8 Universal Qualities of Great Pitch Decks

“Send me your deck.”

Early entrepreneurs hear this a lot. And it’s because a pitch deck is a great way for an investor or potential customer to quickly size up your company. 

So, don’t leave this important communications piece to chance. We interviewed eight experienced entrepreneurs to get their perspective on the important aspects of an effective pitch deck.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one lesser known thing you can include in a pitch deck that will really wow a VC?

1. Revenue

Danny BoiceWe very deliberately set out to have a solid revenue story for investors from day one. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. I can’t believe how many investors we’ve pitched to who couldn’t believe that we had revenue our first month in business.

– Danny BoiceTrustify

2. A Personal Connection

Kristopher JonesDo research on the personal background of the person(s) you are sharing a deck with, and find one or more things in common to create a lasting personal connection. Maybe you went to the same college or high school. Maybe you are both Philadelphia Eagles fans (that would make three of us) or both attended Burning Man. A genuine personal connection can impress a VC and set the tone for discussion.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

3. Synergies With Their Current Investments

Daniele GallardoI found that it is really important to understand the portfolio of your VC or strategic partner. Browsing the companies that they funded in the past gives you an understanding of what is important to them. If the companies are in the realm of what you do, it is often very simple to find synergies that the VC would really love to see in your deck. Do the homework for them, and show them!

– Daniele Gallardo, Actasys

4. Lessons Learned

jared-brownTelling VCs that you’ve made mistakes and sharing what you’ve learned from them will definitely make you stand out from the other startups that might be pretending to be perfect. You’ll show them that you’re adaptable, resilient and perceptive — all qualities they’re looking for in a potential investment. Then show how the lessons added to the value of your product or expanded your market reach.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

5. People Who Believe in You and How to Contact Them

dave-nevogtIf you already have influencers and advisors on board, show VCs who the three or four most important ones are and how to best get in contact with them. Having established entrepreneurs and businesspeople who will sing your praises to potential investors is an important signal of credibility, and in some cases, it can sway a VC that’s potentially interested but still needs some reassurance.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Video

Miles JenningsVideo and imagery are what attracts attention most from any audience you are trying to speak to, even an audience of VCs. Include a short video in your pitch that shows who you really are as a company, what you have accomplished and what your goals are. The video will make your story more tangible and will give a VC an inside look at your company and what you have to offer.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

7. Thorough Financials

Jason LaAs an active investor in early stage companies, I review pitch decks every week, and I would be impressed by a thorough discussion of key metrics beyond mere sales projections. This should include compound annual growth rate, customer acquisition cost and return on equity as well as a timeline of the cost to achieve specific milestones. Thorough financials demonstrate solid business acumen.

– Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC

8. Future Vision of the Industry

Mike SeimanInclude the vision of the future of your industry. Too many people get caught up in the numbers and forget to tell a story. VCs want to know the bigger picture – where your company and your industry is going. In the end, marketing and finance decks aren’t that different. Both tell VCs a story and focus on getting them to invest in that vision.

– Mike SeimanCPXi

16 Things Recent Grads Who Want to Work at Startups Should Know

Tons of fresh grads want to live the startup life, but what should you know before you jump into your first post-grad startup? 16 entrepreneurs offer their best tips.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give recent grads hoping to work for a startup?

Rebecca Zorowitz1. Be Nimble and Ready to Work Hard

At a startup, you will be required to wear many hats and to make order out of chaos. Startups typically don’t have a concrete infrastructure already in place. Working for a startup is not for people who need a distinctive job description. It is for people who are nimble, ready to roll with the punches and ready to work their hearts out. Every day will be different, and that is part of the thrill.
Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Brands

 

Travis Steffen2. Don’t Scour Job Boards

If I were a recent grad, I’d think about the organization I’d kill to be a part of. I’d then make it my life’s mission to get a meeting with an executive at that company to let them know that I’m the perfect person to work for them — even if a position doesn’t exist — and I’d work for free until a position opened up. This shows a passion that most employers never see. I’d hire you on the spot.
Travis Steffen, Cyber Superpowers

 

jeff epstein3. Be Useful and Overdeliver

You’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats. Make an impact and learn as much as you can — embrace it! Earn a reputation for being a tireless worker and exceed their expectations.
Jeff Epstein, Ambassador

 

 

Ashley Mady4. Seize Opportunities

Be prepared to do anything and everything! The more you do, the more valuable you’ll become. Ease the life of everyone around you, seize every opportunity and always do more than you are asked.
Ashley Mady, Brandberry

 

 

Doug Bend5. Show Your Startup Passion

Startups want to hire someone who loves the product and is a great fit for their team and culture. Do your homework on the startup and the founders before your interview, and discuss why you would be great fit and why you believe in their product. Most importantly, you’ll likely be working longer hours for a smaller salary, so be honest with yourself about whether that belief is genuine.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

brewster6. Immerse Yourself

It’s quite easy these days to expose yourself to entrepreneurship as a student. With resources like Startup Weekend, Hackathons and online courses, you can fully immerse yourself in startup culture, thinking and product development before working at one. As a hiring manager, I look for recent grads who’ve demonstrated interest and understanding by immersing themselves in entrepreneurship.
Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

 

John Rood7. Learn Technical Skills

Even if you plan to work in marketing or business development, you’ll be taken more seriously and will have more opportunities if you understand basic coding. There are lots of opportunities to learn, either for free or for a small investment. If you aren’t willing/able to commit to learning hard skills, the startup life might not be for you.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

 

