We are officially one month into the #SpreadGood program and it has been such an incredible journey so far. We created this initiative during the pandemic as a recovery program for entrepreneurs and business owners that were affected by the crisis. It was a way for Ulule and Bank of the West to keep working and connecting with entrepreneurs while teaching them new skill sets that will help them once they can officially launch and grow their business.
When we launched the initiative, we immediately had an influx of passionate and motivated entrepreneurs signing up and ready to learn. As someone who continuously works with small business owners, it was so refreshing to see them never give up – even during a devastating pandemic. There is a lot to learn from the #SpreadGood entrepreneurs – resilience, determination, motivation, and leadership are all qualities they possess. They came into this program with a certain vision and they have been working towards it every single day since.
I have also had the pleasure of interviewing professionals and had the opportunity to learn from their journeys and expertise. As a recent graduate, having the chance to interview and discuss with these experts was such a valuable experience. Here is what I learned:
Michael Panesis, Executive Director at the Center for Entrepreneurship, California Lutheran University
- Albeit the fact that many companies and business owners are going through difficult times and although there may not be much you can currently be doing for customers, keep the conversation open. Even if they aren’t buying from you right now, they are still your customers. You should be asking them if there is anything you can do for them, that they might be able to pay for, or might not be, but you should be communicating with them to see what you can do for them.
- A crisis very often in an opportunity. Many business owners are looking at the crisis as being “all bad” but that is a mindset issue – things are very rarely “all bad”. Right now, during the pandemic, is the perfect time for business owners to be looking for short term solutions to their problems. Whether it be learning how to make masks, hand sanitizers, face shields, or developing an online presence, finding these short term solutions can be life changing during a time like this. Remember, “if you don’t have your line in the water, you’ll never catch any fish”. Don’t give up, think outside the box, and be prepared.
- There is so much talk about this “new normal”. People are speculating that there will be massive changes in purchasing power, purchasing behaviours, and business regulations, but this might all just be short term. Humans like to be around each other – social distancing won’t be a forever plan. Think about this time as a series of experiments. Try things at low cost, listen to your customers, get feedback, and don’t fall in love with any of your ideas.
Danny Blue, Founder of One Million Acres
- Resilience and mindset is truly everything. When you are an entrepreneur, you need to be focused every day. You won’t reach your objectives, if you don’t put in the work. Having a daily routine, a positive mindset and creating the time needed to be productive with no distractions, will give you that space to reach your fullest potential.
- Entrepreneurs often think that delegating tasks is a sign of weakness; “I can’t do it all. I must not be cut out for this entrepreneurial lifestyle.” Danny reassures us that that is so far from the truth. In life, failures need to be learning curves. Can you learn and do it better in the future? Can you delegate the task and have an expert perform it? You cannot be good at everything – you would be a very rare breed of a superhuman if you could. Take this time during the pandemic to learn what you are good at, to teach yourself new skills or to delegate the tasks to your team members.
- At the early stages of your business, do not fall in love with your ideas. It is really important to continuously be evolving your idea and adapting to the demands of the market. At the beginning (or really at any point) your business should not be considered “your baby” – you cannot get too personally attached to an idea. This mentality often times leads to business owners being closed off to feedback and more defensive when given criticism. It is crucial to be open, to ask for feedback and to make the necessary changes.
Annely Nauta, Success Manager at Ulule
- Many people think that crowdfunding is only a strategy used to raise funds for future projects. That’s not totally true. Although entrepreneurs main objective when crowdfunding is usually to raise funds, it is not the only benefit. Gaining market insights, testing the way your community reacts to your new product/service, getting early feedback from potential customers, and growing your community of supporters are all advantages of using crowdfunding.
- Entrepreneurs who have used crowdfunding often say that it has brought them so much more than just professional growth. All the planning, preparing and executing helped them develop key characteristics and skills that are essential to the success of an entrepreneur. Organization, time management, communication skills, social media skills, perseverance are all skills they developed along the way.
- Crowdfunding can be a good tool to use to build a community and to prove that people are willing to buy and support your business. This can be a great incentive for banks to give entrepreneurs loans in the future.
Justin Ahrens, Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of Rule29
- Understanding your customers – and not just hearing them, but really listening to what they have to say – is crucial. They are key: they can take your business from doing well to being one of the best in the business. Through storytelling, we can build these loyal, genuine and mutually beneficial relationships. Don’t forget: people’s attention span is short – no one has the time to sit there and read. Use visuals to help tell your story; “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
- Having a community of people around you to constantly be giving you feedback is key. Whether you are pitching your services to a company or whether you are preparing a business plan, a social media campaign, a new communication strategy, get that feedback from someone who will be honest with you. Whether you like or agree with their feedback, once you’ve cleared your mind, come back to it and see what can be taken from it/what you can learn. Be open – this feedback is crucial! Remember, “this is totally not about you, it’s not about your business, it’s about what you will do for your customers.”
