How to Choose the Right Personal Loan for Your Startup

Choosing a personal loan for your startup can be difficult, especially as various personal loans have pros and cons. However, the following tips should be able to help you receive some form of clarity:

How much money do you really need?

Without a doubt, this should be the first thing you consider when sifting between loans. There are lenders who are only willing to work with you based on the amount of capital you need. For example, some traditional lenders will not issue a small business loan if all you need is $5000. You will need to make a detailed report of what you’ll be spending money on before you can determine this, so make sure that you’ve got your facts straight.

How quickly do you need to access these funds?

There are loans which are structured as installment loans, such as the loan you got for your mortgage or car. Basically this means that as soon as you get a loan approval, you’ll get the finds in a lump sum through financing. You’ll have to pay the loan back in installments.

Paying back a loan is tough and that may include things like interest rate charges and other fees as well. However, you’ll have the entire amount that has been approved at your disposal.

Other loans make use of lines of credit and this means that you’re not given a predetermined amount. However, you get to choose how much you want to borrow, even though there’s a limit. The line of credit is replenished once you begin paying back.

What do you need the loan for?

One of the major factors that will determine the decision of lenders will be what your startup plans to use the loan for. For instance, startups majorly use a business line of credit in order to purchase equipment, make their payroll, or embark on a major marketing campaign.

If you seek cash from a VC or an angel investor, they will be more inclined to work with businesses that they are familiar with.

By determining what you need the money for, you’ll be able to find lenders that will be more inclined to work specifically for your industry or purpose.

How long have you been in business?

As a startup, you’ve still got stages of business existence. If your startup is in its very early stages, securing a loan from traditional lenders like banks might be difficult due to the fact that they require positive credit history, a business plan, collateral, cash flow projections, etc. This means that certain loans might not be accessible to you and even if they are, you might not like the loan conditions.

Do you have any collateral?

 Even though you’re a startup, do you have ay for of property or inventory that you can put up against the loan as collateral? If you don’t, there are certain loans that you won’t even qualify for. Instead, you might have to branch out and look at certain alternative funding and loaning options.

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How to Leverage Online Reviews for Increased Sales

Online reviews are out there about your company’s service or products, whether you asked for them or not. These reviews contribute to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and can drastically affect how consumers view your business. How can you use these reviews to help your business instead of negatively impacting your reputation?

The Effect of Online Reviews

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 82 percent of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, and 40 percent say they always or almost always do so. While one might assume it’s only younger age groups checking the reviews, the survey showed many adults over 40 also read them, though that drops off after age 65. 

More importantly, many people believe online reviews, though almost as many aren’t sure. According to the same Pew survey, half (51 percent) of people who read online reviews say they generally give an accurate picture of the true quality of the product, but about 48 percent say it is often hard to tell if online reviews are truthful.

However, the number of people reading online reviews is increasing. Bright Local has surveyed consumers about reviews for years. Their data has shown increasing numbers of people reading online reviews each year. One recent survey found 92 percent of consumers read online reviews sometimes or all the time for local businesses. More people rely on such reviews when deciding about products and services, and more people are trusting those reviews as they would trust a personal recommendation.

Other data showed:

  • 87 percent of people want to see three- to five-star reviews about a business before they will consider using them.
  • Of the consumers surveyed, only 14 percent would consider using a business with a one- or two-star rating.

Furthermore, Google takes into account your online ratings on review sites, using it as social proof and evidence of your authority, both of which contribute to your results page ranking.

How to Get Online Reviews

Now that you realize the importance of online reviews, the next step is to manage yours. As part of that, you need to encourage your happy customers and clients to leave reviews.

This may seem difficult to some. People are often willing to take the time to leave a review when they have had a negative experience. A few bad apples can cause a negative perception of your company. No one is perfect all the time, of course, but you can take action in order to encourage positive online reviews:

  • Just ask! Seventy percent of consumers will leave an online review if asked. Be sure to ask at the opportune time, which is immediately following a customer’s experience.
  • DO NOT send out a mass message to everyone in your circles asking for reviews. Both Google’s bots and your customers will realize what’s up if you get 214 reviews in two days, all of them five stars. You want organic, authentic reviews to come in slowly, building up your reputation.
  • Include specific instructions. Some people know how to leave reviews on a variety of websites, but others do not. Choose a couple of sites that make sense for your business and write out instructions (with screenshots) to help your customers. Google is usually the right place to start, but not everyone has a google account, so be sure to choose another platform, also. You might select TripAdvisor if you’re in a related business or Yelp if you’re a restaurant.
  • Make it a habit. Asking for reviews must be part of your routine customer process. You can do this in person, by email, or on a receipt. Choose the approach that fits your customer experience and automate it as much as possible.
  • Suggest something to say. Don’t feed people their lines. But some consumers may not know what to write about you. In your message to them, encourage a specific feedback such as, “Did you love working with us? Please write a review on Google to explain how we helped solve your problem.” The idea is to get their wheels turning. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to help you.

How to Manage Negative Reviews

No matter how fantastic your team, you are going to get a negative review once in awhile. Maybe you deserved it; maybe you didn’t. Regardless, you must address it. Many teams go about this in a bad way though, which can leave you appearing worse than before.

In his book “Hug Your Haters,” marketing expert Jay Baer suggests you think of negative reviews as constructive criticism. Embrace them in order to improve. After all, what information is a happy customer giving you? An angry customer’s comments might actually give you some valuable knowledge about your product or service that can make it better. Here are some of his guidelines for managing negative reviews.

  • Take a deep breath. Responding to a negative review by lashing out will only make it worse.
  • Remember that one or two negative reviews out of many brings balance. Consumers who see that your company has only 5-star reviews may feel suspicious. They may think, “Did this company ask all their friends to write something nice? Seems fishy; I’d better go elsewhere.”
  • Don’t wait. A full business day used to be a quick turnaround. In online time, that’s eons. Check your reviews daily (multiple times if you can) to monitor any new information. Make sure you are checking all sorts of review sites, even those where you’d be surprised to find your company mentioned. You want to respond within a few hours at the latest if you can.
  • Apologize. Even if the reviewer is flat-out wrong, your accusations won’t help.
  • Ask him or her to contact you directly so you can learn more about the issue. Remember, other people will be able to read your response. You want to reach out publicly and offer assistance, but you don’t want to continue the conversation in front of everyone.
  • Be a real person instead of hiding behind your company. Don’t say “we” as in “we the company.” Be Jane Smith, the customer relations manager. People are far less likely to get seriously angry at a real person.
  • Leverage this person’s input. Once you are communicating via email or phone, offer whatever you want. But remember, you will set a precedent by offering freebies. (That’s why you don’t want to do that online in the review space.) However, Baer suggests you provide that person a gift card or the equivalent for your product or service and ask him or her to return and then write you directly with a full account of your experience — like a mystery shopper. You might say something like, “I apologize for your experience. We want to make sure to improve our service in the future, and your feedback is very helpful. In addition to reimbursing you for your previous visit, I’m sending you two gift cards. I ask that you return with a friend and let me know if you witness the same problems again. I rely on excellent input such as yours to make sure my team is providing the best customer service possible.”