Caitlin McCabe8. Don’t Be Afraid to Jump Around

Startup cultures can range from corporate to frat house, so don’t be afraid to look into another startup if the culture isn’t a fit. Teams at startups tend to spend a lot of time together so it’s important that the organization structure is a fit.
Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

 

Tracy Foster9. Concentrate on Your Cover Letter

Make sure you have a strong cover letter. Resumes are great, but a strong cover letter does so much more to communicate who you are, what your level of interest is in the startup and why you’d be a great fit for the team. Be sure to have someone you trust proofread for you.
Tracy Foster, ONA

 

Maren Hogan10. Get Social

Startups are all over social; it’s one of their biggest marketing tools. Follow and connect with them on every social platform they have. This gets your name, face and personality in front of them before you apply.
Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

 

 

Santiago Halty11. Embrace Diversification

In a startup, you do not have the luxury of specializing in one specific task. For example, if you are doing sales you may end up doing sales, marketing, outreach and social media. Embrace this diversification as it provides a wealth of opportunities for experience that would not be possible in a well-established company.
Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics

 

Erica Bell12. Follow Your Passion

Working for a startup takes a tremendous amount of drive and endurance — you’ll need passion to survive! Working alongside a team of people dedicated to a shared passion is extremely rewarding, so do your research and apply for jobs at companies that really excite you. Excitement is crucial to your success!
Erica Bell, Hukkster

13. Give First

Oisin HanrahanYou may not find their job postings listed on the typical career sites, so you’ll need to get creative and contribute to the community first. Do your research. Discover the startups that interest you and what you can do to help them.
Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

 

 

Kim Kaupe14. Be Prepared to be Thrifty

One piece of advice I would give to college grads is be ready to take a pay cut compared to your friends headed off into the corporate grind. Startups are usually tight on cash and offer other incentives like flexible hours, profit-sharing, or remote working abilities. Be ready to get thrifty during your first year out of college. You can still “live the dream,” just on a startup budget!
Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

 

doreen-bloch15. Pretend You’re the CEO

Startups are often lean on people, funds and resources, so if you’re working for a startup, chances are you’ll wear many hats. In order for the startup to thrive, everyone needs to be dedicated. If you’re as strong an advocate for the company as the CEO is, if you’re selling as hard as the CEO and if you know the business just as well as the CEO, you’ll see a reward when the startup takes off.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

 

Gerard Murphy16. Live at Home

I understand you don’t want to move into your parents’ basement, but having a free or low cost place to rest, a home-cooked meal and the support of family can be a godsend. Working at a startup is wonderful, but the salaries will be less than your friends will make. You won’t be able to afford to work at a startup if you also live in an expensive apartment. Save the money, live with mom.
Gerard Murphy, Mosaic Storage Systems, Inc.

16 Things Recent Grads Who Want to Work at Startups Should Know

Tons of fresh grads want to live the startup life, but what should you know before you jump into your first post-grad startup? 16 entrepreneurs offer their best tips.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give recent grads hoping to work for a startup?

Rebecca Zorowitz1. Be Nimble and Ready to Work Hard

At a startup, you will be required to wear many hats and to make order out of chaos. Startups typically don’t have a concrete infrastructure already in place. Working for a startup is not for people who need a distinctive job description. It is for people who are nimble, ready to roll with the punches and ready to work their hearts out. Every day will be different, and that is part of the thrill.
Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Brands

 

Travis Steffen2. Don’t Scour Job Boards

If I were a recent grad, I’d think about the organization I’d kill to be a part of. I’d then make it my life’s mission to get a meeting with an executive at that company to let them know that I’m the perfect person to work for them — even if a position doesn’t exist — and I’d work for free until a position opened up. This shows a passion that most employers never see. I’d hire you on the spot.
Travis Steffen, Cyber Superpowers

 

jeff epstein3. Be Useful and Overdeliver

You’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats. Make an impact and learn as much as you can — embrace it! Earn a reputation for being a tireless worker and exceed their expectations.
Jeff Epstein, Ambassador

 

 

Ashley Mady4. Seize Opportunities

Be prepared to do anything and everything! The more you do, the more valuable you’ll become. Ease the life of everyone around you, seize every opportunity and always do more than you are asked.
Ashley Mady, Brandberry

 

 

Doug Bend5. Show Your Startup Passion

Startups want to hire someone who loves the product and is a great fit for their team and culture. Do your homework on the startup and the founders before your interview, and discuss why you would be great fit and why you believe in their product. Most importantly, you’ll likely be working longer hours for a smaller salary, so be honest with yourself about whether that belief is genuine.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

brewster6. Immerse Yourself

It’s quite easy these days to expose yourself to entrepreneurship as a student. With resources like Startup Weekend, Hackathons and online courses, you can fully immerse yourself in startup culture, thinking and product development before working at one. As a hiring manager, I look for recent grads who’ve demonstrated interest and understanding by immersing themselves in entrepreneurship.
Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

 

John Rood7. Learn Technical Skills

Even if you plan to work in marketing or business development, you’ll be taken more seriously and will have more opportunities if you understand basic coding. There are lots of opportunities to learn, either for free or for a small investment. If you aren’t willing/able to commit to learning hard skills, the startup life might not be for you.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

 

Caitlin McCabe8. Don’t Be Afraid to Jump Around

Startup cultures can range from corporate to frat house, so don’t be afraid to look into another startup if the culture isn’t a fit. Teams at startups tend to spend a lot of time together so it’s important that the organization structure is a fit.
Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

 

Tracy Foster9. Concentrate on Your Cover Letter

Make sure you have a strong cover letter. Resumes are great, but a strong cover letter does so much more to communicate who you are, what your level of interest is in the startup and why you’d be a great fit for the team. Be sure to have someone you trust proofread for you.
Tracy Foster, ONA

