Photo: AVC/Fred Wilson
Starting a company is hard, so you’re going to need a lot of advice along the way.There are many entrepreneurs, investors and bloggers who churn out business advice daily, but it’s a pain figuring out which sites are worth reading.
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite sources of small business and tech news for entrepreneurs.
Running the gamut from hilarious, to informational, to controversial, to thought-provoking, these blogs are all must-reads for anyone who’s running a business.
Blogger: Any entrepreneur you want to follow, from Fred Wilson to Marc Cuban
Why it's so great: Quora is a Q&A site where experts actually take the time to seriously answer your questions. You can follow topics like 'startups' and 'entrepreneurship' and people like Fred Wilson or Mark Zuckerberg. Answers get voted up by by the community so that only the best ones shine. You can find answers to questions like 'What is the best way to prepare yourself for entrepreneurship?' or 'What are some tips on connecting with high-profile people that can help your startup?'
Top answer by Robert Scoble:
I hang around high-profile people often. Here's some things that can help you connect:
- Listen. If they say your idea sucks, listen to the feedback, take notes, and ask for contact info. Then go fix the problems, or come up with another idea and demonstrate you listened.
- Get to the point. People like Ron Conway are busy. They are wildly rich, so the only thing that is limited in their life is time. You are taking away some of their most precious resource, so get to the freaking point. Don't try to chit chat or ask about their kids or make small talk. Go right for the big ask. They are used to it.
Blog: LinkedIn Today
Blogger: LinkedIn curates articles based on your professional profile and your social connections.
Why it's so great: LinkedIn Today curates articles that are fitting for your industry and that people in that industry are sharing. As such, it's a good source of entrepreneurship and business news all in one place.
Sample: Articles on LinkedIn Today:
Hiring Your First Set Of Employees - Greylock Capital
Facebook Testing a New 'Want' Button - Inside Facebook
Blogger: Penelope Trunk, Founder and CEO of Brazen Careerist
Why it's so great: As a three-time entrepreneur, Trunk has a lot of experience to share. She deftly mixes her small business advice with personal anecdotes (sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking) to make for a blog that you'll look forward to reading. And, her insights are priceless.
One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to 'do what you love.'...
I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex. In fact, as you might imagine, my sex life is really tanking right now. But I don't sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about 'what do I love most?' Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?
So how could you possibly pick one thing you love to do? And what would be the point?...
Here's some practical advice: Do not what you love; do what you are.
Blog: Church of the Customer
Bloggers: Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, both authors and management consultants
Why it's so great: Attracting 120,000 daily readers, Forbes named Church of the Customer a 2010 favourite for Best of the Web Small Business Blogs.
The blog documents successes and failures of small and large businesses, so entrepreneurs can avoid making similar mistakes.
Forbes writes about their pick: 'There's always something to be learned about managing customers and building loyalty.'
At first blush, a complaining customer is not something we have on our wish list of awesome things in the world.
But this type of customer contact provides a great opportunity to do something remarkable that will build loyalty and word of mouth. Research shows this to be true. Customer experience research firm TARP finds that customers who complain and are satisfied are up to 8% more loyal than if they had no problem at all (PDF).
Blog: Wise Bread
Bloggers: A collection of writers and entrepreneurs who specialize in saving money, cutting costs, and budgeting wisely
Why it's so great: As a small business owner, frugality can make or break your company. Wise Bread offers tips on how manage business finances, and gives advice to entrepreneurs who want to do big things on a small budget.
Wise Bread has a section that caters exclusively to entrepreneurship, which covers topics ranging from 'launching for less' to 'scoring free publicity.'
Starting a business is an intimidating prospect. It involves a level of commitment that few other goals require. Typically, one of the major commitments in business startups is a hefty financial commitment. However, there are ways to start a business for next to nothing. Knowing how to do so can make an intimidating project much more doable.
Bloggers: A collection of entrepreneurs and other experts, whose areas of specialty range from marketing to strategy, to financial management
Why it's so great: AllBusiness covers how-to advice, analysis, and commentary from experts in all areas of business. Content is updated daily (including weekends) and is searchable by categories like 'Internet Marketing' and 'Startups.'
Recently I had a conversation with a friend that had attended a monthly business meeting and the discussion turned to whether you should ever let your emotions or feelings get involved in the decisions you make as a business owner.
...Sure it's not good practice to mix the two but the truth is it's in front of you every day. If an employee gets hurt or something happens to a staff's child you need to be there. Staff need to feel supported, and want to be a part of a company that genuinely cares.
Trying to separate the natural from business leaves you looking like a cold-hearted scrooge who cares about nothing except making money. You may have staff but I guarantee they're just waiting for a better opportunity to get out.