The importance of online reviews seems to be increasing. Make sure your company creates a strategy to maintain its reputation.

What helped your business improve its online reviews? Think about it. How will you do better this year?

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Who Cares How Much You Raised?

There’s something going on that needs to be stopped.

I see it constantly, all around us and it’s seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s inundating news headlines, email, digests and social media posts. Frankly, it’s gotten out of hand. What is “it?” Everyone is talking about what business or CEO is raising the most money, who they got it from and how much they got. 

What is the truth?

But the truth of the matter is: it doesn’t matter. Who cares how much they raised? The amount of money one obtains, is by no means the mark of how successful the business is that they run and it certainly is not indicative of the company’s worth either.

Some think the amount is extremely important. But is it?

Sure, to some people out there, the amount of cash they’ve gathered in a round of fundraising is wildly important. Some mistakenly believe that it’s everything they stand for, and this money gathering is the main focus. 

By the same token, there are some media publishers who are seemingly locked in on this same idea, as well. This may be all well and good, so long as the article they’re taking to print has that topic as the main point and focus. But this business of defining a company’s worth by the amount of money they have raised is what I like to call — nonsense. 

Life in the bubble. 

It’s as if these people who decide a value of a company based on the funds raised live in a bubble and it’s time that bubble is popped. For sure this is no way to determine a company’s worth. This vacuous suggestion of worth is just a facade, and just as the word “facade” submits as a definition — it is a fake worth based on nothing.

These not-so-fancy stats are not something you can hang your hat on. The reality is, some of these companies that are being praised and put up on a pedestal for their fundraising skills, have founders that, at the end of the day, don’t see a dime of that money. Or, on the other hand, the company has gotten so diluted that the new round of fund raising was actually a way for the earlier investors to get out. I’m fairly certain if you showed those two options to anyone on the street, they’d suggest that the business was operating incorrectly. 

If you want to define a business’s worth, you have to dig a little deeper. I want to know who is really growing their companies? By what metric are they making their decisions? Exactly how are they doing their finite calculations? Who out there is actually changing the marketplace or actually solving a market inefficiency? 

I want to know who is transforming their respective industries or revitalizing a process? Who is solving an actual, concrete problem to make this world a better place or change a destiny — and how are they going about doing this? 

Whom are those who matter?

Those who are making a difference are the people that matter. Those who have an impact on someone, something or an impact on some industry — these are the important ones. What makes these people impactful? How do they go about their day to day works and business? What are their tricks? Where did they learn their tips and trade? 

These people are the innovators. These are the people that are changing the game.   

I want to know what makes them important? I want to hear more from these types of people.

A business’s worth does not have to correspond with a round of funding, because there is a multitude of companies out there that are absolutely crushing it without raising a penny’s worth of funds or even going public. 

These company’s founders are making a great contribution to something substantial and are being able to  absolutely kill-it in the process. They are not just winning and building financially. On top of the sacks of capital they are wrangling in, these founders are also keeping their freedom and their autonomy as leaders.

The true company founder. The true company owner.

These are the founders and leaders who actually own their companies and businesses. These are the business owners who are truly free to build and innovate the way they see fit. These are the ones who are not being told what to do with their original ideas — they can do whatever they want. 

Not to mention, they are working for an ultra-desirable company that is changing entire industries with their own work. These are the true, free ones — free to create incredible cultures for their employees and free to have the time of their lives while doing what they know they were meant to do. 

They aren’t worried about fund raising. They are free and happy to be worried about doing the real work — their own work. These are the true game changers who are making a difference. These are the founders and owners that take risks and put it all on the line, because, at the end of the day, they understand that what they’re striving for is eventually going to be what makes them a valuable company. 

The ones we should be talking about. The shinning lights.

These are the people we should be talking about. These are those whom the headlines, email digests and social media posts should be about. 

We need to stop shining a light on companies strictly because they managed to raise some funds. Really, anyone can go raise money, but not everyone can change the vision of an industry or inspire an entire workforce to buy into a startup. 

These are the types of people I want to talk to and get to know. These are the visionaries and the innovators. These are the people I hope to one day do business with. These are the ones we should know.

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A Startups Guide to Holiday Gifts for Yourself and Others

We love the holidays. Getting together with family and friends and being able to renew acquaintances that we’ve lost track of, is an important part of the holidays. The busy startup or founder wearing so many hats in their businesses may put family and friends gifts as the first tasks to accomplish on the to-do list, but sometimes these names and gifts end up the last items to be crossed off the checklist. 

Whether it’s the office party, employees, customers or clients we may wish our gift to be the coveted holiday offering — and that’s even when we’re bringing a White Elephant. 

We went around the office at Startup Grind to get some suggestions about what people were hoping to get from their loved ones (or buying for themselves) during the holidays. Here are some ideas our friends and employees came up with.

10 gift ideas for 2017.

1. A smart home device — 

We don’t discriminate against Siri, Alexa or other AI assistants, as long as something can make our life a little bit easier — and well — smarter. You can start small, Amazon Echo Dot is less than $50 or Google Home Mini is only $30.

If you feel like spending a little extra there is Skybell that is a wifi video doorbell that is pretty cool. You can see who comes up to your door even if they don’t ring. Or you can catch your doorbell-ditchers in the neighborhood. Or upgrade your device so you can be at work and see the UPS (or whomever) and answer them “live” as if you are there.