 

Maren Hogan10. Get Social

Startups are all over social; it’s one of their biggest marketing tools. Follow and connect with them on every social platform they have. This gets your name, face and personality in front of them before you apply.
Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

 

 

Santiago Halty11. Embrace Diversification

In a startup, you do not have the luxury of specializing in one specific task. For example, if you are doing sales you may end up doing sales, marketing, outreach and social media. Embrace this diversification as it provides a wealth of opportunities for experience that would not be possible in a well-established company.
Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics

 

Erica Bell12. Follow Your Passion

Working for a startup takes a tremendous amount of drive and endurance — you’ll need passion to survive! Working alongside a team of people dedicated to a shared passion is extremely rewarding, so do your research and apply for jobs at companies that really excite you. Excitement is crucial to your success!
Erica Bell, Hukkster

13. Give First

Oisin HanrahanYou may not find their job postings listed on the typical career sites, so you’ll need to get creative and contribute to the community first. Do your research. Discover the startups that interest you and what you can do to help them.
Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

 

 

Kim Kaupe14. Be Prepared to be Thrifty

One piece of advice I would give to college grads is be ready to take a pay cut compared to your friends headed off into the corporate grind. Startups are usually tight on cash and offer other incentives like flexible hours, profit-sharing, or remote working abilities. Be ready to get thrifty during your first year out of college. You can still “live the dream,” just on a startup budget!
Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

 

doreen-bloch15. Pretend You’re the CEO

Startups are often lean on people, funds and resources, so if you’re working for a startup, chances are you’ll wear many hats. In order for the startup to thrive, everyone needs to be dedicated. If you’re as strong an advocate for the company as the CEO is, if you’re selling as hard as the CEO and if you know the business just as well as the CEO, you’ll see a reward when the startup takes off.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

 

Gerard Murphy16. Live at Home

I understand you don’t want to move into your parents’ basement, but having a free or low cost place to rest, a home-cooked meal and the support of family can be a godsend. Working at a startup is wonderful, but the salaries will be less than your friends will make. You won’t be able to afford to work at a startup if you also live in an expensive apartment. Save the money, live with mom.
Gerard Murphy, Mosaic Storage Systems, Inc.

The Top Qualities to Look for in Your Very First Hire

Your company is up and running – or at least crawling – and now you get to hire your first employee. You’ve probably worked with a lot of people, maybe you’ve even hired a few, but this is a whole new ball game. This person is patient zero of your startup. You need to make sure you get it right! So what should your startup look for in a great hire?

What is the no. 1 quality I should look for in my very first hire and why?

Kelly Azevedo1. Amazing Communication Skills

No matter your industry or the position for your very first hire, you absolutely need someone who can communicate well. When instructions are unclear or incomplete, you’ll want an employee who asks for clarification. If there’s an error or you haven’t accounted for something in the business, you need a team member who speaks up with confidence. And if this hire is customer facing in any way, respectful communication is critical.

– Kelly AzevedoShe’s Got Systems

Phil Chen

2. Work Ethic
Your first hire sets the tone for future hires, so it’s important to find someone with a great work ethic. Having such a quality ensures you can depend on this person and he or she will not need constant encouragement to complete tasks and duties. Small organizations don’t allow to much time for continual guidance, so having an employee who works hard and pushes through is key.

– Phil ChenSystems Watch

Oisin Hanrahan

3. Smarts (That Exceed Your Own)

We have the motto at Handybook: “Recruit smarter than you.”  We believe in hiring the best and the brightest and we admit what we don’t know all. That’s crucial for both the first hire and every hire after that.

-Oisin HanrahanHandybook

Mike McGee

4. A Growth Mindset

The No. 1 quality I look for when hiring is someone with a growth mindset. A person with a growth mindset understands that learning never stops. They can always get better at their craft and improve in other areas. A person with a fixed mindset believes that they’ve learned everything they need to and is not open to change. This can not only hamper the quality of their work, but can cause team dynamic issues in the long term.

Mike McGeeThe Starter League

5. Coachable Foresight

Joshua Lee
The No. 1 quality I look for is ‘coachable foresight,’ whether I’m hiring an employee or contractor. I want them to be able to see where they’re going. I will share with them where the company’s going. Then, if they have foresight, they’ll see in their mind’s eye how they fit in. They’ll have an idea what steps they need to take and be coachable enough to achieve the outcome they want.

Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

Kim Kaupe
6. Humility

Your first hire should be humble and willing to learn along side of you. At a startup where dynamics and work is changing day to day, it is important to have someone who is humble enough to say, “I don’t know the answer but I will spend the next two hours figuring it out.” Having a know-it-all or someone who is bullheaded will cause your growing company to miss out on opportunities to engage in faster, stronger and bigger developments.

Kim KaupeZinePak

Kevin Xu7. Consistency

One of the most important characteristics for me is consistency. It is important to evaluate a person’s working ethic based on how much he respects and is serious about a job opportunity. Choosing between ability and faith, I will first look into faith and how you can retain the person by giving him faith in you.

– Kevin XuMebo international

john rampton8. A Complementary Skill Set

hire someone just like you because you get along perfectly. Hire someone who is different than you. If you’re an introvert, you will need an extrovert. If you’re a marketing guy, hire a programmer. Hire someone with different skills.

