10 Essential Traits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

Originally published on HuffPost.
 
There isn’t just one characteristic that guarantees an entrepreneur will be successful, but a myriad of traits that when put together and properly balanced, lead to great success. The concept may seem daunting, but don’t let it deter you. With a willingness to work hard and strengthen weaknesses, anyone can cultivate and fortify these character traits within themselves.
 

  1. Strong Sense of Self

“Everyone needs a strong sense of self. It is our base of operations for everything that we do in life.” ―Julia Alvarez
 
When you know who you are and what you stand for, you have goals and direction. These are integral to being effective and successful in business, and life in general. A strong sense of self lays the foundation you need to believe in your dreams and your ability to achieve them. You have to believe in yourself to accomplish anything. Besides, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. Your confidence level affects the way you are perceived by other people. Show them who you are, and what you are all about. The right people and opportunities will be attracted to you.
 
Self awareness is another critical component because it enables you to be more honest and objective when evaluating yourself. Self awareness also gives you the ability to “know what you don’t know”, which is essential. Only then can you know what you need to learn, or decide what to delegate to someone else. Decisiveness gives you an edge, and is made much easier when you have a strong sense of who you are and how to use your talents. Furthermore, when you really know yourself, you don’t have to care what other people think about you and your goals. Successful people inherently attract haters. Take it as a compliment. It means you either have something they want, or they are threatened by you.
 

  1. Integrity and Honesty

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” ―C.S. Lewis
 
Being honest and ethical are important aspects of being a highly effective entrepreneur, especially in the early stages of your business. This goes along with self awareness and knowing what you don’t know. First and foremost, you have to be willing to be honest with yourself. If you can’t honestly evaluate yourself and your business, you won’t succeed because you can’t correct mistakes you don’t acknowledge. Effective entrepreneurs accept responsibility for their mistakes and immediately start looking for solutions to correct any resulting problems. They are accountable and never shift blame to others.
 
Transparency automatically makes you more trustworthy, so show people why they can trust you. Because people are living more of their lives out in the open on social media today, they are beginning to expect the same level of transparency in every aspect of their lives. They will appreciate the trust you place in them and respond accordingly. Moreover, open and honest entrepreneurs attract the same kinds of clients.
 

  1. Self Motivated and Conscientious

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” ―Thomas A. Edison
 
Highly effective and successful entrepreneurs know the sky is not the limit. The mind is. You have to accept that it won’t be easy, and welcome the challenge because it will be worth it. Be tenacious and committed to perseverance. Be willing to fail and learn from it. Resilience is a large part of self motivation, because when you fail, you must get back up and try again. There is no other choice. Recognize and own your mistakes, learn from them, and try another option.
 
Conscientiousness is crucial to success of all kinds. Conscientious people are responsible self-starters who tend to go the extra mile. They don’t mind working hard for what they want, and they will not sacrifice their ultimate goal for what they want right now. Conscientious people are reliable and hard working, which is why those with this trait are typically successful.
 

  1. Competitive Spirit

“It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.” ―Gianni Versace
 
Healthy competition between worthy opponents can be a great motivator. Striving to be better than your competitors naturally improves and sharpens your own skills. However, don’t let the competition get out of hand. If it gets out of control, it will be harder for you to maintain perspective. Stay grounded and learn from your competitors’ successes and mistakes.
 
On the other hand, perhaps the most effective form of competition for the entrepreneur is self competition. Always try to improve on your own skills, abilities, performance, and accomplishments. If you do better each day than you did the day before, you are on the right track. Keep up your forward momentum, and you will inevitably arrive at success.
 

  1. Passion

“Passion is oxygen of the soul.” ―Bill Butler
 
All entrepreneurs need something to propel them and ignite their motivation – Passion! To be highly effective, you have to be more passionate about your business than you are about money. If you are a dedicated entrepreneur, you are likely to work a lot more hours than you would if you worked for someone else. This means that your motivation has to be more intrinsic than monetary. Believing that your vision and mission will change the world for the better is a wonderful motivator to keep going, even when times are tough.
 
There are generally a couple of sources of passion for entrepreneurs. The first is the business itself, and the second is the thrill of building a business. If you are passionate about one or both of these things, it will drive you to succeed. You will have more of an incentive to think outside of the box, which will ultimately enable you to solve problems more efficiently. Not only that, but your excitement about your business and belief in what you are doing will also aid you in getting through the difficult times.
 