Blog: How To Change The World
Blogger: Guy Kawasaki, author of several business and marketing books and a managing director of early-stage VC firm Garage Technology Ventures
Why it's so great: WSJ deemed this blog one of the 15 Entrepreneur Blogs Worth Reading because it motivates and inspires small business owners.
Kawasaki speaks to entrepreneurs from a VC point of view, giving eager business owners advice from his own experience, along with much-needed reality checks.
Many entrepreneurs believe that the lack of capital is their primary problem. If only they had a fat bank balance, they could kick butt. As a venture capitalist, I've seen what happens when companies raise substantial capital. It's not pretty--in fact, my theory is that too much money is worse than too little. Here's why.
Blog: Entrepreneur Daily Dose
Bloggers: Regular Entrepreneur contributors
Why it's so great: This blog has the Entrepreneur brand backing its content, and it often takes current news stories and extracts marketing lessons for small business owners.
In the past week, Daily Dose has examined what businesses can learn from the Old Spice Man, George Steinbrenner's contribution to the business of baseball, and what the finance reform means for small businesses.
This week we saw two days that shook the viral marketing world. Old Spice, a decidedly old-school Procter & Gamble brand, unleashed a social media blitz so profoundly brilliant that it not only changed the rules of social network marketing, it may have written them for the first time.
At first glance, an entrepreneur may dismiss the Old Spice phenomenon as an oddity of riches, something only a marketing behemoth like P&G could exploit. But when we dissect its marketing principles and practices, it becomes not only entirely applicable to the small business owner, but an essential (and low-cost) opportunity as well.
Blog: A VC
Blogger: Fred Wilson, Managing Partner of two VC firms, Flatiron Partners and Union Square Ventures
Why it's so great: Fred is an influential thought leader in the entrepreneurial community. He has more than 2 decades of Venture Capital experience, has invested in companies like TheStreet.com, and was ranked #1 on TechCrunch's Top 10 VC Blogs of 2010.
Wilson thinks about his blog readers as a community, and he actively responds to comments and posts nearly every day (even on vacation.) With so much experience in the world of startup, his 'musings' are always insightful, useful, and -- best of all -- broken down in easy-to-understand terms.
With leading web properties like Facebook and Twitter now seeing up to half of their traffic on mobile, it's hard to get a sense of what is going on with their audiences by looking at Alexa, comScore, Quantcast, etc. The same is true of our portfolio companies and their competitors. Gone are the days when we could pull up several of these third party measurement services, put in a few URLs, do a little triangulation and see how our companies are doing against the competition.
Blog: Small Biz Survival
Bloggers: Blog founder Becky McCray, self-described 'small town entrepreneur,' along with a few of her entrepreneur friends
Why it's so great: According to BlogRank, a site that uses over 20 different factors to rank blogs including RSS members, incoming links, and Alexa, Small Biz Survival ranks #16 on the Top 100 Small Business Blogs chart.
Digging into her own successes, failures, and small-town-entrepreneur experiences, McCray offers big-time advice that can be useful for all entrepreneurs.
I don't often weigh in on big corporate issues, but there are some good lessons from two contrasting recent promotions. Fast Company is a well known forward-thinking business magazine. Conventional wisdom says they should have succeeded in a social campaign. P&G is the corporate behemoth behind the brand Old Spice. They should have had trouble with a social campaign. Turns out, that is exactly backwards.
Blog: Kevin Kelly's Lifestream
Blogger: Kevin Kelly, Founding Editor and currently Editor-at-Large of Wired Magazine
Why it's so great: You might have to read Kelly's short posts a few times to fully distill their meaning -- but the big ideas they bring up about leadership and innovation are worth it.
The basic rules of success are eternal: serve customers obsessively, escalate quality, outdo your competitors, have fun. The nature of the new economy changes none of those rules. But the success they help one attain is not what it used to be. However you want to measure it, success is a type of inertia. The law of increasing returns can compound it but success still follows its momentum to the top--but the top is highly unstable now. Being at the top when the sands shift is a liability. For anyone sane, success should breed paranoia.
In the highly turbulent, quickly reforming environment of the new economy, the competitive advantage goes to the nimble and malleable, the flexible and quick. Speed and agility trump size and experience. Fast to find the new is only one half the equation; fast to let go is the other important half.
Blogger: Brian Clark, a writer, online content producer, entrepreneur, and 'recovering attorney.'
Why it's so great: Clark believes more people aren't successful online because they're lacking two skills: content marketing strategy and copywriting. Copyblogger serves as a comprehensive resource for any business person looking to improve their online writing and blogging skills.
Your bottom line is bottoming out. Your customers are looking elsewhere. Your well of new ideas has run dry. What can you do?