John RamptonAdogy

Manpreet Singh9. Complete the Puzzle

First, picture the qualities most important to  your business. Then, look for each of those qualities in yourself. If you’re being honest, you won’t find all of them. The missing ones are the qualities you should look for in your first hire. In fact, that same principle can be applied to every other hire after that. The hiring process is like completing the puzzle you envision. Fill openings with what’s missing.

Manpreet SinghSeva Call

Phil Dumontet

10. Hunger

People can learn your business, but a genuine drive to achieve great things comes from within.

Phil DumontetDASHED

 

Jeff Mcgregor
11. Experience

My co-founder and I burned a lot of valuable time trying to learn the ropes on our own. Once we started hiring more experienced talent, we realized that we were spending less time shooting in the dark, and more time building a stronger healthier business. If there’s one thing that allows me to sleep better at night, it’s knowing I’ve hired the right people to run their respective divisions within the company.

Jeff McGregorDash

Andrew Thomas12. Passion

For your first hire, consider hiring someone who has similar levels of passion. This is not just limited to the product or industry. This person should share your same passion for working hard, creating something amazing and delivering the very best experience or benefits to customers. They should share a passion for the process, not just the destination.

Andrew ThomasSkyBell Technologies, Inc.

David Ehrenberg13. Sales Skills

Look for a rainmaker who can sell your company’s vision when you’re looking to build traction and start generating users. Technical skills will always be available, but sales and relationship-building skills are much tougher to find.

David EhrenbergEarly Growth Financial Services

Andrew Schrage14. Flexibility

Things often change at a moment’s notice in today’s business world. Plus, the very first hire will probably be asked to complete many different responsibilities and tasks, some of which they might not possess much knowledge about. In order to be productive, workers must be able to adapt to change rapidly and think quickly on their feet.

Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

15 Books That Will Change the Way You Run Your Business

It’s the most common question many successful entrepreneurs receive… What are you reading?  15 entrepreneurs across the nation share the books that changed their businesses forever.

What’s one book every entrepreneur should pick up today? What was your big takeaway from it?

Brittany Hodak1. “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

In this fascinating book, Atul Gawande talks about how a few simple, well-made checklists can reduce the complexity of tasks. Checklists help automate processes and are a simple, inexpensive failsafe against stupid or “careless” mistakes. My big takeaway was that by creating checklists for tasks that are often replicated, you free up time and mental energy for more complex and challenging tasks.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Rob Fulton2. “The Einstein Factor” by Win Wenger

Everyone should read The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger. It’s packed full of ways to become more creative at solving problems, which has helped me miss many land mines in business. The big take away: You’re able to solve your toughest problems if you’re not focusing on the problem, but focusing on creative ways of coming up with better questions to ask that make the problem irrelevant.
Rob Fulton, Matikis

 

Patrick Conley3. “No B.S. Direct Marketing” by Dan Kennedy

Dan is like the godfather of direct marketing. The strategy laid out in his No B.S. Direct Marketing book will help any entrepreneur develop a game plan to generate repeatable and reliable sales through advertising the smart way. Ads are a quick way to blow through a lot of cash, but if you follow Dan’s advice you will quickly learn how to see a positive ROI on your marketing efforts.
Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

 

Doug Bend4. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

The best way to develop strong business relationships is proactively think of ways to help others. Instead of asking for this or that, try asking how you can help them. You’ll be amazed by how much you help yourself by constantly thinking of ways to help others.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

Darrah Brustein5. “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber

This was one of the first business” books I read many years ago and it’s always stuck with me. It’s so sensible yet so meaningful. Unless your business can continue to function as well without you there, you’ve only created a job for yourself and the company cannot live on. Strive to make yourself replaceable in the company.
Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

 

 

Mark Krassner5. “When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead” by Jerry Weintraub

So many of us focus on books that teach us how to do something. I’m all for that, but sometimes it’s better to supplement that reading with solid life experience from someone that’s done it before. When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead is a biography written by Jerry Weintraub, one of hollywood’s most successful agents and producers. It reminded me of the importance of relationships.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Mark Cenicola7. “The Halo Effect” by Phil Rosenzweig

Many entrepreneurs think that by studying other successful companies or following a particular set of rules, they can achieve success. In The Halo Effect, Phil Rosenzweig unmasks the delusions that are commonly found in business so you can avoid emulating a particular strategy that worked for one company, but may have no relevance to the success of your own company.
Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

 

Jason Grill8. “Prescription for Success” by Anne Morgan

This book focuses on the life and values of Ewing Marion Kauffman, one of the most genuine and most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the United States. My big takeaway was Mr. K’s philosophies. 1. Treat others as you want to be treated. 2. Share life’s rewards with those who make them possible. 3. Give back to society. It’s the right way to act, but also the smartest way to be successful.
Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Aaron Schwartz9. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Patrick Vlaskovitz recommended The War of Art  by Steven Pressfield. It’s amazing — a must read for anyone who is creating anything (a startup, a play, etc.). Pressfield writes about “resistance,” the thing that makes it tough to even work sometimes. My big takeaway, frankly, was that I’m not alone in my struggles. I can’t be A+ all of the time, and that’s okay.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

 

Fabian Kaempfer10. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Whether you’re into fantasy fiction or not, this is a great book that will give your mind a break from thinking about business while providing you with one essential takeaway that you can apply to your startup: strategy. The story of Game of Thrones is like ten games of chess happening on the same board. Learn to see the big picture while understanding the role every action plays in that outcome.
Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

 

Chris Kane11. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

You wont be able to put this book down or stop talking about it once you start reading it! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story about talking risks and following one’s “personal legend.” The major theme in the book is that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and when you listen to your heart and follow your dreams things will work out.
Chris Kane, Bounceboards LLC