2. An e-book reading device — 

It has been recommended many times that productive people and successful leaders read a lot and it’s true — they do. Pick up one of the e-book reading device (such as Kindle Oasis) will fill your brain and being with knowledge, help to save trees and it may save your back from a heavy load of book weight. We recommend Adam Grant’s Give and Take

A little higher priced is the Cinemood. It runs TV, audiobooks, and even movies all through your Bluetooth or WiFi. It connects to the company so you can use all their content from a variety of companies like YouTube, Netflix, etc. You could even host an outside family and friends event. 

3. An audiobook or podcast subscription — 

Too busy to read? Audiobooks are probably for you. Ok fine, just not a book fan? Ask around and gift a playlist of great podcasts you’ve listened to or friends have listened to over the years (there are so many these days!) We recommend How I Built This, The Startup Grind Podcast (you knew we would!), TED Talks Daily, GIRLBOSS, and Serial (though everyone’s been through this right?)

4. A fun game — 

Are you looking for a way to connect with friends and family outside of Facebook and social media? A game night is a simple way to host a fun night-in with your favorite people. Start with simple board games – Codenames and One Night Ultimate Werewolf are a couple of easy games to get started. Watch Ya Mouth if you’re really comfortable with your group and in need a seriously good laugh.

5. A gift of Cryptocurrency — 

You must have heard all about the digital currency hype, but can it really be gifted? Yes, it can. With Coinbase, and many other sites, you can purchase and send Bitcoin simply with an email address. You may not be able to currently afford Bitcoin with it’s gigantic leap in price — but there are other offerings that are fun too. The different cryptocurrency’s value is still being assessed by the industry, but this is a quick way to get your friends involved (whether they want to be or not). 

And who wouldn’t be impressed with the more affordable piece of gold or silver? Those coins are in the colors of the season. Gold and Silver coins or bars are really fun to give — no one expects this.

6. A fitness pass — 

Try giving your friends a workout pass this year — and maybe a fitness pass for yourself, as well, to keep you both accountable. The gift of good health — what more could be better? Especially post holiday, if you have been indulging. Check out ClassPass, where they can find loads of fitness classes around every fitness level and choice. Or try FitBit, with plenty of options for everyone in the family.

7. A conference ticket — 

Of course we couldn’t resist putting this in here! We will all be there and we want you with us. Please come and please come up and introduce yourselves. This is certainly the most affordable tech conference out there right now.

Some of the best entrepreneurs got where they are today by being fantastic networkers — and many came straight from Startup Grind. Multiply your network by gifting a friend, colleague, or employee — and this is one gift you owe to yourself — a ticket to Startup Grind’s February Conference

You’ll join 7,000 entrepreneurs, 250+ thought leaders, and a world of resources to help you grow your company — network — and find success for 2018.

8. An online streaming account — 

Still can’t find a “Stranger Thing” binge-watching buddy? Offer to purchase a year long subscription for your friends and you will get yourself a bunch of binge-watch-able buddies.

Be careful, this gift might come with a great price – endless time spent on Netflix and bags of popcorn. Ask the friends to bring something for all of you to share in the food department. Sometimes they don’t leave… And, yes — they get hungry.

9. A drone machine — 

A super cool gift. A friend gave me one last year then got himself one. This is what I’m giving to a couple of family members this year. Too cool to pass up. The family member I gave the drone to had an older GoPro we taped on his drone. Capture amazing videos during your travel — well the drones travels. 

Amazon had a Batman and Superman (less expensive) drone that I got for myself and a friend for this year. I’m picturing “drone wars” at the park and bashing into each other. Hope none of our sophisticated friends and clients sees us acting like kids — but I’m really excited.

You can get your hands on a drone machine at DJI Spark — it is the newest and the smallest drone and looks extra cool.

10. —

Okay, normally I wouldn’t have a website for a gift idea — but everyone at the office insisted — so don’t blame me. I’d never seen this site before, but serious fun just looking through it. On this site you will find the absolutely least expensive gifts, the doubtless most expensive gifts, the categorically worst offerings of gifts, truly laughable gifts (that you’ll laugh at — but wouldn’t dare actually give to anyone) and you’ll unquestionably find a lot of “stuff” in-between. 

Please Have A Happy Holidays!

From The Startup Grind Team

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How to Source Products from China Using Alibaba

Are You Prepared to Jump Into the World of eCommerce?

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I’m most certainly not an expert. I’ve only worked on a few projects, but I have successfully went through the process of sourcing physical products from Alibaba, so figured I would share.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind as we move forward:

-Can you sell?

What’s your plan for actually getting your product in, and then getting it out? After all, the whole point here is to generate sales and make a profit on our cheaply sourced products.

-Alibaba is great.

It’s a behemoth of an eCommerce store and it presents an opportunity, even for the small guy. But that doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent secure. Be wary of shady sellers and work on building trust with your supplier rather than taking a shot in the dark like I did.

-Expect this process to take longer than you expected.

Initially, I figured it would be a maybe a month or two before the product was in front of me. It ended up taking 4 months from initial contact to the finished product on my doorstep. As with all business in any sector anywhere in the world — a startup takes time. 

-Use a different email!

I can’t stress this enough. Unless you want your personal email to be destroyed like mine, create a separate Gmail account for Alibaba use. Otherwise, you’ll be unsubscribing from random supplier mailing lists for months — and maybe forever.

Background Research

This article is more of a guide on Alibaba and how to get products for cheap. But I’ll touch on this very quickly. Have you already asked yourself the following questions?

-What product do I want to sell?

-What range am I looking for in terms of price?

-Will people buy my product?

-Have I validated the idea?

-How will I get customers to my eCommerce store?

Hopefully, you can answer all those questions.

My suggestion would be to go out and chat with friends, family, and then strangers on forums, social media, and even via cold email. Test them. Ask them if they’re interested in your product ideas or not. Can you actually get sales? Try running a launch giveaway to entice people to give you their email.

Validate your idea and start growing an initial list of potential customers as soon as possible.

Okay, now we move on to the fun part…

Product Searching and Supplier Outreach

There are millions of products available on Alibaba. With these products, there are a lot of manufacturers and trading companies.

You have to watch out though. Because despite all the opportunities, there are a lot of sketchy dealers out there who wouldn’t mind taking your money and vanishing from the face of the internet.

As you may already know, Alibaba is a robust eCommerce marketplace with a wide array of product options available. Luckily (hopefully), you have a good idea of what you’re looking for before we jump into this.

