5 Insider Secrets to Building a Successful Business

By Scott Vollero

If starting a business and making it a success is your goal, perfect. You’re probably full of ideas about how to go about it. And, it’s likely you have plenty of enthusiasm as well. Wonderful! You need both.

What you probably don’t have, however, is the know-how seasoned entrepreneurs have. It’s a competitive world out there and the more you know the better. Here are five insider secrets you need to know right now to go out and succeed.

  1. Believe in what you’re doing with all your heart. Face it – you’re going to have ups and you’re going to have downs. What gets you through the downs? It’s passion. Passion about your product or service and passion about how you deliver it. If you don’t truly believe what you’re doing is better than anything else out there, your business won’t survive.
  2. Make it better, different and more innovative. Don’t just copy someone else’s success. Make it better. Make it different.

“Give customers a reason to choose your service or product instead of the other guy’s. If what you do doesn’t stand out in the crowd, you’re not going to make it.”
– Scott Vollero

  1. Keep moving forward. Don’t come up with a great product or service and expect it to end there. You have to keep innovating, improving and moving forward. As soon as your initial concept becomes successful, copycats will follow. They’ll most likely offer deep discounts or use other strategies to pull your customers away. If you don’t give your customers something new and better, they’ll go for the best deal.
  2. Think long term. Don’t expect instant success. Success wasn’t instant even for billionaire entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. It most likely won’t come to you, either. Building a business takes time and consists of many, many small steps. Here’s where your passion comes in – it gives you the impetus to stay in the game for the long haul. Be the turtle, not the hare.
  3. Take care of yourself and nurture your personal relationships. This one may surprise you, but if you don’t take care of yourself and your loved ones on an emotional level, you’ll give out before the finish line. It’s easy to get caught up in the business, work long hours and obsess over every little detail. And, there are times, when that’s exactly what you have to do. But as you build your business, make sure you take the time to relax, renew, revitalize and connect with loved ones. Don’t forget what it means to be human.

Scott Vollero key

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

7 YouTube Channels with Great Business Advice

By Scott Vollero

YouTube, and online video in general, has democratized knowledge. You can learn anything about anything if you know what to look for. This includes business advice. You can get quite an education on YouTube. It’s not just for cat videos!

But with so many videos on YouTube (300 hours of video every minute!), how do you find what you’re looking for, or who to listen to? Here are seven channels we think are worth your while.

Derral Eves

If you want to know specifically about YouTube marketing, this is the go-to guy. Derral Eves was one of the earliest big adopters of YouTube. His edutainment videos are all about how to leverage YouTube to make your business a lot of money. And it’s not all high-end stuff either. He even has videos on basic YouTube usage. He may be a bit silly for your corporate meeting, but his entertaining style can teach you quite a lot about good YouTube marketing.

Hubspot

You may know Hubspot for its blog posts or its marketing software, but they also have a successful YouTube channel that releases videos three times a week. If you practice inbound marketing, you’ve probably heard of Hubspot.

Where Hubspot can help you is showing you how you can have different video divisions. A YouTube channel doesn’t have to be about a singular thing. You can have sub-lists to show different topics. This is great when you’re trying to get your channel off the ground and you don’t quite know what will stick, or if you have several ideas bouncing around the office and you’re worried about settling on one.

Behind the Brand with Bryan Elliott

Have you ever watched a business-related TED talk and wanted to hear more from that speaker? This is a good place to check. Bryan Elliott interviews high-achieving entrepreneurs and executives about business topics and their perspectives on the business world. And if you don’t know who are the secret masters of online business are these days, you’d get a great introduction googling the names of the people he’s talked to.

Eric Worre – Network Marketing Pro

Regardless of your opinions on network marketing, successful ones know how to do the hard sell better than anyone out there. Want to know what goes on in those expensive meetings, or want to study their techniques? Just take a look at the videos of Eric Worre. He’s on a one-man-mission to change the perception of network marketing and show how to make it work.