 

Joseph P. DeWoody12. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I first read this book during my MBA studies, and there are many lessons readers can take away from it. It is a valuable book that teaches readers how to make decisions to succeed in management and business. The book’s main focus, the Theory of Constraints, has impacted my business and me the most, though.
Joseph P. DeWoody, Clear Fork Royalty

 

Windsor Hanger13. “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Another entrepreneur recently recommended I read Predictable Revenue and I am so glad that I took his advice! The book is one of the most helpful I have ever read. If your business involves sales (and honestly, what business doesn’t), you should get the person in charge of building your sales team to read this book.
Windsor Hanger, Her Campus Media

 

Alexander Mendeluk14. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

The distance between where we stand now and achieving whatever we desire is only as great as we perceive it to be. While this might be understood on a cognitive level, believing it on a visceral level is life work. Being able to visualize what you want, believing that you can get it and following a plan in order to do so is the formula for success in any great life endeavor.
Alexander Mendeluk, SpiritHoods

 

 

Matthew Moisan15. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino

I would suggest, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. In the book he says, “I will live this day as if it is my last…I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?”
Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal P.C.

15 Books That Will Change the Way You Run Your Business

It’s the most common question many successful entrepreneurs receive… What are you reading?  15 entrepreneurs across the nation share the books that changed their businesses forever.

What’s one book every entrepreneur should pick up today? What was your big takeaway from it?

Brittany Hodak1. “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

In this fascinating book, Atul Gawande talks about how a few simple, well-made checklists can reduce the complexity of tasks. Checklists help automate processes and are a simple, inexpensive failsafe against stupid or “careless” mistakes. My big takeaway was that by creating checklists for tasks that are often replicated, you free up time and mental energy for more complex and challenging tasks.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Rob Fulton2. “The Einstein Factor” by Win Wenger

Everyone should read The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger. It’s packed full of ways to become more creative at solving problems, which has helped me miss many land mines in business. The big take away: You’re able to solve your toughest problems if you’re not focusing on the problem, but focusing on creative ways of coming up with better questions to ask that make the problem irrelevant.
Rob Fulton, Matikis

 

Patrick Conley3. “No B.S. Direct Marketing” by Dan Kennedy

Dan is like the godfather of direct marketing. The strategy laid out in his No B.S. Direct Marketing book will help any entrepreneur develop a game plan to generate repeatable and reliable sales through advertising the smart way. Ads are a quick way to blow through a lot of cash, but if you follow Dan’s advice you will quickly learn how to see a positive ROI on your marketing efforts.
Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

 

Doug Bend4. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

The best way to develop strong business relationships is proactively think of ways to help others. Instead of asking for this or that, try asking how you can help them. You’ll be amazed by how much you help yourself by constantly thinking of ways to help others.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

Darrah Brustein5. “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber

This was one of the first business” books I read many years ago and it’s always stuck with me. It’s so sensible yet so meaningful. Unless your business can continue to function as well without you there, you’ve only created a job for yourself and the company cannot live on. Strive to make yourself replaceable in the company.
Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

 

 

Mark Krassner5. “When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead” by Jerry Weintraub

So many of us focus on books that teach us how to do something. I’m all for that, but sometimes it’s better to supplement that reading with solid life experience from someone that’s done it before. When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead is a biography written by Jerry Weintraub, one of hollywood’s most successful agents and producers. It reminded me of the importance of relationships.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Mark Cenicola7. “The Halo Effect” by Phil Rosenzweig

Many entrepreneurs think that by studying other successful companies or following a particular set of rules, they can achieve success. In The Halo Effect, Phil Rosenzweig unmasks the delusions that are commonly found in business so you can avoid emulating a particular strategy that worked for one company, but may have no relevance to the success of your own company.
Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

 

Jason Grill8. “Prescription for Success” by Anne Morgan

This book focuses on the life and values of Ewing Marion Kauffman, one of the most genuine and most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the United States. My big takeaway was Mr. K’s philosophies. 1. Treat others as you want to be treated. 2. Share life’s rewards with those who make them possible. 3. Give back to society. It’s the right way to act, but also the smartest way to be successful.
Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Aaron Schwartz9. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Patrick Vlaskovitz recommended The War of Art  by Steven Pressfield. It’s amazing — a must read for anyone who is creating anything (a startup, a play, etc.). Pressfield writes about “resistance,” the thing that makes it tough to even work sometimes. My big takeaway, frankly, was that I’m not alone in my struggles. I can’t be A+ all of the time, and that’s okay.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

 

Fabian Kaempfer10. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Whether you’re into fantasy fiction or not, this is a great book that will give your mind a break from thinking about business while providing you with one essential takeaway that you can apply to your startup: strategy. The story of Game of Thrones is like ten games of chess happening on the same board. Learn to see the big picture while understanding the role every action plays in that outcome.
Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

 

Chris Kane11. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

You wont be able to put this book down or stop talking about it once you start reading it! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story about talking risks and following one’s “personal legend.” The major theme in the book is that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and when you listen to your heart and follow your dreams things will work out.
Chris Kane, Bounceboards LLC

 

Joseph P. DeWoody12. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I first read this book during my MBA studies, and there are many lessons readers can take away from it. It is a valuable book that teaches readers how to make decisions to succeed in management and business. The book’s main focus, the Theory of Constraints, has impacted my business and me the most, though.
Joseph P. DeWoody, Clear Fork Royalty

 

Windsor Hanger13. “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Another entrepreneur recently recommended I read Predictable Revenue and I am so glad that I took his advice! The book is one of the most helpful I have ever read. If your business involves sales (and honestly, what business doesn’t), you should get the person in charge of building your sales team to read this book.
Windsor Hanger, Her Campus Media

 

Alexander Mendeluk14. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

The distance between where we stand now and achieving whatever we desire is only as great as we perceive it to be. While this might be understood on a cognitive level, believing it on a visceral level is life work. Being able to visualize what you want, believing that you can get it and following a plan in order to do so is the formula for success in any great life endeavor.
Alexander Mendeluk, SpiritHoods

 

 

Matthew Moisan15. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino

I would suggest, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. In the book he says, “I will live this day as if it is my last…I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?”
Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal P.C.