Let’s say that you want to create an eCommerce store and sell wooden cases for all sorts of devices. You’ve decided that your first product will be a wooden iPhone case.

Time to do some sorting and find more relevant results.

There are filters based on a whole series of elements, including the location of the supplier, free samples offered or not, the certifications they have earned, minimum order quantity, and product prices.

Take advantage and narrow down your search using the sidebar and the top filter bar:

As you can see above, I’ve selected many of the supplier type checkboxes to make sure that I’m finding reputable dealers. Furthermore, I’m sorting by MOQ (minimum order quantity), free samples, and price.

Supplier Types and Verifications

Here are the definitions of the available suppliers and verifications on Alibaba:

Trade Assurance:

“Trade Assurance is a free service offered by that’s designed to help create trust between buyers and suppliers. Trade Assurance covers buyers with 100% payment protection from their selected Trade Assurance suppliers.”

Gold Supplier:

“Gold Supplier is a premium membership for suppliers on Members are provided with comprehensive ways to promote their products, maximizing product exposure and increasing return-on-investment.”

You shouldn’t trust a supplier based solely on their Gold Supplier status, as it is not necessarily an indication of their ethics or the quality of their products. For more, check out this article.

Assessed Supplier:

“Assessed Suppliers are China Gold Suppliers, Hong Kong Gold Suppliers and Taiwan Gold Suppliers who have been inspected onsite by a third-party inspection company. They offer all the information of our Factory Audits and more, including Assessment Reports, Verified Videos and Verified Main Products.”

A&V Check:

“A&V Checked suppliers are Gold Suppliers who have passed authentication and verification inspection by as well as a third-party verification company. All legal business licenses and contact persons are verified for those who have been A&V Checked.”

Onsite Check:

“Onsite Check is a verification process for China Gold Suppliers. The supplier’s company’s premises are checked by’s staff to ensure onsite operations exist there. The suppliers’ legal status and other related information are then confirmed by a third-party verification agency.”
Some clarification of the major differences in verification via Alibaba:

At this point, you should have a good idea of the type of supplier you’re looking to find and hopefully your searches have lead to products that are similar to what you were looking for.

Most likely, there will still be a lot of suppliers to pick from, especially if you are doing something as generic as a wooden iPhone case.

Even with filters, we’re looking at hundreds of results.

Now it’s time to do the manual part: Outreach.

Supplier Outreach

Now, before I get into the manual outreach, let me briefly discuss a quick way to do this without messaging 100 suppliers.

There is a feature called RFQ (Request for Quotation) available as you can see here:

This feature prompts you to provide information such as product type, price, quantity, payment terms, etc.

Then, your RFQ will be reviewed and, if approved, will give suppliers the opportunity to contact you.

You’ll have a list of supplier quotations that you can select from and reach out to for requesting samples, asking questions, negotiating, etc.

For a more in-depth explanation of the RFQ feature, you’ll find this Quora answer helpful.

Depending on what you’re looking for, you may get inundated with quotations. Due to this, it may be best to do manual outreach and specifically message suppliers that interest you.

Luckily, this is easy to do on Alibaba’s platform.

After searching for relevant products and finding possible suppliers, go to the product page and review the details. Here you can get more information on what the supplier offers, along with details like MOQ.

If you’re interested still, hit the “Contact Supplier” button.

This will open a new tab with a messaging interface. Here you can ask all sorts of questions.

This is easy enough. However, once you send out a whole lot of messages to suppliers, it could get a bit hectic.

Luckily, Alibaba is outfitted with some useful features that help you keep track of it all.

If you scroll over your account, you’ll see that you can access inquiries, contact requests, orders, and messages.

Here in the message center (pictured below), you can see that there is access to other segments that you’ll find helpful, especially as you move from questions and inquiries to samples and orders.

Sample Time

Quality is the big question.

One of the major reasons (maybe the only reason) that you’re sourcing products from China is that they’re cheap.

But cheapness often means that the products are low-quality.

Finding the perfect middle area between affordability and quality is most likely what you’re looking for.

It’s extremely difficult to determine the quality of a product without holding it in your hand. This is why samples are so important.

After finding several potential suppliers, it’s time to request samples.

There’s a filter to find suppliers that offer free samples, but I wouldn’t suggest relying on it.

A majority of suppliers will include a small fee for samples, so choose wisely.

Once you get the product in hand, then you’ll be able to decide if this is a company you want to go forward with.

Now you can jump back into the message center on Alibaba and start talking about terms.

Placing an Actual Order and Paying

Now it’s time to put your money on the line…in the safest way possible.

Before you actually make a payment, negotiate.

Talk out the terms of the deal and see if it’s possible to lower the cost of the order, or perhaps lower the MOQ if you don’t want to take on so much inventory.

When you do decide to go forward with a deal, there are a few ways you can place orders:

Trade Assurance:

This type of order ensures that you will be covered in the event of shipping or quality-related disputes with the supplier. Additional information, including payment types, are included below:

Secure Payment:

Similar to trade assurance, secure payment offers protection for buyers and sellers and actually holds fees until a transaction is successfully completed on both sides of a deal. It is used on Alibaba Wholesale.

Payment methods include Visa, MasterCard/Maestro, T/T (Bank Transfer), Western Union, QIWI, Web Money, Yandex, and TEF.

Secure Payments

Just to touch upon it quickly, there are actually 3 Alibaba platforms: Alibaba, AliExpress, and Alibaba Wholesale.

Basically, Alibaba is designed for the largest orders and therefore has the lowest prices, but high MOQ’s. AliExpress, in contrast, is designed for consumers and has the highest prices. It’s similar to a normal eCommerce experience. Alibaba Wholesale falls somewhere in the middle.

There is a great article by Shippo that describes their differences in detail and offers a product example to show off the range in pricing/MOQ among the platforms.

Start Selling!

At this point, hopefully you have a giant box of wooden iPhone cases on your doorstep.

Celebrate your very small success with a big cup of coffee, because the hard part has just begun.

Now it’s time to start building your brand and selling your wares.

Best of luck with your eCommerce efforts!

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Selling When You're A Reluctant Salesperson

Selling is my job. I’m very good at it and I really enjoy it.

But the idea of “selling” is uncomfortable and confronting to most people.

I remember being told that I was “a natural sales guy” in an annual review meeting. Sitting across from me was my manager. John was a capable, intelligent and sincere man with whom I enjoyed working.

