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Strikethru: Paper and pen might be the ultimate to do list, after all

Sometimes nothing beats the satisfaction of drawing a thick line through an item on your to do list. The Strikethru method was made for nerds like us.

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Time to nerd out

If you’re a “to do” list type (and if you’re running a small business, I must assume that you are), you may or may not be aware that there are productivity nerds out there inventing entire systems for managing your to do list.

Here at AG, we’ve come across a simple but effective method for managing your to do list created by Reddit user, Chris. It’s called Strikethru, and for those of you already hip to productivity methods, you can think of it as a combination of the Get Things Done (GTD) method and the bullet method.

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Compartmentalizing

Strikethru assumes that having only one to do list is insufficient. After all, you’ve got short and long term goals, and tasks that are totally unrelated to one another. If you only have one list that includes the household chores you need to achieve today, the work deadline for next week, and an event you need to attend later this month, your list will quickly become overwhelming and impossible to navigate.

So here’s how Strikethru works: first, you’ll need a notebook dedicated to your lists. Once you’ve chosen your notebook, create a Live List. The Live List includes only the items you are going to work on today. It should include no more than nine items – because let’s face it, that’s all you can really handle anyway.

The Dump list for your random “aha!” moments

The aptly named Dump list is where you jot down those inspirations that hit you at random, that you need to record so that you don’t forget them, but that aren’t crucial to work on today.

When you’re in a work meeting and suddenly remember that your sister’s birthday is next week, jotting “get birthday gift” into your work notes isn’t going to help you, especially if you aren’t planning on shopping until the weekend.

Put it in The Dump – it’ll be there later, when you can actually get around to it.

Go further with The Vault

Don’t work on tasks directly from The Dump though. Instead, you do a nightly review of your Dump list to generate tomorrow’s Live List. It’s also a good idea to more extensively review about once per month to update and revise The Dump.

For a more advanced version, you can add The Vault. This is where you create lists that are organized into categories, but that are not your Live List. For example, you could create shopping lists, or lists of longer term goals. I myself currently have a Shopping list, a Winter list, and a Household Repairs list.

If checking off a box isn’t enough

Lastly, you can create a Calendar section to organize your daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
Strikethru is so named because of the satisfaction you get from drawing a thick black line through a completed tasks, which Chris argues is more gratifying than a simple check mark. In his words: “Striking you to-dos off a list can be deeply rewarding and therapeutic.”

Chris has an entire website dedicated to Strikethru that explains the method in detail.

#Strikethru

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business Entrepreneur

Why receiving big funding doesn’t guarantee startup success

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You finally got that big funding check that allows you to make your dreams come true, but most startups fail because they shoot for the moon.

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The first thing every startup needs to get off the ground is funding. It’s crucial to have enough capital to cover equipment, inventory, and employee salaries, along with other basic expenses unique to the industry. Most startups cover these initial costs through business loans and capital from private investors.

Some business owners perceive getting funded as the first milestone toward success. While receiving capital is critical for success, being well-funded doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of well-funded startups have failed, gone bankrupt, and all but disappeared.

How could so many well-funded startups possibly go under? The 90% failure rate for startups is due to a variety of factors including bad timing, no market, and most of all – mishandling of finances.

Here’s why receiving big capital doesn’t guarantee success.

Getting investment capital provides false hope

Getting funded can make you feel invincible and cause you to be too relaxed about spending money. It’s a powerful feeling to have plenty of money and know an investor believes in your business. Investors are smart; they wouldn’t throw money at a startup unless they had every reason to believe it will succeed, right? Not exactly.

Startups in big tech areas like Silicon Valley and San Francisco often have an easy time generating large amounts of capital from investors who can’t wait to throw money at the latest startup. Many investors ignore risk and throw their money at long-shot bets hoping to invest in the next Facebook or Instagram. The size of the pot is too mesmerizing not to take the risk.

These long-shot bets carry similar odds to winning a “Pick 6” bet in horse racing. The Pick 6 is one of the hardest bets to win because you have to pick the winning horses for six consecutive races. What if the top horse becomes injured before the sixth race? Investors who toss money at random startups have to pick a startup that will continue to meet all the right circumstances to become profitable long-term. Some of those circumstances are unpredictable.

No business owner wants to view their startup as a long-shot bet. However, the reality is that many startups are. You can’t gauge your potential for success based on how much funding you receive.