13 Skills You Should Learn Before Starting Your Business

We all have business skills we wish we learned sooner. For some it’s sales, for others it’s office politics. For me it’s how to fix a damn paper jam. Regardless of your situation, one thing is clear: We all could stand to learn things sooner rather than later. Today, 13 Entrepreneurs answer the question:

What’s one skill you wish you learned earlier that would’ve helped you launch your business?

John Rood1. Basic Bookkeeping

Starting as a solopreneur, it was easy to keep books in a simple spreadsheet. However, I kept at that for a year longer than I should have. It’s worth investing a couple thousand upfront to get someone to set up your books and accounts the right way.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

 

Corey Blake2. Grace

I have always been agenda driven. As I get older, I find that I’m learning the skill of grace, which is about being present with people where they are, with no agenda. So rather than approaching sales from the standpoint of closing, grace allows me to approach sales from the standpoint of alignment. That saves massive headaches down the road, breeds confidence and adds value, which adds revenue.
Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

 

Mark Krassner3. Leadership

When I first started out, I thought that leadership was about being nice and making people’s lives as easy as possible. While I do still think it’s paramount to be kind and compassionate, I’ve learned that leading means challenging people, and encouraging them to do something that’s outside of their comfort zone. This perspective shift has helped accelerate my business at high-octane speeds.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Martina Welke4. Adaptability

In retrospect, I think one of the things that slowed us down in the early days of our business was our attachment to our original vision and expectations of how it would evolve. Instead of learning from moments of resistance along the way, we tried to force our assumptions into reality. Now, I try to remain open to surprises and change course accordingly.
Martina Welke, Zealyst

 

Ryan Flanker5. Focus

Avoid spreading yourself too thin and focus on one thing instead. At VerbalizeIt, we try to avoid the word “and,” as in, “we focus on this and this and this.” We made mistakes early on by trying to create a solution for every customer use case. Eventually we learned that doing so was not sustainable. It’s okay to say no and to focus on one’s core vision.
Ryan Frankel, VerbalizeIt

 

dave-nevogt6. Reverse Thinking

Earlier in my career and when I first launched my business, I thought very much in terms of the “next step” without giving as much attention to the impact those decisions would have on my business down the road. Now, my decision making process involves reverse thinking. It works by taking the desired end result and building the required steps leading up to it.
Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

 

Brittany Hodak7. Graphic Design

I own a content creation company but have no design experience. When it’s difficult to express an idea or concept, I have to try to hack my thoughts together on paper or in PowerPoint. I wish I’d taken the time to learn InDesign in college.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Andrew Thomas8. Risk Assessment

The ability to accurately assess risk is a skill I have learned over time yet wish I had learned earlier. I can certainly point to opportunities that I did not pursue because I overestimated the risk. You can take a few more chances when you are young and I wish I had approached those opportunities from the “why not” perspective that I do now.
Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.

 

Brennan White9. Sustained Networking

Early on in my career, I thought of networking as a discreet task that could be started and finished. I’ve come to learn that networking never ends and is simply an extension of relationship (and friendship) building, which is something I’ve always been great at. Once I took the label away and realized I already possessed the needed skills, my businesses have taken off in new, exciting ways.
Brennan White, Watchtower

 

Liam Martin10. Employee Management

The skill I’m really trying to learn is how to become a good manager. I’ve discovered that employee management is a lot more difficult than I thought, and that to continue to scale I have to spend more time managing people than actually doing tasks. For entrepreneurs this can be difficult, and if I had worked under a good manager previously it probably would have helped me considerably now.
Liam Martin, Staff.com

 

Janis Krums11. Coding

Finding quality developers inexpensively is really difficult. Had I known how to code, I could have not only built a prototype of our business model much faster, but also increased the rate at which we developed the actual platform. What at times has taken months to complete would have taken days — which would have allowed the company to quickly understand what worked and what didn’t.
Janis Krums, OPPRTUNITY

 

Juha Liikala12. Delegation

Money is always tight in the startup phase. Don’t let that lure you into trying to do everything yourself. Focus on your strengths, utilize them and delegate other mission critical roles. You might have to hire a professional, but when compared to the fact that you might not launch at all because of your DIY approach? It’s just not worth it. Value your time and delegate.
Juha Liikala, Stripped Bare Media

 

Ioannis Verdelis13. Marketing Savvy

I should have learned more about marketing and PR. It is now a strong part of our business, but we learned how to do this by making dozens of mistakes first.
Ioannis Verdelis, Fleksy

How to Overcome the 8 Biggest Everyday Distractions

Listen, we all run into distractions every day.

What’s that over there?

Sorry, back. What was I saying? Oh yeah, distractions.

I believe it was Socrates who first said “Focus is not the absence of distraction. Focus is the presence of distraction and working anyway.” 

Is that not a saying? Whatever. The Young Entrepreneur Council polled eight well-renowned entrepreneurs to find out one thing…

What’s the biggest distraction you run into on a daily basis and how do you overcome it?