When he delivered this feedback, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

A “sales guy?”

The annoying, used-car, snake-oil salesman, pushy stereotypes rushed into my mind.

I felt sick to my stomach, ashamed that somehow I had the potential to be a deceitful, all-hustle but no substance guy who could (and would) sell anything to anyone.

I have met men and women who fit this descriptive mold perfectly. They sell widgets with little concern for the relationship once the deal is done. Their primary incentive is financial and you can spot their insincerity a mile away.

What real sales should look like?

At the other end of the spectrum are people who are deeply invested in developing a business and making their customers more successful than ever.

They combine empathy, compassion and humor with data and logic to present compelling propositions. These people know that the energy required to close a deal is only half of what’s needed to make a partnership successful.

They are ready for the long haul and know that their strategic success is inextricably linked to that of their customers.

These people also appear resilient, determined and measured but just below the surface, like anyone who takes pride in their mission, they manage the burden of setbacks and fatigue through mentors and tactics that help them grow.

Their primary incentive is changing your world. And I was shown how good this can be by people at the top of their game at General Electric and Google and by entrepreneurs like Andrew Lowe, Jo Burston and Greg Nance.

This is how and what I think about selling.

Getting in the right headspace.

There are 12 truths to selling. They apply to consumer and business sales and are particularly relevant in complex selling (where two or more decision makers are involved) and where partnerships are the most efficient pathway to growth.

But above anything, these truths help people to get into and stay in the right headspace to enter the endurance sport that is selling.

It starts here.

Segmenting customers, crafting messages, pitching new business and placing ads on social media comes later.

The 12 Truths

1. Love what you sell. If you don’t, stop wasting your time (and that of the people to whom you’re selling).

It’s easy to tell when someone loves what they are trying to convince you to buy. They ooze authentic conviction because they know, through careful research, that their product or service will make a genuine and positive difference to the life of the buyer. This comes naturally to most founders.

But remember, if you don’t love what you sell, the buyer will see it from a mile away and there’s a good chance that your behaviors will reflect your incentive (no matter how well you try to hide it). If you’re in this boat and given the value of time, you need to ask yourself if it’s worthwhile.      

2. You either move people closer to happiness or away from fear.

These are the reasons people buy things. Your product or service has to do one of these two things really, really well. If it doesn’t for one person, then they’re not in your target market. If it doesn’t for a large group of people, you may not have a business. Don’t underestimate how binary or how true this rule is.

3. There’s always a run-rate business and a strategic business.

Selling a product or service repeatedly to individual customers is how most businesses get runs on the board and gain early traction. This momentum helps create opportunities to pursue larger distribution through strategic partners. With the right timing and luck, a virtuous cycle will be created where large partners drive higher sales to individual customers.

This never ever happens quickly and that’s why companies of all sizes need to operate a run-rate business (selling to individual customers) and a strategic business in parallel. This is a tricky juggling act but a necessary one in order to achieve scale.

4. Sales involve the whole team.

The buck might stop with one person for sales results but every single person in a company has a role to play in selling. This is as true for the CTO and engineers, who enable features that help to close deals, to those charged with customer service who shape and influence buyer’s perceptions at the front line.

Every team member should be able to answer ‘how do you support sales?’ in the same way each team member should know how they contribute to product development.

Every team member should feel a genuine sense of contribution when a deal closes. The absence of this is a lead indicator of a disconnected culture.

5. Successful selling is backed by three types of marketing messages.

This point isn’t about the mix of marketing channels you use to wrestle for a decision maker’s attention. It’s about how the messages you create co-exist and perform over time to reinforce your brand in the mind of the decision maker.  The first two types of marketing message are scalable, the last one is far from it but just as important.

The first type of message is subliminal and involves the subtle appearance of messages designed to draw curiosity. You might not receive a direct sale from them but they will reinforce your brand. Text ads on LinkedIn or branded weather reports on screens in elevators are good examples of subliminal messaging.

When you receive a direct marketing message, the second type, it comes to you through an environment that you’re very familiar with and it grabs your attention for at least three to five seconds. You find these messages in places like the television screens, in subways or in your Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn feed as sponsored content, to name a few. They’re not specific to you but for some reason, they are presented at the right time and make you stop and take notice.

Intimate marketing usually involves an event where the seller grants exclusive access to a product or the people behind the product. These high-touch, invitation-only occasions are reserved for a small group of decision-makers on the buy-side who want first-hand experience with key people who can discuss an issue they need solved or an opportunity they wish to pursue.

Intimate marketing can also involve repeatedly visiting and supporting prospective clients to demonstrate commitment and empathy. Never underestimate the value of a personal touch in a commercial relationship.

The combination of subliminal, direct and intimate marketing messages is potent.

6. 90 percent of deals are lost due to poor follow-up.

Anyone can send out an introductory email or make the first sales call. It takes discipline and a well thought-through sales process to stay focused, nurture prospective customers and close deals. Invest in technology that will keep you on track. I really like ProsperWorks for customer relationship management (particularly if you use Gmail for company email).

7. Promoters and detractors live at every level of your customers. Work with both.

This is a business to business (B2B) sales truth. As you forge new partnerships with large organizations it becomes clear that there are people who are willing to advocate on your behalf (i.e. promoters) and those who are active in creating roadblocks.

The best salespeople fight to establish the motives of all the actors in a customer’s organization who will influence their companies success. This is a continuous exercise is sensing and responding and it requires working and understanding the perspectives and incentives of promoters and detractors. And that’s why I look forward to one person in a prospective customer organization saying “No thanks!”

As I wrote in The Pyramids Aren’t As Tall As You Think, “no” only means no today and as far as I’m concerned — this is just the beginning of a strategic conversation.

8. Funnels, numbers and lead indicators are your lifeblood.

Revenue makes a lot of problems go away in business. And although sales results often speak for themselves, I’m always surprised at how many people talk about the steps that lead to a sale (their funnel) and the indicators they use to determine how sales efforts are trending. In most cases, they talk a good game but their funnel, sales numbers and indicators are all in their head or buried in their email.

That isn’t sales, that’s chaos.

Sales funnels are made up of the practical steps required to take someone from being unaware to being an advocate for your brand. And each of these steps is accompanied by a percentage likelihood that a deal will be done given the stage.