Having plenty of cash encourages premature scaling

When you’ve got the cash to scale your startup it seems like a waste not to dive in. Just one look around the internet reveals plenty of videos and articles encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business. Advice online gives the impression that if you’re not scaling your business, you’re falling behind. However, scaling too soon can tank your startup.

Research conducted by Startup Genome found premature scaling to be the number one cause of startup failure. Nathan Furr from Forbes.com explains this finding and what it means for businesses. Premature scaling is defined as “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business (e.g., hiring sales personnel, expensive marketing, perfecting the product, leasing offices, etc.) before nailing the product/market fit.” Furr says any business is susceptible to premature scaling – not just startups.

The problem is that premature scaling depletes your cash reserves more quickly. This leaves you with less cash to fix mistakes and readjust as you go along. Failure is what happens when you don’t have the necessary cash to fix mistakes and move toward success.

How to make the most of your funding and increase your odds of success

To increase the odds of developing a long-term successful startup, here’s what you can do:

• Save as much money as possible. For instance, you don’t need a giant office with expensive furniture right away. Work from home and hire a remote team until an office is absolutely necessary.

• Make sure the cost of acquiring each customer makes sense. Know how much money you’re spending to acquire each customer. Track all marketing efforts and eliminate the avenues that don’t generate paying, loyal customers. If the cost to acquire a customer is more than what they spend with your company, revisit your marketing strategy.

• Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement with your innovation. Skip Prichard advises startups to strive for a 10x increase in the value of whatever innovation is being provided to the world. For example, if your company is offering a lower price for a greater value, aim to increase the value 10x. Attract the early adopters who want big improvements and they will validate you.

Money is a tool – use it wisely

Celebrate when you get your funding, but keep that money in the bank for necessary expenses. Money is a tool that doesn’t guarantee success, but if you budget wisely, you’ll have a better chance at beating the startup odds.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to know when a candidate is a true fit for your startup

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Knowing whether a potential hire is a good fit for your startup is a difficult one, so we suggest asking these 3 questions at your next interview.

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Hiring, in general, can be a daunting task. Knowing whom you like to fill the role can seem pretty ethereal until you put pen to paper. The struggle is even bigger for smaller companies, such as startups, as they’re not only looking to fill a role based on skills, but they’re also looking to find someone who will jive with their existing employees and culture. And while culture-driven corporations like Apple do this to a degree, too, it’s nowhere near as delicate as hiring can be for a startup.

Startups often struggle in bringing on new hires from beginning to end. A lot more is at stake when you’re hiring for a small company. Any missteps can be detrimental to profitability, productivity, efficiency, and even business projections. But if you’re a startup looking to hire, look no further.

Writer and former Google Vice President, Jessica Powell, has some great questions to ask your potential future hires to limit any possible setbacks.

It’s important to realize that Jessica’s experience is pretty limited to corporations and that she’s spent much of her time at one of the biggest of them all – Google. Therefore, as a seasoned businesswoman with vast experience in startup life, I’ll be adding some colorful insights that should help both employers and employees even further.

1. In her article, Jessica alludes that an employee’s resilience is a big part of being able to handle a startup, and I completely agree. Startups are typically very touch and go. Even if the startup appears successful, policies, processes, and even something as critical as re-allocation of budget are all subject to scrutiny – often until a time when the company sells or goes public. This is exactly why Jessica recommends employers ask resilience-related questions, probing for “weaknesses and missteps”.

Our favorite question related to resilience that she suggests employers ask in interviews is: “Some people tend more easily to put responsibility or blame on others, and some people tend to put it on themselves. Where would you see yourself? Can you give me an example of when this happened?”

We like this question because it’s incredibly important to know if a new potential employee has perfectionist tendencies and is incredibly hard on themselves, or if they are incredibly hard on their co-workers. If you’re speaking with someone who already puts the blame on themselves half the time, you may be looking at a self-starter who has the potential to lead – very important when considering future scaling, especially because many startups like to promote from within. If they’re more on the perfectionist side of things, you may also be speaking with someone who is incredibly resilient. Why? Because they’re already hard on themselves, which often times leads to allowing others to be hard on them. That means they’ve probably experienced a lot of defeat, but they keep on going, which, in my opinion, is exactly the type of employee startups need.