  1. Vision

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ―Jonathan Swift
 
It takes vision to spark passion. The most effective entrepreneurs can also be described as visionaries. They see things other people don’t see, and take advantage of their ability to spot an opportunity. Being able to see the big picture, then focus in on the details that come together to create the whole, is a vital skill to have and can be strengthened.
 
Staying open minded is a fantastic way to boost your vision. Considering new information allows you to adapt to new conditions more quickly and easily. Forward thinking entrepreneurs have a competitive edge due to their ability to anticipate possible obstacles and plan for multiple possible contingencies.
 

  1. Flexibility

“Better bend than break.” ―Scottish proverb
 
Every effective entrepreneur knows the value of flexibility. You cannot be rigid and nurture a successful venture, because business is fluid and subject to many factors beyond your control. That is where contingency plans come into play. Adapting to change is imperative to succeeding in business. Further, accepting constructive criticism allows you to reevaluate your plans and correct your course if necessary.
 
Learning agility and a high tolerance for ambiguity go a long way toward remaining flexible, as well. Entrepreneurs who learn quickly and pivot accordingly are better at solving problems. In addition, they have faced down their fear of the unknown. People who are not put off by uncertainty are more likely to excel as an entrepreneur, because they are more comfortable taking calculated risks that lead to success.
 

  1. Jack-Of-All-Trades

“Seeing the bigger picture shows you where the smaller pieces fit.” ―Anonymous
 
“Jack of all trades, master of none” is a ubiquitous expression. However, it may not be such a bad thing to be multi-talented in the case of the entrepreneur. We can’t all be specialists. Just as experts are needed, those who are good at a number of different things and skilled at delegation are necessary to put it all together.
 
Having a diverse skill set uniquely positions you to understand how all the pieces fit together to create the whole. This is also a factor in “big picture thinking”. When you have the perspective that understanding the multiple facets of a whole gives you, you are better equipped to see the big picture, which links back to vision and being able to see things other people simply do not.
 

  1. Strong Leadership Skills

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” ―Warren Bennis
 
Great leaders have direction, know where they are going, and have no problem showing others the way. Recognize other people’s strengths, and know when to delegate. If there is a task you are not as good at, don’t have time for, or simply don’t want to do, find someone better suited and move on to things that only you can handle.
 
Be ready to coordinate efforts. There is a tie-in here with being a “Jack-Of-All-Trades” and “Big Picture Thinker”. With appropriate delegation to the right people, you can coordinate more successfully. This also gives you the ability to create effective collaboration between team members. You must understand the power of collaboration and tap your network for resources when necessary.
 

  1. People Skills (Networking Savvy)

“Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” ―Richard Branson
 
Never underestimate the power of having a wide network behind you, and know the benefits of having a mentor. It’s always helpful to seek advice from people who have more experience than you do. They may have experienced something they can draw upon to help you over a hurtle. Mentors also tend to be even more connected, which can be of aid in other ways. Colleagues and other peers are another excellent source of network connections with whom you should develop mutually beneficial relationships. The more people you have to learn from, the better off you and your business will be.
 
Diversity in your network serves a similar purpose. Because of all the different life experiences of a diverse group of people from contrasting backgrounds, you are exposed to more perspectives, allowing for more creativity and flexibility. It also gives you an even larger pool to draw advice from, and the more ideas, the better.
 
Putting It All Together
 
There is a delicate balance involved with being a highly effective entrepreneur. It takes practice, as well as a willingness to learn from mistakes and evolve into the best version of yourself. Certain traits are assets in overcoming obstacles, challenging your limits, and breaking through personal barriers. Keep learning, expanding your understanding, looking for new opportunities, and nurturing your network to bring you closer to achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed of and more!

[Guest Post] Networking Dos and Don’ts

Networking Dos and Don’ts

by Wendy Jacobson

Many people love in-person networking. Most people don’t. The prospect of walking into
a room full of people you don’t know and striking up a conversation with at least one of
them, all in the vein of “growing your sphere,” is downright silly to a lot of people.

But, it can also be a very powerful marketing tool.

I used to fall in the “I hate networking” camp. Now, I rather like it. Granted, I joined a
networking group that meets once a week, so I’ve gotten used to the whole idea. And, I’ve
gotten pretty comfortable with it.

That’s not to say that everyone is comfortable with it, or even knows how to do it. So
consider these networking dos and don’ts.

Whatever the networking event, do walk in with your head held high and with a smile on
your face. When you make eye contact with anyone, approach, hold out your hand and
introduce yourself.