For example, the chance of a deal getting done when someone first expresses interest in your product might be 10%. They’ve still got a ways to go as they consider the pros and cons of doing business with you. By contrast, there might be an 80% chance of a deal being done when contracts are exchanged.

Take the expected first-year revenue of a customer and multiply it by the stage at which the customer is in the funnel and you’ll have the potential value that prospective customer will add to your business.

And there’s a sweet spot for how many steps there are in sales funnels. It varies by business. My general rule is that a practical funnel is a productive one.

When it comes to knowing my numbers, I focus on five measures as part of managing sales funnel health. 

These next five are for sales funnel help and health, then I’ll bring you back to the sales 12 sales truths. 

#1 – Amount of leads generated.

This is obvious. The real question connected to this measure is ‘where are your leads coming from?’

#2 – Quality of leads generated.

It’s always been about quality over quantity. I look at the overlap in characteristics between customers and those of prospective customers who are moving through the sales funnel quicker than other leads. The insights from this analysis usually result in a change to how we generate leads and how we nurture existing leads.

#3 – Leads to close ratio.

This ratio is telling you how many actual sales come from leads. Here’s the calculation: (Amount of Sales Leads over a certain period of time / Amount of Closed Sales over the same time) x 100.

#4 – Average sales cycle length.

This measure is telling you how long it’s taking to win new business. I’ve seen the largest improvements in sales come from examining and optimizing the factors that contribute to sales cycle length. Here’s the calculation: (Number of days from first contact + Customer conversion for all deals) / Number of deals.

#5 – Customer referral growth.

This is the number of referrals that come from existing customers. The first four measures focus on ‘getting customers’. This one is about ‘growing customers’. In particular, it’s about how you’re adding value once the deal is done and how that translates to word-of-mouth referrals. Think carefully about how you can incentivize  customers to do your bidding. Believe it or not, it begins with asking customers what it would take to earn their referral.

Although these metrics are important, I don’t consider them lead indicators.

The lead indicator I focus on are the ones that will give me the most insight into whether sales strategies are working, is the number (and outcomes) of sales calls, emails and meetings. You can learn a ton by focusing on this because not only does it give an indication of your organization’s sales momentum, it goes a long way to answering one important question; are people willing to buy what you’re selling.

9. Selling “vaporware” is OK (but be ready to get called out).

I’m a big believer in selling an idea with a prototype before committing to build out an entire product ecosystem. I’ve benefited from investing a small amount of time and money to find there isn’t a product/market fit. I’ve also had the “holy shit” moment when I’ve been called out by a prospective customer who wanted my yet-to-be-built product that day.

Any way you cut it, it’s better to sell first and build second. Saves time, money, and exhaustion.

10. Learn to like product development — selling is all about experimentation.

There is no “set it and forget it” when it comes to developing a product. It’s about countless experiments. The same is true for sales. The truth of the matter is that you start losing the moment you create a campaign and sit back and wait for results without quickly moving onto the next experiment.   

11. Relationships matter — but time matters more.

I have two cardinal rules when it comes to sales and business development:

1) Always arrive with value in hand and

2) Never waste a prospective or current customer’s time.

How many times have you rolled your eyes when you see a call coming through from a salesperson.

Take pride in not being that person.

As far as rule one is concerned, set up a quarterly event in your diary to reach out to them but make absolutely certain you have value to bring to these relationships.

And by the way, this doesn’t mean asking them for a coffee. It means adding real value, the type of value that makes their professional or personal life better. It can be as simple as reaching out to wish them Happy Birthday, to sharing a piece of important research that you know they will value to offering to make an introduction based on a conversation you’ve had.

Hopefully, the second rule is self-explanatory.

12. The buyers’ decision-making process matters 100X more than your sales process.

I’ve left the best to last. Do not be fooled into thinking that just because you control the speed and creative aspects of your companies sales and marketing that your job is done and it’s only a matter of time until the sales pour in.

That’s not how it works.

The more difficult (and largely uncontrollable) aspect of sales and business development is understanding the decision-making process of prospective customers.

If you wake up each day with a desire to find ways to map closer to their approaches to consideration and buying, you’re halfway there to being successful in sales.

Closing thought

Sales and business development is an endurance sport. It requires focus, resilience, integrity and a sense of humor. I have days when I shake my head at how difficult it feels to gain momentum with customers. The good news is that I’ve always found the answer in one of these 12 truths.

And like building a company as a founder, sales is a learning game. Using mentors and tools like this to help you evolve is essential.

If you learned something new, love to hear from you.

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Tips for Launching a Startup in a Non-Tech Industry

These days, startups are everywhere. Research from Challenger, Gray, and Christmas shows for the fourth quarter of 2016, the percentage of people starting their own businesses is the highest it’s been in four years.

7.4 percent of job seekers in the United States started their own businesses, up from 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. For the full calendar year, 6.1% started their own businesses, the highest we’ve seen since 2009 when 8.6 percent were starting their own businesses.

The Common Thread

The common thread for most of them is their basis in technology. And while these startups are doing well, there’s something to be said for the ones quietly launching outside of the tech space.

In the United States alone, there are 28.8 million small businesses, as reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees, these account for 99.7 percent of all businesses in the America.

Business and Economic Growth

These businesses play a major role in economic growth, as data shows in the first three quarters of 2014, small businesses added 14 million new jobs to the economy — 39 percent of which came from very small businesses — those having fewer than 50 employees.

But, when you consider that roughly 2/3 of businesses survive two years, half will survive five years, and only 1/3 will hit the 10-year mark. The longer a company stays in business, the longer it is likely to remain in business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the business survival rate across industries is pretty consistent.

How can you break past the tech barrier to launch a successful startup in another industry, setting yourself up to make it beyond that first couple of years? It all comes down to building traction.

Invest Your Time

Yes, it’s true you’ll need to invest money, but it’s more important in the beginning to invest your time – by doing things that don’t scale immediately. Make the time to network with others and market yourself before you market your product.

  • Reach out to people who are using competing products or services. Talking to them will help you learn more about their pain points and what they like about the competition, so you can learn about ways you can improve your own product or service.

  • Offer influencers in your niche free access to your product or service, if you believe they would promote it to their followers.

  • Reach out to blogs, newspapers, and other press outlets so you can inform their readers about yourself and your product.