Video Creators with Tim Schmoyer

Tim Schmoyer is another early YouTube adopter. Since uploading his first video in 2006, he has published over 2000 videos on the platform. He wants to help people share their own messages on YouTube and broadcast them as widely as possible. Video Creators is a good complementary channel with Derral Eves so you can achieve YouTube mastery.

Dan Martell

Dan Martell is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor from Canada that shares advice on how to scale businesses on his YouTube channel. Getting your business to grow from just supporting yourself to supporting your lifestyle dreams is a challenge for any entrepreneur. Dan can show you how it’s done.

Sunny Lenarduzzi

While this channel may not have been updated in over a year, the information in it is quite sound. Sunny Lenarduzzi came to YouTube with a background in journalism and it shows in her presentation style. If you need a model for how to engage an audience, this is the woman to watch. And if you’re interested in more from her, she still has an active presence on Facebook.

Fast or Slow? Arguments for & Against Rapid Business Growth

What’s your speed — fast, slow, or somewhere in the middle? If you’re trying to get a business off the ground, this isn’t an idle question. You need to decide whether you want to grow your company quickly, opt for the slow and steady approach, or split the difference. Let’s weigh three common arguments for the two extremes.

Why Grow Slow? 3 Reasons to Take It Easy

  • Your Tax Bill Could Rise Faster Than You Realize: Back in the Internet’s Wild West days, you could easily get away with selling merchandise across state lines — as many as you pleased — and not paying a cent of sales tax. For better or worse, those days are over. If you decide to open a store in a new jurisdiction, you need to make sure you’re forking over your fair share to the local tax authorities. That’s doubly true in international markets, where value-added taxes (VATs) are often the norm.
  • You Could Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Managing a 10-person company is lot different than managing a 100-person company — and a heck of a lot different than managing a 1,000-person company. You might be great at envisioning and developing killer products that your customers can’t get enough of. That’ll get you through your company’s “death phase,” but it might not be any good once you’ve got several layers of middle management between you and the front lines. If you grow faster than you can grow into your new (and constantly changing) role as company leader, you’re likely to reach a point at which you’re doing more harm than good.
  • You Could Cede More Control Than You’re Comfortable Losing: Rapid growth often comes at a price: less control over decision-making and direction-setting at the top. Once you have a board to answer to and investors to keep happy, you’re no longer the boss — or, at least, not the sole boss. That’s a tough change to manage.

Why Grow Fast? 3 Reasons to Get a Move On

  • You Could Lose Out on Talent & Investment: Investors love winners. So do talented workers. Even if your slow-growing company is financially stable and executing its business plan to a ‘T’, you can’t expect prospective employees or stakeholders to understand that. Rapid growth is sexy, and sexy sells.
  • You Could Sacrifice Market Share for Stability: In emerging industries, market share is more important than any other financial metric: revenue, profit, margins, you name it. The more market share you’re able to grab right out of the gate, the stronger you’ll be when you finally figure out how to turn a profit. Slow growth might mean stability, but it could also foreclose opportunities down the line.
  • You Could Find Your Way to the Door Faster: If you’re a restless founder, you don’t want to be tied to your startup for a decade or longer. Rapid growth breeds more (and more timely) opportunities to exit, either by selling your stake outright and reinvesting in a new company or stepping back and handing day-to-day operations to a trusted subordinate.

What’s your business growth philosophy: tortoise, hare, or somewhere right in the middle?

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

4 Ways to Reward Your Employees (& Convince Them to Stick Around)

By Scott Vollero

America’s quit rate, or the rate at which U.S. workers quit their jobs, is holding steady near long-term highs. Translation: the country’s workers have rarely been more restless to leave their jobs and learn once and for all whether the grass is greener on the other side.

Zoom out a bit and the picture gets even starker for employers. After a rapid collapse during the Great Recession, the U.S. quit rate steadily recovered most of its lost ground. Every year, it’s gotten harder for American employers to keep good employees around — and, because there’s so much competition for rockstar workers in the labor market these days, to find quality replacements.