Don’t walk in, sit down and look at your phone. Or stand up and look at your phone, for
that matter.

Do bring an ample supply of business cards. You will be meeting lots of people, and you
want a way for them to follow up with you. Also, do ask for the business card of the
person you are chatting with, especially if you think there is synergy between your
businesses.

Don’t try to sell your services. This is networking, not selling. The idea is to meet some
folks, get to know them a bit, and follow up if it makes sense. This is not a sales pitch.

Do be prepared to answer the question “What do you do?” Have a response ready that is
concise and to the point. When done responding, pose the same question to the person
who asked you.

Do listen. And do ask more questions. Be engaged in the conversation.

Do follow up. After the event, draft an email to all those people you met and want to stay
connected to. Find them on LinkedIn and connect with them there. And if it makes sense,
ask them to coffee to learn more about them and their business.

Don’t expect to get a sale from attending a networking event. A new client should never
be the end goal of any networking event. Rather, the end goal should be the opportunity to
meet new people and grow your network. The more your grow your network, the more
referrals you get, which will ultimately lead to more business.

Yes, in-person networking can be a lot of work and it can force a lot of us out of our
comfort zone. But, the end results are well worth the growing pains.

About the Author

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Minneapolis, MN.
Along with publishing a local online magazine called Minneapolis Happening, she works
with businesses to help them articulate their message. She and her husband, Andy, have
two amazing children (Ethan and Sasha) and a sweet dog, Astro. To learn more about
Wendy, check out her website, wendythepooh.com.

Hit “Reset” on Your CSS

This article is a look at a technique first introduced by Eric Meyer called “CSS Reset”. Please read on for an explanation of what it is and how it works…

A while back, I was building a website when I hit a wall I hadn’t hit in a long time. No matter what I did, I just could not get it to look exactly the way I wanted it to in the browser. Then I remembered “CSS Reset” and it made my life so much easier! Once implemented, it instantly fixed the entire problem, which I had wasted far too much time laboring over in the first place. If I can pass on a little knowledge and save someone else the time and headache, I feel like all the trouble I had wasn’t in vain.

What is CSS Reset?

Did you know that each web browser has its own default stylesheet that creates basic style on otherwise unstyled webpages? The reason is to present the content in a more readable and user-friendly fashion. But what if you have your own custom stylesheet and these default styles are interfering with the appearance of your website? In a nutshell, CSS Reset is a piece of CSS code that communicates to the browser to reset the specified default styles to null. It simply gives you the ability to overwrite the predefined default browser styles.

How does CSS Reset work?

This time I’m not going to include any code snippets. (For the original CSS code, please visit Eric Meyer’s website.) Instead, I’m going to briefly explain how it works, as the concept is simple: CSS Reset works by forcing each browser’s styles to be reset to null. This allows the CSS author to essentially start their page styles from scratch, with no external interference.

CSS Reset can help create a more cohesive, cross-browser & cross-platform compatible, adaptive, responsive web experience. Simply put, it is easier to make a website look virtually the same across a wide variety of web browsers and platforms. This uniformity saves a lot of time and frustration for the designer/developer and aids in branding your company.

By: Danielle Dandridge

Creating a Living Style Guide

This article is about creating living style guides. In it, we will discuss what they are, why they are an important step in the web design process, and a few tips on what they should include. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions and tips, or any questions you may have about style guides in the comment section below. Let’s begin!

What is a “Living Style Guide”?

In short, a living style guide is an ever-growing document that defines each of the various elements that make up your website. As your website changes over time, so should your style guide. This collection of pre-designed elements — color scheme, typography (fonts), logo and other images, code snippets, general guidelines, etc. — should be followed by every member of the team to ensure that each piece of the website is consistent, creating a cohesive user experience. Aside from consolidating all the individual design elements, it creates general design principles that determine the overall direction of the website, and it lays out the visual language the designers and developers will use to create the site.

Why is it important?

Creating a style guide is a very important step in the web design process. It enables you to stay on task and helps to create a cohesive experience throughout the entire website. Communication is also made simpler with the aid of a style guide because it can be shared with your entire team, including business owners and administrators, to reference when discussing site modifications. This can help streamline the approval process for everyone involved, from decision makers to the design and development team.