Work on a Pre-Launch List

Build an email list of people you can connect with before you launch your product or service. Tell them about what you have to offer and how it can benefit them. Mention the features, of course, but focus more on the benefits of what those features offer.

Speak to their pain points, and show them, rather than tell them, when possible, how your product or service will make their lives better.

Use that prelaunch list to start pre-selling. Offer anyone who preorders a special deal – like a discount or a reward for referrals. You have an endless array of options to choose from.

Develop Partnerships

As part of your networking efforts, work to find other companies or d businesses that are willing to build integrations with your products. If you can’t find anyone to integrate with, consider finding businesses whose products or services complement yours.

For instance, if you create dog treats, you could talk with dog toy companies, pet stores, and even veterinary offices.

Andrew Brown, President of WP Diamonds, says: “Strategic partnerships are key to growing your business. Whether you decide to work with a digital marketing agency, an app developer or simply outsource your web development efforts, it is important to invest time in finding a partner that can add value to your company.”

Handle Your Funding/Cash Flow Issues

Funding is a major issue for many businesses – but particularly startups and small businesses. One study shows 82 percent of businesses do so because of cash flow issues. It’s not just the amount of money that comes into the business, but the timing that the money comes into the business, too.

If your invoices aren’t paid until after your loan payments are due, you’re going to run into issues. This is an even bigger issue for seasonal businesses that don’t have money coming in during their offseason. Make sure you’re on top of budgeting and analyzing your cash flow statements.

You can do this with online tools like Quickbooks, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money hiring a bookkeeper or an accountant until your business scales accordingly. Bootstrapping your business is possible, but can be stressful.

Planning Your Next Moves

Once you’ve developed the momentum with visibility among potential customers, work toward connecting with a technical partner to handle that side of your business.

You’ll need help with your website, creating a mobile app (if there’s a necessity for it in your niche) and possibly even making sure you’re hiring the right employees for your startup.

While many startups can handle being a one-man or woman show for quite some time during the momentum building phase, to scale your efforts accordingly, you’ll eventually need to bring more people onto the team.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

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Why Startups Should Join the Chinese Food Tech Revolution

Joseph Zhou of Bits x Bites, China’s only food tech startup accelerator and venture capital firm, is inspiring China’s entrepreneurial community to bring new ideas to solve global food safety and nutrition issues. China has the world’s largest population and the country is the world’s largest food producer.

With increased investments in startups enabling entrepreneurs to scale and grow their companies, there is a revolution underway in the food tech industry. “Technology is really the most powerful enabler that we can use to disrupt the traditional Chinese food industry.”

Joseph shared his insights with the Tel Aviv Startup Grind community on how global startups can make a meaningful impact.

1. Identify the challenge.

China just surpassed the US as the country with the highest obese population, with many children among the afflicted. The Chinese government understands the problem and is beginning to support food safety and nutrition. There is room for the private sector to do its part as well to give the 1.3 billion people access to safe food.

2. Concentrate on areas that are ripe for disruption.

Find the areas where technology is able to successfully solve problems. China is the world’s number one pesticide consumer and the Chinese government is now setting a cap for pesticides. In addition, the Chinese government is seeking to decrease animal consumption. These areas are ripe for disruption.

3. Provide an innovative solution — with a succinct pitch.

For potential investment in startups, VCs look at a company’s people, product and market. The more innovative the solution the better. Potential startups should create a succinct one sentence pitch that grabs investor’s attention.

4. Become part of a global community.

The Chinese market is vast, and it is beneficial to partner with global startups. Companies that are interested in working in the Chinese market can gain from joining the local community and utilizing a local startup’s knowledge of the market.

Personal missions can also help drive change and make an impact. Joseph joined the food tech sector to fight for the future of good food so that his young son grows up with plenty of safe and nutritious food options.

He believes it is possible to have business goals that include both profit and purpose. The investment horizon in food is longer than other tech sectors. To that end, the Bits x Bites team takes a strategic long-term investment approach to help companies realize their full potential.

To hear more about achieving startup success in China watch the Startup Grind full interview here. 

Written by: Dalia Landes  |  Photos by: Liat Mandel

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4 Ways to Use Customer Insights to Build Better Products

What drives innovation in your company? Is it market trends? Leaders and creatives? Or do your customers dictate what direction you take?

It’s true sometimes that customers really don’t know what they want. Self-styled innovators love bandying around a quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

But like all great pieces of wisdom, there’s the danger of over-applying it. Often, the best thing a business can do is go directly to consumers and ask what they want.

Build Up With Customer Insights

LEGO’s famous building blocks are so popular because they allow users to be creative. You can either follow the instructions in your set, or you can take those same pieces and create something completely different.

Instead of dictating what customers should do with their product, LEGO embraced that user creativity and started LEGO Ideas.

The LEGO Ideas builders submit design concepts, and other LEGO fans can vote on which designs are the best. From there, the most popular ideas go to market, and LEGO enthusiasts around the world can purchase them.

The original designer gets rewarded with a percentage of the sales and the thrill of seeing her idea enjoyed by others. It’s a perfect example of user connection.

While LEGO Ideas uses customer insights brilliantly, many companies lean too heavily on Ford’s alleged edict — a CB Insights survey of 101 failed startups revealed that 42 percent faltered because they didn’t properly satisfy a market need.

Taking a more customer-centric approach to product development might have given some of those unsuccessful ideas a longer shelf life.

Slip Into Customers’ Shoes

Gathering and utilizing customer insights is critical for every business — even those that believe they have the next Model T. Here are four steps to follow:

1. Go to the source. 

Airbnb’s early days were fast and furiously successful. The co-founders rented out air mattresses in their San Francisco apartment and attracted tons of interest, which both surprised them and filled them with a great deal of confidence.

But it was a trip to Y Combinator — something Airbnb leadership initially balked at — that helped take them to the next level.

It was there that Y Combinator founder Paul Graham suggested that Airbnb’s co-founders go to New York and speak with their users. The impromptu focus group allowed the executives to help their New York customers write better descriptions, take better photos of their properties, and generally jazz up their listings. From there, the numbers took off.

Connecting with customers on any level is a direct path to more insightful product development, but clients can be helpful, too. For instance, as part of Yeti’s product design process, the company and its clients create an empathy map together. Working on the map together exposes the company to new ideas from the client’s side.

2. Start conversations early. 

There’s no bigger waste of time and money than developing something customers will hate. The best way to dodge that pothole is to ask customers what they want before you start building anything.

