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Success tips from a former Israeli paratrooper turned entrepreneur

(Business Entrepreneur) Success comes in many forms, as does inspiration for the journey toward success, and asking one well known entrepreneur for his take led to some fascinating tips.

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Ambition and success – learning in the field

Rony Zarom has a track record of business success not only in America but in Israel, from his current company, HD video conferencing company, Watchitoo to his smartphone communication company that sold for $550 million and helped bring Internet service to Israel. He also founded Decima Ventures, a venture capital company that invests in US tech companies with an R&D center in Israel, and Unistream, a successful non-profit junior MBA program in Israel.

When you ask Zarom about the secret to his success as an entrepreneur, he doesn’t talk about the companies he built, but the lessons he learned during his time as a paratrooper in the Israeli Armed Forces.

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Zarom offers his top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, in his own words below:

Just jump

Take hold of your fear, and use the strengths you have to be a little crazy. Serial entrepreneur and author Steve Banks thinks entrepreneurs are crazy and that’s a good thing because they “are actually hallucinating, and every once in a while they’re actually visionaries. They are insanely driven to bring that thing they see to fruition. And they need to be because of the amount of travails they go through in making something out of nothing.” Whether you’re thinking about pursuing a new startup or reinventing your business, let your passion for creating your vision consume you.

However, before you make the big leap into any new business venture, get just as crazy – or diligent – when identifying the pros and cons of your decision. Do this by smartly assessing the financial risks involved, forecasting trends driving the market and anticipating all potential challenges such as building infrastructure, creating sustainable operations and processes and besting competition.

Lace up your own boots

As the leader of your company, you should be its best salesman. Becoming a persuasive advocate for your company starts with clearly defining its value proposition and differentiators that set you apart from the competition. Crafting the right sales pitch takes time and more importantly, will often be met with rejection. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have heard “no” more times than “yes.”

When jumping into my latest venture, I was rejected by 20 investors before securing funding. The honest, objective feedback from investors who rejected my idea, although painful to hear, was a necessary part of improving my sales pitch. A few tips to improving your pitch:

  • Keep it conversational. Ask questions from your audience, present challenges and offer solutions.
  • Never make the same pitch twice. Each sales pitch should be tailored specifically to each audience.
  • Everyone loves stories. Telling good stories in your sales pitch requires gathering as much intelligence about your audience as possible. Find out what the buyer or investor is interested in and paint a creative picture of how your product or idea aligns with those interests.
  • Explore potential objections candidly. Before your pitch, think through all potential objections, like budget, demand, time, etc., from your audience and be prepared to fully address those objections with solutions.
  • Be proactive in next steps. The buyer or investor should never be the first one to follow up. Send a thank you letter, have lunch scheduled to be brought in when you leave, deliver something personal to each member of the audience – do whatever it takes to stand out and make it clear that you’re listening.
  • When you feel ready, present your pitch at a local business pitch event or to peers who’ve been successful with business pitches.

Trust your co-pilot

Your business could run into turbulence along the way, which is why it’s important to not only have a great co-pilot but also surround yourself with smart people who have “been there and done it all” to buffer against any potential company blowbacks. Identifying a network of advisors, partners or board of directors to serve as a sounding board is one of the most important things you can do when starting a company. I recommend finding at least two other advisors to have bi-monthly discussions that develop solutions to intercept “worst case scenarios,” forecast budgets and explore new ways to streamline business processes.

Know the terrain

Sun Tzu’s adage holds. Though focused on the vision, the real work is done on the ground. Your startup may be very financially lean in the beginning, requiring you to fill multiple roles to move it forward. Experiencing various roles from the ground up is one of the best things you can do to perfect your hiring process.

Learning the needs and what drives each position in the company will help you find the right employees to deliver results. A good leader knows the terrain, from the ground up, and uses that knowledge to find great people and remain engaged with each employee’s professional progress and needs.

At the end of the day, a successful entrepreneur must be a chameleon – a strategic business leader and also a dreamer who is not afraid to just jump and take the plunge. Whether in the board room or the back of an airplane, these are the lessons will always hold true and will guide us when aspiring for greatness.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Entrepreneur

The top 10 startup cities in America

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If you’re thinking about launching a startup anytime soon you may want to check out this list on the top 10 cities for startups.

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The digital revolution is in full swing, and some cities are setting themselves up to capitalize upon these innovations by supporting startups.

In order to “better understand the U.S. cities driving the digital revolution,” several groups have come together to rank which cities are making the most of the tech startup boom.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1776, the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center, and FreeEnterprise.com have teamed up to publish a report called Innovation That Matters (ITM).

The report analyzes and ranks U.S. cities on such factors as startup capital, the connectivity of startups, startup culture, the availability of worker talent and specialization, and more. Data was taken from surveys of entrepreneurs and businesspeople, startups, and leaders in public and private sectors.