- The only way you can earn someone’s trust is if you’re speaking their language and when they can see themselves in your story. They need to be able to relate to your brand.
Linda James Bennett, Marketing Strategist and Conversion Copywriter at Shiny Object Marketing
- Being able to understand your customers on a deep level can give you the competitive advantage you need. Entrepreneurs need to know everything about their customer; their age range, their gender, their marital status, their location, their occupation, their job title, their annual income etc. This will help business owners create the best user experience they possibly can.
- What consumers truly value can be difficult to pin down and psychologically complicated. How can business owners actively manage value or devise ways to deliver more of it? The amount of value a particular product/service delivers lies in the eye of the beholder, however, universal building blocks of value do exist. These create opportunities for companies to improve their performance in current markets or expand into new ones. The right combinations, of value brings stronger customer loyalty, greater consumer willingness to try your brand, and an increase in profit (see elements of value).
Melanie Velasquez, Vice President Senior Lead Relationship Manager, Bank of the West
- Melanie taught me a lot about the different organizations and associations that are made available for business owners – specifically women business owners. As an employee of Bank of the West, Melanie took us through the various tools and resources that women can use to grow their business.
- Melanie spoke about the importance of building banking relationships – whether it’s with your consumer side, so your personal banking, or as an entrepreneur developing a banking relationship. Your bank will be there for you and will support you throughout the whole process so having a good relationship there is key.
- Every industry has been in some way or another affected by the Covid19 pandemic – do not think you are alone during these hardships. Find a community if like-minded professionals and entrepreneurs that can share thoughts and support during this time. Now is your chance to network and grow your circle.
- Right now more than ever, pull out your business plan and look at your number and your objectives. It might be time to make some adjustments to fit with the current environment.
- When you are asking for a bank loan, financial institutions are looking at your credit. Banks want to know the characteristics of their borrowers; they will look at who you are and how responsible you with your financial management.
Mohmmed El Sonbaty, Learning and Development Consultant, LinkedIn
- As we have seen in recent years, digitization is transforming the business world. This was emphasized by the pandemic; businesses who weren’t fully digitized were hit a lot harder than businesses who went fully digital. Mohmmed advises entrepreneurs and business owners to be conscious about this transformation; if your business wasn’t fully digital before, make the switch quickly.
- LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a great way for businesses to market and promote their products or services. LinkedIn Marketing offers this tool called “Sponsor Update” which is sponsored content that is positioned on people’s feeds. LinkedIn knows everyone’s profile, so you will get sponsored content tailored to your interests and background. This works really well as it almost looks “organic” and the content is always directly related to your interests and is really relevant to your industry. This type of marketing helps businesses with three objectives: 1) generating brand awareness 2) lead generation and 3) directing traffic directly to your business profile
- LinkedIn Learning Solutions is a digital e-learning platform that has currently 15,000 different courses on the platform. The interesting part of the platform is that they use a cutting edge technology that actually tailors courses to your specific needs and the needs of the world. For example, right now, we are living during a pandemic – there are certain skills business owners need to learn right now to ensure the survival of their business. Whether it be leadership courses, crisis management courses, LinkedIn Learning Solutions will give you great ideas of courses you should be taking.
Kristin Ellison, Manager of Content, Design + Engineering, LinkedIn Learning Solutions
- Your LinkedIn Profile is usually the first thing a hiring manager or professional will see. It is your first impression – and it needs to be great. There are a few ways people can distinguish a good LinkedIn profile VS a bad one. One key indicator is the use of a headshot; if your profile has no picture of you attached to it, users are less likely to accept your connection request or interact with you.
- LinkedIn is the platform where you can shine. Don’t be shy to tell people exactly what it is that you are doing and looking for. Don’t underestimate the power of your headline; it is the place to communicate what you want. Are you seeking new employment opportunities? Are you looking for a partner? Write it.
- Your LinkedIn profile should be a place where people can get to know you on a professional and personal level. Describe yourself in more conversational tones and less in a super corporate and superficial way.
- “LinkedIn is only as valuable as your connections,” said Kristin Ellison during her workshop. Join LinkedIn groups, add people as connections that you’d like to learn from, connect with people from your industry, start conversations and keep learning from others.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
One month down, three more to go. This program so far has taught me so much about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and all the work that goes into it. I am so lucky and fortunate to have been able to interview these amazing experts who have taken the time to share their skill sets with us.
I am entering month 2 of the program with so much knowledge and respect for business owners that are fighting the storm of Covid19. If you’d like to join the movement, it’s definitely not too late.
Join here: https://bankofthewest-spreadgood.ulule.com
See you soon!
Head of Curation, Ulule