For example, look at the D.C. United soccer club. Sports fans are sensitive, especially to a sudden team rebrand that seems more corporate-driven than grassroots-based. So prior to its rebrand, D.C. United collected fan insights.

The organization started with online focus groups, which helped it identify fans’ concerns. From there, the front office conducted a survey that included the most important items pertaining to the rebrand. Then using that data to inform the changes being made to team merchandise and marketing. In the end, the new initiative kept old fans and attracted new ones to the team.

3. Listen actively. 

D.C. United’s successful rebrand is partially due to gathering early fan feedback. Because the feedback informed every subsequent step of the process, the focus groups were especially critical. 

Successful focus groups usually feature skilled moderators that ask good questions, react appropriately, and listen attentively and sincerely. During a focus group for a chocolate maker, the moderator listened and allowed the women in the group to express how they really felt about chocolate.

Attendees didn’t complain about price, packaging, or taste; they discussed how the guilt they felt about buying chocolate kept them from purchasing more. That’s an insight that only a tactful, skilled moderator could pull out. When it’s time for your company to organize a focus group, find someone to lead it that can inspire honest, constructive feedback from customers.

4. Apply and adapt. 

There’s no sense in sticking with something no one wants. If your customer insights are telling a different story than you tell yourself, it’s time to be humble and pivot.

When he started Avon, founder David McConnell wasn’t having much luck selling books door to door. However, his female customers seemed more interested in the complimentary perfume samples than the books themselves, so he pivoted and made his own perfume product and recruited women to sell them door to door instead of him.

Maybe McConnell would have been a bookseller instead, but the market doesn’t always align with our perceptions of it. People like browsing bookstores and taking their time before purchasing something. With perfume, the impression is immediate: Either you like the scent or you don’t. The latter is obviously much more conducive to traveling sales.

No matter what business you’re in, the customers always come first. There’s no point in developing an idea or product without a connection to the audience it serves. Keep your eyes and ears open to the people who matter most: your buyers.

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5 Steps to Spur Innovators Forward With Smart Management

Eight Nobel Prizes, three Kyoto Prizes, three Turing Awards, two GRAMMY Awards, and one Academy Award. That’s an incomplete list of recognitions that Bell Labs and its members have received during the organization’s 92-year life. 

You might not think of Nokia, owner of Bell Labs, as today’s most innovative company. But Bell Labs hasn’t just kept up with historical trends; it has created them. It’s played a part in — or, in some cases, been the sole agent behind — breakthroughs ranging from the transistor to fiber optics to the C programming language.

Rigidity, Freedom, and Failure

So what’s Bell Labs’ secret? Did it find a way to farm innovation, no different than corn or potatoes? Did it drive its innovators into the ground, squeezing out ideas at all costs? Did it manage to hire team members who are simply smarter than the rest of us?

While that last one might be true, Bell Labs’ real secret is its management style. Described in a classic Harvard Business Review article, Bell Labs made the decision to not micromanage. It doesn’t push its people to hit certain numbers, and it definitely doesn’t punish them for failed ideas. 

Innovation requires both rigidity and freedom. Innovators need to be held accountable for their ideas, but they also need space to try new things. Breakthroughs cannot happen without rapid testing and experimentation, and they certainly cannot happen without failure. 

Making Innovation Manageable

Explorative accountability is, of course, a drastically different management style than the micromanagement that’s so common at companies today. It’s plainly not easy to do, but innovators must be managed in a way that empowers, focuses, and challenges them. Here’s how:

1. Eliminate bureaucracy.

Filling out approval forms for every code change is no recipe for innovation. Creativity requires a degree of creative freedom. If you have trouble giving that freedom, consider whether you’ve hired the right people for your innovation team.

Companies need to constantly looking for new ways to unshackle our innovators. We’ve found that people are most productive when given the liberty to apply their unique strengths to solve problems as they see fit. We encourage our employees to experiment with new technologies, use our company library, and explore unconventional career paths.

As Google’s Larry Page puts it, “My job as a leader is to make sure that everybody in the company has great opportunities and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.” Yeti might not be in the same league as Google, but when it comes to employee autonomy, our philosophy is the same.

2. Be a guide.

A guide is not the same as a shepherd. As an innovation team manager, your job is not to choose a solution; it’s to pick a problem. Make clear what the team’s destination should be without steering the ship.

Obsess over the problem definition. It’s difficult but by no means impossible to define a problem without its solution. Use market research, prototyping, and user testing to qualify and quantify it. Otherwise, your team might come up with a technically brilliant solution to an entirely different problem.

3. Provide structure.

Harvard Business Review recently found that creative friction, purposeful discovery, constant energy, and a flexible structure are all essential innovation conditions. Fortunately, that last tenet — a flexible structure — is much easier to create at startups than at older companies.

Innovation teams have to be hyperagile. To succeed, they can’t be constrained by bureaucracy, but they do still need short- (How often should prototypes be presented?) and long-term (What’s the next problem to solve?) goals. The right structure creates accountability without killing creativity.

4. Create conflict.

Conflict is an essential nutrient for innovation. When team members constructively disagree, they force one another to examine alternatives. Is a virtual keyboard really the best input technology? What if we tried a speech-to-text API instead? 

Embracing positive conflict isn’t enough, though: You need to create it. This is the point of the “converge” stage of the design sprint process. After dedicating a day to ideation, we sift through the ideas together, creating just enough tension for the best ones to bubble upward. Any feedback left unspoken is a stone unturned in the hunt for innovation.

5. Encourage external interaction.

It’s easy to wall off your innovators from everyone else. After all, they’re subject to different goals, working styles, and management practices. Why not let them do their own thing?

While it’s important to create space for your innovation team, it’s also crucial to encourage outside input. Maybe the innovation team needs development help from an Internet of Things expert, or maybe it can’t agree on a user interface design.

Regardless, there will be times when you need to supplement it with outside talent. No one person (or even one team) will ever know all there is to know about technology. We’ve helped augment innovation teams in several different forms: ideation, design, prototyping, or even just process consulting. As a partner to innovation teams, our job is to offer a helpful outside perspective.

These days, everyone wants to be innovative. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a dedicated team, trusting leaders, and an autonomous yet supportive culture. Just ask Bell Labs: Award-winning management is the key to award-winning innovation.

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