A living style guide will assist you in numerous ways as your team grows and changes organically over time. To begin with, creating it will take up a little time, but it should balance out with faster build times for new web pages, as designers and developers who are new to the team will have a reference to go back to for details on the precise styles that are to be used. Additionally, using the guide as an inventory of code enables designers and developers to easily see if new designs will fit with the established standards. If not, they can decide as a team whether to expand the codebase or if there is existing code that can be easily modified. Without a guide, it is impossible to do this, often making it necessary to write new styles, which will eventually result in a bloated CSS file. The codebase can be kept smaller when design consistency is maintained.

Finally, the language of the various classes already established in the guide can be quickly referenced and used when implementing changes. This leaves little to no confusion for designers and developers as they advance through revisions. It also provides the whole team with a common vocabulary to use when discussing the designs after they have been coded.

What should a style guide consist of?

Creating a style guide can seem a little daunting. After all, it is a collection of all the different design elements of your website. Try not to get overwhelmed, though, and just take it one step at a time. There is no exact formula you must follow to create a useful style guide; however, there are some imperative aspects that should be included to ensure its effectiveness and usability. Here are a few quick tips to help you get started:

  • Layout – Since your layout is likely to change during the design process, creating this section will help you define its general elements.
  • Navigation – Write the code for everything that will be used for navigation and interaction throughout your website (i.e. links, buttons, menus, etc.)
  • Typography – This section documents your font choices to set up type style. (You can always adjust font sizes later in the design process.)
  • Branding – Establish your company’s brand identity by outlining your website’s color scheme as well as imagery (i.e. logos, graphics, etc.)
  • Multimedia Content (i.e. videos, images, etc.) – Define specific proportions for videos, images, etc. in this section.
  • HTML – Use this section to define elements like copy, header and footer styles, etc., as it will contribute to site consistency.

Using a style guide lends many advantages to any project. They more than make up for the time it takes to create them in multiple ways throughout the life of the website, and they can be used by virtually every member of your team. In other words, style guides just make everybody’s lives easier!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Have your own tips on creating a style guide? Please leave them in the comments below!

5 Simple Tips on Gaining and Retaining Website Visitors

This is a brief look into five simple tips to help you gain and retain website visitors. This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive guide, as it is always best to tailor your digital strategy to your individual website’s purpose. It is important to customize any campaign to fit the needs and interests of your target audience.

The goals of most webmasters are quite similar. They are akin to this:

  1. Get indexed
  2. Climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs)
  3. Gain traffic
  4. Convert visitors into customers/clients
  5. Keep them coming back

I’ve put together a list of five basic tips to help you do just that here:

Tip #1: Be Responsive

With so many different devices and browsers to choose from, website responsiveness will continue to gain importance. A responsive website is capable of adapting to different screen resolutions and sizes. On a mobile device, content should load quickly and be legible without the need to zoom. If your visitors know your website is accessible on all of their devices, they will be more likely to come back. Make it easy for your visitors to become repeat visitors!

Tip #2: Keep it Fresh

Updating your website with fresh content is crucial. First, your visitors are more likely to return if they know there is going to be something new to see. Additionally, fresh content helps your site climb the SERPs because search engine robots will crawl it more often to see what has been added and what is new that needs to be indexed. This will, of course, bring more traffic to your website as it gets closer to the top of the organic search results.

Tip #3: Blog it Out

Because blogs are so search engine friendly, they are indexed rather quickly. Creating a reciprocal link between your website and blog will direct those who visit and/or follow your blog to your website, as well as contribute to your natural link building efforts, which is still an important off-page element of Organic SEO. Blogs can also be viewed as fresh content that brings your visitors back to read new entries. Make sure a link to your website is featured prominently on your blog. If they like what they read on your blog, they will likely be interested in taking a closer look at what you do!

Tip #4: Get Social

Supply your visitors with a list of tried-and-true, free online business and social networks, preferably some of which you or your company are already a member, and don’t be afraid to promote your company’s social profiles. The more you interact with your visitors, the more likely they are to become customers/clients. Additionally, business networks can be a great way for your visitors to give their own company a boost. Consider starting your own network, incorporating your business/company name into the title. This can assist in getting your company’s name “out there” so people will recognize it, and it will help establish you as an expert in your field, which is always good!

Tip #5: Give a Gift

Give your visitors gifts because they appreciate it. They will be more likely to return and recommend your website to others. You can offer things like free consultations, free quotes, free daily horoscopes, free graphics, free quizzes, or anything else that pertains to your specific content. When you change and/or update your freebies, it also counts as fresh content, which will place you higher in the organic search results.