Mark Krassner1. Email

On average I receive 170 emails a day. It used to put me in a reactive mode and most of my day would be spent in my inbox. I’d wrap up 12 hours in the office and feel as though I hadn’t accomplished a thing. Now, I only check my messages at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and batch my responses. As a result, I am more focused, get considerably more done and when I do go into my inbox, I’m highly effective.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Doug Bend2. Phone Calls

I get numerous calls a day and would not be able to efficiently complete projects for clients if I was constantly being pulled away and then had to refocus. Instead, I often put my phone on mute and return calls either in between projects or at set points of time during the day when it is not disruptive to completing work.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

Brittany Hodak3. “Quick Questions”

The biggest daily distractions are the “quick questions” that people swear will take two seconds to answer. In reality, these questions can pull you off task and interrupt your focus. On average, at least an hour of my day is spent answering “quick questions.” I now work from home one day a week to focus on larger, bigger-picture tasks without interruption.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Aaron Schwartz4. New Tasks

As an entrepreneur, you have 1,000 tasks which you could do — hiring, social media marketing, sales calls, etc. I’ve never been great about organizing my days, and I find myself distracted by thinking, “Oh! I should do X.” To save myself, I’ve recently started listing out my five “must-do” things at the start of the day. Seeing those in front of me keeps me on task.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

 

Kelly Azevedo5. Notifications

At one time, every five minutes my phone would buzz with a new update or notification. These spanned email, calendar, text, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, messenger. The majority are not urgent, but it’s easy to follow them down the rabbit hole. To manage this I turn off 95 percent of notifications and keep my phone on silent unless I’m expecting a call.
Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

 

Derek Capo6. The Internet

Sometimes being online doesn’t allow me to focus on tasks that require more social interaction, or even on tasks that don’t require Internet. Whether it’s skype, email or imessages, sometimes disconnecting from the world for a few hours a day can do wonders for productivity. The Internet has been a double-edged sword for most people, and those that can control their usage will be miles ahead.
Derek Capo, Next Step China

Andrew Thomas7. Unnecessary Meetings

Meetings can take up a great deal of valuable time, so unnecessary meetings are truly a waste of your time. To overcome this issue, validate meeting requests by requiring a detailed agenda from the person requesting the meeting or call. Ask for questions and objectives ahead of time, as you can often just answer them in an email and avoid the meeting altogether.
Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.

 

Laura Roeder8. Facebook

As someone who works in social media, I can publicly admit that I love Facebook but it’s a massive distraction. It’s especially difficult when you actually use Facebook for paid or organic engagement — there’s no way to check your ads without also seeing all of your personal notifications. I try to only check Facebook as a reward or on a specific break between tasks.
Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

14 Things We’d Tell Our Younger Selves About Entrepreneurship Today

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

If you could tell yourself one thing before you started your business, what would you say?

Charles Gaudet1. Spend 80 Percent of Time Working on Your Business

Most people spend 80 percent of their time taking care of the everyday operational activities in their business, but growth happens during the other 20 percent of the time you’re working on your business. In order to dominate your market, the roles must be reversed. You must spend 80 percent of the time working on your business and 20 percent working in your business. Build a team to support that action.
Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits

Phil Chen2. Remember That You’re Not Always Right

By nature, starting a business means you feel you have the right answers to bring a product or service people will want to market. Otherwise, you would never attempt such a big endeavor. It’s critical, however, to understand that you are more often wrong than right in your business decisions, and identifying and adapting quickly to being wrong will increase your odds of success.
Phil Chen, Givit

Divya Dhar3. Think About Meals

It’s crucial to have team members who are not only exceptionally smart at what they do, but who are also very easy and fun to work with. You should ask yourself, “Can I have a drink or meal with this person on a regular basis and still find the conversation riveting?” You will spend a lot of time with these people, so you want them to be your friends.
Divya Dhar, Seratis

Nicolas Gremion4. Hang Tough

When starting out, people are usually tremendously excited about their prospects. But excitement often turns to despair if expectations of early success were exaggerated. Remember, the road to prosperity is often a winding one. Perseverance is key, and you should never to lose your passion.
Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net

 

Natalie McNeil5. Trust Your Intuition

When you start your first business, it’s easy to feel like everyone knows so much more than you do — especially your advisors and mentors. It’s true that a great advisory board or a few amazing mentors can take you far, but you still need to trust your gut. There were times when I ignored my gut feeling and opted to listen to those with more experience than I had, and it never ended well.
Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Dan Price6. Stay True to Your Culture

Stay as true to your core values and culture as you possibly can. Make sure that hiring and promoting happen internally as much as possible.
Dan Price, Gravity Payments

 

Marjorie Adams7. Write It Down

Document everything. Take 10 or 15 minutes to record a video or do a write-up, so when someone else needs to do it again, you have the directions. This provides the thing that the majority of employees request more of when surveyed — training.
Marjorie Adams, AQB

 

Amanda Barbara8. Form a Strong Focus and Plan

Make sure you have a clear business plan and goals you want to achieve each year. Have a strong focus and a plan that forecasts how you plan to grow. It’s okay to evolve as you learn, but know who your audience is and what the needs are in the industry.
Amanda Barbara, Pubslush

 

Sean Marszalek9. Don’t Let the ‘Nos’ Break You

Everything begins with “no.” To me, that’s when the game begins. In the beginning, all you hear from potential investors and clients is “no.” Don’t let the “nos” break you down; let them motivate you to succeed.
Sean Marszalek, SDC Nutrition, Inc.