J.D. Harrison, senior director of strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the “digital revolution has the potential to make winners of some cities and leave others behind.”

The study aims to find out which cities “embrace this shift to a digital economy and actively support technology startups,” arguing that these cities “will be the best positioned to unleash the power of high-impact innovation and cultivate vibrant, thriving communities.”

The top ten ranking cities are as follows:

10) Portland, Oregon because every city needs a nickname, has been dubbed the Silicon Forest, referencing its leadership in green tech.

9) New York City, New York. The largest tech hub on the east coast.

8) Seattle, Washington. Home to Amazon.com and several other tech firms, with Microsoft’s headquarters in nearby Redmond.

7) Dallas, Texas. Dtown moved up significantly by increasing startup connectivity and tapping into a large, diverse workforce.

6) Atlanta, Georgia. The “most improved” city on the ITM list, moving up 15 places to number six due to a surge in financial, educational, and health tech industries.

5) Austin,Texas. Home of The American Genius, Austin has become a “haven for tech-savvy millennials seeking good-paying job opportunities.” Besides hosting many tech startups, Austin still has a relatively affordable cost of living.

4) San Diego, California. San Diego is full of cybersecurity, Big Data, robotics, and software startups.

3)Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also known as Philicon Alley, moved up from number eight by deregulating and becoming more business-friendly.

2) San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay also ranked number two last year. The seaside neighbor to the Silicon Valley has been doing a great job attracting seed funding these days.

1) Boston, Massachusetts. This is the second year in a row that Boston has topped this list, due to its large number of startups and robust entrepreneur population.

How does your city rank?

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Business Entrepreneur

Customer surveys tell more than just satisfaction

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While they can be annoying for the consumer and cost time for the company, customer feedback surveys are crucial to your business.

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While Richard Dawson, Louie Anderson, and Steve Harvey may not be able to personally help you with customer service, what they have in common can. Surveys, and personalized follow-up attention in general, help clients and consumers know that they mean something to your business.

For the sake of this article (and the fast-paced, technological world we live in) I am going to be speaking about surveys. However, I want to share this anecdote first.

I used to work front desk at a salon and part of my job was to follow up with new guests about a week after their appointment.

Now, most of the time, my calls went to voicemail, which were never returned; but every once in awhile a human answered.

After going through the spiel of why I was calling, I could almost always sense a sound of surprise from the other line before the person answered my question. One conversation in particular left me realizing how important this seemingly useless task was.

I called an older woman and asked her about a recent appointment she had at the salon. She thanked me for calling and then went into detail about how great the appointment was and how much getting her hair done meant to her.

Before we hung up she said, “thank you again for calling. A salon has never done this before.” It then hit me like a ton of bricks just how significant something as small as a callback is.

If you have the time, definitely make those callbacks to clients as it could be very meaningful. However, it’s understandable that most of us may not have the time in our schedule for personalized phone calls.

So if that’s the case, don’t forget about surveys. I know most of them will either go to spam or go unanswered, but the mere fact that you’re sending it out shows clients and customers that you care about their business.

And, for those surveys that do receive responses, it can be extremely beneficial for your company as you can get insight into what works and what doesn’t. There’s really no disadvantage to this tactic, so remember to make time for that follow up with existing clients rather than just focusing on getting new ones.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur blunders to bypass

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of hard work, as a result, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here’s how to avoid hurting your business from the get-go.

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The entrepreneur business can be a tricky one. It’s not one of those career choices that have more of a clear-cut path, and it may require you to make your own rules along the way.

Along with making your own rules, it is also 110 percent likely that you will make mistakes along the way, as well. This is true of any career, but, when within the sphere of being an entrepreneur, responsibility has a tendency to weigh even heavier on your shoulders.

This is completely unavoidable, but if you keep an eye on your methods and not just your desired outcomes, you can help combat some of the biggest mistakes. Here are some things to keep in mind.

It’s obviously one of the first priorities to get the word out about your business. You may be inclined to hit up every social media platform known to man.

This can be harmful to you if you spread your social presence too thin and have no focus. Pick a few channels that are the most fitting for your business, build your presence, then expand to other channels from there.

Never promise more than you can deliver at the start of your business. You only get one shot at your first sale with a consumer and not delivering what they expected can hurt your next chance.

Also, be approachable and keep an open mind when it comes to networking and communicating for sales. Confidence can carry you and your business a long way.

So, you’ve found a strategy that works? Great! But, don’t get complacent. Consumers want to see innovation, and employees yearn for that, too.

Try and start each year with a calendar and determine what changes you want to make from the last. Figure out what worked and how you can expand upon it to make it fresh and possibly more successful.

With this idea, don’t settle for reusing the same knowledge over and over again. Keep learning as your business grows and turn that knowledge into actions.

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