I hope these have given you some helpful hints for your own website. What has worked for you in the past? Are you experimenting with new interactive ideas and techniques? Please feel free to leave your own tips and tricks in the comments!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Creating Intuitive Navigation for Your Website

My last article covered the Basics of Information Architecture, so I thought a good follow-up would be to take a look at intuitive navigation. You’ve probably been on a website that had inconsistent, poorly labeled, or otherwise confusing navigation before. How long did it take you to leave that site and go to one in which you could actually find what you wanted/needed? If you’re like most people, it was probably just a matter of seconds. In this article, we will learn more about intuitive navigation, why it is important, and what you can do to make your own website navigation more intuitive for both human users and search engine robots. Let’s jump in!

What is intuitive navigation?

Intuitive navigation just means that your visitors are able to find what they are looking for on your website with ease, and it is designed to allow traffic to flow from webpage to webpage. In other words, users should just kind of “know” how to navigate your website without having to learn anything new. Your menus and other navigation should be logical to them. One way to be sure that your navigation system is intuitive is to stick with some Common Web Conventions. An example is positioning global navigation somewhere within the top 25% of the web page, but we will delve more deeply into this and other techniques in the “How do I achieve intuitive navigation?” section below.

Why is intuitive navigation important?

Intuitive navigation is important to users and search engines, as it enables both to find what they are looking for more efficiently. Most people will scan your global navigation menu when they enter your site from a search engine or another website to see if there is anything else that interests them. Ensure that your menu labels let them know what kind of information they are going to find within your web pages. Always design your menus with human users in mind; however, there are ways of creating SEO friendly navigation that still puts people first.

For example, descriptive menu labels are very helpful to users and robots. Do not just label your page “Development” on your menu, but specify what you develop instead. You could be developing websites, software, business plans, personal goals… Who knows? That’s why your menu should be specific. Visitors and search engines will both have a better time finding what they need if you say something like “Software Development” or “Personal Development”.

How do you achieve intuitive navigation?

Like any project, it is imperative to begin with brainstorming. List all of the pages you think your website will require, even if some may seem silly. Remember, there are no wrong answers in brainstorming and it should freely flow. You can always remove any irrelevant ideas when you finish. The point is to not limit yourself during the brainstorming process.

It is always a good idea to plan the website navigation systems from the very start with Information Architecture (IA). (Starting with website navigation can also serve to streamline the rest of your website planning process.) Some tips on creating intuitive navigation for your website’s visitors are:

  • Display global navigation / main navigation bar in the top 25% of the page (or in the left sidebar if you prefer);
  • Place navigation menu(s) consistently throughout the website;
  • Make it simple to learn;
  • Keep number of clicks to the next piece of information or section to a minimum;
  • Use breadcrumbs that show visitors how to get back to where they started;
  • Label menus according to common web conventions that everyone knows and understands;
  • Don’t use industry jargon that might be confusing or unclear to users;
  • Make each link unique;
  • Organize navigation into logical groups;
  • Don’t force the user to scroll to reach any part of your global navigation;
  • Never disable the browser’s back button;
  • All important/main web pages should be accessible from your global/main navigation;
  • Provide local navigation or a secondary menu if necessary (usually for larger websites);
  • Make sure your menus are mobile friendly;
  • Provide users with a “call-to-action” that guides them to the web page(s) that allow your website to achieve its ultimate goal;
  • Use internal linking (link your web pages together within your own copy) to drive traffic to your call-to-action and/or other important pages on your website.

What are some of the benefits of intuitive navigation?

Designing a website that is easy to navigate is beneficial in so many ways. Visitors are more likely to return to a site with great information that is easy to find. Following are just a few of the numerous benefits you will enjoy if you employ intuitive navigation on your website.

Increased:

  • Website traffic;
  • Repeat visitors;
  • Readership and/or subscribers on your blog or newsletter;
  • Sales on your e-Commerce website;
  • Social media connections;
  • Engagement on social media and/or blog posts/articles;
  • SERP rankings for the individual web pages of your website.

Making your website navigation intuitive for your visitors is a great way to elevate their user experience and convert them into content consumers of your website. After all, the main goal of any website is the conversion of traffic into subscribers, members, paying customers, etc. People are more inclined to stay on your site and see what you have to offer if they do not have any trouble finding what they need. Search engines will be more likely to rank your site higher on their SERPs if their robots can crawl your pages more easily. All of this can be aided with the implementation of intuitive navigation on your website.

By: Danielle Dandridge