 

Tarek Pertew10. Have Patience

Have the patience to see your vision through. Too often, people react negatively to early signals. If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll learn so many things and meet so many people that it services as a growing hedge against failure.
Tarek Pertew, Wakefield Media

 

Chris Cancialosi11. Make the Leap

To grow in a sustainable way, you have to be willing and able to give up doing the work yourself to spend time and energy growing your company. Thankfully, this came naturally to me, and the transition was smooth. I know a lot of people who started a business because they loved doing the work and failed to make the leap to leader because they couldn’t give up the technical work.
Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Aron Schoenfeld12. Life Happens

Building a business is hard work and people often forget that there is a real world outside of their startup. Make sure to take advantage of life and the opportunities it presents, both good and bad. Allow life to happen and don’t try to be all work all the time. Enjoy your friends, family and everything that is thrown at you. It will make you a better person and help you in the long run.
Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC

Ryan-Stoner13. Slice Goals to Achieve ‘Wins’

You have to manufacture wins and set achievable goals to move forward. Every project in a startup should take no more than six to 10 weeks. First, focus on small wins and breaking down your goals. By having small goals and stringing them together, you create momentum. Small wins lead to bigger wins. In my experience, startups are successful because of a long string of small wins.
Ryan Stoner, ryanstoner.com

allie siarto14. Prepare for the Worst and the Best

It’s hard to imagine exactly what will happen with your company when you’re just getting started, but it’s important to invest the time up front and go through various scenarios around the future of your company — especially if you have partners. Write out a plan together for how you will handle worst- and best-case scenarios. For example, what happens if someone wants to buy your company some day?
Allie Siarto, Fare Oak

12 of the Most Powerful Questions You Can Ask a Mentor

We all need mentors in order to be successful, but how can you make the most of that relationship and make sure the setup is fulfilling for your mentor as well? Today, we invited in our friends from the Young Entrepreneur Council to answer one question:

What’s the most valuable question you could ask a mentor?

Reid Carr1. How Would You Like Me to Follow Up?

A lot of mentors want to know they made a difference. They want to know what you did as a result of the conversation you had with them — even if you didn’t take their advice. They want to know that their time was well-spent and they are making a difference.
Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

 

Kristopher Jones2. Why Do You Do What You Do?

Ask your mentor why he does what he does. Successful people often have very strong reasons for why they do what they do. If you can identify why you want to do something, the “what to do” and “how to get there” will often come much more naturally.
Kristopher Jones, ReferLocal.com

 

David Ehrenberg3. What Mistakes Have You Made?

Everyone makes mistakes. The mentor who willingly owns up to these mistakes and helps you to avoid making the same ones, is a valuable resource and ally. The openness to share mistakes is a good sign that your mentor is candid, will look out for your best interests, and is invested in your future success.
David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

 

Emily Eldridge4. What Factors Do You Consider Most Often When Planning for the Future?

This can be situated as a short- or long-term question, but it gives you the opportunity to discuss everything from his core beliefs to problems that need solving to what to learn. While your mentor isn’t a fortune teller, this discussion serves as a catalyst for many ways for you to develop.
Emily Eldridge Holdman, PeopleKit

 

Divya Dhar5. How Do You Spend Your Time?

Time is — in a way — the most precious commodity. Understanding how to make the most effective use of time is crucial. Often, the most successful people have figured this out, and it’s worth asking them where they spend their time and how they feel it benefits them.
Divya Dhar, Seratis

 

Parker Powers6. What One Thing Do You Still Struggle With?

What is the one mistake, habit or pattern that you still haven’t overcome after years of business?
Parker Powers, Millionaire Network

 

 

Natalie McNeil7. What’s One Thing You Would’ve Done Differently?

I think most people say, “I have no regrets,” but really, there are things they would certainly do differently if they had a time machine. I like hearing what my mentors wish they did differently and what mistakes held them back so that I can learn from those.
Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

 

Derek Flanzraich8. What Do You Mean?

Mentors usually don’t want to be revered; they want to help. So, pretending you know everything they’re talking about is a big mistake. Often, you genuinely don’t, so don’t be afraid to ask. They’ll respect you more, and, of course, you’ll probably learn something, too.
Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

 

Mary Ray9. What Are You Trying to Accomplish This Quarter?

This question invites a wealth of short-term and long-term opportunities for you to learn and do a few things. It helps you understand how your mentor tends to problem solve, enables your mentor to see you in a new light as a resource to help and gives you a chance to deepen your experience in an industry of interest. Consider any question you ask your mentor a two-way street of opportunity.
Mary Ray, MyHealthTeams

Robert de Los Santos10. What Would You Do if You Were Me?

The biggest question to ask is what they think you should do. Explain what position you are in, and leave out all the fluff about how awesome you are. Make sure they have a true understanding of your business and look them dead in the eyes with open ears. If they think you’re serious and actually looking to act on their advice, they will usually give you the best advice.
Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

Charles Gaudet11. What’s One Question You Wish You Asked Earlier?

Peak Performance coach Tony Robbins once told me that the difference between success and failure is much smaller than most people think. The key is to uncover the subtle distinctions that separate those who have from those who don’t. So, I’d ask the question, “What’s one question you wish you asked someone but didn’t?” This may help expose what your mentor felt was most important to him.
Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits

Aron Schoenfeld12. What Can I Do Better?

Too often, people rely on their mentors for specific situations or how to handle a particular issue. Mentors are there to help guide you as a person and help you grow bigger and better than you currently are. Ask the hard questions such as, “How can I improve?” or “What do I do now that I can and should do better?” Use them to guide you all the time — not simply when an issue arises.
Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC