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.

Three Essential Items Every Startup Needs to Value

chris palmer discusses startup values at Verge West LafayetteIf you’re in the loop with the Verge Startup family, you’ve probably gotten to know our buddy, Chris Palmer, pretty well. In addition to pitching on the Verge Indy stage and his presence at the Innovation Showcase, Chris won the Startup Chile pitch competition and was just named Techpoint’s “2014 Rising Star.”

Between Foxio and BoxFox, Chris has become a grizzly startup veteran, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Chris recently visited Verge West Lafayette to impart some wisdom to the young entrepreneurs in the crowd. After witnessing three student pitches, Chris delivered a  fireside chat that  nailed a few things that every entrepreneur should be focusing on when trying to build a company that will last. Here are three things that every startup needs to learn how to truly value, whether they’re in their initial stages or their IPO.

Valuing True Mentors

It’s easy to get caught up in the myth that young entrepreneurs can do it alone. Many young founders make the mistake of believing that, because they’re more well-versed in today’s technology than the next guy, they’re destined to succeed. This is patently false. Today’s technology will come and go, the underlying principles behind the technology – and more importantly, the business – will live forever. These are things that can only be learned through true mentorship from those who have been through the obstacle course of entrepreneurship before.

“The best mentorship is not an official relationship, it’s a more casual curiosity about what older generations have done before you.”

– Chris Palmer

By recognizing and embracing the value of true mentorship, you’re granting yourself access to a time machine. This is the only way that you can have access to advice from entrepreneurs just like you 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. This can help you mitigate risk and navigate the minefield that is entrepreneurship.

Chris’ Quick Tips For Finding Awesome Mentors

  • Meet a lot of people: Like Chris said above, the best mentors don’t come in the form of formal mentorship setups. They often more closely resemble friends than colleagues. When looking for mentors, you’re really just looking for friends who are immensely smarter than you. Approach meeting mentors the same way you’d approach meeting new friends.
  • Don’t come on too strong: Once again, this relationship doesn’t need to be official. Unless you really hit it off, it’s highly unlikely that the founder you met for the first time at the last Verge event is going to be stoked about you asking “Will you mentor me???” Take it slow. Treat it like a date. It’s easier to ask someone out to a networking event or for beer than it is to ask for some long-term commitment.

Valuing Collaboration

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While some solo-preneurs have been successful, in Chris’ experience, they’re the minority. It’s far more common to see partnerships or teams of founders succeed. The reason behind this is simple, collaboration only makes you better. Differing and dissenting perspectives are essential in building a product that people will actually care about.

This isn’t limited to your founding team, though. When trying to get out there and find help, be it in the form of investment or talent, it’s essential that you don’t hide your idea under a bushel basket.

“Being vocal about your ideas really helps. The more you tell that story, the more your idea will spread.”

– Chris Palmer

At the end of the day, no one at a networking event is going to steal your idea. Even if they did, ideas are worth nothing. Ideas aren’t special, execution is. Collaboration and open discussion about your ideas can help vet the good ones so you know where you should be focusing your attention, allowing you to execute more effectively.

student entrepreneurs at the matchbox learn about core values for their startup

Valuing a Dollar

I don’t care whether you raised a $50M seed round or are bootstrapping, money is important. If your revenue model isn’t solid or your valuation is a house of cards, you should be concerned. At the end of the day, you’re building a business and a business’ only job is to make money. What most tech entrepreneurs overlook, however, is that the traditional approach of “I’ll build an audience and eventually, someone will pay me for access to it in the form of advertising!” is unlikely at best and misguided at worst. With many startups, the challenge is how can you generate revenue today – even if it won’t pay the bills – as a proof of concept?

“The biggest factor in our success has been flipping the traditional model of startup success on its head. I used to think that I’d just sit there and a big money idea would come to me and that would be it. What I’ve found is that the best way to go about entrepreneurship is to find ways to make small amounts of money. Eventually, you’ll learn how to take that and turn it into larger amounts of money.”

– Chris Palmer

That’s one thing that I personally have found to be remarkable about Indianapolis startups in general. The reason so many investors are hot on Indy right now is because of the massive movement in the midwest to build revenue-centric, no nonsense businesses as opposed to trying to chase short-term technology trends.

To learn more about other awesome Verge community members doing awesome things, make sure to check out this piece on how the community is focusing on reinvesting in Midwest startups.

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

How to Make Your Startup’s Remote Meetings More Productive

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.

What is one way you ensure that remote meetings are effective and engaging?

Corey Blake1. Hold High Expectations

As a completely virtual company with 20 employees all across the country, we expect anyone on a video or phone call to show up and impress everyone around the table. Those expectations and that level of engagement has permeated our culture.
Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

John Rood2. Set a Specific End Time

We’ve all been stuck in never-ending meetings when we could have been focusing on our key priorities. Make it clear that you will cover a specific agenda and end at a given time. This will focus the discussion and let people know when they can get back to their other projects.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

David Ehrenberg3. Specify a Purpose

All of our meetings have a purpose and a stated agenda. As a company with no central location, we’ve worked hard to create a company culture. We communicate through regular meetings so that, even as we grow, every employee knows what’s going on within the company and strives toward our common goal. We don’t believe in meeting just for the sake of meeting.
David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Mark Krassner4. Add a Personal Touch

We are a wireless, decentralized team of seven. When we have meetings, we always start by sharing one personal and one professional win. Next, we jump into the core discussion and stick to a tight agenda. To end each meeting, we do a one-word close that usually puts a smile on everyone’s face. This format has worked well for us, and it keeps the team positive and engaged.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Michael Quinn5. Reduce Distractions

We will often set ground rules prior to the meeting. One very important rule is to put away the smartphone (unless it’s required for the meeting) and focus on the task at hand. Also, have a clear agenda and share your team’s notes with everyone via virtual whiteboards or other software.
Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

Jonathan Swerdlin6. Make a Specific Agenda

Lay out an agenda, even if it’s loose, beforehand. While it’s good to let things flow, you want to make sure key things are being discussed. Also, consider each minute a token. If you are blabber on about needless things, you are spending that token of time. Save your tokens — they’re worth more than money.
Jonathan Swerdlin, Fdbk

Wade Foster7. Stick to Your Agenda

Meetings are difficult in a remote setting, so you should set a firm agenda and stick to it. At my company, we make sure to send out a lot of written material beforehand. Set aside five minutes at the beginning of the meeting for everyone to quietly read it, and then start the meeting.
Wade Foster, Zapier

doreen-bloch8. Do a Screen Share

Doing a screen share is a great way to keep people engaged during a remote meeting because it’s visually stimulating. Our team usesGoogle Hangouts and join.me. We can show each other exactly what we’re discussing, and no one gets lost or confused during the meeting. It keeps everyone on the same page and makes the meeting more effective.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Erin Blaskie9. Simplify the Process

In general, meetings can be detrimental to productivity, but remote meetings can squelch productivity even more so. Simplify the entire process by only hosting meetings when they’re absolutely necessary, only pull in the people you need to and use video services where possible to keep people engaged. Voice-only meetings allow people to multi-task, and you lose that personal connection.
Erin Blaskie, Next Dev Media

Andrew Schrage10. Take Breaks

People need time to refresh — especially if you’ve just presented a large amount of data or information. Plus, it’s harder for attendees to keep up in a virtual meeting. Speak slowly, and take a break once every 30 minutes.
Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Stephen Ufford11. Use Video Calls

Remote or not, agendas are a must in every meeting. A major challenge for remote meetings is that you can’t experience the social cues of your counterparts. Video calls are a good way to work around that.
Stephen Ufford, Trulioo