These four ideas for rewarding and retaining employees won’t turn your company around overnight or make it the envy of HR specialists the world over. But each will give you a cost-effective edge over the competition — one more reason for your top performers to stick around a little longer.

  1. Train Better Supervisors

Quality supervision isn’t a traditional job perk, to be sure, but it’s absolutely critical to keeping employees happy. When you hire or promote a new supervisor, run them through the training ringer: conflict resolution strategies, hands-on management best practices, compliance, and anything else that makes sense in the context of your company. Track their retention rates over time and offer performance bonuses for managers that meet or exceed target thresholds. If a team or department consistently turns over faster than comparable units, don’t be afraid to ask whether the supervisor is to blame.

  1. Increase Flex Time

Flexibility is currency. Your employees have lives outside work, after all: kids, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, hobbies, feelings (including, you know, wanting to be anywhere other than the office). If your white-collar workplace doesn’t yet have a telecommuting policy, what are you waiting for? And there’s absolutely no reason you should be tracking time-off accumulation by the hour. If your workers are able to get their work done before the deadlines you’ve set, they should be able to take an afternoon off to take care of their sick kid.

  1. Boost Bonus Compensation

Scheduled raises are so passe — and so expensive. Why not reward your employees when they reward you? Even a moderate boost to your current bonus pool, or the addition of a new financial performance incentive, can improve morale among affected workers. Bonus compensation is a win-win: employees who feel recognized and rewarded are willing to work harder for the same amount of (guaranteed) money.

  1. Spiff Up Your Office

The old ping-pong tables and beanbag chairs cliche is wearing thin, even in the latte-frothy world of software startups. But that doesn’t mean you can’t invest in a practical, employee-friendly office design, decor and programming. You don’t have to hear the place apart — just upgrade your common areas, add some collaborative work space, and make sure your office manager (who you’ll need to hire if he or she doesn’t exist already) keeps the refreshments coming. It’s amazing what fresh coffee, local artwork and comfy huddle rooms can do.

What are you doing to reward and retain employees in an ever more competitive job market?

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

5 Critical Steps Every Business Owner Should Take Now

By Scott Vollero

Running a business can be overwhelming. The sheer number of things to do is mind-boggling, and can easily drive one, if they’re not careful, into anxiety paralysis. The issue, of course, is prioritization, accompanied by a good helping of triage. Knowing which things are most important needs to be combined with the order in which they’re done. The result is often a long list of complex plans, or perhaps calendars full of to-do items which never get to-done.

But there are certain things that need to take precedence — things that should cut through the misty shroud of confused priorities and undulating to-do lists and be first on your plate. We present five of these things below.

  1. Join Google+

No? You didn’t think so? Well, as it happens, Google+ gets you covered on a couple of different angles. First, it lets you reach out directly to communicate with your users — quite important, since in this day and age people want to feel like they know the companies they’re doing business with. And second, since Google is increasingly factoring in your Google+ page as one of the elements of your search rankings, your SEO stats will get a boost, as well.

  1. Prepare for Disaster

On a separate note, your company should have an up-to-date disaster plan. Through earthquakes, floods, winds, or even terrorism, you may find that your company is unable to function normally. Perhaps staff are trapped away from work, or your building has been sucked into a giant sinkhole. In either case, make sure you plan ahead-of-time so you won’t be caught unprepared.

  1. Focus on Professional Development

Just as you expect your employees to grow and improve, so you should make that a priority for yourself. Pick a book, attend a seminar, schedule a few days for just you and the pursuit of learning. This investment in time will be repaid many times over through your increased efficacy.

  1. Know Your Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act has been out for a while now, so seasoned business owners probably have a good grasp on it at this point. But if you’re a new business owner, or haven’t dealt with insurance before, you may be starting fresh. In this case, knowing your healthcare is very important. There are all sorts of ways the ACA can help you pay for employee healthcare, but it’s complex, and you need to make sure you can understand it.