2. Jessica also goes over how ambiguity in the workplace (again, something very common for startups) can affect new hires, which is why she makes it a point to ask pointed questions that not only gauge the potential hire’s comfort with ambiguity, but also what they value their work environment and career and “to see how they approach complex problems”.

We actually have 2 questions we think startup employers should ask in the ways of ambiguity. The first is pretty basic: “Do you love your routines or do you like to do things on the fly? How much structure do you like in your work day?”

We love this question because startups are often moving so quickly that any employee needs to be accustom to changes be made on the fly. It’s a question that basically assesses whether or not something is a go-getter and can work with unknowns. Let’s say you’re an employer hiring for a sales role. What someone who has never worked at a startup might think is that they’re 100% supported with consistent documentation, training, and pay.

What they don’t realize is that startups often shift gears pretty quickly, so any collateral they may have provided you (I’ve worked for startups where this wasn’t even offered), for example, can quickly become out of date – and with the limited resources some startups have, it could be a month or longer before someone actually gets you what you feel you need to do well in your job. If that’s too ambiguous for you as an employee, you may consider working in a more corporate environment.

The second question is one that I see fit for anyone above entry-level, but mostly for those potential hires who are looking for an upper management or leadership role. Reason being, this question brings experience into question and obviously, if you are entry-level, you don’t have much yet. The question is: “Where was your favorite place to work and why?”

There’s a lot that an interviewer can learn about an interviewee with this question. Not only does the topic of past employment come up, but it also asks the potential hire to dig deep and explain why they liked their past role. This can often lead to other probing questions, such as “why are you looking to leave your current role” and “was there anything about this role you didn’t like?” Depending on their answer, an employer can quickly see if the interviewee’s past experiences, and their preferences, line up with what the employer is looking for.

There are many more great questions you can ask in interviews, but when it comes down to figuring out if someone is fit to work at your startup, starting with these questions can push you past the average, cliché questions at warp speed, making room in the often time-crunched interviews for solid and valuable data on the potential hire.

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Business Entrepreneur

Which city has your back when trying to start your business?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Have you ever wondered which city will support your big idea, and help you achieve your dreams? Well here are the top 10 entrepreneur friendly cities.

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So, ya want to start a business? (Even if you don’t, just play along.) Well, then it’s important to know the best city in which to start a business. Take a moment to come up with your top-10 predictions prior to seeing what Inc. Magazine and Startup Genome had to say are at the top.
The top 10 are as follows: 1. Austin (what’s up?!), 2. Salt Lake City, 3. Durham, 4. Denver, 5. Boise, 6. San Francisco, 7. Charleston, 8. San Diego, 9. Phoenix, and 10. Miami.

10. Miami:

  • is number One in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 19 in high-growth company density
  • number 22 in net business creation.

Much like the weather, the startup scene just keeps heating up.

9. Phoenix:

  • is number 2 in net business creation
  • number 7 in population growth
  • number 9 in job creation.

Many have flocked to the Arizona city for warm weather and lower costs of living.

8. San Diego:

  • is number 7 in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 7 in high-growth company density
  • and number 7 in early-stage funding deals.

Three rated sevens in a row? Somebody call Monica Gellar!

7. Charleston:

  • is number One in net business creation
  • number 6 in high-growth company density
  • number 10 in job creation.

In the Souths of Carolina, founding tops funding.

6. San Francisco:

  • is number One in early-stage funding deals
  • number 2 in wage growth
  • number 8 in high-growth company density.

All of this in spite of the pricey cost of living.

5. Boise:

  • The capital of Idaho is number 2 in population growth
  • number 3 in job creation
  • number 3 in net business creation.

According to the data, you can buy four houses in Boise for the cost of one house in San Francisco. Breaking that knowledge out at my next cocktail party.

4. Denver:

  • is number 2 in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 4 in high-growth company density
  • number 8 in wage growth.

People have been moving to this Colorado city like crazy

3. Durham:

  • is number 3 in high-growth company density
  • number 8 in net business creation
  • number 10 in job creation.

This North Carolina hub was once known for big tobacco

2. Salt Lake City:

  • is number One in high-growth company density
  • number One in job creation
  • and number 3 in population growth.
  • This spot is popular with adventure seekers

    1. Austin:

    • is number 3 in population growth
    • number 27 in net business creation
    • number 4 in early-stage funding deals.

    The American Genius’s home town is leading the nation in job creation and high-growth company density.

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