You could turn to your accountant for money-saving schemes, or hire a lawyer to re-structure your business. You could bring in a salesperson to drum up customers.
I'll bet you wouldn't think a technique used by designers could help you out of a bad spot.
The technique I'll outline here is the secret to creating products and services your customers will buy. It's a powerful way to keep your well of ideas overflowing.
Blog: The Scott Adams Blog
Blogger: Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip and author of several non-Dilbert-related books
Why it's great: In his personal blog, Adams takes the same humour and musings on human behaviour in business that defined Dilbert and applies them to the blog post format. Each post is funny, surprising, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read.
I'm a student of how language influences people. Apple's response to the iPhone 4 problem didn't follow the public relations playbook because Jobs decided to rewrite the playbook. (I pause now to insert the necessary phrase Magnificent Bastard.) If you want to know what genius looks like, study Jobs' words: 'We're not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.'
Jobs changed the entire argument with nineteen words. He was brief. He spoke indisputable truth. And later in his press conference, he offered clear fixes. ...
If Jobs had not changed the context from the iPhone 4 in particular to all smartphones in general, I could make you a hilarious comic strip about a product so poorly made that it won't work if it comes in contact with a human hand. But as soon as the context is changed to 'all smartphones have problems,' the humour opportunity is gone. Nothing kills humour like a general and boring truth.
Blog: Small Business Trends
Blogger: Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends, along with other contributors
Why it's so great: The Small Business Trends blog is a comprehensive resource for small business news, research, and how-to's. Posts tend towards the dry side, but they pack in a lot of useful, current information that every small business owner should be aware of.
Disturbing news for entrepreneurs: A study from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), reported in Forbes, reveals that in the last five years, the number of hours the IRS spends auditing small businesses (those with assets of $10 million or less) has increased by 30 per cent. In the same time period, the time the IRS spends auditing companies with $250 million or more in assets has dropped by 33 per cent.
The rate at which large corporations are audited has declined drastically, from 42.6 per cent to 25 per cent, in the last five years.
Blog: The Entrepreneurial Mind
Blogger: Jeff Cornwall, Chair of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University
Why it's so great: Get business advice from someone who teaches it for a living. Cornwall also consults businesses on growth and the start-up process, and focuses articles on entrepreneurial finance and entrepreneurial ethics.
Professor Shane has been trying to minimize the impact of small business in our economy for the past few years. He is at it yet again in a post at Small Business Trends.
Let me address a few of his comments in this post.
'Most people forget that the majority of businesses fail within six years, leaving them with zero revenues.'
The only data that shows small business survival rates five years out less that 50% included business closures due to the sale of the business. They measured 'failure' by looking at firms that stopped filing income tax returns. So if I sold my small business within the first five years, even for millions of dollars, I was counted as a failure. They later adjusted this study and reported well over half survived.
Blog: Venture Hacks
Bloggers: Babak Nivi and Naval Ravikant, startup advisors, entrepreneurs, and investors
Why it's so great: With experience as both entrepreneurs and investors, 'Nivi and Naval' know what they're talking about when it comes to getting funding. Their blog features clear how-to guides on the basics of starting a company and raising capital, and lots of guest posts by influential entrepreneurs and VCs. Make sure you check out extra features like their Twitter Digest, and their cool project, Angel List.
Seed-stage investors don't like top-heavy companies: CEO, COO, CXO, CYO, VP of X, Y, and Z. It's almost an immediate pass. No sophisticated investor is impressed by titles in an early stage startup.
If you're an early-stage consumer internet company, you don't need fancy titles, you need founders and employees who get can either build the product or sell it. (One of the founders should be the CEO so you can make decisions quickly.)
There are many exceptions to this bit of advice but, unless you really know what you're doing (you've been starting companies and investing in them for the last 10 years), keep it simple.
Blog: Seth Godin's Blog
Blogger: Seth Godin, author of multiple books on entrepreneurship and marketing
Why it's so great: Renowned author Seth Godin (all 12 of his books have been bestsellers) jots downs his daily musings on business, social media, and the way the business world is changing at his blog. Each post is a nugget of wisdom meant to provoke thought on bigger issues about how we do things in business.
An idea turns into a meeting and then it turns into a project. People get brought along, there's free doughnuts, there's a whiteboard and even a conference call.
It feels like you're doing the work, but at some point, hopefully, someone asks, 'what's the point of this?'
Is it worth doing?
Compared to everything else we could be investing (don't say 'spending') our time on, is this the scariest, most likely to pay off, most important or the best long-term endeavour?
Or are we just doing it because no one had the guts along the way to say STOP.
Are you doing work worth doing, or are you just doing your job?
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