  1. Do Your Accounts

Don’t outsource your accounting.

Yes, I know there are people who do this for a living, but I repeat:

Don’t outsource your accounting.

Why? Well, there are so many things that go on in a business’s bank accounts that you just won’t be aware of unless you’re combing through them personally at least once per month, preferably more often. So make sure you do this yourself, because your business is only as strong as its financials.

Being in business pretty much guarantees that you’ll have piles of tasks to be completed, but some must always take priority. These five relatively simple items should top your to-do list. If they do, you can look forward to seeing a positive impact in the near future.

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Selling the Farm (or Business)? Remember These 5 Things

When you set out in business for yourself, probably the last thing that’s on your mind is how you’re going to get rid of the (hopefully successful) company you’ve built. And it’s certainly true that you shouldn’t focus on your exit strategy to the detriment of actually running your company say entrepreneur Scott Vollero.

At the same time, it’s critical to keep your business sale strategy in the back of your mind. That often means getting your corporate house in order before anyone else knows the firm is up for sale.

According to Dan Wright, a Seattle-area business expert writing for Seattle Business Magazine, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your business is in good shape to sell — and fetches the price you deserve. Here’s a look at some of the most important considerations to address prior to putting your company out there.

  1. Separate and Streamline Business Components

Even if you intimately understand the value that each of your business’s disparate divisions brings to the table, prospective buyers might not. Buyers tend to frown upon companies that lump together operationally distinct silos; some may choose to pass entirely, while others might offer a discount for the trouble of sorting everything out after purchase. Avoid this outcome by clearly compartmentalizing your company’s components and making clear the value that prospective buyers should attach to each.

  1. Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s

Legal hangups delay or kill countless mergers and acquisitions. Don’t let it happen to you. Before putting yourself up for sale:

  • Make sure your company has a clear, tax-favorable corporate structure in place
  • Pin down key employees on whether they’re willing to stick around after the same, knowing full well that the buyer may shake things up anyway
  • Ensure that your financial records are up to date and conform to accounting best practices
  • Secure all business-critical intellectual property; failure to do so could render your company unsalable
  1. Determine Whether You’ll Still Be Involved

Before you even think about shopping your company, ask yourself whether you’d countenance continued involvement after the sale. Are you fully committed to jumping into a different line of work (or jetting off to a tropical island) before the ink is dry on the purchase agreement, or are you willing to stay involved with your firm when you no longer control it? There are benefits, drawbacks, and complex considerations on both sides of the coin.

  1. Figure Out Why Your Business Is Valuable, Not Just How Much It’s Worth

Don’t focus too much on how much your business is likely to sell for. Instead, focus on why it’s likely to be valuable to buyers. Are you attractive to larger competitors in a particular regional market? Do you have a superior process or technology? Are your assets, such as land and equipment, particularly valuable? If you can thoughtfully answer these questions, you may find it easier to find the right buyer — and increase your firm’s sale price.

Have you ever been through the business sale gauntlet? What advice do you have for fellow business owners who might be thinking about moving on?

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.

Setting Up the Sale: How to Build an Irresistible Business like Scott Vollero

Scott Vollero businessFor some, starting and building a business with an eye to selling out later is akin to planning and going through with a wedding just to get some sweet gifts. Planning your exit misses the whole point of being in business: the immeasurable satisfaction of building and running something that’s yours, touching (and hopefully improving) your customers’ and employees’ lives in the process.

On the other hand, it’s never good to undertake something as complex as running your own business without at least some idea of how it’s going to shake out. When you plan a wedding, for instance, you know that eventually the big day will come — and then you and your spouse have the rest of your lives to look forward to.

Scott Vollero, founder and former head of Autocats, certainly understands the importance of building a business for the long haul. During more than a decade at the helm of Autocats, he put together a strong, steady firm that proved irresistible to its eventual buyer. He guided the company from $2 million in sales to over $75 million in sales in 5 years.  Here’s what he learned along the way.

