happy that we wish it wouldn’t end. Well, I would like to introduce the “Don’t Quit List”. This is a little inspirational tool I created for myself being a start-up entrepreneur, which is much needed as it’s the toughest job I have ever done. Aside from the non-stop hours, you are facing criticism and rejection on a regular basis. Which is a strange feeling, considering I have always been an overachiever and quite successful in my studies and professional field. I suppose that’s all part of the process of growing when you venture out of your comfort zone to try something new and daring. I have to remind myself to “be brave, not perfect”, as Reshma Saujani perfectly said in her Ted Talk.

I just needed something to keep me motivated in the face of setbacks and because I am a list junkie, the “Don’t Quit List” was perfect for me because it was a list of all the action items I can do to achieve success. There are only two questions I ask myself before I add the item to my list and they are: “Will this action item generate users or revenue?” or “Will this action item generate funding?”. If I answer yes to either or both, it goes on the list, simple. Then I write the action item in past tense form so I can visualize and feel that I already accomplished it every time I look at it. Some items on my list include the following: “Created & published my first blog post”; “Launched my MVP website”; and “Pitched on Dragons’ Den or Sharks’ Tank”. Once I have completed the item successfully on the list, I move it to another list called the “Win List”, so that I can keep track of all my achievements thus far. Which includes this blog post! Plus every time I look at that list it makes me smile. In the event that an item “fails”, I simply cross it off my list so I don’t have to see it and can move on quickly to the next action item on the list. This way I don’t dwell on what didn’t work out since as an entrepreneur we don’t have time to live in the past.

An amazing app that I love to use to create all my lists is Wunderlist, which you can download onto your desktop or mobile device. It also has a web app version that you don’t need to download. The beauty of Wunderlist is that it allows you to create, update, and organize these lists effortlessly, which can be accessed anywhere and also shared with anyone. So say if you are reaching the end of your list, a trusted friend could add some more ideas to the list in real-time, right when you need it the most. You can also email and print these lists if you want to go a little old school. Plus you can add notes, links, deadlines, team members and comments. The list goes on, pun intended.

wunderlist3

Now let’s say you do get to the end of your “Don’t Quit List” and you haven’t reached the level of success that’s right for you. And you have honestly thought of and tried every action item you can do, then that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to quit. Pivot instead and go a different direction. Look at your “Win List”, analyze what aspects of the business was working and run with that. Or try something new completely, whatever it is just keep moving forward and “Don’t Quit”.

12 Critical Elements Every Website Homepage Must Have [Infographic]

If you’re considering a website redesign or are wondering how to generate more leads from your website, it’s a good idea to start with your homepage.

Serving as your company’s virtual front door, this page is generally responsible for drawing in a majority of your website’s traffic. And despite its prominence, many businesses struggle to optimize it properly.

You see, your homepage needs to wear a lot of hats. Rather than treating it like a dedicated landing page built around one particular action, it should be designed to serve different audiences, from different origins. And in order to do so effectively, it needs to be built with purpose. In other words, you’ll need to incorporate elements that attract traffic, educate visitors, and invite conversions.

So to improve the performance of your homepage, check out the following infographic detailing 12 critical elements every homepage must have.

12 Critical Elements Every Homepage Must Have


This article originally appeared on Hubspot! Go check out their blog for more website essentials.

7 Digital Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

how-to-avoid

Even the most experienced digital marketers occasionally have campaigns that don’t yield the desired results. But you can help ensure your next campaign doesn’t meet with failure by avoiding these 14 potentially costly digital marketing mistakes.

1. Not having clear campaign goals

One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make is “not establishing analytics goals prior to the start of a campaign,” says Geoff Hoesch, principal, Dragonfly Digital Marketing. “In order to track the success of a digital marketing campaign, it’s necessary to define goals (sales, form completions, calls, sign ups, etc.) and ensure that analytics tracking is properly set up for these goals.”

“Without measurable objectives, it [is] challenging to measure ROI or net benefit of a campaign on product/service sales, sentiment or engagement,” says Justin Honaman, senior vice president, digital marketing solutions, Moxie, a global digital agency. That’s why “it is important to define and communicate objectives and to build insights from past campaigns into the planning process for future campaigns.”

2. Not targeting the right audience

“Even if a brand is creating fantastic content, they will miss a great deal of the opportunity if they don’t take the extra step to promote it to the right audience at the right time,” says Michelle Stinson Ross, content & outreach goddess, Authority Labs, a provider of SEO software. “Every digital communication channel is getting noisier, [and] it takes effort and investment to cut through the noise to get your content noticed.

“Define targeted audiences not just on personal descriptions but on behaviors,” she advises. “Make use of tracking pixels and cookies to reach out to people [who] have visited your site and/or joined your email list. Take your social targeting beyond age, gender, education and topic interest by layering on purchase intent and relevant life events.”

3. Not employing a customer-centric mindset

“Marketing plays a critical role in enticing, converting, engaging and retaining customers, and organizations slow to embrace a customer-centric mindset will be left behind,” says Penny Wilson, CMO,Hootsuite. “Through personalization, targeting, journey mapping and data analysis, brands are now able to deliver a customized brand experience that provides value to customers and keeps them coming back for more.”

4. Impersonal (or incorrect) personalization

“Be [it the wrong] name, gender, likes, etc., the list goes on,” says Jess Stephens, CMO, SmartFocus. “I see this every single day – my team compiles a ‘bad marketing folder’ where we store examples [of incorrectly personalized offers] we regularly receive. A particular bugbear of mine is when I shop for a present for a male member of my family [and] then get bombarded with male persona marketing. This can easily be avoided by using insights technology, which makes it easy for marketers to correctly identify the right products and offers to engage customers for their next purchase.”

5. Overlooking mobile

“Mobile is becoming the dominant digital platform consumers use, now accounting for 62 percent of all digital media time, [according to] comScore, [with] apps account for over 50 percent of that total,” says Martin Doettling, CMO, Swrve, which provides a platform for managing customer relationships with mobile apps. “With this in mind, it is important to get your mobile strategy in place.

“Start by considering how your users are already interacting with you on mobile and how you can better shape that experience,” he says. “If you have not yet developed your mobile strategy, consider whether an app would be a [good] platform for you to speak to your customers and then deliver timely, relevant and meaningful content that grows your customer relationships.”

Also, “make sure your website is compatible with all mobile devices,” says Jonathan Ceballos, marketing director, USB Memory Direct. “Then make sure sales and special offers are [tailored to] mobile sites.”

6. Writing off email marketing

“There is a lot of buzz surrounding marketing channels like mobile and social. However, neglecting email marketing is a costly mistake,” says Eric Stahl, senior vice president, product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “As the lines between sales, service and marketing blur, email remains the customer journey’s connective tissue. A recent survey from MarketingSherpa found that 91 percent of U.S. adults say they like getting promotional emails from companies they do business with. Of those, 86 percent would like monthly emails and 61 percent would like them at least weekly. In addition, marketers can combine email with insights gained from customer data across channels and devices — for example, social media — to achieve the heightened level of personalization that today’s customer demands.”

7. Not doing A/B or split testing

“Use A/B testing to maximize effectiveness of your email,” says Adam Jwaskiewicz, director of interactive services at PHG, an advertising agency. “For example, distribute the same email to a test group, but use two different subject lines. When sending the actual email, use the subject line that performed best. Make decisions based on actual data, not your gut feeling.”

To read more tips, head on over to CIO!


This article originally appeared in CIO.