Start with a Great Idea and a Coherent Plan

Well-run businesses are surprisingly resilient. They can survive a lot of vexing challenges: macroeconomic downturns, industry disruptions, loss of top talent, natural disasters, new regulations, and a host of other perilous pitfalls.

What most businesses can’t survive are subpar ideas and incoherent business plans. When inspiration strikes, take the time to craft it into something more — a complete operational model with a clear path to profitability. In short, refine your idea and implement an effective business plan. If you don’t feel like you’re capable of putting together an enterprise-grade business plan, tap a professional (or associate) who can.

Vollero certainly had a great idea for Autocats, which was built around a superior process for efficient, “close-to-the-customer” interactions in the highly fragmented auto parts recycling business. He augmented that idea with an ironclad business plan that set his company apart from the competition — and made it attractive to future buyers.

Identify Your Key Differentiators

Every attractive business needs at least one key differentiator that sets it apart from the competition. In Vollero’s case, Autocats benefited from a decentralized organization that allowed it to be extremely responsive to the customer in a cost effective manner and best of all, it was easy to scale.

Scott Vollero had another differentiator, too: a keen understanding of the ins and outs of international business. Thanks to Vollero’s intimate knowledge of local culture, customs and business practices, emerging markets became a major source of the supply market at precisely the right time — during an economic boom the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since the first Industrial Revolution. It’s no secret that Autocats’ recipe for a successful overseas operation proved attractive to its eventual buyer.

Surround Yourself with Top Talent

Much as they’d like, entrepreneurs can’t singlehandedly will their businesses to succeed. Even a modestly sized operation needs an ample supply of talent at every organizational level. For Vollero, that meant hiring competent engineers and managers to support his objectives. When it came time to sell, over 95% of that talent migrated to the buyer.

Manage Your Obligations

Vollero’s strong relationships with suppliers and downstream customers ensured that Autocats remained well-capitalized in a highly capital-intensive niche.

Early in Autocats’ history, Scott Vollero had the foresight to arrange financing agreements with some of the company’s biggest downstream customers. The mechanisms were a bit dense, but the net effect was that Autocats enjoyed a significant line of short-term operating credit to fund some of its highest-value activities. That prevented capital crunches that could have affected the company’s ability to pay its bills and hampered its efforts to obtain new financing, creating a vicious cycle that may ultimately have threatened its viability.

The takeaway: Regardless of your niche, make sure you’re using debt to your advantage — and don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to making promises to suppliers and customers.

Keep Everything on the Up and Up

Countless business transactions fail because of poor recordkeeping, inconsistent business practices, unfavorable legal structures, and other entirely preventable problems. To ensure that your transaction doesn’t fall victim to an unforced error, take time to ensure that your company is legally and ethically on the up and up:

  • Set up a tax-favorable business structure
  • Patent all business-critical intellectual property
  • Separate distinct components into operational silos or subsidiaries
  • For all key employees, iron out employment agreements that will survive the sale

Manage the Transition to Your Next Challenge

For some business owners, selling is the culmination of a life’s hard work — the only thing left to do after the ink is dry is to retire.

For others, whether they fit the mold of “serial entrepreneur” or not, selling is merely the end of one or many chapters in a varied professional life.

If you’re not planning to retire after selling your company, you need to think about what comes next. That could mean staying on to manage the ownership transition or provide some sort of expertise. This often involves a retained minority stake in the firm, and can be quite lucrative under the right circumstances.

You might also think about reinventing yourself as a consultant. If you have a particular competency that served you well as a business owner — for instance, management acumen or specialized process knowledge — you can likely make a great career by sharing your talents and expertise with other business owners and managers. Scott Vollero did just this after relinquishing his majority stake in Autocats, and he’s very pleased with the freedom and professional variety his new lifestyle affords.

Whatever your preference, you certainly don’t want to be caught flat-footed in the aftermath of a sale. For insights on how to plan your next challenge or make the transition out of majority ownership with minimal headaches, ask someone who’s done it before.

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.